Thanks for the warning dklynn. I won't be going near anyone else's server, I want to learn how to protect my own sites, by learning how hackers could attack them and then how to protect them.
there are several books on penetration testing which rely on BackTrack (http://backtrack-linux.org/) as it's a single compilation of "network management and testing tools" that there is - many from the "black hat" side of things but great for testing using what hackers use. IMHO, though, setup a virtual machine environment on your computer and install there to test against your own computer or LAN.
I've been looking at the books available on the subject and noticed that a lot of them rely on BackTrack. I'm not the most technical person and have never used Linux. Is it difficult to get BackTrack up and running on my Windows machine?
EDIT: As I'm not familiar with Linux should I consider using an application that will run on Windows, such as Metasploit or something else that you could recommend?
I've been skimming through Patrick Engebretson's book "The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing: Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing Made Easy" and some of it makes frightening reading for a website owner.
That course looks very interesting but at close to $800 it's a bit expensive for my needs, at least for the moment.