Before you even start thinking about a website, you need to make sure your organisation has the correct equipment to connect to the internet. Every organisation will be at a different stage of this process. What we have tried to do in this section is give you the basic information you need to get started.
To get connected to the internet you will need:
- a computer (e.g. a Mac or PC),
- a modem (broadband or dial-up modem, wireless, modem/router, local area network access to the internet),
- an account with an Internet Service Provider (ISP),
- a browser (software to browse the web, pick up email and download files).
All new computers, whether PC or Mac, are internet-ready and most come with a modem and internet browser software already installed. To make the most of the multimedia aspects of the web you should buy a computer with a built-in sound card.
A sufficient low standard specification for an internet-connected PC would be 256 megabyte RAM memory (working memory) with a processor of 1.0 GHz clock speed. The larger RAM memory and faster processor you can get, the faster your computer will process information and run software. But the speed you access the internet at also depends on the type of internet connection and modem you are using.
New software demands more storage and working memory to run smoothly. Computer memory and processor performance are constantly increasing at the same time as they have become cheaper. If you can afford a computer with a high specification, the chances are it will take longer before you need to replace it.
If you are going to connect up via a dial-up modem and your telephone provider then get the fastest modem you can afford. Internal modems (i.e. you fit it inside the computer) are usually cheaper, but external modems are easier to install and can be easier to troubleshoot if they go wrong. A modem allows you to connect to an internet service provider (ISP) over your standard phone line. It dials up the provider in exactly the same way you dial a friend.
Internet Service Providers (ISP)
An ISP provides you with your connection to the internet. They can be split into two broad camps: those who provide just an internet connection and those who provide a connection and additional services such as news, discussion forums and child-friendly content.
Well known ISPs are BT, NTL, Tiscali and Excalibur which can provide both dial-up and broadband connections. Examples of ISPs providing additional services are MSN and AOL. Which one you choose depends on whether you put a value on these additional services. There are numerous ISPs available and the price varies a lot. You need to research what is available in your area according to your needs.
Whoever you choose as your ISP, they should provide you with an email facility and should also give reliable service and support. If you want them to host your website also check that they provide website statistics, a secure server, ftp (file transfer protocol) access and any software required to support your web-publishing software.
You can get a faster connection (broadband) to the internet by using newer technologies such as ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network), DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), or via a cable modem. Well-known providers of broadband services include British Telecom, cable providers like NTL and third party internet service providers who resell BT services. If you can afford a fast connection it is recommended. DSL and cable modems are ‘always on’ and provide un-metered, fast access to a richer multimedia experience. You don’t need an extra phone line for the internet connection and you can of course use your phone at the same time as connected to the internet. You can find out about broadband and broadband providers at www.broadbandforscotland.co.uk
Since the publication of the first version of this guide, wireless networking has become an important way to connect to the web. Wireless connections, or hotspots as they are commonly called, are now available in many public areas such as airports, hotels and cafés. To set up a wireless network in your own organisation requires an ‘access point’, i.e. a device connected to the internet that can transmit data to other wirelessly enabled devices – and wireless enabled computers (e.g., by installing internal cards, USB devices). If you are considering buying a modem to connect to the internet, you should choose one that can provide wireless networking.
Your computer will also need a CD player as most internet installation software comes on a CD-Rom.
You will need software to ‘surf’ the web and to use email. To surf the web you will need a web browser such as Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera. With a program such as Outlook Express, Mail (on Macs) or Eudora you can send and receive email from your desktop machine. Many ISPs also provide a web-based email service, allowing you to receive and send email from anywhere with an internet connection, e.g. an internet café.