Choosing a Website Hosting Company

Once you have finished Choosing a Website Domain Name you now own rights to a URL, let's say LisaShea.com for sake of an example. You are able to point people who type in that name to go "somewhere". You now have to set up that "somewhere".

Every computer on the internet is associated with an IP address. That is a four part number along the lines of 123.456.123.456. That is the unique identifier that tells the internet how to get to a specific computer. When you buy rights to a domain name, say LisaShea.com, then you tell your domain name registrar what computer to send people to when they type in that name. You do that by entering, on the domain name registrar's website, the IP address of your destination computer. This destination computer is where the website hosting company comes in.

To have a physical storage location on the web to host your website content, you need to lease space from a hosting company who has a computer on the internet. The hosting company will then allow you to put your photos and words and data onto their computer. That computer is where visitors will "see" your images and content.

Let's say for example that you buy hosting services from GoDaddy.com - a site many of my friends have used. GoDaddy offers many different types of options. The most commonly used option is that you can "share" a computer with many other users. This is a common way for small sites to begin. You get say 1/10th of a computer's space to have your website content. You have your own unique logon to access that computer. None of the other users can get to your content, your data is completely protected. The hosting company sets up a special IP address for you - so for example they tell you that your ID number is 123.456.789.123. You put that information into your domain registrar so that the domain registrar now knows to send anyone looking for LisaShea.com to the machine located at 123.456.789.123.

What happens now is:

1) Random web visitor on their home PC types in "LisaShea.com" in their browser
2) The domain name company gets that request for LisaShea.com. It translates it to 123.456.789.123. It sends the person off to that physical machine identified by those numbers.
3) The web hosting company gets in a request for content. It shows the user the content found at that computer location.

So it is the web hosting company that has actual storage space on a computer that holds the photos, HTML pages, data files and other content that the end user sees. If that web hosting company's computer goes down, your website goes down. If their computer is really slow, then the user gets a really slow response time. Where the domain name company can do little "wrong" in their systems work, a web hosting company can do a LOT of things wrong to annoy you. If you're going to have problems with your website, it will undoubtedly be with your web hosting company.

It is critical that you go with a web hosting company that does a good job. There are many different aspects to this.

1) The site itself must be up and fast. All the time. Day or night. The server shouldn't go down randomly. It shouldn't become dog-slow for no reason. It should be extremely reliable.
2) Customer service should be alive 24 hours a day. If your site goes down at midnight on a Saturday, you shouldn't have to wait until 9am on Monday to start talking to a human being. Reliable customer service is absolutely key in a web hosting company.
3) The way you move files on and off your server should be easy. Most people use FTP - a File Transfer Protocol that lets you drag and drop files from your local machine to the server. There are many free FTP programs out there that you can use. I happen to use FTP Voyager which is not free but has a lot of features I like to use. In essence a FTP program simply lets you move files from your local home PC onto the hosting company's computer where the world can see them.

I use Netriplex.com for my hosting - but that is an expensive solution that I use because my sites are large. Most people can use GoDaddy.com or Globat.com for their hosting and be quite content with that level of activity.

Once you have a physical computer all ready to host your website, it's time to actually design the website that will live on that computer and be shown to your visitors!

4. Designing a Website

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