Some of the questions I keep getting repeatedly from different quarters is:
How can I start my own website?
Is it easy, or is it only for the experts in the field?
How difficult is it to maintain one?
What is the price I will have to pay?
In this post, I will try and address most of these questions. I will give a step by step guide for making your own website. Although there is an abundance of information in the internet on this topic, there is not much specific to India, especially for people wishing to have their own personal blog address, like me.
As a prerequisite, all you need is some basic knowledge of computers and the internet, a credit card, and a lot of inquisitiveness. Most of the information provided here is from my personal experience in creating and managing my own website, and a couple of other government and non-profit websites that I have designed.
I have designed, and currently maintain three websites:
(My personal website designed on WordPress)
(A social welfare organization site designed on Joomla!)
(A government laboratory site designed entirely by myself)
First things first: Who should start a website?
In order to own a website, you need not be a big businessman trying to reach a large audience across the globe. You could be a blogger who thinks it is time he had a website of his own, to build his own brand. You could be an amateur netizen who want to display something creative in a small space of your own. You could be one of those guys who just nurtured a desire to own a website in your name, ever since the dotcom boom happened in India. Or, you could be a small time entrepreuner, trying to advertise your business to net-savvy clients. Believe me, creating a professionally designed website no longer involves huge costs or technical expertise. It can be done just sitting in the comfort of your home, and it can all be done in a couple of hours!
So, even if you are a student with very little pocket money, but with a desire to showcase your stuff to the world, you could just jump in, and create your own website in no time.
Step 1: Buying a domain name
By this time you should have a nice sounding domain name for your website in your mind. Keep it simple, and be ready to go for some variations of the name if what you seek is not available. The most common domain extensions used are “.com”, “.org”, “.net”, “.in”, “.co.in”, etc.
The moment you think of domain name registrars, the provider that comes to your mind is GoDaddy.com. However, I have seen that web domain registration companies operating from India offer reasonably lower prices for domain names, compared to those based elsewhere. For example, I have gotten my site registered at http://www.brainpulse.com, and I have had no problems with it for the past 2 years. Here, you should be able to get a reasonably good domain name for around Rs.400 to Rs.450 per year ($8 to $9 per year).
Some of the popular domain name registrar services from India, which also provide reasonably cheap domain registration are:
Once you have identified the domain name registrar of your choice, just go to the registrar’s website and type in the website name of your choice. For example, if the name of your blog is “Simply Thinking”, you could go for website names like “simplythinking.com”, “simplythinking.net” or something that fancies you. As an alternative, you could name it after your own name (the way I have done it).
If the name of your choice is not available, most domain registrars give a list of related domain names from which you can choose one for your website. Choose the name of your choice from the list, or query again with a different name. When you are decided on your domain name, proceed further and purchase the domain name, using your credit card. Now, you are the owner of a domain name.
You will have to pay for your domain name every year. As an alternative, you can pay upfront for 2-5 years in one go, and not bother with payments for the next 5 years. I would recommend sticking to one year, since you might want to change your domain name registrar if you are dissatisfied with your current registrar for some reason. Paying more than $15 per year for a domain name is not justifiable, unless your business badly needs the particular domain name to differentiate yourself from your competitor.
If you can live with domain names that end with “.name”, “.info”, etc., you will find a plenty of discounted offers on the net for such names. Also, rather than sticking to one domain registration provider, a bit of searching on the net for good deals will always yield you the best results. You can get your domain name for as low as Rs.200 per year to Rs.750 per year.
Step 2: Hosting the Website
Though you have purchased a domain name, you cannot do much with it, unless you find a hosting service provider. Hosting is the process of storing your website related files on some computer that is permanently connected to the net, so that people find your site alive at all times they visit.
The same companies listed above provide hosting services too. So, it would be ideal for you to purchase a domain name as well as a hosting plan from the same vendor, as this simplifies the process. On the other hand, you could as well have entirely different service providers for domain registration and hosting, and still it would work without a glitch. The only drawback being, you should remember to renew both of them individually every year.
When it comes to choose the OS of you hosting server, there are two choices: Linux Hosting and Windows Hosting. Some information in this regard can be found here. Linux Hosting is the most widely used, as it is cheaper, reliable and sufficient for most website needs. If you are unsure which one to choose, blindly go for Linux hosting. You won’t regret it.
And it is important to know about some terminologies related to hosting while you make your choice of web hosting provider. The most important of these are— Disk Space, Bandwidth, MySQL Databases, and Email Accounts.
Ideally, a disk space of around 1 GB, Bandwidth of >1GB per month, and more than one MySQL Database are preferred for a simple website hosting. The number of email accounts is a personal choice. Each MySQL database can be used to host an individual blog, photo album, or so on, and if you don’t plan to have more than one, one MySQL database should be sufficient. I have been using Linux Hosting from brainpulse.com, which offers 1000MB space and unlimited bandwidth for Rs.1000 per year. But I get only one MySQL database, which I feel is enough for me.
Having unlimited bandwidth is the most attractive option here, for some good reason. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and so on, crawl your website to find information about your website to update on the search results. Although this is favorable to you (getting you more traffic from search results), there is a downside. The search engines consume bandwidth. There are also a host of anonymous bots which simply eat up your bandwidth limit by frequently crawling your website. Though you can individually ban most of these bots by making certain adjustments, it is desirable to have unlimited bandwidth so that these bots don’t become a problem to your site. Because, once you exceed your bandwidth limit, your site will go offline and will not be accessible to the visitors. Unlimited bandwidth eliminates this fear. (The low-cost hosting provider will expect you to use unlimited bandwidth within reasonable limits. If you need to host a number of bandwidth consuming videos and offer them for download, it is always better to switch to a plan with higher cost).
For web hosting, if you want something cheap, you could look at http://www.squarebrothers.com which offers a minimal Linux hosting package for Rs.450 per year. But in my experience, I have found the downtime to be quite high with them. For personal blogs, it is still ok, looking at the price at which it comes.
So, coming to downtime, an important point to be noted while selecting hosting providers is the downtime. During down times, the website will not be available for public access. This could happen due to some unplanned maintenance work in the side of the hosting provider, or when the hosting provider is not able to handle all requests to his server. Ideally, downtime is required to be zero. But it so happens, that there is always a small amount of downtime with most low cost providers. The catch is to find out which provider gives minimum downtime. You can enquire among your friends or website owners to know if their service provider is good with respect to downtime. For example, I monitor my website using a downtime monitoring service, and I have found my provider to be quite satisfactory.
Here we come to the end of the spending part of your website launching plan. You can have a domain name, and a hosting service for as low as Rs.600 per year. For everything else you are going to do with your website, you will not have to shell out even a penny more, thanks to all the opensource resources out there. I will discuss more about these opensource tools in the next part of this article.
(To be continued…)