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Chapter 4. Web Hosting Options > On-Premises Server

On-Premises Server

At the very top of the Web hosting ladder is having your own on-premises Web server. Ah, what a luxury—and what a responsibility—and what an expense!

How It Works

An on-premises Web server is just that—a Web server that resides on your premises. Your Webmaster sets up the hardware, installs the software, and connects the whole thing to a direct Internet connection. He then configures the whole thing with your domain name information, installs the Web page files, and opens it up to the world.

What You Need

There are three basic ingredients to a Web server: hardware, software, and an Internet connection. Here's a closer look at each.


Netopia, Inc., a company that sells Internet equipment, has an excellent FAQ page with questions and answers about connecting to the Internet. Look for it at http://www.netopia.com/equipment/tech/internetfaq.html.


Start with a computer. The computer you select must be capable of running the Web server software and any other software required to run and maintain your Web site. It must also have enough disk storage space to hold all of the site's program and document files. For a small site—like the one most small businesses would need—you can often get away with a computer that's a year or two old. But for a larger site running powerful software, you may need a brand new machine.


Consult the system requirements section of your software documentation before buying a new machine for a Web server.

You'll also need hardware to connect the computer to the Internet, such as a modem or router. The type of device you need varies depending on your Internet connection method. If you use a router, you'll also need the ingredients for a LAN, including Ethernet cards, hubs, and cables.


A hardware device that enables a computer to exchange data over telephone lines. A modem is required for dialup connections to the Internet.


A hardware device that enables computers on a LAN to share a single Internet connection.

LAN (Local Area Network)

A network of computers located in the same physical area—normally, within the same building.


Like any other computer, your Web server computer needs software to run. Here's a quick rundown of the kind of software you may need:

  • Operating system software. This varies based on your computer. For Intel machines, your choices are Windows 95/98/2000, Windows NT, Novell Netware, or some form of Unix. For Macintosh, your choices are Mac OS or Mac OS Server.

  • Networking software. If your system is part of a network, you must install and configure the appropriate networking software.

  • IP software. Internet protocol software enables your computer system to exchange information with the Internet. Normally, this will be part of your operating system or networking software.

  • Domain name system server software. DNS server software enables your computer to communicate with the domain name system so your domain name can be found. This software may not be required if your ISP allows you to use its DNS server for lookups; most do.

  • Web server software. This is the software that enables you to serve Web pages. Many options are available, from basic shareware packages to complete Internet server solutions.

  • FTP server software. This software is necessary if you plan to use FTP to upload updated Web page files. It also enables you to offer FTP file downloads to site visitors.

  • E-mail server software. This software is necessary if you plan to set up e-mail accounts on the server.

  • Log analysis software. If you plan to keep track of page hits, referrers, and other usage statistics, you'll need software to take the raw log data and turn it into something you can make sense of.

  • Other utility software. You'll probably want to back up your Web server on a regular basis and occasionally examine it for viruses and directory corruption. You'll need software do to it right.


Want to research Web server software options before you make a purchase decision? Visit ServerWatch on Internet.com, http://serverwatch.internet.com/. This site is jam-packed with information about all kinds of servers, including feature comparisons, demo and update downloads, and links to server developer Web sites.

Internet Connection

To serve Web pages, you need a 24/7 connection to the Internet. Several options are available to small businesses:

  • Dialup connections use standard telephone lines with modems to provide Internet access at speeds from 28.8 Kbps (or slower, but let's not even think about that!) to 168 Kbps. For higher speeds, special dual analog modems are required.

  • DDS (Digital Data Service) or leased line connections use digital technology for 24/7 access to provide Internet access at speeds of 56 Kbps or 64 Kbps.

  • DSL (Digital subscriber Line) connections use standard telephone lines and DSL routers to provide Internet access at speeds from 144 Kbps to 1.54 Mbps. Types of DSL include SDSL, IDSL, ADSL, and UADSL.

  • ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) is a digital telecommunications technology that simultaneously transmits voice and data over the same wires. For data connections such as Internet access, transfers at speeds up to 128 Kbps are possible. To use this technology, a special ISDN modem or router is required.

  • T1 is a 24/7 direct connection to the Internet with speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps. A T1 connection can also be leased in "fractions" with access speeds of 56 Kbps per fraction.

Costs of each of these options vary widely from one ISP to another. They also vary by region. Generally speaking, the faster your connection, the more it'll cost you. Unless you already have the hardware required for one particular option, your best bet is to compare the costs of each appropriate option with each ISP you are considering before making a decision.

Your Internet connection must come with at least one static IP address (or one per computer and router if you have a LAN). This address is associated with your domain name in the domain name system.

Static IP Address

An IP address, assigned by your ISP, that is always the same. This IP address is associated with your domain name in the domain name system.

Webmaster or System Administrator

Once you have the computer, the software, and the Internet connection, you need someone with the know-how to put it all together and build a Web server that works. That's where the Webmaster or System Administrator comes in.

If your Web site is relatively small and basic, you can probably hire a Webmaster who can design and build your Web site, then set up and maintain your Web server. Chances are, this person will handle all your Web-related jobs but only those jobs. Managing a Web server and maintaining a Web site can be a full time job, even for small sites.

If your company has a network (or builds one in conjunction with the new Web server), a System Administrator can handle all of the network-related tasks, including setting up and maintaining the Web server. For small companies with small networks, this person might also handle some of the basic computer-related tasks, such as evaluating computer and software purchases, providing technical support, and configuring new computer systems brought into the company.

Serving It Yourself—On a Budget

I don't run a big company and I'm not independently wealthy. But I do have my own Web server right in my office. Here's how I did it without spending a fortune.

First, the hardware. Because of the work I do, I'm forced to upgrade my computer system once every 2 to 3 years. My old computers become "test mules" or find homes with relatives. But my old Power Macintosh 8500/180 became my Web server. With 96 Mbytes of RAM and a 2 Gbyte hard disk, it was all I needed. So I can argue that the computer was free; after all, it was fully depreciated.

Other hardware I needed included a router (about $700) and an Ethernet hub ($150). I already had the hub for my Ethernet network. The Power Macintosh has Ethernet networking built in, so no additional cards were required.

For operating system software, I stuck with Mac OS 9, which has support for Internet protocol and Ethernet networking. For Web serving software, I choose WebSTAR Server suite, which offers Web serving, FTP, and e-mail capabilities. Not only is this program popular among Macintosh Webmasters, but it is extremely easy to set up and use and is extensible through the use of plug-ins. The cost: $599.

For my Internet connection, I opted for an 24/7 ISDN connection at 128 Kbps and no limitation on bandwidth. The phone company set up a special phone line from Wickenburg to Phoenix that effectively gives me a Phoenix phone number. My ISP dials into my ISDN router which then talks to my Web server via the Ethernet hub. An added benefit to all this is that each of the computers on my network has its own IP address and can access the Web via direct connection. No more dialup service! The cost: $100 setup fee (to the phone company) plus $225 per month (to my ISP) and $75 per month (to the phone company). (ISDN costs vary based on location; chances are, it's cheaper where you live.)

The bottom line: my Web server cost approximately $1,550 to set up and costs $300 per month to maintain. With it comes a direct Internet connection for all my e-mail and Web surfing needs.

In every organization—even the smallest one—there's always one person who seems to "have a knack" for computer-related things. Think twice before giving this person the job of setting up and managing a Web server or network. It isn't easy and, if he screws things up, it can cost time and money to hire someone who does know what he's doing to fix the damage. It's better to get things off on the right track by hiring a knowledgeable person than to try to cut costs by having a novice do the job.

What It Costs

This is the big question and I admit I don't have the answer. You'll have to figure it out for yourself based on the options you select for your hardware, software, Internet connection, and Webmaster or System Administrator.

A relatively generous budget might look something like this:

Table 4.2. In-House Server Budget
ItemPossible Cost
Computer$ 3,000
Modem or router with network components (if required)$ 1,000
Software$ 3,000
Internet connection setup$ 500
Total setup (one-time) costs$ 7,500
Internet connection monthly access$ 500
Webmaster or System Administrator Monthly Salary$ 5,000
Total monthly costs$ 5,500

Remember, I did say "generous." You can do it for less. But you can also spend a heck of a lot more.

Pros & Cons

Here are a few of the benefits to having your own Web server:

  • Your Web site is served from its own dedicated Web server, so all of the computer's resources can be used to serve your Web site's content.

  • You have complete control over your Web server, so you can install and use any software or utilities you like. This enables you to run whatever CGIs, Web log analysis software, or other programs you want to run in conjunction with your Web site.

  • You can set up your Web server to perform e-mail and FTP serving functions. This enables you to have in-house e-mail and file transfer features.

  • Your Web server can also act as an intranet server, serving secured internal files to the computers on your LAN. Keep in mind that there are special security issues and software that may be necessary to protect these documents from outsiders on the Internet.

  • If your Web server's Internet connection is handled through a router and LAN, that same connection is available to all computers on the network. This means individual computers will no longer need modems, dialup connections, and dedicated data phone lines to access the Internet.

And now for the bad news:

  • Having your own in-house Web server can be very expensive!

  • You must have an individual on staff who can maintain the system and troubleshoot problems.

  • You are responsible for backing up the system and providing power protection.

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