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WH - 1. Introduction to Web Hosting

In order for a web site to be available on the World Wide Web, it must be hosted on a server. There are several different ways to accomplish this. Most large hosting companies will have their own servers and the network infrastructure needed for their site to be available on the Web. However, the equipment and technical resources needed to set up such a system are very expensive, beyond the reach of smaller companies, organizations and individual users.

Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as AOL, offer free web pages for their subscribers. There are also free web hosting services, such as Geocities. However, using these services has several disadvantages. Such services will not allow you to have your own domain name, i.e. “www.yourname.com”. Instead, you will have to use the name allocated by that service. Additionally, any advertisements that appear on your site will be provided by the service, and any revenue generated from such advertisements will be kept by them, instead of coming to you. Finally there will also be restrictions on the amount of space you use and the number of visitors you can receive per month.

An alternative to this is to use a web hosting company. For a monthly fee, such a company will host your site for you on its own servers. This removes the need for you to buy and maintain expensive hardware, and also will counter the disadvantages of using a free hosting service.

A typical web hosting company will have several servers and one or more high-speed connections to the Internet, usually T1 connections that are linked directly to the T3 lines that form the “backbone” of the Internet, ensuring high data-transfer rates. In order to keep this equipment running, such companies will have multiple power supplies, including stand-alone generators, to ensure that power is available at all times. The servers will be housed in climate-controlled rooms and technical and support staff will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Web hosting companies typically offer a variety of service plans, at costs ranging from $5/month to $100/month or more, depending on the type and amount of services offered. All plans will offer some disk space to store your site and a monthly bandwidth, or transfer, allowance. Email will also be included, allowing you to set up email addresses in the form of “name@yourname.com”. Also included will be FTP access to the server housing your site, allowing you to upload updates at any time. Technical support will also be available, to help resolve any problems you may encounter. Other services offered may include the ability to set up shopping carts or the availability of SSL transactions to ensure data security.

A web hosting company will allow you to establish a site on the Web without any of the disadvantages of a free service, and at a far lower cost than would be involved in setting up your own server system. You will also be able to pick out your own unique domain name, making it easier for visitors to find your site. Since the web hosting company supplies all of the hardware and technical staff needed to host and operate the site, this allows the user to concentrate his time and resources on designing and maintaining the site.