What is: a web site, hosting, dial-up, URL, search engines and meta tags, and all the other important questions- explained in English.
A web site is a lot like a yellow pages ad in a global phone directory. The difference is- there are no categories or single index- it’s a tangled web of different sites with many different interconnections.
Your site can be as simple as a yellow pages ad. A static page or pages, with pictures, copy and contact information. The other end of the spectrum is a database driven fully interactive site with constantly changing data. The difference between the two is driven by how much money you have and how well your customers needs can be solved on the web.
Most sites are found because someone saw it in an ad and went to the url (uniform resource locator) by typing it in- for example www.thenextwave.biz or by getting an e-mail with the url attached or a link from another site.
URL’s need a little explanation. The internet doesn’t really use letters to find your site- your site is actually a number- but remembering something like 18.104.22.168 doesn’t come naturally to most of us. So when you type in www.nextwavehosting.net your computer sends a message to a domain name server that keeps records of what numbers go with your name and quickly sends the number back to your computer so it knows where to go.
Domain names are pretty important, if you go to sony.com you expect to find Sony Corporation, makers of TV’s. computers etc. Your domain name is critical to your business- the shorter the better, the closer it is to your business name or a description of your services the easier it is for your customers to remember.
The suffix, .com, .net, .biz etc. are run by different registrars. We can help you find if your name is available, and help you register it for less than what most people can (we typically register names for $20 a year while others charge $35). You can have multiple names pointing to your site- and multiple suffixes. We don’t charge extra to point additional names- as many as you want to register — we’ll point. There is no difference to which suffix you choose except that some are reserved for special groups (.edu for education, .gov for the government etc). Be warned, there is one outfit called .new who have a whole bunch of neat suffixes available, but they aren’t understood by a majority of users (we only use universal urls).
Once you have a URL name registered with a registrar, you point it to a nameserver. Ours are ns.nextwavehosting.net and ns2.nextwavehosting.net The nameserver (ns.nextwavehosting.net) tells the domain name server (run by the registrars) where the your site servers are. Our servers are on the East Coast near one of the Internet’s main junctions.
The amount you pay to host your site each month varies based on the size of your site (storage space) and the amount of data (bandwidth) that is called by visitors. We have different sized packages for different requirements. We quote the prices monthly but bill annually because we don’t want to charge more for billing administration.
Hosting a site is not the same as Internet access. We do not provide access. Access is widely available from dial-up modem or high-speed access like DSL and cable modems. Access is your physical connection to the internet- and even though it usually comes with an e-mail account, we strongly recommend that you use e-mail through your site, here’s why.
Suppose you access the Internet through the phone company- your e-mail might be [email protected], or through the cable company, where it would be [email protected] When you switch access, you lose that e-mail address, or if they go out of business like excite@home did, you may be stuck with no way to get your e-mail. You may be in hundreds or thousands of peoples address books- with a dead e-mail. Another reason not to use their e-mail address is because you are missing an opportunity to promote your web site. If you are [email protected], people may go see what the latest offerings of The Doe Company are.
Once you own a domain name, you control your Internet destiny.
One of the most frequently asked questions is what do I do if I have AOL?
AOL is a wonderful online community and very easy to use. AOL provides value added access – they are your access provider to the Internet and add a proprietary community that is easy to understand and use. A little known fact is that the original interface was designed by Apple Computer and licensed to AOL- that may explain why it is so easy to use.
AOL is not good for a business. While their interface has improved, they still provide a browser (that’s the software people use to view your site- others are Netscape and Explorer) that is not fully compliant with Internet standards. It also stops you from promoting your site with every e-mail (see above).
Having your own site doesn’t mean you have to give up your AOL account and the many features you may like. You can still chose to access the net through their modems, or you can use alternative access like DSL or cable, but then chose a “bring your own access” plan that is less expensive. For $4.95 a month you can keep your aol screen names with limited access as you start switching your friends over to your own proprietary e-mail address. One of the nice things about leaving AOL – less junk mail in your inbox.
With your own domain, you can set up different e-mail addresses and boxes for multiple people or even forward all your e-mail to another address.
The last part of having your own site is promoting it. Since the web doesn’t have one central index, people use search engines to find your site if they don’t have an ad, card or other prompt in front of them. Some of our favorites are google.com, hotbot.com and dogpile.com. These engines search by “crawling” the net and reading content on your page. Most are prompted to index your site by things called “meta tags” You can see a sites tags by calling up the page and then doing a view:source where you will see the actual code for the page. Meta tags and page descriptions are included on any well-designed site. All of our sites have them, and our hosting package includes a control panel to submit your page to search engines. We also have an advanced software package that we use to optimally tag your site and submit it to even more directories as an added service.
Yahoo is a different type of directory — an index that requires a manual submission. We do not do Yahoo submissions, but advise you to do it yourself. You can pay them for higher positions and faster submissions- we feel this model will fall by the wayside over time.