Everything You Wanted To Know About Buying Webspace
Buying web space can seem difficult so this page is here to answer any questions that you may have. In July of 1998 I bought my first web space hosting package and my first domain name but found that there did not seem to be very much helpful information about on how to do this so I had to work most of this out for myself.
There are many reasons why commercial web space is better than the web space you get free from your Internet Service Provider or from a free web host:
Advert free webspace: You may be fed up with the advertising banners that free space providers automatically put on your HTML pages.
To make money: Commercial webspace will generally allow you to put your own adverts on your site and allow you to join affiliate or other money making programmes.
Faster more reliable hosting: Commercial servers will generally be faster and more reliable than the free space that you are using now.
More features: You may get extra facilities such as server logs, PHP, MySQL databases and CGI-Bin. These features will allow to create dynamic sites and host applications on your site such as blogging and discussion board software. If you are wanting to host a blog or discussion board look for hosting services providing MySQL database access.
.htaccess support: If you get are allowed to use .htaccess files then you may be able to password protect parts of your site, use redirections or install custom error pages - look for .htaccess facilities. See my Password and .htaccess pages for information on how to do this. You'll need Unix/Linux rather than Windows hosting to use .htaccess files.
You own domain name: You will get a better domain name that any free space can give you. Often you can get discounts if you buy space and a domain name together. Buying both together will make your site easier to setup so I'd recommend a host that will sell you both the webspace and domain name together.
Consistent web address: If you regularly change Internet service providers then you will lose your free ISP provided web space. This will lose you the benefit of any search engine coverage or other links which you have built up. You will have to work hard to get your traffic back. By keeping your ISP and web space separate you will be able to keep your web pages at a fixed address. You could also benefit from a professional looking email address which will not change if you move to a new ISP.
Server logs: You may get access to the server logs so you can see exactly how many people are looking at each of your pages. These logs can give you information such as which browsers your viewers are using, and which web sites took them to yours. These logs can tell you if there are errors in your site such as 404 'Not Found' erros which web site statistics tools such as Google Analytics won't be able to tell you.
In case you are wondering this website is hosted by 1&1 Web-Hosting. The space and name cost about £60/year and includes PHP / .htaccess and server logs. Another large hosting company to look at is Hostgator.
These days most providers will give you from several hundred megabytes, to several gigabyte in some cases - far more than you are ever likely to use. Compare the space between providers but remember if your website only takes up a few megabytes and is unlikely to massively expand then the provider which offers you 400mb is no better for you than the provider who gives you 200mb.
Expect to pay between £50-£100/year in general for a virtual server (PHP, CGI, MySQL, server logs and a domain name). You might pay £30-£60 for basic commercial web space without any extras.
There are two main operating systems for hosting web sites. There is Unix/Linux (as used by this site!), and there is Windows. If all you are doing is uploading static HTML files then it probably doesn't matter which one you choose. If you want to do anything more clever then it does. Note that the operating system used to host your web site has nothing to do with the operating system used on your PC.
Unix/Linux is the operating system used to host most web sites on the internet. Generally sites hosted on Unix/Linux boxes will be using the Apache server. It gives you PHP, Perl and .htaccess. There is a huge amount of information on the internet about how to use all the features. Lots of software for your website such as blogging software, form scripts and photo gallery scripts are available completely free if you use Unix/Linux hosting.
If you want to use features such as .NET then you should go for a Microsoft hosted package.
Most hosting companies will offer you the choice of either going for Unix/Linux or Microsoft. If you aren't sure which you want then I'd recommend that you go for Unix/Linux. Go for Microsoft if you know that you really need to use the features that you get with a Microsoft hosted site.
This will allow you to run programs on your web space such as your own blogging application, discussion boards, search engines, forms and counters. Don't worry if you aren't an expert programmer as there are plenty of PHP and CGI web pages containing free scripts for you to use. Installation of the scripts is usually very simple and requires only a small amount of technical knowledge.
Most CGI programs are written in PHP, Python or PERL. These are interpreted languages so the files do not need compiling. You just upload the files to your server's correct directory using text transfer (NOT binary transfer) and the make it executable by using a TELNET or FTP program.
This is the address that people can type in to their browser to get to your
site. For example if you type in
If you are looking for a domain name you can use this domain name search tool to check if the domain you want is available.
As of 2010 you can buy .co.uk domains for about £3 per year. and .com / .net domains cost around £10 per year. It is best to buy the name and web space together otherwise your name seller may charge an extra fee for pointing your domain name to your web space. If you are not bothered about having any commercial webspace then you can get a very cheap .co.uk name to forward to your free web space from 1&1 for £3 / year.