Setting up your own server gives you the keys to the entire system. You can watch requests come in from browsers and see what your server sends back, and debug scripts as they run instead of wasting time trying to guess what strange turn has ruined your dream project. If you want to experiment with unusual scripting techniques, server includes, or even new servers, you can go ahead without have to call up a service provider and ask them to tweak their system in some strange way that might burn their system down. Not that you want to devastate your own system of course, but the risks are much lower on a closed system without needing to worry about the general public. You can experiment first, then tune things for public release; no more need for those annoying "Under Construction" signs all over your web sites in development.
This comes at a price, of course: you no longer have a service provider to complain to, unless you're lucky enough to have an experienced administrator around with time to spare for your project. With control comes responsibility - and the learning curve can seem daunting at first. The benefits, however, are worth the cost. It looks great on a resume, too!
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Copyright 1995 by Simon St.Laurent. All rights reserved. You may print this document for yourself or others at no charge, but commercial distribution without permission is prohibited.