Hosting a Web Site from Your Home
May 6, 2002 12:00 PM, Tony Northrup
Complete control over your Web site—free!
All you want is a simple presence on the Web—a home page. Hundreds of companies on the Internet can host your site, but each has different space limitations, bandwidth charges, scripting capabilities, and usage reports. In addition, some hosting providers are going bankrupt. Which hosting provider is right for you? The answer might be none of them.
If you have a dedicated Internet connection, you can have a Web site without limitations and without cost. You can have access to almost limitless storage, streaming WebCams, any type of scripting you choose, and customized usage reports. You can have all this functionality by hosting your site from your home PC.
If you want your site to be available 24 * 7, your computer has to be constantly connected to the Internet. Constant connection isn't a problem if you have DSL or a cable modem. These connections offer plenty of bandwidth, and your site might be faster than it was at a cut-rate hosting provider.
Hosting a Web site isn't as hard as you might think. In fact, if you already know how to create a Web site on someone else's Web server, you can have your own Web server running in less than an hour. You need to understand the concepts of self-hosting a home page, including DNS, dynamic IP addressing, Web servers, and security. Free software and services are available, so you won't have to spend a dime.
Before you can set up your Web site, you must understand three basic concepts: DNS, IP addressing, and HTTP. DNS is the system that the Internet uses for name resolution. DNS translates human-friendly names such as www.winnetmag.com into computer-friendly names such as 126.96.36.199. The computer-friendly name is an IP address. Browsers use IP addresses to find Web sites on the Internet. IP addresses consist of four sets of numbers (each ranging from 0 to 255) separated by dots. HTTP is the standard language that browsers use to retrieve information from Web sites. Browsers automatically add http:// to the beginning of a Web site's name when you enter the name in your browser. HTTP is a simple language to understand because it resembles English. For example, when a browser retrieves a file from a Web site, the browser literally sends the message "get filename."
Here's an analogy to explain these concepts. If you're going to call a friend, you start by looking up that friend's name in your address book. The address book provides the friend's phone number based on his or her name. The address book is similar to DNS, and the phone number is similar to an IP address; DNS provides the Web site's IP address based on the site's name. When your friend answers the phone, you speak a common language—for example, English. For browsers and Web sites, the common language is HTTP.
Web sites have a name that's registered within the Internet's DNS system, an IP address, and the ability to communicate by using HTTP. If you have an always-on Internet connection, you already have an IP address. The other two components are easy to obtain.
Installing Your Web Server SoftwareYou might already be running a Web server without even knowing it. To find out, log on to your PC at home, then choose Start, Run. Type
at the Open prompt. Your browser will open. If your browser shows a Web page, you're already serving pages and your job will be that much simpler. If your browser shows an error message, you don't yet have Web server software running. So, let's get your Web server installed.
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