Many of my customers who are not that tech-savvy ask me: “Can I host my website with my own computer?” and the short answer is yes, but it is a daunting endeavor that has some steep requirements.
I am sure for many of us, hosting your own website maybe an entertaining project from an enthusiast point-of-view. For students, it is surely an educational experience, but for most professionals is a very unappealing solution for web hosting.
What would you need to host your own website?
When talking about web hosting, a few different requirements must be met for your self-hosted website to operate with a top-level domain you purchased.
First, your home or office will need a static IP (internet address) which is an extra paid service with the majority of the internet provides. The fact is, static IP monthly price may cost you just as much as an average 3rd party web hosting plan, meaning many of you will stop reading now, but please let me provide additional information.
A PC computer should be used as a dedicated server, with adequate server OS of your choice (Linux or Windows) and support included for Apache, PHP, and MariaDB (formerly known as MySQL).
Also, cPanel would be a handsome solution for hosting but it has transitioned from free to paid software, so I will not discuss any of these software platform installations now, as they alone would require a separate article.
Bear in mind that this PC should be running 24/7, connected online so that your website is always visible and ready for visitors. A small company or personal website may not need a workstation for this task, but the key feature here is reliability.
Because PC parts tend to fail due to overuse you will have to buy an above quality PC for this task. Some alternatives can include specific SFF (small form factor) computers that can fill this role for an undemanding website, more on that later.
You may have noticed by now that the software and hardware needed may cost a pretty penny.
Let us discuss the pros and cons of self-hosting your website
Yes, this endeavor is not cheap, and this is the main reason against unless you already have enough spare hardware to build a PC for this task and a static IP.
One other major reason against this endeavor is the time and effort you will need to invest in building the PC, setting up all of the software, and maintaining it after the website is online because the work does not stop there.
You will be responsible for having your website online and running smoothly, and if it is not, then you will have to troubleshoot any issues with your website because you are a web host.
On the other hand, one of the main reasons why you would want to do this is to try and provide optimal performance for your website – by having it on a computer that does not do much else than server the website, and by providing modern hardware such as SSD or NVMe storage, and multi-core CPU.
This learning experience can lead to knowledge that could land you a job with a hosting provider, meaning you may want to do this solely for educational purposes.
Alternative hardware for home-made web server
Above where we discussed some of the requirements I have already mentioned that your home server may use Linux such as Ubuntu, as it is an open-source OS and is free as such.
Using such software can also lead to alternate hardware choice, especially if your website hosting project is not intended for any kind of high-traffic, as you expect only a few visitors to be on your website concurrently.
I would imagine not many of you have heard of the Raspberry Pi or ARM processors, but this kind of microprocessors are part of your every-day devices like smartphones, network routers, intelligent machines … etc.
By using a Raspberry Pi as your web server you will require only a memory card with your website files, a network connection, a monitor with HDMI, USB keyboard and mouse (and a flash drive with Ubuntu for Raspberry Pi).
The easy way to go about this, once Ubuntu is set up, is to install the LAMP Web Server stack as it contains all of the previously mentioned software.
The main downside of such a “low cost” web host is that the performance is relatively limited because this kind of ultra-low-power computer is not built for performance.
Is setting up your home or work webserver worth the trouble?
Depending on your ISP you may have an issue with hosting your own website as some internet providers may deem it a breach of contract, and get you in trouble. Ideally, you should check with your ISP before continuing with your project.
From our point of view, setting up and maintaining a web server is a task that can take a considerable amount of your time while you will be saving only a few dollars per month for hosting service, but it will incur other expenses such as static IP, software and hardware maintenance.
The final answer is it worth the trouble can only be given by you, as you know the value it may or may not provide.