Choosing a Web Host for Your Needlework Business
Many designers have a home page. Perhaps you are thinking of one, too? If so, you'll need somewhere to "park" it. This will be at a Web host, a company that has the hardware (computers and incoming data lines) to make your files available to the public.
You send the text and graphics files from your computer to theirs via FTP [file transfer protocol].
Where Do You Find a Web Host?
Ask your present Internet service provider first. Often there is free or very inexpensive space offered to customers. Ask how many megabytes are free and whether if you exceed that you pay (how much?) or whether you must move.
The backs of Internet and WWW magazines are filled with ads for Web hosts. Go to your public library.
Decide What Type of Site You Are
Next determine whether you are a commercial or personal site. The difference is whether you sell anything from your site. Most hosts say you are a commercial site if you sell anything at all; some will allow some low-level sales.
If you are a commercial site, you will pay more per month than for a personal site. The entire fee is tax-deductible, however, if you are a business (not just the incremental increase.
Usually, monthly fee for either commercial or personal accounts is tied to the amount of data you store. More storage costs more money.
How Do You Choose a Good Web Host?
Before signing up, do a lot of research! There is a wide range of hosts from which to choose! For each host you are considering:
- Find out if there are "set up" fees in addition to monthly fees. A lot of Web hosts charge $50-100 for "set up," an administrative fee. Some do not! (My host, Data Realm, does not. They also have $5/mo. rates for personal and non-profit groups. A great deal!)
- Compare monthly fees. Some hosts are "way out there" in terms of what they charge; I don't see how they stay in business!
- Inquire about telephone lines. There should be at least one T1 line. Otherwise, people will not be able to get in to your site.
- Ask how long they have been in business. You don't want to go with a mom-and-pop operation that's been there three months, for example!
- Ask when was the last time the computers (called servers) were down. Why were they down? How long did it take to fix the problem? How many times were the servers down in the last 6 months? Last year? How much total time was this? Is there a back-up?
- Ask how many porno sites they host. (Porno sites are heavily-trafficked, and a host with several of them is more likely to get clogged up than a host without one. You want people to get through to your site, especially if you are selling something.)
- Ask for the URLs of needlework sites they host. No needlework? How about art- or
crafts-related? Small businesses? Visit those sites. How fast is access? Send an e-mail to the site owner to ask how service has been. (You can find the e-mail by taking the user ID and putting it in front of @ and then adding the host name. For example, if the URL is http://www.webhost.com/needlefrolic, the e-mail address would be email@example.com. Sometimes there is a tilde [~] in the URL. This is just extra punctuation; example: http://www.webhost.com/~needlefrolic. You will not need the tilde when you extract the e-mail address.)
Suppose you start -not- selling (only offering free charts) and then you decide to -start- selling. Probably you will have to convert from a personal site to a commercial site and pay the increased fees. You may have to change hosts, depending on the rules.
Suppose you want to/must change Web hosts but fear your people won't be able to find you? Rather than use the host's URL - - in my case, the actual URL is serve.com/marbeth--I have purchased a "virtual domain" - - marthabeth.com. The virtual domain name is the only thing the public sees; they are completely unaware of the name of my Web host, which is storing the files on its hardware and connecting with visitors on their data lines.
The second reason to get a domain name is that it shortens the URL. The fewer keystrokes there are, the fewer opportunities there are for typos.
A third reason is that it allows people to guess your URL. You would never guess serve.com/marbeth to reach me, but it doesn't matter because I'm not selling anything. On the other hand, if you are selling something, you'll want to make it as easy as possible for people to place an order - - even by guessing! Our Needle Frolic business would want to reserve needlefrolic.com.
The last reason to have a virtual domain name is that it makes your business look more successful and more stable. For all the visitor knows, you have a powerful computer and several high-speed, high-volume data lines right there in your studio!
At this writing, two years' fee for a domain name is $100. This fee reserves the name you have chosen so no one else will be able to use it. You will have the opportunity to renew it.
Even if you are not selling something quite yet, it would be wise to pay now and reserve your name.
Generally the host will charge an additional monthly fee if you have a virtual domain name.
Choosing Your URL
Your URL is your Web address. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator.
The reality is that speed is important. When choosing your URL, that means:
- use lower case letters only (www.NeedleFrolic.com or needle_frolic.com takes a lot more time to type than www.needlefrolic.com - - and introduces a lot more opportunities for errors than if it were all lowercase)
- avoid putting periods or underscores in the URL (again, that shift key is a time-taker and a mistake-inducer)
You will have to write the HTML [hypertext mark-up language] yourself or pay someone else to do it for you. The Web host will not convert your text files to HTML, nor will they convert your graphics files to a Web-ready format. Some word-processing programs have HTML text editors already on board so the burdensome aspects of writing code - - such as putting in a p enclosed in < and > every time you want a new paragraph to start - - are removed.
Note: I write my own code, but note that my site is mostly text. If you will have graphics on your site - - and doubtless you will - - you probably will need to hire some help, at least initially. When you find out rates, ask for sites that this designer has done and contact those businesses/people for feedback on timeliness, reliability, and so forth.
Also, purchasing and installing the FTP software to send your files to the Web host is your responsibility. You already may have this capability with your Internet service provider; look at all the pull-down menus and then e-mail them and ask if you do not see it. You want -upload- capability as well as download. Not all ISPs offer upload, as they figure most people will just want to download!
copyright 1999, Martha Beth Lewis
Contact me about reprint permission.
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