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Having Your Definitive Website Offline
and then publishing a copy online
If you were to write a book, and someone showed some interest in publishing it, you wouldn't send them the one and only Original, would you? You'd send them a copy. The same applies to websites.
The idea is, you keep "The Original" of your website (the definitive copy) on your computer at home, and then you Upload (ftp) it to the Host computer. This copy of your website on the hosting computer is easily accessible around the world, and as it's digital it's just as good as the original.
The first important thing is, you are avoiding "having all your eggs in one basket". The other thing is, you have the original in your own safe keeping, rather than trusting it to someone remote. Look what happened to AOL Hometown and the sorrow that caused when it disappeared! Also, Geocities, and V21. Tragic.
This method of website design, where you have your website's files on your own computer, works very well, and has various advantages. For one thing, the definitive version is safely offline, and then you upload it to the server at your hosting company to put it online. With the definitive version offline, your gold standard, it remains immune from any hazards it might encounter online.
Even if someone hacked into your website and mucked it up, they'd only have damaged the online copy, and you could easily upload another copy. The fear that someone might hack into your website and delete all your stuff is somewhat blunted once you have the definitive version offline. Imagine Walt Disney being asked by someone "Don't you ever worry about someone breaking into one of your cinemas and burning Mickey Mouse?". Walt would probably reply confidently that the original Mickey Mouse was kept safely back at home in the studios, and the cinemas were showing copies. Imagine someone asking a newsreader "Don't you find it a very dangerous job? Someone might break their TV screen and reach in and grab you?". Silly? Well, that's what it's like if you keep your definitive original version of your website online!
Also, having the definitive version offline is better for archiving, as you can keep copies of your website as it develops. This form of record-keeping also settles any arguments about what was on your website on such-and-such a date etc. Another thing is that any work you do on your website, any alterations, etc, are going on offline, a bit like the way electricians prefer to work on electrical installations that aren't live at the time. Ultimately, by having your definitive website offline, you have control of it.
All this and more is explained in the page about Having a Website Plan, and in the feature on How to Get Your Own Website. There's some good advice which could have saved a lot of people a lot of trouble. Also see Having Your Own Website
It was particularly sad for people when AOL Hometown was lost without trace, losing people's personal stuff. It's like a digital version of Lost Luggage! This could all have been solved by having the Original kept at home, and the copy going to town.
Is it better to keep the original or a copy? : It's always preferable to keep the original rather than a copy, for things which have an original that's analogue. See old film. However, with a website, you keep your original offline and publish a copy online.