Free Web Site Hosting

Article excerpt

You would like to create a small web site for your school library, but you have no access to a web server and your school is unlikely to provide money for server hardware, software and a permanent connection ...

Or ... The school would like to have some school library web pages, but your own HTML skills are very limited ...

Or ... The school library would like to have a web site, but the school community is concerned about the level of financial investment required and/or nervous about the ability of the school library staff to deliver on such a project.

If any of these scenarios (or a related one) describes your own local setting, then you should be aware that there are free or low-cost ways of establishing a web site.

To be made available to the world, a web site has to be mounted on a web server -- a computer with web server software and a permanent connection to the Internet. Not all school libraries will be in a position to consider commercial web site hosting through an Internet Service Provider (ISP), particularly at the beginning of an Internet venture. If the school district or education authority does not offer web site hosting for its schools, and the school itself has no possibility of setting up a web server in the school library, then it would be worth considering free web site hosting options. This strategy would' enable the school library to establish a web presence fairly quickly. It would also help to prove to the school community (if necessary) that a school library web site could be a useful service.

If there is an educational resource center sponsored by a state department of education or by an education authority or professional organization, then this center may have a web server that will host the school library web site. Some universities or colleges provide web site hosting services for affiliated institutions or alumni.

Another possibility is that if the school or school library has web searching and e-mail access through a commercial ISP, then some web hosting space and services might already be written into the contract. Most commercial ISPs offer a certain amount of free web space as part of a standard Internet access contract, though very few of their customers actually use this space.

However, there are also web sites that offer free web site hosting space as a service. Sometimes this free space is available only to certain types of web sites -- for example, educational sites or teachers' home pages or small business sites -- while others are open to anyone who registers with the service.

The free web site hosting services usually have a number of advantages (apart from cost advantages). They often enable inexperienced webmasters to create a web page in a very short time, using forms for input of information: "Sign up for a free web site and free web-building tools and be online in minutes!" says the home page of the service (4 May 2001). Most of these sites have page templates that webmasters can use as the basis of their pages, thus reducing the amount of work needed to develop a web page. Many of the resulting pages are quite attractive, if sometimes lacking in individuality. Some of the free services provide for a degree of "customization" of pages (for example, using the school badge or logo on each page and using the school colors for background and/or typography). The specialist sites for teachers often provide password protection, so that only students in the class and their parents can access the pages. Some also offer additional tools or services, such as a URL that is related to the name of the school, counters and guestbooks on the pages or user tracking facilities.

The Electric SchoolHouse site ("connecting parents, teachers and kids ... building communities" in a free online environment) provides web page templates, online page development tools, and web site hosting space. …