Jan 30, 2011
So you have decided that a free WordPress.com blog is not enough for you, and you’re ready to be in charge of your own Web space. Hooray for you! Now what?
First, you should understand the difference between a domain name and Web hosting.
What is a domain name?
My personal site is at mindymcadams.com — a domain name that I own. Other examples of domain names:
- copyright.gov (.gov is U.S. government only)
- tmobile.net (.net is often, but not always, used by network service providers)
- amnesty.org (.org is often, but not always, used by nonprofit organizations and NGOs)
- cbc.ca (.ca — Canada — is a country code top-level domain: ccTLD. Others include .mx, .cn, .in, .br, .ru)
Note that “owning” a domain name is rather like renting an apartment — you have to pay for it every year. Stop paying, and you lose it.
What is Web hosting (and how do you get it)?
Web hosting is also a bit like renting — it’s a home for your Web pages. You could set up a Web server (a computer running server software), but almost no one does that. Instead, giant (and small) Web hosting companies do it for us. They have multiple servers all running different people’s Web sites and services.
When you sign up for Web hosting the first time, the deal often includes one free domain name. If you take that deal, you’ll still have to pay for your domain every year, but it takes away an extra step that otherwise you’ll need to take. If you do own a domain name separate from your hosting deal, you will NOT need to transfer your domain name (a complicated process) — you only need to direct it to your new host. Most Web hosting companies provide simple instructions to help you do this.
Here’s a really nice guide for choosing a hosting provider: How to Choose a Web Host.
How to get your website onto the Web server
Having set up a space for your website by acquiring hosting and a domain name, you’ll need to create some Web pages and graphics and upload them. It is most convenient to use an FTP program (or client application) to do this. You’ll create the pages and graphics on your own computer and then upload them to the Web server (your host).
Your Web hosting company should provide simple instructions about how to do this.
An easy-to-use free FTP client is FireFTP, which works in the Firefox Web browser. See a tutorial for FireFTP here at Journalists’ Toolkit.
If you use Dreamweaver, the FTP client and site management tools are built in. This is quite handy for smaller sites that use only static (non-dynamic) pages.