How do I publish a website?

I recently got this question: “I have never bought a domain name before and need help. What do I need in order to publish my website and what services should I pursue to accomplish this?”

I thought that since I seem to be answering this fairly often that I would make a blog post and just update it each time I got asked again, so here goes:

You will need two things to operate your own website, a domain name and a place to host that domain.  Prices for both of these vary widely but there are some things you can do to figure out how much it will cost. You can expect to spend $5-$10 for your domain name, and a like sum each year to renew it.  There are deals that let you buy multiple years, but you need to read the fine print.  I have bought domain names for $1.99 only to find that the renewal on them was an inordinately high amount.

The same is true for web hosting, you can find really cheap hosting that is just a couple of dollars a month. This is probably okay starting out, but as your site gets bigger (or as you add sites to your hosting plan), you may find you need better service. Do not believe the claims of “unlimited” on anything, if you start to push the upper end of what the host considers normal you will find out just what they mean by unlimited.  If you are storing huge files, they will point out that this is not what the service is for, and if you are transferring lots of data or have a popular website, you will be told that your site is impacting the other sites on your server. Expect to pay $60 per year or more for your site.

For the low price you will be paying, you will have to share server space, bandwidth and processing with other sites. There are tools for finding out what else is hosted on your site, is just one I found with a quick google search. My personal website’s server has a thousand other sites being hosted on it. Some of these sites are, um “adult content” which may contribute to traffic slowness. Also in the news recently there have been stories of servers being confiscated because one of the sites has illegal content.

How do you buy a domain/ find a host? If you haven’t already bought your domain then you can sometimes find a good deal with hosting, but make certain you check the cost of renewing, and that it is not out of line with the going rate. You can find a list of possible hosts by googling “best website hosting 2011” or somesuch, it is useful to actually check the reputable nerd sites like engadget or even cnet. Don’t stop at the first one and be prepared to educate yourself.

bluehost, hostgator, 1and1 all seem to be reputable and have reasonable plans.  I have hosted my sites with Godaddy for years now, but cannot recommend them because I don’t want to put more money in the pocket of the owner so he can vacation and kill more “big game.”

A few notes, unless you know you are running something specific, you probably want linux hosting as it is really the standard at the moment. You probably also want the cheapest possible plan as your first website will undoubtedly not tax the hosts servers. I do recommend that you host video on YouTube or other services, and embed your links as you will get much better performance and not have to worry about data caps. Make sure you keep a copy of your master video though as a backup.

That should be enough to get started.  Feel free to comment if you have other questions, or offer suggestions.