ISP Web Hosting Tips

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Are free Web hosting services good?

Free Home Pages

There are some companies that provide free Web hosting, but there are usually strings attached. If you're looking for full service providers, forget the free Web hosting accounts. Likewise, if you don't want someone else's advertisements on your Web site, don't bother looking at the free Web site hosting services. If you're trying to set up a business Web site, don't even think about such free services -- just arrange for some real ISP Web hosting.

   
What are the different types of dynamic Web hosting?

Dynamic Web Hosting

There are a few dynamic ISP Web site hosting technologies to consider when shopping around for ISP services. The most common (ordered very roughly from least to most capable) include Active Server Pages (ASP), Server Side Includes (SSI), PHP Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP), WebObjects, JavaServer Pages (JSP), and the Z-Object Publishing Environment (Zope). Each has advantages, and each has disadvantages. Most ISPs do not offer all six. It's important to consider each before selecting an ISP.

   
What are size restrictions?

Web Site Size

Even ISPs have only so much disk space available. A typical ISP provider will include with each account between 5 MB and 250 MB of disk space for ISP web hosting. These size restrictions are put in place to ensure that ISP service does not deteriorate. While 5 - 250 MB may seem like nothing when home computers come with so much more disk space, remember that space directly connected to the Internet on a Web server is a significantly more valuable shared resource. Usually the hardware providing the space is of a higher quality than the hardware used in home computers and features better redundancy and error correction capabilities.

   
What audio formats are safe for the Web?

Web Audio Formats

There are dozens of audio formats. Unfortunately there is no audio format that all Web browsers can consistently play, so the pros and cons for each must be weighed before uploading to an ISP Web hosting account. The simple audio format (AU) will work with most browsers without extra software (even on some handheld computers) if it is restricted to mono sound. MP3, WAV, and AIFF will work on the next largest number of computers without extra software. MIDI files will work on most computers, but they require that a MIDI library be installed, and different MIDI libraries mean that the same audio file can sound different on different machines. MOD, SID, and OGG files will work on pretty much every machine, but each requires special plug-ins. This is all regardless of ISP service and ISP provider; it is a property of the Web browsers themselves.

   
What does UNIX or MS-Windows mean?

UNIX Versus MS-Windows

When checking ISP providers, one of the first ISP Web hosting related choices that comes up is "UNIX or MS-Windows". This refers to the operating system that the Web server itself runs on. While many can endlessly debate the virtues and vices of UNIX versus MS-Windows for various applications, in a Web serving environment things are a little more clear. Web site viewers cannot tell the difference, so they are not even a consideration. In terms of software, Apache is the most popular Web server application for static content, and it runs better on UNIX. Zope is probably the most powerful Web framework for dynamic content, and it runs better on UNIX. The majority of the Web is served by UNIX.

   
What is Apache?

Apache

Apache is the most popular Web server for ISP Web hosting. It is more popular than all the others combined, and most ISPs offer it as an ISP service. Apache is free software, and is thus also the most common Web server used for free Web hosting as well as being the most common server used for commercial Web hosting. Apache is geared primarily toward the fast serving of static Web pages, but it also includes SSI to provide basic dynamic Web page capabilities. Apache is maintained by the Apache Software Foundation.

   
My ISP account comes with free Web space -- what is that?

Free Web Space

Many ISPs provide a free home page facility as part of their standard connection package. These free accounts usually provide both limited bandwidth and storage capacity, and generally prohibit anything other than personal use. While free, they're a lesser product and a lot more restrictive than standard ISP web site hosting. Ordinary ISP web hosting packages offer more, but at additional cost. This is an area in which ISPs compete for features, so be sure to compare the home page ISP web hosting facilities provided for free prior to choosing your ISP.

   
What are the different types of static Web hosting?

Static Web Hosting

There are a few static ISP Web site hosting technologies to consider when shopping around for ISP services. Apache is by far the most popular in the world and is likewise frequently regarded as being the most capable and reliable. It is used more than all the other solutions combined. Other popular alternatives include: Internet Information Services (IIS), iPlanet (also known as the Sun Java System Web Server), AOLserver, and WebStar. Most ISPs will only offer one choice, so check before choosing.

   
What are static and dynamic Web sites?

Static Versus Dynamic

There are two primary types of ISP Web site hosting technologies that you should be aware of: static and dynamic. Almost all ISPs offer static hosting services. Static Web pages don't change unless somebody changes them -- either you or the ISP. Dynamic pages can change themselves to some extent. Be sure to check whether or not an ISP can provide dynamic Web hosting when comparing ISP Web hosting services.

   
What is RDF metadata?

RDF

RDF stands for Resource Description Framework. Metadata is data about the data container itself; so a book about dogs may feature data about various dog species, etc., and metadata about the author, publisher, copyright, etc. RDF metadata provides a standardized way that a Web site can provide the world information about itself. Better ISP Web hosting (and ISP Web design) will provide RDF metadata files in addition to XHTML and CSS files. RDF metadata is one of the primary components of the semantic Web, and while it is not required a good ISP provider will use it (even the occasional free ISP uses it).

   
What is Zope?

Zope

Zope stands for Z-Object Publishing Environment, and it is quite probably the most capable dynamic Web server. It is fast and can be used to create anything from simple dynamic Web sites to complex Web applications. Most agree that the primary drawback with Zope is a lack of documentation. It is an uncommon ISP service, and you should verify with an ISP that Zope is one of their ISP web hosting options prior to making a commitment. Zope is supported by the Zope Corporation, and a list of Zope Service Providers is available.

   
What is a Web application?

Web Applications

A Web application is the ultimate dynamic Web site. It's a new ISP technology that can work with user input to an unprecedented level -- even though it loads like a Web page and is accessed from a Web browser, it behaves like a locally installed software application. It's beyond the level of a typical ISP Web hosting package, so if you need such functionality you'll have to be careful in selecting an ISP provider. Typically such an ISP service will have to be built upon something like Zope, .NET, and/or XUL, and will utilize something like SOAP or XML-RPC to communicate with clients. You will probably not be able to find a free ISP with Web application capabilities.

   
What is FOAF metadata?

FOAF

FOAF stands for Friend Of A Friend. FOAF metadata is a special subcategory of RDF metadata used heavily by bloggers. It is used to map out a social network among Web sites and generally make the Web a more human-friendly place. Most (although not all) blog-focused ISP Web hosting packages offer decent FOAF support as a standard ISP service. FOAF support will vary from non-blog-focused ISP provider to provider. By its nature it is really mostly useful for personal home pages.

   
What is XHTML (and HTML)?

HTML and XHTML

HTML stands for HyperText Mark-up Language. XHTML is the more modern version (the X means extensible). Bluntly XHTML is the language of the Web. ISP Web hosting is primarily the serving of XHTML (and related CSS) documents. When a computer anywhere in the world contacts a Web site, the ISP provider who hosts it delivers the requested XHTML documents on command.

   
What are bandwidth limitations?

Web Site Bandwidth

Every ISP provider has to consider bandwidth as part of its ISP Web hosting packages, as bandwidth costs them money. Bandwidth is the water for ISP's plumbing. Bigger pipes can deliver more of it, but are more expensive to set up and maintain. Likewise, there is also a cost per volume delivered. More popular Web sites require more bandwidth. Personal sites and local sites require less bandwidth. When a site's bandwidth limits have been reached, it will usually become unavailable (or at least very slow).

   
What is CSS?

CSS

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. Basic XHTML files are generally boring to look at. CSS files work with XHTML files to give Web sites style and pizzazz. Each XHTML document is usually associated with one or more CSS documents that govern its appearance in different circumstances. Multiple XHTML files can share a single CSS file, making for faster downloading. ISP Web hosting consists largely of delivering XHTML and CSS documents to other computers on demand, and ISP Web design consists largely of creating elaborate CSS files.

   
What is the difference between UNIX and Linux?

UNIX Versus Linux

Some ISP providers advertise Linux servers and some advertise UNIX servers for their ISP Web hosting. The difference for most people is fairly academic and not worth worrying about. Terms like Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Mac OS X, AIX, and HP-UX in the server world are all fairly interchangeable from the standpoint of someone who just wants a Web site hosted. ISP service will be functionally the same for all variations. In fact, moving a Web site from a provider using one flavor to another provider using a different one is generally pretty simple.

   
What image formats are safe for the Web?

Web Image Formats

There are hundreds of image formats, and a typical paint or drawing application can save images in at least a half dozen different formats. Unfortunately Web browsers can only consistently display four different formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, and XBM. Any images to be placed on a Web site for ISP Web hosting should be of one of these formats. Other formats (like BMP, Pict, TIFF, XPM, etc.) will not display consistently and will sometimes show up as broken images. This is regardless of ISP service and ISP provider; it is a property of the Web browsers themselves.

   
What are ISP Web hosting fees for?

Web Hosting Monthly Charges

Many are surprised to learn that after paying for the construction of a Web site, they also have to pay an internet service provider monthly fees for ISP Web hosting. It is not immediately obvious what these fees cover. To keep a Web site online 24/7 every day of the year requires that a Web server connected to the Internet remain running 24/7 every day of the year. Monthly fees (at minimum) cover the running of this server, the disk space the Web site takes up, and the amount of bandwidth it consumes. Sometimes monthly fees also include basic maintenance and support. Sometimes these cost extra.

   
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