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How to build your own website at home

Monday, February 18, 2008 in Technical Articles (Views: 3052)
I've been owing this document to someoene I work with on how to create your own website from home. So here is the secret behind StevensNet.com (somewhat), and how we run our website for next to nothing (we pay less than $100 a year for everything (excluding DSL), domain name, DNS, Mail, SSL, etc)

First of all, my disclaimer. If your site is absolutely, undeniably mission critical, you better be sure you have a rock solid connection at home, and that a failover plan is in place.

Having your own website at home is a great thing. Not only do you lose the chains of what a web hosting company will do to you, you have complete control. What OS will you run? What webserver will you use? How much space do you want? Running Sharepoint? You can mod your own site to death, all within your control. Beware: You are still responsible for your own actions. Keep good backups... :)

I'm not going into the details of how to set up every little thing, there's google, and your documentation for that.

Here is an overview of what you need (complete with further details below):

1. An internet connection (preferrably high speed), duh... :)

2. Test whatever ports you want to connect with HTTP (80), HTTPS (443), SMTP (25), etc and make sure they are working.

Note: Some ISP's block port 25, but you can have that port mapped to an alternate port.

3. If your address is assigned via DHCP, you will need to have a dynamic DNS host. I recommend no-ip.com, I've had them for years, and have been stable for me.

4. Of course, a web server, mail server, whatever is supposed to answer up on your end.

5. A good firewall that can block a lot of traffic

6. Your own security software

7. Your own domain name.

8. SSL Certs for sensitive things

Further explanations:

1. An internet connection

If you need more help here, stop reading the article and trying to be a techie.

2. Port testing

You can set up Windows XP to do a simple relay to a web server, or just to make sure your ports are answering - good old Telnet is good for that too...

3. DNS Direction

No-IP offers several services that can make life a lot more bearable for you. We use them for DNS for our website, but also they provide MX records and backup MX for us. So if our DSL connection is down for a couple of days which Verizon is known to do, then they have our mail at least.

I can't speak for other companies, but No-IP offers an application you can download that will automatically update their servers with your information. Some routers can actually be pre-configured to work with services like No-IP or DynDNS.

They offer more services, such as failover for your website, in case something goes wrong. Personally, we don't use this, because if my blogs can't be seen, or if the gas prices aren't updated once, the world as we know it won't cease to exist.

For testing, NO-IP will let you have a DNS entry for free, but not under your own domain name.

4. Web Server

Take your pick as to what you want to use. We use Windows Server 2003, IIS 6, ASP.NET 2.0, and Exchange 2007 as our main apps for now. Just test as in point #2.

5. Good firewall

You will be hacked at, and a lot. You could forego the firewall and put up something like ISA server to trap the traffic that could be anything from bots looking for e-mail addresses, to viruii (or viruses), to hack attempts on SQL Servers, or anything else out there. But if you're not wanting any security headaches, don't set up your own server.

Also if you aren't sure what you are doing, and are sure about security, don't set up a site with anything sensitive connected to it.

Make sure you only leave open the ports you WANT traffic through, and close the rest.

6. Your own security software

I already mentioned ISA. But also how will you filter spam? Bad messages, hack attempts?

Again, if you don't want security headaches, don't mess with your own server.

7. Your own domain name

Not a necessity, but definately nice to have for that professional "I look like I paid a ton of money" look.

8. SSL Certs

If you have a login page, webmail, or send/receive any sensitive data, you can either build your own CA, or get a SSL cert from a trusted third party. SSL certs can be expensive, but we got ours at GoDaddy.com for $14.95 a year (they may be $19.95 now).

We use a mix of our own CA and a trusted third party. If you use your own CA, you will run into messages about your CA not being trusted to outside people. Just a headache I didn't want to answer to. :)

So there you have it

A home website in a few steps. Testing before you buy into it is the key here. Don't just assume something works because your ISP says so.

 

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