April 2009

Web Hosting, Part 1

You now have a domain name and are ready to put up your website to sell your product or provide that critical information. To do that, you need a web host so you can upload your website.

There are almost as many articles about web hosting as there are web hosts. So which information do you use to pick a web host? We’ll try to simplify it for you but keep in mind that there are many parts of web hosting not covered here.

Some Definitions

For those who may be a little less technically inclined, here are some basic definitions:

A server is a large computer system that has a large amount of disk space. Some web hosts have multiple servers. There are specific types of servers used for eCommerce, gaming, music, etc.

A web host is someone who sells a certain amount of space on their server and provides a range of services.

Web hosting applications are those computer programs that are included on the server and may be available for you to use depending on the plan you pay for.

A web hosting plan is a combination of services bundled into one product for you to pay for and use. It is similar to buying a car with different options you can choose to include.

A web host account is simply an account that shows what you get on your plan when you pay for it. You get a unique ID and password to get access to your account and sometimes the files on the server.

Bandwidth is the amount of information you can pass through a connection, like uploading (new music for website visitors), downloading (visitors downloading your music), or running a file (a visitor looking at a website page). Web hosts sell, based upon anticipated usage, as Gigabytes (GB) per month allocated to your plan. (We’ll cover this in a little more detail in Web Hosting, Part II).

Types of Web Hosts

Some web hosts are run by a person or companies that own their own server. They sell space on their hard drive to those who want to load up their website or blogging files. In the general terms, this is called “shared” web hosting. That means more than one website is loaded onto that web host’s disk drive.

Other web hosts are actually resellers. This means that the “web host” is selling space on someone else’s server. For example, the reseller is located in one State and the servers are physically located in a different State and owned by a different company. When they sell the space, they get a commission for each customer from the actual server owner. So when there is a problem, you may not be able to get it resolved with the person or company that you paid for your web-hosting plan. Based on experience, you will be very lucky if you go without having any problems, even with the most technically proficient web host.

Customer / Technical Support

Customer and technical support is important in determining which web host you are going to use. If you are running a website for your business, a technical problem with your website may cause you to lose customers. If you are not sure about your website account, getting customer service to explain in plain language about a change to your account is always most helpful.

Some web hosts have elaborate systems set up to handle technical and customer service issues. Some even include a good “help” system as well. At the other end of the spectrum, technical support and/or customer service consists of filling out an online form, usually a “support ticket”, sending it by email, and then waiting for an answer. There are many web hosts in between.

Web Host Plans

There are general, business, eCommerce and personal plans. Mostly, business and eCommerce plans will include a shopping cart application with higher bandwidth and disk space although you will pay a higher price for these. Virtually all plans include email, although the number of email accounts included in the plans may vary.

If you decide later that you need to add a specific application, it may cost you additional to add to the plan you initially pay for. In some cases, you may have to pay, even if you add the application yourself to your website. Depending upon the application, you might need to pay for an upgrade to increase disk space and bandwidth.

That covers just some basic elements of web hosting. In the next segment, we will cover some additional details about web hosting.

Basic Website Marketing

Your website is one of your key tools for getting information out to your audience. The goal can be for a business to gain customers, getting someone to join a group, or subscribe to a newsletter. With a website, you want to be found on the Internet and get visitors to take the action you want them to.

Stay in People’s Minds

“Out of sight, out of mind”. That adage definitely applies here. You have a website and you need to make sure everyone possible is aware of it. This is where you can “advertise” not only your business, but your website as well. It is advertising your advertising, if that makes sense. You should put your website and email addresses on or in Newspaper Ads, Yellow Pages, Business Cards, Letters, Invoices, Online Ads, Emails, Flyers, Store Windows

You could even purchase some magnetic signs to put on your vehicles. Make sure your drivers have plenty of business cards since you never know when someone will ask for one. (I did, at the Post Office the other day from someone who was checking their mail.) There are many benefits to having your website and email addresses shown everywhere you can.

Online Directories

Another thing to consider is online advertising. Once you have a website, that does not mean you can now just sit and wait for people to start contacting you. Sorry, but there is more work to do. Online advertising does not consist of just your website. There are also those online directories that relate to your industry as well as those industries that relate to yours and some generic ones also, such as Merchant Circle and Craigslist.

Confused? Let me give you some examples. As web designers, we would join directories that deal specifically with web designs and web designers. We might also join directories that are for internet marketing, business advertising, printers, photographers, etc. They are not specifically web designers, but they relate to the interests of our customer base – advertising their business.

Another example would be for a house painter. He or she would advertise as a house painter and join those directories, but also would consider joining in categories such as house construction, house renovations, possible even real estate. After all, who does not get their house all prettied up when they want to sell it?

Website Coding

What about the website advertising itself? It can actually advertise itself. When you visit a web site, there is a lot of coding you do not see, hidden so to speak but there, created by the web designer to make the web page look like it does. One such piece of code is called a “meta tag”. This is a code that some search engines might use to identify or describe your website:

 <meta name=”description” content=” ” >

When you get on Google and do a search, you see a number of websites show up depending on the words you used to search with. As an example, by using the key words to search by, “web designs by”, here is what shows up:

Introduction to Web Designs by LAO

Web Designs by LAO designs new websites and updates existing websites with guaranteed results.

The first line of the entry shows the Title of the page the search engine found. The second and third lines are shown because that sentence is located in the “description” Meta tag of our website as follows:

<meta name=”description” content=”Web Designs by LAO designs new websites and updates existing websites with guaranteed results.” >

The search engine read this from the website and showed it in the search results. When the website was set up by the web designer, this information was properly placed in the Meta tag for the description, located in the main page in this case.

Each page can and should have a different description in the Meta tag. For the description Meta tag, it is recommended that you keep the information relatively short, usually no more than a couple of sentences long. Some say no more than 250 characters including spaces. The content of the information you place there should relate to the content of the specific page where you put it in.

Note: Not all search engines use the exact description you put into the meta tag. The search engine might disregard your Meta tag and simply take some of the content from your web page and use that instead.

So, there are just some things to consider for basic marketing of your website, business, or information resource. Happy Advertising!