2021-01-26 - Self-hosting a simple web page

Hi there, long time no see! Well, new year, new article :) So let's begin where we have stopped last time. We were talking about the Internet and how it is relatively easy to host a website or a service.

What will be our service?

Well , let us begin with something really simple: a web page. For that, just open a text editor. If you are using Windows, a notepad will be sufficient. If you use OSX, same, use notepad. If you are using Linux, well first congratulations, and then use whatever you want, you know what you are doing ;)

Ok so open your text editor and copy paste the following:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <title>My website</title>
    This is a nice web site!

Save it in the folder you want with the name index.html. If you open this file with a web browser, you should see a very simple web page. Okay, now, how to display it to the whole world?

A web server to host them

We saw in the previous article about self-hosting that when you want to browse a website, your web browser sends a request to a chain of servers. So now we have a web page, we need to use a web server which will respond with your web page each time it gets a request. They are several web servers that exist, we will use Nginx for this article. Don't try to install it directly on your computer, we will use Docker for that ;)

Docker... wait it becomes complicated, no?

Not at all actually, let me explain briefly what Docker is. It is a piece of software for managing containers. See a container like a service. You tell Docker to run a service with some parameters and boom, it runs. When you don't want to have the service running, you just tell Docker to stop it. Nice thing here is that all the dependencies and all the moving pieces end in the containers so you don't have to be afraid about bloating your system with weird services and files. The only thing you need installed on your computer is Docker.

You have it installed? Great, let us go then. Before, I talked about containers. And now you ask: "How can I create a container?". Containers are created from images that you can build yourself, or download. Usually, for well-known services like Nginx, you can download them.

So open a terminal and list the containers running or your machine:

docker container ls

You should get an empty table:


Now let us get and run the official Nginx container:

docker run -d \
    -v /my/folder:/usr/share/nginx/html:ro \
    --name my-website \
    -p 8080:80

Let me explain what this command does. docker run [options] nginx asks docker to download and run the official nginx container. Following is the list of the options used and their explaination:

If you want to stop this docker container, you can run the following command:

docker stop my-website

Et voilĂ !

Now open a web browser and go to localhost:8080. You should see your website! You can now get you local IP address to access the website from an other machine in your local network by going to your_ip:8080. You can also give access to your website to people on the internet, but I cannot help you with that since the process will depend on your internet provider.

That's all for now, folks!