Do you want to set up your own Web site? Are you a do-it-yourself (DIY) type of person when it comes to computers? If so, you might find setting up your own Web server an interesting weekend or late-night project. Free Web server software and high-speed Internet connections make it more feasible than ever for the average Joe or Jane to host a site from a home or office computer. Sure, you can find monthly rates for third-party Web hosting for less than what you likely spend at a single Starbucks visit, but hosting your own site has its advantages.
What You Can Do
You probably already know the type of site you want to host; however, here are some ideas on what you could do with your own Web server that you may have not yet thought up:
- Create a Web presence for your small-business
- Make a personal site with a blog and photos to keep family and friends up-to-date on happenings
- Set up remote access of your photos, music or documents for yourself, or to share with others
- Create overflow storage when you run out of space on your hosted server
- Earn some extra money by hosting Web sites for individuals, businesses or clubs
Being your own Web host is not for everyone. After seeing what's required you might even think why DIY when hosted services are so inexpensive? One major plus for the DIY route is that hosting your own site could cost you absolutely no money. There are no one-time or setup fees, monthly charges or add-on fees. You'll probably find the biggest investment is your time.
Being your own Web host gives you total control of your server. Some hosted services may not give you the access and control for advanced configuration and functions. Another notable advantage of self hosting is that you can host a virtually unlimited number of Web sites from your single server. Third-party hosted services may not even allow multiple sites, or they will have a three to four site limit.
If you go with a third-party Web host and choose an inexpensive plan, you'll probably be on a shared server and IP address, which can cause problems. I've actually experienced this myself with the previous Web hosting company I used. When I sent messages to e-mail addresses using a certain spam filtering solution, I would get a bounce-back rejection message saying my message could not be delivered. After some investigation, I found the shared e-mail server I was using (provided by my Web host) had been flagged for sending spam messages so many times it was added to the black list of this particular filtering solution. Although I hadn't sent any spam, I was being blocked from sending to these addresses. This would not have been a problem if I was hosting from my own server.
Downsides of Being Your Own Web Host
On the flip side, one major downside of being your own host is that you are also your own technical support team. There will be no 24/7 tech team to help configure the server or answer any other hosting or Web site questions. Plus, you may have to separately install server-side software (e.g., to support PHP, ASP, PERL scripts and applications) and services (such as FrontPage Extensions), where hosted services usually have automatic or automated on-demand installation. Also, take into account that you may have to install and configure your own servers for other services, like e-mail and FTP, in addition to your Web server. However, you can usually find help from the wealth of online discussion boards and informational sites.
Self-hosting all comes down to time, time and time; hosting your own site requires more time than using third-party services. If you want to host a basic Web site, time may not be a huge deal, but it may be if you have a more complex site that uses special sever-side languages or databases.
Finally, bear in mind that the amount of disk space available for your Web server is limited to the amount free space on the hard disks on the computer on which you want to set up the server. The particular Web hosting company I use offers a whopping 750 GB of Web storage for less than $7 a month, whereas my PC's hard disk capacity is only 55 GB.
So be sure you have enough unused disk space to support the size of your Web sites.
By now you should have a better sense of whether self-hosting is for you. In the next installments of this series we'll discuss what hardware, software and services are required and recommended, and we'll take you through installing and configuring Web servers.
We'll also cover the top two servers, Apache and Microsoft IIS, which together make up about 85 percent of all servers on the Internet according to Netcraft. Then, we'll cover configuring your network router and getting your domain name to point to your server.
The best part of becoming your own Web host is that you learn a lot; if you're a computer enthusiast you'll probably have loads of fun.
Eric Geier is the founder and president of Sky-Nets, a Wi-Fi Hotspot Network. He is also the author of many networking and computing books, including Home Networking All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (Wiley 2008) and 100 Things You Need to Know about Microsoft Windows Vista (Que 2007).