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Web Hosting - Databases, What Are They and Do You Need One?
'Database' is one of the most commonly used terms that one encounters in web site design. Yet, what they really are and whether they're essential is often not clear to novices.
A database is a collection of organized data, stored in files that have a specific structure. It's that organization and structure that allows for easy and rapid storage and retrieval.
The need for a database generally only arises when you have a certain amount of information and that information needs to have some structure. If you have a half-dozen names and addresses to store, a database is usually overkill. If you have a blob of data with no relationships between any of the items in that blob, maintaining a database is usually more trouble than it's worth.
Maintain a database? Yes, like other complex systems a database, to be effective, needs to be designed properly at the outset then kept 'tuned' for good performance. The alternative is to gradually allow the database to become more and more disorganized. That leads to difficulty in use, poor speed of retrieval and more frequent failures.
With MySQL, Access or MS SQL Server, the three most common choices of database product for web sites today, setting up a database is relatively simple. Even those with limited technical skill can get one up and running just by following some simple instructions. But some thought should be given to how you want the information organized, and to maintaining the system during its lifetime.
Suppose you have a set of names, addresses, email addresses, products purchased, date purchased and amount. If you have only a few dozen records it matters very little how these pieces are arranged and related. A database usually isn't even warranted in this scenario. Once you have several thousand or more records, it matters a lot. Speed, the ease of expanding the set of attributes (like adding, say, product category), and other issues come into play.
Even those with little technical expertise, but a willingness to exert logical thought and invest some time, can build a very robust database. Think about how you would organize a set of data (called 'tables'). Should Name, Address, and Product be in the same table? Or should the personal information be stored in one table and any product information (product, price, ...) in another?
Some experimentation may be needed to get it right, but the choices have an impact on how easy the tables are to maintain. It also affects the speed with which programs can fetch old data and store the new.
Having a database also introduces new maintenance issues for the server administrator, since backups usually need to be done differently. Recovering a failed database is usually more complicated than simply re-copying files from yesterday. Ask your hosting company what tools and skills they have for dealing with any database system you consider.
It's true that introducing a database creates more complexity and the need for additional thought and administrative effort. At a certain level, professional expertise will be needed. But clearly the advantages outweigh the costs in many cases. Companies large and small eventually use databases to store and organize data. At some point, you may be fortunate enough to be one of them.
Web Hosting - The Internet and How It Works In one sense, detailing the statement in the title would require at least a book. In another sense, it can't be fully explained at all, since there's no central authority that designs or implements the highly distributed entity called The Internet. But the basics can certainly be outlined, simply and briefly. And it's in the interest of any novice web site owner to have some idea of how their tree fits into that gigantic forest, full of complex paths, that is called the Internet. The analogy to a forest is not far off. Every computer is a single plant, sometimes a little bush sometimes a mighty tree. A percentage, to be sure, are weeds we could do without. In networking terminology, the individual plants are called 'nodes' and each one has a domain name and IP address. Connecting those nodes are paths. The Internet, taken in total, is just the collection of all those plants and the pieces that allow for their interconnections - all the nodes and the paths between them. Servers and clients (desktop computers, laptops, PDAs, cell phones and more) make up the most visible parts of the Internet. They store information and programs that make the data accessible. But behind the scenes there are vitally important components - both hardware and software - that make the entire mesh possible and useful. Though there's no single central authority, database, or computer that creates the World Wide Web, it's nonetheless true that not all computers are equal. There is a hierarchy. That hierarchy starts with a tree with many branches: the domain system. Designators like .com, .net, .org, and so forth are familiar to everyone now. Those basic names are stored inside a relatively small number of specialized systems maintained by a few non-profit organizations. They form something called the TLD, the Top Level Domains. From there, company networks and others form what are called the Second Level Domains, such as Microsoft.com. That's further sub-divided into www.Microsoft.com which is, technically, a sub-domain but is sometimes mis-named 'a host' or a domain. A host is the name for one specific computer. That host name may or may not be, for example, 'www' and usually isn't. The domain is the name without the 'www' in front. Finally, at the bottom of the pyramid, are the individual hosts (usually servers) that provide actual information and the means to share it. Those hosts (along with other hardware and software that enable communication, such as routers) form a network. The set of all those networks taken together is the physical aspect of the Internet. There are less obvious aspects, too, that are essential. When you click on a URL (Uniform Resource Locator, such as http://www.microsoft.com) on a web page, your browser sends a request through the Internet to connect and get data. That request, and the data that is returned from the request, is divided up into packets (chunks of data wrapped in routing and control information). That's one of the reasons you will often see your web page getting painted on the screen one section at a time. When the packets take too long to get where they're supposed to go, that's a 'timeout'. Suppose you request a set of names that are stored in a database. Those names, let's suppose get stored in order. But the packets they get shoved into for delivery can arrive at your computer in any order. They're then reassembled and displayed. All those packets can be directed to the proper place because they're associated with a specified IP address, a numeric identifier that designates a host (a computer that 'hosts' data). But those numbers are hard to remember and work with, so names are layered on top, the so-called domain names we started out discussing. Imagine the postal system (the Internet). Each home (domain name) has an address (IP address). Those who live in them (programs) send and receive letters (packets). The letters contain news (database data, email messages, images) that's of interest to the residents. The Internet is very much the same.
What to Think about While Choosing a Writing Desk (writing desk) Writing desks come in many shapes and forms. The technical definition is a piece of furniture with a surface for writing, with drawers and pigeonholes for writing materials and a portable case that when opened forms a surface on which to write. A writing desk could be as complex as that definition or as simple as a desk for writing. Basically a writing desk can be anything that you want it to be. You may not need to buy a writing desk. You may be perfectly comfortable with one you already have or working on the couch or at the kitchen table. This is fine. If it is a cohesive work environment for you that is fabulous, but some writers require a more formal, dedicated area just for them. By finding the perfect writing desk, you are on the way to the start of creative that work style atmosphere that they need. Before you begin your writing desk shopping venture you must first have two things picked out. The area in which your desk is going to go and the chair you are going to use. The location of the desk is important because it will be necessary to choose a size and style. The chair is important for comfort and maybe an important factor in determine the correct height of desk needed. Once these are figured out you shopping journey is ready to begin. While shopping for a writing desk the most important feature is comfort. You need to sit at the desk for most likely for hours at a time. Having a desk at the right height is imperative to this. With the writing surface being to high or to low will not only be uncomfortable but also will more that likely make it difficult for you to concentrate and write. Having a writing desk that is not the correct height is likely to cause neck and back strain. The function and the size of your writing desk are the next factors you need to consider before you purchase one. Do you need one with a little storage or a lot? Does it need to have an adjustable surface or can it just be flat? With all the choices available assessing what you need can help narrow down the ones that will work for you. How big of a space do you have for it? These are some simple considerations that are often forgotten while buying a writing desk. It would be terrible to fall in love with a desk and bring it home just to find out that it is not going to fit. The next important thing is style. When choosing the style of the writing desk you will want it to flow with the furniture already in your home. If your home is modern or contemporary you may want to choose one of the metal and glass desk designs or perhaps one with light wood tones and metal accents are right for you. Another great writing desk available is called the secretary. The secretary is wooden desk with drawers on the bottom and a fold down writing surface. They are usually compact in size but have ample storage and often offer shelving covered by glass doors on top. Plus having a fold down writing surface, it is easy to close up when you are done and hide you space altogether. Choosing the writing desk that is right for you may not seem that important. I mean how difficult could it be to choose a surface to write on, right? But making sure comfort, storage, and style fit into your lifestyle is an important decision. This is part of creating a suitable working environment for you to produce your work.