Lagniappe (lan yap') n., a gift or bonus: Hosting Your Web Site
One of the most commonly asked questions by many Web designers is one that might appear to be simple: "What should I consider when choosing a host for my Web site?" There are many options available for hosting, and most of them are more affordable than you might think.
First, outline your requirements. For example, are you going to need a database? If so, do you need a high-performance system like Microsoft SQL Server or a lower-level system? Most hosting companies offer support for SQL Server for a nominal monthly fee. However, if you don't need that kind of power, you can probably save some money by going with a file-based database such as Microsoft Access. You also may want to investigate using SQL Server 2005 Express Edition. It's a high-performance, file-based system that is available free from Microsoft, but keep in mind that some hosting companies do not support the Express Edition of SQL Server.
You'll also want to try and determine how much traffic you expect. Most hosting companies charge for a specific amount of bandwidth. After you surpass that bandwidth limit, you'll have to pay a premium for additional bandwidth. This is especially important if you plan on offering large files for download such as video or audio files.
Another important decision to make is whether to go with a hosting company that runs Windows servers. It seems to be all the rage these days to try and convince people to stay away from Windows Server. I encourage you to not fall for those who push their own agenda without any factual information. Make your decision based on the technology you want to use. If you want to use ASP.NET, you'll need to go with a host that runs Windows Server. If you want to use PHP, you have a choice of a Windows or non-Windows host.
If you just want to host a simple Web site without any fancy features and you do not expect a lot of traffic, you might want to consider hosting the site yourself. If you're a technology guru, you can get Linux and Apache running on a spare computer lying around the house and get good performance. Setting up Internet Information Services (IIS) on Windows Server is easier, but it will require a more powerful computer.
You can use Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista Home Premium Edition or better to host your own site, but both have a limitation on the number of connections that can be serviced. Keep in mind, too, that a single person browsing a site is going to be opening multiple connections. Chances are you will reach the connection limit at two or three people.
If you do choose to host your own site, you might want to invest in a router that has Dynamic Domain Name System (DNS) capability. (Most routers these days have this feature.) Dynamic DNS will allow you to configure a static host name (such as mySite.dyndns.org) that will always go to the IP address of your computer. Because most Internet service providers (ISPs) assign dynamic IP addresses, your IP address will change periodically. A router that supports Dynamic DNS can update a Dynamic DNS service (like www.dyndns.com) with your new IP address whenever it changes.
More information on Dynamic DNS is available at www.dyndns.com/services/dns/dyndns/. The service is free of charge and works great with most routers.