Dec 192008

This article is by by Jon Norwood

Web hosting can be confusing for people just starting a new site for the first time, and even the pros need to read up now and again. Here we will discuss the basics of web hosting, as well as what to look for when setting up an account.

Web Hosting Basics

A web host has the server in which your website’s files, pages, and various documents are stored. When your site has a visitor, all data the visitor sees is being pulled from your web host. This means if your web host’s server is down, no data is being served.

The speed of the server may also be important depending on what is being hosted. If it’s a personal site that is for entertainment purposes only, then a slow server might not be so bad, but this could greatly impact a business.

The first decision to be made is what type of server to use. While this may look confusing while shopping around, there is really only two choices to make; Windows Web Hosting or Linux.

Linux is almost always the less expensive choice due to licensing and operational costs that inflate the price of Windows servers. Many times Linux servers also have the very popular Cpanel installed making server administration easy. Linux also makes the use of MYSQL database and PHP possible. For these reasons Linux tends to be the more popular choice.

Windows hosting allows users to take advantage of several technologies Linux cannot. These include Active Server Pages (ASP), COM development technology, and the growing .NET infrastructure. Although fewer users require these technologies, if they are needed there is no way around it; you need a Windows host. Although Cpanel is not available for a Windows host, comparable interfaces are available for administration purposes.

Of course price is always a concern, but it should probably not be the first. A solid web host can be found for between $7 and 25$ USD (per month.) It is possible to pay more, or even get free web hosting, but this is the range that someone who wants good service will shop in. Other than price, the following items should be considered:

1. Web Stats – Being able to track numbers like how many visitors you have, where they are coming from and where they are going can be very important. For a business it might be very important. Be certain this information is available (many times it’s free).

2. Web Storage – Make sure the host you choose is providing enough space to contain your site. Most often this isn’t an issue at all, but if large music or movie files need to be uploaded a user can run out of space.

3. Tech Support – For new and experienced users, eventually everyone will need tech support. Not surprisingly the more a web host costs, the more support is offered. 24 hour email support is standard, but a newer user might feel more comfortable with actually speaking with a technician.

About the Author

Jon Norwood is founder and managing partner of AccessHosts, a site dedicated to providing information on Windows Hosting, as well as guides on how to best choose a service.

Dec 192008

Web hosting goes by several names:  Hosting, domain hosting, webhosting, web site hosting, web domain hosting, and probably others.  They are all the same thing. What you are doing here is renting space on a Hosting Service’s computer(s,) and that space is where your site will live. You then upload your files to that site, or create them with a utility like Fantastico, and you’re good to go.

There are thousands of web hosts these days. Some tiny, some in the garage (or bedroom,) some pretty big (GoDaddy ,LiquidWeb, etc.) Some actually rent servers and or space from bigger companies and resell it, others have their own hardware.

They all have hosting packages that contain various features, usually ranging from a an inexpensive starter packages to expensive dedicated servers. Which one you pick will depend on your needs, but the starter package is a good first stop for most people. Skip the expensive packages for now, you can always move up later.

Ordering is really pretty simple, but let me cover a couple of definitions first:

  • Domain Names: The name of your site. Most hosting services will let you register a domain name when you sign up for their service, which is convenient. I prefer to use a third party which leaves me in control of the domain name. Can’t think of name for your site? Here are some tips on creating a domain name.
  • Web space: This is the amount of space on their computers that you can use for your stuff. While 100 megs will cover all the web pages you’re ever likely to put up there are other things that use that space. The two biggies are email and your web statistics logs. Unless you’re running some massive picture gallery or a site with a zillion pages you won’t have huge space requirements. 500 megs of space will cover everything you will do for awhile. Disk space on srvers grows cheaper year by year, so the amount of available space will keep increasing.
  • Bandwidth: This is a measure of how much data/stuff your server can send over a month and is usually measured in gigabtes. Every page or image on your site takes a certain amount of space. Someone comes to your site and looks at four pages. You’ve served them four pages of data. If each page is 100 kilobytes in size then you’ve served 400 kilobytes of data. 10,000 megs (10 gigs) of bandwith is a minimum, but if you start getting lots of traffic you’ll want to upgrade. We have three sites that greatly exceed the 10 gigs mark.
  • Cpanel: Cpanel is the interface that you use to manage your site. There are a lot of different user interfaces out there, but Cpanel is pretty common and we like it a lot.
  • Fantastico: is a nifty little device. It will let you install software (scripts,) such as a WordPress blog, into your webspace with a couple of clicks. It can save a lot of work. I believe it only comes with cpanel setups, other systems might have something similar. Anyone care to comment on that?
  • Shared Hosting: this is hosting where several accounts share one computer/server and all of its total resources. This is perfectly fine for most websites. Big sites with a lot of traffic will want to move up to a ….
  • Dedicated Server: This baby is all yours. One account, one computer, and the hosting company handles all the hardware issues. A dedicated server costs a lot more and is far beyond what most sites need. Build that big site that gets lots of traffic and you might want one, though.
  • Cloud Server: Computing services are spread over many machine, the “cloud.” Resources are shared transparently. The sweet thing about this is that is you have a busy site with predictable spikes in traffic then you can upgrade your server on demand and then resize it back down when the spike is over. Resources can be shifted on the fly which means that changes are quick and easy. Doing a massive upgrade to your site? Need a new server? You can do it in a couple of minutes, instead of hours. Pretty slick. Not for the new guy, but if you’re going to be the next Engadget, you might want to think about it. This little site is on Storm’s cloud server, not because I gets that much traffic here, but because my other site does.

There are other alternatives, depending on the host. A Virtual Private Server is one. It’s a cross between shared and dedicated. Meaning that you get more control and more resources, but you don’t get the whole machine to yourself.

Ok, Here we go…

Most hosting services will be very similar in how you buy hosting. It’s pretty straightforward and is much like buying anything else off the web.

  1. Figure your your needs and pick a package that works for you. Usually the starter shared hosting package will be fine, and you can usually get it for a few bucks a month, but if you need more then go for it. If it’s me, I want…
    1. Real customer service that isn’t outsourced to India (nothing against india, but their people aren’t located in the server room. :) )
    2. A cpanel interface for the flexibility and because that’s what I’m used to.
    3. Fantastico comes with most cpanel hosts, make sure yours has it. This gadget makes installing blogs, forums, and a lot of other stuff almost trivial.
    4. At least three databases. You’ll want one for your blog, maybe one for a fourm, another for a link tracking script…
    5. As much bandwidth as I can afford. 10 gigs is a good start, more is better. If you start getting withing shouting distance of the limit they’ll force you to upgrade, so get it now.
    6. Disc space.. 500 megs gives you lots of room for your blogs, logs, misc files, and so on. It’s not as important as bandwidth, but it’s nice if you’re going to be uploading big files, like video.
  2. Look for the section on their site which says, web hosting or shared hosting. You will generally see three or more package choices. Pick the one that fits your needs. There will be a button or link that says “add to cart” or something similar. Click that.
  3. You may hit a page which asks you to create an account. Make sure all the contact info you enter is real and that your email is one you will check on occasion.
  4. Most likely the next page is where you finalize your package choice and enter your payment info. Keep in mind that this will be a monthly payment. You’re renting space on the system, not buying it. If it’s me and it’s a new host (for me) then I want a short term package to make sure that I’ll like their system. If I do then I might sign up for the longer term package, which should be cheaper overall. I’ll be with Storm until they kick me off, their service rules.
  5. Once payment is made the host will get to work setting up your account. Sometimes it’s not instant, but it should be live in a few hours, tops. A cloud server should be up in minutes.

When the account is live you’ll get an email with complete instructions for accessing that account. That’s why you need to give them a real email address. You will need to make a note of:

  • their nameservers
  • the url to get to your cpanel (or other admin section.)
  • their support url or email
  • your username and password
  • any other details you feel you need.

Store that in a safe place.

Most hosting services are pretty similar to the above. Pick your package and order. Some will offer some added bells and whistles and some will give you a free, or greatly discounted, domain name if you order that domain name through their service. I prefer to order my domains elsewhere, then point them at the new host. Use whichever method works best for you. Sites like BlogSuccess will, among many other things, do 100% of your blog set up for you (if you’re a member.) All you do is tell them your domain name, fill out a short form, follow any instructions, and you’re good.

Dec 162008

We all love free.

No costs out of pocket and we get what we want. It’s a beautiful thing. Why pay for it if you can get everything that you want, free?

Web hosting, for example. Web Hosting is just the service that lets you put your stuff online. You get the most flexibility as you go up in price, but there are some very nice free solutions that are available, especially if you’re just getting started or want a secondary site for whatever reason.

As far as your site goes, do you just want to write an article or two? Have a long, continuous conversation with your fans? Put up an e-commerce store or just an online brochure? Just slap something up to provide links back to your main site?

One thing to keep in mind: Web hosting is very expensive for the hosting provider. They cannot afford to buy all those computers, all the software, the internet connections, hire all those people, and maintain them while providing 100% free services.

So they have to get their money somehow, even though you might pay nothing at all. How is this possible? Upsells, emails, and ads, basically.

The Free Hosting: is a 100% free hosting service. You can sign up and be putting up a site within an hour. As you go through the signup process they will encourage you to sign up for their paid hosting service, buy a domain name, and sign up for various offers. None of which you have to do. They provide lots of templates to pick from and their website builder isn’t at all hard to use.

Once your site is up you’ll notice Tripod ads all over your site. For example, this Warcraft Rogue tips site I threw together. The two ad blocks at the top and the bottom of the page are Tripod’s. Since Tripod has been around for a long time with the same model I have to assume that their model works.

It’s not a bad way to get started, really. Most free hosts are similar. When the time comes for you to get more serious with your site you’ll want to move up to a paid solution. The most obvious issue, to me, is that if you’re trying to make a site with a professional look, well, you won’t get it from Tripod’s free service. also offers free hosting but you’ll make a payment for a domain name or to transfer a domain name to their service. The upside is that you don’t get any of their ads on your site. This works out to about $3 a month which is about as cheap as hosting gets.

Better Free Stuff

Blogs. One of the killer things about blogging services is that you get a consistent look to your site that’s clean and pretty clear. Once youi get it set up all you have to do is post your stuff. You don’t have to worry about HTML, CSS, or any of the coding stuff.

The best way to go, by far, if you really want to be free is something like or Blogger is owned by the mighty Google, which means a few things: 1) You’re not limited in how much stuff you add to your site and 2) it’s going to be around for awhile.

The only thing that Blogger adds to your site is a bar at the top of the page giving access to other blogger blogs. Here’s an example of one of their blogs. Yet another warcraft tips blog. The only thing that Blogger adds is the bar at the top. Everything else is yours. puts a link on the bottom of your site and, if you’re logged in, there will be a bar at the top which is similar to Blogger’s.

So how does Blogger pay the bills? Google has the adsense program which allows you to put their adds on your site and you split the revenue.

You’ll never be able to run a high traffic site on the free hosts such as Tripod. Once you exceed a certain amount of traffic they’ll turn off your site until the bandwidth meter resets, next month.

The exception? You can have a high traffic site with blogger or WordPress. Some pretty popular blogs are on both systems, ranging from little Warcraft sites to very popular political sites and a vast assortment of other topics.  If you can send insane amounts of traffic to a typical free host, well, it won’t work. Neither Blogger or WordPress cares how much traffic you send. If you’re interested in getting started with, check out: How to Build Your Site

Other Possibilities

Squidoo – isn’t really a hosting service, but it’s a pretty nifty system. Absolutely 100% free and they do a revenue sharing system with the ads placed on your site. More about

Hubpages – Very similar to squidoo, 100% free, but a little stricter in what they allow. More on HubPages.

Weebly and are two more free hosts that pretty much let you do your own thing with some pretty decent site builders, provide options for grabbing your own domain name, and so on.

If you just want to write articles, either because you don’t really want a site or you want to build some name recognition and send some traffic to your site, then look at article sites, such as: and

Summing up… With Free you get…

  • At least some ads or links back to the service provider.
  • No costs, at all, leave your credit card(s) in your wallet. Upsells to sites that are ad-free, have their own domains, and so on are generally available, but they aren’t required.
  • You get to get your feet wet in the online world and can practice ideas, your writing, and so on. Upgrade later if you need to.

The Paid Hosting

The big advantage of paid hosting is that you have complete control over your site. No ads that aren’t yours, no bars at the top or bottom of your site, no hoops to jumps through in order to present your stuff.

Subject to the limitations of your host’s terms and conditions you have no limits to what you put on your site. Go crazy with the design, size, and content. You’ll also generally get a lot more in the way of features with paid hosting than with free hosting.

Design – you have a lot more flexibility with design, too. If you install WordPress on your site you will have access to far more in the way of templates, addons (plugins,) and other tweaks than you will with the free WordPress.

I gave up on regular free hosting a long time ago, with the exception of that Tripod site, but that’s just  there as a demo anyway. I do use Squidoo and HubPages a lot, though, as well as Blogger and WordPress.

Getting a lot of traffic? Free hosts, as I mentioned above, will shut you down fast. Paid hosts will too, but you will be getting a lot more traffic than the freebies will put up with. The big sites pay a little, or a lot more, and can handle vast amounts of traffic. Also, if you’re gettin so much traffic that it’s an issue with your host they should have an upgrade path available.

If you plan on building a somewhat professional site that gets a nice level of traffic and will maybe make you a few bucks then you want to go with the paid hosting. I’m using StormOnDemand (a LiquidWeb company,) after firing my last few hosts, but there are a lot of hosting services out there and some may suit you better. Storm’s a cloud server and they have killer service.

So why else to use paid hosting instead of Blogger, Squidoo, Hubpages, etc.? You’re less at the mercy of the system. For example: Google has been known to kill certain Blogger blogs. Usually these were junk or spam blogs, with garbage content, but some good blogs have been accidentally (?) hit.

You are more free to do your own thing, limited only by your skill at building a site.

Also, sites like Squidoo and Hubpages occasionally change how their systems work. If you like the changes, great, if you don’t, well, you can always go elsewhere. With your own host you’re the one who’s always in charge.

Take a close look at what you want to do and choose accordingly. Some people stay entirely with Squidoo, others use several systems.

If you want to set up an online store, with your own merchant account, sales system, etc., then there is no free solution that will cover you. You’ll need to get a paid system and you’ll need some extras, such as secure transaction capability, a heavy duty database setup, backups, and so on.

If you’re in a business that has massive seasonal spikes, such as Halloween Costumes, you might want to look into a cloud server system. You can adjust the capacity of that system in minutes. Anticipating a major traffic spike that will only last a week? Get a basic system, ramp it up for that week, then scale it back down when the traffic dies back.

Summing up the paid hosting:

  • Flexibility to do your own thing, primarily. There are a ton of 3rd party things (free and paid) that you can plug into these sites, giving you more fexibility than with any free system.
  • If you want to move your site from Host A to Host B it can be as easy as packing up your site and uploading it to the new host.
  • If you have an online store (for example, selling your line of 500 fly rods and reels) you’ll have to go with the paid solution.
  • If you want to be the next, well… :)

Now, About Getting That Site Built…

One of the things that throws people, regardless of whether they go free or paid is actually getting the site put together. One option is the system that BlogSuccess has put together. You buy the domain name, fill in a couple of blanks, and they will set up your entire WordPress blog on their system and even make all the right settings to give you the best start. Pretty much all you will have to do is to start writing, and they teach you how to do that, as well. Definitely worth a look.