We often get questions from customers if it’s possible to set up their own web server. The quick answer is yes — you can run a home server using an old computer and connecting it to your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
But, how successful your home server set up is, depends on its purpose and how fast and reliable your Internet connection is. Also, you need to have the patience to learn how to host your own home server, as the learning curve can be pretty steep.
This article will explain why and give you a rundown on the important factors to consider before running a home server for web hosting.
Why have a home server?
There are several reasons to set up a server at home. One of it is so that you can host your own website (bad idea — read on to find out why).
Here are some common reasons to set up a home server:
- File cloud server — to store and access your files on the Internet (cheaper than Dropbox)
- Back up server — to backup devices
- Download server — to download and manage torrents
- Home media sever — to stream TV shows and movies
- Gaming server — to host your own multi-player games (e.g. Minecraft)
- Web server — to host your website
Now, here are some factors to consider when setting up a home server for web hosting purposes. We’ll also explain the drawbacks and benefits.
Cost vs Benefit: Running a Home Server (for web hosting)
Benefit: The biggest benefit to running your own server at home is control. You get to upload whatever content you want, without caring about the terms of service of a commercial web hosting company.
Cost: What you can host on your home server still has to comply with the laws of your country. Illegal content and operations have dire consequences.
Benefit: You can turn any old computer into web servers with the least amount of effort. You may already have the right machine at home that you don’t use anymore, or you could get one from a friend who’s getting rid of their old computer. You can even exchange or buy cheap computers at your local classified ads similar to Craigslist. Each one has its own advantages, so find out which one works well for you.
Cost: Google runs on thousands of powerful servers to power billions of searches every day. Home servers do not have this capacity. In fact, it uses significantly less horsepower than advanced computers. This is especially true if you don’t have a graphical interface to think about.
So, it’s possible to run a small local website using a low-power system; any machine can handle that. But if you’re hosting a popular website, you need to set it up with a reliable server with powerful hard drives.
Benefit: You can build a web server using Microsoft Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. If you a have a spare Mac with a Mac OS X 10.3 or the latest update, then it should already have an Apache on its hard drive.
Cost: Due to security threats and possible downtime risks, it’s not a great idea to use your work PC as your home server.
Benefit: Home servers work fine for local websites with low-visitor traffic.
Cost: The real problem happens when 20 or more people access the same site, at the same time.
Also, while most countries nowadays have faster broadband Internet connections, transferring gigabytes worth of files will take time. Hence, the server will use up more bandwidth, which can eventually slow down your Internet connection.
Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Cost: Your ISP connects your website to the Internet. If you are already dealing with tons of issues from your ISP (e.g. slow and intermittent connection, poor technical support, data capping), hosting your website at home would be a terrible idea. Imagine having a website that’s only online half the time or is too slow to access.
To add on, some ISPs do not allow users to run their own web servers at home. Make sure to check with your local ISP if such arrangement is allowed or not.
- Keep in mind that your home broadband service may not have the same level of reliability compared to a professional web hosting provider. When there are power and broadband connection failures, your website will also go offline until the power or broadband service is resumed.
- When the hard drive is busted and you didn’t back up your files, chances are, those files will be wiped out permanently.
- Another possible issue that you might possibly have to deal with are natural disasters, fire, theft, electrical power surges that can damage the hardware, and accidents caused by kids at home. If you’re storing a huge volume of valuable files, it’s best to get your data backup offsite.
- Also, server need to be maintained from time to time. This includes security patches, software upgrades, and more.
Cost: Running a home server for the entire month will definitely cost money. While the cost of an old computer is negligible, use of electricity round-the-clock costs money. If you know your computer’s specs, you might want to check on the web how much its average power consumption.
Maintenance cost is also another thing to consider. Like any computer, your home server can break down at any time. If that happens, you can either have it fixed in a service shop or buy new hardware. The hassle spent having it fixed in a service shop will lead to an extended downtime period and, of course, money down the drain.
A professional web hosting provider can do all web server functions more reliably and cheaper than if you were to run a server on your own.
Cost: If you want to host your website from a home server, it is ideal to have a static IP address–not those that changes whenever you renew subscription of your Internet connection. Reconfiguring your domain name because of the IP changes can be a headache.
Cost: Since your home server need to be on 24/7 (otherwise visitors won’t be able to access your website), the heat it generates is considerable. You’ll need cooling fans, which will make noise round the clock.
All in all, you shouldn’t be running a server at home to host your own website. In terms of cost and effort, it’d make more sense to host your website with a commercial web hosting company.
Takeaway: Home server for web hosting? Bad idea in most cases.
Hosting your website on a home server can be done if you know what you’re actually doing. And, you’ll need to weigh the cost and benefit of doing so.
But if you have to spend considerable time learning and buying new equipment, maintaining the servers, and paying for increased electricity bills, perhaps you need to assess if all this is worth the trouble.
Most growing businesses would rather rent web servers from professional web hosts on a monthly or yearly basis because they find that it much cheaper to do so.
Remember, a low-cost web hosting service has all the features that can deliver web content faster to their customers. It saves you the trouble of having to operate and manage power interruptions and other issues yourself.
If you decide to get your site hosted by a web hosting provider, then we suggest you read this article which is a chockful of information you need before you can decide to outsource your web hosting: Different Types of Web Hosting Plan.