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Web Hosting - Redundancy and Failover
Among the more useful innovations in computing, actually invented decades ago, are the twin ideas of redundancy and failover. These fancy words name very common sense concepts. When one computer (or part) fails, switch to another. Doing that seamlessly and quickly versus slowly with disruption defines one difference between good hosting and bad.
Network redundancy is the most widely used example. The Internet is just that, an inter-connected set of networks. Between and within networks are paths that make possible page requests, file transfers and data movement from one spot (called a 'node') to the next. If you have two or more paths between a user's computer and the server, one becoming unavailable is not much of a problem. Closing one street is not so bad, if you can drive down another just as easily.
Of course, there's the catch: 'just as easily'. When one path fails, the total load (the amount of data requested and by how many within what time frame) doesn't change. Now the same number of 'cars' are using fewer 'roads'. That can lead to traffic jams.
A very different, but related, phenomenon occurs when there suddenly become more 'cars', as happens in a massively widespread virus attack, for example. Then, a large number of useless and destructive programs are running around flooding the network. Making the situation worse, at a certain point, parts of the networks may shut down to prevent further spread, producing more 'cars' on now-fewer 'roads'.
A related form of redundancy and failover can be carried out with servers, which are in essence the 'end-nodes' of a network path.
Servers can fail because of a hard drive failure, motherboard overheating, memory malfunction, operating system bug, web server software overload or any of a hundred other causes. Whatever the cause, when two or more servers are configured so that another can take up the slack from one that's failed, that is redundancy.
That is more difficult to achieve than network redundancy, but it is still very common. Not as common as it should be, since many times a failed server is just re-booted or replaced or repaired with another piece of hardware. But, more sophisticated web hosting companies will have such redundancy in place.
And that's one lesson for anyone considering which web hosting company may offer superior service over another (similarly priced) company. Look at which company can offer competent assistance when things fail, as they always do sooner or later.
One company may have a habit of simply re-booting. Others may have redundant disk arrays. Hardware containing multiple disk drives to which the server has access allows for one or more drives to fail without bringing the system down. The failed drive is replaced and no one but the administrator is even aware there was a problem.
Still other companies may have still more sophisticated systems in place. Failover servers that take up the load of a crashed computer, without the end-user seeing anything are possible. In fact, in better installations, they're the norm. When they're in place, the user has at most only to refresh his or her browser and, bingo, everything is fine.
The more a web site owner knows about redundancy and failover, the better he or she can understand why things go wrong, and what options are available when they do. That knowledge can lead to better choices for a better web site experience.
Software copyright Software Copyright Difficult to Enforce For those of you who love computer games, you probably know more about software copyright than you ever thought you'd want to know-especially if you have or have ever owned multiple computers. Most new games not only come with special copyrights but also built in security features that are designed to enforce those copyrights. Some have even gone so far as selling you the right to 'use' the material you are purchasing rather than providing you with actual ownership of the software to which they own the software copyright. That bothered me a bit at first, but I've come to understand it's another way of protecting them and their rights as well as controlling or limiting how you use the software they provide. Software copyright is actually quite confusing and hotly debated. Many stores will not accept opened software as returns because the software companies won't reimburse them for the product and they are left holding the bag. It doesn't sound like much but when you think of literally thousands of consumers attempting to return opened software because they didn't like or worse, they only needed to download and install it for it to actually run. Companies that produce computer software have become savvy to the ways of the modern consumer. Those companies that produce computer games especially require that the disk actually be in your player in order for the game to operate properly. This enforced the software copyright to the extent that two people can't reasonably share ownership of the same game, as they both need an actual disk in order to operate the games. But for every solution there is a hacker or budding programmer that creates a new problem for software makers and holders of software copyright to face. One of the latest problems is the virtual CD. The long and short of this is that the computer is tricked into 'seeing' the CD where it should be and carries out the game as though it were. Another important thing to note about software copyright is that there are many programs available that mimic some of the more notable applications for no fee. These are often referred to as open source software and often have excellent if not superior quality to similar programs that are available for fees. One thing I've noticed is that I will often find free open source software, download it, love it and a few months later I will find a more polished version of the same software, by the same company available with a few more bells and whistles for a fee. The new improved software has a software copyright and is not free to consumers but it is also a much better version than what I currently have. It's a great way for new software developers to make names for themselves and get volunteers for the testing process of their development phase. A software copyright offers protection and recognition to the owner of the software. The problem with protecting software is that it is impossible to police properly. That would require walking into every home on the planet and checking each computer to make sure there are no duplicate copies extra copies, illegal copies, etc. Plus, who keeps the actual boxes from all their software? I certainly do not. I could never prove that I was honoring the software copyright if the packaging or receipts were the only way I have of doing so. Most people in the world today honestly want to do the right thing. Software is one of the most expensive purchases people will often make for their home computers, it only makes sense to buy actual copies that have an actual software copyright in order to protect your investment not only in your software but also in your computer.
Publishing a Book is the Final Frontier (book publishing) Many authors begin their careers intending to publish a book. Book publishing is a difficult task to accomplish. It takes many months of work and extensive preparation. A book involves intricately woven ideas. A book is a project. In that project is contained many other projects. Most people are not prepared for the intensive process that is involved in creating a full, coherent book. If book publishing is something that you are interested in trying, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, writing a book is like nothing you have ever done before. It will take extensive and intensive work and development. It will also probably include much of everything you know, and more. Read on for more clarity. Uncharted Territory Book publishing is like a new land that has never been explored before. Of course, there are several book authors out there. They have been around for centuries. Unlike other areas of expertise though, book writing is not something that will be the same process for several different people. As you set out to write a book, you will be able to follow some basic guidelines, but getting your ideas from your head to the page will be an invention of your very own. Not only will you have to get the information onto the page, but you will have to write in a way that thousands or even millions of readers will be able to relate to and understand. Again, that will be a process that will take experimentation and trials. As you begin the process of writing your first book, as well as subsequent books, expect to work and rework. One Idea Is Not Enough Part of the reworking process is the changing of direction within the writing. Many beginning writers aspire to book publishing. They have an idea and vague plan to turn the idea into book. Picture your first grader telling you that she wants to write a book about horses. There is certainly enough information that people want to know about horses to fill several books, but the vague idea is not enough for an adult writer to create publishable work. To write a book, you will need to start with a topic. You may or may not be an expert on the subject. After you have the first vague ideas, you will need to start asking yourself questions. Answering those questions will hopefully lead you to more questions, and so on. Even if your original idea is completely unique and will lead you to write new information that the world does not yet have access to, you will need to add to that original idea for an intriguing finished product. If you are not an expert, or if you do not already know any new information, it will take even more time and effort in order to produce a unique piece of writing. Fiction is the same as non-fiction. Many stories have been told before. If you want to publish, you will need to come up with an engaging and new journey for your readers to take. Using Previously Published Work Now that we have covered the requirement for intricate and new ideas, there is also room in a book for old ideas. Your readers will need a starting place within your writing that is familiar and known. As you are putting together your ideas for a complete book, you will probably publish smaller pieces of work in magazines and newspapers. It is ok, as long as you cite yourself, to reuse some of that work. In that way, you can be publishing as you go along while still making progress towards your end goal in book publishing. After several months or even years, you will have poured out your effort and knowledge into a finally completed and whole book.