So, you decided to try to make a website from scratch. Excellent!

It’s not overly obvious how to do it, but it is the lowest cost way to do it, and you get more of an understanding of how to maintain your website along with understanding a little about how it works.

It may take about an hour or two before your website is running, though perhaps less time.

 

Three basic concepts to help you understand what you need for a website:

  • Web Host
  • Domain Name
  • Content Management System

What is a Web Host?

Generally, a web-host is a company that rents you space on their powerful internet-connected computers (called web servers). You generally rent space by the Gigabyte and/or traffic you can handle, though some web-hosts controversially claim they give you unlimited space and traffic. (traffic can be referred to as bandwidth)

Going through a web-host to host your website is almost always much much cheaper then hosting your website on your home computer in your house or hosting it on-site on a ten thousand dollar server in your business’s brick and mortar building. Web-hosts have the speed, often security, space, personnel, and technical expertise for a few dollars a month starting.

Usually people or businesses place websites on web-host companies web servers, though you can place any manner of data on them, from images, videos, applications, or any other file types.

There are thousands of web-hosts out there. Many of them are ‘actual’ web-hosts that really do have powerful web servers in one or more physical buildings, while even more are small companies that just resell these ‘actual’ web-host’s accounts and don’t have any physical hardware presence. These resellers rely on the ‘actual’ web-hosts to fix hardware or configuration problems which usually results in a lag in response time because of the reseller relaying your concerns to the ‘actual’ web-host.

We always recommend to go straight to the real webhosts instead of using resellers (resellers who don’t add more value then the ‘actual’ web-host are true middlemen which may add to your webhosting bill too). And this can be fairly difficult to know who is real and who are resellers.

Not to mention that almost none of these ‘actual’ webhost’s use sustainable energy technology, but we’ll save that conversation for the another step of which we’ll help you out.

Solar Powered Webhost Facility (AISO.net)

Traditional Web Host (LiquidWeb)

What it might look like in a Web-host’s Data Center, where your Website is stored (LiquidWeb)

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name in our context is the name of your website address- meaning that for our webpage that you’re reading right now, “earthpager.org” is our domain name.

A domain name is purchased though a company called a ‘domain name registrar’ who is accredited by a special domain name registry, maintained and operated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.

Domain Registry Process (ICANN)

Basically, a ‘domain name registrar’ is approved to sell a website name to you and is obliged to transfer that name to any number of hundreds of other domain name registrars if you so choose, but the name should always stay with you unless you stop paying for it as per contract.

Domain name’s are usually bought in yearly intervals and average around 10 to 12 bucks a year in cost(for a un-claimed ‘.com’ name) unless you buy many different names in bulk.

 

What is a CMS?

A CMS stands for ‘content management system’. It is software that allows you to manage your website’s apprearance, features, and content generally on the fly with no complicated funny business like programming or writing scripts. This website runs on a very popular and powerful CMS called WordPress.

Historically, websites we’re painstakingly written in a scripting language, akin to a programming language. They were complicated and very time consuming, making them not very accessible for an average Joe unless they learned the trade thoroughly or hired a programmer. Changes to content on your website meant that someone had to sift into the script code to make any changes to the website.

As time went on, programmers made (often expensive) editing tools we could install on our computers that can generate most of the scripting language, and this made things a little easier. Still a bit complicated and time consuming for an average Joe to make a website and put it online. Content still was not quite so dynamic, meaning any change you would want to make, you need to load up this website making program and use it or other tools to update your website.

Many iterations and years later, we created software called  a CMS. A CMS is essentially the website! A CMS is also the website editing tool! They are one in the same. And you don’t need a piece of expensive software installed on that one computer that you may not be using currently to make changes to your website- any computer from anywhere on the internet can access your website and make changes (like add comments, etc), or you can limit it to just you making the changes.

 

How do domain names, web hosts, and CMS’s work together?

All three work in harmony to make what we today call the “Web Site”. A common process goes like this:

  1. You go to a domain name registrar, think of a name you want, check to see if it or any variations of the name you want is taken, you buy the name you want.
  2. You go to a web-host with a reasonable web-hosting plan and purchase web-hosting space
  3. You download a free or paid CMS, place it in your web-hosting space, and then point your domain name to this web-hosting space.

Often though, you can just go to a web-host and can do all three steps with that single web-host, as they act as a domain registrar, web-host, and easily have the means to install the CMS. This is what we generally recommend as it is the easiest way to go about this.

Note: If you ever hear about the term “cloud hosting”, that tends to (though not always) leverage a per use basis pricing (cost can be per GB used or consumed) , and we may write a guide to doing this too, but it’s not truely needed for any kind of website unless you have some very special hardware needs, some extra money, and above average computer skills.

 

Keep these 3 terms in mind as we’ll mention them in the next sections.

 

There are 4 more sections we’ll be going over in this series of blog posts on ‘Starting a New Website on Sustainable Hosting’:

To get to the next step, click here.

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