Hosting a Web Site
Web Development & Design Foundations with HTML5, Seventh Edition, Chapter 10
A Web site is made up of three main components:
- A domain, also known as the site's URL
- A Web server, also known as a hosting service or an Internet Service Provider (ISP)
- The Web pages, written in the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) coding system and stored on the hosting service's digital storage (probably hard drives)
As you make your Web site, you will usually work on the Web pages on your local computer. You will store the files on your computer's hard drive, or on a USB jump drive, or an external hard drive. We will talk about the HTML pages in much more detail next week.
The site's Web pages will be viewed by its visitors by their putting the site's domain (URL) into their browser's address field, or clicking on a link which connects their browser to that same domain (URL). We will talk about how to put these links into a Web page in a few weeks.
The site's Web pages will be sent to the visitor's browser across the Internet, from the hard drive of the hosting Web server, in response to the user's request for the page. (Putting the site's domain into the address field, or clicking a hypertext link, is technically called making a request for a page from the Web server.)
What this situation boils down to is this: When you are satisfied that the site's pages are ready for viewing by the public, you will need to transfer the files/pages to the hosting Web server.
The site's Web pages can be transferred to the hosting server in several ways. We will talk later about using an FTP (File Transfer Process) app, or using the hosting server's File Manager.
Do Frequent Backups
But first, I want to emphasize something that doesn't seem to get discussed much:
You should frequently back up the local source files and resources for your Web site.
One really important time to do a backup is just before you modify and update your site.
The Sitemap Page
Your site will eventually have a Sitemap page. The Sitemap page is an outline or list of all of the pages on your site.
The Sitemap page of most Web sites has become a defacto standard page. There are two main reasons for your having a sitemap page in your site:
- It serves as a last-resort navigation page for the user to find things in your site, if your navigation is confusing or you have a very large site.
- The search-engine robot programs will index all of your site's pages if you have a link to all of them on the sitemap page.
So when you update your Web site, don't forget to update your sitemap page if you have added or deleted pages, and/or you have re-organized your site! See the next section for a detailed outline of the updating process.
The process of updating your Web site is not difficult, but you do need to pay attention to some important details.
Here is a brief list of the most important steps:
- Back up your site's local pages and resources (HTML pages, CSS files, images, sounds, etc.).
- Start your File Transfer Protocol (FTP) program/app and connect to your site's remote hosting Web server, or log in to your hosting server's account pages.
- Navigate in both the local and remote file lists of your FTP program, to the directories that you want to work in; or find your site's pages in the hosting service's File Manager.
- Download the pages and/or resources that you want to update, to your local storage. This step is not strictly necessary if you have kept your local files in sync with your remote (site) files. Just to be sure that you are working with the current site's files, this step is a good idea. And this step is also one good reason for backing up your local files before you start!
Make your modifications to the files and/or resources.
While you making your changes, you should occasionally (say, every quarter or so) make sure of these aspects of
Have there been any technological changes that you need to address? Some of these changes might be:
- An updated version of HTML
- An updated version of CSS
- Have there been any improvements and/or changes to website security that you need to incorporate?
- Have there been any technological changes that you need to address? Some of these changes might be:
- When you update your Web site, don't forget to update your sitemap page if you have added or deleted pages, and/or you have re-organized your site!
- VALIDATE the changed pages! We will talk about using the Validator next week.
- Display the pages, if possible, in a local browser to make sure they look okay.
- Upload the modified pages and/or resource files.
- TEST your live Web site!
- BACK UP your pages!! (in several locations)
The first step toward having a Web site is for you to register (buy) a URL, also known as a domain.
Many Web hosting services will register your domain name for you, but if you want to be sure that it is registered properly, you should probably do it yourself. The one exception to this consideration is GoDaddy.com, which has a great reputation for both registering your domain/URL and for good, inexpensive hosting.
Buy your domain name from a reputable service, such as:
- http://www.godaddy.com is probably the best company to get a domain from. Their prices are reasonable and their customer service is excellent.
- http://www.networksolutions.com was the first company to provide domain names to the purchasing public. They are quite expensive but their customer service is unmatched.
As I mentioned earlier in this handout, a Web site needs to be located on a Web server, sometimes called a "host" or a "hosting service".
So after you get your domain/URL (see the previous section) you will need to either
- Build, run, and maintain your own Web server (NOT recommended!), or
- Rent space on a Web server. There are even some good free Web hosting servers available.
Try to find a Web hosting service that others have had good success with. Here are some possibilities:
- http://www.freehostia.com is the best free hosting service that I have seen. They also have some paid hosting plans, but even their free plan is excellent. Several former students have hosted actual, small sites at freehostia.
- https://www.godaddy.com/hosting/web-hosting is the current host for my site, jimlink.net. They have reasonably-priced plans and great customer service.
- http://www.networksolutions.com/web-hosting/index.jsp is a great hosting service especially if you need some beefed-up services such as a Virtual Private Server (VPS) host. They also provide a lot of assistance if you need help setting up your VPS site.
- http://www.hostgator.com has been recommended to me by students as a great hosting service. They have reasonably-priced plans.
- http://www.visionis.com was the first hosting service that I used for my site, jimlink.net. Their customer service is great.
- http://webservices.thesba.com (formerly http://www.crystaltech.com) has a great VPS (Virtual Private Server) plan if you ever need to customize a site with non-standard tools. But be careful: Running a VPS requires a lot of time and technical expertise. Thesba will provide a little bit of help, but not much.
A hint: Use relative URL's on your site as much as you can. This way, if you have to change Web servers in the future, most of your internal links will still work.
Another hint: Make sure you ask your site's host about how to implement an https:// connection to your site, if you ever need to collect sensitive information from your site's users. Using an https:// connection is very simple: You just add an 's' to the 'http' part of the protocol; but you might need to slightly change the domain portion of the URL. Ask your site's host: Send them an e-mail, or check their FAQ page, or submit a support ticket; but do ask them if the URL needs to be slightly different with the https:// protocol.