A fellow infobrarian asked this on a discussion forum. She was mainly puzzled about where she could put a site she had built in iWeb. This got me thinking about some of the web hosting options we now have. Most people want an online presence, and while many are content to blog, tweet or update their Facebook wall, others want something a little more personalised.
Here are some of the options for getting a website onto the web. As with all my tips and advice, there’s more here than most people need, so stop reading when you have enough info!
Apple had an online storage service called Dot Mac (e.g. infobrarian.mac.com). It was free for a trial, then had an annual subscription. After a while, it changed to Mobile Me (e.g. infobrarian.me.com) and added a few features, but now that is being wound down. For iPhone/iPad/iPod users there will be a new service in a month or two: iCloud. Anyone who has the new operating system (iOS 5) will be able to get 5 Gb of free storage, and anything purchased through the itunes store, plus a range of other “inhouse” Apple content won’t count towards the 5 Gb. It will basically be a backup and sync service a bit like Dropbox – for Macs. For those of us who have 2 or more Apple devices (Mac computer, iPhone, iPad etc) it will make life so much easier keeping content synchronised across those devices. Like DropBox, you can pay for extra storage.
I’m not sure what Apple are planning to do with their web authoring application, iWeb. Once, iWeb published automatically if you had a .Mac account, so I assumed that will be the case with iCloud. Not so. Apple are closing Mobile Me sites on 30 June 2012, and now offer instructions for moving and iWeb site from there to a private provider. I wonder if there will be any more upgrades to iWeb – my guess is that eventually there will be a feature in iCloud for building a simple website, using online templates. I can’t see Apple abandoning all forms of web hosting for the millions of users of their iProducts. But perhaps Apple is looking even further into the feature, where the static website as we know it will disappear?
As for other web hosting, there are plenty of places to host a website for free, ranging from a private ISP (service provider) to online web authoring sites. Most of the latter require you to use THEIR authoring system (which means they can restrict the features you get in the free version). WordPress is my favourite – it’s really a blogging platform, but plenty of people use it as a conventional website. Google Sites allows you to build a website using their authoring system, and there is enough flexibility to make a personalised website. Most of their templates have an iWeb “look and feel”. I haven’t tried, but I don’t think you could upload an iWeb site to either of these free services.
Some people looking for an online presence via a website will want their own name in the domain. The simplest solution is to use WordPress or something similar – you just have to think of a name that isn’t already taken. Another option is to use the free web page hosting provided as part of most ISP contracts. If you are happy to have an address that looks like members.optusnet.com/~infobrarian, then that’s the way to go. If you’ve used iWeb or another application to build the site, there will be an export feature that lets you save your whole site to a folder – just upload the folder contents to your ISP site. More advanced web development programs like Dreamweaver, Fusion or WebStudio have tools that manage uploads to your web hosting service.
One step further along the customisation path is to register your own domain name. There are plenty of domain registry companies like NameCheap.com and BigDaddy.com and you can get a site like http://www.infobrarian.com for about $10-15 a year (if you want .com.au it will cost you a lot more, and you have to have a registered business name). You can set up a URL Redirect so that whoever goes to the the registered site name (e.g. http://www.infobrarian.com) site automatically gets redirected to your ISP hosted site (members.optusnet.com/~infobrarian).
If you want to take the final step, then register your domain name at one of those services, and set up a webhosting account. This will cost from about $40 per year, much more from an Australian host, with a few Gb storage, and more importantly, a limited amount of data per month. If you are expecting a lot of traffic, then you will need to pay for more data, obviously. I run a couple of sites, one through my ISP with URL forwarding, and one that is fully hosted. It only gets 50-200 visitors a day, mostly search engines unfortunately, so I am always well under my entry-level data limit. And won’t be giving up my day job just yet!
By the way, if you were curious enough to click http://www.infobrarian.com you will see that it redirects here!