Once you have staked your claim by registering your online domain, you are ready to move on to the next step in the process of getting your website online. A domain name is just the a forwarding address that will direct visitors to your website. Your site itself will exist on a server and it is the job of your web host to make your site accessible to users of the internet who request it.
What is Web Hosting?
There are many companies which offer web hosting services, but essentially they are offering space and some computing power on a server which is usually located in a data centre. When users request http://www.yourdomain.com, this request will be routed to your web host which will then return whatever content you have setup for visitors to see.
Choosing a Host
There are 2 main types of hosting; dedicated hosting where you have your own server which hosts only your website, and shared hosting where you will share access to a server with other users. For the typical blog or real estate investment website, shared hosting will provide everything you need.
When choosing a host, it is important to compare 3 things; performance, features, and price. When looking at performance, see what each host offers in terms of space, bandwidth and email, and check if they offer an “uptime guarantee” of any kind. For features, see if they have an easy to use control panel, web email, one-click installs, or anything other features you may want to use. Finally, when looking at price, see if there are setup fees, minimum terms, or any other charges in addition to the regular hosting fee.
For a simple blog or real estate investment website you should spend no more than $10 per month on web hosting.
Here are a few recommendations of affordable web hosts I have had positive experiences with:
- Dreamhost (use REINDISCOUNT as a promo code for $51 off of a monthly signup, or $97 off of a yearly signup)
3 Things to Setup
Once you choose a host, there are 3 things you’ll want to setup as the first steps in your new life as a “webmaster”.
1. DNS (Domain Name Server)
Remember that domain name you registered? Well, we need to point that domain somewhere, like to our new web host. mIn your welcome email from your web host, or in your control panel they’ll provide you with the DNS settings you need to use in order to point your domain to the right place.
Typically they will give you something like DNS1.WEBHOST.COM, DNS2.WEBHOST.COM, etc. or some IP addresses like 188.8.131.52. Just login to your domain registry account, find your DNS settings, and copy and paste these addresses as the DNS servers for your domain.
The changes made in this step takes some time to start working as the new settings propagate across all of the various domain name servers that form the world wide web. The wait can be up to 24 hours.
While you are waiting on your DNS settings up propagate so that your website starts showing up when you navigate to www.yourdomain.com, you can setup your own email address. Whether you want to setup firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or any others, this can be done by logging into the control panel for your web hosting provider.
When setting up email, you have the option of creating a new mailbox which will sit on your web server, or forwarding to your existing email account. More recently Google has introduced Google Apps which will take care of mail, calendar and other functions for your own domain name. This is a great solution, especially if your host is already integrated with Google Apps and if you are a fan of Gmail and Google Calendar like I am.
Before you start testing your new email addresses, make sure www.yourdomain.com is working. If your site isn’t up yet, chances are your email isn’t either.
Yes, another acronym. FTP stands for file transfer protocol, and is just a way to manage your files and folders. Just like you have files and folders on your personal computer, there are files and folders that sit on the server of your web host. Using an FTP client, you will be able to login and manage these files. There are many FTP clients out there, but 2 of my favourites are FireFTP (a FireFox plug-in) and CuteFTP.
Just like your DNS settings, your welcome email from your web host should contain some FTP login info. Simply put the address, username and password into your FTP client and you’ll be able to manage your files and folders quickly and easily.
If you have a one-click installer capable of setting up your content management system, you might not need to login to your FTP yet, but it will be useful down the road if you wish to customize your site.
Check back next week for the next article in this series which will teach you the basics of setting up and using my favourite content management system which is called WordPress. If anything is unclear, please leave your questions in the comments and I’ll provide any additional assistance I can offer. At the end of this series, if you decide the process is still too complicated or not the best use of your time, I’ll even provide a few options for having someone else take care of everything for you in the last article.
photo credit: br1dotcom
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to various web hosting providers, and if you purchase anything through those links I may earn a small commission. I have personally used each of these web hosts for my own hosting needs in the past and recommend using any of these providers which suit your hosting needs and budget.
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