Is it worth hosting a website at home?
Is it worth hosting a website at home?
Thursday 3 February 2011 12.38 GMT First published on Thursday 3 February 2011 12.38 GMT
I run three specialist websites with small hit rates – some tens a day. Is it a practical idea for me to run an internet server from my home office with broadband on a telephone line? I mostly work on an iMac.
It’s possible to run a website from home, but it may not be worth the effort. You might want to try it if you are keen to learn how to do it, or you are planning to go into a web-related business. You probably should not do it if you don’t have the time to spare or think you are going to save a lot of money.
Professional web hosts can run a hosting service cheaper than you can, serve pages faster, and do it more reliably. I don’t know how much you are paying now, but I’d guess your sites would run under Heart Internet’s Starter Pro deal at £2.49 a month. (I don’t know this company personally, but it scored well in PC Pro magazine’s reader survey of web hosts .) You could also look at Zen Internet. 1 1. and Eukwebhost. Some internet service providers (ISPs) also offer free web space with some deals.
Home and hobby sites are generally cheaper to host than business sites, so you could see if one of the hosts will accept any of yours as hobby sites.
If you plan to host a website from your home office then ideally you should have a static (or fixed) IP address, not one that changes whenever you renew your internet connection. Also, running a website may be against the terms and conditions of your current ISP, so you may have to find a new one. Switching to a proper business service with a static IP address may cost you more than you will save on hosting. However, a Broadband Choices guide, Get a static IP address. says: “Some broadband providers offer a free static IP address on selected packages, like BE Broadband Pro package and O2 Broadband’s The Works package.
Bear in mind that you will not get the same level of reliability from a home broadband service as you would from a professional web hosting company. Your connection will probably fail from time to time, and when it does, your websites will be offline.
One of the main problems with ADSL broadband is indicated by the A in its name: it’s asymmetrical. In other words, the upload speed is much lower than the download speed. You may get downloads at 10Mbps, for example, and uploads at 1Mbps or less. This should not be a problem if your sites have low hit-rates, but it could well be a problem for a popular site. Either way, you will have to cope with the peak traffic load, not the average daily rate.
You will also need a web server, which means running web server software such as Apache on a spare PC or Mac. I would rather you didn’t use your work PC as a web server because of the security threat, and because of the risk of downtime. (If your iMac crashes or needs to be restarted for some reason, your websites go offline.) It’s perfectly possible to run a small website from a low-power system, and any ordinary PC should handle yours, but someone with a popular site ought to set up a proper server with fast hard drives.
You can set up a web server using a Mac, Linux, or Microsoft Windows. If you have a spare Mac with Mac OS X 10.3 or later, then it already has Apache on the hard drive. Mac Instruct has an introductory page, How to Turn Your Mac Into a Web Server. However, this won’t get you very far, especially if any of your sites needs PHP, MySQL or other software. Wesley’s Tool-Box has more information in a five-part series, Use Mac as a Web Server. This covers the “port forwarding” that you will need to set up on your router.
No doubt configuring a web host is easy if you know what you are doing. If you are learning everything from scratch, it can be a struggle to get everything right.
Finally, as well as any initial purchase price, your home server will use some electricity. If you know your machine, you can look up the power consumption on the web. It could be up to 365W for a 27in iMac going full blast, but a more reasonable assumption is 100W. If so, check your electricity bill or price list and add 876 units per year.
I suspect that your best bet is to move to a cheaper web hosting service. If this is what you decide to do, read Best practices when moving your site at the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog. The last thing you want to do is to damage your sites’ rankings in Google or lose your indexing.