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-Web site designers FAQ

Website Hosting

Hosting Your Own Sites by Wullie
Posted: 13 Jun 03 (Edited 31 Jul 03)

So you want to start hosting your own servers but are not sure whats involved? Read on and find out.

I've got a lot of respect for anyone that wants to take on the challenge of hosting their own servers, it is a difficult task to start with but becomes simple as you get more knowledgable and you also learn a great deal while doing it.

First, work out if it is worthwhile doing it yourself or if you would be better using an external host.

Many people think there is a high cost involved with hosting a few websites, they are wrong and read on to find out why.

To start hosting, take the following set-up:

Internet Connection
Backup Drive

PC - I personally would advise having at least the following specs if you plan on running a dedicated machine:

Processor: 600Mhz
Memory: 256 RAM
Disk Space: Whatever you need.
Connection: At the very least 512k (This is a minimum, basically the faster the better)
Even though this is what I would recommend, I know of people that run servers off old machines that don't even nearly match the above specs.

Disk Space - Disk space totally depends on what you will use. If you only have a few small sites that take up about 2 meg of space then even a 20 gig drive is overkill.

Backup Drive - Make sure you have some sort of tape backup and use it regularly. If you don't have a tape drive, burn a copy of the files onto CD every day or two.

Also, every week or so take a copy (whether tape or CD) and store it off-site. The last thing you want is a fire to take out your system and the backups.

If you don't have a backup device, a cheap way to do this is to get a freind to set-up an FTP server and then you can configure automatic backups to be uploaded to the FTP server at certain intervals.

So far, you are paying no extra than you would be already with your current computer that you are using just now.

Power - Pretty self explanitory, you should hopefully have this already. The power needs to be on 24 hours to the server, but a lot of people keep theur PC on anyway. If not then you would be paying a little more for power to this, but still less than hosting elsewhere.

UPS - A UPS is a battery backup that kicks in and supplies power in the event of a power failure. Get a UPS that has power surge capabilites as a power spike could damage your machine and any other equipment you have. You can buy a decent UPS from a site like EBay for about ú50, some are ever cheaper.

DNS - At first, don't try to host your own DNS servers, use an external company to it. When you understand all that is involved with this, you can decide whether you want to keep using the external company or do it yourself.

I recommend www.zoneedit.com

Using Zoneedit, the first 5 sites are free, so if you have less than 5 sites then you don't pay anything for DNS unless you want backup mail servers etc and even then you pay about ú20 per year total for backup mail servers for about 10 sites.

If you want to cut costs with backup mail servers, you get someone else who is hosting and do a swap. You create a secondary MX record to their mail server and they make one to yours. When your servers go down, any e-mail is queued in their server until your server comes back online. This is very easy to set-up.

If you have a dynamic IP address, then you will need an extra program installed onto your machine that updates your IP with the DNS servers everytime it changes. You can still use Zoneedit or you could go with www.dyndns.org

The savings start showing when you want to change the default config for the server or add a new language etc.

Consider the following:

How many of the external hosts allow you to change the httpd.conf file if you need to?

How many of them allow you to install new languages?

How many of them allow you unlimited tables in the database? (True unlimited, not just them saying it)

How many of them don't have functions disabled in any language?

How many of them install any modules that you need without question?

Lets say you want to change the location of Perl, or install PHP as a module instead of a CGI or vice-versa, can you do this?

If any of the hosts allow you to do this, what is the cost involved? Hosting on your own involves none of these costs.

The true cost involved with hosting your own servers is the time you put into it.

To start with you spend some time learning all about it and then after this, you can make changes in no time at all.

Ok, now you have the machine set-up you need to install the servers onto the machine,
If you want step by step instuctions for setting up Apache, Perl, PHP & MySQL then check out the following FAQ in the Apache forum.


If you want to start hosting, do not download a bundled package. Download each individual package and install them yourself. This takes longer, but you learn how to debug problems and this is one skill you will need.

I see many problems posted in the Apache forum from people who have installed the bundles and they would know how to fix it if they had installed them seperately.

Start off using the server locally, or put it live if it is on a dedicated machine but make sure there is no sensitive information on it. Set-up a test domain for you to get to grips with the config. Start changing things to see what they do and if they break, just reverse the changes that you made.

Next you will need an FTP server and a mail server, both of these can be found easily around the net and prices vary from free to very expensive, depending on the features that you require. Start looking for these at www.download.com Until you know what you are doing, do not run an anonymous FTP server.

Security - Make sure that you only install languages and programs that you need. If you don't need something, don't install it, you are just opening another possible method of attack. Get a decent firewall (Zonealarm is one) and a decent anti-virus. (Go for a corporate version made for servers)

If you do decide to go with Apache, if you have any problems that you cannot solve yourself, post them in the Apache forum Forum65 and one of us will help you through it.
Contrary to popular belief, running a server does not take loads of your time, unless you start hosting a high number of people and then you would have the money to show for it, so it becomes a job and not a hobby anymore.

Take the time to set-up monitors on the server that automatically reboot in the event of a serious problem, or restart the service if the problem is less severe. After you get your servers up and running you can basically leave the server and not touch it.

If you stick with your own sites, you don't need to worry about someone uploading a script that is going to take the server down etc and can walk away knowing that the servers are running fine. You can set-up external monitors to e-mail you, send a message to your mobile phone, pager etc so you know as soon as they go down and can fix it.

With an external host, you pay for extra disk space and they charge you extra per month or whatever. When you host yourself and choose to add extra disk space, that disk space is yours for life, not just as long as you keep paying for it. You could probably buy a 80gig hard drive for the annual price a host will charge you to add 1 gig to your account.

Overall, it can be cheaper to host your own sites. People that say it is expensive are totally wrong as each case is different.

Thank you to Newposter, Genimuse, ChrisHirst & Cian for their input.

Hope this helps



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