Before discussing how to self host, you should decide if that is really the right option. If you already have or need something well beyond a basic website, then a Managed Solution might be worth a look. From a technical aspect, getting a website online is not exceptionally complicated, but does require someone comfortable with computers and configuring applications. You will also need some basic hardware, but if you have a computer connected to the internet, that is probably enough to at least get started.
There are a number of ways you can self host your website, the article Build a Server Lab goes into more detail regarding a setup designed for hosting websites, but also gives a lot of general information that would be helpful for even a simple self hosted situation. At a minimum, you will need a computer to install the hosting software on and the ability to make changes to your router’s configuration if you want to provide internet connectivity.
There is no one size fits all solution for this, Linux servers and software options are very popular, but unless you have an extra machine and experience with Linux, being able to use a Windows based machine to get started will usually be the easiest. There are plenty of hosting software options for Windows as well, but if the plan is to get a website you can configure yourself running with the least amount of work, our suggestion would be to start with WAMP or XAMPP, both can be installed on any Windows computer.
Download the Windows installer from Apache Friends. When the download finishes, run the XAMPP installer. Navigate through any prompts until at the installer screen:
Click Next to choose which components to install.
In addition to the required components, you should also select:
Unless you need other options installed, set the screen so it looks like this and click Next.
You can select the folder to install XAMPP, but we suggest you leave it as the default:
Next you can choose your preferred language.
Then you get a prompt asking to install Bitnami for XAMPP.
You do not need this, so feel free to uncheck the box.
Click Next and you are ready to run the installer…
When the install finishes, launch the control panel to start working with XAMPP.
Start & Test your XAMPP Server
For everything to work, you need to run the two modules shown below:
Start the modules using the XAMPP Control Panel:
Once running, you should see the status change to green:
Test that your server is working locally by going to
http://localhost/ in a browser.
If you see a page similar to the one above, you have a functioning XAMPP Server.
The question now would be how does this become your website…
Adding a Content Management System
Content Management Systems are software programs that assist with the creation, editing, and publication of digital content like web pages and blog posts. We will install WordPress since it is one of the most popular CMS platforms out there and has tons of information and documentation available at your fingertips on the internet. I do want to quickly mention that ClassicPress is a drop in replacement for WordPress being developed for those who want to be sure they will never lose the ability to use the WordPress Classic Editor. Since you can convert an existing WordPress installation it is not a decision you need to make now, but something to keep in mind, so let’s continue.
First, you need to visit WordPress.org and download the latest version of WordPress.
Now in Windows, navigate to the folder where you installed XAMPP. If you stayed with the installation default that should be
C://xampp. In that folder, find the htdocs subfolder and extract the WordPress.zip file you downloaded from wordpress.org into it.
Create a database for WordPress
You need to create a database for WordPress to use.
Launch PHPMyAdmin by using your XAMPP Control Panel:
Then click Databases at the top of the PHPMyAdmin Page:
Enter a logical name for your database and click Create.
For a Live Web Server, there are security concerns we discuss later in this article, but for local testing with XAMPP, creating a WordPress database user is not required. It is also important to be aware that the XAMPP Server currently has no root database user password and that needs to be corrected if the server is connected to the internet.
Run the WordPress Installer
You should be able to visit your site at
http://localhost/ and be presented with the WordPress installer. When you get to the database details, enter them like this:
- Database Name = Name of the database created with PHPMyAdmin
- Username = root
- Password = leave blank
Once the installation is complete you should have a working Self Hosted WordPress Website running at
http://localhost/ that you can start to develop.
Putting your Website Online
Address Security Issues
XAMPP is a quick and easy way to get started self hosting and developing websites, but it is not really the most secure way to publish a public facing / internet connected website. There are also considerations like bandwidth restrictions and the speed of your connection that you need to be aware of once your website is connected to the internet.
Many options exist to migrate your self hosted website to more secure, dedicated equipment; but you can opt to simply upgrade your test server, especially if your website is still fairly basic and does not even contain sensitive data that could be stolen.
That said, there are many articles on the internet that explain how to secure or harden your XAMPP installation. The main issues include the lack of a database root user password and PHPMyAdmin being in a public and predicable location. I must stress the importance of using strong passwords that are unique to each application or login, machine security is also important, if someone can just walk up to your webserver or browse to it on your local network, it is not secure. Beyond that, you can get security plugins like WordFence for WordPress that provide another layer of protection.
Once you put your website online you are also going to need to look at obtaining an SSL Certificate (allowing https). A search of how to setup a Certificate for your XAMPP Server using Let’s Encrypt / CertBot or SSLforFree should put you on the right track though.
Domain, IP & Port Forwarding
The final steps in getting online involve configuration changes so computers on the internet can access your server. This can end up being a bit involved, most websites use a Domain Name and DNS to point web traffic at the IP Address of the server. You can just determine what your IP Address is and use that to access your website, but in most cases your IP Address is Dynamic, meaning your Internet Service Provider may issue you a new IP at any time, requiring additional configuration to update your setup when the IP Address changes. This might sound confusing, so let’s try to break it down some:
You can get a free Domain Name, but you might be better off with a .com name, which can easily be obtained for under $20 a year and I think they are worth that minimal expense. Some domain providers may include or offer an upgrade that includes DNS settings for your domain. If not, free options are out there for that also; However, like a Domain, having a reliable Dynamic DNS provider might also be worth the price as very reasonable options exist for that as well. So, while you can operate a website using just the IP Address, for the sake of this article, we are going to assume you have decided to get a Domain Name and Dynamic DNS provider for your website.
Now it is time to configure your router and server computer. Most likely, in a situation similar to how your Internet Provider issues a Dynamic IP Address to you, your Router probably uses DNS on your local network to provide the IP Address for your computer(s). Of course, that also means it is possible for your Server to be issued a new IP Address, to avoid that, we should set up a Persistent or Static IP Address somehow. Also, the WordPress General Settings for WordPress Address and Site Address may need to be changed to your Domain Name if still set to localhost or the Server IP Address. This can also be done by editing or adding the following wp-config.php file entries:
define( 'WP_HOME', 'https://your_domain.com' );
define( 'WP_SITEURL', 'https://your_domain.com' );
The issue now is that there are so many router/firewall devices and applications out there that trying to assemble generic instructions is not realistic. You will need to determine the exact model of your router and figure out how to login and make changes. Some routers will have features that easily allow setting the IP of computers on your local network, others will require that you set a range for Static IP’s, then make the change at the Server Computer. Another handy feature many routers have is a way to keep your Dynamic IP updated, usually called Dynamic DNS or something similar. Once you know what router you have and are able to login, here is that basic outline of how you set all this up so people visiting your domain will be directed to your website on the server computer.
The provider where you obtained your Domain Name should have a control panel where you can configure the DNS Server for your Domain. Usually they will have a DNS option, but unless they have the ability to handle Dynamic DNS / IP Updates, you may need to set up a separate DNS Service that handles your Dynamic IP Address Updates. This is where some checking around for price and features when getting your Domain Name is worth the time spent. I will mention though, that we use one service for Domain Names, and another for DNS; let price, features and ease of use be your guide.
The way you handle a Dynamic IP will also vary based on your DNS Service and Router. A best case would be that your Domain or DNS Provider has the option and instructions to help you set this up. The other end of the equation is your Router, many have the settings needed to take care of alerting your DNS Service that the IP has changed. Searching how to set up Dynamic DNS with your Router and DNS Service may be required. If your equipment or provider(s) do not have the options or clear instructions, it can be tricky to get Dynamic IP Updates working, but you can still set everything up to use your current WAN IP Address and circle back to this later Until your IP Address actually changes everything will work even if Dynamic DNS is not properly configured.
Now that your Domain has a DNS configured to point at your WAN IP Address, the final step is to set your Router to send website traffic to your server. This is usually done using Port Forwarding, which is why the IP Address of your Server should not change – you also need to know what the Server IP is during these steps. You might need to search on setting up an IP Address if this not something you have done before. For this example, I am going to say our Server Computer is assigned an IP of 192.168.0.10
As you can expect, different routers will have the Port Forwarding Settings configured in different ways, the goal is to Forward ALL Traffic from WAN Ports 80 & 443 to your Server (192.168.0.10). You will also need to insure that neither the Router nor the Server has a Firewall blocking those ports. If you can visit your website from a different computer than the Server by using the Domain Name, then it is configured properly. If you cannot, try to use another computer on the same local network to access the website using the IP Address (http://192.168.0.1 in our example). If you can only access the website from the Server, double check that a firewall on the Server is not blocking, If you can access from the local network by IP, but not from the internet using the Domain Name, then you will need to check and troubleshoot any Router, DNS Service or Domain Settings.