Hosting Your Own Web Server - The Follow-Up Published: Oct 25, 2011
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While using a web hosting company can take a lot of the headache out of running your own website, you may be one of the many people who would prefer the control, security and configurability of hosting your own web server. Hosting a web server is by no means a simple task. It takes a lot of time, dedication and technical knowledge. However, once you have got it set up and running, the maintenance becomes routine after a while.

When writing this article we wanted to see if anything big had happened since we last wrote an article about the topic. They hadn't. Not really. Below is the situation as it looks today and in this article you can read about how it was in 2006 - not that different, right?

Benefits of Hosting a Web Server

Although it is a lot of work to host a web server, it does have its benefits. First, you don’t have to worry about limitations set by your web hosting company. You can host as many websites as you want. You can even sell or give away some of your server space to host websites for others. You also eliminate monthly hosting fees, but you will incur additional fees for a web hosting or business account from your ISP.

One of the greatest benefits of hosting your own web server is the freedom and security it affords. You no longer have to worry about being on a server with someone else that is going to pose a risk or hog up all of the server’s resources. You will also have much more control over your bandwidth usage.

Choosing a Server

Choosing a server can be one of the most difficult tasks in the process. If you just need a low-end server for some personal web sites, you can easily convert a desktop tower PC, but it will have to be dedicated as a server. Buying a pre-assembled server is more expensive, but the hardware will already be configured. You can buy an inexpensive server for $500 to $1000. However, if you want a professional business server, you can expect to pay $2,000 to $9,000.

No matter which server you choose, it should meet a few minimum specs. You will want a 64-bit dual-core processor operating at 2.0 GHz or higher. If you want more processing power, systems employing two quad-core processors, for a total of 8 cores, are not uncommon.

You will also want to have at least 4 GB DDR3 RAM, but 8 GB to 16 GB will give you a little boost. RAM is so cheap nowadays that it does not cost much to max out your server with memory.

Hard disk space will vary depending on the type of web sites you will be hosting. If you going to be hosting a lot of large files or video, starting out with 2 TB of space will be your best bet. You can always add more, if required. If you do not plan to host any large files, you may be able to get away with a hard drive as small as 320 GB.

Besides your server, you will also require some sort of backup device and an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to take care of minor power outages. Your electrical backup system is very important because if your server turns off for any reason, your websites all go down with it. Tape systems work well as cheap data backup devices, and the tapes can be taken offsite for safety. However, external hard drives are becoming increasingly popular.

Choosing Server Software

The next major concern after purchasing your hardware is which software you will be running. You will have to start by choosing an operating system. Most web servers run either a Microsoft or Linux operating system, and both have their strengths and weaknesses. A Windows 2003 server is popular and a good choice if you are familiar with Microsoft, but it will cost a little more than a Linux server.

Over half of the servers operating today run some variant of Linux. Popular Linux distributions include Ubuntu, RedHat, Debian, and Slackware. If you do not know very much about Linux, you can get up to speed through any of several excellent online tutorials.

After you choose your operating system, it is time to choose your server software. Many Linux distributions come packaged with their own server software. Ubuntu Server Edition and Debian are both good examples. These software packages can work with most any server for most any purpose.

One of the most popular server software packages is Apache. This open-source server software works with most operating systems, and it is extremely reliable. If you are using Windows, you may also want to consider Windows Home Server, which has recently been made available for sale separately from pre-configured Windows servers.

Choosing an ISP

You have several choices concerning which ISP to use for your web server. In most cases, your local telecommunications companies will have you covered, no matter what speeds you require. You should be aware, though, that DSL Internet service is practically dead. You do not want to choose DSL for a server because upload speeds are usually atrocious, and you can get much more for the same price.

Two popular choices for Internet service is cable Internet and fiber optic Internet. Companies offering these services usually have business service available that are fast and reliable. Many ISPs catering to businesses still offer T-carrier service. T-carrier service has great uptime statistics and speeds but has a higher price tag.

Location, Location, Location

Locating your server also takes some thought. You will preferably want to keep it in a room free of carpeting because static electricity does not go well with computers. The room should also be cool and free of humidity. It is recommended that your server sit at least 4 inches off the ground in case of minor flooding.

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