If you are a web designer, webmaster or somehow involved in creating or managing websites then you probably have plenty of experience with web hosting providers, Apache,.htaccess file, PHP, MySQL and related technologies. When you create or update any web page it is a good idea not to do it directly on the live website. If you do anything wrong your mistake will be seen by anybody visiting your website. Therefore it is a good idea to have some test environment to test new pages before they are uploaded to the live site.
To have a home web server for testing purposes you need only some disk space and appropriate software. The best way would be to replicate the environment of the web hosting provider. This usually means having a Linux server with Apache, PHP and MySQL software installed. This might be a solution for those who are more advanced computer freaks, but the fact is that installation of such web server is not a big deal. All the relevant information can be obtained from the web. And if you don’t have a dedicated computer for this purpose you can simply install virtual machine software on existing computer.
The next option is to install a simple package that does it all. If you are using Windows operating system then there are many such solutions.
The first one is WampServer. This is simple web server software that incorporates Apache, PHP and MySQL which are needed to run any PHP script or static web pages. WampServer is a complete Windows web development environment. WampServer allows you to create web applications and comes also with PHPMyAdmin database management script.
Another popular solution is EasyPHP. This is another complete package that allows you to use all the power and the flexibility of the PHP language. EasyPHP package includes an Apache server, a MySQL database, PHPMyAdmin and some development tools for web sites and applications.
There are also other solutions, but one of those two mentioned will probably satisfy your entire home web hosting needs. If you have a permanent internet connection you can also access your web server from anywhere. You can also set up a domain to point to your home web server. In this case you would need a static IP address or a service like DynDNS which will update DNS records each time your IP address will be changed. All you have to do to enable access to your web server from outside is configure the firewall on the computer where the server software is installed and to configure your router to forward packets on the port 80 to that computer.
You need no special knowledge or skills to install a home web hosting software. Anybody can do it. You can use it as a sandbox, a web development environment or a simple web hosting for your personal pages.