A Home Server, Part 2

By Vince Barnes

In the first part of this discussion we covered the first few topics involved in the task of setting up a webserver at home to host your own website.  The assumption for this article is that you have Windows XP Home Edition

This is the list of things that you have to have in place, the first four are covered in part one, the next three are covered here, and the last two are in part three:

Now we continue:

You need a Domain Name.

Although this is not essential, since you could actually use something within somebody else's domain (if they are willing) to point to your computer, we are going to assume that you want your own name.  In case you're not familiar with Domain Names, how they work, and how to get them here are a few extracts and links to help you along:

From the Non-Technical Introduction, "Where Do I Put My Website?":  "If you're going to create a new website, the first thing you'll want is a name. This probably means a domain name. A domain name is one of those names ending with ".com", ".net", ".tv" or any one of those other suffixes. A name like this would give you something like www.yourdomain.name (".name" is one of the available options!) You can register a name at any of dozens of Domain Name Registrars. You can find a list of registrars at www.internic.net and there's also a nice non-technical explanation of the name system there too."

I have used www.DirectNic.com for quite a long time and they offer registration for $15.00, bu there are tons of others out there with even lower prices.  Before you make your decision, however, you might want to read the rest of this article -- you might just be able to make your life a little easier!

From Goodies To Go! #247:  "The purpose of the Domain Name System is to resolve, or translate, a name like www.HTMLGoodies.com into an IP address. Names are much easier to remember than numbers and to most of us they are also more meaningful.

Usually, records are entered into a DNS server computer to indicate the address associated with a name within a domain. For example, when the domain name htmlgoodies.com was registered it was set to point to the Domain Name Server ns1.internet.com (as a primary DNS server.) A record in that server points the name "www" (a "hostname") to the IP address of the web server that houses our website. When you type www.htmlgoodies.com into your browser and hit "go" or "enter", your browser uses the DNS service to obtain the IP address of that server and sends it a request for our home page."

For more about the Domain Name System, see An Introduction To DNS.  I would point out, however that getting deeper into this subject in not essential at this point; it is interesting, though.

You need an IP address to point the Domain Name to.

One of the problems with your home broadband connection is the the ISPs out there don't want you running servers at home.  Their reasoning is that servers potentially consume a lot more bandwidth that a home computer user who is just browsing the web.  Bandwidth equals money.  They switch IP numbers on you at various intervals; the block ports (more on that next.)  They may foil the average human, but they hardly even slow down the intrepid HTML Goodies reader!  Here's another extract from GTG # 247:

"The DNS specifications now include the ability to dynamically add or change these records. All you need is a piece of software that can monitor your IP address and send it to a service that will accept the dynamic update. Where can you get these and how much will it cost you? I knew you'd ask! There a a few answers; here are a couple of the most popular.

Dynamic DNS Network Services, LLC, aka DynDNS.org, provides a free service as well as a premium service. The free service enable you to include up to five (currently) hostnames in one of their forty-three (currently) domain names. They provide links to client software (the part that will run on your computer) for you to obtain a free client for any of the common platforms/operating systems. Their premium service allows you to use your own domain name, and to record more host names. Their service works well even if your computer is behind a router."

I said "a couple of the most popular" but I've extracted only one -- that's because they have everything you need at a great price.  The service they offer that you want is called "Custom DNS" and costs $25 a year.  They also offer Domain Name registration, and give a discount if you get both at the same time.

You need open ports.

Another thing that the ISPs often do is to block TCP Port 80.  Personally, this niggles me to no end.  They call themselves ISPs, which stands for Internet Service Provider, but they're not providing Internet Service.  To me, Internet Service includes everything in the Internet Protocol (IP).  If they block part of it, it's less than Internet Service.  Maybe they should just be called WSPs (Websurfer Service Providers).  But I digress; let's look at our workaround.  Again, extracted from GTG # 247:

"Requests for web pages come in on TCP/IP Port 80. By blocking inbound port 80 requests the ISP intends to prevent you from running a web server behind their connection. While this may work for the average citizen, it is only a minor impediment for a Goodies to Go reader. They simply log into their DDNS provider's site and set up Port Redirection (as Dyndns.org calls it) ..... This way, unknown to the surfer visiting the site, the incoming Port 80 request is forwarded to a different port on your computer (a port which your service provider doesn't block) whose IP address is well known to the DDNS service."

DynDNS.org has detailed instructions here on their website entitled Redirecting Around a Port 80 Block.  In their instructions they also mention requirements that you have to put in place in your router -- we'll talk about that in the final part of this discussion.


(Continued in Part 3)


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