Sites at Gettysburg is a web hosting platform provided for all students, faculty, and staff of Gettysburg College. Everyone in the Gettysburg College community is welcome to create their own web domain (such as myname.sites.gettysburg.edu) and use it to create websites, store files, and host digital projects. Sites uses the Domain of One’s Own platform created and managed by Reclaim Hosting, and your files and website live on their servers.
What Does It Do?
The possibilities are endless! You can create a blog to talk about your research or your personal interests, host a portfolio of your best work to show to potential employers or graduate schools, or build a digital project that combines your own independent research with interactive visualizations.
Some common digital tools used with Sites include:
Why This Tool?
Sites is a powerful tool, because it gives you agency over your own digital presence on the Internet. There are countless free or low-cost web hosting companies available, but you either have to put up with advertisements or pay for the service out of your own pocket. Sites is paid for using student fees, and Reclaim Hosting, the company that provides Sites to the college, has a long track record of providing web hosting to educational partners.
While you are welcome to purchase your own website domain and web hosting service (such as www.myawesomesite.org), your Sites domain will include gettysburg.edu as part of the link, affiliating you with the college. So when you create your own Sites account, all websites you build with it will look something like myname.sites.gettysburg.edu/blog.
When students graduate, you can also pay a small fee to have Reclaim Hosting transfer your Sites account to a version that you pay for yourself, so you won’t lose all your hard work (although it will have a different web address).
While you have quite a bit of control over what you can do with Sites, if you want to create things that don’t use one of the built-in applications (WordPress, Scalar, Omeka, etc.), then you will need to be familiar with how to manage a web server and possibly how to do your own original programming.
Gettysburg College has a few requests when it comes to using Sites:
- Keep all activities legal.
- Follow the honor code for all class-based use of Sites.
- Respect the intellectual property of others, so don’t put materials on Sites that are the copyrighted work of others without their permission or the author has assigned a license to allow you to do so.
- Don’t use Sites to sell goods or services. If you are interested in setting up a website that is intended for sales, you can contact the company that provides Sites directly, Reclaim Hosting, and set up your own personal account.
Another thing to consider is that Sites is a service that Gettysburg College pays another company to host and manage. So while you have control over your Sites account, you rely on Reclaim Hosting to keep things up and running. Audrey Watters wrote a blog post that goes into this a bit, “A Domain of One’s Own in a Post-Ownership Society.” Ultimately, you have to weight the advantages that Sites gives us versus the possible complications of not ultimately owning the infrastructure in which your work resides. However, without Sites and the service that Reclaim Hosting provides, it would be difficult for the college to provide this service to you without their help.
Who owns the materials posted on Sites?
For your own Sites domain, any original creative material that you create and post to Sites is considered your work and is protected under United States copyright law. If you provide materials to a website managed by someone else (such as a class digital project created under a professor’s Sites domain), you should discuss terms of authorship and copyright with the holder of that Sites account.
If you are interested in allowing others to use the materials you post to Sites in different ways, such as sharing and remixing, we recommend that you assign your work a Creative Commons license. These licenses lay out how other people can use your work without asking for permission first while simultaneously retaining your copyright of the work.
What happens to my Sites domain after I graduate or leave the college?
Sites domains for students are maintained until July 1 after graduation; Sites domains for faculty or staff who leave the college are terminated after your last day of work. It is up to you if you want to transfer your Sites account to a personal account, either with Reclaim Hosting or another web hosting provider, or simply let it disappear.
If you used Sites to create a digital project that you think would be valuable for the college to keep running after you leave, email R.C. Miessler, Systems Librarian, to discuss arrangements to have your digital project archived and maintained.
What should I use for my Sites domain name?
Some tips for picking a good domain name are:
- Choose a unique domain name; two users can’t have the same domain name. If you try to pick a domain that someone else has picked, you will get an error.
- Choose a domain name that you would be comfortable putting on a resume or showing to potential graduate schools, so nothing that could potentially be embarrassing.
- Pick a domain name that reflects your digital identity on the Internet, which could include your name, interests, hobbies, etc.
When you pick your Sites domain name, keep in mind that you can have many different websites and projects on your domain. Each of them will have a different directory or subdomain they will live under.
Can I change my Sites domain name?
If you want to switch your Sites domain name from something like blahblahblah.sites.getttysburg.edu to myrealname.sites.gettysburg.edu it might be possible, although it depends on what you’ve done with Sites to this point. Email Sites Support for help.
If you want to get your own custom domain name, so something like www.myawesomesite.org, email Reclaim Hosting’s support for assistance. There will be a small fee to register your custom domain name and set it up so your new custom domain will work with the existing one.
You will need:
- Your Gettysburg College network username and password
- Go to the Sites at Gettysburg homepage
- Click on Dashboard or Get Started
- Enter your Gettysburg College username and password. If a screen comes up that asks about credentials, click Accept.
- You will be asked to Choose your Domain. Whatever you enter into this field will become your Sites domain name. Example: If you enter lincab01 your websites will always include lincab01.sites.gettysburg.edu.
- After entering your domain, press Click to Continue.
- You will be asked to Review and Checkout, press Checkout Now to continue. After a minute or so, you will be taken to the Control Panel, also called the cPanel, where you can start building! You will also receive an email advising that your domain has been created and your Sites account is set up.
An SSL certificate does a few things:
- It encrypts the data that is transferred the Internet, so someone can’t intercept the web traffic between your computer and the website and see what you are viewing or typing. This doesn’t stop the website itself from storing this data, though.
- It verifies the owner of the website, so it provides some protection from a website from impersonating another. The companies that issue SSL certificates verify the owners of websites and confirm that they are who they say they are. However, anyone can pay to get an SSL certificate, so you still have to watch out for fake websites that try to steal your information.
Once you have established an SSL certificate, your domain will have https:// next to it instead of http://. The extra S indicates a secure connection. Normally you pay a company to issue your website an SSL certificate, but Sites provides them free of charge using a service called Let’s Encrypt. By default, Sites sets up an SSL certificate on your primary domain (such as lincab01.sites.gettysburg.edu) when you set it up so that the traffic is encrypted, but it is still good practice to adjust a setting in your cPanel to Force HTTPS on any website – How to force HTTPS.
Creating an SSL Certificate for New Subdomains
If you create additional subdomains (such as blog.lincab01.sites.gettysburg.edu) then you have to add an additional SSL certificate for each new subdomain you create.
Use Installatron to Add Applications
Sites uses a tool called the Installatron to give you one-click installations of popular digital tools such as WordPress instead of having to download the files, adjust the settings, and do all the hard work yourself.
Watch this video to learn how to install WordPress.
Tips for Installing WordPress
Always enter a directory when installing a new WordPress instance. This is case-sensitive as well. For example, if your Site is lincab01.sites.gettysburg.edu and you want to have a WordPress blog, you can enter blog as the Directory. Then, if you want to install a different WordPress for a portfolio, then you could use portfolio as another directory. Then, your links to your different WordPress instances would be:
If you don’t enter a Directory name, then your WordPress instance would just be
- Use lower-case letters for directory names, and dashes (-) if you want to separate words like spaces.
- When setting up your WordPress Administrator account, do not use the same password as your Gettysburg College email/network account! Choose a strong password. You don’t even need to remember it, because if you login to the WordPress Dashboard using Sites, it will bypass the WordPress login screen.
- Keep the update defaults the way they are! This is best for security purposes.
- To get back to your Dashboard for your WordPress site, login to Sites, then go to Applications, My Apps, and then find the WordPress Dashboard you want to log into and click on the link ending in wp-admin.
Organize your Domain with Directories and Subdomains
You have a few options when it comes to how you organize your Sites domain. You can use subdomains, directories, or a combination of both.
A subdomain as part of a website address usually indicates to your users that you have entered a new space. For example, the root domain of all Gettysburg College websites is gettysburg.edu. This means that sites.gettysburg.edu is a subdomain, which makes sense because it’s different from the purpose of the college’s main website. The Sites accounts that you create are a further subdomain, indicating you are entering a new space, so lincab01.sites.gettysburg.edu is another subdomain.
If you were setting up multiple websites on your Sites domain, then if you were using the subdomain organization, the links would look something like this:
A directory as part of a website is identical to the folders you have on your computer, so if you organize your Sites domain by directories, then each website would have its own unique directory, in which you can store files and additional directories.
Does it Matter?
Let’s say you want to build a website that organizes your speeches. There are several speeches you want to include, and each speech has a few pages. Your links would look different depending on what method you choose.
- Subdomain: speeches.lincab01.sites.gettysburg.edu/address/page-1
- Directory: lincab01.sites.gettysburg.edu/speeches/address/page-1
Both of these work identically, and there isn’t any technical difference between how they work. How you organize is up to you. If you want to use subdomains, keep in mind that you will need to create a new subdomain for each website, and also create a new SSL certificate for each subdomain.
Upload Your Own Files to Sites
Applications like WordPress, Omeka, and Scalar include file management systems so you can easily upload files and access them via the applications themselves. However, there may be times when you want to add your own files, such as images for a TimelineJS timeline or a PDF for a resume. By using the File Manager in the Sites cPanel, you can add files and folders easily.
Video: Using File Manager in Sites
Best Practices for Adding Files and Folders in File Manager
- When adding files that you want to be accessible on the Internet, always start in the public_html folder in File Manager. Otherwise, you cannot share a link to the file or folder.
- Develop a hierarchy when adding your own files. For example, if you are adding images, start by creating an images directory, then the project that the images will be used for. Example: lincab01.sites.gettysburg.edu/images/project-1.
- Use lowercase letters when naming files and folders, and don’t use spaces. If you want to separate words in a file or folder name, use a dash ( – ) or underscore ( _ ) instead.
- Name your files and folders something human-readable. A filename such as IMG_01234.jpg is fine on your phone’s camera, but it might be better to rename it to cat-photo-2020.jpg so it is more apparent what it is.
- You can use the File Manager to rename files and folders after uploading them. However, any links to the files or folders with the old name will no longer work.
- If the files or folders you uploaded aren’t showing up right away, click the Reload tab in File Manager.
Instructions for Zipping/Compressing Folders
In order to add a folder of files to sites, you must first zip or compress the folder. Then you will use File Manager to upload the .zip file to Sites, and extract it.