A web site is a collection of web pages which are digital documents written in HTML. In addition to these HTML documents, a typical web site will also have other files such as images, video, audio, flash animation etc associated with web pages.
To put a web site online – make it a part of the internet – one has to place all files on a computer that is always connected to the network. Such computers are known as web servers. Thus, to host a web site you need to place all web pages and their associated files on to the hard disk of a web server.
Many people ask me why they cannot use their home or office computer to host a web site. They can by all means. Any computer that can serve web pages and their files can be labelled as a web server. To convert your conventional desktop/laptop to a web server you not only need correct hardware but also require special software that will make the machine work like a server.
There are two ways to do this. The first is the easy route and the second is the path less trodden because it involves a lot of input and a fair bit of technical knowledge.
To quickly put your web site online all you need to do is purchase a web hosting plan from a hosting company. Now there are hundreds, if not thousands, of web hosting companies in the world, each offering different hosting plans. This can be very confusing for a newbie. However, most plans are kind of similar and will work well for a small or medium size web site. The most important thing you should keep in mind is buying from a reliable web hosting company – one that will not only take you by the hand, helping you at each step but also make sure your web site is runs smoothly and without any problems.
Being more than a decade in web development has taught me one thing – no company is perfect! But there are two reliable web hosting firms I recommend – Hostgator and Lunarpages. I use them for my own web sites (and I have tens of these) and those of my clients. The Hostgator beginners web hosting plan specially is great for all budding web developers.
Different companies have different prices but paying more than $200 yearly for a simple or medium size web site is overkill unless you’ve also taken addons such as email accounts, secure server layer (SSL) etc. For most, a web hosting plan that costs roundabout $100 annually is more than sufficient.
FYI, you can also host a web site for free but remember that all these free plans will be either be ad sponsored and/or be missing many features including good customer support.
This is the more difficult option than just purchasing a hosting plan from a company. Not only do you require good working technical knowledge but also need to put your efforts in maintaining the net connection and blocking hacking and intrusion attempts. For details, please refer how to host a web site from a home or office computer.
End notes: Purchasing web hosting (or getting it free) is only the first step. You now need to point the domain name to the I.P. (Internet Protocol) address of the web server. This is required only if you have taken the domain name from a company other than the one from where you have bought web hosting. You need to log in at your domain name account, locate the “change name servers” or equivalent link and proceed from there. Your web hosting company will inform you of the I.P. address of the web server. Once the domain name is associated with the web server, you start the process of uploading the web site files through FTP or other means.
"The Computer" was named Time magazine's "Machine of the Year" in 1982. [more...]