Web hosting basics

  • For any website to be available for viewing on the World Wide Web, it has to be on a computer that is connected to the Internet.
  • The host can be any computer at all, anywhere in the world. Your computer at home can host your website, if you want.
  • All you need for the host are
    • Power
    • An Internet connection
    • A dedicated IP address
  • Each computer or device that connects to the Internet has an IP address.
  • This address is unique and allows other computers on the Internet to find you.
  • For a site to be readily found online, it needs to always have the same IP address, which is called a dedicated IP address.
  • Each server can host multiple websites, depending on the size of the sites. This is called shared hosting.
  • Some servers, however, are dedicated just to one site or to a small number of sites belonging to one person or organization. These are called dedicated servers.
  • A blog is just a website designed to be easily updated with new posts.
  • Domain namesA domain name is the name you type into your browser to view a particular website. The domain name is also called the website address or web address.
  • All web hosts have a domain name-checking tool on their websites.You can check the availability of a name by going to your host’s website and entering the name into the checker. On many sites, the checker even suggests alternatives if the name is not available.

Server Types:

  • Linux hosting
  • Windows hosting
  • UNIX
  • Cloud hosting
  • Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
  • Dedicated servers

Windows hosting:

  • Mostly used when site is designed using Microsoft technology. (DB – Access, .Net Technology)
  • Run IIS server

*NIX:

  • Unix types – AIX, BSD, SCO Unixware, Solaris
  • Linux types – CentOS, Debian, Fedora, FreeBSD, OpenSUSE, Red Hat, Ubuntu
  • Robust
  • Cheap

Cloud:

  • The basic idea of cloud computing is that you join multiple computers together to provide faster, more reliable performance.
  • Websites get delivered faster and don’t suffer from slowdowns. When one website receives a lot of traffic, the load is spread equally among multiple servers in the cloud.
  • Security risk – multiple websites floating around in the same cloud.

Virtual Private Servers:

  • Virtual Private Servers
  • With a shared server, all of the sites share all of the resources of the server, and if one site hogs the resources, all the other sites suffer.
  • With a VPS, the server is divided into equal sections, and each site (or set of sites) is placed within its own section.
  • These sections are called virtual private hosts because they act independently of each other and are like a set of mini web servers that all share the same hardware.
  • A VPS can be a good idea if your site has a fair amount of traffic because it guarantees a certain level of processor time and memory availability to you.

Dedicated Servers:

  • A dedicated server is exactly what it says … a server dedicated to you.
  • It is a physical server in a data center which is yours and yours alone.
  • No one else shares it or even has access to it.
  • This is the most expensive hosting option, but it is also the most powerful and gives you the most control over the environment in which your site is hosted.

Location of host:

  • Any website with any address can be located on a server anywhere in the world. So just because a website has a German web address, that doesn’t actually mean the site is on a server in Germany.
  • Although data travels around the Internet at incredible speeds, you can expect a definite time delay when talking to a server that is geographically a long way from you.
  • Ideally you should locate your site on a server that is in the same country as your target audience simply for the benefit to your visitors in speed of access.
  • Check with the web host you are thinking of using to find out where its servers are located.

Server back up:

  • Some hosts automatically back up every site they host every night. This is good.
  • Some hosts do not back up the websites they host at all. This is bad.
  • Some hosts will back up your sites for you for a small additional fee. As long as that fee doesn’t make your overall hosting cost too high, that can often be worth it.

Control panels:

  • Hosting software creators: These are independent companies that don’t provide hosting themselves. Instead, they put all their energy into creating a hosting system that is both powerful and easy to use. These are companies like cPanel and Parallels, which make the cPanel and Plesk hosting systems, respectively. Their systems can be licensed for use by any hosting company.

           Examples: cPanel, Plesk

  • Proprietary systems: These systems are developed in-house by the larger web hosts and are unique to that particular host.

          Examples: GoDaddy, DreamHost, 1&1

Using Hosted E-mail:

  • When you purchase your own domain name, You can have an e-mail address that ends in @yourdomainname.com.
  • Your web hosting gives you the capability to create e-mail addresses at your domain.

Read Hosted E-mail:

  • Webmail: Webmail is where you log into your e-mail account through your browser. You normally go to webmail.yourdomain.com. or mail.yourdomain.com, depending on how your particular host configures its servers.
  • Webmail is simply a browser interface into your mailbox.
  • Your mail is stored on the server, and a webmail client (a browser-based application) enables you to see what mail is currently stored and which items have not yet been read.
  • Many different webmail clients are available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses
  • cPanel installations come with four different webmail clients: Horde, RoundCube, Squirrel Mail, AtMail
  • You can access your webmail in two ways:
  • Through a direct URL. Your web host will be able to tell you what the URL is, but it’s most likely to be either webmail.yourdomain.com or mail.yourdomain.com.
  • Through your control panel. Most control panels have an easy link to click to take you directly to your webmail login screen.

 

  • A mail client: The great advantage of using a mail client is that it downloads your mail to your computer so that you can read and write offline. The disadvantage is that you have to configure a mail client on every computer you use, which, if you don’t always use the same computer, can be very frustrating.
  • On Windows-based computers, the top free clients include Mozilla Thunderbird, Opera Mail, and Windows Live Mail. The top paid clients include Microsoft Outlook, Postbox, and The Bat!
  • For the Macs, popular free clients include Apple Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Opera Mail. Popular paid clients include Postbox, MailMate, and Microsoft Outlook.
  • On Linux, all the most popular clients are free and include Mozilla Thunderbird, Evolution, and Zimbra.
  • Whichever client you choose, you have to configure it to connect to your server for sending and receiving e-mails. There are two ways to connect to your server: POP3 and IMAP. Both are configured through the same configuration wizard in your e-mail client, but they work in an importantly different way.
  • POP3: When you download your mail using POP3, the mail is downloaded to your computer and the computer remembers the last e-mail it downloaded. That way, the next time your computer checks for new mail, it knows which e-mails it has already downloaded and ignores them.
  • You then choose in your e-mail client’s option settings how often to delete mail from the server. You can do it anytime from immediately to never.
  • POP3 can be useful when you find that you’ve inadvertently deleted one of the e-mails you downloaded and need to get it back. You can log in to the server through webmail or through a different e-mail client and re-download the e-mail.
  • Problem: The disadvantage of POP3 comes if you read e-mails on more than one device — say a laptop at work and a desktop at home or your desktop and your smartphone. Each client keeps its own record of what it has downloaded and what it hasn’t, regardless of what you’ve downloaded elsewhere. This means that you can download your e-mail at work and go through and delete all the junk to leave only the e-mails you need. When you get home, though, your computer has no way of knowing what you deleted at work and downloads the whole day’s worth of e-mails again and tells you they’re all unread.
  • IMAP: IMAP works in a similar way to POP3 except instead of just downloading new e-mails, it synchronizes the e-mail in your e-mail client with what’s on the server. When you delete an e-mail locally, IMAP then deletes that e-mail from the server the next time the client and the server synchronize.
  • This is a great advantage if you read your e-mail on more than one device. Wherever you check your mail, you always see what you’ve already read and what you’ve replied to even if you read the messages on a different computer or device.
  • The disadvantage, though, is that there’s no fail-safe system. After you’ve deleted an e-mail, it’s gone, no matter which device you try to look for it on.

 

Using a Remote Mail Service with Your Domain Name

  • This means that although you have taken out a hosting plan for your website, your e-mail for that domain name does not have to be handled by the same server.
  • If you want, you can have a different server handle your e-mail addresses.
  • This is actually a good idea, as it means that if your web server goes down, your e-mail still works, and vice versa.
  • If you want to host your e-mail on a different server than your website, you can either take out another hosting plan just for the e-mail, or you can use one of many third-party companies that specialize in hosting e-mail.
  • One of the most popular third parties is Google, which will enable you to use the Gmail system with your own e-mail address. This means that if you like the Gmail interface but want to use your own domain name for your e-mail address, you can have the best of both worlds through Google Apps.
  • Google Apps are free for individuals and small groups. To register for Google Apps, go to http://google.com/apps.
  • When you sign up, Google walks you through what you need to do to use the service, which normally includes the following:
  • Creating a Google Apps account
    Uploading a file to your website
    Changing your MX records to point your mail to Google’s server

Database technologies:

SQL

SQL is used in products such as Oracle and Microsoft SQL, which provide tools for using, manipulating, and developing with SQL.

SQL has a set of standards that define how it operates. However, these standards are either ignored or interpreted so differently by the companies that develop SQL products that despite the fact that their databases are written in the same language, there is often little or no portability between them.

MySQL

It’s free, easy to use, and almost universally accepted by web hosting companies.

MySQL (pronounced My S-Q-L or My Sequel) is a free version of SQL developed by Michael Widenius and David Axmark and named after Michael’s daughter, My.

MySQL is based on the SQL standards, but it does not comply with them fully. It was written with its source code freely available under a GNU GPL (General Public License).

You can administer MySQL from a command line or by using one of many Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs). Its popularity has grown incredibly over the last few years because it comes preinstalled by most web hosts, who also install the phpMyAdmin GUI for it.

MySQL is free, easy to use, powerful, and robust enough for most purposes. It is the database used by popular applications such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and phpBB, and it is the database language behind sites such as Google, Wikipedia, Twitter, and Facebook.

 

Microsoft Access:

Microsoft Access is a database technology developed by Microsoft (who else?) for use in its Office suite of products.

Access has been well integrated into Office so that all of the office suite products can easily use databases created with it. Access has been continually updated by Microsoft for many years, so it offers an easy-to-use, integrated system that can be valuable for small businesses.

Access is not well suited to the web, though. It does not offer great portability between systems, so although it is great for in-house applications, it is not the best choice for building a website.

 

PostgreSQL:

PostgreSQL (sometimes called Postgres) is a free Object-Relational Database Management System (ORDBMS).

The differences between MySQL and PostgreSQL are fairly significant in terms of how they work behind the scenes, but fairly small in terms of performance for the average website.

PostgreSQL, like MySQL, has been around for a while now and has proven itself to be stable, full-featured and, more recently, as fast as MySQL.

 

 How SSL certificates Work

Without getting overly technical and in-depth, your browser goes through four basic steps to ensure that the connection is secure:

  • It checks the address of the site and its IP address against the details on the certificate.
  • The server and the browser interact to determine what encryption types they can both support and agree on one to use.
  • The server and the browser supply each other with unique codes to use when encrypting and decrypting data sent between them.
  • The browser displays a confirmation in the address bar that the connection is secure, and all data is then sent encrypted.

A certificate fully confirmed to legitimately belong to a legal entity with the right to use that domain name either turns the whole address bar green or displays the company’s name in a green block before the web address.

SSL certificates must be purchased from a recognized Certificate Authority (CA); otherwise, your visitors’ browsers will not authenticate them. There is an extensive list of trusted CAs, each of which can have multiple brands attached to it.

The three main international players in the certificate market have a number of different brands associated with them, including the following:

Symantec: Equifax, Thawte, VeriSign, and Geotrust
GoDaddy: GoDaddy.com and Starfield Technologies
Comodo: Comodo CA and UTN-USERFirst-Hardware
Your browser can give you a list of its trusted certificate authorities. For example, in Firefox, go to Options->Options->Advanced->Encryption->View Certificates.

Security Level:

Basic: Purchased with online automatic validation, no paperwork, no faxes needed. 2048-bit digital signatures and 99.9% browser recognition with a $250,000 warranty.
Wildcard: Full business validation, 2048-bit keys with 128/256-bit encryption, 99.9% browser recognition, and covers all subdomains for your domain with a $1 million warranty.
Extended Validation (EV): The highest level of business validation plus a green address bar and $1.5 million warranty.

 

Where to buy from?

You can buy certificates from a whole host of different places, and you are free to shop around and buy your certificate from your preferred seller. Buying a certificate from your web host, though, is sometimes best because installing a certificate isn’t always easy, and your host will be able to help you with certificates purchased through it.
You can purchase SSL certificates directly from the CAs, although this is sometimes the most expensive way to do it because they often are available at discounted prices through resellers such as your host or your domain name registration provider.
There is no real advantage to buying certificates directly from a CA. Where you get your certificate is a matter of whom you prefer to do business with.

 

DNS Details:

Country-Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLD): These are comprised of two letters preceded by a dot and they are internationally recognized as the code for a specific country. These were set up by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and are known as the ISO 3166 codes. For example, .au represents Australia and .uk represents the United Kingdom.
Internationalized Top-Level Domains (IDN TLD): These are ccTLDs in non-Latin character sets (for example, Greek or Chinese characters).
Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD): These domains usually include three letters preceded by the dot (for example, .com, .org, and .net), but may contain more (for example, .info).

Each separate TLD has its own “Authoritative Nameserver” with its own unique IP address. The simplest definition of a nameserver is a server that holds a directory of domain names mapped to the IP addresses of the servers those domain names reside on.

 

DNS Cache:

  • Your computer’s cache: Whenever you search for a new website, your computer stores the IP address in the computer’s local cache. This means that the next time you request to visit that website, the browser does not have to spend time redoing the search for the correct address; it simply pulls the address from its cache of stored addresses.

  • Your browser’s cache: In addition to the cache your computer keeps, each browser you have installed on your computer (for example, Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, or Chrome) can keep its own cache of website IP addresses. There have been many times when different browsers on my computer have shown different results for a website because the site has moved and one of the browsers hasn’t updated its cache.

  • Your DNS server’s cache: The configuration of the DNS ensures that, when your computer starts a search for a domain name, the search is routed through your ISP’s DNS server and is not done directly by your computer. For this reason, your ISP keeps a cache of the domain names all of its users have searched for. This reduces traffic from the Internet by lowering the number of iterative searches that are performed. If one of your neighbors has already looked up google.com, the DNS server doesn’t need to search for it again when you want to go there; it just tells you where it found google.com the last time it looked.