Running Your own Internet Services

One thing some people think about doing in order to try to save money is to run their own web server (or other internet service) instead of purchasing hosting from a provider of that service. There are several problems with doing this as well as some configuration issues to worry about if you do decide to proceed.

First let's consider reasons why you probably shouldn't do this in many instances where it may appear at first to be a good idea. We'll consider web hosting specifically but many of the arguments also apply to other services as well.

When you purchase web hosting you get a lot more than just space on a web server to host your site. For one thing that computer is on all the time so that your site will be available all the time. It has a fast connection to the internet allowing your web pages to be accessed quickly since that is basically what the server is there for. Also there are support staff there all the time so that if anything goes wrong with the computer they will know and can fix it as quickly as possible keeping your down time to a minimum.

If on the other hand you decide to run your own web site from your own computer there are a number of issues. Firstly you need to have a web server installed on your computer (that's the easy part). Now chances are that your internet connection has a much slower upload speed than it does for downloading (the A in ADSL stands for Asynchronous and basically means that the speeds in opposite directions is not the same). Now that is fine for regular web use but where you are hosting your own site you need a fast upload speed for people to be able to access your pages. Even if you have an internet connection that operates at the same speed in both directions it is likely to be much slower than the connection that a hosting provider will have from their data centre. The other thing you don't get with having your own hosting is 24 hour a day monitoring of the computer so as to get any problems fixed as soon as possible.

Now if you are just running a personal web site for a few friends then these issues may not concern you. There are however some other things that need to be considered when setting up to run your own internet services.

For one thing many of the internet plans for home use do not provide you with a fixed IP address. The internet service you are running from your computer needs to be found from the internet and so you either need a plan that does give you a fixed IP address (which will cost more) or you need to sign up for an online service that will keep track of what IP address your internet connection is currently using and will remap your domain to your computer regardless of the IP address that it uses.

Another issue is thatfirewalls generally block incoming requests to your computer or network. If you are running a service that you want to be accessible from the net then you need to open the appropriate ports on your network so that the right type of incoming requests can get in to your system. Where you have a network rather than a single computer you will also need to set up port forwarding in your router so that the incoming requests get directed to the correct computer where your service is running. For web hosting this means that you need to open port 80 in your firewayy (and also port 443 if you are using a security certificate) and set up port forwarding for those ports to the IP address on your local network where the web server is running.

Exactly the same thing applies to any other internet service that you decide you want to host from your own computer instead of frim an appropriate hosting provider on the internet. In each case you need the appropriate service running on your own computer, the appropriate port(s) for that service open in your computer's firewall, port forwarding for those ports set up in your router, and either a static public IP address or an internet based service that associates your domain to your current public IP address automatically.

Overall, the complications that are involved in setting up to run your own services when considered alongside the disadvantages of doing it that way instead of buying hosting means that in the vast majority of cases those who could benefit from running their own hosting will not have the technical expertise to do so while those who do have that expertise will find that the other limitations make it unsuited to their requirements. Hosting your own internet services is something that can be done but which usually is not something that should be done.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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