Web Hosting Basics
Hosting a web site is a fairly easy process overall. In a most basic sense there are 4 components to getting a web page hosted. They are:
- Domain Name Registrtion
- Web Hosting
- Web Pages (HTML)
- Uploading Your Files To Your Server (FTP)
We will take a brief look at each of these items to give you a better general understanding of the process of web page hosting.
To Have a web page you have to have a web address. This web address is called a domain name. Domain names are comprised of a top level domain (tld) such as ".com" or ".net" and a second level domain, such as "webrelatedstuff" in our case, which lies just to the left of the (tld). Each combination of top level domain and second level domain is unique, therefore belonging to one owner and pointing web requests to a specific web server.
You have to register a domain name with a domain registrar. Once registered, the domain name belongs to you for as long as you continue to renew it. Domain name's are registered in yearly intervals and range in price from around $10-$20 a year. Many web hosting companies will register your domain name for free for the first year or two when you use their web hosting services. Some will even renew it for free for the entire time you host the domain name with them.
Your web pages have to be stored on a computer called a web server that is continuously connected to the internet and that has software specifically designed for reading hypertext transfer protocol (http) requests and transmitting http responses. Your html web page files will be stored in a folder on this servers hard drive that is associated to your domain name.
When someone types your domain name into their browser, the web server's IP Address(Internet Protocol) that is associated with that domain name is sent the request. The software on the web server, most commonly Apache, will read the request, check to see that that domain's files are hosted on that server, and if so, return the requested file in an http response to the browser. The browser will then read the response and display the file in the manner that the html intends.
Web Pages (HTML)
Obviously you have to have some content or files to be displayed. These files are called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) files. HTML is the language that web pages are written in. It is an easy language to learn and understand. It consists of html "tags" that describe the content they contain. In other words, you would have a container (tag) that defines a paragraph. The tag would tell the browser to treat the text within as a single paragraph.
HTML files can be created with a simple text editor such as notepad on Windows or TextEdit on Mac. They can also be created with software that allows you to create the web page in a text editor interface as it adds all the pertinent html tags for you. Adobes' Dreamweaver and Microsofts FrontPage are two such editors. These types of editors are called "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) editors.
Most web hosting plans also include some form of WYSIWYG editor with your hosting plan. This allows you to sign on to your hosting account online and build your web pages visually and then save them directly to your web hosting folder.
Uploading Your Files To Your Server
When you create html files you will typically do so with programs or text editors on your computer so that you can view and edit them before putting them on the web. Once complete you need a way to transfer these files to your web server to be viewed by the World Wide Web. File transfer protocol (FTP) is the manner in which this is done. An FTP client is a program that will display all the files and folders on your computer, as well as on the remote server you sign in to, and allow you to transfer the files from one computer to the other.
If you use Mozilla FireFox as your browser, you can download the free fireFTP plug-in. This is a great, free ftp client that will allow you to transfer files easily. Another good free FTP client for windows is smartFTP. Either of these ftp clients will serve your needs nicely. You will need some information from your web hosting company to log into your ftp account. These are your username and password (typically the same as your web hosting companies login and password) and your ftp address, which will typically be your domain name preceded by "ftp" instead of "www", such as "ftp.yourdomainname.com" This information will be provided to you by your web hosting company.
Making It Easy
If any of this sounds complicated, don't worry it really isn't. Check out one of the top rated web hosting providers, if you are new to HTML, find a plan that offers an online website builder, and conduct a domain name search on their web site. When you find your domain name, sign up for their web hosting service and your domain name will be registered as well. Sign into the hosting account and use the site builder to create a web page. When you are done creating the web page save it, your web file will be saved directly to your domain names public folder and ready for the world to see! You could have a web page on the net in the next hour!