|Getting Started: Domain Registration and Hosting
Registering a domain name is easier than ever. Use the Domain Name Buyers Guide to find the best deal.
The name is called a domain name. It's what people type in their browser to get to your site.
The place is a Webhost. A Webhost hosts your pages for you so you don't have to know all that nasty server stuff unless you want to.
Strangely enough, you may want to pick your host before the name.
Pick a Host
You have a few options for picking a host:
If you go with free space, you get a domain name automatically, but it's usually pretty ugly. If you want your own custom domain name you usually have to pay for the name and the space you host your pages at.
Registering a domain name
Registrars are the people who keep track of who owns what name and what server the name points to.
It costs between $10 and $35 a year to register your own name.
Find a domain
To garner the consumer lowdown on domain registrars, visit the Domain Name Buyers Guide. It ranks the reliability, service, and legal rights your registration gives you. If you decided to get the name before the host, you'll want to choose a service that will park, or hold, your name for you until you need it.
Sometimes webhosts will register your domain name for you -- just make sure they're not overcharging you.
Either way, you'll want to spend some time scoping out the webhosts. Read on to find out where to dig up good information and how to make sense of it.
Picking a Webhost Guide
It used to be you needed a guide to find a good webhost. Now you need a guide for the guides. I visited each one of these sites and evaluated their search capability, their selection, their reliability, and how easy they were to use.
Consider the following before you decide:
Know how much you want to spend, how much space you need, and whether you want to use fancy programming.
In this search I wanted to specifically find a cheap host that had as much storage and bandwidth as possible, unlimited email forwarding, FTP and Telnet access, and the possibility of other frills.
Webhost guides rated
Here are my experiences at the different guides in order of my fondness for them.
They have the search right up front with great advanced search options. I could also sort search results, a big plus, and compare selected plans. Their ratings were a little short on votes but maybe that will pick up after a while . I chose Web Outlook 100 or 200 Plan with the $15 domain name registration. They had great info on each host.
Up until May 7 this had some cool info and a good search engine but now it redirects to something called WebHosting Talk. It seems like an interesting message board with great community features. I'm not sure what happened to HostInvestigator and I can't find any reviews or comparisons.
Good search options. I came up with WestHost from them. Overall I found it fairly easy to use. It seemed on par with HostInvestigator.
This site is tailored more towards business hosting but they had some great tools that anyone can use, including a host speed test.
Their advanced search options rocked. However it was easy to get lost in all the data it returned. Also, it didn't always seem to work. Its reviews are suspiciously like advertising and there aren't many of them.
Fairly limited search. A lot of the stuff didn't work. Didn't spend too much time here.
I didn't feel that had a wide choice and the search engine wasn't very useful. They recommended 5 top hosts but they were all big companies and I wasn't sure how they chose them. I could find no guarantee of impartiality.
Full of industry info and very ad driven. I didn't like it so I fled.
They seemed lit up like a big billboard, with ads everywhere. I found the search somewhat limited. Using their guaranteed web hosts helped narrow the search, but they had ads in the results -- yuck!
Now read our term guide to make sure you know what they're talking about.
Guide to Webhosting terms
This lets you get into your server from any Web connection. If you are comfortable with DOS or Unix this is a must have.
The most important ones for the Web are Perl and Java. Perl is what CGI scripts are usually written in. Even if you don't program, you can get free Perl scripts that let you run message boards, shopping carts and other cool features on your site without relying on an external company.
Almost always listed in Megabytes. 50 is plenty unless you're going to host a lot of images or multimedia files and a I mean a LOT. HTML is fairly small, it's only the graphics that really take up space.
Also called Data Transfer. Remember that anytime someone accesses your site it's a data transfer that uses bandwidth. Most companies put a cap on this so that if your site gets too popular they can start charging. Unlimited bandwidth is hard to find but get a deal that gives you as much per month as possible.
Each webhost will give you an email address, but try to get one that will allow you to have unlimited forwarding. This means any email sent to your domain name would come to you. In addition, the more separate pop mail accounts the better, especially if it'll be more than just you working on the site.
Other common Features
If you want to have several domain names point to the same source.
Lets you use pre-made scripts to run email forms, message boards, guestbooks, etc. Can be handy but limits your control.
Lets you make your own or install borrowed or bought email forms, message boards, guestbooks, etc. Gives you control but you have to maintain it.
A must have. If you don't know where users go on your site how can you best serve them?
The ability to make data files that can show up in multiple pages. For instance if your navigation is the same on every page, you can make one file and just include it in every page. So when you change navigation, you can change one file instead of every page on your site.
Now get out there and start hunting!
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