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How do I host my own web site at home? Tuesday, September 7, 2004

You can host your own web site at home, and I'll tell you exactly how! But it might not save you much money, and it definitely won't save you time. So give it serious thought before you proceed... unless your goal is simply to learn about the technology and have fun!

The best reason to host your web site at home is to learn how it all works. For more information about the pros and cons, see should I host my own web site?

Warning: running a server of any kind at home is a security risk. Security problems are sometimes found in server software, and these can be exploited to gain access to or damage your files. Your computer must be kept absolutely up to date with Windows Update or the equivalent for your operating system if you intend to run a web server on it. If you choose to run Apache instead of Internet Information Server, you'll need to keep your version of Apache absolutely up to date too. This doesn't eliminate the risk -- it only minimizes it. You run a server at home entirely at your own risk. If you do choose to run a server at home, I recommend finding an old PC on the curb and setting it up as your home server, reducing the danger to your own computer.

Here are the steps to follow to set up a web site hosted entirely on your own Windows PC. First I'll present the general steps, then I'll break down the details for you:

1. Make sure you have cable modem, DSL or another high-speed connection. A dialup telephone modem is NOT good enough.

2. Get a DNS hostname for your home Internet connection.

3. Get a static local IP address for your computer within your home network.

4. Configure your router to correctly forward connections on port 80 (the HTTP port) to your web server. If your ISP blocks port 80, choose an alternative port number and forward that (or get a better ISP that welcomes web sites at home, like Speakeasy.Net).

5. Configure Windows Firewall to allow your web server to communicate on port 80.

6. Get Apache, a free, high-quality web server program. If you have Windows XP Professional, you also have the option of Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), which comes standard with Windows XP Professional. But that option only allows you to host one site. I recommend Apache.

7. Test your web server from your own computer.

8. Replace the default home page with your own web page. Now the site is your own!

9. Test your web server from a computer that is NOT on your home network to make sure you followed all of the steps correctly.

warm regards
Ashwin Kumar

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