An Open Source HTTP Server
Apache HTTP Server is the most used web server software in the world. Developed and maintained by a community of developers (Apache Software Foundation), it is released under the Apache License, and is free, open-source software.
Fundamentally, it allows a web server to receive a request for a resource from a client. The request is usually made via a web browser or an app, and the resource is most often a file, web page, picture or similar. Each request is then passed through a variety of language and security modules which determine how to handle the request, how to manipulate any response, or whether to respond at all. Once all of these “rules” have been processed, a response to each the request is delivered (conditionally) back to the client. In most cases, this response will be HTML code that is interpreted by the web browser or app making the original request.
Apache played a key role in the growth of the World Wide Web, and has been the most popular HTTP server in use since April 1996. While it’s primary purpose is very simple – delivering web page content, and although there are many many competitors in this space, it’s the trademark stability, and impressive ability to scale up for enterprise-level environments that has resulted in it now forming the backbone of almost half of all web hosting environments today.
At 21 Designs, we have years of experience implementing and developing applications built on Apache HTTP server. Not only do we recommend it as the platform of choice for your next web site implementation, but we’re seasoned veterans when it comes to setup, configuration and maintenance. We also specialise in creating and troubleshooting .htaccess directives, a key component of any modern CMS allowing us to develop custom solutions more reliably and more quickly.
If you’re interested in learning more about Apache HTTP Server setup, configuration and a wealth of tips for your own .htaccess directives, we have a bunch of interesting tricks, configuration samples, code snippets and much more.
Back in the 90’s, website’s were great. Lot’s of text, a few pictures, but nothing too fancy. But what if you wanted to show 15,000 products on your website? From a maintenance point of view, it simply wasn’t feasible to maintain 15,000 pages, especially if you needed to make a single change to all of them.
This is where “server-side” languages came to be. Imagine a language that could intercept your request for information, process the request on the server and return a result depending on what you asked for. In the previous example, this language allowed website owners to construct a single page “template”, which simply filled in the gaps depending on the users request. So a single change to 15,000 pages was now in fact a single change to a single page.
PHP is one such server side language. A programming language designed specifically for the web, the code is flexible enough to be mixed with HTML making useful in a wide variety of frameworks and website templating engines. Figures collected by Netcraft suggest that PHP is used in almost half of all websites today.
While the reasons PHP is so popular are quite technical, it primarily because it’s loose structure allows developers to write code quickly. This fact is not lost on us, and at 21 Designs, we live and breathe PHP. We love it for it’s simplicity, flexibility, speed and pure grunt.
The recent addition of PHP7 to our existing server fleet immediately realised a more than 40% increase in performance across all hosting environments. With a lot of happy website owners, this highlights an important point – that this software, largely based on the efforts of a large and dedicated community, is a rock-solid platform for anyone considering their options both now and into the future.
We also have a good collection of code snippets and other resources specifically targeted at those who are new to PHP. If you’re interested in learning more about PHP web development, check them out here.
An Open Source Database
MySQL is the second most used open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) in the world today, behind SQL Lite, which ships with every Android & iPhone. A popular choice for use in open-source web applications, it is one of the four components of the widely used LAMP stack (an acronym for “Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP/Python.”).
Applications using MySQL include: WordPress, Joomla, MODx, TYPO3, phpBB, Drupal and many more. MySQL is also used for a number large-scale websites, including Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.
21 Designs are industry certified in Oracle SQL (Structured Query Language), and we bring years of experience working with MySQL, from enterprise-class data mining to simple storage apps. Our knowledge of RDBMS systems, and experience customising the systems that use them ensures we have the skills you need no matter how much data you have, or how complicated it’s structure.
So what skills should you really be looking for?
It’s well and good to say “we’re technically proficient”, but it’s not the only thing that matters…
- Do they understand your target market? If not, did they ask? Do they care? You may not be actively marketing your website, but how can someone build or maintain it if they don’t know what’s really immportant?
- Can you have a sound business discussion with them, or have they not bothered to ask you any questions about how your business works? Is it all just geek talk?
- How well do they justify the costs of what they’re proposing to you (as it pertains to your business, not an idealistic forecast of profits), or are they just hoping you have the money?
- Do they provide any training, or post-production support? How well do they explain the resources you will require to maintain your system,? Do they prepare you for the pitfalls (there are plenty)?
- Do they manage their own hosting and support, or do they use a third party provider?
- Can they tell you the versions of PHP, Apache & MySQL used on their servers? How well is the platform secured against malware, SPAM and other forms of intrusion/hacking?
- What options do you have for purchasing domains, upgrading services, cancelling services, managing your own site, changing passwords, creating emails etc.?
- Are there any support agreements in place? This includes ongoing rates, hidden fees, costs for future add-ons, and most importantly – response times?
- Ok, so they say they specialise in WordPress – or OpenCart – but do they really? If they always rely on third party plugins because they can’t build their own, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your options, after all you were after an expert weren’t you?
- Any seasoned developer will immediately know what’s involved to setup freight, payment gateways, membership platforms, security, feedback and comment systems and so on. If they can’t tell you what’s involved up front, it’s likely they haven’t done it very often. Don’t be afraid to grill them for the information you need!
- Have they explained how your site will be upgraded or maintained? This is critical if you’re to see a return on your investment, after all, what good is spending thousands on something without a guarantee of longevity?
Sick and tired of hearing “Sorry, that can’t be done”?
The true test of any developer – When you actually have to think, and put that square cube into the round hole…
We see it all the time, in fact many of our clients are with us now simply because they couldn’t find anyone else to do what was necessary. The reality is that it’s not all that often, a particular request can’t be fulfilled.
More commonly, it’s a result of the developer not having the time, or the knowledge to accurately scope the task. Even worse, they may not know how to do it at all. What usually results is this very common yet disappointing response.
What they should have said was “I don’t know how”, or “It will cost you a fortune” at least then you’d know you need more expertise. So the next time your developer tells you it can’t be done, make sure you ask why, and if it sounds like a half baked response – it probably is.
Another very common problem is the huge gap in technical ability between hosting companies, web designers and marketing agencies. We often see multiple services spread across multiple vendors, and almost inevitably, one hand rarely knows what the other is doing. This lack of technical expertise across multiple disciplines often results in finger pointing, unnecessary delays and communication breakdowns.
At 21 Designs, we handle all your online needs, from hosting, security and maintenance, design, development through to marketing and we have the expertise to back it up. We won’t tell you that it’s a problem with your website host, and we won’t ask you to speak with your developer to get some changes made.
Instead, the buck stops with us, ensuring your project and your business runs like a well oiled machine.
So how does all of this translate to your business?
This is where it’s imperative to fully understand the wide variety of languages, formats and technologies that can drive the back-end of your website. Big agencies hire one developer for this component, and another for that component, an expert or third party for the hosting, another person for the marketing and so on.
You eventually wonder if you’ll ever speak to the same person, and you’re definitely wondering why your project was so disjointed.
Our experience across many languages & platforms gives us a broad base from which we can make better design and development decisions which result in a better a product for you and for your customers.
Think we’ve got the technical know-how to get your website sorted? Then call us on…
1300 662 492