The first thing you have to decide is what platform you're going to run. If you just want to use your desktop computer to try out your pages on before you upload to your website, then you'll want to use one of the many Windows options. If you want to run a stand-alone server, possibly connecting it to the outside world, then your best bet is to use a Linux-based system as all your software will be open source - crucially this means free! Because the software for a Linux-based system is all free and Open Source, these are the most commonly used systems for Web Servers, but just because your site is on a Linux machine doesn't mean you can't run it on your Windows desktop.
Step 1: Decide what sort of web site do you want to buildWeb sites come in a number of programming flavours, the most popular are:
- HTML - static pages, built using simple HTML (or XHTML) code;
- PHP - pages built with simple HTML, and incorporating PHP scripting code to add greater functionality to the site (including connecting to databases);
- ASP or ASP.NET - pages built with simple HTML, and incorporating Microsoft's scripting to add greater functionality to the site (including connecting to databases). Most developers use VBScript for Classic ASP, however other scripting languages can be used. ASP.NET supports any .NET language (most commonly VB.NET or C#);
Your next decision is whether or not you need a database - or might like to add one at a later date. Again, there are a number of flavours available:
- MS Access - not really ideal, unless you are sure that the database isn't going to become particularly large. MS Access is only available on Windows servers;
- MS SQL - used exculsively on Windows servers, this provides a more stable database environment for larger sites. MS SQL databases tend to be more expensive, and you will have to buy the server software to install on your own setup;
- MySQL - available on both Windows and Linux (so you can have Linux hosting but run your own test site on your Windows desktop). MySQL is currently free Open Source, however the product was bought in the tail end of 2010 by Sun and the development community fears that they may start to charge for the server software in the future;
As already mentioned you can use Windows or Linux for your server. If you've only got a desktop PC or laptop and just want a test bed for a single site, or your site is hosted on a Windows server, then your options are:
Step 2: Decide what type of server you're going to use
- WIMP - Windows, IIS (Internet Information Server), MySQL/MS Access/MS SQL, PHP;
- WIMA - Windows, IIS (Internet Information Server), MySQL/MS Access/ MS SQL, ASP (or ASP.NET);
- WAMP - Windows, Apache Web Server, MySQL, PHP;
If you've got an unused PC that you can safely reformat, and your site is hosted on Linux, then your need to set up a LAMP server (Linux, Apache Web Server, MySQL, PHP).
If your site is hosted on Linux, but you're setting up a server on your Windows desktop don't panic. You can use either WIMP or WAMP - the most important thing is make sure that you use the same database server technology as your hosts and the same programming language. So if you're on Linux with your hosts, you need MySQL on your own server.