There is no doubt that many hosting companies offer attractive and affordable hosting packages. On top of promising great and quality services, they often cost between $5 and $10/month – a cost many of us can easily afford. However, what happens when you’re not yet ready to invest in a professional hosting plan and you just want to learn and understand how websites work? In such cases, it is possible to host a very simple website yourself, avoiding the cost of a hosting package. It gives you complete control over your website’s files and you will get a hands-on experience not only in how websites work but also in how web servers work.
While hosting your own site is possible, it’s no piece of cake. Thus, you must be equipped with both knowledge and skills, not to mention the right amount of passion and patience to get things set up and working properly. To help you have a good start in hosting your site, we prepared a list of things that you need to know before you even start.
1. Assess Your Website’s Needs
Each website owner has their required hosting requirements. Before you even consider hosting your own site, you must understand the needs first.
- If you only plan to host one website for the purposes of learning web development or sharing it only with a few family members or friends, then hosting that website at home is possible. If you plan on hosting several websites or a business website, then getting a professional hosting plan is highly recommended.
- How much bandwidth do you need?
- Will you want a domain name for your website and if yes, do you want a regular or a premium domain name?
- Do you require a lot of email accounts?
- What type of website will you build? A simple static website can get by with nothing more than HTML and CSS but a dynamic website will probably be better off using PHP and a database such as MySQL.
These things are the easy part; the next part is where the real test of your skills begins. Most people who host their own site have some background knowledge in web technologies, but that does not mean ordinary people cannot do the same. You just have to know the crucial processes on how to host your site at home.
2. Build Your Web Server
To host your site, you have to have a web server, a computer, and an Internet connection. If you have a functional personal computer at home, you can use it to turn it into a computer server. You should also download software such as WAMP which stands for Windows, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. Essentially, this will make up your web server and allow your website to be accessible over the Internet.
Without it, people who search for your website in their browser won’t be able to access and view your site. The web server is responsible for the connection that allows people to access any website through their browser.
What are the benefits of having my own web server at home?
Aside from saving on the cost of hosting, you can also access, share, and download files from your home server to any device (with a password, of course) anywhere, anytime.
Is there any risk that I should know about?
Bear in mind that hosting your own site means attracting attackers to your computer, thus, putting your personal files at risk of being stolen. You must ensure that your computer has solid and reliable security to protect against any attacker. Knowing how to secure your computer and protecting your files is crucial before converting it into a web server.
Also, be sure that your ISP allows public hosting through their network. Some of them outright forbid it, while others require you to upgrade to a Business plan or better.
3. Point Your Domain Name to Your Home Server
Another thing to keep in mind is your website’s domain name. With a third-party web host, the service provider will ask for your domain name so that they can point it to their server. If you don’t own a domain yet, most web hosting companies will help you purchase one.
However, in the case of a home server, you have no third party to connect your domain name to your website. Thus, you will have to learn how to do it yourself. It usually includes knowing your server’s IP address, editing your domain’s A record, and forwarding your router’s port. So, before you get started with hosting your own site, you must familiarize yourself with domain management first.
What do I point my domain to from my home server?
You need to have a DNS server. It is a database of IP addresses and domain names that is constantly updated. There are a lot of these services available online like FreeDNS and DNS4.Pro. You need to scout for a reliable DNS provider to ensure that your website runs 24/7. Some website owners opt to have a primary provider for regular use and a secondary provider for emergencies or when the primary one encounters any trouble.
Is it safe to point my domain name to my home IP address?
Generally speaking, it is safe to do so. The real danger of pointing your domain name to your home server is the possibility of an outsider accessing your home network where all your personal and important data is stored. However, as long as you keep your guard up, there is nothing critical you should worry about.
4. Learn How to Access a Server Behind Your Router’s Firewall
The firewall is built to protect your computer from attackers who want to control it over the internet. If you want to let other people access your data from your server, you need to lift your computer’s firewall. This will make your server completely vulnerable.
If you want to keep your server’s security while allowing outside access, you must learn how to access your home server behind your router’s firewall. This can be done by opening certain ports on your router that have a built-in firewall. It can be a tricky task and require a lot of patience.
These are just a few of the important things to keep in mind before hosting your own site. While self-hosting your site is a rather easy undertaking for some, it can be quite a challenge and a stressful experience for others, especially if you do not know where to start. Do your research and keep in mind the things mentioned above. They should give you a basic idea of what all is needed for hosting your own website at home.
Do you know of other useful information and tips that would be good to know before venturing to host a website at home? Feel free to share your opinions and thoughts below!