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How to Host Your Own Server
By Tim Brown
There aren’t many performance benefits from hosting your own server. You aren’t going to save any time, and the money you save will be minimal compared to using a hosting service. Instead, you learn how to host a server for the do-it-yourself experience. Not everyone can do this. However, hosting a server for simple tasks such as sharing photos, music, and video files is not terribly difficult for those willing to give it a shot.
Without this overview turning into a full-fledged how-to tutorial, here are four general steps that will help you set up your own Web hosting server. As each step will have some minor subtleties and variations, consider this more of an advanced high-level guide.
Before you start, there are a few necessities that must be in place. You will need a Windows PC that has been scrubbed clean, including disabling all installed firewall and server software. Make sure the PC has been recently updated with patches and security software, is connected to a broadband Internet connection that is always on, and is installed with a firewall that would make NASA jealous. (Make sure the firewall is disabled for now, though.)
Step One: Install
Because of its popularity and reliability—and because it’s free—it’s best to use the Apache HTTP server. Double and triple check that all firewalls and messaging software has been turned off. Download the Win32 Binary Apache file and install it into the default location. When prompted, enter your personal email address and the domain information for your site. Once the install wizard is finished, open your browser and go to http://local host/.
Step Two: Configure
Open the Apache configuration file with a plain text editor (Notepad is perfect). Change the document root and directory files to point to the files on your computer that you want to make accessible to visitors. Further down, you will see the “Allow Overrides” line; change it from “none” to “all.” Save your work and restart Apache. Check http://localhost/ to see that your files are now available.
Step Three: Secure
Open a command prompt and switch over to the Apache bin. Create a password and store the path in any folder except for the Web server document root. You will then be prompted to enter your new password. Next, you need to create a rule which will apply those credentials to the files you wish to share. Save the new rule in the Web server document root. Go back to http://localhost/ and log in!
Step Four: Access
Congratulations, you did it! (Go back and enable the firewall software.) The true test is to make sure you can get to those files from another computer, though. If you are behind a firewall such as a Wi-Fi router, open up port 80 and forward it to your computer. If you are not behind a firewall, enter your computer’s IP address into the address bar. Either way, you should now be able to access your files.
If this guide has you ready to host your own server, go for it! If you are looking for more information about other hosting options, click here.