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Plus, to make publishing your Web page as easy as possible, Dummies 101: Creating Web Pages includes a bonus CD-ROM containing AT&T WorldNetSM Service software for access to the Internet, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator Web browsers, plus lesson files, utilities, and more than 200 custom background graphics for you to use in your own Web page design. In addition, the book even has an offer that can enable you to put your own page on the World Wide Web for free for a limited time
Part I: And Then There Was Light . . .
Unit 1: Taking It from the Top
- Lesson 1-1: How Much Computer Do You Need??
- How much computer is too much?
- Making the connection
- Lesson 1-2: How Much Software Do You Need?
- Lesson 1-3: How Much HTML Do You Really Need to Know?
- Unit 1 Quiz
- Unit 1 Exercise
Unit 2: Basic Design Considerations
- Lesson 2-1: Plain Old Text
- Lesson 2-2: The Graphical Web
- Designing with graphics
- Rules for rules
- Click here
- Lesson 2-3: The Lowdown on Links
- Lesson 2-4: Beyond the Basics
- Frames, forms, and tables
- Plugging in
- Lesson 2-5: Other Design Considerations
- Content essentials
- Looking good
- The darker side of the Web
- Unit 2 Quiz
- Unit 2 Exercise
- Part I Review
- Part I Test
- Lab Assignment
- Step 1. Review your Web page outline
- Step 2: Compare with an existing Web page
- Step 3: Improve your Web page outline
Part II: Creating Your Page
- Unit 3: HTML Basics
- Lesson 3-1: The Nuts and Bolts of HTML
- Tag -- you're it!
- Your first HTML code
- Checking up on your neighbor
- Lesson 3-2: Preserving Your Efforts
- The right format is everything
- Naming your files
- Lesson 3-3: Check, Please!
- Unit 3 Quiz
- Unit 3 Exercise
Unit 4: HTML To Go
- Lesson 4-1: Getting a Better Title in Lieu of a Salary Increase
- Playing the title role with the
- Coloring your text and life
- Lesson 4-2: Giving Your Page Some Body (Text)
- Line breaks
- Paragraph breaks
- Bold (but not necessarily courageous) type
- Italic type
- Blinking type
- Monospaced type
- Lesson 4-3: Getting Attention at the Head of the Class
- Horizontal line (the shortest distance to my point)
- Lesson 4-4: Making the Link
- Internal links
- External links
- Missing links
- Anchors aweigh!
- Downloadable files
- Unit 4 Quiz
- Unit 4 Exercise
- Part II Review
- Part II Test
- Part II Lab Assignment
- Step 1: Find a good Web page
- Step 2: Look for coded elements
- Step 3: Try to figure out the HTML code behind those elements
- Step 4: Look at the actual code used
Part III: Getting Fancy
Unit 5: Your Picture-Perfect Web Page
- Lesson 5-1: It's All in the Format
- Lesson 5-2: The Hunt for Good Art
- The do-it-yourself approach
- In search of graphics
- Lesson 5-3: Putting an Image on the Page
- Lesson 5-4: The Graphical Link
- Lesson 5-5: Cool GIF Tricks: Animations and Transparencies
- Lesson 5-6: The Lowdown on Backgrounds
- Unit 5 Quiz
- Unit 5 Exercises
Unit 6: Advanced HTML
- Lesson 6-1: A World Outside the Web
- Automatic e-mail
- Files galore (or a James Bond girl who never was)
- Looking for Gopher holes
- All the news that's fit to report and lots of stuff you wouldn't care to read
- Lesson 6-2: The Well-Formed Form
- Creating a form
- Lesson 6-3: Laying the Data on the Table
- Creating a basic table
- Simple table formatting
- Simple cell formatting
- Lesson 6-4: You've Been Framed
- Frame attributes
- Frames and links
- Lesson 6-5: Getting There with Image Maps
- Unit 6 Quiz
- Unit 6 Exercise
Unit 7: The Pages are Alive with Multimedia
- Lesson 7-1: Why Multimedia? Why Not?
- Playing devil's advocate
- I scream for multimedia
- Lesson 7-2: Let's Add Some Sound
- The simple linked sound
- How about some mood music?
- Lesson 7-3: Time for Some Action
- Lesson 7-4: Creating an Online Slide Show
- Unit 7 Quiz
- Unit 7 Exercise
- Part III Review
- Part III Test
- Part III Lab Assignment
- Step 1: Return to that good-looking Web page
- Step 2: Identify more coded elements
- Step 3: Try to re-create that HTML code
- Step 4: Grade yourself
Part IV: So Advanced, It's Simple!
Unit 8: (Got a Good Reason for) Taking the Easy Way Out
- Lesson 8-1: What the Heck Is in This Lesson? (WTHIITL)
- Lesson 8-2: Adobe PageMill
- PageMill: What's hot and what's not
- PageMill: The sample page
- Lesson 8-3: Claris Home Page
- Home Page: What's hot and what's not
- Home Page: The sample page
- Lesson 8-4: Microsoft FrontPage
- FrontPage: What's hot and what's not
- FrontPage: The sample page
- Lesson 8-5: Corel Web.Graphics Suite
- Web.Graphics Suite: What's hot and what's not
- Web.Graphics Suite: The sample page
- Lesson 8-6: Sausage Software HotDog Pro
- HotDog Pro: What's hot dog and what's not
- HotDog Pro: The sample page
- Lesson 8-7: MySoftware MyInternetBusinessPage
- MyInternetBusinessPage: What's hot and what's not
- MyInternetBusinessPage: The sample page
- Lesson 8-8: NetObjects Fusion
- Fusion: What's hot and what's not
- Fusion: The sample page
- Lesson 8-9: Netscape Composer
- Composer: What's hot and what's not
- Composer: The sample page
- Lesson 8-10: Microsoft FrontPad
- FrontPad: What's hot and what's not
- FrontPad: The sample page
- Lesson 8-11: Getting by with a Little Help from Your Word Processor
- WordPerfect version 7
- Microsoft Word 97
- Unit 8 Quiz
- Unit 8 Exercise
Unit 9: Web Publishing with Online Services
- Lesson 9-1: Web Publishing with America Online
- Easy Web publishing with Personal Publisher
- Other AOL Web publishing options
- Lesson 9-2: Web Publishing with CompuServe
- Lesson 9-3: Web Publishing with Prodigy
- Lesson 9-4: Web Publishing on The Microsoft Network
- Lesson 9-5: One More Online Tool -- from Me
- Unit 9 Quiz
- Unit 9 Exercise
- Part IV Review
- Part IV Test
- Part IV Lab Assignment
- Step 1: Use the program to go through the Unit 8 steps
- Step 2: Sit back and contemplate your work
- Step 1: Open your standard Lab Assignment Web page
- Step 2: Use the online tools to design that same exact page
Part V: The Big Payoff: Getting Your Page Online
Unit 10: Getting Space on a Web Server
- Lesson 10-1: Exactly What Is a Server, Anyway?
- Phone line fun
- Battling traffic jams
- You and your server
- Lesson 10-2: What's in a Domain Name?
- So what?
- Just in the InterNIC of time
- Using your domain name
- Lesson 10-3: What to Look for in an ISP
- Serving up your Web site
- Pricing and terms
- The extras
- Unit 10 Quiz
- Unit 10 Exercise
Unit 11: Exposing Your Site to the World (And Having People Browse It)
- Lesson 11-1: Putting FTP to Work
- Lesson 11-2: Making the Final Check
- When I enter my Web address, all I see is a list of files
- The Web page loads, but the graphics don't load
- My skin's become pale, I recoil at sunlight, and I don't know what day it is
- My Web browser can't locate the page that a link is supposed to lead to
- And the triple check
- Lesson 11-3: Doing Your Follow-Up Work
- Unit 11 Quiz
- Unit 11 Exercise
- Part V Review
- Part V Test
- Part V Lab Assignment
- Step 1: Look for mistakes on Web pages
- Step 2: Check your site for mistakes
Part VI: Appendixes
- Appendix A: A Sampling of ISP Prices
- Appendix B: Answers
- Appendix C: About the CD
- System Requirements
- Putting the CD Files on Your Hard Drive
- Installing the exercise files in Windows
- Installing the exercise files on a Mac OS computer
- Removing the exercise files
- Removing CD icons from Windows
- Installing the Windows programs from the CD
- Removing Windows programs from your PC
- Installing and removing Mac OS programs
- Extra Stuff
- If You've Got Problems (Of the CD Kind)
IDG Books Worldwide Registration Card
Objectives for This Unit
By now, your Web page should be just about finished -- if not in final HTML code, then in basic design. In other words, you should have a pretty good idea of what your Web site consists of. (Remember, though, as I said in earlier units, your Web page is never finished.) Now you need to find a safe, happy home for your page. Perhaps you've already posted your page on a commercial online service. Keep in mind, oh wondrous student, that the beauty of the Web is that nothing is permanent unless you want it to be. If you try out one online service and don't find it to your liking, you can switch easily to another online service, or to an ISP. On the Web, you have complete freedom (unlike some of those fast-food restaurants that want you to think you can have it your way, and then someone behind the counter tells you otherwise). Like, who's the customer here?
I use the term Web server many times throughout this book, and, just from the context, you probably already have a basic idea of what a Web server is. In short, a Web server is a computer (your computer, your ISP's computer, your online service's computer) that houses your Web site and makes your site available to any computer on the World Wide Web.
To accomplish this amazing feat, the Web server must run special Web server software. This software acts as the agent between your Web page and the rest of the world. When a user types your Web address in the Web browser, that request routes through this software, which in turn decides which Web page of yours the person wants to look at. The server software then finds that Web page and serves it to the person who requested it. The concept is amazing when you picture that someone in Japan can type in a few characters and that a Web server in Boise, Idaho, knows that the request is for a Web page on its server within a few seconds. This request may route through many Internet hubs (major junction points on the Internet), and yet it all happens so quickly. (Although it doesn't feel so quick when an image on a page freezes at 35 percent of 125K.)
All of this information travels back and forth through various types of phone lines, and many factors can affect the speed at which the information moves. Of course, the speed of the computer being used for a Web server makes some difference, but that's minimal. Any computer you're likely to find being used as a Web server is probably fast enough for the job. Other, more significant factors can affect performance.
You may be amazed at how many different types of phone lines are available, each with its own maximum speeds. First, if you connect to the Internet through a standard modem, you connect over a regular voice-grade phone line that carries a speed of 33.6 Kbps. Keep in mind that 33.6 Kbps is your maximum speed on the Info Superhighway. If there is any noise on the line (what you would call a "bad connection" on a voice call), your 33.6 Kbps modem makes its connection at a lower speed to make up for the extra trouble of handling the line noise.
Notice that I said 33.6 Kbps is the maximum speed of a voice line, even though 56 Kbps modems are beginning to appear on the market. These 56 Kbps modems actually use some technical trickery to move data to you that fast. When you send out any data, you're still limited to the true 33.6 Kbps line speed. Again, that 56 Kbps coming in to you is only under optimum line conditions.
The next step up from regular phone lines is Integrated Services Digital Network, or ISDN. With an ISDN phone line, you can achieve a maximum rate of 128 Kbps, twice that of those new 56 Kbps modems. The down side is that an ISDN line is more expensive to install and run than a regular phone line. In addition to hefty up-front charges (installation, special equipment), you typically get billed by the minute when using an ISDN phone line. You can outlay a hefty chunk of change if you use ISDN to connect to the Internet (in which case, ISDN means, "I Should Disconnect Now").
Beyond ISDN, there are several different "industrial strength" phone lines, such as Frame Relay, T1 and T3. So far, I've talked about line speeds in terms of kilobits, or thousands of bits, per second. These high-speed, industrial strength lines are measured in terms of megabits, or millions of bits, per second. Suffice it to say that such lines are all very fast data lines -- and they are also very expensive. I have a T1 line in my office that took the phone company three months to install. I wasn't very happy.
The point here is that any connection to your Web site is only as fast as the slowest line between your Web server and the person who wants to look at your page. For example, suppose your Web server connects to the Internet backbone (the series of hubs that form the basic skeleton of the Internet) via a T1 line. The backbone consists of extremely high-speed lines, as well. Then suppose that your visitor's ISP connects to the Internet via a T1 line, as well. Finally, your visitor dials into the ISP using a 28.8 Kbps modem. Obviously, no matter how fast the interim lines are, your pages can travel to that visitor's computer at only 28.8 Kbps, max. Figure 10-1 illustrates this point. On a side note: If you'd like to know more about the Internet's technical workings, there are numerous university sites on the Internet for your browsing pleasure.
No matter how fast your connection to the Internet is, other things can slow you down. Conditions are seldom optimum, due in large part to the fact that you're not the only person on the Internet. As more people get online and attempt to make connections around the world, the more traffic that you'll have to bear. And the Information Super Highway is just like any other highway: Too much traffic can jam things up.
A good example of what can happen with too much traffic comes from the so-called cable modems that some cable television carriers around the country are beginning to offer. Using these special modems, cable companies can connect you to the Internet over the same lines used to connect your television to your local cable system. Under ideal conditions, a cable modem is many times faster than even the fastest phone lines. But cable modems are a shared medium. If you are the only person in town to subscribe to the modem service with your cable company, you probably have a mighty fast connection. However, as more of your neighbors begin subscribing to the service (and competing for the cable's bandwidth), the performance on your system will drop.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not slamming cable modems. I'm just using them as an example. Assuming your cable carrier is competent, you get performance far superior to a standard modem, even if everybody on your block signs up for a cable modem. So if you are first on your block with a cable connection, and your neighbors ask you if you're happy with the service, tell them, "No, it's very slow." That's just a joke. You know the spirit of the Internet is sharing. Speaking of sharing, Figure 10-2 shows a hot site where you can get the latest scoop on cable modems (
For the record, a regular modem isn't a shared service. If you have a 33.6 Kbps modem, your connection to the Internet is the same. Of course, what the traffic is like once you get out to the Web can vary.
Maybe you're the computer guru in your neighborhood and you're thinking of setting up your own server. Or maybe you're considering setting up a Web server at your place of business so that the availability of your Web site doesn't hinge on the success or failure of any ISP. The good news is that you can do that. The bad news is that you probably don't want to. Here's why.
For starters, you need a computer dedicated to the task. Just about any Pentium or Macintosh PowerPC system can serve as a foundation for a reasonable Web server. But you may want more than just a reasonable server. Although a server can be just a middle-of-the-road Pentium with 32MB of RAM, having one that's beefed up with plenty of RAM (at least 64MB) and hard drive space (2GB or more) is best. The server that runs my Web page is a 166MHz Pentium with 64MB of RAM, a 2GB hard drive, a 2GB tape backup drive, a 3Com Ether Link III 3C509B-COMBO network card, a Cisco 2501 router, ADC Kentrox D-Serve T1, a 10BaseT Ethernet Hub (which varies, depending on the number of users in the office), and a 3Com Office Connect Hub/TPC8.
You also need the server software. While there are some reasonably priced packages out there, you'd better be the neighborhood computer guru because you also need the expertise to install, run, and maintain this software. Of course, you're not going to plug into the Internet through your modem port. You need some special network equipment between you and the Internet. The software I have on my server includes Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft Internet Information Server 3.0, PCanywhere32 V7.5, and Post Office Email Server.
If you want to make sure your Web site is always available, it wouldn't hurt to have two of these systems, so the second can take over if and when the first one fails. Notice I say, "when." It's like that old joke about the British car, the Jaguar: You have to buy two -- one to drive while the other is in the shop.
Then there's the issue of the phone lines, which you already know something about. Obviously, you can't connect your server to the Web with a 33.6 Kbps modem. How about an ISDN line? An ISDN line connection is technically possible, but if your site gets any action at all, ISDN is way too slow. ISDN would then mean, "It Slows Down to Nothing." Nope. If you want a respectable connection to the Internet, you have to spring for at least a T1 line.
How much can a T1 line cost? Well, I'll skip the installation costs (which are pretty stiff) and cut right to the monthly charges. For a T1 line, the fee is easily $1,000 or more per month. And exactly what do you connect that T1 line to? The answer is an Internet Service Provider, the very people you thought you could avoid by setting up your own server. Sorry.
Maybe your company already has a high-speed Internet connection. What then? Well, you don't have to worry about the connection part, but the other issues are still there. Is your company willing to invest the time and money in equipment and staff required to keep a Web server running smoothly? Why go to all that trouble when you're likely to just duplicate the efforts of the ISP that you're going to connect to anyway? The ISP has the trained staff and (hopefully) the state-of-the-art equipment. Let the ISP staff do what they do best, and you do what you do best -- which is creating and maintaining a useful and engaging Web site.
If you're going to put up a business site -- and perhaps even if you're not -- you should consider getting your own domain name. Sounds important. It should. It is. Your domain name is your company's Internet name. For example, my company's domain name is
komando.com. You can get to my company's Web page by typing in
www.komando.com using your favorite Web browser, and you can send me e-mail by typing
firstname.lastname@example.org using your favorite e-mail program. As you can see, the common denominator here is
Maybe you're wondering why you need your own domain name. To be frank, it's a combination of vanity and common sense. From the vanity standpoint, having your own domain name gives you a little stature on the Internet. (Maybe very little, but every little bit helps.) Your domain name says to the world, "Hey, I'm my own entity out here on the Internet and beholden to none." Even if that declaration is not true and you're connected via an ISP who services the domain name for you, the perception remains.
But a domain name also serves a very practical purpose. Suppose for a moment that I never told you my company's domain name, but you knew there was something on my site that you'd find very valuable. (Of course, I'd like to believe that every smidgen of information on my Web site is very valuable.)
If you had to guess at my Web address, what would you guess? The first thing that comes to mind is
www.smartbeautiful.com, right? After that, you'd probably guess
www.komando.com. If my company's Web address happened to be
www.MyISP.com/~komando, for example, it would be a lot harder for people to find my site. I've found many, many company Web sites simply by typing the company name in the standard Web address format (for example,
In the next section, you figure out how to discover whether somebody else is already using your desired domain name.
A Web address is like a phone number. If everyone in town could select his or her own phone number, there would undoubtedly be some duplicates and your local phone system would get really fouled up. So it stands to reason that no two entities (companies, individuals, organizations, and so on) can use the same domain name. The responsibility to make sure this doesn't happen by approving and keeping track of all domain names in use rests with an organization called InterNIC -- at least, until InterNIC's contract runs out in 1998.
When you want to register your domain name with InterNIC, you send them an e-mail message formatted in a very specific way that includes all of the information that InterNIC needs to complete your request. The formatting, which I cover shortly, is very important because a real person doesn't process your request (as opposed to a fake person, like actors, lawyers, insurance salespeople, and politicians. Was I too harsh? Sorry).
Instead, the computer at InterNIC reads through your e-mail, pulls out the information it needs and then processes your request automatically. Without the proper formatting in your e-mail message, the computer cannot find the information it's looking for. Those pesky computers.
The initial cost to register a domain name is currently $100, which covers you for two years. After that, you receive an annual bill (by e-mail) from InterNIC for $50. Obviously, you can't send a check for $100 by e-mail, so you must return your payment by regular surface mail. Remember that. If you fail to pay your bill, InterNIC simply "turns off" your domain name, and you vanish from cyberspace without a trace.
Naturally, you don't want to waste time registering a domain name that somebody has already taken. If you do, InterNIC rejects your application, and you have to start all over again.
Tips for choosing a domain name
Selecting the right domain name can be a little tricky. On one hand, you want to keep things brief so there aren't too many characters to type. On the other hand, you don't want to be too cryptic, either. You want your domain name to be at least somewhat obvious.
If you're considering a domain name for your personal Web page, you can use johndoe.com, or maybe john-doe.com. Obviously, you can't have the same domain name as someone else. However, because individuals don't commonly register their own domain names, you may find your name unused (as described in the next section), even if you have a fairly common name. But hurry. Every
For a company domain name, you can apply these same basic guidelines. If the company name consists of one or two words, use them as the domain name. If the company name is longer, consider using initials. The only problem is that if your company name consists of pretty common words, a company with a similar name has probably already registered the same domain name. InterNIC doles out domain names on a strictly first come, first serve basis. Al's Tow and Transmission certainly couldn't get
What about the
But in May 1997, a group of Internet heavyweights (the International Ad Hoc Committee, or IAHC, which you can reach at
If you want to check on a domain name ahead of time, follow these steps:
Type in your target string(i.e., "example.com" or "help,") type the name of the domain you'd like to register.
Up pops the results of your search on a new Web page. Figure 10-3 shows what this Web page looks like.
If your domain name is already taken, detailed information about the current owner of the domain name appears on your screen. If the name is not in use, you find that out, too. See Figure 10-4 for an example.
But don't forget; even though you can't have the exact same domain name as someone else, you can have a similar one. For example, if your company is ABC Business Services and you discover that
abc.com is already registered (in this case by ABC Television), try
abcbiz.com or something similar.
By visiting InterNIC's Web site at
http://www.internic.net, you can get everything you need to register your own domain name. On the main page, look for the link to Registration Services. The process involves filling in all sorts of information in a preformatted document that InterNIC calls a template. Figure 10-5 shows you the steps outlined at the InterNIC site that you need to take to register a domain. But because the steps happen on the Internet, it's real easy.
Assuming you fill out the template with all the correct information in all the correct places, InterNIC's computer processes your application automatically. You don't even need to know who is going to service your domain name (which ISP you're going to use) to get it registered and make sure that nobody else sneaks in ahead of you. However, if you do register your domain name before you know who your ISP is, you need to send in a new completed template later to tell InterNIC exactly who is servicing your domain name.
I recommend that you take the time to carefully go through the instructions and other information on the InterNIC Web site. As you do, you may get the feeling that registering your domain name is a complicated process -- and it is, to some extent. Some ISPs may help you out and register your domain name for you. Should you let them? There are pros and cons.
On the pro side, it's professional to have your ISP help you. You can (presumably) be assured that the template is filled out correctly. Your ISP may just ask you for the information, or they may have you fill out the template yourself. Either way, the ISP is likely to check out the template before forwarding it on to InterNIC. This check-up assures you a greater probability of success on the first go-around.
On the other hand, some greedy ISPs have been known to charge exorbitant fees for this service. An ISP usually includes the registration fee in the cost (currently $100) and then adds a little for their effort. So exactly how much "extra" is appropriate to fill out and e-mail a form that shouldn't take more than 10 minutes to complete? In the long run, you need to be the judge, but in my opinion, anything more than $25 to $35, and you're being conned.
An ISP normally includes the registration fee in the cost and forwards the appropriate funds to InterNIC after the ISP receives your payment. However, after the two years covered by that first payment, the annual bill goes directly to you, not your ISP. Don't expect the ISP to handle this for you; they won't even know the bill has come. When you get your annual billing from InterNIC, you need to pay it yourself.
There's one more potential problem with having somebody else register your domain name. After a person registers a domain name, only the registered owner can make any changes to that domain name. See the potential problem?
A good ISP makes sure that you are the registered owner of your domain name. However, some less-than-honest ISPs have registered themselves as the owners of their customer's domain name. So what happens when you finally realize that this ISP isn't worth your trouble and decide to switch your domain name over to a more reputable ISP? Oh, no! Suddenly you find that you can't change your domain name over to a new ISP, because as far as InterNIC is concerned, you don't own that domain name. This means that your current ISP can basically extort some sort of conversion fee from you to turn over to you the domain name that's rightfully yours anyway.
If this situation happens, don't think about going to InterNIC with your complaints. This organization intentionally stays neutral over domain name disputes. You have to work out the matter with the ISP or, failing all else, you may have to get an attorney involved. Since online law is a relatively new field, I can only suggest that if you have to find a lawyer, find one with some experience regarding online issues.
Registering a domain name doesn't do you a bit of good if you can't use it. After you register your domain name, you have to make sure that, in addition to the other items I cover in the next section, your ISP can provide virtual domain hosting. This magic makes folks who visit your Web page think you have your own server but you really don't.
In the old days of the Web, every domain name had to have its own dedicated server. Today, though, most ISPs can host lots of domain names. This means that when people type in
www.YourDomainName.com, they can get to your Web page even though your Web site resides on the ISPs server along with hundreds of others.
When you sign up with your ISP, you select a user name. For instance, say your user name is
kim and your ISP's domain name is
isp.com. This makes your real e-mail address
email@example.com. However, if your domain name is
MyDomainName.com, then e-mail would also get to you if it was addressed to
kim@MyDomainName.com. Using one method, your ISP may ensure that any mail that's addressed to
kim@MyDomainName.com really goes to
firstname.lastname@example.org, and mail to any other user name
@MyDomainName.com goes to whoever has that user name with that ISP. If someone addresses e-mail to
bob@MyDomainName.com, then b
email@example.com (assuming there is such a person) gets that e-mail, even if he has nothing to do with your company.
The other option for your ISP is to have any e-mail that uses your domain name go directly to you, regardless of the specified user name. For example, e-mail can be addressed to
fred@MyDomain Name.com, or
rocko@MyDomainName.com and it would all come directly to you. If you rely on this method to let several people in your company use a single e-mail account, you must sort the incoming e-mail. I touch on this a little more in the next section.
And now, boys and girls, it's time for Kim Komando's 10th inning stretch! Stand up and sing along!
Take me out to the Do-main.
Take me out to the com.
Buy me some e-mail and I-S-P.
I don't care
How much it costs me!
For it's root, root, root for the home page.
If it's not up it's a shame.
You get just one chance,
Your own name!
Crowd cheers. Now sit down and take the progress check.
ISPs come in two basic flavors: big, national companies such as Microsoft Network and PSI, or smaller, local companies like the ones you're likely to find listed in your local Yellow Pages. In addition to all the other considerations in the rest of this lesson, there are some things that set the big guys apart from the little guys, and these may or may not be important to you.
The two main benefits of going with one of the big guys are ease of use and national coverage. When I say ease of use, I mean that most of the big companies have developed automated installation programs that take a lot of the guesswork out of setting up the software you need to connect to the Internet. For example, many companies offer customized versions of either Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer that can help guide you through the use of that particular ISP. In contrast, many of the smaller ISPs simply provide you with a written set of instructions for installing the various shareware components you need to get online.
When you choose a national ISP, you can also rest assured that you can get online just about no matter where you go in the country -- unless your local provider is in Los Angeles, where natural (and unnatural) disasters seem to occur weekly. The reason for such easy access is that the big guys set up local call-in numbers across the country. If you live in Los Angeles, you can't call into the Microsoft Network on the same number when you travel to Orlando, but you can find a local MSN number for Orlando.
One of the advantages to a local ISP -- at least a good local ISP -- is better customer service. The local ISP is a member of the community and generally has a more vested interest in keeping other community members satisfied with its service. If you have a problem, you may be able to go in and discuss it face-to-face with a customer service representative, something that generally is not possible with one of the big guys.
A local ISP may often, but not always, offer you a more reliable and flexible service. Because the local company has to deal with only one small geographic region, you never have to worry about going offline because of some natural disaster on the other side of the country. A good local company is also more likely to control its growth in new users, an area where America Online had some problems toward the end of 1996. When AOL got a big boom of new users, there were so many folks trying to get online, you couldn't even get connected.
Finally, because the big service providers are more interested in mass-marketing a consumer product, they're much less likely to provide other services you may want. Such services can include your own FTP site or the ability to set up extra e-mail accounts, and logging on!
The Web hasn't been around that long, so you're not going to find any ISP that's been hosting Web sites for more than a couple of years. However, experience still makes a difference. A lot of fly-by-night ISPs (FBNISPs) are springing up these days, so even two years of experience in hosting Web sites is a positive indicator for a local ISP. One thing you won't find is Ted's ISP: In Business for Over a 50th of a Century. And if you do, run. They are lying.
Almost as important as what to look for in an ISP is what to look out for. I tell you about a little of both in this section. Whether you decide to go with a national or local provider, make sure you read this section carefully.
As you discover later in this lesson, there are plenty of things to consider when choosing an ISP, many of which depend on your particular situation. But there's one thing that's extremely important, no matter what your situation, and that's how well a given ISP can serve up your pages to everyone else out there on the World Wide Web.
I often hear comments like, "Find out how many T1 lines they have," or, "See what their user-to-dial-in-modem ratio is." The implication here is that the more T1 lines, the better it is. Why? Well, because your pages get served up faster, and the lower this ratio, the less likely you are to encounter the dreaded busy signal when you try to dial into the Internet right when you're expecting that critical e-mail. All of this is absolutely true, except for a couple of things. Do you know how many T1 lines are considered "enough?" And do you happen to know what a good modem-to-user ratio is? I didn't think so.
All the facts, figures, and statistics in the world don't tell you as much as one (satisfied or dissatisfied) user. Your first course of action when evaluating any ISP should be to get input from some of its current customers. Most ISPs have some sort of customer directory -- at least for their business accounts -- that includes clickable links to the customer Web sites.
First, try out a couple of these sites for yourself. See if performance is acceptable when you access their Web site just as someone else would access yours. If the ISP passes muster at this point, contact the ISP's customers directly by e-mail (using the e-mail link that's most likely included on their Web page). When people have very good or very bad experiences, they're usually willing to talk about them. All you have to do is ask.
After you're satisfied that you've found a reasonably good ISP, you need to start considering other practical matters:
For example, if you're allotted 5MB of disk space for your files (which should be enough for most beginning efforts), but you discover that for some reason your files take up 6MB, the ISP still lets you put your site online, but you get charged a little extra. The charge probably isn't much, based on the amount you go over, but if you have a very large site, this may be an issue to consider.
Traffic charges can vary from one month to the next. Suppose your Web site takes up 1MB and you're allowed 50MB worth of traffic each month. That means that the first 50 people who visit your site don't cost you anything extra. But when visitor number 51 accesses your Web site, you begin racking up extra charges based on the extra traffic. This can be a large or small concern, based on whether you expect lots of visitors.
How much should you expect to pay for sticking your Web page on somebody else's server and letting that server do its thing? The answer depends on the type of Web page you put up.
If you upload a personal page, your ISP may include hosting services with the cost of your Internet connection. This type of free Web page usually has some limitations. Typically, you're pretty limited in how much disk space you can use up. And you're also limited in what you can use the page for. Many ISPs prohibit the use of free personal Web pages for business purposes. Your ISP figures if that you're going to profit from being on the Web, they should profit from your profit. Hey, it's capitalism -- what can you do?
The standard monthly cost of a personal Internet account these days -- with or without a personal Web page -- is around $20 for unlimited access. At this price point, you can go online whenever you want and stay online for as long as you want. If you want to publish only a personal Web page, just make sure that you look for an ISP that does indeed offer free personal Web pages. Note, however, that if you have registered your own domain name, you probably can't use your domain name with one of these free accounts.
The business account, however, is an entirely different matter. You pay extra for a business account, but you get more, too. You get more disk space. You get to use your own domain name, if you have one. You may even get some professional Web development assistance from your ISP. Prices for business services may range from $50 to $100 per month or more. (However, if you go higher than $100 a month, you should take a very close look at what you're getting for your money.)
The one thing you should never, ever do is agree to a long-term contract -- no matter how attractive the price is. Suppose a new ISP shows up in town and offers unlimited Internet access, including hosting your Web page, for $10 per month. One of two things may happen.
First, there's a good chance that this price is too low to allow for a reasonable profit for the ISP. That means that the ISP may function like a pyramid scheme, relying on new members to pay the way for old members. Eventually, the ISP maxes out, files bankruptcy, and then you are left without an ISP. Assuming you're the registered owner of your domain name, you can switch to another ISP easily enough, but it may take a couple of weeks based on InterNIC's backlog. If you weren't using your own domain name, your entire Web address changes to reflect your new provider.
But just suppose that $10 really is a reasonable price for both you and your ISP. (Maybe you're on the ground floor of the pyramid.) If you've followed computer technology at all, you know that the tendency is for prices to go down. So what happens if a year from now, your ISP lowers prices to $5 per month and you still have two years left on your three-year contract? You'll be paying double what everybody else is, that's what!
No matter how you look at it, I really believe that anything other than a month-to-month agreement is a cyberdisaster just waiting to happen. For a sampling of actual pricing plans from ISPs around the country, see Appendix A.
So you've found a reliable ISP that can host your Web site at a price you're willing to live with. Is that really enough? It depends on you and your particular situation. If you're satisfied with just putting up your Web page and letting the page take its course, that's fine. However, you may want to consider other related services.
You already learned about virtual domain hosting in the previous lesson. If you want to use your own domain name, it's essential. And using your own name is also something that you may have to pay extra for. Check with your ISP to be sure.
What about e-mail? Any ISP includes one e-mail account with your service, but what if you need more? If you need three separate e-mail accounts, do you have to pay three times as much money -- even if only one person has access to the account at any given time? Check with your ISP.
Many ISPs allow you to set up extra e-mail accounts (called POP, or Post Office Protocol, accounts) that don't include any Internet access or other features. You must dial in to your ISP using your regular account, and then check the e-mail for all three accounts while you're logged on. Popular e-mail programs such as Qualcomm's Eudora and Claris Emailer make it easy to check multiple e-mail accounts during a single online session. If you have the latest version of Microsoft Office that includes Microsoft Outlook, you can also check multiple-mail accounts too. You still pay a monthly charge for extra POP accounts, but the fee is small compared to the cost of a "full access" account.
Extra e-mail accounts are handy even if you're the only person involved with your Web site. For example, say you want to use a second e-mail account to handle what's called an auto-responder. Anyone who wants general information about your company can send e-mail to a different e-mail address. Any time mail comes addressed to that account, the auto-responder replies with a pre-typed message containing whatever information you want. Both of the e-mail programs I mention in the preceding paragraph can handle this process.
You also need multiple e-mail addresses if you want to run any sort of Internet mailing list from your computer. A mailing list is an e-mail-based discussion group. Assuming that you have the correct software on your computer, people can send e-mail to a POP account handled by that software. In turn, that software automatically distributes a copy of the message to everyone else who has subscribed to the mailing list. To run this type of program, you need two extra POP accounts: one for people to send their messages to and one to handle administrative tasks, such as subscriptions and cancellations.
Do you plan to offer downloadable files? You need space on your ISP's FTP server to store those files. You can then create links on your Web page that automatically download the files to your visitor's computer system. Just as some ISPs offer free Web pages for personal accounts, some also have free FTP drop boxes where you can put downloadable files for personal accounts. As usual, though, if you have a business account, you're going to have to pay a few dollars extra each month for this service.
Last, do you plan to offer products for sale online? If so, you need to think about how you're going to get paid for these products. There are dozens of online payment options -- ways to move funds from the buyer to the seller over the Internet -- available today. Of course, like everything on the Web, some payment options are better than others are, but they all have their merits. The real problem is that none of these online payment options are compatible with each other. You pick one and miss out on anyone who prefers one of the others.
For the time being, there's not much you can do about the incompatibility. However, you can look for an ISP that offers some sort of online payment processing directly to its clients. This way, you avoid all the trouble of having to evaluate and experiment with different options on your own. Your ISP can take care of all that for you.
There's plenty to think about when you're choosing an ISP. Just remember that the ISP that's right for your neighbor is not necessarily the one that's right for you. Shop around and get just the right mix of features, pricing and reliability.
Select the best answer(s) for each question.
A. Lets you connect to the World Wide Web from your home
B. Makes your Web pages available on the World Wide Web
C. Lets you connect to the World Wide Web from your office
D. Eliminates the need for FTP
A. Acts as a major junction for the Internet
B. Is the phone line that connects your home to the Internet
C. Is the connection between the Web server and the FTP server
D. Allows you to use an ISDN line
A. 28.8 Kbps
B. 33.6 Kbps
C. 56 Kbps
D. 128 Kbps
A. Anything you want
B. Anything you want, as long as it's not being used
C. Anything you want, as long as you're willing to pay a higher fee
D. Anything you want, as long as your ISP agrees
B. Often included in the fee charged by your ISP
C. For two years only
D. Whatever you feel like paying
A. You're out of luck
B. You need a service called virtual domain hosting
C. You need an ISDN line
D. You need a national ISP
A. Nationwide access
B. Greater ease of use
C. Better service
D. A free trip to the national headquarters
A. More personalized service
B. Greater flexibility
C. A pre-arranged meeting with the company president
D. A care basket delivered to you at home
A. Distance to server and amount of line noise
B. Modem speed and bandwidth
C. Bert and Ernie
D. Amount of disk space and amount of traffic
A. Insist on a long-term contract
B. Accept a long-term contract if the price is right
C. Never sign a long-term contract
D. Bring your own pen
A. Multiple e-mail accounts
B. FTP server access
C. Online payment services
D. A couple of aspirin to deal with all these options