Web host? We don’t need no stinkin’ web host!

So, you’ve secured your domain, registered with a hosting service and installed WordPress on your site. You’ve begun experimenting with themes and thinking about the look and feel your site is going to have and what content it’s going to display. But wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to experiment with all that stuff and design your site to look the way you want it to before publishing it to the web? Believe it or not, there is, and it’s simpler than you may think.

Web hosting services provide space on servers that, for a lack of a better term, hosts the files that make up your site. These files include the pages that everyone sees, such as the “Home” page and the “About Us” page, as well as the files they don’t, like the database files that make a WordPress site so powerful. It’s the files that you don’t see that make it necessary to obtain a web host before you start building your site. PHP5 and MySQL are part of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) environment in which WordPress lives and operates in. A web host provides this environment that your computer cannot, therefore making it necessary to work on the remote server. Unless…

The beautiful thing about open source technology is that there is always some genius out there that has encountered the same problem as everyone else, has come up with a solution and has decided, out of the kindness of his or her soul, to share that solution with the rest of us. There are several technologies available, for free, that allow you to simulate the LAMP environment provided by web hosts natively on your local machine. Most of these are free, and they are pretty darn easy to use, making it possible to build, develop and test as many websites as you like without ever purchasing or uploading to a web host. Let’s take a look at a few of these:

MAMP
Built for the Mac OS, MAMP, as you may have guessed, stands for the same thing as LAMP, except instead of a Linux OS, the stack is optimized for a Mac environment. After installing the MAMP server to your computer, WordPress can be installed beneath it and a database can be established, enabling you to work in WordPress just like you ordinarily would, only everything is “hosted” locally on your computer’s hard drive.

WAMP
Exactly the same as MAMP, WAMP is, you guessed it, designed for Windows operating systems.

XAMP
XAMP is a cross-platform stack that works equally as well on Mac, Windows or Linux.

A forth option is the BitNami WordPress Stack. BitNami does exactly the same thing as MAMP, WAMP or XAMP, but is easier to use and install. BitNami comes with WordPress included so, just like the one-click install many web hosts feature, Bitnami automatically establishes a MySQL database and installs the latest version of WordPress during the setup. Once the local host has been set up you can go to your browser and login to your WordPress dashboard. That’s it! You can do everything just like if you had a site hosted on the web – upload themes and plugins, edit the PHP and CSS files and manage your media within the WordPress administration area. The only difference is that it’s all contained on your computer, meaning you’re the only one that can see it.

Now, eventually you’re going to want the world to see what you’ve created. For that you’re going to need to secure that domain name and obtain a good web host to manage your site. But by developing your site locally, the bulk of the work is done. Transfer the work you’ve done to your host site and, with a few tweaks, voila! You’re new site is complete and ready for the unbelievable amount of traffic it will attract. Using simulation software such as BitNami to develop your site is an easy, efficient way to build the site you want and display it to the world only when you are ready.

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