Tag Archives: Server

Setting up a Web Server – The Most Important Step to Hosting your Website from Home

You might be trying to decide whether you want to host your website yourself rather than pay a hosting company. Maybe you just want to learn how it is done, or you want to save some money by doing it yourself. In this article I’ll discuss the most important part of hosting your website from home, the web server.

The word “server” sounds scary and because of this many people think only a professional hosting company can host a website. This is not true. A server is nothing more than software that runs in the background listening to requests from “clients.” The client in our case is an internet browser, like Internet Explorer.

How do you get a web server? Most Windows operating sytems come with a web server that just needs to be installed. There are also web servers than can be downloaded for free, like Apache. I’m not going to go over how to do this. In this article I’ll discuss the concepts and what’s needed to get your web server up and running and serving your site to the public after it’s been installed. Every web server is different but the concepts are the same. By
going over the general concepts that are true for any web server, you’ll know what to look for regardless of the software you are using.

Like I mentioned before, a server is just software that runs in the background. A web server is a server that listens to requests from internet browsers for a specific page, finds that page in the computer it is running on and then sends it to the browser that requested it. Keeping this in mind, can you believe there are actually just two things you need to do to have your web server configured?

1) Tell your web server where to find your web site. Your website probably consists of multiple pages. You need to tell the web server the path of the folder where you keep
your pages. For example, when someone types www.yourdomain.com/main.html, the server will look in the folder where all your pages live, and look for file main.html.

2) Tell your web server about your default page. This is the page that is displayed when someone types www.yourdomain.com in their browser without specifying a page. The web server already has some default page names like “index.html” so if you have a page with this name
it will be displayed by default when no document is specified in the request. You may also add some more default file names to your web server. If you don’t want to name your file “index.html” you can tell your web server that your default page’s name is “mainpage.htm.”

This is basically all there is to configuring your web server. Actually, there is more, but these two steps will allow your web server to start serving your website. Of course, there is also more to hosting your website from home, like getting a domain name, dealing with your router if you have one, but these topics are beyond the scope of this article. I hope I’ve convinced you of how easy it is to set up a web server, which happens to be the most important step to hosting your website from home.

What Is SNMP?

In today’s complex network of routers, switches, and servers, it can seem like a daunting task to manage all the devices on your network and make sure they’re not only up and running but performing optimally. This is where the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) can help. SNMP was introduced in 1988 to meet the growing need for a standard for managing Internet Protocol (IP) devices. SNMP provides its users with a “simple” set of operations that allows these devices to be managed remotely.

The core of SNMP is a simple set of operations (and the information these operations gather) that gives administrators the ability to change the state of some SNMP-based device. For example, you can use SNMP to shut down an interface on your router or check the speed at which your Ethernet interface is operating. SNMP can even monitor the temperature on your switch  and warn you when it is too high.

SNMP usually is associated with managing routers, but it’s important to understand that it can be used to manage many types of devices. While SNMP’s predecessor, the Simple Gateway Management Protocol (SGMP), was developed to manage Internet routers, SNMP can be used to manage Unix systems, Windows systems, printers, modem racks, power supplies, and more. Any device running software that allows the retrieval of SNMP information can be managed. This includes not only physical devices but also software, such as web servers and databases.

Another aspect of network management is network monitoring; that is, monitoring an entire network as opposed to individual routers, hosts, and other devices. Remote Network Monitoring (RMON) was developed to help us understand how the network itself is functioning, as well as how individual devices on the network are affecting the network as a whole. It can be used to monitor not only LAN traffic, but WAN interfaces as well.

Let’s say that you have a network of 100 machines running various operating systems. Several machines are file servers, a few others are print servers, another is running software that verifies credit card transactions (presumably from a web-based ordering system), and the rest are personal workstations. In addition, there are various switches and routers that help keep the actual network going. A T1 circuit connects the company to the global Internet, and there is a private connection to the  credit card verification system.

What happens when one of the file servers crashes? If it happens in the middle of the work week, it is likely that the people using it will notice and the appropriate administrator will be called to fix it. But what if it happens after everyone has gone home, including the administrators, or over the
weekend?

What if the private connection to the credit card verification system goes down at 10 p.m. on Friday and isn’t restored until Monday morning? If the problem was faulty hardware and could have been fixed by swapping out a card or replacing a router, thousands of dollars in web site sales could have been lost for no reason. Likewise, if the T1 circuit to the Internet goes down, it could adversely affect the amount of sales generated by individuals accessing your web site and placing orders.

These are obviously serious problems — problems that can conceivably affect the survival of your business. This is where SNMP comes in. Instead of waiting for someone to notice that something is wrong and locate the person responsible for fixing the problem (which may not happen until Monday morning, if the problem occurs over the weekend), SNMP allows you to monitor your network constantly, even when you’re not there. For example, it will notice if the number of bad packets coming through one of your router’s interfaces is gradually increasing, suggesting that the router is about to fail. You can arrange to be notified automatically when failure seems imminent, so you can fix the router before it actually breaks. You can also arrange to be notified if the credit card processor appears to get hung — you may even be able to fix it from home. And if nothing goes wrong, you can return to the office on Monday morning knowing there won’t be any surprises.

There might not be quite as much glory in fixing problems before they occur, but you and your management will rest more easily. We can’t tell you how to translate that into a higher salary — sometimes it’s better to be the guy who rushes in and fixes things in the middle of a crisis, rather than the guy who makes sure the crisis never occurs. But SNMP does enable you to keep logs that prove your network is running reliably and show when you took action to avert an impending crisis.