Complete Beginner's Guide to Web Hosting
How To Find The Right Fit
There’s nothing wrong with being a beginner at something, but the sad truth is that the hosting industry is woefully behind when it comes to accepting beginners. While there is a bit of a learning curve, the good news is that hosting really isn’t that difficult to learn. It’ll be hard at first, but things will make much more sense once you start managing your domain and understanding all of the different tools and components.
Finding a Good Host
The first step on our guide is finding a good host, which is essential. Hosts are going to throw a lot of ambiguous and inflated terms at you, like “unlimited bandwidth” and “unlimited databases.” What do you really need? First of all, consider how much bandwidth you will need. Bandwidth is measured in two different ways: metered and unlimited. Unlimited means that the host doesn’t impose a limit, but you generally only get about 10GB of bandwidth, which should be more than enough if you are just starting out. If you want an actual limit (which reduces the chance of overages and sudden suspensions), then start with a package that has about 5-10GB of bandwidth. Disk space refers to how much files you can save on your website.
Once again, the average is fairly low. The majority of websites just need about 50MB of disk space, but you should be able to easily get 100MB or more with most basic accounts. Find out about the host’s uptime and loading speeds. The uptime should be at least 99%, but 99.9% or 99.99% is even better. This guarantees that your website will be up and running. Loading speed is how fast the servers can load the accessed web page. You don’t need the fastest loading speed, but ensure that it’s good enough to keep your visitors happy. Lastly, ensure that the host uses cPanel. This is the control program that you will use whenever you need to manage something with your domain. There are other control panels, but cPanel is definitely the best.
Getting a Domain
Now that you have hosting, you need a domain. There are two ways to get a domain: buy it from your host or a separate registrar. Buying it from your host seems easier and it requires less work, but there are some consequences. The domain will usually be more expensive when you have to renew it, the host will have control of the domain (which makes it hard if you want to change hosts) and there can be a slew of other problems. It’s often in your best interest to buy the domain from a separate registrar. Now you just need to do some “domain pointing.” Login at the registrar and go to “Manage DNS.” You will see several empty forms. Replace them with this: ns1.host.com and ns2.host.com. Replace “host” with your host name, like HostGator or BlueHost. This will be the proper DNS for most domains. If that doesn’t work, then check with your host to find out the proper DNS settings.
Installing a CMS
You don’t need a CMS, but believe me, it will make things a lot easier. If you just start a static HTML page, then updating the page and designing it will be very difficult. A CMS allows you to easily publish and edit posts and update your page within seconds. Login to the control panel and go to your script installer. It’s most commonly Fantastico or Softaculous, but there are a few others. Then just select the script that you want (WordPress is the most common, and it’s also the best for new users), then enter your username and password. The program will do the rest. You can now get a unique template either free or paid to make your website look amazing, which will make visitors like your website more.
Create an Email Address
You want people to email you, right? While you can use a standard Yahoo or GMail address, it’s much better to use a personal email address that reflects your website. You can easily setup a custom email address in seconds. Enter the control panel and go to “Email Accounts.” Select the domain and then type a name for your account (like your first name, or just “admin”) and a password. Lastly, click “OK” or “Accept” and the email address will be made for you. You can now login to the email inbox by going to “Webmail” and enter your name and password. There are usually two or three different inbox programs to choose from. Try them out and see which one you like the most.
You’ll probably want to expand your Web reach by buying new domains in the future. You can easily add a domain to your account in much the same way that you purchased a domain in the first place. Buy a new domain and then enter the proper DNS information. However, there’s one extra step that you need to do. Enter the control panel and go to “Addon Domain.” Enter the information for the domain, such as the name itself and a password. After a few days the DNS information should be updated and the domain will be usable.
The last major thing that you need to know is FTP programs. As you may have already found out, you will need to upload new files to your website, sometimes on a regular basis. While you can do this through the “File Manager” program on cPanel, this is really only meant for uploading a few files. Download a free FTP program (there are many online) and then enter your username, password and the domain at the top of the program. This software will connect to your domain and then you can move and transfer files at will. This is essential if you need to upload dozens or hundreds of files because that can take hours with File Manager, but it will take minutes with an FTP program.
Web hosting can be a little hard at first, but the honest truth is that it’s fairly easy once you know what you are doing. It just takes a bit of common sense and the ability to try new things to get hosting to work for you.