How to Host Your Own Website!
In the following article I am going to show you how to host a website from your own computer. Why would you want to do this you might ask? Well for one, it’s free. It’s also great for hosting small web sites or sharing large files with friends. I’ve hosted my own website and it can be a neat little learning experience too. Just follow the simple steps below and you will have your own web server up and running in no time.
The way to host your website, or rather one of the easiest ways to do it, is to use free software that sets things up for you to help you get started in much shorter time. There are two main components for any website: the first part is the file server and the files that are ‘served up’ to browsers that visit your website (that is, the content) and the second part is the domain name which is the computer’s address (IP address) which needs to be unique and an analogy is it’s a bit like a postal address so we know where to find you (the important point is that is a unique address). Browsers on other computers need a way to locate the address and this is done using a Domain Name Server or DNS. As I wrote above there are many uses for hosting your own website site. However, if you are planning on running a web site with high traffic I would not recommend this. See further below for advice on building a high traffic website.
Step 1: Download free hosting file server software
The first thing you need is to get the hosting software (it’s free). Go to http://www.snapfiles.com/get/hfs.html and download HFS (which stands for Http File Server).
Step 2: Run and install HTTP File Server Software
Double-click the hfs.exe file that you downloaded. If you have Windows Firewall enabled you will be prompted with a security warning. Click “Unblock” to allow HFS to pass through the firewall.
Step 3: Check and Configure your port if necessary
This is the tricky part. The default port that HFS uses is port 80. If your ISP blocks port 80 then you will need to change it to something else. To change it you must turn HFS off. You can do so by clicking the “On” button in the upper left corner. When you are done, turn it back on. If you are behind a router or firewall then you will have to set up port forwarding. If you need help with this go to http://www.portforward.com/. Here you can choose the type of router you have and then choose the program you want to set up port forwarding for such as Http File Server-HFS. It will walk you through the exact steps to set up forwarding.
Step 4: Test your website settings
Now you can test your settings to see if they work. Go to the menu and click “Self Test”. If it is successful then your settings are correct. You should now be able to point your web browser to your IP address to see files or pages you are sharing.
Step 5: Set up your Domain Name Server
Now I’m going to tell you how to assign a domain name for your web site. Since you don’t have a DNS server running on your computer, you will need to get DNS service from somewhere else. To do this, we are going to use a service called DynDNS. DynDNS offers a variety of subdomain names to use for free for your website. Go to https://www.dyndns.com/account/entrance/ to create a DynDNS account. Login with the account you have created and click on the services button. If you have a dynamic IP address that changes, click on “Dynamic DNS” and then “Add Dynamic DNS”. Choose a subdomain and domain name. Then add the host. Now you have a domain name that you can use and give out instead of your IP address. If you would like to use your own domain name, DynDNS offers a custom DNS service for this as well for a yearly fee.
If you have a cute domain name you might like to keep and develop a website with long term, it might be wise to register it yourself with a professional domain name registrar. Another professional DNS service is Namecheap. I’ve used them myself so I am happy to provide you with a link to click and check them out for yourself (should open in a new tab). Very low cost for registering a domain name so is likely to be worth it if you have big plans for your website!
Step 6: Download and install a Dynamic DNS updater (if required)
Now go to https://www.dyndns.com/support/clients/ to download the DynDNS Updater. This is to automatically update your Dynamic DNS account in case your external IP address ever changes.
Now you can host a web site from your computer. If you want to change the default page that comes up when you browse to your site, right click on the little icon that looks like a house in the Virtual File System. Click “Default file mask…” and type the name of the file that you want to be served when someone browses to your website such as index.html. If you would like HFS to start automatically when you log into Windows, put a shortcut to it under Start – Programs – Startup. Also be sure to save your Virtual File System settings so HFS will remember the files you are hosting next time you open it up. If you have any more questions check out HFS’s Frequently Asked Questions.
Building a high traffic website
Hosting a website from home might be a great way to test an idea, and to learn about building and hosting websites. If you have plans to build a high traffic website (rather than one to start an idea or easily share files with family and friends) then hosting your website on your own computer might not be such a good idea. This is due to several reasons including performance, up time, customer experience and so on. A high traffic website could pay for itself and so it makes sense to use a professional hosting service. These can be found at very low cost for your initial venture into website hosting, and so are worth considering. Another bonus is they typically have quite good customer support.
Summary of how to Host a Website:
So now you know how to host a website from home. It’s pretty easy if you download and use free software that sets things up for you, called HFS from the link provided above. Remember there are two main parts to hosting your own website on your local computer, the file server and files that it serves up, and the domain name (your computer’s IP address) so that it can be located.