Want to experiment with your own home server and happen to have an old computer lying around? Hosting your website is probably not cost effective, but you do it for the experience or challenge. Complete the following checklist to insure that your ready.

Hardware

Most desktops built in the past 5 years should be up to the job, but at least 1GB of ram should be used. If you plan on using a desk-top or some form of GUI, then you should limit yourself to a computer about 2 or 3 years old.

Depending upon your internet connection, a modem and/or router are required. If you have only one computer then a router is not necessary.

You also need to look at your upload and download speeds. (speedtest.net is a good way of testing your speeds). Most home connections have slow upload speeds since home users tend to download more than they upload. Servers are the opposite and need quicker upload speeds to send information.

Software

Download a LAMP package for free. (Linux Apache Mysql Php). I have used Ubuntu and have had success with it, but there are many other distributions out there. You could download each package separately. There are many online sites explaining on how to install the software and even installation videos.

The server will have a text interface or command promt, but you can download a Desktop interface to make some future maintenance easier. Keep in mind that additional software will use up more of your computer resources. It is best to keep things as simple as possible with an old computer to increase its performance. If you do download a desktop, any network managing software must be disabled or uninstalled. You need a static IP address and must set one up for your server and any automatic connections will make server connections difficult. Disable any DHCP settings on your computer.

If you do install a desktop GUI, it can be disabled to improve server performance and temporarily re-enabled for maintenance.

IP and DHCP

IP address or redirect. I have had success with no-ip.com for providing a name to redirect traffic to my particular computer. Download software to update any changes in IP addresses. My router (D-Link) also has built in capabilities for updating address changes. Routers also have firewalls that prevent your computer from acting as a server, but there is a way to allow server access without disabling your firewall protection. Your router should have a DMZ feature which permits one IP address to be firewall free, but protect all other computers. Go to advanced settings on your router and set the DMZ open to the static IP address of your home server. Download any firewall software necessary for your server.

Ready

Your server is now ready for whatever application you desire. If you used the LAMP package, then the message “It Works” should pop up in your browser when you visit your site.

There are several options for websites. You can create a static website on several different free web hosts and download your new creation to your home server. (Place it in the /var/www/ folder)

WordPress or Drupal also offer free software for your home server.