Friday 5 April 2013

Hosting a Web Site on BT Broadband - Web Server

Procuring and setting up a Web Server

Following on from my previous article, Hosting a Web Site at Home on BT Broadband, I'm going to now look at how you could obtain a basic web server relatively inexpensively and set it up so that you can host a (or some) hobby web site from home using your BT Broadband.

If you are going to set up your own server, just be aware that any data transferred from your server to anybody accessing your web site will be included in your monthly bandwidth.  Another thing to be aware of, due to the nature of ADSL (Asymmetric digital subscriber line), is that the upload speed, which is going to be your user's download speed, is slower than your normal download speed.  However, I've viewed my pages from other computers outside of my network many times and the speed of page load never seems to be an issue.

I've had web sites hosted at home for quite a few years now, as I say, not something I recommend for anything serious or for a commercial enterprise, but can be a cheap way to set up you own personal web sites.  Also, with all the hardware and software at home, it means that you can have full access to the server, whereas you may not get this level of access from a hosting provider.  I initially set things up with a very basic specification desktop PC and installed a copy of Windows 2003 Server.  This machine gave up last year, another thing to be aware of if you're hosting something important, so I had to acquire a new machine, reconfigure it, install software and restore the files from a back-up.

My replacement, is still a fairly low spec. desktop PC, but I increased the RAM a bit whilst setting it up.  I got and old DELL Optiplex GX620 SFF with an Intel Pentium 4 processor from Ebay and was fortunate enough to find one with Windows Server 2008 installed.  I won it in an auction for £29.99 + £13.99 for the postage & packaging, so the whole thing including the new RAM cost near enough £60.  I managed to buy my server from a seller that seems to be selling old office equipment including old PCs fairly regularly (linda25setp2007), so it's likely that she'll have other similar items coming up in the future.

A DELL Optiplex GX620 SFF
Once you've got the server up and running from a hardware, operating system and basic config perspective, you need to think of somewhere you can keep it that's out of the way.  This location needs to be accessible,  cool and dry.  Do bear in mind that the server will need to be switched on all the time (24/7/365), so if it's in a room you use often the noise from the fans may be annoying.  I use an area under my stairs.  It's out of the way, but not too difficult to get to if I need to access it for maintenance.  I had a VDU (monitor) attached to it whilst I did the basic installs and set-up up but then I took that away (once the computer was properly installed on my network) and now connect to it remotely using RDC (a Remote Desktop Connection).  However, you could carry on working directly on the computer to make the set-ups and leave the monitor connected at least until you go live or all of the time if you have a spare one.  I'll cover more about how to make the Remote Desktop Connection in the following Blog post about Setting up your Local Network

The important thing, before you consider having you server available to the World Wide Web, is that you are able to serve web pages from it using IIS.  This was covered in my last Blog post (the first in the series) entitled "Hosting a Web Site at Home on BT Broadband".

I have a number of "hobby" sites set up on my web server and I configure these using the IIS 7 (Internet Information Services) Manager that is available on Windows 2008 (...other versions are used on other Windows operating systems).  The web site that I may use to discuss a specific point will be, but I will not be writing about how to carry out much of the configuration in IIS.  I will cover a handful of specific points directly related to hosting your site(s).

Internet Information Services (IIS) 7 Manager
Firstly, once you have you site(s) ready to serve, you need to be mindful that your server is only going to have one (static) ip address within your network and one (dynamic) ip address to the outside world (on the Internet).  To ensure that incoming http requests get to the correct site you will need to configure the "Bindings" to enable each site to use a specific Host Address.  The settings are available from the right hand panel of the IIS Manager and the settings need to be configured like so:

Edit Site Binding - IIS Web Site Configuration
 The 'Type' should be set to 'http', the 'IP address' should be set as 'All Unassigned' and the 'Port' would generally be the standard http port (80).  The "Host Name" should match the Domain Name that you want to use for the web site.  Please note this must be a Domain (or Sub Domain) that you own and have access to the configuration of.  You are going to need to alter the DNS, which will be covered in a later Blog post (IP Addresses and Dynamic DNS), so you will need access to this to make everything work.

Please see my next post about Setting up your Server on your Local Network and all the posts related to Hosting a Web Site on BT Broadband as follows:


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