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Personal vs. Work/Free Server? 160

Posted by Cliff
from the your-property-or-theirs dept.
akutz asks: "I am sure many of you have asked yourselves this question before: do I run my own server, or take advantage of my employer's hardware and/or free online hosts? I recently brought my own personal server online that provides web, e-mail, source control, and directory services for myself. I like the warm snuggly feeling that all my data is on my box and it is mine, mine, mine. However, I have also just burdened myself with maintaining a server when my employer, The University of Texas at Austin, has plenty of servers that I could use for this very purpose. There are also plenty of free services online that do this, such as Gmail and Sourceforge. So the question is, which is better, running your own server or letting someone else do it for you?"
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Personal vs. Work/Free Server?

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  • by andy753421 (850820) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:25PM (#14603479) Homepage
    If it's just my stuff I prefer to run my own, mostly for the learning experience. However if I'm hosting things that a lot of other people use I think it's better to have a company host it. They generally have better uptime, and if they do go down, the blame isn't on me :)
    • I run my own servers. I have one somewhere in europe and I have one elsewhere in this city. I also have another backup on the same continent but in another country Granted, not an option for everyone; but I've had my setup across 2 jobs and have lost no data. The boxes update one another so with a little DNS updating, I can switch over to any one of them in the event that I lose one of the others. My employer is flexible with their internet connectivity and has setup an 'employee lan' that is outside t
    • Agreed. Unfortunately, nobody has been able to figure out how to access my machine from the outside world. It would be nice, as it's a royal pain in the ass to ftp EVERYTHING to the server a friend lets me use to host it. It's only a small site, so even on the low bandwidth (~60K up) connection i have, it would work fairly well. Plus, I wouldn't have to worry about nagging my friend to get stuff setup (like ftp and postgreSQL).

      Once i get this going, it's GOING to go on a more powerful server with more b
      • Unless you are just hosting content for script kiddies to find, it's not up to people on the outside to figure out how to access your machine - it's up to you to figure out a way that they CAN access it, such as getting a DNS entry and opening a port on your firewall... Of course this assumes your AUP for your internet connection allows servers (not all do.)

        As for FTP, yuck. Rsync is your friend - works over ssh. If you are hosting on Windows, then it's a different matter. Either you have decided that secur
    • by billstewart (78916) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:44PM (#14603594) Journal
      Over a decade ago, before all the non-techies had acquired email and when ISPs were still a novel thing, a friend of mine postulated that you should _never_ have your primary personal email contact be your employer, because if you lose that job you've just lost your social contacts and the contact information that potential employers might use to reach you (at least for the kinds of employers that techies want to work for.) He set up a server in his bedroom which he gave friends accounts on to subsidize his bandwidth addiction, and it's since grown into a respectable-sized ISP with several full-time employees.

      Normal employment can change policies or downsize, but universities are an especially fickle environment - many of them have policies making it easy for students to have websites, and some of them have strong academic-freedom policies about your rights to posting content, but other universities change policies when they change bureaucrats, and some of them occasionally go full-blast wacko shutdown-and-expel-you no-due-process mode when somebody complains about H4CK3RZ or when some application suddenly sucks down 98% of the school's firewall bandwidth, or when the RIAA/MPAA hands them a complaint about EVIL FILE SHARING CRIMINALS, especially if the complaint gets handed to an organizationally incorrect person who doesn't get it (at some universities, that's the legal department, at others it's a random grunt in the computer management; it varies a lot.) It wouldn't happen at MIT, but it's standard operating procedure at many state universities, and I don't know about UT.

      So if you're going to use a university server, make sure than not only is it ok under the official policies, but that you have automatically-updating backups to your off-campus home computer.

      • by cli_man (681444) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:52PM (#14603645) Homepage
        Also while your at it, make sure to buy your own domain and use that for your email, domains are almost free these days. So when the campus shuts off your access and throughs you off the grounds your backups won't do you much good when nobody reconizes your email address when you try to contact them again.

        Your online identity is precious, most of the people I know online I know mostly by their email address, if someone shows up anouncing some great story about losing their email address and they really are who they say they are and can we continue where we left off with such and such big deal we were working on I would really hesitate and have to work my trust back up again.
      • That's one reason to have an email address with a forwarding service. You can have it forward the email to whatever address you like and still give out the same address to friends, family, and business associates.
        • by munpfazy (694689) on Monday January 30, 2006 @10:05PM (#14604003)
          I can certainly see the advantage of using a personal domain for email. In particular, using a domain that isn't your isp is a must. I've known people trapped for years with a terrible ISP by the enormous amount of work required to change addresses.

          But, it could also lead to serious trouble if your operational identity is closely tied to the where you work. If you're communicating with someone as a representative of your institution (or using your association with the institution to try to get something done that would be otherwise difficult), starting off with a homebrew email domain is risky.

          For an academic, it strikes me as a particularly dangerous. Just imagine what your first thought would be if you received a cold letter from "Professor John Smith ". I'd guess that it won't be, "Oh, that must be that guy with a beard I chatted with at a conference last year." More likely is something along the lines of, "Is this spam? Some crank? Should I bother to open it to investigate?"

          In a world where most email isn't worth reading and most people get too much of the stuff that is, it is a good idea to make your headers as obviously legitimate as possible. For an academic who probably has a fixed term of many years and can expect months of notice before an account is cancelled, changing addresses isn't really a huge problem.

          Adding a personal address for friends and family can't hurt. But, if you're like me, the distinction between friends and colleagues is often imprecise. Even when it's not, juggling two different from-addresses and remembering who gets which is a pain.

          Administering your own machine within your workplace may be a decent compromise, although you could lose your transitional buffer that way. Convincing your workplace to let you set up a .forward file and leave your account intact (if inaccessible to logins) for a few months is going to be a lot easier than convincing them to leave a personal machine running.
  • employee handbook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spoonyfork (23307) <spoonyfork@gmailRASP.com minus berry> on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:27PM (#14603490) Journal
    Check the terms of your employment before setting up shop on your company's hardware. Typically business frown on personal use of company resources. Worse, they pretty much pwn whatever is on them.. including your brilliant ideas squirreled away between email love letters and Mexican vacation photos. Roll your own or find a reliable hosting service.
    • Exactly what I was going to say.

      I'd avoid setting up anything using Work equipment at all. If they paid any part in it, then they can usually try and yoink it from you. That would suck hardcore.

      For example, if I use a company copy of VS 2005 on my home computer and develop an application with it, my company essentially owns it. I was using a work copy.

      Now, cut to, I buy a copy of VS 2005 at the company store, and use it one my home computer, and develop an application with it. Now it's mine.

      So that warm
    • Check the terms of your employment before setting up shop on your company's hardware. Typically business frown on personal use of company resources. Worse, they pretty much pwn whatever is on them.. including your brilliant ideas squirreled away between email love letters and Mexican vacation photos. Roll your own or find a reliable hosting service.

      mod parent up!!!

      (The University I went to had similar policies, including expelling a student for hosting his own business stuff on the comp. sci. server. I do

    • by statemachine (840641) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:45PM (#14603600)
      This is excellent advice. However, I would go one step further:

      Keep all your personal stuff off company computers.

      The submitter is correct in keeping his personal items on his own server that he can pack up on a moment's notice. This cuts down on any potential administrative conflicts.

      Also keep in mind that your data is flowing over your company's network, so don't be surprised if any non-public connection gets sniffed at some point by a bored admin.

      It's better to just keep your computer away from the company you work for, in general, but I know outside hosting or co-location costs money.

      Remember, any data on your company's network or servers is theirs, so if you don't feel comfortable with them knowing your personal issues, store your data elsewhere. Even just having a separate computer doesn't stop them from accidentally taking it (or worse).

      Think this is paranoia? Consider that the law is on your employer's side. Is it worth it?
      • Re:employee handbook (Score:3, Informative)

        by Fishin76 (950916)
        Since I work for a Global Company in a information Security postion, I may a few insights to add. Statemachine talked about your information on company assets and how that information is now theirs. The reverse can be true also. If you brought in your own machine and put company data on it, theoretically, that machine belongs to the company. As we all know, even deleted, overwitten, zero-ed out data can be recovered (with different levels of labor respectively) from hard drives and other mediums. Companie
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Dear sir, I am very interested in your Mexican squirrel-love vacation photos, and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
    • Re:employee handbook (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @12:30AM (#14604785) Homepage
      Don't count on the employee handbook to tell you whether it's OK.

      Back in '95, I set up a web site on my desktop machine at the college where I worked. Nothing bandwidth-intensive, just playing around with HTML, publishing info about myself and things I'd written, etc. My boss knew I was doing it, and didn't particularly care. The only person directly affected by it was me (and even running on Win31 for the first several months, I rarely noticed any performance problems).

      But the site somehow came to the attention of the upper administration, and some of the material on it did not meet with their {ahem} moral approval. (No, I wasn't running a pr0n site; I'd be rich by now if that were the case. But I was openly gay and had some erotic drawings on the site.) By the end of the day, I found myself in a conversation in which it was suggested that I resign.

      Believe me: there was nothing in the employee handbook about what I'd done. There were no disciplinary policies or procedures involved. "At will" employment (which describes the jobs most of us have) doesn't require anything of the sort. All it requires is someone in authority saying "get rid of him". In retrospect, I can say that storing my personal files like this on a college-owned machine was the one of most bone-headed things I've ever done.

      After that incident, I briefly tried commercial hosting, but quickly ran into problems with my provider that left me thinking "I can do it better than this". So I got me an ISDN line, installed Red Hat 6 on a spare Pentium box, and never looked back. OK, I admit: When the web server periodically locks up for no apparent reason, or the power goes out for several hours and the portable generator won't start, or a configuration oversight gets my mail server blacklisted as an open proxy, etc. I find myself wondering why the hell I'm trying to do this myself. But the feeling of self-sufficiency, the freedom and power of root access on everything, and the incredible learning experience of doing it all myself keeps persuading me that it's worth it.

      It's also made me all the more valuable to the (entirely different) college where I work today. Where I'm careful not to use college resources for anything personal.

      • by Grab (126025)
        Sorry, no sympathy. Would you forward emails with "erotic drawings" (of any orientation) around your colleagues? So why should the company have them on its system?

        Frankly, you got off lightly by them letting you resign. Back in '95, most companies (and colleges) didn't have policies on "offensive content". These days they all do, without exception. What you did back then would today be grounds for formal disciplinary action at best, and on-the-spot dismissal for gross misconduct at worst. Whether it's
        • I wasn't asking for sympathy (did you catch the part where I called it "bone-headed"?); I was offering a warning.
          • Sorry, it sounded to me like you were talking about generally storing personal data on a company server, when the problem was actually the specific kind of personal data you were storing on there. If you didn't mean it that way, my apologies.

            Grab.
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:27PM (#14603494) Homepage Journal

    ... are you a geek or an end user?
    • I'm a geek. And yet, I've got better things to do than run a server. Heck, every dope with 2 weeks scripting experience can do it nowadays. I'd rather focus my time on interesting things.
      • Ahh! You have exposed yourself, false geek! Every geek knows that there is NOTHING more important in life than running your own server! Family, girlfriends, sex, All pale to the power of the orgasm you get when your server goes live on the net...

        Note for the humor imparied: :-)
    • ... are you a geek or an end user?

      Yes.

    • If you have to ask, then the answer should be clear.

      I do what's best for me. I pay someone else to run a server with all the goodies installed on it. I don't have uber access, but I don't have to worry about university or employer policy. The money is worth it to me. I don't want to spend time maintaining the system. For many other geeks the opposite is true. From what I've seen though, it's usually a gut reaction.

  • ISP port blocking (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mr_Tulip (639140) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:27PM (#14603495) Homepage
    If you host it yourself, make sure taht your ISP has no plans to block the port(s) you plan to use for the servers.
    There seem to be a lot ISP now, at least here in Australia, who routinely block port 80, 25 and a host of others.
  • by cli_man (681444) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:31PM (#14603514) Homepage
    If you have the ability and it is not costing you much or anything host your own.

    I hosted my stuff at my previous employers and it worked great for a couple of years and then our relationship turned sour overnight and I lost about 3 years of work, I had backups but most of them were where I worked, what I did have backups of on my own was outdated etc.

    Running your server is more than warm fuzzies, you can do what you want without anyone looking over your shoulder, plus the experience you gain from it could very well be stuff that could be used on a resume or talked about during a job interview. Much of what landed my current job came from the fact I was my own server admin.
    • If you have at least basic admin skills then it's only about $50 a month to host a dedicated Linux box. Not to hard for most people to afford. Or about $5 a month if you just want a dedicated account on someone elses machine.
      • Less actually.

        You can buy a virtual machine under plex from these guys http://www.memset.com/ [memset.com] for 15£ which is less than 30$. That is on proper hardware with RAID1 disk susbsystem.

        If you are not into some heavy duty PHP or apache-perl stuff the resources on the virtual machine will be more than enough.

        I have yet to dip into the swap on mine which runs my mail relay and web for the time being.
    • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Monday January 30, 2006 @09:16PM (#14603784)
      If work can tolereate it, do it at work because you can test out features that work is not ready for yet. New OS's, webserver software, new content management features, new databases, they can all be tested out on a work-sponsored playspace in a way that would never be permitted on a core server. Then you can turn around and integrate those features into your work services with some practice and some debugging in hand before possibly slapping down a core server.
      • Yes and no - by all means run a "play" server on company hardware, if you're allowed. It does indeed let you play around with new versions, etc. But by all means do NOT put your personal content on it, or use it to run your personal domain or your personal email. At the minimum, this would violate "fair use of company resources". Have a "play" server at work, even use it to try out new versions of software or new configurations that you intend to put on your own server, all the better if you can use that
  • by green pizza (159161) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:32PM (#14603522) Homepage
    I debated this very same issue, you can read my thought on it at my homepage:

    http://www.cocacola.com/~robert [cocacola.com]
  • Academic Institution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by frosty_tsm (933163)
    The beautiful and special thing about Universities is they often make resources like this available for their faculty, staff, and students plus have a sizable staff to do the management work for you. If you don't mind some of the regulations they enforce, then I'd go that route as it should be the path of least resistence / cost.
    • I'd watch it though. Some smaller universities don't have very good network/server management. My University wanted me to help with some applications development and maintenance as a student worker for $5.60/hr. I said screw that as I make about $500/week doing webdesign/consulting on the side. The networking and application maintenance is a joke ran by Ph.D's who won't get their head out of their proprietary asses and think that coldfusion is a godsend. The Computer Science department, however is ran by ve
  • My Advice (Score:3, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:36PM (#14603548) Homepage Journal
    1) Don't run your own Email Server. It's a pain in the rear, and it'll get blacklisted for being on a consumer subnet anyway.

    2) If you have a website that you need to guarantee availability for, get a cheap webhost like LunarPages [lunarpages.com] or IPowerWeb [ipowerweb.com]. (Note that blogs fall under this category. Don't run your own blog unless the Blogger.com service doesn't meet your needs.)

    3) If you have something personal (such as vacation pictures, web scripts for testing, an experimental web app, etc.) run your own server. It's a rewarding experience and can teach you a lot.

    4) DO NOT run ANYTHING on your employer's servers, unless you have explicit permission. It was one thing to make quick use of them back when bandwidth was hard to come by. But now that everyone and their dog has server-grade bandwidth, there's no reason to be making illicit use of your employer's server.
    • Re:My Advice (Score:2, Interesting)

      by grub (11606)

      I run my own mail server but forward through my ISPs mail server. That fixed the dynamic-IP bounces I'd occasionally get.

      Right on the money with #4. "don't shit where you eat" I always say.
      • I still run my own email server too. But with the advent of GMail and lousy spam-block attempts, the personal email server has become far more trouble than it's worth. I've pretty much kept it around just for application and legacy use.
      • Like you, I thought using my ISP as a smarthost was a good idea, but not anymore.

        Running my family mail server at home on adsl was fine for the last 5 years until last week when not only did a mail I sent through bellsouth's server get bounced because bellsouth's server was listed at SORBS blacklist, but then bellsouth started to block incoming port 25 so my family and I don't get mail at all anymore.

        Now I am contemplating the same question as the original post in addition to having to switch to a sane IS

        • Personally, I outsource my mailservers (even though I have a static IP available). Fusemail's prices are decent enough and there are a few other providers out there who allow outbound.

          Plus, having IMAP support is handy for those times when I'm not at my PC (or my PC is having "issues").

    • 1) Don't run your own Email Server. It's a pain in the rear, and it'll get blacklisted for being on a consumer subnet anyway.

      I've been sending and recieving my own email directly from a debian/unstable box on a home DSL line (speakeasy) for about 4 years. Unless I've forgotten something, I believe the setup was just a matter of apt-get installing exim and answering the questions in the obvious way. This is the only email address I use for personal and work use, I use it pretty heavily, and I've only see

    • I think 2 needs to be clarified. I think what he's trying to say is either use blogger.com for your blog, or get a cheap webhost. Don't try to do it on your own machine at home. I tried this for a while, and it was more trouble than it was worth. For $4 a month you can get almost everything you need to run a blog. It's well worth it.
    • 1) Don't run your own Email Server. It's a pain in the rear, and it'll get blacklisted for being on a consumer subnet anyway.

      Or just run a recieve-only email server, and send outgoing mail through your ISP's server.

    • DO NOT run ANYTHING on your employer's servers, unless you have explicit permission.

      And don't even do it then. I've had to spend 50+ hours supporting some guys hobby football tipping website hosted on the companies server and had to make up the time to do real work on weekends. Meanwhile the hobbiest spent 100+ hours per year on it, and didn't make up the time - generally pissing people off who were waiting for him to finish things. When there is concrete evidence that you are spending time on hobbies at

  • easy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:38PM (#14603559)
    It's time to choose:

    a) If you like the challenge of configuring, securing, and running a server, do it yourself.

    b) If you just need to use a server and you get what you want...security, access, uptime...somewhere else for free (or at a reasonable cost), then let someone else do it.
  • it depends (Score:2, Informative)

    by amazon10x (737466)
    I pretty much host everything on my own servers now for a couple of reasons.

    1) Most importantly, I learn all kinds of nifty things doing this that I can apply in a workplace environment

    2) I don't have to pay anything. My cable connection + comp is expensive enough; I don't need to pay for that all again.

    Obviously, if you have no need to learn about hosting servers and also have some extra money to spend, paying for a server is better. This way you have a better guarentee of uptime (assuming you pick a good
  • If you're comfortable with the fact that every email you send, every mailing list you sign up for, every love note your MOTAS sends you, is living in your boss's hardware, then sure, why not.

    Even if you love your job, though, consider that you may still want to gripe about it to a friend sometime. Would you be comfortable explaining to your boss why your complaints were sent out through his system?

    Keep your own server. It's good practice, in several senses.

  • by Wespionage (751377) * on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:50PM (#14603633)
    In general, I think that managing your own server is a great way to go for things like this -- there are other issues of responsibility that come into play when using your company/institution to host it for you. But if you're going to rely on any of the services you set up for yourself while also treating the box like a bit of a toy (or at least a minor concern), then be prepared to have decent backup services in place for anything that becomes important to you.

    I've been running a personal server now for about three years, primarily for web/email services with a few other things. I approached it as though it would be a little box to tinker on. But as I've come to rely on the services more -- particularly email -- I find that relying on my own availability and attentiveness isn't as carefree as I had thought. Most things on the machine are easily trashed/rebuilt/restored, but I rely too heavily on the email accounts handled by the machine so each time I hose the machine or just feel like starting fresh, it is becoming more of a hassle without also having a backup mail server in place.
  • Requirements? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Morty (32057) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:51PM (#14603637) Journal
    So, what are your requirements?

    • Do you need the server to be up 24x7, or is some amount of downtime acceptable?

    • Do you mind rebuilding your server when you change jobs?

    • Do you mind rebuilding your server when you change hosting providers?

    • What budget do you need to stay under?

    • Do you have time to perform backups, routine software upgrades, and other maintenance?

    • If your backups are in someone else's hands, will you want to perform periodic secondary backups in case their backups become inaccessible to you?

    • How much do you want to learn, vs. having it Just Work?

    • Will your employer get pissed off at you if you use your company's resources?

    • How much bandwidth, CPU, and other resources do you need?

    • Do you want physical access to the server, or is some virtual setup good enough?


    This is a multivariable optimization problem. There is no right answer for all circumstances. Which is why some people host their own sites, some host at their employers' sites, some use colocated servers, some use virtual servers, etc.
  • by subreality (157447) on Monday January 30, 2006 @08:53PM (#14603656)
    Choosing between hosting at home and using a hosting account:

    Running your own takes effort. You have to install your own software, keep everything patched, fix failing hardware, accept that it's going to break at some inconvenient time so you have to choose to leave your site down or abandon what you're doing to go fix it, etc.

    It's a large investment of time. In return you get to have greater control over the software you use, the posession of your data, the ability to just fix things when they break rather than waiting for tech support, etc.

    As for using an employeer... Are you sure they want you to? Who owns your data if you do? If you quit, what happens?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I would appreciate if you didn't use state owned, state maintained servers, bandwidth, and infrastructure for personal use.
    • I would appreciate if you didn't use state owned, state maintained servers, bandwidth, and infrastructure for personal use.

      Eh, I don't know. I also tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to using work resources for personal stuff. But when it comes to setting policy I'd rather be lenient--there are also costs to enforcing a rigorous separation between work and personal uses, and I wouldn't expect the small bandwidth/power/whatever savings you get from doing that to be particularly worth it. A

    • I would appreciate if you didn't use state owned, state maintained servers, bandwidth, and infrastructure for personal use.

      Why not? Especially when the University of Texas offers students access to IT resources for personal use [utexas.edu]? [PDF file warning].

      If you read the UT Acceptable Use Policies [utexas.edu] they don't limit what students can do as long as they they respect the fact that IT resources are a shared and limited resource and they don't break any state/federal laws or university policies/regulations.

    • I would appreciate if you didn't use state owned, state maintained servers, bandwidth, and infrastructure for personal use.
      It's not as if someone would do that to produce commercial software and then go on to be the richest man in the world.
  • My own. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by awing0 (545366) <adam&badtech,org> on Monday January 30, 2006 @09:00PM (#14603695) Homepage Journal
    I run my own boxes off my employer's electricity, but on an internet connection I barter for. I'm work in electronics recycling, so I trade hardware for bandwidth with an ISP in my building. Rackmout LCDs, UPS hardware, blade servers, you get the idea, for 3 IPs on a connection that's a bit quicker than your standard T1. My employer gets to save hosting costs for services related to online resales of recycled hardware by utilizing the servers and internet connection. And my hosting setup is all done with used post-recycled equipment.
  • Easiest (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday January 30, 2006 @09:06PM (#14603727) Homepage
    I find by far the easiest way to do it is by paying for hosting. You can get super cheap packages with shared hosting starting at less than $4 per month. This goes all the way up to dedicated machines where the price can get up around $200 a month. There's a lot less to manage, and uptimes are usually pretty good. This way you can spend more time putting the content on your server, and less time making sure the server is running properly.
  • by topham (32406) on Monday January 30, 2006 @09:08PM (#14603735) Homepage
    The company I work for would have no technical difficulty hosting my personal website. In many ways they would probably encourage me to do it, as I can use it to gain experience outside of what I do on a day to day basis for the company.

    But even if they suggested it I wouldn't do it lightly.

    I would rather pay for hosting service and know that if I lost my job tomorrow I would still have the website and domain.

    I know that anything I do on the website is mine. I don't use their tools, or their time to maintain it. If, for some reason, they decided they owned something on my website I could, in good faith fight for my rights to keep it as mine. They would have to fight to take it from me, I wouldn't have to fight to get it back.

    Keep your homelife, and your worklife separate.

  • Here's what I say: If you don't mind a slightly slower Internet connections and have no intentions of being /.ed, a home server is perfectly acceptable. I myself used to use GeoCities, Tripod, etc. a lot, but after a while kept having to move over because so-and-so had X feature that I wanted... drove me nuts, trying to find a free host that suited my needs.

    Eventually I figured that since we have broadband I may as well set up my own machine as a server. Used to run off my desktop – not a good idea
  • My landlord provides free cablemodem, downside it's shared with about 5 other people and it drags down my torrenting or gaming with their VoIP phones and surfing. Damnit I need my fansubs!!!

    At work we got rackspace out the wazzoo so my boss would let me put a server on our corp network if I keep it low key (loki?). Downsides are if I get fired/quit I got to move it out with a quickness. I also need to worry about management asking why a v120 and a Sunfire 280R is in the racks that's not under control of the
  • It is their server. All your datas are belong to them.
    You won't work there for ever.
    They will decide they no longer can afford to have people freeload on their server.
    Someone will buy them out, and decide that they can't affort to ...

    I host my own because that's the kind of thing I do. I've done it since the late 80's, when it was UUCP. I'll probably continue to do it for a long time. But if all you want is email, I'd use Google. If you want to blog, I dunno - plenty of people let you do that cheap/fre
  • Simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fishbulb (32296) on Monday January 30, 2006 @09:24PM (#14603826)
    Who do you trust?

    (this coming from someone who still has an answering machine)
  • by akutz (452702) on Monday January 30, 2006 @09:51PM (#14603948)
    I appreciate all your comments, truly. For the curious, here is my setup at home. I have a 10mbps Fiber connection to my home courtesy of Grande Communications. I happen to rent a duplex in a well-to-do neighborhood of Austin where my wife and I could never afford to actually buy, but the nice side-effect of renting here is that the Austin president of Grande lives in the same neighborhood making this area the first one with fiber to the doorstep :) Oh, and I pay for 3mbps! double-:)

    My server is a P4-2.8ghz 83G5 Shuttle with 2GB of RAM. It runs Ubuntu Linux 5.10 Breezy Badger. All this setup does is run SSH (pubkey auth only ) and Apache2 with WebDav enabled so I can access my home directory from afar with ease. Oh, and I require client certificates to talk to my WebDav share for security.

    On top of this though I run VMware GSX server. I run a virtual instance of Breezy that is my web/e-mail/ldap/svn server. The beauty of it being virtual is that if I ever need to move it I just move the directory to another machine! Since the VM was created under VMware GSX 3.2.1 I can easily move it into ESX 2.5 or VMware Workstation 5.5.1 (legacy mode). I went this route specifically in case of the need to migrate the server. I also run a virtual instance of Windows 2003 Server Enterprise and Exchange 2003 for testing code and projects on Windows.

    I like running my own server, it teaches me a lot, and I feel that I have the minimum amount of competence to pull it off. That said, there are times when I would love to just give it to somebody to run for me!

    P.S. I was using Lunarpages, but I got to the point when I decided that I needed shell access to much. However, Lunarpages is a spectacular hosting company and their support turnaround is second to none. Withing 2 hours on the weekends! Those guys rock!
    • You have an amazing residential connection that most of us would drool over, you have it at a discount, and you live in a nice part of town. The problem seems to be solved. If you can afford to rent where you do, you can most likely afford to get a dedicated server at a colo facility (it sounds like maybe that's what you've done?). If you don't like the idea of running everything yourself, look into managed hosting; you'll pay extra for the support.

      I'm not going to name names, but if you haven't yet, shop a
    • You are obviously extremely technical and more than capable of running whatever you want. I don't think the question is really whether you should be doing this at home or work because it's going to take alot of work to maintain regardless of where you base it out of. Although I obviously agree with the others that you are better off keeping personal stuff at home so you don't lose it suddenly due to things happening at work.

      But just for comparison's sake, I do all my e-mail personal (and some family memb
    • Why don't you put the external ssh and external firewall stuff in a separate VM?

      That way if you get hacked, you can easily pause the VM, make a copy for investigation, then revert to a pristine state and make the necessary changes so you won't get hacked again.

      The ssh and firewall stuff won't require that much CPU so running them in a VM won't be a big prob.

      If you're paranoid you could put the apache in the VM, but leave your files in the host, and then use a "read-only" share to access them.

      Lastly is there
  • Like you, I like the warm fuzzy feeling of running my own server, knowing I can put whatever I want on it (both in terms of content, and configuration--Win/Lin, PHP, Perl, Postgres, etc.), never run out of room, and not worry that someone else will upgrade a component that will break everything. So, I've got a vanity domain running on my DSL at home--mostly my little play area.

    On the other hand, I don't want to *have* to keep that box up 24/7/365 so I've got my main "real" domain at a real host--that way, I
    • Also, consider your desired naming--do you *want* to be company.com/you or school.edu/~you forever? (And, more importantly *can* you? What happens if you quit, get fired, graduate, or drop out?) In any case, if you want a real, permanent TLD, you'll probably need to run your own box at home or pay for a host.

      I'm a member of IKI [iki.fi], a Finnish society of Internet users that provides redirection addressess for web and mail. My website has been running in a number of different places over the years, but the sa

  • Dumb story, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gherald (682277) on Monday January 30, 2006 @10:05PM (#14604009) Journal
    Q. Which is better, running your own server or letting someone else do it for you?

    A. Letting someone else do it for you, and rsyncing daily to your own server.
    • by Kadin2048 (468275)
      I'm surprised this didn't get modded up. It should.

      It gives you the experience and (questionable) geek cred of running your own server, but without any of the hassle. You can even run your server as a virtual instance on your desktop, if it's suitably powerful, I suppose. But the point is you keep everything that the outside world touches in the colo building; you just get to do the "fun stuff" of building your site, your blog, whatever. And if you want to switch hosting companies? No biggie -- you have eve
  • I plan to do this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by this great guy (922511) on Monday January 30, 2006 @10:06PM (#14604010)

    I have thought about it a lot. I work from many different locations (at work, at home, at random places on my laptop using a wireless Internet provider, etc) on a multitude of projects, and basically my need is to have a permanent access to a secure Unix server offering flexible services on my DNS domain, in order to:

    • Use it as a mail server, get myself a permanent email address (independent of my current employer and/or the current trendy free email account provider), forward most of my current email addresses to this central location, archive some of the emails without having to worry about the available storage space, archive the most important mailing lists I am subscribed to, and be able to conveniently access all of this at anytime using a local Mutt instance via SSH (or a remote IMAP/SSL client). Nothing is as fast as a textual mail interface to manage a huge amount of emails.
    • Use it as a web server, because I need to have a permanent HTTP address for some of my stuff (articles/papers I publish, etc). When I say "permanent", I expect to use the same domain and URL in 30 years.
    • Use it as a handy Unix shell available at anytime, from which I have direct access to the Internet: no fscking fw, no high-latency DSL connection, convenient end-point for my private VPNs, etc.
    • Store and edit the data that I use very frequently: current open source projects I am working on, etc.

    That's why I plan to buy a 1U server with at least 2 disks in order to do RAID 1, and I will have it collocated in a datacenter offering affordable prices. I plan to use an encrypted partition (think /home) to store my data, this partition will have to be mounted manually (to enter the required passphrase). This way if someone power off the server and try to steal my data, the encrypted partition will be useless for him.

    Ideally I would have preferred NON-managed colocation (i.e. I would responsible for the physical installation of my hardware in the rack, and I would have access to it 24/7), but since it's too expensive I have chosen to go for managed colocation (i.e. I send my server to the colo company and they install it, but I would not have free physical access to my server).

    • This is based on my personal experience. I've run my own linux server from home for many years, providing quite a range of services (DNS, HTTP, FTP, shell, etc), and if you live in an area with good power service, then I think you could pull it off.

      First off, find yourself a local, geek run ISP. They generally will have good service, with high speed low latency connections to multiple higher-tier ISP's, and their own backup power.

      Second, get a decent DSL package through them, and I'm not talking the "speed
      • This is an idea that I have considered. But in my case, I am very nomadic: I move about once every 12 months. So if I hosted my own server, I would have at least 3 to 4 weeks of downtime every 12 months (time to move and subscribe to a new DSL plan), plus a change of IP address. Add to this the frequent power outages in my area (California), and IMHO this is just too much hassle. Compare this to a managed colo for 1U with a 10 Mbps (if not 100 Mbps) symmetric connection for about $100 a month or less, and

        • If you're not going to need a powerful CPU, you could give linode.com a try (shared hardware based on User-mode Linux). The only problem I see based on your earlier description is for the encrypted partition as the initial Linux image comes from their server so you'll have to trust them that no trojan was installed but otherwise, you can manage the server as a regular Linux box.

          I've been using them for a while now and I'm pretty happy with the price and reliability.

  • by yancey (136972) on Monday January 30, 2006 @10:06PM (#14604012)

    I'm guessing you have already considered the relevant University of Texas System polices [utsystem.edu], the Office of General Council Ethics Standards [utsystem.edu], and the ITS Policies [utexas.edu]. Sorry, I work for another Texas university. :-) Universities tend to be generous and tolerant of a personal computer on their network so long as it does not interfere with your work, does not violate any laws or policies, and does not interfere in any way with the network or other computing systems.

    With that in mind, know that you and only you are responsible for the security of your computer and that you will be held responsible for any undesireable activity coming from your computer. If someone were to manage to compromise your computer and then attempt to compromise other university systems, you will at least be held responsible for not securing your own system, if not held responsible for anything coming from your computer -- or through it. If you are quite certain that you can keep your computer secure, then by all means run your own server and learn as much as possible. It's best not to experiment with production university systems. Besides, one could argue that using university-owned systems for your own purposes is a violation of the ethics policy. However, using your personal computer on the university network is no different than any student using a laptop.

  • by Ohio Calvinist (895750) on Monday January 30, 2006 @11:37PM (#14604509)
    Just as an FYI, here in Ohio (as it was explained to me by my HR contact), it is illegal to profit from State owned (e.g. public university) resources such as IT equipment, vehicle, telephone, e-mail box, etc. (ORC 102.04) For example, forwaring "you@yourbiz.com" to the University Central Mail system and making personal business transactions, is (at the opinion of the University) a violation of (ORC 102.02) If what you are doing is of "academic or not-for-profit" interest, it's up to the IT folks/university lawyers what they construe as "within the academic mission of the university." The problem comes when your friend of a friend's boss asks if you'll host his stuff for $juicy_sum_of_money, and you risk it or need to get a 3rd party host if you want to get his business anyway,. You also have to worry about hosting content for a social/political group whom the university (or mid-tier sysadmin) doesn't want on the subnet, you're in a real pickle.
  • When I am testing something I might like to implement at work, I generally try it on my own servers first. Partly because it's a learning experience for me either way (and the more practice, the better) and also because killing my home server just annoying a bunch of unpaying users whom I host... killing the work server means pissing off the bigwigs which is much less cool.
  • by secolactico (519805) on Monday January 30, 2006 @11:43PM (#14604546) Journal
    As so many others have said, keep your personal data out of company servers. Otherwise, you are just asking for trouble.

    If you want to provide some sort of internet service, even if it's just for yourself, keep in mind the risks asociated with it.

    Example: if you run your own personal mail server it might be only a matter of time before some clown decides to spam your domain doing a dictionary attack, and while anti-spam techniques can be pretty effective in rejecting messages, your bandwidth/cpu will still be consumed.

    If you would still like to keep control of your email, try a colo box, or a virtual server, or one of them spam filtering services (you point the mx to them and they forward the "clean" mail to you) or even a traditional mail server and "fetchmail" the mail into your own server.
  • Don't mix your personal stuff on company gear! What good can come of it? If a hacker takes over your webserver and turns it into a SPAM zombie because of a flaw in your script or the next Apache whole, who's going to be in trouble? Yup. You. What do you gain? You save a few bucks.

    IMHO, host at home for sites in which you aren't concerned about uptime, or get a webhost for sites where uptime counts. FWIW, I host my personal website on an old Linux box downstairs, but my commercial stuff is on a prof
  • by ziegast (168305) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:18AM (#14604986) Homepage
    I don't host anything of my own at work. Take a look at the Personal Co-location Registry [vix.com]. You'll find a bunch of inexpensive providers for your servers or apps.
  • shared server (Score:4, Insightful)

    by np_bernstein (453840) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:28AM (#14605013) Homepage
    Uhm, have you looked around to see how much it costs to get your web/mail/databases hosted? It's cheap as hell. I started at 2.95/month a few years ago, and now I pay a whopping $9/month. Maybe I'm just insane, but I would *never* consider hosting my stuff at an employer's work, even if they were OK with it and I had no plans of leaving ever. It's just shady. What if your php script that you just threw together playing around and that didn't go through QA had a hole in it and your server got compromized... or whatever.

    Leave work at work and home at home,
    Nick

  • by nuintari (47926) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @01:38AM (#14605052) Homepage
    Ask Yourself the Same Question I Did.

    How badly do you want to do things, "Your Way?"

    I work for an ISP that gives me a lot of freedom to do things as I see fit, and I am very proud of the work I have done, and the machines I maintain. However, I am bound by compatability issues with previous design decisions I don't always agree with. That sort of entrenched policy is impossible to quickly erradicate. Hence, I opted to maintain my own trio of machines that do my bidding.

    I do make extensive use of my work servers as well, but for my personal use, I wanted it to be 100% all mine. I have prior design decisions of my own that I regret that have become entrenched, but at least they are "My" mistakes, and mine alone to fix. But I am an insatiable individualist, to the point of obsessiveness.

    Just how badly do you want to run a sys your own way? If the answer isn't, "I wanna run a server for myself and possibly a few friends as if I were a demon from hell, sent to restore order to the entire interweb, one puny server at a time." Its probably not worth the effort. If that _is_ your answer, medication?
  • by vga_init (589198) on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @02:36AM (#14605217) Journal
    You sum it all up quite elegantly when you say "Mine, mine, mine!"

    If you're an sysadmin type of person (most people aren't, but I am), the convenience and security of running your own servers is very difficult to compromise on. When it's your box, you're in control--you can fine tune it to fit your needs exactly, and you can change anything instantly at your discretion.

    Trusting your stuff to professionals is not too bad of an idea, but you have to realize that you're dealing with an organization of people that don't have any vested interest in you or your data. They'll do their best to serve you most of the time, but they'll never be able to do it as well as you could for yourself. Because of levels of authority and control, getting necessary things done for *you* on a machine owned by *someone else* requires you to go through them, and there will be bureaucracies, red tape, and layers upon layers of people who can't do anything to facilitate a solution. Eventually it might get to someone who can, but there is always the chance that they can't or won't.

    What if your box needs something special? A custom kernel or special modules? Specific settings on a certain server? I don't know man...

  • I have a shell account on a Dreamhost machine. The cheapest account will get you that. I was a customer for 8 years now with zero complaints. This is the only host where all of my applications and scripts worked out of the box and I've installed countless scripts in the late 90s all over the Internet.

    My server at home is where I keep my data. I login to it over the Internet through RDP and go from there to wherever I need to.

    Never ever keep data on employer's computers. I write computer use policies, and ye
  • I ran my personal sites off of corporate servers for a few years. There were plenty of nice perks to being on their servers including the fact that it didn't cost me anything. After a while though, I was dying to get off of company ran servers and onto my own personal one... for a few reasons.

    1. The company happened to change their settings a lot, causing downtime on the server and downtime on my sites.
    2. The company continuously changed their mind on where they wanted their websites to be, forcing
  • Never, ever confuse your employer with your friends in this regard, positions change. Hell, you shouldn't even trust your friends with your domain.
    If you need to buy into a managed service, I recommend something like 2wdhost.com [2wdhost.com] or the ilk. As long as you dont need a dump truck load of bytes-per-month and dont want much over three 9's then this sort of gig is for you.
    Its basically poor-student pricing so you have no excuses. As far as this hosting in particular, I cannot say I recommend them, I only suggest
  • by rmadmin (532701)
    I run my own email server. I've had it for years. Half my family is on it. They don't have to worry about changing ISPs now because they have their address on my server. I have a ton of friends at data centers and ISPs, so my server always has a home. Even at worst case I could put it on the end of my DSL.
  • Just get serverpronto/colopronto server and do whatever you want with it. Its all yours, yours cheap and high bandwidth, and you can play with linux/solaris/openbsd/whatever. And youll have serious trouble crossing the bandwidth limit there.

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