Yearning to have a website you can call your own? Stop dreaming, as there are services that can make your dream come true. I’m not talking about fly by night free web hosting that doesn’t last long and just disappears unannounced along with your precious website. I guarantee you, this is the real deal!
After registering the domain, you’ll also need a web hosting service. I put up my first website on Google’s Blogger. Here are the reasons why it is ideal for newbies:
- It’s a free blogging platform. It is comforting to know that your site is hosted on their servers. Downtime is rare and the servers can withstand Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. Plus, it is organically optimized for Google Search.
- It is very easy to use; you can launch your website in a matter of seconds.
- You can use a TLD at no extra cost.
- It has an adequate collection of widgets like an email subscription, contact form, RSS, etc. to fully equip your website. Integrating ads is a breeze.
- Blogger is also widely supported with tons of high-quality but free-to-use templates.
To start, register at Blogger. Inside the dashboard, click on the “New Blog” button, provide the title, the unique address, and select a template. Finally, click on the “Create blog” button. Just like that, you have established your online presence.
If you wish to change the template, head on to TemplateLib, CopyBloggerThemes, TemplateToaster and GooyaabiTemplates The sites have plenty of free professional designs sure to meet your needs. Every template has a demo link, a description, and instructions on how to customize it. To use the one you liked, download it, then click on Blogger’s “Template” link in the left sidebar menu and then the “Backup/Restore” button in the top right corner. Upload it and instantly your website has a brand new look. Isn’t it lovely?
OpenDrive is a cloud storage provider offering 5 GB of space in its free Personal plan. The feature that is important is the “Public” folder, which by default allows hotlinking. This will enable you to integrate external files into Blogger.
You can also create websites using Google Sites. The features are limited, but if it’s a simple website with pages, it will be enough.
An alternative to Blogger is to just host a static page. Netlify’s Drop and GitHub Pages allow you to host static pages with a custom domain and SSL for free. Jekyll, Hugo, and Gatsby are static site generators that help manage site content, but they require technical knowledge. To make things easy on yourself, use online GUI’s like Netlify CMS. Hocus CMS, Publii, Mobirise and RocketCake are desktop equivalents. There are also online website builders like GrapeJS and RankVise that allow html export.
WonderCMS is a free and simple flat file CMS.
Another option is to use CloudFlare Pages. It is connected to a GitHub repository. They offer a free plan, but unlike other services, it has unlimited sites, requests, and bandwidth. But you can only do 1 build at a time, with a maximum of 500 builds in a month. ideal for use for static web pages, especially one-page landing pages.
For all the good things Blogger is, inevitably as years passed, I’ve outgrown it and decided to go on paid shared hosting. However, based on experience, avoid shared hosting like the plague. The industry is good as dead. It’s best to go straight to cloud hosting.
Aside from shared hosting, VPS (Virtual Private Server) is another form of web hosting. In shared hosting, clients share the resources of the same computer. This set-up means clients are not guaranteed the computing resources since they fluctuate from time to time depending on how many are using the resources at a particular time.
The concept of virtualization is similar to shared hosting, where one computer can have multiple sites running on it. However, the technology allows each account to be treated as its own machine with its own dedicated resources and operating system. This provides the client with a much more stable hosting environment with little to no fluctuation in the resources available.
Cloud hosting, in a way, is similar to VPS, except that the former draws computing resources from several machines instead of just one. As such, they have less downtime, are scalable, and are high availability. With the advent of advances in software and hardware, cloud hosting is now more affordable and I expect the price to continue going down.
Oracle Cloud is offering a very generous 4 CPUs, 24 GB of RAM, and 200 GB of storage for free. The server processor used is Ampere which is an ARM 64-based architecture. This type of CPU uses less electricity, so they can afford to offer it free. However, when installing the software stack, make sure ARM 64 support is included. You can use their cost estimator if you plan to upgrade to paid.
While working with the Oracle Cloud instance, I’ve learned quite a few tricks. The easiest way to login via SSH is by using these commands in Windows cmd:
ssh -i “private_key_file_name” username@ip
Private and public keys can be downloaded when setting up the instance. A username and public IP can be had after the instance is provisioned.
If root access is needed to run scripts, execute this command: sudo su – root. In case Oracle stopped your instance for some reason or another, fret not, as your data is still available. Here’s a YouTube tutorial from IdeaSpot on how to fix a stopped Oracle Cloud instance.
Unlike other cloud hosting providers with set plans, Kamatera Express Compute allows custom setup and upgrade of resources like RAM, CPU, storage, and bandwidth and therefore is cheaper. The Availability type with 1 CPU, 1 GB RAM, 20 GB of space, and 1 TB of bandwidth costs $4/month.
One disadvantage of VPS and most cloud hosting is the steep technical knowledge needed to set up and manage your account. To help manage the server, you need a control panel like cPanel. A Web Host Manager (WHM) is used to manage several cPanels. If an agency resells web hosting to clients using WHMCS billing management, which charges $18.95/month for serving up to 250 clients. However, these are expensive. Plesk is an affordable alternative that combines cPanel and WHM features. The Web Host Edition provides unlimited domains with subscription, account, and reseller management for just $18.33 per month. It also comes with the powerful WordPress Toolkit. Cloud Panel and Cipi are free control panels specifically built for the cloud. Here’s a Cloud Panel guide to setup and install WP. It is best installed on Debian OS. Cloud Panel is a per-server installation, while Cipi aggregates multiple servers. Contabo is a cheap but high quality VPS provider based in Germany.
If interested, here’s a very good comparison between OpenLiteSpeed and NGinX.
Closte and CloudWays paid cloud management services, with the cost of the cloud server already included in their prices. Closte is exclusively integrated with Google Cloud (GC) while CloudWays supports Digital Ocean, Linode, Vultr, AWS, and GC. Get Plesk Web Admin SE for free at Vultr. The paid version is also cheaper. Unlike other services, Closte is used to manage solely WordPress(WP) sites. Despite these limitations, it does the job extremely well as it is equipped with powerful features like backup, firewall, auto-update, caching, SEO, etc., and it is cost-effective because it is a pay-as-you-go service. SpinUpWP is an alternative. If you prefer commands, EasyEngine and WordOps are tools that help install and manage WP sites by automatically installing needed packages like the latest PHP, MySQL, nGinX, Letsencrypt free SSL, etc. Moss.SH offers a free account that comes with 1 integration but unlimited servers and sites!
If you’re looking for higher cloud resources, there’s SiteGround’s Cloud hosting, which is truly auto-scaling without any downtime. but quite expensive because it is managed. A cheaper option is ScalaHosting’s Managed Cloud VPS, but without the auto-scaling and dedicated IP for each site features. It does have unlimited bandwidth.
If you own a website, the last thing you want to happen is downtime, so it is very important to use a website monitoring service. UptimeRobot offers free site monitoring that sends email alerts every time your site goes offline. The free plan has a 5 minute monitoring interval and you can add up to 50 monitors. It comes with 1 status page. Not bad for a free plan.
There are four monitor types, but I’m using only the http(s) and ping. In http(s), the service regularly sends requests and decides if it is up or down depending on the status returned. While the ping type involves sending Ping(ICMP) requests and the status is determined “if responses are received or not.” This makes ping ideal for monitoring the server and confirms if the problem just affects your site or is caused by the server itself.
I’m using it on my website and I find it very effective. It is able to detect and notify me about blips in uptime.
DownTimeMonkey offers a whopping 60 monitors free, with a 5 minute interval.
A better option is FreshPing by FreshWorks. The free plan also comes with 50 monitors, but the monitoring interval is faster at 1 minute. It offers up to five status pages, 10 users and 5 integrations, including Zapier. One disadvantage is that it supports only HTTP/S ping.
I once experienced my ISP blocking me from a site I was working on. It turned out my IP was listed on AbuseAt. If that happened to you, just get your IP here and confirm if it’s listed here. You can then request its removal.
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