It occurs to me that many people do not have a place on the world wide web where they can store their ideas, pictures, and so on. That is something of a shame; there are a wide variety of things that one can do with a regular web server. Read on after this jump!
- E-mail server: I have heard that, in passing, many companies tend to unknowingly blacklist certain popular free webmail services such as GMail and Yahoo! Mail due to improperly configured mail server permissions. A large majority of server providers allow you to create your own mailbox and tie it to your domain; thus, I can have a variety of mailboxes for different tasks. It is important to note, though, that small businesses should consider investing in an actual privately-owned and operated mail server rather than one hosted elsewhere.
- Personal web site: Building websites are much easier than people seem to think they are. One of the more popular websites of the ’90s was one of the first weblogs for a certain man who referred to himself as Maddox (warning: content advisory). In the past, it was nothing more than hyperlinks, text, and images. Anybody could make a website that spoke about themselves or whatever topics they felt they would like to share/document online. The added benefit of having a private web server is that you can, for the most part, control what content you show to the public, and you don’t have to deal with advertisements or strict terms of service, as many free web hosts are prone to lumping in.
- Blog: Self-explanatory; if you would like to set up a blog, there are many free places out online, however they do not have the flexibility that a blog you set up and configure yourself does. Blogs that are on personal webspace tend to be viewed as more professional than those located on a free site, as well. Having near total control over the appearance and function of your blog is something many people do not often consider.
- Message board: This is for people who are part of a special interest group or community. The extensibility of many forum applications such as phpBB or vBulletin share the same properties as a blog; being able to have a greater degree of flexibility and control for a private forum means you can display what you want to your community.
- Wiki: A collaborative space for a medium to large project. If you are working in a large group or require repeated input without using special local software to communicate such as Microsoft Office Groove and so forth, using your webspace to host a Wiki can be a valuable asset. A company website, for example, could use a wiki as an internal knowledge base for its employees, readily viewable to all members of the company at a moment’s notice.
- Portfolio: Whatever the contents of a professional portfolio, the majority of it will more likely than not be in a digital form. Being able to post screenshots of your CAD work, network designs, or other examples of your work can be a valuable asset. Not only can prospective employers browse your portfolio at their leisure, it is an economic option if you can’t afford to give a full copy of your portfolio to a company (for example, the company you are applying to work for is in another country). It also provides a place to clearly document your ideas and your goals for your portfolio while saving hard resources, such as binders, ink, business cards, etc.
The sky is the limit for what you can do with your own webspace; particularly for technical professionals, I couldn’t imagine why they wouldn’t maintain their own webspace to show to prospective employers or to use to maintain discussions with like-minded professionals. Even using webspace as a sort of scrapbook to collect various interesting articles from all over the internet is good.
In the future I will probably write more on each of these topics and possibly provide some tutorials on how to set up these things. The requirements for having personal webspace are fairly rudimentary: a computer with an internet connection; seed money (50-80 dollars per year) for the webspace proper and a domain name; and lastly, an open mind willing to explore.
One thing worth noting is that the majority of webhosting providers will provide a sort of automatic installer for most commonly used web applications (Wordpress, various wiki software, message boards, etc.); in that case, the process of installation is much more straightforward and requires very little input on the user’s side.
I am afraid I might be getting far too wordy with this post, so I digress; this is a fairly involved topic which warrants a longer discussion.