In order for your website to be accessible to visitors online, it must have a unique address and be on a computer/server that is always connected to the Internet.
You can use your own computer if you have a permanent connection to the Internet with its own IP address. However, your computer can be exposed to hackers, viruses and other intrusions, especially if you don't have a comprehensive firewall and antivirus software in place.
A simple solution is to purchase web hosting that provides space for your website. A serious hosting company will have a firewall and antivirus in place and make regular backups of your website. Your website is stored on more than one web server so that it is always available even if the web server is having severe technical problems. The address of your website will registered by yourself in the form of a domain name that is easy to remember for your visitors.
Web hosting is available in various price ranges and choosing web hosting is not always an easy task as it can be puzzling when you compare the conditions and services. When choosing web hosting, you should ask for references and make sure that they have good security and backup protection in place. At some point you will most likely need technical support so making sure your chosen web hosting provider provides email or phone support is essential. Professional web hosts also offer a number of email addresses (POP accounts) and different technology platforms that may be required to ensure all functions on your web pages such as PHP, ASP, CGI, SQL / databases, etc.
For your website to have a permanent address on the World Wide Web, you will need a domain name that uses DNS (Domain Name System) that notifies any web server that your site can be reached and downloaded. Each server is assigned a number of IP numbers (Internet Protocol) which is connected to the computer on which the site is located. The address of websites are called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and the IP number is assigned to a domain name. The domain name can be called anything followed by letters indicating the country who provide that particular domain extension. co.uk or.uk is a top level domain and is available for registration to those in the United Kingdom. The exception is the United States that use multiple top-level domains for different purposes. The list below shows a selection of common TLDs used.
.co.uk (United Kingdom)
.uk (United Kingdom)
.eu (European Union)
.net (Network providers, USA)
.com (For all uses, United States)
.org (Organization, United States)
.biz (Businesses, USA)
.info (For all uses, United States)
.name (Individuals, USA)
.pro (Professions, USA)
.ST (Sao Tome and Principe)
.cc (Cocos Island)
Domain names can be purchased at any time and registered by the representatives of the various TLDs. The cost varies for each domain extension and that of the company registering it. More than often you can get a deal on web hosting and a domain name if you purchase from the same company. Domain names can usually be registered from one year to 10 years and beyond.
A domain name can only contain letters (az), numbers (0-9) and hyphens (-) in uppercase or lowercase. Previously, ASCII characters were used as it was not permitted to use ÅÄÖ in domain names. Today, international domain name (IDN) or so-called multilingual domain names (ML) are now allowed. There are domain names with characters other than ASCII characters, like "göogle.com" instead of "google.com". If you want to be sure that visitors searching for your site always arrive at the correct destination you should should register both names.
The advantage of registering your own domain name is that you always retain the same name even if you change web hosting and you get to keep the email addresses you registered. If you have your own domain name and hosting, you can select which email addresses (POP) you want for your domain name. You can then give each family member or employee a unique email address of their own.
Which TLD should you choose?
One of the most sought after top-level domains are .com but British companies and individuals often use the co.uk or.uk which is the British ccTLD. However, to protect your domain name and make it unique, many webmasters choose to register several domains and link them to the same website.
Selecting Web Hosting - budget or quality?
We have used a number of different hosting companies over the years and our experience is that a higher price does not always mean faster website speed, customer service or features. The Internet is full of review sites reviewing web hosting companies on a regular basis. If you're not sure which one to go with, I always recommend doing a Google search and looking for one which has received many positive reviews in the last several months.
Examples of services that web hosts offer:
Web hosting: The storage space to host your website on the Internet. You can start with a smaller space and purchase more space as your site grows.
Linux or Windows: The operating system used on your web server. Linux works with PHP and MySQL. Windows works with ASP and ASP.NET and Access database. Select Linux, if you do not use ASP / ASP.NET.
Traffic bandwidth: The amount of information retrieved from the web server where visitors are using your site. If you have a photo archive or offer file download your traffic bandwidth will dramatically increases.
Email addresses or e-mail accounts: If you have your own domain name and hosting, you can select which email addresses (POP) you want for your domain name. You can then give each family member or employee of the company there very own unique email address.
Hosting multiple domain names: You can use multiple domain names on the same hosting account and do not need to buy several hosting packages even if you have multiple domain names. You can can put each separate domain into its own subfolder on your web server and run multiple sites on the same web hosting account. However, many web hosting companies only offer this service on their more expensive packages. Cheaper packages generally only allow you to host one domain name at a time.
Windows Server or Linux?
Windows Server and Linux are two common operating system used on web servers. Many hosting companies offer their customers the opportunity to choose for themselves which OS they need.
With Windows Server, you get access to ASP and MSSQL that can run on the same server.
With Linux, you get a free OS that has the best support in PHP and good support for MySQL and other popular tools.
Web Hosting with Windows Server
Web Hosting running on a Windows Server is much more common today than it was ten years ago. There are many reasons why Windows Server has become an increasingly common alternative than it previously was. One reason is that the software IIS (Internet Information Services) has become much better over time.
Right now many web hosting companies run Windows Server 2008 with IIS 7.5, but with the release of Windows Server 2012 you can expect a gradual transition to the new operating system and IIS 8 for web hosts.
Windows Server 2012 with IIS 8 has a lot of improvements compared to IIS 7.5. Much effort has been made to optimize safety and speed. IIS can handle SSL certificate, has improved speed and also supports cloud services.
One of the primary benefits of running Windows Server is taking advantage of the features that are exclusive to that particular system. ASP applications written in .NET is a good example of that. You can also use the database engine in MySQL on the same machine.
The only real downside to a Windows Server is that you have to buy a license compared to running a free operating system such as Linux. For a hosting package where you share a server with several other hosting customers this cost is barely noticeable while, and in most cases it is actually the same price for both Windows and Linux with the same web host. But if you are considering a VPS or dedicated server the cost can be an important factor to take into consideration.
Web Hosting with Linux
Web Hosting with Linux is undoubtedly the most popular platform. Finding a web hosting company that does not offer the platform is really difficult and it also makes the selection of web hosting truly massive. Linux is used as the operating system on Web servers for many reasons, but that it is free and open source software is undoubtedly one of the main reasons.
Linux is available in several different formats such as Red Hat, Ubuntu, CentOS, Fedora, etc, but for a typical hosting customer, it is rare that this would have any meaning whatsoever.
Many web servers have chosen to use the package LAMP, an acronym for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PPP (PHP, Python, Perl). All these softwares are free and have been combined to form a powerful web server.