Getting Started on the Web

A Primer on Publishing
on the World Wide Web

by Sue Traudt

[Editor's Note: Sue Traudt, creator with DH Eric of the World Wide Quilting Page, has long experience publishing on the web. In part one of a two-part article she shares with TVQ readers the basics of putting your material, whether personal or business-related, on the net. This installment focusses on issues related to the computers, or servers, where your information is stored.]

The World Wide Web has in the last couple of years become the fastest-growing and most talked-about publishing medium in the world. Publishing on the web is easy and inexpensive compared to traditional publication, but it is not always immediately apparent how to get started. I hope the following will help anyone considering publishing their own web page.

Some people will want to write their own pages while others will find it easier to hire someone to do the writing and design for them. Whichever way you do it, your pages are going to have to be kept on a computer that is connected to the Internet all the time and that is running some type of computer program called a "server." This computer and its software "serves" the data to the person who visits your web page.

There are things that you should know about this computer in order to make an educated decision about where to store your web pages:

1. How reliable is it?

All systems have down time (time they are off the Internet). Power outages, software/hardware upgrades, problems with hardware/software, maintenance, etc. will inevitably cause the computer to be disconnected for (hopefully) short periods of time. When the machine storing your pages goes down, your potential customers will not be able to get to your pages. You should ask the sysop or page provider how often this happens and for how long the system is usually down. The average amount of time for a network on the Internet to be up continuously is 10 days.

2. How well is it connected to the Internet?

The best analogy I can think of for the Internet is an ocean of information. Into this ocean flow large rivers. Into the larger rivers flow smaller rivers. Into the smaller rivers flow brooks and so on. The backbone of the Internet is the ocean. This is a very, very high-speed system of communication lines spanning the country. Into the backbone flow the large rivers, the "T3" connections. Into these large rivers flow the small rivers, the "T1" lines. The brooks would be the 56K lines and the raindrops, the regular phone lines. As you move to the smaller streams and the raindrops, the capacity of the lines to carry information diminishes.

The type of connection of the computer your pages are on is important to you because the better the connection, the faster your pages can be "served" to your potential customers. Of course, the actual speed at which one of your users receives your page depends on more factors than just the "connectivity" of your pages' computer, but if you can get space on a computer with a T1 line, your pages are very well-connected. Of course, if your audience is only using 2400 baud modems, it doesn't really matter how well- connected your pages are.

3. How much space are you allowed for page storage?
What will additional storage space run?

Many Internet Service Providers (ISP for short) will allow their customers a certain amount of space for web pages as part of a basic agreement. If you exceed this space, you will have to pay for additional storage. Storage space is relatively cheap, but it does cost something. So if you decide to put an entire catalogue including lots of pictures online, you may easily exceed the 5-10 meg limit. Find out up front what your storage space will cost you. This expense is usually on a per-month basis. Some ISPs have different rates for business-related pages than they do for strictly personal pages.

4. What do you have to pay for transmission of your pages to your audience?

In addition to the cost of storage on your ISP's computer, there may also be charges for transmission of your information to requesting users. Depending upon what part of the country you live in, the cost of Internet connections can be very high. A 56K line goes for anywhere from $300 - $900 per month, T1 more than double that -- $1,700 to $3,000 per month.

Every time someone requests your page, that data has to flow over your ISP's lines. Some places allow you to send a certain amount of data every month at no charge. If you exceed that limit, you will have to pay for your data to be sent to your audience. Some places just charge a flat rate for transmission. This transmission is usually based on megabytes of data. Hopefully, as your page becomes more well-known and popular you will have more people requesting it, so it's best to know in advance what you may have to pay for your popularity . For what it's worth, it is still much cheaper to send you entire catalogue to a customer over the Internet than it is via snail mail.

5. Is it better to have your pages stored in a computer near where you live?

While it is nice to have your web pages stored locally, the nature of the Internet makes the world a smaller place. You may find a better rate at a site on the other side of the country (or the world). Shop around and compare rates before you make a commitment. You may not necessarily wish to go with the site with the cheapest rates. There are many other factors (such as those above and those that follow) that should come into play when selecting a site. Also, don't be afraid to change sites, and don't let yourself be talked into more than what you need right now.

6. Will you be able to get statistics about your page?

Don't overlook this important fact especially if you are doing your own pages. Your statistics will tell you more than just the total number of people who have looked at your pages. They can tell you who your audience is. Are most of your potential customers coming from AOL? If so, you will want to adjust your pages for that browser. Which of your pages is getting the most attention and which the least? What countries are looking at your pages? They don't call it the World Wide Web for nothing! This is very important information that is not provided by many services. Find out up front what kind of feedback you'll be getting.

In part two, which is available in the TVQ newsletter, issue #5, Sue addresses such issues as: Should you write your own pages, or have someone else do it? How do you best present your information on the internet? What about issues like images and copyrights?

Part three, published in TVQ #6, tells you how to publicize your web site once it's on the net.


(c) Copyright 1995-2012 by The Virtual Quilt Company. All rights reserved.


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