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Hosting, in this context, simply refers to the actual physical location of your site: your site is hosted on a computer with a full-time, fast Internet connection.

There are a number of different hosting options. If you're associated with a university or college, you may have access to free hosting on the institution's server. Alternately, your Internet Service Provider may offer a certain amount of space on its server in conjunction with your Internet access account (you may be paying for it already, and not be using it). In any case, if you have access to some server space through your school, ISP, work, or whatever, contact the server administrator about setting up your site. You can skip the rest of this page, but make sure that you know the URL of your site on this server.

If you're still reading this, you'll want to take advantage of the fact that a number of companies offer free hosting, which most pay for by using your pages for advertizement. Yahoo! has an entire category devoted to free hosting companies, among the more popular of which are GeoCities (now owned by Yahoo!), Angelfire, and Freeyellow. There are limitations to what you can do with a free host (vs. a standard, paid hosting set up), and there are positive and negative aspects to each of these companies. While no single free host is quite as good as a paid hosting solution, the one that seems to come closest is ProHosting.

The main reason for which ProHosting is superior to most other free hosting companies is the fact that it offers free hosting as an off-shoot of its main business, which is paid hosting. Unlike the semi-hokey services offered by the big free hosts, ProHosting offers a (pardon the expression) slightly castrated version of real virtual hosting. The limitations that are imposed on ProHosting's free hosting customers (I'll talk about them in a little more depth later, in the limitations section — go figure) can be a bit of a hassle, but the benefits of an almost real virtual hosting set-up outweigh the limitations. The server is fairly reliable, which is not the case with most free hosts, and you can run CGI scripts. Unfortunately, as of May 2000, ProHosting has changed their policy on banner adds, and has begun including adds on every page (the adds can be relegated to a pop-up window by adding a <killbanner> tag before the <body> tag of your html documents). Even with the adds, however, the fact that you can run CGI scripts on ProHosting set it apart from other free providers.

Setting up your hosting with ProHosting is very simple: just register. Within a few hours of having completed the registration, you'll receive an e-mail containing your registration information and the URL of your site.

There are a number of resources, both official and unofficial, to help you to make the most of your ProHosting site. The obvious one is the official ProHosting FAQ. Even more valuable, however, is the unofficial FAQ maintained by a ProHosting user. Furthermore, when you receive your registration confirmation, you'll be given details on how to sign up for the ProHosting mailing list, where users help each other to find solutions to various problems. In general, while you might have to do a little searching and reading, you can be virtually certain that someone somewhere can answer any questions that you might have regarding your ProHosting site.

Once you've completed your ProHosting registration, you can move on to the next step. Make sure that you know the URL of your new site, because you'll need it in order to map your domain.

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