The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Once upon a time, such as last week, the normal method of placing a web server online was to pay money to a hosting service and to use that company's servers and high-speed Internet connections. Indeed, that is still the most popular method, and I would recommend it for any serious projects where you want industrial-grade reliability and performance. However, you have other options as well. For instance, you can install a web server on your home computer and let others in your home or even around the world access your web pages. You can even do this while you simultaneously use the same computer for other purposes, such as surfing the web, reading and writing email messages, writing Word documents, or even playing games. Best of all, you probably can do this without spending a dime.
To be sure, the Internet connection you have at home will probably not be nearly as fast as that offered by Internet hosting services. If you expect dozens of users to access your web site at once, hosting a home web server would be a poor idea. However, if you expect a maximum of one or two people to simultaneously access your web site, hosting at home is a practical solution. You could have dozens of people accessing the site over a period of time, but will only be able to serve a small number at any given moment.
Obviously, using free software and a computer you already own on an Internet connection you already pay for will save money. However, perhaps bigger advantages include the storage space available. Perhaps you have thousands of pictures or even dozens of home videos that you want to make available to relatives. Hosting gigabytes of files on most commercial services can be expensive. Hosting them at home can be much cheaper, usually free.
Another use for a home web server is for "staging." Perhaps you already have a professionally-hosted web server elsewhere, but you want a separate development machine for test purposes. With a web server at home, you can experiment all you wish on your local system, usually making changes much more easily and quickly than you can on a remote system. Once you have everything fully developed, you can copy your new web pages from your local staging web server to the remote production system. Most professional web developers keep test or "staging" systems for just such purposes. You can stage your web pages at home first before deploying to the entire world. You can make your home system visible to every Internet user in the world or not, as you wish. Access remains under your control.
Having a web server at home does not necessarily mean that your users will be elsewhere. Perhaps all your users will also be inside your home. A web server makes a great media server for distributing music or even videos to the family within the home.
Finally, having a web server at home is a great educational tool. You can experiment and learn much more about web servers when the hardware is sitting on your own desk.
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