Buy hosting. Now!

Where are we?

You’ve learned how Web browsers and servers interact. Time to start putting your knowledge into practice. But first, you need your own home on the Web.

This lesson’s goals

By the end of this lesson, you should:

  • Know what “buying hosting” means.
  • Know about some different kinds of hosting.
  • Know what features to look for from a shared hosting plan.
  • Be ready to buy hosting.

You need a home on the Web

You need your own Web site. Yes, you do. A place for your own eMe. Really, you need your own Web site. With your own domain name and everything.

CC
CC

I know we talked about this before. I have a Facebook page. Remind me why I need a Web site.

Kieran
Kieran

Facebook’s great. But there are a few issues with it.

First, Facebook pages have Facebook’s logos, format, and ads. In other words, Facebook’s branding.

You want your site to be about you, or your company, or whatever you choose to promote. You don’t want people to be distracted by other stuff. Take the page you’re looking at now. It’s all CoreDogs.

With your own site, you have complete control. Choose the fonts, colors, images, you name it.

Second, Facebook limits what you can do. Say you’re an expert on zombies. You can make a site on how to survive the coming Zombie Apocalypse. You can put ads on your site, sell stuff through it, run events (“Come to the Spring Zombie Hunt!”), make some moolah. Dosh, cash, bread, simoleans.

You can do some of that on Facebook. But not everything you want.

Third, when you have your own site, you tell the world that you can do Web work. It’s a valuable skill that not everyone has.

Fourth, having your own site teaches you a lot about the Web. In fact, most of the exercises in the ClientCore and ServerCore books ask you to upload your solutions to your own site. You can’t do that if you don’t have a site!

One last thing. Suppose your name is Rover Blakenshot. You could register blakenshot.com, and give yourself a cool email address, like rover@blakenshot.com. You could give email addresses to your family and friends. Your brother could be billy@blakenshot.com. You get to decide. Oh, the power! The power!

Renata
Renata

You forgot something.

Kieran
Kieran

What’s that?

Renata
Renata

Having your own site is so freakin’ cool!

Three things

You need to do three things to get your own Web site:

  • Get a domain name. The first part of the URL of all your Web pages. You and only you have that domain.
  • Get a hosting account on a Web server. This is a computer you put files on, that’s accessible over the Internet. Someone else runs the server for you. Recall that every server has an IP address, like 123.234.123.234.
  • Tie them together. For example, suppose you register the name blakenshot.com. You get an account on a Web server that has the IP address 123.234.123.234. You tie the two together. So when someone types blakenshot.com into a browser, that gets translated into 123.234.123.234.

Most domain names end in .com, .org, .edu, or .gov. These are called “top-level domain names.” There are other options, including .info, .biz, and .name. Wikipedia has a complete list.

Countries have their own top-level domain names. Like .au for Australia, and .uk for the United Kingdom.

Domain names are unique. You must choose one that nobody else is using.

There are two ways to figure out whether a domain name is available. The first way is to type it into your browser, and see if you get anything back. If you do, the domain is taken.

A more reliable way is to look up the domain database. There are Web sites that will do this for you.

A warning: be careful of the lookup service you choose. Some of the them might register the domain while you’re thinking about it. (I think this has happened to me, though it’s hard to be sure.)

One service that’s probably safe is Network Solutions. It will tell you whether a name you’re thinking about is available.

If you can’t get yourname.com, don’t despair. Try yourname.org, yourname.net, and yourname.info. You’ll come up with something.

Exercise: Choose a domain name

Choose a domain name that’s easy for people to associate with you. It could be your name, though if you have a common name, domain names based on it might be taken.

Think of at least three options. Talk it over with your friends. See if they can come up with some good names.

If you have some advice for choosing domain names, please share it.

(Log in to enter your solution to this exercise.)

What you get when you buy hosting

You get a bunch o’ stuff, but here are the main things:

  • Disk space on a server. This is where you’ll store your Web pages. Each server has an IP address. The hosting company will tell you what it is.
  • Some way to upload files to the server from your computer.
  • The right to associate your domain name with the IP address of your host.

More on what you get in a moment, but these are the basics.

A domain name is a separate purchase, but hosting companies make it easy to register a domain name during account sign up.

Types of hosting

There are lots of hosting plans, but they fall into a few main types.

Free hosting

Some companies will give you free server space, and insert ads in your pages. Avoid this type of hosting.

First, you usually don’t control the ads on your pages. You give your URL to a potential employer, and the first thing s/he sees is a flashing ad for “Hot Bondage Boys! Click NOW!” Think you’ll get that job?

Second, you don’t fully control your pages. The ads interfere, and sometimes even break your pages. The hosting company can change the size and placement of your ads, whenever it likes.

Third, the company doesn’t have much incentive to look after your content. If the disk drive with your site crashes, they might not be in a hurry to restore it from their backups. If they have backups.

Shared hosting

Cheap, and what you’ll use to begin with. With shared hosting, you share a server with other people. So you might have, say, fifty Web sites on the server, along with your own.

This usually works fine. Reputable hosting companies make sure that none of the individual sites uses too much of the server’s processing time.

The hosting company does most of the server management for you. They take care of basic software updates and such. They back up your files, in case something goes wrong. You can just worry about your Web site.

Most shared hosting accounts run on Unix machines. Some run on Windows machines.

CC
CC

I don’t know how to use Unix. So I should get a Windows server?

Kieran
Kieran

No! You should get a Unix account.

You interact with servers differently from the way you interact with your PC. For a Windows user, a Windows server is not easier to work with than a Unix server. They’re about the same.

But a Unix server will run more free software than a Windows server. All sorts of goodies, at your fingertips.

And remember that most Web servers run Unix. That means most employers use Unix servers.

Finally, Unix hosting accounts are often cheaper than Windows hosting accounts. Why? Because there are lots of free versions of Unix. Not so for Windows.

Shared hosting runs from about $5 USD to $10 USD per month. We’ll talk about some specific services later. But that’s about what you can expect to pay.

Renata
Renata

Do I have to spend the money?

Kieran
Kieran

You should. You get to create your own eMe, showing the world what you can do. That can get you a better job, at the very least.

You will stand out if employers see that you run your own Web site with your own domain. The proof is right there in front of them.

You’ll also learn more about the Web. You can add “manage Web sites” to your résumé, along with “create Web pages.”

Here are some approximate price comparisons:

  • One month of Web hosting = a meal at McDonalds.
  • One month of Web hosting = a pack of cigarettes.
  • One month of Web hosting = a movie rental.
  • One month of Web hosting = a coffee at Starbucks. No cookie, though.
  • One month of Web hosting = a magazine.
Renata
Renata

OK, now that you put it that way. I guess I can skip a small vanilla latté now and then.

Dedicated hosting

Web sites that need lots of power run on dedicated servers. That is, the site has its own computer. The hosting company maintains the computer – connects it to the Internet, keeps it running, backs up the data, etc.

The main difference between shared and dedicated is that dedicated hosts can support many more concurrent users without slowing down. “Concurrent” means “using the server at the same time.” Further, since you’re the only site on the computer, no other sites can interfere with yours.

Dedicated hosting starts around $200 USD per month, depending on the options you buy. For example, the more memory on your server, the more it will cost you (but the faster your Web site can run).

Virtual dedicated hosting

This is a hybrid of the two previous options. You share a host, but your account is configured so that it acts like a separate computer. You’re usually guaranteed to get certain performance from your server. Such-and-such processing speed, such-and-so memory, and so on. These services start around $40 USD per month.

If shared hosting is too slow, but dedicated hosting is too expensive, consider virtual dedicated hosting.

Of these options – shared hosting, dedicated hosting, and virtual dedicated hosting – you want to go with shared hosting to start with. It’s cheap, and Cheap is Good.

Choosing a hosting company

Choose a hosting company based on:

Price

Make this low, but not necessarily the lowest. You usually get a discount if you pay yearly.

Reputation

I’ve been burned by a company that went out of business. I ended up losing a domain name. Not fun.

I also had a site that stopped working because of a hardware failure. It took the hosting company more than a week to fix it. I wasn’t pleased with that company, either.

Choose a hosting company with a good reputation. Particularly for customer service. The company should have support people available around the clock.

One place to read hosting company reviews is ClickFire. They seem to be honest. In fact, Joe Eitel wrote an article Is Clickfire the Only Honest Web Host Review Site?.

Features

Most companies offer more-or-less the same features on their shared accounts. They differ in the limits on their accounts. Look for:

  • Lots of server disk space. At least 200 megabytes (MB).
  • Lots of transfer. This is the amount of data that people can download from your site, without you being charged extra. A few gigabytes (GB) per month is good.
  • Email accounts. Make sure you can have twice as many as you think you’ll ever need.
  • PHP and Perl. Server-side programming languages.
  • Database server. MySQL is the most common. Make sure you get to create at least 10 databases.
  • Multiple sites per account. This means you could run several Web sites on the same account without paying extra. Each site will have its own domain name. Maybe one for you, one for your human, and one for your Webcomic. Look for at least three at no extra cost.

What does CoreDogs use?

CoreDogs runs on Hostgator. Their customer service is good. Security, backup, and other things are also done well.

You can buy a Hostgator account by clicking here:

Buy hosting

If you buy hosting using this link, CoreDogs gets a referral fee.

Either the Hatchling or Baby plans would work. The Hatchling plan is cheaper, but it only gives you one site per account. You will need to upgrade if you want more than one.

At the time I’m writing this, you can get a Hatchling plan for under $5 USD per month. Come on! That’s really cheap! How can you afford not to do this?

You can register a domain name during the buying process. Hostgator will set it up and link it to your account. Choose a domain name before you sign up, with a backup in case the one you want is taken. They’ll send you information on uploading files to your account. More on how to do that in the next lesson.

You don’t have to use Hostgator. An account with any reputable company should work fine. But make sure you check out the hosting company before buying. Really! It’s worth a little research.

What are you waiting for?

Well? What are you waiting for?

Get out your credit card. Or use your PayPal account. Buy a hosting account. Now!

Many, many, many people have their own Web sites. Thousands of regular, non-geek people have their own Web sites.

Now it’s your turn. If so many people can do it, so can you. And you have CoreDogs to help.

It’s the best investment you can make in your Web future.

Summary

In this lesson, you learned:

  • You need your own domain name and Web presence.
  • What you get when you “buy hosting.”
  • That there are different kinds of hosting.
  • What features to look for from a shared hosting plan.

Most important of all, you bought your own hosting account, and your own domain name.

You did, right?

What now?

In the next lesson, you’ll create a simple Web page about yourself. It will live on your own computer to start with. But then you’ll upload it to your server. This is the start of your eMe site.


How to...

Lessons

User login

Log in problems? Try here


Dogs