How to: upload a website for free

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About

I created this document in 2009 specifically to help people and/or small businesses who want to upload a website to the internet without paying for web hosting. It contains simple step-by-step instructions on how to setup free website hosting and attach a domain name to it, but does not have instructions on creating/designing a website! I have provide instructions on how to design a website here.


In this document I use blackapplehost.com to setup free hosting, I use Netregistry to cheaply register a domain (domain names are never free) and I use Adobe Dreamweaver to upload your site - however the process should be almost identical if you choose a different web host or domain registration site. I have tried to make this document as simple and brief as possible, with the hopes that even novice computer users can follow these instructions.

UPDATE 2013: blackapplehost turned out to be pretty crap - after a while they add ads. Use them if you want to experiment, but if you want something free and really easy to setup use Google Site.

STEP 1: Create a New E-mail Address

On your website you will want to include a "contact e-mail address" for your business. I recommend you don't use your personal e-mail address because: (a) it's a good idea to keep you personal and business e-mail separate and (b) you may need to share this e-mail account and password with other people within your business and (c) when an e-mail is publicly "published" on the web it can significantly increase spam you'll receive to that address.

I would suggest you sign up for a new gmail account. Be sure to use a secure and sensible password, and write it down - it should make thing easier if you use this same password for your web hosting too.


STEP 2: Setting up Free Web Hosting

Paid web hosting is typically $50-200 a year, depending on the package. Much of that cost goes towards reliability and faster download/upload speed - however for small business this may be overkill. There are several sites which allow free web hosting, and many of these have been listed nicely here. Many free sites will place annoying pop-up windows or advertisement banners on every one of your pages, however a few of them nowadays have no ads at all. The one I have used and recommend is: blackapplehost.com. Not only does blackapplehost offer 5GB of space (which is WAY more than you'll need), but they have instant registration, functionality for dynamic content (including PHP) and have an simple web interface and good support ticket system if you run into problems. To set up an account:

  1. Open http://www.blackapplehost.com/register.jsp in a web browser.
  2. Enter a lowercase username (eg: mybusiness), secure hard-to-guess password (eg: laybrick205), and your new business e-mail (eg: mybusiness@gmail.com). When you submit it will send an e-mail to you. WARNING: I found this took a few times before I read the image code correct!
  3. Open your e-mail and click the confirmation link provided.
  4. Enter your extra details and under "extra domain", with the same password and type the (available) domain name you have decided on getting (eg: mybusiness.com) - you can change this later.
  5. At this stage your hosting area will be created, and by default it puts a single page on your site. If you go to: http://mybusiness.blackapplehost.com/ (with your login name where www normally is) you should see this test page.
  6. Login to the site (www.blackapplehost.com) using your username and password.
  7. In this member area you see links to change your "account settings", submit a "support ticket" (for when you run into problems) and upload files using "file manager". For now just click on "account settings" and write down the two "name servers" addresses which appear - they should be "ns1.blackapplehost.com" and "ns2.blackapplehost.com".


STEP 3: Uploading Your Site

Uploading files one-at-a-time using the Web Interface

Most web hosts will have their own web interface you can use to upload pages. For blackapplehost.com you can click on "file manger" and here you can create, delete, edit and upload files and folders. I find this interface is really quite nice and simple to use. Like most web interfaces, however, it only allows you to upload a few files at a time; for this reason I prefer to upload files using something called "FTP" (File Transfer Protocol).

Uploading your entire site using a free FTP program

For most web hosting sites you can actually copy files across using FTP using your web browser! Type ftp://mybusiness.blackapplehost.com/ in the address bar in FireFox or Internet Explorer and it will prompt for your same username and password. This contents of this remote directory should then appear like in File Explorer and you *should* be able to drag in files as you would any other directory. Unfortunately I have found this feature doesn't work well with blackapplehost; it's probably my only complaint. As a better solution, you can download and use a free FTP program like WinSCP.

Uploading your entire site using DreamWeaver

If you are lucky enough to have Adobe DreamWeaver installed on your work computer following these instructions:

  • 1) Open DreamWeaver.
  • 2) Click Site > New Site (on the menu bar)
  • 3) Using the "Basic" tab: give the site a name (eg: MyBusiness) and type the address you want (eg: http://www.mybusiness.com/) then "Next"
  • 4) Click "no, I don't want server technology"
  • 5) Leave "edit local copies on my machine" then browse to the root directory where you website is (eg: C:\Documents and Settings\Mybusiness\My Websites\mybusiness\Website)
  • 6) Choose to connect with "FTP" and enter:
Host:		mybusiness.blackapplehost.com
Folder:					(leave blank)
FTP login:	mybusiness
FTP password:	******

Tick "save" and then click "Test Connection". You may have to click this button many times before it says "Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 connected to your Web server successfully". If it does not give this message, check all the above details and contact me!

  • 7) Click "no, do not enable check in and check out", and then "Done".
  • 8) At this stage you will see your site appear in the "Files" panel. Make sure the little drop box under the on the right says "Local View" and not "Remote View". Click the little plus arrow to see the files, and double click on anything to edit it.
  • 9) To upload your entire site just select the files click the root folder (the one at the top which says "Site - MyBusiness") and click the little blue up arrow which says "Put files" (when you hold your cursor over it). This should successfully upload all the files in your site. Alternatively you can select only the files you have updated (hold down [Ctrl] as you click) and upload these only with the blue arrow. NOTE: You should NEVER need to use the green arrow!
  • 10) Open http://mybusiness.blackapplehost.com/ in a Browser and check the new files have been uploaded! NOTE: You may need to sometimes hit Refresh [F5] for them to display.


STEP 5: Registering a Domain Name

NOTE: Although having a domain name isn't essential (you can see your site under http://mybusiness.blackapplehost.com/) it looks far more professional to have your own domain name (eg: www.mybusiness.com) to put on your business card. The best domain name is are the short ones and end in ".com", however I should warn you most".com" domain names with one or two English words are already taken.


At this stage you have hopefully already decided what domain name you want (eg: mybusiness.com) and checked that it's free! Domain name cost about ~US $10-15 a year, which is really cheap (depending on exchange rates). Domain name registration sites are all very similar, but to save you searching I recommend: mdwebhosting.com.au. To get your domain name:

  1. Open www.mdwebhosting.com.au/domain-overview.html in your web browser.
  2. Type the domain you want (eg: mybusiness.com) and click "search".
  3. Select the number of years you want and click "order now". NOTE: About a month before this expires you will be sent e-mails asking if you want to renew your domain. If you forget to renew it you will lose the domain and if you are unlucky someone else will register it!
  4. On the next screen you can enter the "name servers" you want, and you should enter here to two addresses you wrote down from step 2 (eg: ns1.blackapplehost.com and ns2.blackapplehost.com). Don't worry too much about ID protection.
  5. At this stage you will have to register and enter your credit card details. Write down your password etc. You will be sent an e-mail confirming your purchase.
  6. It can take up to 24 hours (though sometimes < an hour) before the domain name is processed and another 24 hours before the name server is updated. Keep trying each day, and eventually when you enter your address into the browser (eg: www.mybusiness.com) you page should come up!


When this finally happens, you have finished creating your website, and are ready to advertise www.mybusiness.com to the world!



NOTE: If you need any extra help I have written a much more detailed document explaining how to create a website (and the various options available) here.



Links

  • PlanetDomain.com - a good place to register domain names (if you are outside Australia and don't want to use MD web hosting).
  • DirectNic.com - a very good site to search available domain names (and variations) - but not the best one to register with!
  • TemplateMonster.com - use this to get good ideas for the layout / design of your site.