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Hosting the site

So, you've got all your content pages written, stored on your computer and backed-up half a dozen ways. Right???

Actually, you don't have to have all your content written. A few pages will do for a start. I believe that it's more important to get the site up and running, to start promoting it, than to have a huge quantity of content. You can always develop content as you go along. In fact, doing regular updates such as adding new pages is a big plus with the search engines.

Now what do you do?

Unless you're reading this from some Internet café somewhere, you must have an ISP (Internet Service Provider). Your ISP may provide space for you to store web pages. You could set-up your website in that space and then you'd have to refer to it as something like: ...www.yourisp.net/users/~yourname. That is not very practical and it has several limitations, not the least of which is that if you ever decide to move your site, you lose your identity; all the promotion you did is wasted because you have to start-out again with a new name and all the millions of bookmarks from your loyal customers now point to thin air.

What you want in fact is called a virtual domain. That's a domain name like www.yourname.com. We'll get to the part about choosing a name in the Next. You will own your virtual domain (actually, you rent it but as long as you make the yearly payments it's yours). It will have to be stored on a server somewhere to be accessible on the Web but you can move it to different servers if you ever have to.

That's called hosting and the host is the Web server where the domain is located. Understand that hosting is an additional service from the ISP. The cost will be around $10 /month and will be billed separately from your Internet service.

Your ISP may be able to host your virtual domain, or it may not. Even if it can, it may have many restrictions, may cost too much, may not offer sufficient bandwidth, etc. However, it should probably be your first stop when shopping for a host.

However, there is no reason why the host should have to be located in your city or even in your country, for that matter. The host could be anywhere at all. Some points to consider when looking at hosting services:

  • What service level do they guarantee? Your customers want your site available 24/7. You want to make sure the host is not in shutdown mode too often.

  • How much space do they give you for your web pages? You probably should get at least 100 Megs.

  • How much traffic are you allowed. Some are unlimited, meaning that no matter how busy the site gets, they won't charge extra. 5-10 Gigs/month is normal. But don't worry about it. If ever you get over 10 Gigs in a month you can afford to pay the few extra bucks!

  • Do they offer several POP3 accounts for e-mail? Do they offer e-mail forwarding, meaning that mail to the site will be automatically redirected to your ISP account?

  • How much does it cost? Most hosts will charge less if you sign-up for a year. If you go for a 6-month or 3-month contract it will be more expensive.

  • Beware of free hosting. You don't have to be paranoid to know that there is no free lunch! There are always strings attached. Besides, some, if not all, secure collection companies that will handle the payments for you won't deal with free-hosting services.

  • I am also very leery of hosting services that offer a dozen kinds of incentives for recruiting customers and freebies all over the place. It may just be my suspicious nature but, it sounds too much like a pyramid scheme to me and I refuse to touch those with a 10-foot pole. Having said that, understand that most companies will offer some form of reward for referring customers to them. That is normal business practice. You have to decide for yourself if what you are being offered is normal or going overboard.

Now, here's a host that I can recommend. They've got great service and the price is right!