How to do it
The files that make up your site need to sit on a web server — essentially, an always-on computer hardwired to the Internet. Large organizations and ultra-techno nerds have their own servers but most individuals, and even organizations, use a web hosting company. They offer space on their professionally maintained web servers for a monthly or annual fee.
Web hosting companies will also enable you to purchase a domain name, such as htmldog.com (although not htmldog.com — it’s taken — sorry), often as part of a web hosting package. The domain will then be linked to a folder in your web hosting account, where you will keep all of your web site files.
Things to consider
Every web site is unique (well, most of them are, anyway) so before diving in, it is worth considering exactly what you need.
Web space and bandwidth
Different web hosting options have different limits in regard to web space and bandwidth.
Your files will take up space on a server just as they will on your hard disk. And, of course, disk space isn’t infinite. If you have a web site ready to upload, you can easily see how much space it takes up on your computer, and therefore how much space it will take up on a server. But keep in mind that you might very well want to add to your site in the future. Media such as photographs, video, or audio, are going to take up most space (especially if you don’t prepare them properly for the web). Also, if you plan on using extra bits and bobs, such as content management systems like WordPress (see later), these will take up space too.
Bandwidth is how much data is downloaded — how much of your web site is pumped out from a server when visitors come knocking. It isn’t uncommon for enthusiastic web builders to over-estimate the traffic their web site will attract upon launch (there are quite a few sites out there competing for people’s attention!). If you find you need more bandwidth as time goes by, most web hosting options will allow you to upgrade at a future date. The same goes for disk space.
Fundamentally, you just need somewhere to plonk your HTML and related gubbins. Web hosting companies are increasingly offering additional features, however.
Many web hosting accounts nowadays offer you direct online control over your domain name and email settings as well as access to things such as statistics packages. You also might be given access to server-side languages such as PHP or Ruby on Rails or quickly set up content management systems such as WordPress.
Not to be underestimated is the importance of support. If you get stumped or if something goes wrong you want someone knowledgeable to respond to your queries ASAP.
If you Google around you will find a bewildering range of hosting options at vastly different pricing levels, from free to you-need-to-remortgage-your-home-and-sell-a-kidney.
While free packages will invariably suffer in the areas of control, performance, features, and support (not to mention likely slapping advertising all over the place), high-end packages will not necessarily be the best option. If you think about how much space, bandwidth, and features you need, you will probably find you won’t need to rob a bank.
Some other factors to think about involve performance and security. If you opt for a reliable web host with a proven (preferably recommended) track record, you should be OK but these are still things to keep in mind for your darling web site.
Uptime is a big deal with servers. If the server stops working, for whatever reason, your web site goes down. Problems occur and maintenance is necessary but a good web host should be able to provide at least 99% uptime.
Speed can also be an issue — you don’t want a visitor to your web site waiting for everything to load. While much of that is down to you (gigantic images and multimedia spectaculars will slow things down), the performance of a web hosting server can also contribute. And all servers are not created equal.
Servers are prone to malicious attacks in the same way that your computer is prone to a virus or your online bank account is prone to hacking. A good web hosting company will use hardy security measures and technology in an attempt to prevent these attacks. Still, take the usual precautions. And don’t use “password” as your password.