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Setting Up a Web Site

By Gary F. Zeolla

As the "Webmaster" for Darkness to Light Web site, I have had questions posed to me about how to set up a Web site, what equipment is needed, etc. Also, I've been asked questions in regards to how difficult it was to change from a "users" site on a local Internet Service Provider (ISP) to the current main domain this site is located at. The following is how I answered these and similar questions.

In regards to equipment needed, it all depends on how a site is "hosted." The way I had it initially was as an "user's" site on a local ISP. Most ISP will give their customers free space to set up a Web site. Being free this is obviously the cheapest way to go about it. However, there are a few problems.

First off, there are usually limits as to how much space you're allotted for free. Mine was ten MB. That is actually a lot of space; but with over 300 pages on my site I was getting close to the limit. Actually, it is the number and type of graphics that really fill up the space.

Second, if you decide to change ISPs then the URL for your site will change. Mine included "usaor" in it as my ISP was USA OnRamp. Similarly, your ISP may go out of business or be bought out by another ISP. USAOR was bought out by Stargate. This may also cause you to have to change your URL.

Now in my case, Stargate did say I could keep my URL indefinitely; but I was leery about what would happen if Stargate got bought out by yet a larger ISP.

The problem is, the way most people find a Web site is either through doing a search with a searcher, like Excite or AltaVista, or by following a link to a site from another site. Either way, if you change your URL then all of those links to your site will be broken.

Third, the ISP may decided to start charging you at anytime. This was a possibility with Stargate.

For the above reasons I decided it would be better to switch to my own domain now rather than later. With your own domain you don't have to worry about your URL ever changing. However, there is more cost involved.

First off, you need to decide how you are going to have the domain hosted. One way is to set up your own server. This would mean people on the 'Net would be accessing your computer directly. But this would require having very expensive equipment and the knowledge of how to use it. As such, it is usually only done by major companies.

The more plausible option is to get set up on a "virtual server" with a Web hosting service. I decided to go with WebStation as it is a Pittsburgh-based company. In fact, when I called in for info the guy I talked to knew me! He used to work for USAOR and remembered me from my calls to tech support in setting up my site with them.

WebStation's site will give you much more info about them. Also, there are thousands of other Web hosting services out there. Before I signed up with WebStation I checked the sites for others out. The prices and services for WebStation were about the same as others.

The cost for my site is $25/ month. But there is a 10% discount if you pay for six months at time as I did and a 15% discount for paying for a full year in advance.

In addition, you need to register your domain with Internic. WebStation did this for me. But the bill comes to you directly. It costs $70 for the first two years and $35/ year thereafter.

The main advantage in having your own domain is you will never have to worry about changing your URL, as long as you keep paying your bill to Internic. And the domain name is yours. If you decide to switch Web hosts later then domain name goes with you.

So bottom line, it will cost me about $200 to initially set up my site, and it will cost about $300/ year hereafter.

Another advantage to having your own domain is you can pick your own e-mail address and it will be permanent. As with an URL, if you change ISPs your e-mail address changes; but when you have your own domain your e-mail address is simply based on it (i.e. yourname@yourdomain.com). Also, Web hosters generally enable you to have more than one address.

As for how hard the transition was, it took me quite a while; but that was mainly because I wanted to change the way I had the files stored. Otherwise, most of the work involved re-submitting my site to the above mention searchers. For general sites I used Site See Submission Service and for Christian sites All In One Christian Submit All , along with registering with individual, Christian searchers separately. See Christian Searchers and Indexes for a list of these.

I also needed to inform sites that were linked to mine that they needed to change their links. So I had to send e-mail to everyone I was cross-linked with. Plus I posted an announcement in several "Christian" Newsgroups.

As for the actual creation of the site, you need a way to convert text documents into HTML. This can be done with the latest versions of most word processing programs. Or you can use a specific HTML editor. I use Microsoft FrontPage. It's a very good program; but you will have to look around and see what you think will best meet your needs.

Of course, you could just use "raw" HTML; but that requires learning a lot of code. I have better things to do with my time.

Lastly, is the actual sending in of updates for the site. Previously, I used WS-FTP, which can be downloaded from Best Internet Clients For Windows 95. But now, I use the "update" function in FrontPage itself. I couldn't previously as USAOR did not have the needed "FrontPage extensions" installed on their system to use it; but WebStation does.

This is one last point to consider in choosing a Web hosting service. If you use FrontPage be sure the Web host has the appropriate extensions available. Along with the update system, there are other functions that can be set up using FrontPage that only work if the host has the extensions.

For instance, one thing I always wanted to set up for my site was a way people could search for words in my site alone. But I was unable to do so as an ISP user's site. But with WebStation I was finally able to set up a Text Search for this site.

So there are many advantages to registering your own domain and being hosted on a specific Web hosting service that make the added cost, IMO, worthwhile.

However, Web hosting services are not all reliable. And after a while, WebStation became unreliable. So I switched Web hosts, but the new one was no better. Then I switched again, and again. I finally signed up with Verio Web Hosting Services. And their reliability has been outstanding. They also offer a Verio Domain Name Registration service. So choose your Web host carefully. It could save you a lot of headaches.

Setting Up a Web Site. Copyright 1999,2000 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).

Email follow-up and Update

Some time after the above was written, I set up a second Web site, Fitness for One and All. Through this site, I received as email asking about setting up a Web site, how to put it together and what the fees were for start-up. Below was my reply.

There are several items you can check out for details in this regard. First off, is the About FOA and Its Director page on my Web site. It gives background on the site.

You’ll see mention on that page about my Christian Darkness to Light site. That site was set up back in July 1996. So I’ve been doing this for a long time. The design of my FOA site is basically the same as the DTL site in terms of page design and site navigation. However, I did correct some mistakes I made in initially setting up my DTL with the FOA site. These are basically “under the scenes” things like using subwebs. This would take a little explaining.

On my DTL site is posted an article on “Setting Up a Web Site” you might want to check out. I wrote this article as I’ve had many ask me questions like yours. However, that article is rather old. I am now using Verio for my Web host. You might want to check out their site.

I’ve never had problems with Verio, so I highly recommend them. Pricing is on their site, but how much it cost depends on how long you pay for. When I set up FOA, I went ahead and registered the domain (URL) for ten years at a cost of $100. I also paid for one year of hosting service. I’m using what they call a “bronze” plan, so it cost me $250. When I registered they had a “special” that if you signed up on the Web they waved the $50 set up fee.

I then used Traffic Magnet to register my site with search engines so people would actually find my site. This costs $90 to register a site with 300,00 search engines. So altogether, it cost me about $440 to set the site up.

I use MS FrontPage to design my site. It automatically does the html formatting. However, a basic knowledge of html is also helpful as FrontPage doesn’t always work quite right. So I need to edit the code manually on occasion.

I don’t mean to make it sound more complicated than it is. It’s all matter of how serious you want to be. A simple site with just a few pages could be set up on a free Web server rather easily. Your ISP might even provide such a service. But then your site would have a very long URL, with the name of your site tacked on at the end. And there would be rather low limits on Web space and transfer rates that would be allowed.

For me, I need a registered domain and paid hosting service. My two sites together have over 1000 pages and receive over 100,000 page views per month. And that is way more than a free service would provide. Also, with that many pages, ease of navigation is vital for visitors. So I spent a lot of time making sure my sites are easy to navigate.

Also note that with Verio you can have as many as ten different email accounts and 20 different email forwarding addresses. This enables me to have several different email addresses set-up for different purposes.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above article was posted on this Web site October 18, 1998.
It was updated May 15, 2000.
The email update was added September 18, 2003.

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