Web Hosting - Paid vs Free
|Website Advice Centre Articles|
Part of the process of making your own Sims 2 website is the selection of a good web hosting company. You must have some kind of hosting in order for your site to be visible on the Internet. Ease of use for uploading files, technical support and bandwidth/space packages are all key areas to keep an eye on.
As with the other articles in this section, this is not a definitive guide. Indeed, writing an in-depth, covers-everything guide would take many days and a vast amount of space. So this is just a brief explanation that doesn't really go into any technical details.
What is Hosting?
Web hosting is where you are able to show your website to the world. Basically, you upload your website files to a company who have a computer connected to high speed lines on the internet 24 hours a day, so that anyone on the Internet can view your website.
There are two types of hosting: Free and Paid. They are each detailed below. There are also two parts to hosting: Domain and space, also detailed below.
- See also: Tips for creating good websites
Free hosting is where a company will host your website without it costing you anything. They often have very restrictive limits on what can and can't be uploaded and have small bandwidth and space allocations.
Advantages of Free Hosting
- You don't have to worry about paying per month
- Very useful if you have a small site with little content
- Free Forums can be setup with little to no effort
- No need to choose a domain name or pay domain costs
Disadvantages of Free Hosting
- Restrictive space and bandwidth - enough for a small site but not a medium to large size one
- The url will always contain the companies name: e.g. www.freehosts.com/mysims2site (fictional)
- Adverts. Different companies approach this differently: Some displaying ads as banners amongst your page, some put them discreetly at the side and others use popups
- Limited web technologies and capabilities - some don't have PHP or mySQL for example
Who should use free hosting
Free hosting is really only good for extremely small sites, perhaps a forum that you want to chat with your friends on or a little space to share your creations on - but then you'd get much more visibility from uploading to a larger, free, Sims 2 hosting site.
Often, it's easier to band together with other creators and pay a small amount between you a month to a better deal, or even just upload your creations to an existing large site.
Stuff not integrated yet
Paid hosting is where you pay a company to host your website. [list][*]You'll still be limited on bandwidth and disk space, though the limit will be much higher.[/list] [list][*]You won't get any adverts on your sites.[/list] [list][*]You'll get technology (such as php) and it's likely to be kept up to date.[/list] [list][*]The better hosts offer a comprehensive control panel which allow to fully control your site from seeing how much space you've used to setting up email addresses on it.[/list] [list][*]Some hosts tie you into a contract, or ask that you pay 3 months in advance (though usually the longer you pay for the more you get discounted). Others only require a month's notice for cancellation.[/list] [list][*]Paid hosts let you tie a domain name into your webspace (some let you purchase a domain from them - more on domains below) so instead of [url]www.bairy.freehost.com[/url] it can just be [url]www.bairy.com[/url] (examples)[/list] [list][*]Most hosts also give you a heap of scripts ready for install. From guestbooks to bulletin boards, content management systems to photo galleries.[/list]
[b][u]Domain Names and Webspace - The Connection[/u][/b]
A domain name is a website's friendly name, such as [url]www.yahoo.com[/url]. When you type this into your browser, various technical stuff happens and you are taken to the site. Webspace is where the files that make up your website are [i]actually[/i] kept. The domain name is merely a pointer to those files.
Therefore you can buy a domain from one company and the space from another - or you can buy both from one company.
[b][u]What is Webspace and Bandwidth?[/u][/b]
Every (reputable) web hosting company has a limit to the webspace and bandwidth you can have. Generally the more you pay the more of each you're allowed to have. [list][*][b]Webspace[/b] is the actual space you can have, such as 50 or 400 Megabytes.[/list] [list][*][b]Bandwidth[/b] is the amount of data you're allowed to stream from your site. This is how it works: Lets say you have a download that's 1 Megabyte big. Each time that file is used, 1 Megabyte of your allowance is used. So if your allowance is 500 Megabytes for the month, then only 500 downloads of that file can be made over the entire month. Of course then you have to throw in the size of your pages, images etc. as well. Basically anything that comes off your site to someone is used bandwidth.[/list]
There are hundreds of free hosting providers out there. Rather than me listing any, I'm just going to provide a link to a site called [url=http://www.free-webhosts.com/webhosting-01.php]free-webhosts[/url] who seem to have a well organised database detailed what each provider offers. The page I've linked takes you straight to the list of providers in order of best user ratings first. Take a little time to go through until you find one you like, and read the reviews on it. Don't spend too much time, it's free so you can always transfer later if things don't work out.
Don't look for the one that offers the most space or the most features. Just look for a suitable one - you probably won't need too much space and even if you do, there's likely to be a bandwidth limit. Also, if you don't really know HTML that well, look for the that have some sort of editor. Although these are usually very basic, they should be enough to work with. Alternatively, you can look at the web editors list below.
If you want to go ahead and buy paid hosting, you'll probably want a domain name too.
You can either buy the domain name seperate to the hosting, or find a hosting provider that sells domain names too. Personally I would recommend the former. If you buy a domain seperately then you own it for a fixed time (usually 1 or 2 years - and renewal is allowed at the end) and you're free to point it wherever you like for the length you own it. This is handy if the hosting provider you choose is rubbish and you need to close your account. If you buy a domain with the hosting then your site will be slightly faster to access however if things do go wrong then you will probably lose the domain too, and have to re-register it with someone else.
For the UK I would suggest using [url]www.1and1.co.uk[/url] or [url]www.123-reg.co.uk[/url] as they have cheap domains and full DNS control. Note that these two offer .net .com and .info as well as .co.uk For the US I would suggest [url=http://www.drylinehosting.com/domains.htm]these folks[/url] or the [url=http://www.omnis.com/]Omnis network[/url] or [url=http://www.netfirms.com/domain-names]Net Firms[/url] as they all have very low prices. Remember though, it doesn't really matter where you buy from as it will still work worldwide, it's just easier to manage payment in your own currency :)
Free domain names: Yes, they exist. You can have the following ones for free: [URL=http://www.dot.tk/].tk[/URL], [URL=http://www.uni.cc/].uni.cc[/URL], [URL=http://www.co.nr/].co.nr[/URL], [URL=http://www.cjb.net/].cjb.net[/URL], [URL=http://www.joynic.com/].uk.tt (plus more .tt domains)[/URL]
A quick note about picking a name: If you're stuck on what name to try for, keep in mind that it should be relatively short (under about 15 letters), and be one word or two - easy to remember, easy to type in. You'll probably want to match the site name. So Harmonious Sims (fictional, I hope) might be called harmonious-sims.com. You will need to check if the name has already been taken of course, but almost all registrants will tell you this. Have a couple of backup names in mind in case your primary choice has gone.
[b][u]Paid Hosting - Purchasing Tips[/u][/b]
There are literally thousands of hosting companies around the web. Generally speaking, most offer good features and enough reliability so you don't need to worry about searching through hundreds to find the perfect one. [list][*]The first thing you need to do is work out roughly how much space and bandwidth you're likely to need.[/list] [indent] [list][*]If you compress your jpgs carefully and don't flood your site with too much, then just add up the number of things you're offering for download (if any), and add 5mb on- and that's the space you need, don't forget to get more if you think you'll need it in the future. Note: The space quoted won't necessarily be the space you get as the host usually allocates 50mb of your space to things like logs and Sql databases.[/list] [list][*]Bandwidth is more tricky because you have to guess how many visitors you might get, however the explanation above should let you take a wild stab. The difference in price between, say, 1gig bw/mo and 3gig bw/mo isn't that high, so unless you're on a tight budget you can estimate up.[/list] [list][*]Do remember that you can usually swap plans to one with a higher allowance if needed.[/list] [/indent] [list][*]Decide what technology you need and how much of it. My technology I mean MySQL databases, subdomains etc. Most hosts have a limit on the number of these you can have so if you need them, plan ahead.[/list] [list][*]Windows or Linux server? Generally Linux servers are cheaper, you only really need Windows if you're using ASP dynamic pages.[/list] [list][*]If you're after extra stuff like guestbooks or bulletin boards and don't have the knowledge (or can't be bothered) to install the scripts, then look for a hosting company that uses cpanel. It's a full package that offers all kinds of great things including self-installing scripts. For even more scripts, look for cpanel and fantastico.[/list] [list][*]Don't forget - if you want the hosting company to supply the domain name too, you need to make sure the company you choose actually offers one.[/list]
Once you've worked out roughly what you need, have a look at [url=http://www.findmyhosting.com/]FindMyHosting.com[/url]. Scroll down a little to the "Easy Shared Web Hosting Search Tool" and you can search for providers. The results are well formatted and very helpful although I'm not certain how in-date the information is. The user reviews will be up to date anyway.
A note about "Unlimited" providers. Short: There is no such thing. "Unlimited" providers claim you can have unlimited space and/or bandwidth. This is technically impossible but even in the sense they mean it (i.e. a lot) they are being deceiptful. Generally somewhere deep in the TOS will be a clause that lets them cancel your account if they feel like it. And they *will* cancel your account if you start to use what they consider too much. Don't be fooled by "unlimited" providers - there is no such thing.
If you want to design a site and not use any online wizardry, the following applications can help:
[list][*][b][url=http://www.macromedia.com/software/dreamweaver/?promoid=BINR]Dreamweaver[/url][/b] - Cost: USD399. This is certainly one of the better editors feature-wise with very good CSS support and both a WYSIWYG and code editor. Personally I found the 2004 rather buggy in parts, not in the sense it crashed just it kept missing things, and imported CSS files weren't always updated. I found the inbuilt FTP client very slow too. Not really worth 400 bucks IMHO[/list] [list][*][b][url=http://software.visicommedia.com/en/products/acehtml/]AceHTML[/url][/b] - Cost: Euro70. I use this one, it's not overly featured and the inbuilt browser can be fiddly at times, the autocomplete also works only if it feels like it (it's very good when it does), but overall this is not a bad package with all kinds of inbuilt goodies such as code checkers. I'd suggest looking at it at least.[/list] [list][*][b][url=http://www.coffeecup.com/html-editor/]CoffeeCup HTML Editor[/url][/b] - Cost: USD49 (free if you host with them). Another well featured editor. You can edit in WYSIWYG or code. The inbuilt FTP uploader is pretty good too although accounts are a bit fiddly to set up. Another one to at least look at[/list] [list][*][b][url=http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk/site.htm]Notepad++[/url][/b] - Cost: Free. Notepad++ is like Windows Notepad on heat. It features being syntax colouring for a whole heap of languages including php and Perl and it's able to collapse entire functions to make the file easier to read. Definitely recommended for the notepad-based HTML coder.[/list]
If you're going for paid hosting, there is something to keep in mind.
If your site is good, it will grow.
That means that as it becomes more popular, your bandwidth requirements will increase. You'll also probably want to add more content (forum posts/downloads/news reports/whatever else you're offering) as the site becomes more popular, because people don't keep coming back to sites that haven't changed.
What does that mean when looking for a paid host? Firstly, you'll probably want to get an account that sits slightly higher in capability than what you're currently using. More importantly, look at the prices for their higher level plans and the costs to upgrade. Their beginner package might be quite reasonably priced, but if your site grows too big you may have to pay a fee to upgrade to a better account, which may end up being overpriced.
In short, make sure your site is going to be able to grow over time.