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Short Cut to Hosting a Website. Why not Google. Exactly, why not!

Tue, 17th September 2013, 15:38

Every business and entrepreneur needs an online presence to survive these days. If the business does not show up on a search engine or map they will only attract people that still rely on the phone book. Is it possible to create this online presence without investing in expensive IT talent? Short answer, yes.

In May 2013, Google tripled the free storage available on their Drive service from 5 GB to 15 GB. This capacity increase allows the user to store a generous number of media files on the cloud storage. The popular competitors are not as generous yet; Dropbox offer only 2 GB to start on their free plan and Amazon offers 5 GB for free. Product loyalty or history may cause different people to preferences for one provider or another. Most people would use this space to backup important items or as a mobile accessible file server.

A novel idea is to use a free cloud service account to host a personal or business website. Free is a good option considering standard website hosting companies charge monthly rates from $4 to $10 for the most basic of hosting on shared servers. What would it take for someone create this DIY project? Could anyone with a computer and an internet connection make this project happen or is this for professional technical people only? To answer, I will run through the steps for Google Drive.

For a very basic web page it is surprisingly simple according to Google's help files. Create a new folder and allow sharing on the web. Upload an HTML file to the new folder. View the file and click the toolbar preview button. The page is now visible in the browser. Copy the URL and send it to everyone. You now have a website hosted by Google.

A single page announcing that you have discovered this thing called the internet may have been enough for the 1990's not so much now. Adding advanced formatting, navigation and media files is all possible with the sufficient coding skills. These pieces are all stored as files within the shared directory that was created in step one. Maintaining the content is as easy as uploading a new file to replace the current one.

With some web formatting knowledge such as HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), it is possible to create a consistent online branding for static information. The Google Drive will support JavaScript and PHP if more dynamic actions are required. This is getting out of the realm of the amateur and will require technical help. Once again, the files are hosted on in the Drive directory and advanced website bells and whistles are possible.

The next level for most people thinking about putting content on the internet, is to use a Content Management System (CMS) like Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal. These support frameworks run most of the slick and not so slick websites on the internet. They have rich ecosystems of plugins and custom programers to create almost any website imaginable from picture libraries of cats to advanced e-Commerce experiences.

Here is where using the Drive as a free hosting service falls down. At a deeper technical layer, a CMS requires a database to store the content. Installation of a database is currently not supported by any of the free storage providers. That is the end of the line for this DIY project.

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