I'm a regular reader of Web Worker Daily, and their post from today, "Microsoft Offers Free Domains and Web Space" is a must read if you're trying to get a web site up and running:
If you are a new start-up, where do you look to, to get your online presence started? You want to do it right, but sometimes there isn’t a lot of time to search companies out. Every day you aren’t online could mean the lose of potential customers. So why not try out a temporary solution until you find the right parties that can help you out at website development?
Microsoft has started offering a free small business solution that includes a free domain name. The new service called Office Live Basics gives users a free domain name with web hosting, web site design tools, 500MB of web storage, 25 email accounts, web site reports, and search engine advertising tools. Not bad for a business, or personal user just starting up. If you aren’t happy with Microsoft’s free offering, you can choose to upgrade to a $19.95/month, or a $29.95/ month account, each with more space.
GoDaddy also has some great offers for starting up online. For every domain you purchase at $8.95 through them, GoDaddy offers a blog platform, hosting with a website builder, email with a 25MB limit, 100 email forwards, and a website builder where you can build a five page website or upload your own designs. With GoDaddy, you can forward the domain name to you own web hosting supplier whenever you like, whereas with Microsoft’s solution, you must wait six months.
Other programs like these are out there to help small businesses, just make sure they are from a reputable company, the domain name you choose is registered in your name, and you can update the DNS records to point to another server down the line when you are ready to expand.
This is all good advice (and props to Chris Gillmer and the folks at WWD for their smart and engaging blog) - and for folks exploring this territory for the first time I think reading the descriptions above gets you a good idea of what kind of packages to look for when finding a web hosting and design solution. For the average artist, presenter, or manager, however, I think the GoDaddy interface is a little overwhelming, and the Office Live Basics package has overly restrictive requirements (only operates using Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows Server 2003).
Instead, for music-focused organizations, I highly recommend Hostbaby.com, which is part of Derek Sivers' CDbaby family and shares the same ethic: simple, direct, smart services for music folks. With hostbaby you get tools for building a website including a concert calendar, email list mailer, streaming audio, guest book, a news page, 500 MB of disk space, as many private email accounts as you want, spam-blocker, and webmail. All of it runs on their trademark foolproof wizard interface, and there really is no experience necessary to make a fully functional professional looking website. It's a $20/month flat fee, comes with excellent tech support, and to help get you started they'll transfer your existing site to their servers for free.