What do you need to get started on the web?  - "The Basics"

  • A modern computer with at least 16 megs of RAM (screen memory) and as much storage space (at least 1 gig of hard drive space is recommended) as you can afford.

  • A modem offering at least 28.8k access to the internet.  This will connect your phone line to the internet once you get a number for the modem to dial (usually from an ISP company - see below.)

If you're going to be on the internet a lot, you might also want to install a separate phone line so you won't tie up family or office communications every time you connect to the internet.  Your local cable TV system might also offer access to the internet through cable lines, using a cable modem.  It costs more, but the access is faster than a normal phone line.

  • Local dial-up access.  You pay a monthly fee to an ISP (Internet Service Provider) company like www.workingfamilies.com - the AFL-CIO Internet Community  ($14.95 per month) to get access to a local phone number your modem can dial up.  This then gives you access to the entire web for the cost of a local phone call. There are thousands of ISPs out there that are waiting for your business. A comprehensive list of these ISPs are available on the Internet at http://thelist.internet.com and can be searched by area code.

Before you sign on find out:  Do they offer free technical help over the phone when you run into trouble?  Do you have to make a toll call for help or is it a 1-800 call?  Is the phone line busy most of the time?  Find out from other users if they also get busy signals when they try to use the ISP to dial up into the web.  Do they often get disconnected? Are the connection lines often "down", meaning you can't get anywhere?

  • A web browser like Netscape or Microsoft Explorer.  These can be downloaded free from the internet or installed free from disks provided by your dial-up ISP company.

  • A web page creation program.  These programs automatically create the code needed to design a page to whole sites on the web from simple commands and symbols you click on.  A simple program can be downloaded free with the Netscape Communicator.  For greater control, you can buy a good program like HotMetal Pro and Microsoft Front Page.  These programs also include stock graphics you can use for your site. If you decide to use Microsoft Front Page, you need to be aware that not all Web Hosts support the extensions required by Front Page to utilize it's special features.  (counters, bulletin boards, etc.)  These features can be coded in to your site by other means if necessary.

  • A server or web host - where your web site lives.  This is a powerful computer people dial into to get access to your web site, and it could be close or all the way across the country.  Host companies offer space on their servers for a variety of monthly fees.  Or, you can get free server space with most major ISP companies, like www.workingfamilies.com

For a quick primer on web hosting, and a comprehensive comparison of features and pricing, check out BudgetWeb at:
http://www.budgetweb.com/budgetweb

Here are questions to ask or investigate by checking with the service provider and their customers when looking for a server or host:

  1. What kind of computer is hosting your site?  Does it have lots of room for your site to expand, and if it does, will this cost you extra?
  1. What kind of "back-up" is there if the computer hosting your site goes "down?"  In other words, if the site disappears, can they get the site back up and online on another computer, and how quickly?
  1. What kind of line do they have connecting the computer to the Internet (i.e T1, T3)?  Are these lines backed up ("redundant") with alternative lines?
  1. What happens if the power source goes down.  Do they have an alternative generator?
  1. How much "downtime" is there for other sites using the same server?  How quickly do those sites come up on your computer when you dial into them?  Are other customers happy with the service?
  1. Will they offer other services you might need, such as mail list managers, and how much will these services cost?  Will they consult with you over problems?
  1. Are they union?  There are a few that exist - see if you can find one that will work for your site.

  • Your own domain - To get the web address (URL) of your choice, such as www.IBEW1613.org, you have to register with Internic, or another legitimate domain registration service.  The average fee for domain registration is around $35.00 per year, with a two year advance payment required on most new registrations. Having you own URL will make it easier for people to find and come back to your web site, and you can keep your web URL address if you decide to change server companies and move to a different server.  Most web server companies will help you register at little or no extra charge. Otherwise you will have to settle for the address (URL) of the company hosting the server computer.

  • FTP access to your site.  Ftp means File Transfer Protocol, and it's a program that helps you dial directly into the computer being used as your site's server, right from your own computer.  Once you're connected, you use a password to get direct access to your site.  You can then send web pages from your computer to the web site, or download pages from the site to revise on your computer and then return the revised pages onto the site.

Netscape's free "composer" will upload pages you create onto your site.  But if you want better control over what you're doing, you can download some ftp programs for free from the internet or buy one for a minimum fee.  Normally the purchase of an ftp program entitles you to free phone and email support to help you set up and operate it.  Usually your web host provider will also help you with this process.


Check out the WebMasters Page for Web Page Resources

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