Internet Services for Small Organisations

This document is aimed at small organisation such as local societies and small companies. It explains how to set up your own Internet servers.

A server is just a computer connected to the Internet and which has a published name, so that other computers can find it. Internet services such as a web server or a mail server run on servers. (Unfortunately, the word "server" can also mean a piece of software providing a service which is running on a server computer. That causes confusion.)

Companies that build websites often provide the servers that run them. This tends to be expensive and restrictive. If the website company goes out of business, it's potentially disastrous.

It's quite cheap these days to run your own servers on the Internet, and fairly easy. There's lots of help out there telling you how to do it. The problem is that the help is scattered across a lot of documents in a lot of places and each document assumes lots of specialist knowledge. My instructions here aim to show the whole process from start to finish. Inevitably that makes them look a bit complicated but each step is fairly simple and you just need to go through them one by one.

There's also details here of issues that you may not need to understand right now. Trust me, you will need to understand them one day.

I mention a number of supplier companies here, notably Ionos, Namecheap and Digital Ocean. My only commercial relationship with them is as a customer. Other similar services are available from other companies and you can do your own research to find them. If I gain any benefit by recommending a supplier in these instructions, I make that clear. Also, it's a supplier that I really do use myself, not one that's just paying me to promote it.

As you'll see pretty soon, your server runs an operating system called Linux. If you've not used Linux before, I can offer some help. You will find some free training software here. Modern versions of Microsoft Windows can run this software so you can learn some Linux commands before spending money on a server.

Nerds like me distinguish between The Internet which is a network of computers offering services of all sorts, and The World-Wide Web which is all of the web servers connected to that network. To put that another way, the Internet has web servers connected to it, but it also has mail servers, instant messaging servers and lots of other stuff.

I use Internet servers called Droplets provided by a company called Digital Ocean. These are the steps to create a web server on a Digital Ocean droplet:

Creating SSH keys.

Renting a domain.

Renting a server.

Installing Software.