This article will consist of a number of posts linked together to form a guide to home web servers. This section forms the beginning of the guide which will outline the pros and cons of running your own web server along with an idea of the hardware required.
Even in this digital age many people still believe that hosting a website is an expensive thing to do. In reality you can host a somewhat limited website requiring low resources with the occasional down time for a matter of pennies per year; naturally the more reliable and feature rich hosting plans do cost more, that said, I currently pay £12 per month for an unmanaged VPS plan with excellent uptime and reasonable dedicated resources. The costs increase rapidly when you add management on top.
An unmanaged hosting plan is similar to running a home web server in somebody else’s house, in this instance I have full control over the operating system, hosting panel, software, extensions and settings. The server just resides in a data centre with a fast, reliable internet connection, backup power generators and people on hand should a hardware fault arise.
So why would you choose to run your own web server at home:
- It offers a good learning curve, allowing you to understand Linux and the Internet.
- It’s a great gimmick to show off to your friends.
- You have full control, you know every bit of hardware and software that has gone into it.
- Should the server require a hard reset you don’t need to contact tech support and wait for a response, you can simply pull the plug yourself.
- You will never get hacked because of another persons insecure website running on the same server.
- And as it’s such a good point, I’ll mention it again. It’s a great way to learn about Linux and the internet.
What are the downsides to running a home web server:
- If something goes wrong, you are the only person who can put it right. All security updates need to be done by you.
- If you temporarily loose your internet connection or power your website will be offline.
- Your internet connection speed may not be fast enough for the number of viewers. (Typical hosing companies have connections of 100Mbps or even 1Gbps, although this will likely be shared between a number of servers/hosting plans. When checking your connection speed the up-speed is the important one, for example our fibre broadband connection offers a down-speed of 25Mbps and an up-speed of 6Mbps, the servers up-speed is the viewers down-speed.)
- Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) may not allow you to host a public web site on your home network.
- Some computers may not provide an economical alternative in terms of power consumption vs. external hosting fees.
What hardware is required to run a home web server:
- An always on internet connection, such as broadband, cable or fibre.
- Preferably an internet connection with a static IP address, their are ways of configuring domain names with dynamic IP addresses (not currently outlined in this tutorial).
- A computer to use as your web server, this doesn’t need to be an all singing, all dancing power hungry machine. A Pentium III laptop will do nicely, alternatively a single board computer such as a Raspberry Pi will also work.
- A router that allows port forwarding, most modern routers will allow this, sometimes under a game/sharing option.
- An Ethernet cable to connect the computer to the router, you won’t want to use a wireless connection.
As a web server doesn’t actually require a mass of the latest resources unless it’s hosting a site which serves millions of visitors. I would recommend using something small and quiet; computers such as Shuttles, laptops and single board systems will usually work fine. A 4U rack server isn’t recommended for this, I’ve tried it before and it a) Uses a lot of power, b) Sounds like a jet engine in your living room, c) Offered no benefits over lower powered, smaller systems.
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