Web Space

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Novelties 10 years ago, websites today are a commodity, certainly in the marketplace but just as much in the community. The need to extol the virtues of the Internet has, for the most part, long since disappeared. The challenge is now making the most of the web space one has or will have.

Web Space Buying Guide

Your first step, whether you use a site in a professional line of work or as a hobby, is to understand some of the terminology. The second is to be clear with yourself about how you will need or want to use the web space. Only then will you be poised to make a good choice in selecting a hosting provider. There are hundreds of vendors. There is no exact science. The questions you need to ask and answer are what you plan to do with the site, who's going to design and maintain it, and how generous your budget is.

Buying Web Space: Terminology and Context

The first three items are the domain name, your server space, and bandwidth. A domain name is of course the unique identifier of a website and is registered to a single party for a specified period for a fee--about $10 per year. This information is stored on a DNS (domain name system) server, which is responsible for informing all other computers and systems on the Internet of the domain name and related numeric IP address and guiding them to it. Your choice is your own domain name (www.yourname.com), or a directory under someone else's (such as www.theirname.com/yourname).

Five and 10 years ago, web space came at something of a premium. Technology has changed things considerably and both hard drive and web space come cheap. Typical free sites offer from 10 to 50 megabytes. For $5 or $20 a month, you can get anywhere from 200 megabytes to 2 gigabytes. Think of a typical John Grisham novel as one megabyte, a photograph in medium-resolution screen format as 50 to 100 kilobytes, and a photograph in high-resolution format as two megabytes. Movie and sound files tend to be anywhere from one megabyte and up.

Bandwidth is defined as the rate at which data travels across the Internet and is an important factor in web hosting. Ideally you'd have an unlimited bandwidth allotment, but a range of about 50 gigabytes per month is more than adequate in most instances. The more traffic to your site, and the larger the accessed files (especially photographs, movie, and sound), the more bandwidth used. You may have heard of DHA (directory harvesting attacks) and DOS (denial of service). Both translate to overloading a web server's bandwidth.

Using Web Space: Making the Most of the Medium

Initially the web featured only text, hence HTML--hypertext markup language--coding to control the appearance of the text and to enable hyperlinks from one document to another. That was then, this is now. The next generation of web presentation includes both server-side and client-side scripting, external ("plug-in") programs, server side includes, cascading style sheets, encryption, dynamic HTML, JavaScript, database access, intensive multimedia and image use, automation, and interactivity.

The primary scripting tools (actually programming languages) include VBscript, Perl, PHP, CGI, ASP, SQL and Microsoft databases, Java, and JavaScript. These drive the website to produce more than ASCII text. They enable dynamic web content based on user preferences and selection, automated publications, forms processing and feedback, file download and script execution from within a web page, and much more.

Fortunately, you needn't be a programmer to develop, design, and maintain a website. For an enterprise solution, of course, you do. But for the sole proprietor or hobbyist who isn't technically minded and doesn't want to get his or her feet wet with CCS and XHTML and graphic design, there are a host of alternatives.

Software programs such as FrontPage, GoLive, Dreamweaver, and Homestead (to name only a few) make it easy for newbies to create and maintain a simple site. Web hosting companies also provide browser-interface utilities from within a website control panel that accomplish the same thing. Aplus.net and Earthlink, for example, use Trellix as well as a library of web templates. These programs are all WYSIWYG, best known as whizzy-wig, or what you see is what you get, and enable you to generate code and graphics easily.

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