After creating your content, the next step is to host the content on the Internet. One problem: most small businesses cannot afford the cost of purchasing a dedicated web server and renting high speed Internet access lines.
The solution is simple. Rent space on a computer that's already connected to the Internet. Thanks to cheaper hard disk drives, storage space is widely available at very little cost. You should be able to locate a hosting service for as little as $10-20 per month, depending on features and extras.
As part of your hosting solution, you will also want to register a unique domain name for your website. The domain name allows your customers to enter a shorter and easier to remember address to your website. Having your own domain name also will make any future changes of hosting services much less difficult.
Domain names are licensed for $35 per year. While a domain name can be registered with any of the six authorities, it is best for novices to register a domain name through their chosen web hosting service. Registering through a hosting service ensures that required domain name servers (DNS) are quickly and properly configured - a technical nightmare for both techies and non-techies. Most reputable hosting services assist in the registering of domain names at no extra cost.
You can check if a domain name is available by using a Whois service at:
Register.com - Register.com provides a clear, simple series of online forms to help register a new domain name. They also provide a simple online tool to administer their domain name servers, making it easy for novices to direct their domain name to their web server or host.
Network Solutions - Network Solutions also provides online forms for registering and managing domain names, but the process requires knowing the primary and secondary DNS server addresses.
For the average website, which operating system and brand of web server is not important. Only when you want to customize your site with databases, scripts, and dynamic features does the question of Unix or NT come into play.
Most hosting services are based on the Unix/Linux operating system and the popular Apache web server software. Thus, there are many sources of help and information available to the novice webmaster. Hundreds ofcustomized CGI scripts have been written for the Apache server which can automate just about anything an e-commerce site needs.
Regardless of the operating system chosen, there are key features that should be considered a bottom line when choosing an e-commerce hosting service.
Free domain name registration and setup
10 - 50 MB of storage
1 or more POP mailboxes
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) access
Unless your site is brochureware and you don't have very high expectations, you should strongly consider the following extra features when choosing your host provider.
Unlimited email aliases
Secure server (SSL)
Shopping Cart (ZenCart, OScommerce, Miva)
Log files access
You'll find a list of Arkansas-based Internet service providers, including web designers and hosting companies, in the ASBDC's Small Business Directory. Many businesses like the convenience of being able to drop by their hosting service.
Arkansas Internet Services - List of Arkansas-based hosting and design companies.
Several ASBDC clients use national hosting services.
HostGator - offers low cost Linux hosting with many value added features, including WordPress, Zen Cart and OScommerce shopping carts, phpList newsletter, surveys, and more.
Bluehost - offers low cost Linux hosting with many value added features, including WordPress, Zen Cart and OScommerce shopping carts, phpList newsletter, surveys, and more.
Westhost - offers moderate cost hosting with many value added features, including WordPress, OScommerce and Miva shopping carts, and Dada Mail newsletter.
FTP - The most common method of transferring the content from your computer to your new host account is by using File Transfer Protocol or FTP. You will need to locate FTP software. Two of the most popular are WS-FTP and CuteFTP. A great source of Internet FTP software is TUCOWS.
FrontPage - If your hosting service offers FrontPage extensions, you can also transfer your content using Microsoft FrontPage. You will need to configure your host account as a web in Frontpage. Then, just point, click, and drag to manage your site.