How to Host your Website on Google for Free
The Royal Family of UK has selected Google as the web hosting provider for Prince William’s official wedding website. The site, available at officialroyalwedding2011.org, contains news updates, photo galleries and videos and everything is hosted on Google App Engine.
What’s new here? Web developers have long used Google App Engine to host web apps in the cloud - see Sleeping Time and Tall Tweets for example - but this is probably the first time that Google’s infrastructure is being used to host a ‘static website’ of an event that will get plenty of press attention and web traffic in the coming days.
There are quite a few advantages with hosting websites on Google App Engine. First, it should be more reliable since your site will get served through Google’s own data centers.
Second, if you have a low traffic website, it is highly likely that you won’t have to spend a penny for web hosting. You get 1 GB of free storage space for hosting your images, HTML web pages and other files and 1 GB of bandwidth per day. If you exceed that quota, you pay-per-use similar to Amazon S3.
Ready to jump?
With a regular web hosting company, you rend some storage space on their server, you then transfer your HTML and other files to that server using FTP or cPanel and your website is ready to serve. Google App Engine works in similar manner except that the file transfer mechanism is a bit different.
Step 1: Go to appengine.google.com and create a new application. If you have never used App Engine before, you might be asked to verify your mobile phone number before you can create a new app.
Step 2: Give your application a name – it should be unique and may only include lowercase alphabets and digits. For this example, our app identifier is “thisismyawesomewebsite”.
Step 3: The next two sub-steps may scare some of you but trust me, they simply require you download and run two installers in the given sequence.
Step 4: Download and unzip this file - website.zip – somewhere on your desktop. It contains a basic website with some HTML pages, images and CSS that we’ll try to host with Google App Engine.
Step 5: Open the app.yaml file with notepad and replace the word ‘labnol’ with the application identifier that you created in Step 2 above. Save the changes.
Step 6: Finally it’s time to deploy /upload our website to Google App Engine. Open the Google App Engine Launcher program from the Start Menu, choose File – > Add Existing Application and browse to the folder where you unzipped the website.
Hit the deploy button, input your Google Account credentials and within seconds, your website should become available online at abc.appspot.com where abc is your unique app identifier. Later, if you add or modify any web page, press Deploy again and your new /edited files will get uploaded to App Engine.
Your website will be hosted as a sub-domain of appspot.com but you can register a web domain with Google Apps and map the App Engine website to your own domain.
Related tutorial: Setup Proxy Server with App Engine
Google Developer Expert, Google Cloud Champion
Amit Agarwal is a Google Developer Expert in Google Workspace and Google Apps Script. He holds an engineering degree in Computer Science (I.I.T.) and is the first professional blogger in India.