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Getting started with our FREE web hosting Print

It's true that Virtual Access customers are able to post their own web pages on our server at NO COST. The free hosting service does have limits though. Specifically:


Limited support. Documentation (like this) is available online and should answer most or all questions. Further support is by email only - no phone support.
Limited capability. Particularly, no CGI-BIN facilities or MS FrontPage server extension support. Upload is by FTP access ONLY. (We'll cover these topics in more depth shortly)
Fixed page address. You cannot choose your web page address with the free hosting service. It always takes the form www.virtual.net.au/~username


If you can work within these boundaries, then the free service is appropriate for you. If you're looking for something more, you'll be considering a paid hosting package instead. This will probably involve a domain name or subdomain name. Take a look at our Domains Hosting Information for more details (the "Q & A" page will be helpful, and the other linked pages cover hosting packages and costs as well).


The remainder of this document will concentrate on web page design/building, FTP uploads and similar topics. While we are writing this as a primer for the free hosting service, most of the information applies equally to our other services.


Starting Out - The Content


To get a web page online, you need to "make it" somehow. There are three basic approaches. You can write the "HTML" (HyperText Markup Language) yourself, you can use some kind of software tool to do it for you, or you can pay someone to build pages for you. Most people will use software to do it for them, but if you want to try it yourself, see our Introduction to HTML.


If you're favouring the software approach, there are a huge number of tools that you can choose - some are free, but prices range up to professional grade tools at over $1000 a package! The good news is that there are plenty of good tools around in the "free to $200" price range. Ultimately, it's a matter of finding something you're comfortable with.


If you have our Internet Setup CD, you already have several programs that are worth a look - open up the CD and go into the "Bonus Software" option. Other tools cal be found online through web sites like TUCOWS. Consider also commercial packages like Microsoft FrontPage (Approx $180), or Adobe DreamWeaver (Approx $650).


Your content will end up consisting of a number of files. There will be the HTM or HTML files which contain the layout and text, and possibly other ancillary files like images (usually JPG or GIF files), sounds (usually WAV files), etc. Once you have these files prepared, you need to "upload" them to the server.


Starting Out - The "Upload"


It's often perceived that this is the hardest part of the process. The FTP (File Transfer Protocol) mechanism that's used to perform the upload is old, and if you try to drive it by hand, it is indeed an acquired skill. We recommend the use of an "FTP Client" like WS_FTP or Cute FTP. Both of these tools (and more) are available on our Internet Setup CD (on the "Bonus Software" menu).


Using this kind of client, the upload process is actually very easy. It is performed using a dual-window display. One window shows files that are on your hard disk, the other shows those on our server. You simply navigate each window to the correct directory (it's like using Windows Explorer really), and then highlight files to transfer before pressing the appropriate "go" button.


More specific details about the upload process can be found in our help article: How to upload your web pages.




So there you have the whistle-stop tour of "getting a web page". Hopefully, this has given you some useful references and a better idea of the processes involved. Ultimately, the skills you need to make web pages are not something that we can hand to you in one easy to follow document. Your curiosity will lead you through the process using resources like WebMonkey for assistance.