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Web Site Hosting: From Domain Registration to Going Online - Part 3

by John Lenaghan

After your account has been opened with your web host and you've set the DNS for your website (see Parts 1 and 2 for more information) you can start to upload your content. The most common way this is done is through FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software, but there are a few other options as well.

The FTP protocol lets you transfer data files from one computer to another. Your web hosting company will give you the information you need to connect to your site with FTP.

You normally would use software like WS_FTP or FileZilla to connect. Your FTP address will usually be ftp.yourdomain.com.

Your web host will also tell you where your files should be uploaded to on the server. There is usually a folder in the root directory of your website called public_html, www or something similar. This is where you need to store all your website files to make them accessible to the public on the internet.

You might have to adjust some settings in your FTP software to make the files upload properly. eg. If you're running a firewall on your computer (or a hardware firewall) you may need to set the transfer method to "passive". And if you're using a proxy server, you'll have to adjust those settings as well.

Files can be transferred with FTP in either ASCII or binary mode. If you use the wrong mode to transfer, you could end up with errors. Your FTP software might automatically determine which method to use by looking at the contents of the files you're transferring. It's possible that you might have to specify the mode manually, however.

Files that should be sent as ASCII include HTML (and variations like HTM, SHTML, etc.), TXT, ASP, JS, PHP, etc. Essentially, any file that you would open with a text editor should be transferred as ASCII.

Binary mode is used to transfer files such as graphics, compiled programs and media files.

With your FTP software, connect to your web server. Open the folder where you're going to upload the files and then find the files on your computer that you're going to send. You can transfer individual files or entire directories using FTP.

Most of the pages on your website can be named anything you want, but the home page or main page in any subdirectories should be named index.htm (or .html, .php, etc.) The name "index" tells the web server that this is the file that should be displayed by default.

So if someone goes to www.mydomain.com, what they're actually going to see is www.mydomain.com/index.html, the web server just displays that file automatically so they don't need to enter the "index.html" part.

If you don't put an index file in each directory on your site, people might be able to browse the directory and see "behind the scenes" on your website. This can be a security issue in some cases, so it's always a good idea to put an index page in each directory, even if it's just a blank page.

What Other Ways Can You Upload Your Website?

FTP isn't the only way to upload your web pages. Many web page creation programs have transferring built-in. Probably the most common example of this is Microsoft Frontpage. If your web host supports Frontpage, you can upload your site from within Frontpage itself and you don't need to worry about how or where to transfer things. Frontpage takes care of everything for you.

Some web hosts also offer online site-builders. These builders work within your web browser and let you layout your web pages. Once your pages are finished, they automatically get saved to the appropriate location on your server.

These online site-builders are usually available through the control panel in your hosting account.

Friday, Sep 22nd, 2006