Get Your Site Off Free Servers

Free servers suck.

You know they do, but you use ’em anyways cuz you think that it’d be way too expensive to host your site any way else. Not true! If you’ve got enough money for a burger and fries, you’ve got enough money to host your site on a decent server with real scripting and e-mail capabilities. Read on and learn how to escape the burden of pop-ups, traffic quotas, and extended server down-time!

1. Define your needs
This might be the hardest part. You need to decide what you think you’ll really need and want for your site… How much space? How many e-mail accounts? Do you want to use a database? Do you pre-installed scripts that are ready to use, or do you want to get adventurous and install scripts yourself.

2. Search for a host
Hit one of these URLS to search for a host:
I think HostSearch is the best of the three, but you can use whatever you like.

Using the UNIX Power Search form, select all the different options and parameters you’d like to see… PHP Scripting, MySQL, Pre-installed CGI Scripts, Custom CGI Scripts Allowed, and Server Side Includes (SSI) are all highly recommended. Set the Price Per Month field to, say… $6 bucks, and the Country option to United States and submit the form.

3. Pick a host
You might think that $6 a month is too small an amount and that nobody offers any features for such a low price, but you’ll be surprised at the results of our search. Following the steps listed above, HostSearch returned 278 plans! Now comes the 2nd hardest part: deciding which host to use. If you’re new to hosting your own site this can get really confusing, but you can always move to a different host without too much trouble. The best way is to visit as many of the hosts sites as you can bare and pour through everything they offer, taking notes and bookmarking the good ones all the way through. You’ll get a feeling pretty quickly about what looks like a good host and what looks like a fly-by-night and untrustworthy venture.

As an example, we’ll choose one host from our $6 search and see what they offer.

These guys seem to cover all the basics while easily flying under our $6 limit:
   $4.95 a month
   MySQL database
   PHP scripting
   e-mail accounts

4. Sign up
Yeah, you’ll need a credit card, but some things are impossible to avoid when it comes to this modern world. If you’re lucky you might find a host that accepts PayPal, but that involves a credit card or a checking account in itself. Either way, they don’t give these hosting plans out for free so you gotta play by THE MAN’S rules.

When you sign up you’ll be asked if you have your own existing domain name, if you want to register a new domain, or if you don’t want to use a domain name at all. Domain names are hella cheap, so there’s really no practical reason to choose the third option… you don’t want your URL to be, do you? Be careful about letting them register your domain; some hosting companies will charge well over the $9.95 that you’ll spend doing it yourself!

Also, some companies require you to be at least 18 years old… damn age-ists!

5. Move your files
You’ll need an ftp program to get your files on the server, cuz there ain’t no upload-through-a-webpage ’round these parts. You’re hangin’ with the big boyz now! If you’ve never ftp’d before, there are numerous how-to’s on the topic, and your new host should even have a help page or support forum covering this as well.

6. Learn some scripting
This step is more of a suggestion than anything else. Don’t be afraid to learn how to code… it’s actually kind of fun! Again, there are tons of how-to’s on beginning PHP, ASP, and Javascript programming, and you should definitely take advantage of your new server-side scripting possibilities.

7. Don’t be afraid
On the whole, this is a very easy process… if you’ve read all the steps I’ve outlined and think that it’s beyond your grasp, please reconsider! Thousands of people take this first step every day, and even if most of ’em get it wrong, eventually most get it right. Good Luck!

(created Mon, Sept 23, 2002 and completed Wed, Oct 9, 2002)

3 Replies to “Get Your Site Off Free Servers”

  1. Good tutorial. But I think you need to also mention that people should do some research into prospective hosts because it’s so easy to get burned.

    Forums like are a good source of information.

    I think it’s also good to ask your host questions relating to your needs.

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