Today's Web is more complex, and its underlying infrastructure is more involved. Web software now comes with more options and choices. Sites now are all about retaining visitors with value-added services and improving network latency and site reliability. This is a very different situation from the good old days of the Web (say 1995), where most Webmasters and site operators were concerned about putting together good-looking HTML pages or offering ways to capture a visitor's attention with animated graphics and interesting backgrounds.
The recent sophistication of the Web is both a blessing and a curse. New technologies such as caching, load balancing, and network monitoring and management will take some time and effort to figure out. It also will take time to understand what works best for your particular situation. For example, if you are running a site with multiple Web servers located in different locations, your management needs will be more challenging than if your data center is under one roof. That's where this series, "New Web technologies to improve your site," will hopefully help you stay on top of these new technologies and decide which ones are most appropriate for your own Web site.
This article is the first of four practical surveys of new Web technologies that you can use to enhance your site. Over the next few months, I'll cover what is new and different about the Web as we approach the year 2000. This article will review tools to help you manage your Web site and keep track of its reliability using some very easy and inexpensive services and products. Part 2 will look at the universe of Web caching, including the various kinds of services and server technologies that can be used to improve the Web browsing experience both for your own network and for your visitors from around the globe. Part 3 will cover new kinds of payment processing technologies that are being put in place for a number of leading Web storefronts. Finally, Part 4 will examine the growing variety of outsourced services that you can use to enhance your own Web site and add depth in terms of e-commerce, hosting management, and additional services such as customer response management and e-mail outsourcing. Each article will provide examples of leading-edge technologies and links, whenever possible, to where you can try limited-term downloads of software.
I assume that you have some familiarity with installing and operating your own Web server, whether this is on Windows NT, UNIX, or some other operating system. While many of the tools and servers are only available for NT, many will also work on other platforms, or are available directly from Internet-based services and will work with any Web server. With any product, I will go into details about my usage and experiences, both good and bad, based on years of operating several Web sites and testing hundreds of different products.
The world of Web server management takes in a fairly wide swatch of technologies. It also helps you--as a Webmaster or a CIO--accomplish several different tasks:
|Product, Vendor, URL||Price||Function|
|App Manager Suite, NetIQ||$2,500+||Windows software monitors NT services only, but includes a wide range of support for Exchange, SQL Server, and connectors to management frameworks such as Tivoli, Unicenter TNG, and Open View.|
|CompanySleuth from Infonautics||free||Net-based service that keeps track of stock prices and investor information on a series of target companies, and sends daily e-mail reports.|
|Manage.com||varies||Service provider that can manage the entire e-commerce path and processes.|
|Serversitter, FastFocus Systems||$349||Hardware card for NT, Windows 95/98 servers that will automatically reboot a hung server.|
|Site Watch 2000 from NET Resolve||varies||Net-based service to monitor your site from dozens of different locations around the Net.|
|Sitescope, and SiteSeer, Freshwater Software||SiteScope, $495-$1,295||SiteScope is software to monitor NT and UNIX servers. SiteSeer is a Net-based service to keep track of particular servers and URLs. Both provide various kinds of notification.|
|SiteSeer, Freshwater Software, $995-$3, 495/yr|
|Tracerlock, from Peacefire||free||Net-based service that looks for mentions of keywords across the entire Web and sends daily e-mail reports with URLs.|
|Uptime, from Phil Greenspun||free||Net-based service that keeps track of particular servers and URLs and sends notification via e-mail when unable to connect.|
|WebPartner from VerticalSoftware||free||Net-based service that keeps track of particular servers and URLs and sends notification via e-mail when unable to connect.|
|WhatsUp Gold, from Ipswitch||$695||Windows software that provides notification and monitors a range of devices, including hosts, servers, and hubs.|