Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS
So ... you finally have your Web site designed and ready to run. What do you do now? You need to find someone to host your Web site.
Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) - from the small local outfits to the large nationwide companies - will offer hosting services. There also are specialized companies that do nothing more than host Web sites for their clients. As we enter the new millennium, you will notice large numbers of companies that design and/or host Web sites specifically for dentists.
A host is a company that places your Web site program on its server. This is the location where people will access your site. You need to make sure that your host company is stable and dependable. If its equipment goes down, then your site will not be accessible. These companies offer a great variety of options for you. Some can design and update your site for you. No matter which company you decide to use, you will need to be able to establish a good, comfortable relationship with your contacts in that company. This is the most important requirement of all.
Every Web site has different hosting needs. Not all Web pages need the same options. Find a provider who offers all the options you need. Here are some quick descriptions of options to consider:
Server platform: Some run their servers on the UNIX platform; some run on Windows NT. UNIX provides an advantage in high-end applications and busy sites. NT is easier for users to learn and opens the door to Active Server Pages and Active X.
Commercial use is allowed: Some providers will offer you a small site at no charge, but will not allow it to be used for commercial purposes. Your practice is considered a business, so make sure your host allows commercial usage.
Custom CGI Scripting: CGI Scripts are what make Web sites interactive. These scripts take up a lot of bandwidth. You may or may not use this in the programming of your Web site. Some hosts offer common scripts already set-up for you to use - i.e. counters, guestbooks, shopping carts, etc.
POP e-mail account: This will allow you to receive e-mail at your Web host provider.
Server log access: This allows you to keep track of your page accesses as well as any errors that occur.
Technical support: You need immediate access to someone in the event that problems occur.
Marketing: Some hosts will actively market your Web site for you. Some will educate you on how to utilize your Web site more thoroughly.
Who are these hosts? I mentioned above that your ISP (local or national) offers hosting services. There are also some national hosting services, such as Interland (www.interland.com) or 1-800-Hosting (www.800hosting.com), that can do a very nice job for you.
In the dental field, some great resources are available. All of these companies will design and host sites for you. Your Web site design can be done from scratch or by using templates that many of these vendors have designed for dental offices. They are:
Internet Dental Alliance
Visit any or all of these sites. See what these companies have to offer. Get to know the people you will be working with. Make sure that you get the services that you want. Establish a close, working relationship with the host you decide to trust your Web site with. You will find that a good host can be of great use to you as you develop your presence out in cyberspace.
Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He also is the editor of St. Louis Dentistry Magazine and spokesperson and critical-issue-response-team chairperson for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society. His address on the Internet is www.dfdasmiles.com. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (314) 567-5612, or fax at (314) 567-9047.