To run a webserver, you
must have a decent, stable, and always-on connection to the Internet. I've
seen magazine articles that say you can run a webserver on a 56k modem,
but that's really not feasible. What you need is cable modem connection
or any of the flavors of DSL. Some people still have ISDN, but that is
rapidly being dropped by home users since DSL is faster and cheaper than
Usage, Blocked Ports, and Terms of Service (TOS)
Before we even talk about
what kinda connection you end up choosing, we need to talk about "Acceptable
Usage, Blocked Ports, and Terms of Service (TOS)". Simply stated,
most ISP's DO NOT want people to run servers on their networks. There
are many reasons for this, here are just a few:
In order to prevent people from
running servers, ISP's put notices in their contracts and Terms of Service.
In the past few years, they have been much more proactive and started to
block certain port numbers that servers need to access the Internet.
For example, most ISP's block port 80 because that's the webserver port.
They usually also block port 25 to curb people from sending SPAM intentionally
First of all they don't want
people sucking up bandwidth which is expensive
Many servers run by inexperience
people become a security liability
Virus and worms like Code Red
prey on unsecured servers
They don't want to help you
troubleshoot server problems
They can charge you more for
"business class" DSL or Cable modem
Having said that, if you
want to run a server, choose an ISP provider that allows servers.
Look through their FAQ's and Terms of Service. You don't want to
get into any trouble for running your server. Most big provider companies
won't allow servers, but many 3rd party providers do allow people to run
servers. The 3rd party providers buy or lease the DSL/Cable modem
lines from the major provider and then resell them to you with other features
such as static ip address or freedom to run webservers. These 3rd
party companies are usually smaller, less well known, local companies.
Since they have to compete with the major provider, they usually are fairly
reasonable in pricing, but typically still charge more so that they can
offer static ip addresses and open port numbers. Your best bet is
to call the company before you sign up and directly ask them if they allow
servers or not.
If you know your ISP doesn't
allow servers and you still choose to run one, you do so at your own risk.
This website takes no responsibility for your decision to do so.
modem or DSL?
If you already have one
or the other, then you can skip ahead, but if you are still deciding between
the two, read on. Did you know that three fourths of all home broadband
connections are cable modems while DSL only has about a fourth of the home
high-speed market? The reason is that cable was here first and most people
already have cable television (not me, TV rots your brain) so adding Internet
access over cable was pretty simple. DSL came later and is still evolving.
What are the major differences
between cable modem and DSL?
Cable modem is faster DOWNSTREAM
- When you are surfing the web and downloading huge files, cable has the
potential to be faster than DSL. In some areas, cable modem is 5-10x faster
than DSL. But DSL is no slouch either. Depending on how much you want to
pay, you can get up to 1.5Mbps downstream on DSL.
However, if you're running
a webserver, you want to pay more attention to UPSTREAM speed, that is,
how fast you can send files from your server to the Internet. Most cable
or DSL connections are asymmetric with a much faster download speed than
upload speed. This makes sense for most people since they don't really
upload anything to the Internet. But this is actually the most important
aspect to webserving. Both DSL and cable modem connections have about the
same upload speed. However, with DSL, you can choose certain speed packages
that vary the speed downstream and upstream.
Here are some samples of
speeds and prices for DSL:
768Kbps/128Kbps $39.95 per month
384Kbps/384Kbps $90.95 per month
768Kbps/768Kbps $125.95 per
1.5Mbps/768Kbps $204.95 per
As you can see, it's pretty
costly to add upstream speed. Check your local DSL provider for the best
rate plan for you. If you are on cable modem, then you have fewer choices.
Most cable companies don't have different rate plans, but instead offer
just one plan.
I personally don't feel that
speed is the biggest issue with choosing between DSL and cable. What made
me choose DSL over cable is the fact that DSL is dedicated bandwidth while
cable modem connection is shared bandwidth with your neighbors. If your
neighbors are ALL sitting in front of their computers downloading MP3 files,
then your cable modem connection is going to slow considerably. Cable modem
has rush hours just like the freeways of a big city. It's fast in the daytime
and middle of the night, but during the evening, expect delays. However,
if you were on DSL, you connection would not slow down. It is a dedicated
amount of bandwidth to your house. You want the connection to your webserver
as stable as possible, so DSL may be better. If you already have cable,
pretend you didn't just read that line.
want some static?
Yes you do! (A static IP
address) Your connection to the Internet will either be a static IP address
or a dynamic IP address. With a dynamic IP address, every time your computer
connects to the Internet, your connection provider will give your computer
an IP address that MAY or MAY NOT change. This is problematic since how
are your web site visitors going to find you if your IP changes every few
days? The best solution would be to get a static IP address. However, not
all providers give you the option of getting a static IP number, so you
have to work with what you can get.
If you have a domain name
for your website, you can connect the domain name to the IP number through
DNS. You could do the same if you have a dynamic IP number, but only if
that IP number doesn't change very often. One way to keep an IP number
from changing is to hold onto it by making sure the computer that is connected
to the DSL/Cable modem is always on or by using a hardware router that
is always on. There are also several dynamic IP services that allow you
to connect to host a subdomain on their servers. They allow you to log
in periodically and enter the new IP number your provider has given you.
It's worth a shot.
Check out the DNS
section for a more complete discussion on hosting a website from a dynamic
IP address. It can be done!
The next thing you have to
check is if your DSL or Cable provider allows you to run servers on your
connection. Some providers state very specifically that you cannot run
servers while other don't mention it in their terms of service. It would
be best to find out what your provider allows.
is my external WAN IP number?
If you have a static IP
address, this is the number your ISP gave you. However, if you have
a dynamic IP address, it might be harder for you to figure out your WAN
IP number. Use this cool website appropriately called WhatIsMyIP.com
to find out your WAN IP is whether you have static or dynamic WAN IP address.
an DSL/Cable Installation Kit
More and more self installation
kits for DSL or Cable are coming with a USB based modem. This allows
you to connect the USB DSL/Cable modem directly into the back of your PC.
The reason for this trend is because the standard method of using RJ45
connector to an Ethernet Network Adapter requires the client (that's you)
to open up your computer an install a network card and fuss with TCP/IP
settings. A USB modem also makes it more difficult to share a connection
among several computers using the popular DSL/Cable routers out there.
This USB trend is good for the DSL/Cable companies but is BAD for you.
Stay away from USB modems
because more than likely, you will want to use a DSL/Cable router to share
your high speed line with other computers at home. Most DSL/Cable
routers use traditional RJ45 Ethernet connects. There are a few routers
that can handle USB modems. These are slowly starting to appear on
the market. However, the choice of models is very limited, which
is bad for you. Stick with the Ethernet models.
What if they give you an
DSL/Cable modem? Send it back as well! Tell them you ran out
of PCI slots, or you don't have PCI slots! I don't understand why
the DSL/Cable providers would want internal modems. This would be
more difficult to install than a network card!
With both internal DSL/Cable
modems and USB modems, you cannot use an external hardware DSL/Cable
router to share your connection, but must instead use software NAT
software like ICS, Wingate, or Sygate. These software routers require
that this computer must always be on, which isn't a problem if the computer
is the server, but if it's not, then it's a pain.
The best thing to do when
you order DSL or Cable is to ask what type of interface they are going
to send. Tell them you want an Ethernet RJ45 based modem, not a USB
or internal modem. If they won't budge, tell them "I don't have USB
ports but I do have a network card" or "I don't have any open PCI slots
but I already have a network card ready for the Ethernet based modem!".
Order of preference:
Type of DSL/Cable Modem
Ethernet based external
modem (RJ45 connector)
USB based external modem
Internal modem (PCI