The parts of your web thing

Since I seem to keep coming back to a list of the things that go into making a web thing, this time I'll write them all here so next time, it's ready.

First, unless you're using somebody else's service (yoursite.wordpress.com or yoursite.drupalgardens.com etc.) you want a domain name.  (This may be a subdomain of something you already have, so you might not have to buy anything - wp.alakasam.ca is a subdomain of this one).  I just go to Rebel.ca and buy a domain.  It's usually a .ca domain because I am Canadian and like to support Canadian businesses and institutions (CIRA has a lot of information on their site about being Canadian on the internet)

The domain name needs a DNS (Domain Name Server or nameserver) provider to tell the rest of the internet where your stuff is.  DNS may be handled by your registrar, your webhost, or an entirely separate service.  (I usually just leave it at the registrar unless there's some good reason to keep it elsewhere.)

Before you can fill in your DNS information, you have to have a hosting service (again, could be your registrar, but I tend to keep it separate so if something happens with one or the other, I'm not losing access to the site and name at the same time).

The website is actually a file (can be just an index.html for a one-page site) or collection of files and maybe a database (for CMSes like Drupal and WordPress) accessed by an  HTTP server (like Apache) which has an IP address. (This is what you have to tell your DNS server)

You may use FTP to get those files to that server, or an SSH connection and if you're a developer (okay, you're not reading this if you're a developer) a system like Git (version control so changes can be rolled back and you can merge changes into a more complicated file system) or your webhost might have a one-click installer with a graphical interface (like Wix or Webydo) so you don't ever have to know any of that.

You probably also want to link up to a Facebook page or other social media, have an email address or two (hosted like your web files with either your webhost or another email service).

What does all of this cost?  A realtor friend of mine asked me how much a website costs, and I replied "How much does a house cost?" (because I'm just cruel like that).  But as a ballpark:

  • A .ca is normally about $12.99 a year (often on sale for less - see https://rebel.ca);
  • DNS is included with any good registrar;
  • Hosting can be from free/cheap ($5 for a shared web server with a handful of email accounts with limited bandwidth) to huge amounts for redundancy, backups, speed and size;
  • Facebook and other social media are free (but free like hamsters -- if you don't take care of them, they'll be crapping all over the place, and eventually get eaten by the cat);
  • email can be included (with most shared hosting) or a separate service. If you depend on your email for a business, you'll want to invest in a good email provider - Google Apps and Office 365 are both huge, stable places that can host your email (and provide other apps, storage, etc.).