Server Side Programming, Server-Side Management, Web Server Control
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Page Includes, SSI, Server Side Includes
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Server-Side Management

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Page Description ...

Learn the four different ways you can create a professional level website by managing processes on the web server. Understand the different methods you can use in server-side management. CGI programs, Server-Side Includes, Dynamic Pages and server control.

Advancing Skills ...

The day arrives when you have acquired a working knowledge of HTML and CSS, and you may even be using some JavaScript to incorporate browser-side interactive features on your web pages. By now, you have probably realised that these types of Markup and scripting languages are used to create web pages that are interpreted by a web browser on a users computer, when the browser renders a page.

You may also have realised that other web sites are more advanced than yours because their sites include pages that contain features like dynamically generated content, contact forms and other features that need to be included or prosessed by the web server, prior to the page being served to the users web browser. For the purposes of this tutorial I have categorized the functions that can be accomplished on the server-side into four broad categories (listed in no particular order).

  1. CGI Programs:  Stand alone server-side programs typically associated with a CGI-BIN directory.
  2. Page Includes:  The inclusion of static or dynamic content on a standard web page.
  3. Dynamic Pages:  Normally associated with a back-end database. The whole page is created dynamically.
  4. Server Control:  Examples include page redirection, error handling, etc.
 
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1. CGI Programs ...

CGI (Common Gateway Interface) is a protocol which in other words means that it is a set of rules that govern how two computers or processes communicate with each other. Typically, CGI is used to enable communication between an HTML Form on a web page and a computer program located on a remote web server. A user enters information into a form on a web page and then Submits the Form. The information is transmitted using CGI, to a computer program located on a remote web server where the information is processed and a Response page is then returned to the users web browser.

CGI is not a computer programming language and the term merely denotes a computer program that can understand and process CGI requests. CGI programs are typically written in Perl (Practical Extraction and Report Language), C++ or a variety of other computer programming languages and CGI programs are typically associated with or are located in a 'cgi-bin' (CGI binary) directory located in the Root directory of a web server.

Typical uses for a CGI program are to receive and process information from a web page contact form, feedback form, mailing list, etc.

2. Page Includes ...

Page includes can be split into three different categories, server variables, static blocks of web page Markup and dynamically generated blocks of web page Markup. To help you understand these different categories we have provided the following examples to illustrate a use for each category.

  1. Server Variables:  Display the web server date, time, GMT offset, the date the page was last modified, etc.
  2. Static Content:  Use one common block of HTML Markup for the footer sections on all your web pages.
  3. Dynamic Content:  Use one common block of HTML Markup for the header sections on all your web pages but the page Title, META Description and META Keywords are different for each page.

Page includes are an excellent way to include common or dynamic content on a standard web page and even non-programmers can learn to incorporate server variable and static content includes on their pages although they might have to spend the time mastering some basic server-side programming techniques if they want to include dynamic content.

The principle behind page includes is as follows. Under normal circumstances a web browser makes an HTTP request to a web server for a particular web page and the web server loads the page from it's hard-drive and then serves the page to the initiating web browser. Page includes are the same except that after loading the page, the web server scans the page looking for 'include directives' and when it finds a valid directive it includes the content specified in the include directive into the web page before serving the page to the initiating web browser.

Web pages that incorporate include directives are called server-parsed pages and you can incorporate many include directives on a web page, always bearing in mind that the more include directives you use, the greater the workload you are placing on the web server.

Page includes are an excellent way to include common or dynamic content on your web pages and they do not suffer many (any) of the problems associated with Dynamically generated pages - highly recommended.

3. Dynamic Pages ...

Dynamic pages are different to page includes in that the whole page is dynamically generated every time a web browser makes an HTTP request to a web server for a particular dynamic web page. Dynamic web pages are typically associated with specific web technologies including JSP (JavaServer Pages), PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor), ASP (Active Server Pages), etc., and you can usually identify dynamic pages by the web page extension and by the fact that they typically use a question mark ('?') in the page URLs. Used correctly, a question mark in a URL should denote a search string (e.g. a search engine search string) but many dynamic systems use a question mark as part of the web page address.

Dynamic web page creation is best used as a database front-end and an example back-end database that is very popular is MySQL (My Structured Query Language). Popular uses for these technologies include the dynamic creation of pages for web directories, forums, article repositories, etc.

4. Server Control ...

There are three different ways that you can tweak the operation of a website. The first way is to alter the configuration of the website's DNS (Domain Name Service) record, the second way is to alter the configuration of the website by changing the configuration file of the website on the web server and the third way is to alter the operation of the website using HTACCESS files located within the website area of your web server.

Examples of reasons for changing the DNS record for a website include adding or removing sub-domains, dealing with canonical issues regarding the use of the WWW prefix and adding or removing email addresses. Some Web Hosting providers give you facilities to alter DNS records within the control panel of a website but most do not. This means that you have to approach the technical support department of your Web Hosting provider if you want to change the DNS record of your Website. Some Web Hosting providers will not allow changes to the DNS configuration.

Examples of reasons for changing the configuration of the website on the web server include enabling or changing server parsed page extensions, enabling custom error handling, enabling SSI, etc. I personally have not come across any Web Hosting company that provides facilities for you to alter the configuration of your website on the web server which means that again, you have to approach the technical support department of your Web Hosting provider if you want to change the configuration of your Website. Again, some Web Hosting providers will not allow changes to the website configuration.

 
 

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Web-Wise-Wizard - Server-Side Management Learn the four different methods you can use to create professional level websites by understanding how you can enhance websites on the server-side. CGI programs, includes, dynamic pages, server control

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Page Includes, SSI, Server Side Includes
Dynamic Pages, html forms, cgi programs
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