How to Build an Internet Server
By Paul Christian Nelis
Building an Internet server means much more than assembling hardware. In particular, there are concerns to address about serving the Internet community that are not necessarily apparent when developing a server for use in a corporate or small network setting. This article explains critical steps required for putting any machine onto the Internet for public access.
Do It Yourself
Identify your Internet-ready server. Step one is ensuring the system has Internet software and, more specifically, is using the Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). As it's name implies, this protocol underlies all the client and server functions performed across the Internet. If the computer you will be using is already communicating with the Internet, the protocol is almost certainly installed.
Verify your system has the necessary server software. This may not be as simple as it sounds. Though it's possible to have a Windows Workstation system serve web pages and serve file through FTP, that system will not allow FTP uploads. IIS7 requires the Server version of the operating system (OS) in order to allow FTP uploads. Ensure you have the software capable of performing the Internet functions you need.
Ensure your server's IP address is "static." Though the default approach of using dynamic IP addresses works well for clients, it isn't a useful approach for servers--without a number of other costly provisions. Get a static IP address from your ISP, which may cost additional fees. If you are part of a larger organization, substitute "network administrator" for ISP in these instructions.
Verify your ISP will allow you to provide the service you contemplate. As you negotiate the procurement of a static IP address with your ISP it's worthwhile having a conversation about why you want to have an accessible Internet server. ISP have rules (such as anti-spam rules) about what types of functions business and individuals can perform from the IP addresses they control, so it's possible that your ISP will not allow you to provide the services you intend with this system.
Obtain a name for your system. Using your ISP, NetworkSolutions.Com, GoDaddy.com or similar Internet name registration service, secure an Internet domain name. This name will be linked with your server's static IP address in order to direct users to your site. If you are already part of a domain, see your domain's administrator for this step and for Step 6.
Link your domain name to your server's static IP address. It is common for the service that provided you your domain name to also provide a way to alter the Domain Name Service (DNS) entries for your domain name. Using their tools, or procedures from your ISP, associate your new domain name with the static IP address your ISP has given you for your server.
Add and activate your Internet services. For simple web page services, you might start IIS on a Microsoft system, or start serving files through File Transfer Protocol (FTP) on a Macintosh system. Perhaps your Solaris system is providing the Glassfish application server to friends across the Internet. Whatever you decide to offer will now be seen by the Internet.
- Be sure that your system has only the server processes running that are critical to the system's functioning as an Internet service. Hackers can sometimes use unguarded processes as a means of entry to Internet servers. Use a Firewall to block out incoming Internet access to all well-known TCP/IP ports except the ones actually necessary for serving the Internet community. This will assist in preventing break-in and data loss.
- Your ISP has firewalls between your home or business and the rest of the Internet. Those firewalls are designed specifically to filter out some of the types of traffic you might actually want to have flowing. Check out your plans with your ISP before incurring costs, as you may find your plans are not allowed or may be more costly than you wish to support.
Graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Physics and Writing, Paul Nelis has spent twenty years writing, teaching and practicing in the computer industry. An experienced technical editor, Paul has also published articles in journals such as Enterprise NT Magazine. Paul is currently a consulting manager at a major computer manufacturer.