Purchasing a URL and Hosting
Leslie's Advice on Purchasing a Domain (URL), Choosing a Hosting Service and Creating your Site
If you're interested in getting up on the internet, the first thing you should do is decide why. The very basic question to ask is will your site be personal or business related? If you'd like to create a personal site, you may be interested in starting a blog. in this situation, you would not necessarily need a web developer to build a site. But if you'd like to add a nice looking blog to your business site, you might want to hire a professional to customize your blog like I have customized this blog for TeamSupport.com. Or if you'd like to offer item for sale on one of the many auction sites, you'll create an "e-shop" on the big one and go to town. But if your interest lies in promoting yourself or your business in a very professional way and actually owning your own site, then it's time to start shopping for a domain and hosting!
A domain or URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the address of your site. Think of it as the street address of your home. It's how you give people directions on where to find you. You can find a site's URL by looking in the address bar of your web browser. When choosing a URL, you want to think of a name that directly relates to and supports your web site content. I'll use my company name and site as an example. I wanted a fun, memorable name that means something to me AND tells other people that I am a creative. So I decided to use one of my favorite literary characters who also (not by chance) gets across my personality and what it is like to work with me. I chose Laughing Cat instead of Cheshire Cat, because I wanted to go a bit more generalized than the standard Lewis Carroll image and then I added on the word Arts to tell people I am an artist. To back up for just a bit, when you choose your name, you must also make sure the URL is available, so it's a good idea to have a B plan, C plan, D plan and maybe even more. The registration site will make alternate suggestions, but don't rely on these as your back-up plan. Also stick with .com instead of .net (or any of the others). Research in site optimization tells us that .com ranks higher on browser searches than .net, .biz, .tv, etc. The popular URL registration sites charge $15 per year per domain (or less) and have auto-renew options. But some hosting companies, such as BLUEHOST give free domain registration with a yearly commitment. Never purchase a domain for over $15 a year, if you pay more than this, you are being overcharged.
Now that you have a site URL (an address) you need site hosting (a house). If you've never shopped for site hosting, the search for a great host service can be confusing and frustrating at best. In the worst case, you can find yourself invested in and possibly even committed to a hosting solution that can't deliver on marketing promises, is constantly down (goes offline), has poor customer service and support, has incomprehensible "training" materials, etc. To put it mildly, these guys overcharge and under deliver, are a constant source of stress in your life online and can even cause problems for your business. Or a friend has referred you to a friend of a friend who does cheap hosting out of his house or his office. This guy is a great option ONLY IF he can stay up 24 hours a day 356 days a week; making sure his servers are constantly up and running, answering phone calls, providing support and useful back end programming. I know of a few business owners who went this way, had terrible experiences and are still trying to wrestle the URLs they own away from guys like this. (No offence if you are someone working hard and diligently as a small hosting provider - but if you've been in business a while you've encountered the type.) Another big sector of hosting providers are pretty okay, these guys are doing a fair job at an okay price; their support staff is nice enough and pretty knowledgeable (once you get off eternity hold), but they don't give you extras. You don't hate these guys, they're okay...enough. But even this situation, I can guarantee you, you can pay less and get much, much more.
Luckily, my first site hosting provider was one of the just good enough types. In fact, it's why I stayed with them for years. But when I switched over to BlueHost, my current hosting company, I was shocked and amazed (and continue to be so) at their high level of service, low price and reliability and stock of bonus goodies. In fact, the most amazing thing happened the day I was transferring my site over to their servers. BlueHost's customer service department actually called me to ask me how the process was going and wanted to know if i needed help making my email work! I didn't need help because the emails they sent explained everything I needed to do in detail. What a great welcome to this company. If you are looking for a hosting service, I really can't recommend these guys highly enough. Starting price for hosting is $5.95 per month. For $5.95 you get the whole banana; unlimited server space, unlimited domains on one account, unlimited POP/Imap Email accounts, unlimited file transfer, free domain registration for new customers, 24/7 sales/support (for me they've always answered in 1 to 3 rings, no joke, and the person on the other end is terribly knowledgeable and speaks perfect english) and (here comes the techie stuff) CGI, Ruby (RoR), Perl, PHP and MySQL and SSH (Secure Shell), SSL, FTP and Stats. Now comes the frosting. Bluehost has an affiliate program. This means if, like me, you become an affiliate with BlueHost, you can endorse their services and then receive payment if your referral results in a sale of a hosting plan. You just sign up for your hosting plan, then go to the affiliate's link in the man nav bar and create an affiliate account. BlueHost will then provide you with a simple tracking link you can put in your site, facebook, email, blog, what-have-you. Then any costumer you drive to BlueHost who signs-up results in a $65 comission check for you. The best part is this is a sevice you can feel really good about promoting. I promote BlueHost because I love working with them and I want my clients and the people I know to get great service, too! Simply put, Laughing Cat Arts thinks BlueHost is just perrrrrrrrfect! Feel free to take a break, give BLUEHOST a visit and see what you think (Make sure to read the User's Comments page).
PURCHASING A URL AND HOSTING SERVICE | DEVELOPING CONTENT | DESIGNING YOUR SITE