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what's a host?
In our last lesson here, we talked about servers, but what's a host?
I guess the word host could have double meanings. You could call any server a host and you wouldn't be completely wrong.
Possibly a more accurate way to put it would be that hosting is generally referred to as the service provided to you the webmaster. That service being web space(or disk space) on a server owned by the hosting company, or hosting provider, eg the host.
free hosting & paid hosting
Ok so now you know what we're talking about when you see the words server, host, hosting, webhost, webspace provider etc...... The idea of this lesson is to help you choose a host that suits you.
Basically you can boil it down to two main options:
After that, there are many different options you can look at depending on what it is you plan to do with your web space. Some of these options will include things like how much actual web space they give you.
Another point will be how much bandwidth they give you. If you just said WTF??!! again, it's cool, take a chill pill, all will be revealed. Bandwidth refers to the amount of uploading your webspace is limited to. We talked about servers and uploading in publishing lesson 2. If you go to a website, you are classed as a "visitor" to that website. If you go to that website twice, then you have visited it twice, hence the website has recieved two visits from you. So basically bandwidth refers to how many visits/visitors you are allowed to have viewing your website. This is also reffered to as traffic. Visits are also sometimes called hits. The size of the files on your website can also affect how much bandwidth you use. Pictures (see html html lesson 14 and html lesson 15) take up a lot more of your webspace, they are also larger files for your visitor's browser to download, hence they will eat up more of yor bandwidth.
You will also come accross things such as Linux(or unix) driven servers Vs. Windows driven servers. This refers to the type of operating system(OS) on the server. Chances are that if you're following my tutorials then you would most likely have windows as your OS on your local machine there. On your home pc, there are HUGE differences between using Windows and using Linux on your personal pc but I'm not going to go into that here. I'm teaching you you how to be a bit of geek with these tutorials, but lets leave liunx for the super-nerds for the time being. Linux is usually a little better for things like php but that's another set of tutorials. Personally I do all my php work on using a windows operated machine at home(stop and listen to the real nerdy geeks gasp in horror at that statement!!), but I use linux web hosting. Usually Linux or otherwise, a decent webhost will have contol panels that are easy to use, so for a host it dosn't matter too much which way you go, but if plan on following my php tutorials, I'd recommend a linux server.
Lets not go into too much technical detail. For somebody starting out with simple web design, most of the different technical options are not going to be too important.
The main differences between free and paid hosting are usually things like advertising. Most free hosts will put their own advertising on your webspace. This will usually come in the form of banners or google ads showing up on your webpages, and/or popups and that's how they make money. Nobody likes popups and that includes the audience of your website. A free host like that will usually offer an upgrade where you pay to have thier advertisements removed, and upgrades to pay for more disk space and more bandwidth.
Paid hosts generally have better customer service & tech suppport than the free ones and they are generally more reliable when it comes to uptime, meaning you don't have to worry about your website not being available to your visitors as much.
Quite a few free hosting services are run by people just starting out in the hosting bussiness and some of them do not really know what they are doing, this results in them being unreliable and having many flaws in the setup of their service which can make it misleading and confusing for the end user(you), and some of those free hosts can just dissappear overnight, and your website along with them.
Another difference between a lot of free hosts vs. paid hosts is that free hosts don't always allow you to have your own domain name, instead giving you a subdomain. We'll cover domains and subdomains in my next lesson.
For somebody just dabbling in a bit of web design for a bit of fun or as a hobby, free hosting is an option. They have thier downsides, but they are free after all.
For the more enthusiastic web developers, or for those creating and maintaining a company website on a more professional level for a business or something then paid hosting would be the better option.
In any case, searching for a hosting soloution free or othersise can be a daunting and tiresome process, especially for the beginner. Luckily for you, I can recommend a great hosting company which I myself have used for over ten years.
It's a paid hosting company hostingbay.com.au, they are cheap, reliable and thier customer service is excellent. Thier basic plans start off at around $2.40 a month and in my personal opinion that's a small price to pay for having your own website with great support and the freedom to use it as you wish.
The administrative areas of different hosts vary from one provider to the next, this does make it difficult to write a generic tutorial for the complete beginner on how to use them so my following few lessons will covering how to use hostingbay.
Before we get to that though, we'll look at domain names. You will want some knowledge about that before signing up for a host as you generally come accross domain options during the signup process for hosting.
Click here to continue to publishing lesson 4, domains and subdomains.
Lesson added Wednesday 27th August 2008 - edited Friday 1st May 2009
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