Of-late I have been getting lot of queries on how to create a website/blog. Blogs and online journals have become quite popular with more and more people are getting into the blogsphere.
Naturally, the first thing that people look for is a free solution. And, when it comes to a free solution, the first service that everyone seems to come across is Blogger.com from Google. Yes. Its free. Even I used to host my blog on Blogger.com initially, but after using it for few days, the reality strikes you!. Its painfully slow and totally deprived of some basic features. So, you start your search for “something better”, or “something of your own”, and wonder how to proceed. That’s exactly where this post comes in. I hope that this post would be useful to all those people who intrested in knowing how to create or setup their own website/blog.
Now, if you are a nOOb and looking for just a plain simple blog, without the hassle of setting it up, buying a domain name etc, then I would suggest you try out WordPress.com. Its from the people at WordPress.org (more about WordPress later). Its cool, fast, and much better than blogger. But its basic stuff. Other option is to sign up at livejournal.com. If you are of the adventurous sort and interested in setting up your own site with a blog, read on…
Look Ma, Me got a Domain Name!
First thing that you would need is a domain name. That’s your address on the Internet. That’s how people will reach your site. So, the first thing that you would need to do is, register a domain for you.
Domain name registration typically costs anywhere between $6 to $12, or even lower depending on from whom you register it. I would suggest registering your domain name from either Website.in or domain.JodoHost.com. The money that you are paying is normally for one year. You can register your domain for more than one year too. Other big names in domain name registration include : GoDaddy (has some good deals at times, but do read the fine prints), Yahoo, Net4Domain etc.
The domain name is allocated to you almost immediately once you do the payment. Most of the registrars allow you to pay using credit cards. Its pretty simple and straight forward transaction. Once you register a domain name, you will be provided with a web-based interface to configure your domain name. Your contact information, nameserver information, whois information etc can be setup for your domain using this interface.
Maa, Where do I store my stuff ??
The next thing you would need is space to host your stuff. Again, I would suggest not to go for free hosting. Most of the free hosting folks normally don’t offer any support, and would normally place some Advertisement/pop-up windows etc on your page, which spoils the user experience on your site.
When it comes to paid hosting, you have two options again.
- Shared hosting – Your site is hosted on a server which also hosts many other websites.
- Dedicated hosting – The server is exclusive to you!
If your site is personal in nature, and does not receive major hits. (lets say not more than 1,00,000 hits per day), I would suggest you to go for shared hosting. Compared to dedicated hosting, shared hosting is much cheaper too. I would only talk about shared hosting from this point onwards.
What, Which, How, Where ?
Here are the next set of questions that would come to your mind…
What do I get as a part of paid hosting ?
What you get depends on from whom you buy. Normally, you get the following features for an entry level package. Or, in other words, these are the things that you have to look for when you buy a hosting package. I will try to explain what it means in plain english…
- 200 to 400 MB of hosting space – This is quite a lot. My current site., i.e., this blog + some other pages totals to around 10 MB! That’s it! So 400 MB should suffice.
- Multiple Domain hosting – This means that you can host multiple websites (different domains) in the space provided. It would be easy to manage multiple sites from one single account.
- Around 5 to 10 GB of data transfer bandwidth – My site uses around 600 MBs of bandwidth per month. So, around 5 GB is decent enough. If you host lot of videos, jpegs or big files, then 5GB wont suffice. If your website is more of text, then 5GB is quite a lot. Tip: Host your images at a different host. e.g.: photobucket.com or flickr
- Unlimited e-mail IDs – This is one feature that I love. With paid hosting, you normally get unlimited e-mail IDs on your domain. i.e., you can create ids that you like or want! Unlimited! e.g.: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org etc, which is quite useful to segregate mails. It also gives a touch of professionalism! You can typically ask the system to forward the emails that you get at a particular id to someother id (say gmail or yahoo), or store it in a mailbox
- Unlimited mailboxes – with POP3 and IMAP access. So, you can check your mails using e-mail clients like Thunderbird or outlook
- Database support – This is a MUST if you plan to start a blog on your site. Look for MySQL support. Most hosting providers provide this, but don’t consider it as granted.
- Web-Based configuration for your site – All you need is just a browser to control your site from anywhere on this planet!
- FTP access to your site – Very helpful if you want to upload lot of files onto the server. FTP can do it one shot without hassles
- 24/7 Customer support – Very much needed. If something goes wrong on the server side, these people will help you out.
- Daily backups – So that you dont loose your data
- And other features – Other features that you can look for are things like – tools to analyze your log files, Scripts/readymade components, counters, custom error pages etc – Secondary or tertiary features.
So, that should give you a fair idea of what to look for when you buy a hosting package. Make sure that the space provided to you can be used interchangeably. i.e., make sure that you have control over how to split the 200 MB or 400 MB provided to you between e-mail/web space/database etc. So, lets move on..
Which One ? Linux or Windows hosting ?
The next dilemma comes when you have to selecting your hosting platform. Linux or Windows. Lot depends on what you plan to host in the space provided. If you plan to host ASP/ASP.net pages, then Windows is your only option. But, if you plan to host a blog based on PHP / perl etc, then you can either select Linux or Windows. I would strongly suggest to go with Linux option if you are not planing to use ASP/ASP.net pages.
The main reason behind my suggestion is, the stability and cost. Linux hosting is much more stable, faster and cheaper compared to windows hosting.
If you select Linux hosting, it does not mean that you must know Linux!! Its important to understand this. Its just that they use Linux on the server that host your files. In most of the cases, irrespective of linux or windows hosting, you get the same web-based interface to control/configure your site!
How much would it cost ?
For Linux based hosting, you should get packages which start from around $5 per month. i.e., around INR 2500 per year ($60), which is pretty much ok. Again some hosting providers would have better deals to offer. I am just giving you a rough estimate. For windows based hosting, packages start from around $7 per month.
Where do I buy the hosting space from ?
There are tons of hosting providers on the Internet. Some very good, and some rip you off. So, you should be very careful while you select you hosting provider. I would recommend one to do some check on some popular forums (e.g.: Web Hosting Talk etc) and get the feedback on hosting providers that you have short listed on.
My site is currently hosted with a provider called Jodohost.com. You can see their plans here : Linux and Windows. I have been with Jodohost since Feb this year, and have got a pretty good service so far, with minimal downtime and excellent support.
You can use this link to buy your hosting package from Jodohost.com
Other place that you can look for is : Website.in hosting. Website.in hosting lets you select what features you need. i.e., you can configure the features that you need online, and create a customized package for yourself. But compared to Jodohost, its a bit expensive. (for the same feature set).
There are tons of other places. So, go ahead and explore!
Connecting your Domain Name with the Space that you bought!
So, now you have two things with you. You have the address (domain name), and you the hosting space (provided by your hosting provider). You need to associate these two. This is something similar to associating your name with your telephone number. So that every time a person dials a number, you get the call!.
When you buy a hosting space, your hosting provider gives you something called as “Nameserver Adresses(es)“. Normally they give you two Nameserver addresses (some give up to 4). Make note of these address. If you are unable to find it, feel free to ask your hosting provider for it. They should provide you with this information.
Once you get the Nameserver addresses, go to your domain name administration interface. There, you should find a provision to specify these Nameserver addresses. (primary and secondary.. and more…). Enter the values and you are done. It would take anywhere between 24 to 48hrs for the changes to be effective globally.
On the hosting provider side, you need to tell the system that you are hosting your domain. i.e., you need to specify exactly which domain you are hosting, so that the server can name necessary arrangements to display the pages when someone enters your URL onto the browser. Typically, its a very simple job, which would take a couple of mins or seconds. (web-based wizard would be there mostly to help you out!)
So…From now on, when anyone types in your domain name into the browser, it would point to a folder in your hosting space!
To test it out, just upload a simple HTML file onto your hosting space (say index.htm) and enter your domain name in the browser! If you see the HTML page that you upload, congratulates!.. your site is up and running.
Content – Setting up your Blog / Site
Now, you can start uploading your files onto the server, and the changes should be visible immediately on your site via the browser. To upload files, normally, FTP access is provided. Some hosting providers also provide web-based access too. (quite helpful if you are behind a corporate proxy/firewall which blocks FTP ports!)
I assume that you would be more interesting in starting a blog or an online journal. The best software that I have come across for this purpose is called WordPress. You can get it from www.WordPress.org. Its ‘the’ software when it comes to blogs. Its very easy to setup, doesn’t take much of space, makes very efficient use of space, extensible with plugins and cool. And, above all, its a open source.
But before you start installing WordPress, you must setup a MySQL database, which would be used by WordPress. Your hosting provider would normally provide a web-based interface to create a database. Create a database user too with sufficient privileges to access the database. Once the database is setup, you can start the WordPress installation.
So, how much time do you think it would take to setup a WordPress blog ?
5 Mins. Yes. That’s correct. Just 5 mins.
WordPress Installation is pretty simple, and very well explained at the WordPress site. I wont duplicate that information over here. Its too simple and easy!
Only thing that you need to keep in mind is, the URL where you want your blog. If you want it under a separate URL like say … www.yourdomainname.com/blog/ then you need to create a sub folder called blog, and upload all the WordPress files out there. If you want it at www.yourdomainname.com then upload all the WordPress files at the root directory.
For any help on WordPress, you can visit the add themes to your WordPress blog to customize the look and feel. You can find a comprehensive list of themes available here.. You can also add plugins to extend the functionality.
Apart from the blog/content, you can also upload other things like your resume photo gallery etc onto your hosting space, and give different URLs for them!
Using the web-based interface provided by your hosting provider, you can also setup your e-mail accounts/ids and mailboxes.
Ma, Its easy. Ain’t it?
This post is pretty long, but the process is pretty simple. Point is, its pretty easy to setup your homepage without spending too much. I hope this post answers most of your queries!. Let me know how useful (or useless) this post has been to you in setting up your own homepage using the comments section below.
So, let the adventure begin!
Feedbacks most welcome.
Disclaimer: Some of the links to Jodohost.com in this post are affiliate links – if you sign up using these links I earn a small amount as a commission. It does not impact your sign up process as Jodohost. I genuinely believe that the services provided by Jodohost are great and recommend their packages based on my experience.
Update : Website.in was earlier directi.com. Directi.com is no longer into retail domain business.