ASP.Net / SQL Server

If you are looking for ASP.Net, I've heard people recommend ASPSpider. Their services include 4.0 and SQL server. Their free accounts limit you to 100 MB of disk space but that should be more than enough for most educational purposes. Also check out the Free ASP.Net Hosting List for a list of most popular web hosts.

Here is a list of some ASP.Net framworks you can play with:

Apache, MySQL, PHP

If you are looking for LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP), the company I deal with is Funio but they don't necessarily have the best performing servers. HostMonster and HostGator also have good reputations. For ease of use and management of your web hosting service, look for companies that use cPanel, Panelbox and Fantastico or something like that. It will really make your life easier when it comes time to installing web applications like WordPress. These often include the ability to create several types of sites like blogs, CMS, CRM, shopping carts and other applications.

Here is a list of some LAMP framworks you can play with:

If you only have PHP, give GetSimple a try. It does not require any database yet still includes most of the nice features you would find in more complex CMS's such as Plugins and Theme templates.

If you plan on creating multiple websites, make sure that your hosting package includes support for multiple domains/subdomains as well as multiple databases. The web hosting packages to especially avoid are those that put a limit on the amount of traffic you can have like GoDaddy's Web Hosting Service. In essence, these folks will turn off your website should there be more than a specified amount of traffic on your website. If that happens half way through the month, you either get to have no website for the rest of the month or pay additional fees to re-enable it. You will also want them to include email accounts, email forwarders (kind of like having email aliases), and FTP access to your files. Be sure that your account includes tons of disk space. Many people estimate the size of their website but forget all the space that one or more backups for instance might requires. Videos and other downloadable files stored on the web server can also take up space very quickly.

A note about GoDaddy: They are great and very popular for Domain hosting, however their Web Hosting service should be avoided under most circumstances. That being said, you can really make things a lot easier and more flexible for yourself by getting your domain with your hosting provider if they have something like cPanel. It allows you to manage your websites, email addresses, domains and sub-domains, redirections, etc. without having to deal with your ISP. On the other hand, getting separate Domain hosting will force you to learn everything you never wanted to know about configuring DNS.

Did You Know? You can have a web server on your computer -- even without Internet!

You can actually install a web server on your personal computer. Server2Go is a piece of software that even allows you to copy files onto a USB memory stick or DVD drive and use web applications. Some people think that a Web Server is a machine. Well, it runs on a machine however a Web Server is actually nothing more than software. What's cool about applications like Server2Go is that they are even portable with nothing to actually install. Just unzip the files and go. It's almost as simple as that.

You can even download fully configured versions of Server2Go that come pre-configured with WordPress called Instant WordPress. While such portable installations are great for development purposes, they are not secure enough to be used on the Internet.

Other alternatives include: