Hello! I recently recieved a Linux computer from a contest and I have some questions about turning it into a webserver for my hosting company.
First, I don't have enough money to buy a server, but is this going to be a waste of time and money in the end?
Second, I don't have 450$ to spend on CPanel and WHM, are there other, less costly, end-user and hosting control panels out there? And if so, would you pay for a host that used it?
Third, What should I use as the server software? Apache?
Fourth, are there any other pieces of information you can give me about this subject?
Blimey, you need to know a lot, and to use it for a hosting company... you're kidding right? You'll need to know about linux in general, administration, security, and then hosting and webserver configuration and a hundred other things. Not that I'm trying to put you off, but you should be aware that running a server isn't a plug-it-in-and-off-you-go affair.
Firstly if you want a free control panel, check out webmin. I'd say you can install it through yum, but I don't think that'll make any sense to you.
Yes, apache is the webserver used in linux, for nearly 99% of all installations.
I'd look at google for information, and the WHT tutorial forums. Once you get to know a few basics, you'll then know enough to go looking for more details.
Direct Admin is less costly and doesn't strangle the server with tight intergration, it's a really nice control panel to deal with.
Consider leasing the machine as it will be a complete business write off, owned computers only depreciate over 3 years as far as I know.
If you don't know whether or not to use Apache using Linux don't have your own dedicated server - period. Get yourself a reseller account for your "hosting company" and safe yourself and all your clients the time, frustration and from your own screw ups IMO.
You can't just take any Linux computer on any internet connection, and start hosting clients. You need to have a high-spec machine, and it needs (or at least really should be) located in a datacenter. If it was a high-spec machine, you can consider colocating it, but you know need to know a lot about Linux and Linux administration to run, secure, and maintain a hosting server.
Personally I don't see why you shouldn't give it a go but try hosting your own sites first and if its good and working amybe you should rack it up at some DC for the reliability and speed which maybe quite difficult to provide at your location.
If you really want to learn how to operate it, try doing it without any control panel at all. Use the command line to add site, set quotas, create users etc etc.
And when you know the ins and outs or at least some of the basics of a Linux you would start venturing further.
But the bottom line is go and "screw up" Sounds crazy? Well not really, when you screw up and problem solve you learn, when you don't screw up, you learn nothing at all. but please try this where there are no real customers involved.