The purpose behind web pages is to share your information with the world! It’s hard to share that information if your web page is on your local computer.
Even though, you *could* make your local computer accessible to the world and let people visit your web page on your local computer, it’s really not a good idea. There are all kinds of security risks involved and you don’t want to have to share your computer with the world, leaving it on 24/7, and making sure there is enough processing power and speed for everyone that visits your website. You will want to lease a computer in a secure area that’s built just for housing web sites. You will need to find hosting with a reputable person or company. Let them worry about keeping the computer and web server up and running efficiently and securely.
I didn’t start this post with advertising my services in mind, but while we are on the subject, if you need a good hosting company, I can help 🙂 I have the best support around! You can sign up here.
Once you’ve found good hosting, you will need to upload your web page to your web site on your new hosting plan. If your hosting provider provides cpanel (like I do), there is a file manager option that allows you access to your files from cpanel. Most control panels will have a similar option as well.
The cpanel file manager works nice in a pinch, but I wouldn’t want to use it for all my file management. It is often slow and has some file size limitations. It uses the hypertext transfer protocol (http) just like your web pages. This protocol (the way files are transported) was made for transferring web pages for viewing, not for transferring web pages up to the web server (this is a very simplified explanation, but will get my point across). The HTTP protocol is more concerned with providing a good viewer experience than with getting files moved from one computer to another.
A more efficient, quicker option for moving files from your local computer to your web server (uploading) OR from your web server to your local computer (downloading) is FTP (file transfer protocol). Your browser was built for HTTP. Even though some browsers will allow you to use FTP, a program that was built specifically for FTP is more efficient and helpful.
There are many FTP applications available. Some of them are free (although, they would LOVE your donations) and some of them are not. You will need to find one that will work for your computer and in your price range. The free programs work well, so unless you do this full time, I wouldn’t suggest spending money on an FTP application.
If you are using Windows, I would check out Filezilla. Here is a tutorial that will help you get started. There are many other ftp applications for Windows. Just do a Google search for them if you aren’t a fan of how filezilla works.
If you are on a Mac, I would look into cyberduck. Here is a tutorial for using cyberduck. Again, there are many other FTP programs out there for the Mac. A Google search will help you find one that works for you.
I personally use Coda which is a Text Editor with FTP built in. There are other editors with FTP built in. I’ve used Aptana on Windows before. It has FTP built in, but I thought it was difficult to use. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t use it long enough to get used to it. I like having the FTP built into the editor because then I don’t have to have so many windows open while I’m developing the web site.
FTP programs will help you remotely connect to your website over the internet. Then you can upload and download files to your website almost as if it was just another hard drive on your computer. Find a program you enjoy because in the life of a developer, this is a tool you will use most all day, every day.
Do you have a favorite FTP program? Please share with us in the comments section below!