Hosting from home for free – loads of bandwidth and space

Whilst the price of shared hosting is falling, trusting your website to an unknown company is always a risk. Even some of the largest sellers oversell bandwidth and space, so who do you trust your website to? I decided to host my site on my own server at home – since I pay for a 24/7 internet connection.

When I set up my server, I was new to DNS and hosting, and decided to move my domain to dyndns.com who provide a dynamic DNS service. They offer free accounts with popular names like dyn-o-saur.com or you can go for your own top level .com domain.

What they don’t say is that you can use their free account and register your domain name with a cheap provider like godaddy. This saves you around $30 per domain – worth it if you have a lot of domains.

All you do is set up your free account with your dynamic provider (and install the update client which tells their servers if your ip address changes). You register your domain with your preferred provider and set up a cname record which points to your free domain name. This means that any traffic going to your registered address is redirected to your free dynamic dns account.

All you then need to do is set up your web server to recognise the new sites you have added and bingo – you can run dozens of sites from one machine. This is the guide I followed.

There are downsides to hosting your own server. First of all you have to pay for your own internet and electricity which is not an insignificant cost. My cable modem offers 400k/s incoming and 40 k/s outgoing (with peak time traffic shaping) for the equivalent of $50 a month. Electricity in the UK is also rapidly rising in price thanks to the lack of freedom in the European energy market – my Dell server costs the equivalent of $10 – $12 a month. Another downside is technical knowledge. Your server is continually exposed to the internet and you need to make sure you only open ports you need, and that you keep the server patched and up to date.

With energy prices rising so rapidly, I regularly review my decision to host from home. Using an older more energy friendly PC will help keep the costs down but there is no short cut to gaining technical knowledge (although you could run a preconfigured server on a virtual machine!).

Do you host from home? Are you looking for free hosting for a blog? Leave me a comment below.

Edit: 15/09/08 Since I posted this originally my workload has increased and I just didn’t have time to maintain my installations (updating the ubuntu server was easy, updating joomla/wordpress a bit more time consuming).  I decided to move my blog back to blogger and rely on Google Analytics for my visitor information.  (That and I also needed to turn the ‘office room’ back into a guest bedroom and the server was too noisy for someone to get any sleep!).