Hosting a website from home over DSL/Cable

This site is hosted on a low-spec Compaq PC I keep in a cupboard at home. It has no keyboard, mouse or monitor and is remotely managed.

The whole hardware setup cost just 160 a few years ago from Priceless Computing. It was a build-it-yourself system based around cheap Compaq overstock. The system paid for itself in the first year compared to the 3rd party hosting costs I’d been paying previously.

My Cupboard PC

My setup: ‘Desktop’ PC (left), Server PC (right) and various other bits

If you’re thinking about hosting your site from home, I can fully recommend it. Just make sure your ISP is web server friendly – Virgin Media is.

As well as the cost savings over commerical web hosting, serving your site from home allows:

  • Virtually unlimited storage space. Most ISPs will give you 50-100MB, but a basic home server will give you 1000 times as much disk space.
  • Ability to interface with your home network. Having a machine powered on 24×7 gives you remote access to your home network. From there it’s easy to access files on other PCs, and even switch your other machines on using Wake-on-LAN!
  • Live internet broadcasting from external devices. For example, I have a wireless weather station in my garden which posts regular updates to my cupboard PC, then on to the internet.
  • Remotely stored CCTV. Using a simple USB webcam and some motion detection software, it’s easy to configure a CCTV system to record movement in or around your home. As well as storing the images or video locally, you can easily automate sending these files to your ISPs free web space, giving you access to the images even if your PC is stolen. The police have already used this technology to catch a thief in England.
  • Access to your files and media. Using some free, open source software it’s fairly easy to set up your own musical jukebox. Stick it behind a password, and you can have instant streaming access to your entire music collection anywhere in the world.
  • Manage large downloads. Use your server machine to download large files – no need to keep your desktop machine on overnight!

Power consumption

If you’re thinking about running a server from home, the main consideration will probably be power consumption. Remember that your machine will be on 24/7, so it’s important that it doesn’t use too much power.

However, if you’re running it as a web server you’ll probably want to avoid power saving features such as allowing your hard disk to power down, as your machine will appear very slow to respond when a user comes to visit your site and the HDD has to spin up again.

I’ve got mine wired through a watt meter (similar to the Kill a Watt) so I can monitor its power usage. It typically sits at 55W (220vac), so costs about 40 a year to run.

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