How to Get Your Website 'live' on the Web
Read this article in SPANISH
An introduction to domain names, web servers and website hosting
by: Stefan Mischook
You're at the point where you built and tested your website on your own computer and now you want to show the world your new creation, but how do you do it? Now that you've come to think about it, you're not even sure how people actually get to websites; where are the websites actually sitting, what is the web in the first place?
In this article I am going to give you the minimum you need to get your site 'live' on the web. I won't go into painful micro-details that would put all but true nerds to sleep, again there is just enough so that you have a basic understanding of what's going on.
What is the web?
In a nutshell, the web is a whole bunch on interconnected computers talking to each other. The computers (on the web) are typically connected by phone lines, digital satellite signals, cable, and other types of data-transfer mechanisms. A 'data-transfer mechanism' is a nerd's way of saying: a way to move information from point A to point B to point C and so on.
The computers that make up the web can be connected all the time (24/7), or they can be connected only periodically. The computers that are connected all the time are typically what is called a server. Servers are computers just like the one you're using now to read this article, with one major difference; they have a special software installed called 'server' software.
What is the function of server software / programs?
Server software is created to 'serve' webpages and websites. Basically the server computer has a bunch of websites loaded on it and it just waits for people (web browsers) to request or ask for a particular page. When the browser requests a page the server sends it out.
How does the web surfer find a website?
The short answer is: by typing in the URL, or in other words, the website address. So for example if you wanted to find the web site www.killersites.com you would type in the address into your web browsers address bar or maybe use your 'favorites' link to killersites. There are other ways to find web sites (like search engines) but behind the scenes websites are all being found by going to the website's official address. That brings us to our last nerd detail; how does a website get an official address so that the rest of the web can find it?
Registering your domain name
If you ever wondered what the heck registering a domain was all about ...you probably guessed it by now. But just in case; registering a domain name gets you an official address for your website on the World Wide Web so that the rest of the web can find you. Like your home address is unique in the real world, there also cannot be any duplicate addresses on the Internet, otherwise no one would know where to go! In other words domain names are unique addresses on the web.
Why does registering a domain name cost money?
If you want to have your own unique address on the web, your own domain name, it will cost a few bucks for each year you want to 'own' the name. The cost of registering a domain name ranges from less than $10 USD to $30 USD per year and maybe more. You can register a domain from 1 to 10 years.
The reason it costs is because there is this central 'address book' of all the world's domain names that needs to be updated and kept going - somebody's got to pay for that! You may have noticed that I just snuck in a little extra piece of information: the giant 'web address book' of domains.
That leads us to our last bit of nerd information: when you type in a websites domain name or click on a link to that domain name, your browser starts asking servers where that particular domain name is sitting and the servers are able to tell the browser where to go by referring to the giant address book I mentioned above.
The two steps to getting your website 'live' on the web
With the nerd background details under our belts, we can now go over the two steps to going live on the web:
- Register your domain.
- Rent some server space.
1. Registering your domain
There are many companies out there that allow you to register the domain name for your website. Prices vary, as does the quality of service, but at the end of the day, they all handle the details of getting your domain name listed in the giant address book I spoke about earlier.
These days, you will find many of the names you may be interested in registering are already taken. As I mentioned above, domain names have to be unique and many have been slurped up.
What is the difference between .com, .net, .org, etc?
Practically speaking there is really no difference these days. Search engines don't discriminate between a .COM address and a .NET address. The only thing you might consider is that people tend to type in .COM automatically since it was the first publicly known domain extension. So when registering a domain name, I would go for the .COM first and if it was taken, I would then try for any of the others. (.net, .org, .tv, etc ...)
You probably guessed; a .COM address is not the same domain name of the same name with a different extension. So for example:
As such each of the addresses can be registered separately.
2. Renting server space to 'host' your website
When renting space on a server so that it can serve your website on the World Wide Web, it is often called 'hosting'. Companies that provide this service are often called 'host' or hosting companies.
After you registered your domain, all you need to do it contact a hosting company and tell them you want to host you website and that you have a proper domain name. They will guide you through the process and you should be live on the web in no time!
A cheaper option
Some people may not want to buy a domain or pay for hosting because they have just a personal website for fun or practice. You can still get your website live on the web by using a free hosting service that allows to create what they call a 'sub-domain'. A sub-domain is just a domain that is part of another domain. So if killersites.com offered sub-domain hosting you could have an address like:
Or it could be like:
Whatever way the free hosting service decides to do it, the point is that your we site domain is really a part of the parent domain, in this case killersites.com. Doing it this way, you don't need to buy a domain name and you don't need to pay for hosting.
This is fine for fun/project websites, but if you are serious about your website (say it's your business website) using sub-domains is like taking someone else's business card and writing you name on it! You figure it out ...
One last point, I've heard of free hosting services that will allow you to host proper domains with them for free and without annoying ads that other free host will insert into your pages. But I've never used them, and in my opinion you always get what you pay for. In the internet's recent past there was once a crop of free service providers that would give away access to the web via dial-up, they were notorious for bad service and all have since gone bankrupt ...I wonder why?
Moving your web site files onto the server
After you have your domain name registered and your hosting service in place, the last step is to upload the website onto the server. You can transfer your website to your host's server using an FTP program.
An FTP program is a type of software that is used to move files from one computer to another over the Internet. FTP is the acronym for: File Transfer Protocol, this just means that this is a 'way' of moving files. There are several free FTP programs you can use to move your files onto the server, and many HTML editors and webdesign programs like Dreamweaver have FTP capabilities built in.
One option you probably have to FTP your files to the server is Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer 5 and up have an FTP program built right in and you can use it by just typing in the FTP address of the server in the address bar preceded by the keyword: FTP. Here is an example:
I would like to point out that killersites.com now offers hosting and domain registration services (at a great price too! :)). Having said that, I hope that you found that my article is not written to push or promote the idea of getting domain names. I've tried to present the information in a 'fair and balanced way'. Ok, I can occasionally be caught watching Bill O'Reilly.
If you liked the article and you want to see more let me know!