WEBLISHING AND SITE KEEPING
 AT DHARMA HAVEN'S WEB WORKSHOP
Find an inexpensive host for your Web pages, and upload your pages to your server -- and then keep them up to date.
overview  ~ servers and hosts  ~  domains  ~ uploading  ~  maintenance
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WEBSHOP HOME  SYSTEMS   WEBLISHING  WEBPAD   SITE KEEPING
Overview
This overview summarizes the various sections of this page, which is about actually putting pages up on the Web, and keeping them up to date once the're there. Other Web Workshop pages focus on the software used for making Web pages, the process of creating them, some guidelines for pages headed for the public Web, and how to let people know about them once they are available. 

This page covers the process of making a page available on the public Web.  Specifically, we discuss Web servers and Hosts (what they are and how to find one), domain names (what they are and how to get one, if you want one), uploading pages onto a server, and Web site maintenance -- keeping pages up to date with functional links and accurate content. 
 

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Servers and Hosts

 

A Web server is a computer (connected to the Internet) that stores copies of your Web pages, and serves them out when people who want to visit your Web site request them.  When a potential visitor clicks on a link to one of your pages, the Internet sends that request to your Web server, which sends the requested page to the visitor's computer. 

You can put your pages on a computer that you own (or rent), or have them hosted on a computer belonging to someone else.  Most Web sites should chose that second option, using a Web hosting service. Setting up and maintaining a server is much more expensive, takes much more time, and requires much more training. Also, leasing a server allows you to have a page or site permanently available on the Web without having to stay permanently connected.  (If you want to explore setting up your own server, you'll need to look elsewhere for guidance.) 

One potential host for your Web pages is your own Internet service provider (ISP). Most ISPs offer their Internet-access customers free hosting for a small Web site, usually restricted to non-commercial use. The main advantage of this is that it is free. 

The small space allowed may be no problem.  Twenty or more pages like this one would easily fit in one megabite of Web space, depending on graphics, and many ISPs offer 2 or more megabytes. Some offer more, knowing that most customers won't use nearly that amount. 

Unfortunately, many commercial ISPs don't allow you to work directly with the Web site -- you send the pages to the ISP as e-mail attachments (or by regular mail on a floppy diskette) and they put the pages on the Web for you. This does have one advantage: You don't have to learn to manage your Web pages on the server; but it is difficult in several ways: You can't make changes whenever you want to, and you can't see the results of your changes immediately .  We would avoid accepting such a severe limitation unless there were no affordable alternatives. Fortunately, there are many. 

Nearly all Web presence providers (Web Hosts) offer direct password- protected access to the site -- in fact, most of them require that you maintain the site yourself, unless you pay a substantial fee for them to develop and maintain the site for you. 

A few ISPs do allow direct access.  Examples are Brigadoon.com and Mindspring; both are national ISPs. 

Some national Web presence providers also offer free accounts. 

Web Hosts / Web Presence Providers

Leasing a Server provides lists of  low-cost Web space providers, organized by the country where the server is located (and for hosts located in the USA, organized by state).  They also have links to other lists of Web space providers, including lists of companies offering budget-priced Web accounts and lists of sources of free Web space.  Another list of lists is Yahoo!'s index of lists of Internet Presence Providers

Budgetweb.com offers a list of  low-cost Web space providers, organized by price and by features of the account. 

Host Investigator looks at price, features, reliability and response time, and restrictions.  The site itself is very clean and easy to use. 

Top Hosts rates hosts on value, reliability, and support, and provides an easy way to find a host that will meet your needs within your price range. 
 

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Registering Domain Names

Web pages hosted on borrowed or rented servers usually have Web addresses that begin with the address of that server; but a page hosted on someone elses server can have it's own address on the World Wide Web. Having ones own address (or more accurately, having an address that is entirely ones own), has several advantages.  It can be short, easy to remember, and meaningfully related to the name of your company; and it won't have to be changed if you switch to a different Web host. 

First, let's look at a typical Web address to see exactly what a domain is. (Internet addresses are called URLs, short for Uniform Resource Locator.)   The URL for Dharma Haven is http://dharma-haven.org/, even though our pages are hosted by Hiway Technologies.  The domain is "dharma-haven.org"  because we chose to register that as our domain name.  If we had not chosen to register our own domain name, our URL would be something like http://hway.net/dharma/. 

Many organizations prefer to have an e-mail address or URL that is similar to their company name; in some ways, a domain name is similar to a customized license plate. 

Another reason for registering a domain name is that ones Web addresses and e-mail addresses won't have to be changed when switching to a different Web server.  That was our main reason for registering a domain name. 

For  the original international domains (.com, .edu, .gov, .net and .org) InterNIC Domain Registration Services is in charge, at least for now.  To find out if the domain name you want is available, just search the InterNIC's Whois Database to see if there is a match for the name you want. The Whois database contains records for all of the domains that have been registered with the InterNIC.  Type in the domain name you're thinging of using.  If there is a match, the name that you want is already taken and you will have to come up with an alternative choice. If there is no match, then the name is available and you can register the domain name for your own use. 

InterNIC provides detailed instructions, for those who wish to handle the registration process themselves, in their Domain Name Registration Overview.  If you'd like some help, many Internet Service Providers offer general assistance with domain name registration, and some may even handle the entire registration process for you. Contact your ISP to explore your options. 

InterNIC charges $100 to register a domain name, which covers the first two years.  Retaining the name costs $50 per year after the first two years. 

For national URLs (those ending in two letter codes for the country, like .au for Australia) other agencies are in charge of domain registration. World Registries gives the Web addresses for domain name registries around the world.  Each of them provides instructions for name registration. 

A good place to look for more information on this topic is an informative set of  answers to frequently asked questions, provided at the InterNIC FAQ page. 
 

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Uploading Your Pages to the Web

 

When you're ready to put your page on the Web, your Web page host, who could be your ISP [Internet Service Provider], will require that you upload the pages in one of two ways.   Either they will insist on putting the pages (and modifications of pages) up for you, or they will give you direct access to your Web site and let you upload pages and modifications yourself. 

The simplest is if they want to put the pages up for you -- you send them the pages on a floppy or as an e-mail attachment, and they do the rest. (They will make their own deadline for getting this done, usually several days, at least, and may charge you extra if you want to change your Web site more than once a month. On the plus side, though, is the fact that they actually know what they are doing.)

The most flexible (by far) is if they allow you to have direct access to your directories on their server.  This is often called FTP (File-Transfer Protocol) access, and to do it you need an FTP program, or a Web page editor that provides that function. 

We decided right from the beginning to consider only Web hosts that allow direct FTP access to the site, mainly because we were just learning how to work with the Web, and we had been warned that pages that work as intended on ones own computer may behave quite differently when viewed on the Web.  The idea of waiting days and paying extra fees to make changes, once we see how our pages play on the Web, still seems maddening -- but some people may be more patient. 

We use an excellent free program, WS FTP by John Junod.  Also, the Arachnophilia Web-page editor will automatically upload pages to the Web, sending only those you have changed.  AOLpress can also be configured to use the FTP protocol for uploading pages. Many other Web-page editors can upload pages, as well, but some may require special arrangements with your Web host. 
 
 

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Maintenance

Always Test Drive Your Pages: HTML that does what you want it to in your favorite browser may do something else or not work at all in another. Test your pages in different browsers, and with different settings, to see how your pages display.  Over 90% of the people on the Internet in the US are using either Netscape Navigator or MS Internet Explorer -- but many of those people have their automatic image loading turned off.  Screen size makes a big difference, too. These issues are discussed in detail in the Test Drive section of our Making Pages page, and in the Browsers section our of our Webware page. 

Make Sure Your Images can be Viewed From the Web: Images on your Web pages are loaded into the browser separately from the HTML document that tells the browser how to display the page. Two different situations can cause images on a Web page not to load, so that they can't be displayed at all.  One is pretty obvious -- if you upload a page to your server, but forget to upload one or more of its image files (or upload it to the wrong subdirectory of your Web site), the browser won't be able to find it, and the browser will display it's little missing-image icon. 

This can also happen if you give your image a name that works on your computer, but won't work on the computer acting as your Web server.  Some UNIX servers, for example, won't accept filenames with capital letters or spaces in them.  For that reason, it's a good idea to use all lower-case characters, and no spaces, for all your filenames (HTML pages, images, audio files, and anything else you may include in your pages), unless you are sure you will never want to put your pages on a server with that limitation. 

The other situation is more difficult to diagnose.  If the image tag points to the file on your local hard drive, when you look at the page on the Web, the image will be displayed; but anyone looking at the page with any other computer will see only the missing-image icon.  One source of this problem is a bug in Netscape Navigator Gold, which incorrectly uses the local address when you copy an image from one place on your page to another. 

However it occurs, the problem is hard to spot -- since everything looks fine to you, you might never notice that anything is wrong.  One way to easily see if you have this problem is to temporarily change the name of the directory (folder) that holds your Web-page files.  Then look at your pages on the Web, using the reload button to make sure you aren't pulling images out of your browser's cache.  Surprise! Now you're seeing what everyone else has been seeing all along. 

Another way to detect this problem is to search the HTML source for your page  for IMG SRC="file:  If you do have this problem the search will turn up something like this: 
 

IMG SRC="file:///C|/Web Page Files/or_diam.gif"

That should be simply 

IMG SRC="or_diam.gif" 

To correct the problem, you can use your Replace function to replace each occurrence of  IMG SRC="file:///C|/Web Page Files/ with IMG SRC="

Reduce the Size of Image Files: Including images on a page will cause it to load more slowly. Surprizingly, the 'same' image, i.e. an image that looks the same as another, can be as much as five or more times larger without noticable improvement in image quality on a Web page. Image bloat -- using images with unnecessarily large file sizes -- can and should be avoided. 

NetMechanic offers an automatic image-size optomization service called GIFBot. This service lets you compare the GIFBot optimized images to the original and select the best trade off between image quality and file size, then save the image of your choice for use on your Web page. 

You Can Get Your HTML Checked Automatically:  Web Techs is a free HTML Validation Service -- they will check several pages or just a few lines.  Image bloat is the leading cause of slow loading Web pages. NetMechanic also offers an HTML validator.  Another option is to load the page into Arachnophilia or AOLpress.  Both programs will check for conformance to HTML standards. 

Keep Your Links Up To Date: As the Web expands, links come and go. Sometimes a site is simply taken off the Web; but more often it has simply moved, and there is a grace period, usually lasting several months, during which requests for the page at the old Web address (URL) are automatically forwarded to the new URL.  During that period, it's easy to correct the address on your page (because it's easy to find out what the new one is).  Eventually, though, the grace period ends (in most cases) and tracing the page to its new location requires more work, if one is lucky enough to find it at all. 

If you're having difficulty keeping up with the links on your pages before they become broken, you can get some free assistance.  NetMechanic uses an automatic program to go over your site looking for links that no longer work. They also have an HTML validator, and can monitor your server's performance. 

Monitor Your Web Host's Performance: Internet service providers and Web hosts vary greatly in speec and reliability.  Site Watch provides you with the statistical facts showing the actual performance of your pages' connection to the Web. Site Watch attempts to access your site regularly, and sends you a weekly report detailing any failed attempts, time to load the site, and so on.  NetMechanic also can monitor your server to see how well it performs. 
 


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Revised on September 2, 1998
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