Before you can put your site on the Web, you'll need to find a web server. How easy this is depends on how you get your access to the Internet.
Using a Web Server Provided by Your School or Work
If you get your Internet connection through school or work, that organization may allow you to publish web pages on its own web server. Given that these organizations usually have fast connections to the Internet and people to administer the site for you, this situation is ideal.
You'll have to ask your system administrator, computer consultant, webmaster, or network provider whether a web server is available and, if so, what the procedures are for putting up your pages. You'll learn more about what to ask later in this lesson.
Using a Commercial Internet or Web Service
You may pay for your Internet access through an Internet service provider (ISP), or a commercial online service. Many of these services allow you to publish your web pages, although it may cost you extra. There might be restrictions on the kinds of pages you can publish or whether you can run server-side scripts. Ask your provider's help line or participate in online groups or conferences on Internet services to see how others have set up web publishing.
There are many organizations that have popped up that provide nothing but web hosting. These services, most commonly known as web hosts, usually provide a way for you to transfer your files to their server (usually FTP), as well as the disk space and the actual web server software that provides access to your files. They also have professional systems administrators onsite to make sure the servers are running well at all times.
Generally, you're charged a flat monthly rate, with added charges if you use too much disk space or network bandwidth. Many web hosts provide support for server-side scripts, and often install some commonly used scripts so that you don't even have to set them up for yourself. Most also enable you to set up your site with your own domain name, and some even provide a facility for registering domain names as well. These features can make using commercial web hosting providers an especially attractive option.
Make sure that when you register your domains, they are registered in your name rather than in the name of the hosting provider or domain registrar who registers them on your behalf. You want to make sure that you own the domain names you register.
To get your own domain name, you need to register it with an authorized registrar. The initial cost to register and acquire your domain name can be as low as $8 per year. Thereafter, an annual fee keeps your domain name active. Once you have your own domain name, you can set it up at your hosting provider so that you can use it in your URLs and receive email at that domain. Your site will have an address such as http://www.example.com/.
Many ISPs and web hosts can assist you in registering your domain name. You can register your domain directly with an authorized registrar such as Network Solutions (http://www.networksolutions.com/), Register.com, dotster.com, or godaddy.com. Most of these services also offer domain parking, a service that allows you to host your domain with them temporarily until you choose a hosting provider or set up your own server. The prices vary, so you should shop around before registering your domain.
The Ultimate Web Host List at http://webhostlist.internetlist.com/ is a good resource for finding and evaluating web hosting services. For more information, see Appendix A, "Sources for Further Information."
Setting Up Your Own Server
If you're really courageous and want the ultimate in web publishing, running your own website is the way to go. You can publish as much as you want and include any kind of content you want. You'll also be able to use forms, scripts, streaming multimedia, and other options that aren't available to people who don't have their own servers. Other web hosts might not let you use these kinds of features. However, running a server definitely isn't for everyone. The cost and maintenance time can be daunting, and you need a level of technical expertise that the average user might not possess. Furthermore, you need some way to connect it to the Internet. Many Internet service providers won't let you run servers over your connection, and putting your server in a hosting facility or getting a full-time Internet connection for your server can be costly.
If you can't afford to pay a web hosting provider to host your website, there are some free alternatives. Yahoo Geocities (at http://geocities.yahoo.com/) provides free Web hosting, as does Google Pages (http://pages.google.com/). There are lots of other similar services as well, including services that host particular kinds of content like weblogs (http://www.blogger.com/), journals (http://www.livejournal.com/), or photos (http://www.flickr.com/). These are just some examples. The tradeoff is that the pages on these sites have advertisements included on them and that your bandwidth usage is generally sharply limited. There are often other rules regarding the amount of space you can use as well. Free hosting can be a good option for hobbyists, but if you're serious about your site, you'll probably want to host it with a commercial service.