Getting the Time Straight
Before any server software is set up, the server’s time must be accurate. Visit http://www.worldtimeserver.com/atomic-clock/ to download the latest version of the Atomic Clock Sync utility. Install, and run. The time will be synced up with the Atomic Clock.
What Does a Web Server Actually Do?
The main advantage to having a web server is that it allows you to operate your own web site. Keep in mind that many web sites can be hosted on a single server, and one large web site can be hosted on several servers. However, for your purposes, you probably want to host one web site on one web server, making the process much easier than before.
Web servers are basically programs that handle requests from web browsers (think Internet Explorer or Netscape) and parse the request. Therefore, on the surface, web servers are relatively simplistic programs. However, in more recent times, web servers need the ability to create dynamic content through scripting languages such as PHP (and CGI/Perl sometimes). They also need the ability to store information through a database , like MySQL.
Web servers also can store files and allow users to download them. When a user downloads a file, it is copied from the server to the user’s computer, and becomes the user’s file, allowing the user to parse the file himself. However, when an *.html or *.php file is requested, it flags the web server to parse the file on the server and to not allow the user to copy the file.
Although this background information was probably not necessary to know, it always helps to have an idea of what you are really doing.
Installing a Web Server
Although there are thousands of web server packages to choose from, I found that AppServ is the easiest and most secure one of all, for a convenient price of zero. Visit http://appserv.sourceforge.net to download. For a bit of background on it, I will tell you that it is a variant of the popular Apache Web Server that has been pre configured to work well with newbies and Windows users. It also comes with PHP support and MySQL (database engine) capability.
After clicking the download link, you’ll see:
In case you’re wondering, phpMyAdmin is a PHP script that helps you administrate MySQL databases with ease. Next, you will see a screen requesting your server’s domain name, your email address, and port. Unless you own a domain, keep “localhost” as the domain name and type in your email address. If you do own a domain name (that points to your server), type your domain name in the place of “localhost.” In either case, keep the port as “80.”
Next, you will be prompted for MySQL database login credentials. Create a unique username and password, and make sure you write both down so that you do not forget them. Latin1 is usually a good setting for most locales that use the latin character set (almost everyone except for Asian countries and Arab countries).
Finally, let the installer run.
When the installer is complete, go to “My Computer” -> Your Disk Drive -> AppServ -> www and rename the index file from “index.php”to “index2.php,” so that the resource index page doesn’t load in the place of your website.
Now, you are ready to add a website to your “www” folder. Anything you put into this folder could potentially be displayed on a network or on the Internet. The scope of this tutorial is to explain how to create the server, not the website, so we will move on to adding file servers on the next page.