HTTP for HTML Authors, Part I - HTML with Style | 4
Now that you've seen an example of the simplest form of HTTP transaction, you have a good idea of how HTTP works; the browser issues a request followed by a few headers, and the server replies with a response, also followed by a few headers, and also followed by a document.
To get this to work with your documents, you obviously need access to a Web server. One way is to run this on your own computer, but this can be a less than ideal solution; for one thing, the computer you work with is probably not permanently connected to the Internet, and even when it is you probably can't spare the connection bandwidth nor the processing power to have it serving out Web pages.
Another way is to buy a separate computer, rent a permanent Internet connection and install Web server software on the computer. Assuming your coat-hanger business hasn't reached the IPO stage quite yet, you probably can't afford to do this, not just because it's expensive, but also because it means you need to maintain this computer yourself, which no Web author, however experienced, is willing to do.
Instead, you can rent space on someone else's computer for a very reasonable price - sometimes even for free. Such “Web hosting” services offer you access to a computer running a Web server, and take care of the hassle of keeping it running and connected to the Internet, usually also making sure your data is regularly backed up and that your Web site doesn't roll over and die everytime someone cuts a power cable through liberal use of a backhoe.
There are literally thousands of Web hosting services out there, offering wildly differing packages for wildly varying prices. It's best to shop around a little since there's plenty of competition. Things to look for are the amount of space (in Megabytes) that they'll give you on the computer, the amount of traffic you're allowed to have before you start paying through the nose, their general reputation, and most importantly, the level of control they'll give you over the Web server's configuration.
Too much control can be as bad as too little for most people. Just like you wouldn't like to service your station wagon yourself when you only bought it because it has space for Bernie the Golden Retriever in the back, you won't want to manually configure and maintain a complex Web server if you just want to publish a few simple Web pages. On the other hand, trying to use one of the bare-bones services to run a complicated, dynamic site is like putting a helmet and goggles on Bernie and using the station wagon to run the Indy 500, although you'll probably not get barked at as much.
So, pick a service that matches your needs; most companies offer a variety of packages and even allow you to upgrade according to your needs, so get something basic to start with and invest in more as your needs grow. Usually, you'll get some Web hosting service from your Internet Access Provider, and this will probably be good enough to start with. [Visit our sister site, TheList.com for a searchable database of thousands of potential Web hosts. - Ed.]
Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou
Created: January 15, 2001
Revised: January 16, 2001