Comparing servers

Almost 70% of sites on the internet are served by Apache, a completely Open Source, free web server. Quite an achievement for open source software, especially considering Microsoft’s share is less than 20%

There are other web servers of course, which all provide various other features… I considered quite a few alternatives when building this new server, all of course are Open Source.

The Apache Servers
The biggest, and arguably still the best, web server is Apache which is now available in two variants – Apache 1.3 and Apache 2.0, both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Apache 1.3
A long running, well established, and stable web server that is considered pretty much the standard now.

I have always used apache, for all of my previous sites and servers, and have now come to understand most of it’s configuration very well. Also, Apache 1.3 is still considered the most stable platform for PHP, and it’s VirtualHost support and the power of .htaccess files for site and even directory specific configuration make it an excellent server for shared hosting.

Apache is the default web server on most Linux distributions, Including my new distro of choice – Debian. This would make it wonderfully simple to install (i.e. do nothing, it’s already there) and also I could simply copy across all the old config files and, in theory, they’ll work.

On the downside, Apache 1.3 is now showing it’s age, and is surely soon to be discontinued now that Apache 2.0 is stable. Therefore, I have decided not to continue to use Apache 1.3.X on my servers.

At present this server is running Apache 1.3, despite what’s said above… explained later

Apache 2.0
Apache 2.0 complete rewrite of Apache, only recently considered stable enough for production use, destined to replace the Apache 1.3.X server through time.

At the time of writing, the latest version is 2.0.48, which is their 11th Public Release. I have found Apache 2.0 to be completely stable, even with PHP 4.3x, despite the various bugs that have been reported at times with that combination.

Obviously, having PHP is of the utmost importance to me, considering this whole site (and every other one i’ve built!) uses it.

Debian doesn’t have a package yet for PHP for Apache 2, although Apache 2 itself is there.. I have found a third-party package that provides php4 as a module for Apache 2.0 in Debian, which works great!

Apache 2.0 uses completely different configuration files, which I must admit I prefer, which are close enough to the Apache 1.3 ones that it’s not difficult to migrate or to learn to use the new configs.

I had decided to use Apache 2.0 as the primary web server on this server, but it’s now changed back to 1.3.X… explained later!

Caudium (Roxen)
Caudium is a completely Open Source web server based on Roxen, with a few unique and very powerful features. I like this server, but it’s very different from Apache, and indeed any other web server, It’s mainly configured from a web interface, allowing virtual sites to be set up easily.

Where Caudium is truly unique is in it’s modules. There are modules for almost everything including the nice tag which renders text graphically (as a PNG), there are also tags for generating ‘business’ graphics (charts, graphs etc…) and for image manipulation. The RXML markup even supports if / then / else statements and even SQL queries.

There is even a photo gallery modules which, with one tag, will look through a folder of images and generate clickable thumbnails and prev/next links. For rapid development of dynamic site (including nice headings, and tab-based navigation) there is no better platform, It’s easy to learn, fast and powerful

However, Caudium cannot handle the same load as Apache, it isn’t as efficient, particularly when it comes to running PHP within pages. And I don’t want to be developing sites which require a specific web server, it seems to defeat the purpose of everything following standards, I can take this site and deploy it on any server so long as it supports PHP4, if I used the extra tags offered by Roxen/Caudium, this wouldn’t be possible.

Caudium is installed on this server, mainly as a development environment which I also occasionally use for generating images, which I then save as static files and can include them in pages served by the standard Apache 2.0 server. It also enables me to host sites that require Caudium for others

thttpd
thttpd is used by several big names including Demon Internet and Global Internet, it’s also used by mtv.com and a couple of the leading banner ad companies.

thttpd also includes a couple of unique features not found in any other web server (at least without extra modules) including URL-based Traffic Throttling.

Where thttpd really excels, is in it’s speed and load it can take before slowing down or dropping connections. It’s also incredibly efficient in it’s use of system resources, which is always a good thing.

thttpd is only around 400k (as opposed to Apache which is nearer 6Mb) and has only 7,230 lines of source code. It is incredibly secure, fast, and can handle 720 requests per second (for small files) as opposed to around 300 with Apache. Additionally thttpd is considered very secure.

So why ain’t I using it?, Firstly it’s not ideal for PHP-based sites, Apache and even Caudium have much better support for PHP and are more flexible. Besides, the upstream on this server could never serve 1000 simultaneous connections, so although I can understand why Demon need something this scalable on their web servers, I dont.

Notes on Apache 2.0
I say above that I like, and use, Apache 2.0 yet this site uses Apache 1.3. Why? The aforementioned third-party module provides PHP support, but not MySQL support. I will not compile it myself, because it confuses Debian’s package manager. So until Debian releases a php4 module for Apache 2 in the official sources, I’m sticking to 1.3…

I will, of course, move as soon as that module appears!

Points to know a good Web-Hosts

Points to know a good Web-Hosts

Here are a few things I consider a good web-host to have. Also if you are considering starting a web-host these are some points you should breeze through.

•Professional Layout – It is very important for a web-host to have a great and easily navigable layout.
•Support emails – This along with a help desk system is a must
•Response time – This is one of the most decisive factors in choosing your Web-Host. I believe a good response time is anything between 4 hours, if its later then that I would not consider purchasing anything from them
•Live Chat – This handy tool can help you bring immediate sales if you know how to use it. But Web-Hosts having ‘Live-Help offline’ for most of the time would also not be in my To-Buy list
•PageRank – No matter how good the site is, if it doesn’t have a PageRank greater than 3, I’d just hit it close.
•Language – The overall language used on the site would spell its level of professionalism to me.
•Testimonials – Really essential to convince future buyers and also if I saw a testimonial of a site I visit, I would definitely consider this host. Another instant sale method!

I consider these are the general essentialities a good Web-Host should have. However there are many other nitty-gritty techniques to boost your sales in addition to the above.

I hope you may have enjoyed reading my post and it helped you choosing YOUR host 😉

What is the use of a web site.

Websites are a waste of money and time.

Well most of them are. Most people go online for just one reason– Get Information. Yet, what do you see at most websites? Portfolio! See the problem? If you stop and think, this is not a website problem. It’s a communication problem, which is why most advertising fails. The customer wants information and help and most communication fails to do that. They load you with portfolio and with information about the company. It’s all about me, me, me.

This primary reason causes more than 90% of all websites to be inefficient, useless and a waste of time. It is also the prime reason why not many people make money off their website. If you start talking about YOU, no one is interested. To give out credible, useful information is the prime function of every communication piece. If almost everything on your website doesn’t answer the question What’s in it for me?, it’s definitely not worth the time of the customer.

What A Good Websites Does

1)It gives information, and builds credibility.

2)It builds the brand and allows you to earn off the brand.

3)It builds customer loyalty.

4)It allows customers to use it as a suggestion box. It’s not a perfect world and customers should be encouraged to let you know what can be fixed.

5)It should achieve basic marketing principles. It should be solving a problem and aimed at a specific target audience.

6)It should generate its own income like any profit centre. It should justify its reason for existing. How To Create A Near Perfect Website Consider these factors as important benchmarks for creating a website. If your website doesn’t do these things, you have to question, why not?

1)Revenue Generation

2)Data Collection

3)Information Source

4)Feedback and Complaints

5)Distribution 6)Reconstruction

7)Fan Club

8)Associated Tools

9)Meet the Basics of Communication Show Me The Buckeroos!

While it’s all very fine to be a charitable institution, a website costs money. Which person or organization in their right sense would spend US$50 for no return? There would be questions to answer and heads would roll. Yet, most organizations do just that. They spend anywhere from US$2,000 to US$50,000 on a website that will not generate any return. We are not talking about straightforward e-commerce here. We are talking about a bigger brand issue and how you can use the brand to achieve the financial goals of the organization. The watchword should always be–Show me the money! Yes, even schools, hospitals and other organizations can use their websites to make money, and then use the money for a good cause. Charity and good causes are all very fine, but everything costs money. If you can generate revenue, there is no reason on earth why you shouldn’t be doing so.

When You’re A Guru, Everyone Listens It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Website design is not about design, it’s about thought process. Websites are but a tool to get information that builds the brand further. Articles and material that help the person browsing the site can achieve this. Information isn’t about getting across what you want them to hear. It’s about asking them what they would like to have. This is endless. The customers’ needs keep changing and you must be able to have information that can excite and educate them. This also keeps the other audiences active. Who Are Your Audiences? A website imparting information appeals to two simultaneous audiences. It speaks to your current audience like a newsletter or brochure would and it also speaks to a potential audience. While you are specifically targeting current clients, there is no reason why the information doesn’t impart knowledge to future clients, even potential employees.

There are a zillion bozos out there who are simply selling goods and services and not helping the customer in any way. If you help them and keep in touch with them, when the need arises, you will be first in line. Clawing Your Way To The Top This is also a good system to use when you want to capture business from competition. You don’t always have to be #1 with your client. If you don’t have the business, keep plugging at your #2 position and someday #1 will stumble. When that happens, you get an opportunity to move in. Don’t always look at everything as a sale situation. People have innate fears about change. Imparting good information marks you out as a credible, trustworthy source and their desire to work with you will go up as you keep giving them nuggets of useful information.

If You Don’t Do This, Drown Yourself This is one of the most important and inexpensive tools to corner your target audience. If a person feels the connection and you lead them through the right steps, they will invariably feel the need to get more information. If you aren’t collecting e-mail addresses off your website, then you’re missing out on the few people (or many as the case may be) that are really interested in your product or service. How To Get The Data Off Your Customers The only way to get them to part with their e-mail address is to first establish your credibility and then offer something in return. However, once you have their e-mail address and their permission, you can turn your website into a wonderful marketing machine as long as you don’t overdo it.

People get tons of e-mail everyday and the junk goes out very quickly. The more useful your information is, the more chances you have of getting visitors to sign up. You can then use that information to market to that audience selectively. So make sure you’re collecting data or your website’s true potential becomes pretty dodgy. Is Your Website Built For Complaints? You build a car with all the features. You paint it black. The customer wants it red. You try to sell the black car and face resistance. You call the customer stupid and go on trying to promote your black car. We all do this. We decide that’s what we need to promote. The customer on the other hand would like something else that fulfils their needs. We never stop to ask. Ever!

Every section of your website should have the ability to handle feedback that can then be incorporated within your website and other communication to give the customers what they need. Feedback also allows you to stay ahead of your competition big time! Once the customers trust you and see changes in the website, they will be encouraged to give more important feedback that could change not just the website but even the working of the organization. Perception is everything, and you need to know at all times what the outside world perceives your organization to be. Once you have that data, it allows you to go ahead and make the changes you need. Is Your Website Sitting In A Box? How are you going to promote your website? While most websites rely on getting to the top of the search engines, you may not have that need. You may have a very specific targeted audience you want to reach. That audience would never search for your website online. They would have to know it, or never find it at all. Companies print brochures and then make sure they go out. They build websites and it sits in the box undistributed. They hope, and this is a big hope, that someone will visit. It doesn’t happen. You have to figure out the distribution process as well, so that your website goes out to your target audience. If It’s Worth Building, It’s Worth Renovating Most organizations make changes to their business to keep competitive. Yet, they think nothing of keeping the website stagnant for 50+ years. (Ok, I’m exaggerating, but on the web 1 year= 10 normal years) Expect change to be inevitable.

The website should be constructed so that it’s easily changeable and updateable. It should also not require a degree in rocket science. You should be able to update it while you’re sitting at a cyber cafe in the Bahamas while sipping your Caribbean Punch! Understand that it’s inevitable and, like all marketing tools, this tool should be reviewed at least every 6-12 months and changed or reconstructed to meet current customer demands. Are You Signing Autographs Yet? Most organizations survive on their fan club. People who love you so much, that they’re willing to talk about you to everyone in sight. Many organizations have clients that are well spread out. The website can be used to keep that Fan Club together. It should be used as a networking tool as well.

Most organizations ignore this fact. If I love eating Indian curries, everyone else in that Indian curry section can be linked up to do business with each other. If they love your company or organization, they will reinforce each other about how great it is, plus they will do business with each other. The more successful they get, the more it rubs off the organization and eventually, the more business you get to do with them because of their success. Looking Beyond A Website Too many people are taken up with the glamour of websites. Websites are just a façade. You must understand the technology that drives business. Do you have autoresponders? How do you use email? How do you track customers? How can you communicate with customers? How can you make sure your best customers keep coming back? All of these tools have nothing to do with the website itself. However, they need to be thought through every step of the way. It’s The Psychology, Stupid! If you want to build a website, or do a brochure or have any form of communication, understand the basics of psychology. We are all driven by similar needs and wants. A Website Shouldn’t Be Deadline Driven.

It Should Be Need Driven What’s the point of having an absolutely stunning website before deadline if it doesn’t do anything for the person viewing it. Too many people in organizations are caught up in their own ego of having a website up. It’s often not worth it. Websites Aren’t For The Organization. They Are For The Customer Websites are a marketing tool. Use the principles of marketing to build and promote them. That of course, means having a target audience.

Having a problem you can solve. Flag off that problem and then provide a solution. Yahoo might be the wonder of yesterday but Google.com is the one that gets the most converts. Yahoo is trying to be everything to everyone, Google isn’t. Don’t get lost in the hype of technology because everything on this planet is based on psychology and emotion. Most websites have no objectives at all. They have no target audience. They are created because it’s fashionable to do so. Dump the fashion. Understand the basics of internet marketing and communication. And if you don’t understand the basics, get someone who can! Otherwise you’re doing what a zillion websites across the world do-

Nothing!

How to make your visitor come back to your web page.

Ok, so you’ve got someone to visit your website once. What if you wanted them to visit again, and again, and again? Ooh, that’s hard, isn’t it? Not really. Find out how to attract them back without begging with this simple internet marketing tool.

First, The Myth Ask most web designers what is more important: a unique visitor or a repeat visitor?

Most will choose, the former. I tend to disagree. Let’s analyse a unique visitor. They could just be browsing, like shoppers in a mall, or they could be a potential customer. Now, don’t get me wrong. Unique visitors might be important, because they are like new customers. However, with new customers, the onus is on you to prove your credibility. Existing customers already know what you do and how you do it. They don’t need to a whole reselling exercise. Why Is It So Important To Retain Existing Customers? Because, it costs eight times as much to get a new customer than it does to retain one. That alone should make you want to keep them.

Also, since you’ve developed a relationship with them, it’s now easier for you to do business, to re-sell, up-sell and get referrals (really, really important). If you play it right you can use your website (amongst other communication material) to stay top of mind with them. My Customers Have Already Seen My Website: Why Should They Go Back? Precisely! Most websites are about me, me, me and me! Ever notice how tons of websites have an About Us page. Frankly, who gives a damn about you? No one! Everyone who gets to your business or your website or reads your brochure wants to know what’s in it for them! Yet, all communication that goes out is based on me.

Do something constructive. Put your ego in cold storage and start re-engineering your website and your internet marketing to give information to your customer. How Do I Go About Giving Them Information? The system is amazingly simple. You know everything (or rather a lot) about your business. Your customers will never know quite enough. If, you provide them with a steady stream of information, you are already two steps ahead of the competition. You are taking the time to educate your customers and you are keeping in touch with them. Take a look at this website for instance. It’s essentially a power marketing vehicle. With minimal effort it gets existing customers to have a look at it repeatedly, simply by giving them information that would help them in their business or their jobs. If you are a casual browser, your curiosity will be aroused, and you will find yourself wanting to read more.

Once you’re through with the How To section, it’s almost natural to move on to the Client Results section. At this point in time, I am no longer selling. You have begun to sell the concept to yourself. How To Use Email To Retain Customers And Get New Business. Everyone needs to know more than they currently do. So, how about asking your customers if they would like some more information that will help them understand stuff better. In my case, I send out monthly articles to do with marketing and communication. Detailed, incisive insights that the customer wasn’t thinking of before. Then I ask them to visit the website so they can read other articles. It’s important to stop and see what we’re doing here. Many may not have the time today, but may have the time next week, or when your next helpful e-mail goes out. The first time the action is done, and they benefit, they are hooked. That’s it. You’ve achieved visibility and top of mind consciousness. Sometimes it will happen instantly and at other times it may be several months later. What you can be sure is, that it will happen! Why The Website Is Such An Important Tool For Your Business. It’s dynamic, that’s why!

Say, you printed your cards and brochures last month. You spent a small fortune on them. But now you discover you need to add something that will dramatically change what you’re communicating. You can’t throw out a thousand brochures or cards, but updating a website is easy-peasy! Simply tweak it, and you’re on your way. Remember, customers aren’t always willing to buy when you’re willing to sell. By keeping them informed and in touch with your website, they can reach out to you whenever you’re ready! How To Match Information And Credibility. Credibility is important. So you definitely need to have the About Us factor. What you need to do, however, is to tailor it in such a way that the customer understands what you’ve done, why you’ve done it and how you can help them. You can still strut your stuff, just make sure you’re doing it with your customer in mind. That alone will change the way you write it and present it. It will make the difference between it being read or being ignored. If You Don’t Have Testimonials, You’re Missing Something. It’s brief, underestimated and really powerful. Remember, people are looking at your business from a monitor! They don’t know if you’re reliable, smart or just a dork. Obviously clues within the site will indicate these things, but why not go for the kill.

Why not get yourself a testimonial and completely rid them of that niggling doubt? It’s pretty nasty if you don’t have testimonials but totally unpardonable if you don’t go out and get them! When you do a great job and the customer says, ‘Great work!’, ask for a testimonial there and then. It’s the best time and customers tend to gush more than 6 months down the line, when they can’t even remember what you did! A Word Called Discipline. No one said this was going to be easy. Having to update your website, sending out helpful e-mails, and keeping in touch is going to take time and effort. You will need to read more, so you learn more. Then you will have to write. And write reasonably well. You can do it yourself or get a freelancer to do it, but do it you must. Marketing your business must take precedence over everything else.

When times are good, we tend to slacken on the marketing. If you disclipine yourself to read one book on your subject and write at least one article a week, you are now starting to build up content. It can be done. And as Nike says, ‘Just Do It’. It’s the only way. What you will need.

1) A totally updateable website. You should never have to learn html or a html coding programme. Your website should be such that you can update both pictures and text from a cyber cafe while vacationing in the Bahamas!

2) At least 6 articles that can help your customer. That’s a good start, but invariably you will have to write more and post them on your website and/or e-mail them to your customers. If you can’t do it yourself, write down the points and get someone else to do it for you. But do it!

3) Minimal, fast loading graphics. If you have no time, neither does anyone else. Make sure your website is as lightning quick as possible. Check it out either by cleaning out your cache or by checking it out from different computers. If it’s not screaming fast, you have a problem on your hands.

4) A credibility section. Get your portfolio out there with the customer in mind. And get those testimonials!

5) Iron discipline.

It’s your business. If you don’t do it, no one will.

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