- Server options
Extranet is the term used to describe the process of extending your internal
computer system - whether it is a standalone PC or a network - onto the Internet
and letting people interact with your internal system via the
Internet. These people are typically customers, staff and/or suppliers.
Extranets come in come in many shapes and sizes. The right way to link with
your customers depends on where you start, your objectives and your budget. Our
overarching advice - go for what works for you AND your customers.
You don't have to spend a fortune to get started. This page provides a broad
overview of the different options available at each
stage of Extranet development - from simple low-cost e-mail and "peer to
peer" solutions through to
more complex, and therefore more expensive technologies.
The server technology you are using will determine what level of extranet you
can build. The following table summarises the mainstream extranet
...with attachments and EMU
"Brochureware" Web Sites
...with eMail and Forms/Files
eMail, Forms/Files and PERL/PHP Scripts
A server is a computer that manages various forms of Internet traffic. What a
server can do depends on the capabilities of the software it is running.
Servers can range from one physical machine that performs all
Internet-related functions through to a server "farm" where hundreds
of computers automatically share the traffic workload and each cluster of
individual physical servers is processing just one type of transaction - for
example just e-mail or just web pages.
Despite the range of possible variations and the types of transactions
servers process, a typical company has only four broad options. These are:
- Shared Servers
- Dedicated Servers
- In-House Servers
- Peer-to-Peer solutions
Shared Servers - Most web sites
run on shared servers. The computer acting as a server is controlled and
serviced by an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Multiple web sites are usually
"hosted" on one server.
The upside is that sharing a server is cheap
when compared to controlling and servicing your own server.
The downside is that
the range of services you can set up on your web site can be limited by the ISP you
are using - for example some ISPs allow you to set up custom programs called
"scripts" (see below) that can enhance your Internet services, while
others do not - usually because they are concerned that rogue scripts related to
your site will compromise the performance of the shared server.
Dedicated Servers - If you want
100% control over your extranet / web site server, then you need a dedicated
server that you do not need to share with any other extranets / web sites.
Dedicated servers are managed by ISP's on your behalf. The costs are
higher than a Shared Server, but this option provides you with much more
flexibility. Linking options are the pretty much the same as for Shared Servers.
In-house Servers - This option
means that you take full responsibility for your own extranet / web site server.
The running costs are higher than for Dedicated Servers because you need to
employ people to keep your server(s) running 24/7/365, and you will probably
need to have duplicate backup hardware on "warm" standby.
BIG benefit is that your in-house server becomes another computer on your
internal network. Access to your web site is as fast as it is to other machines
on your network.
Your web site and your internal applications can share the same
data in the same database. This means that you can have a "real time"
web server - i..e an extranet / web site that is interacting directly with your
option is a relatively new arrival but it holds a lot of promise as a low-cost
way for companies to manage an Extranet. Strictly speaking any computer
operating in a peer-to-peer environment is in fact a mix of end-user and server.
If you are into music you have probably heard of Napster - the first wildly
successful "Peer to Peer" network. Napster allowed anyone to use their
desktop machine as a web server. A Napster user could search for music files
across all computers on the Internet that were running Napster at the time
(there were normally thousands). When a Napster user located a music file they
wanted, they used Napster to copy the file directly from their fellow Napster
users' machine to their computer. There was no need to have a Central Server
containing music files - i.e. no "Boss" computer - hence the term
"Peer to Peer".
To summarise, the type of server you use affects your options when planning to introduce your Extranet.
need to consider the different ways you want to be able to communicate with your customers,
staff and/or suppliers.
For more information about the kinds of things
you need to know when considering developing YOUR extranet click on the link
below that most closely describes your current situation.
Only systems | Brochureware Sites
Sites | Peer-to-Peer