So you’re ready to start your own website? Congratulations! Here’s five easy steps to get started without wasting any time!
Step 1: How does it work?
In order for your website to be available to anyone at anytime, you need to host it with a web host. In other words: you need a web server leased to you by a web hosting company.
Also, in order for your visitors to easily access your site by name, you will need a domain name such as `yourdomain.com`. This will allow to make your site available at `www.yourdomain.com` (for example) but this will also allow you to receive email on addresses like `email@example.com`…
Most hosting companies offer all-inclusive packages by default, which include:
- a domain name,
- the web-hosting itself
- several email addresses/mailboxes.
Thus, if you’re just starting out, it is generally a good idea to get both your domain and your hosting in one single sign up with a hosting company. (Depending on your needs, you may or may not want to also take advantage of the email addresses.)
Step 2: Which kind of web site do you want?
Think about your smartphone for a minute: you can enter notes into the basic existing apps, but you can also install new apps on your phone. It’s similar when you get a website: you can put up some basic information using basic tools but you can also install new app, powerful apps… like b2evolution!
It basically boils down to 2 kinds of web sites:
Static sites (simple sites): you will build one or more web pages (called HTML pages) with software like DreamWeaver on your computer. You will then upload the pages to your host’s server using FTP software like FileZilla for example.
Every time you will need to change something on your site, you will have to edit the pages on your computer and upload them again. The website never changes by itself. That’s why it’s called a “static” site.
Note: If you don’t have any such software, don’t worry: many web hosts will actually provide you with free “site builder” software to get you started.
Dynamic sites (blogs, forums, photo galleries…): instead of uploading HTML pages to, you will install a piece of software (called a web application) on your web server. This software will let you add and edit content (text, pictures, videos…) at any time directly online without the need for any special tools on your computer. The software may also allow your visitors to leave comments or start discussions of their own if you let them.
Of course we recommend the b2evolution blog/CMS software to kickstart your site and let it grow over the years, but there’s plenty of choice here. Other popular web apps include WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, phpBB, Gallery and plenty more…
Note: If installing a web application sounds complicated, don’t worry: many web hosts will automatically install the application of your choice for you. Their tech support should also be able to help you.
Step 3: Which hosting technology do you need?
While static HTML sites can be hosted on virtually ANY web server, when it comes to web applications, you need to be aware of the technology they are using. There are basically two different technological orientations to choose from here:
- Linux hosting: this is also referred to as “LAMP” as in “Linux Apache MySQL PHP” which are the 4 main components of this platform. Today, this is by far the most commonly used system. b2evolution and the other web apps cited above all run on Linux a.k.a. LAMP servers.
- Windows hosting: this is also referred to as ASP hosting. ASP is Microsoft’s proprietary technology for web applications. You only want to use this if you plan to run a web application written specifically in ASP.
Note: even if you use Windows on your own computer, you will generally want to go with Linux hosting *unless* you specifically need ASP. Linux hosting is generally faster, cheaper and more flexible than Windows hosting and poses no compatibility problem at all, no matter which operating system you use at home or at work.
Step 4: What hosting service level do you need?
There is a whole range of service levels in web hosting. These can roughly be broken down like this:
- Free hosting ($0): this is like shared hosting (listed below) but overloaded with ads that you can’t remove and generally very slow. You should only use this for small private sites that do not need to work 24x7.
- Shared hosting ($4 to $20/month): this is the most common kind of hosting. A very large server will host the websites of several different clients. Each client has its own account though and – on serious/security aware hosting companies – is isolated from other clients.
- VPS (Virtual Private Servers) ($30 to $40/month): Again a large server will host several websites but this time, the sites are strongly isolated from each other as if they were actually on different servers. This is recommended if you have high security constraints.
- Dedicated Servers ($79 to $399/month): Here you get a whole physical server for yourself. That is very comfortable, fast and secure… but pricey!
- Cloud Hosting (Prices all over the place) : in this case your website shares an array of servers with other sites. This means that your site is not limited to the power of a single server and that the resources allocated to it can grow and shrink on demand depend on how much traffic you get. This is interesting only for very large sites and if you’re just starting out you probably don’t want to get in to the complexity of such a solution.
Most people start with shared hosting, knowing you can always upgrade later, as your site grows. Shared hosting gives you professional web hosting capabilities at the fraction of the price of a dedicated server.
Step 5: Choose a hosting company
Once you have settled on Linux vs Windows and Shared vs VPS vs Dedicated, you will still have to make a choice between many offers from many different companies…
A lot of companies will offer you incredible disk space and bandwidth to host your site. Don’t fall for it! All hosting plans in the $4 to $10/month range today offer more space and bandwidth than you could possibly need when starting a new site.
If you ask us, there are 3 things you want to look at when choosing between similar hosting offers:
- Performance: how fast will your site be? The best way is to check out a website you know is already hosted by the company you have in mind. You might also be interested in our test sites.
- Uptime: will your site be available 24x7 or will it be down from time to time… which can be very annoying? Reviews and user comments will give you an idea pretty quickly.
- Customer service! This is the hardest part to evaluate. If service is important to you, read reviews and user comments very carefully. However, if you tend to figure out things by yourself anyway, you may as well go for a lower price…
Also remember: you get what you pay for! Cheap prices (except maybe for limited time trial offers) always mean you will have to compromise on the speed of your site, the availability of your site (uptime) or the quality of the technical support. So, if you’re just getting your feet wet, you can go for a cheap package and you can always upgrade later. But if your business is going to depend on your website, make sure you don’t go for an entry level package.
Still confused? Check out this list of top web hosting offers.