Web Hosting Tutorial

This short web hosting tutorial was written to list the basic steps necessary to have your web site on the Internet. This tutorial will not answer all your questions, but it will serve as a very good outline.

Web hosting means storing your web site on a public web server. When you copy your web site to a public web server, your web site can be viewed around the world.

Domain Names
A domain name is a unique name for a web site, like microsoft.com and wiscosurvey.com. All domain names must be registered. When domain names are registered they are added to a large database. This large database contains all domain names in the world, and is used by all Internet Service Providers (ISP) around the world.

Your domain name should be easy to remember and easy to type. You should be able to register your unique domain name for about $15 per year. When you register your domain name, you are free to use it (with your business cards, letterheads, advertising, etc.) as long as you continue to pay the yearly fee. You can register or renew your domain name for up to 10 years, always at a discounted rate.

Some Internet Service Providers will offer you a unique name under their own name like: www.theircompany.com/~username. This is not a real domain name, it is a directory. A directory is commonly used for personal sites and free web sites provided by your ISP. These URLs are not desirable, especially for a business. These URL's are usually not indexed by search engines. These free web sites usually limit the total number of web pages on your site, display their banner ads to your visitors, and do not include the ability to process forms, like the forms created by the WISCO Survey Power software.

Registering a Domain Name
Domain names can be registered (and renewed) with domain name registration companies such as http://www.pairnic.com. These registration companies allow you to search for available domain names, and allow you to register your domain name at the same time. The .com and .net domain extensions are well established and most recognized. The most popular domain names with these extensions have already been registered by others.

Web Hosting Plans
Shared (Virtual) web hosting is the most popular web hosting plan, and the most cost effective for most businesses. With shared web hosting, your site is placed on a web server along with maybe 100 to 300 other web sites. All web sites on a shared web host will have their own domain names. The technical support provided by the ISP tends to be good.

Some ISP's offer free web hosting. Some ISP's only offer free web hosting to non-commercial web sites. You can not use your domain name for a free web site. If you decide to use a different hosting plan, with your domain name later on, it can get very expensive to change all your business cards, letterheads, etc. The use of free hosting, without a domain name, does not project a professional image to your web site visitors. (You get what you pay for.)

With dedicated hosting, you have your own web server only hosting your site(s). Dedicated hosting is the most expensive form of hosting, and usually only used by large businesses. Web sites of these large businesses usually have high traffic, require additional security, and use additional special software. Dedicated hosting requires additional technical skills to maintain the web server, the web server software, and the web site(s).

Colocation hosting is similar to dedicating hosting, except you own your own equipment, and are totally responsible for fixing or replacing any equipment that fails. You must have physical access to the server to even consider this type of hosting. You must also have the technical skills to maintain the web server and the web server software.

Web Hosting Options
Internet Service Providers should be considered specialists for web hosting. You should expect their servers to have more than 99% up time, the latest software patches, and the best virus protection. Most ISP also have very fast connections to the Internet. You should also expect the ISP to have effective load balancing, and the necessary backup servers.

Most ISP's offer email accounts for your domain. The email you receive from your domain should be either accessible using a browser, or be forwarded to any other email account, including your local ISP email account.

Web Host Operating System
The first option is to choose which server operating system you want to use. The three most common are UNIX (including all variations), Windows (NT and IIS), and Macintosh OS. Windows from Microsoft, and MacIntosh from Apple, are less secure and less stable than UNIX.

UNIX has been around the longest, and hosts the greatest number of web sites. It is a powerful multi-user, multitasking operating system originally developed by AT&T. UNIX is the most stable and secure platform for web servers available today. UNIX is an excellent choice for web servers. Unix is often less expensive than Windows.

Windows web hosting should be used if you plan to use ASP (Active Server Pages), or if you plan to use a database like Microsoft Access or Microsoft SQL Server.

How Much Disk Space
A small to medium size web site will need between 10 and 100 MB of disk space on a server. Text pages take up very little disk space. Images (banners, buttons, gif, and jpg), videos, and sound files used on web pages use a lot more disk space.

A small to medium size web site will transfer between 1 and 5 GB of data per month. Larger, commercial sites often consume more than 100 GB of monthly traffic.

CGI Scripts
CGI scripts can make your web site interactive, rather than just displaying static text and graphics. CGI scripts are used for guest books, page counters, chat forums, and the survey forms created by the WISCO Survey software. Most CGI scripts are readily available for UNIX, but may require a programmer to modify for a Windows server. The perl cgi scripts created by the WISCO Survey software do not need to be modified before they are uploaded to the web sites.

Page last updated: January 26, 2008