Web host can guide you through the Internet maze

What you need to set up your site

If you want a place on the Internet, you’ll need to contract with a host, or Internet service provider (ISP), to keep your site on the Internet.

In the early days of the Internet, anyone with a Web site had to have a personal computer with a phone line dedicated to the Internet so that when people called up the site, they connected directly to the Web site computer.

Those days are over, says Douglas Munn, systems consultant for Superior Consultant Co. Inc., a Southfield, IN, consulting firm. Now you can go to an ISP that will host your site for you. ISPs range from large organizations such as America Online or MindSpring to local companies that provide Internet services for a small number of clients, Munn says. "I’ve been on the Internet more than five years, and I’ve never hosted a site myself."

The ISP can help you come up with and register your Internet address. The host will help you decide on the name and make sure someone else has not already reserved it.

One advantage is that the ISP knows how to get your site listed in search engines such as Yahoo!, Excite, and AltaVista, which means you are likely to attract more people to your site.

For instance, MD Web, a New York City-based firm specializing in setting up physician Web pages, helps market its sites by making sure they are linked to all the search engines that patients would be likely to use to find physicians, says Michael Levine, MD. Levine is a Stuart, FL, ophthalmologist who co-founded the company when he was in medical school.

Another advantage of using an ISP is that they have 24-hour power and backup equipment so they can recover any lost data.

The ISP will give you statistics on how many hits your Web site gets, and how long people stayed. In some cases, it’s included in the fee for hosting the site. In other cases, there is an additional charge.

You can get extremely detailed reports, such as daily statistics broken down per hour. But most physician practices will need less sophisticated data that probably will be built into the basic fee.

"For most physician offices, a monthly or weekly report would be sufficient. They’ll just want to know general traffic patterns and if they are growing," Munn says.

Expect to pay as little as $20 to as much as $100 a month to the host that will maintain your site on the Internet. "You can easily maintain a complex site with all the bells and whistles for less than $1,000 a year," Munn says.

MD Web charges $1,000 to develop a site and $50 a month to maintain it, says Levine.

Medem, an Internet Web site, which is wholly owned by seven physician groups, charges physicians $70 a month for the service, including setting up and maintaining physician office Web sites with links to credentialed health information from the main site. (See story on p. 27, top.)