Wait, What? I am on the internet, right? Well…yes. If you are reading this then you are officially ‘surfing the internet’. In order to get into this step, maybe a little background is in order. The internet is nothing more than a very large bunch of computers that are connected to each other. That is pretty much it. The computer that you are on. The server that this website came from. The ‘cloud’. All computers. Oh, wait, you are on an iPad/android/chromebook? Guess what, all computers.
The term computer has become some catchall for a lot of things. If you have a desktop (basically anything that is not a phone or looks like a laptop) then you are probably looking at a monitor and using a separate keyboard and mouse. I am using a setup like that to type this right now. None of these things are a computer (this is why IT people shake their heads when you point at your monitor and tell them your computer isn’t working). The core of your computer is the processor in the middle of the machine. This little piece of silicon does the computing which is the secret sauce that lets graphics get on your screen and the keyboard input appear on your screen and the operating system run your browser. We won’t get into that now, but every computer in the world has a processor in it. Therefore any device you use to get online or device you talk to while online has a similar processor in it. Phones, tablets, laptops, computers, servers, and yes, the cloud (which is basically just a bunch of different computers in another location).
Ok, so now we have somewhat of a definition for a computer. The internet works by connecting two computers, yours to another one out there somewhere. Usually this occurs by talking to a number of other computers in the middle to eventually find the computer that you are looking for. So skipping over a lot of networking in the middle, there is your computer talking to a web server. A web server is a computer that has information that is presented in a specific way that your web browser can render it and you see a nice shiny website with my words in the middle. This web server has to live somewhere. And this is the purpose of this step in setting up your own site.
The Hosting Provider
The hosting provider is usually a company with a lot of computers in a central location (or locations) that other people’s computers can talk to. They can have fancy names (server farm, the cloud) and have fancy statistics (99.9% uptime, unlimited bandwidth) but basically you need to find a company to rent a server from to host your website. That is it. Once you have found a company, paid them a little money, they give you access to a computer that they are running or managing and give you some sort of access to that computer to run your website.
For purposes of setting things up and getting running, I am not going to go through a bunch of providers (although I want to do that in the future). Instead I am going with what I know: Dreamhost (FYI, affiliate link).
Why Dreamhost? Well the main reason is that I have had a relationship with Dreamhost since early 2005. I had been out of college for about a year and my access to my college accounts, including a small hosting account, had been turned off. I did some research at the time and found some very good reviews for Dreamhost, and have been with them ever since. As I currently have an account there, it was very easy to get started on a new site with them.
The rest of the site creation steps will utilize information based on my experience with setting up a site with Dreamhost. Feel free to look around for other providers, there are a lot out there. In the future, I hope to review some other providers and provide some more choices. In the meantime, feel free to check out Dreamhost (FYI, affiliate link), and, if you decide to sign up, you can share in some of the affiliate money that is generated. The links below will net you $25 or $50 off of a shared hosting plan if you sign up (the money comes out of my affiliate fee). So click away and get up and running if you so choose (FYI, affiliate links):
FULL DISCLOSURE: All of the Dreamhost links above use a referral code linked to my account. Why? So that if you decide to sign up I can make some money off of that. Does it cost you more? Nope. But one of the reasons that I have created this site is to explore how to make money on the web using affiliate links, and thus I am going to be using a lot of them on the site in the future. Do I have to use your affiliate links? Of course not. Feel free to type in www.dreamhost.com yourself into your browser or just use the link below:
Non-affiliate link (This will open in a new window!): dreamhost.com
Don’t forget to check out the second part of this guide: STEP 1b – Signing up with Dreamhost to see how to get an account with this service provider!