March 03, 2004

Curious George: Setting up a server. Has anyone here had any experience of setting up and running a server from home?

I'm quite interested in setting up a server at home, so I could host my own stuff. The thing is I know very little about hardware. So if anyone here knows of any good resources for me to check out, I'd be thankful. Questions I have (which probably I'd realise were stupid if I knew anything about this): Rough Cost of Hardware. I have broadband (512kbps) - would this be enough (well, I'd probably only allow it half of that, so that I could still use the internet) to allow other people to access the stuff on there, or would it be hideously slow. (I'm not exactly expecting much traffic to the stuff i'd have on there, though) Is it really worth the hassle? How do I go about getting a stable IP address - is this liklely to cost me more from my broadband supplier? And a thousand more... This is more for me to read up on the subject - I'm not going to be doing this any time soon (at least, not until I graduate, get a job and a place to live - only then can i figure out if i could afford this) Oh, and I'd thought of doing this, rather than just paying someone to host it, because I have about 15Gb of stuff I wouldn't mind putting up, and that would cost me a lot to pay for hosting of it.

  • we just got rid of a basement full of servers here at home...actually if you'd like to email, i'll give you the long of it. is it worth it? yes and no. my email is in my profile.
  • Dsl/Cable Webserver is a good site that covers alot of the little details you were wondering about. It serves as a pretty good introduction I think. A key point is to just be careful because many ISP's prohibt operating servers as part of the TOS. It could end up being a huge pain.
  • consider what bah says carefully. some providers will get crazy-go-nuts if they see your traffic patterns getting all "server shaped" and may ask you to pony up to a commercial account, knock it off, or disconnect you. Also, you mention that you have a 512k connection; you need to see what your ... uh... upstream(?) speed is. Typically this is one quarter to one half of your advertised connection rate. I have some friends who host through dyndns for seemingly similar arrangements, but I don't know how they work, exactly.
  • On a related note I would assume it's getting more and more economical to bring a server-grade connection into a home. Isn't that how technology progresses? But last year I asked SBC about a T1 connection and they quoted me $1400/month... *ack* *gag* But at the time we were 12 miles from a small city.
  • Yeah, the 512k connection is just the standard broadband connection here in the UK. You can get 1MB as well. After that you start having to be on cable, and that starts getting expensive. Anyway, this is all just speculative interest - I don't know where I'll be getting a job yet, which will kind of decide what sort of connection I'll be able to connect. Where I live now isn't on the cable grid - or whatever it is - and quite a lot of places round here aren't even on broadband. Like I said, currently I know nothing. And thanks everyone for the answers. I might email you later, damnitkage, once I know more. Thanks.
  • dng - the server you need probably depends on what you plan to do with it. i run two servers, one out of my office (web & ftp, to back up and transfer files between my work system and my home system) and one for my department (the departmental web server, hosting two sites; ftp access for uploading files, and smtp relay to bounce web-related email into my personal inbox). if that's the kind of thing you're going to do, you can run a dedicated linux server on the cheap. i run redhat 9 on two "retired" dell and gateway systems. neither of my machines is faster than 300mhz; the dep. server gets 70- to 100,000 hits a month, and it hasn't had a problem handling the load. setting it up was kind of a pain at first - i had zero linux knowledge prior to starting - but the ease of upkeep and low entry cost made it worth it. redhat's rhn network makes updates easy as pie and completely hands-off. i can update or install any package i want, at will, even schedule a reboot, from the redhat web interface. i almost never physically touch the machine itself. (this may be affected by redhat's recent decision to change their package offerings - check into it before jumping in headfirst... you might end up liking another build better.) the dept. server was set up to replace a (much faster) windows 2000 server that had been so severely compromised by hackers that it had become utterly useless. nobody could log in to change anything, even the admin running the system. (why he didn't keep it patched is beyond me, but...) i have had zero (successful) attacks on the linux box. not into linux? i use the apache server software, it's great. even running on windows, it's much more secure than the microsoft server (ie - if you don't keep patching it daily, you're still pretty safe). i use it on my lab webserver, a windows 2000 box, with no problems. for ftp on a windows box i like filezilla server (, fast, free, and secure. their ftp client is also my personal fave. you can get quite a good bit of info from various newsgroups, alt.apache.config is a good spot to start if you can't find what you are looking for in the (extensive) help documentation. redhat has a very good pile of pretty basic info in their help section as well, although as with all linux help it seems to run into the expectation that you know what you're doing more often than a newbie like me is comfortable with. as for gettin' the dns all worked out, well, that's not my bag i guess. lucky enough to have all my servers on the campus network, all i have to do is send an email to the hostmaster and i'm dns-registered, asap. getting a name registered probably isn't going to be as much of a pain as getting a static IP, though. anyway i figured if i could get the box up and running, anyone with a little patience could do the same. good luck with it! (ps if you're going to host an smtp mail relay, be darn sure that it isn't open - you don't want to become yet another pass-through for spreading penis enlargement spam...)
  • Boo_radley is correct - you need to be sure that your upstream speed (the speed you upload at) is sufficient. If you're running off an ADSL connection, it's highly likely that whilst your "512" connection is 512k DOWN, it's probably only 128k UP... To run a server, you will either need a static IP address, or use something like dyndns to fake one... Those are the two key things, really. Actually setting up the server isn't too hard, although difficulty increases in magnitude depending on how secure you wish it to be. HTH
  • I'll echo that your upstream is the relevant number. That said, if you're only serving small files, even as little as 128 kbits can be perfectly adequate. Something you may wish to look into are extensions like mod_gzip, which work with modern browsers to dynamically compress files on the fly, which will improve your line speed. The normal caveats for servers apply: run the bare minimum of services you actually want - one reason Windows servers have such an appalling security history is because they leave all sorts of things on by default; keep up to date with your patches; use firewalling and port forwarding to ensure only the traffic from the outside you want gets to your server.
  • I'm going to be a jerk and say that if you have to ask the kind of questions you're asking, you're better off with a commercial hosting service. Pretty much the only real benefit you get from running a server from your house is that you have total admin rights on you box to do whatever you want. But if you don't know how to find an ISP that will give you a static IP address and allows servers (pretty much the only requirement) I doubt that you'd be looking to run some weird application server/DB configuration that you can't get from a hosting service. In my opinion, the biggest problem involved with a server in your house is the electricity bill. A normal server box with a 6 amp power supply has about the same energy requirements as 6 100 watt light bulbs. Add to that a 12 amp AC in the summer for cooling and you've got around 1,200,000 watt/hours of electricity per month just for one server and AC (not including a monitor, peripherals, etc). My electricity bill tripled when I was running a server in my old apartment and I was only running my AC about half the time.
  • Two things to add to the discussion: I don't know if your provider would have the same results, but with a server keeping the connection alive, a dynamic IP address is often essentially static. I am not offered a static IP, but my dynamic home IP hasn't changed in over 18 months. So that may not be a big concern. Two: debian. Debian debian debian. I knew nothing about linux when a friend helped me install debian. Now I know enough to do new things and even keep myself out of trouble.
  • if you have to ask the kind of questions you're asking, you're better off with a commercial hosting service. Very possibly. That's why I'm asking the questions, though - so I can work out whether its worth it. Like I said, I'm coming from a position of almost complete ignorance here, but I won't actually do anything until I know a lot about the subject. The problem with starting from a position of ignorance is not knowing whats stupid and whats important. Hence the stupid questions. And what i haven't asked is probably as revealing as what I have. Also, the main reason I'm looking into it is that I have a huge amount of stuff I want to put up - (scans of stuff, photos, videos etc) - easily 15GB of it, quite possibly more. The cost of paying for commercial hosting for that is quite a lot (the cheapest I've seen is about