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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.

Following Up on Fallacies about Getting Free Stuff ?Free stuff? ? the mere whisper of the words is often enough to make many people throw common sense out the window and head for the free goods like a missile to a target. And then there are those people whose eyes glaze over when they hear those words, because they can?t believe anything worth having can actually be free. The truth about free stuff is really somewhere in the middle. Yes, you can really and truly cash in on many freebie deals for things that you want to have, but a healthy sense of cynicism about free gear is also useful. Here are some of the important things to keep in mind about free stuff. The first myth you should throw out the window is that nothing good comes for free. The fact of the matter is that the price tag on a good doesn?t always match up to the quality, and there are many great free things out there. Case in point: music. Sure, everyone has heard the scare stories about file sharing online, and maybe some big record labels will come after you if you focus on their artists. Dig a little below the surface, however, and you can find a whole new world of really great bands that are more than happy for you to listen to their music over and over again. The same goes for free software. People on the cutting edge of technology who have a passion for creating new and efficient applications often develop open source code software. They?re doing it for the love of it, and they often have more talent than any ten suit-and-tie tech guys trying to hock their latest product for a mega profit margin. Here is where the reality part comes in, however. Yes, you can find wonderful things that are completely free ? but yes, you can also find a lot of free things that aren?t worth your time at all and in some cases can cause you a lot of trouble. The net is a great place to fall victim to a ?free stuff? scam, but you can also sometimes come across these scams in the mail as well. If something is free, but requires you to give your credit card number or bank details, run the other way. Another myth people have about free stuff, especially free stuff on the internet, is that when you try to cash in, the only free stuff you will be getting is an inbox full of more spam than you can handle. The truth about this is, well, that is can certainly be true. Many companies give away free things in exchange for your email address, so they can try to hit you up to purchase things in the future. What makes this a myth, however, is that it can be avoided. If you don?t want to choke on an inbox of spam, and who could blame you, set up a special (free) email account that you will use exclusively for freebie hunting. You?ll have the best of both worlds. The last myth about free stuff involves the ?catch? people are always looking for. Often, for free stuff, the catch is a bit of junk mail or email or the fact that you have to submit to a time consuming survey. Sometimes, the catch is that if you get free stuff through a trial offer, if you don?t cancel it, it keeps coming, and this time you have to pay. The truth about these catches is, however, that the catch is in the eye of the beholder. These things don?t make products any less free; so don?t write off every free offer offhand. You might just find a catch you can live with to get a great free product you really want.

Networking Know-How: How to Get Through to the Busiest of People When you are job hunting, sometimes the most frustrating part is just getting your foot through the door to let the right people know that you are out there and available for work. Companies can be like members-only clubs; they tend to be a little distrustful of cold callers and most executives advise their assistants to run interference for them on the phone so they do not get stuck having a protracted conversation with someone they just aren?t interested in doing business with. The thing is that to get an interview, these people can be the very same people you need to talk to. How do you get these busy people to clear some time off in their busy schedule to speak to you? First things first ? you have to get the right attitude. If you want busy people to make time to talk to you, you have to present yourself in a way that makes them feel like you are worth the time investment. The trick here is that you have to do this by phone, and often, you have to first convince an operator or personal assistant that your call is one worth putting through to the boss. Your phone etiquette and vocal confidence will be the key here. Consider you basic phone manners first. Instead of launching right into what you want, respond to the greeting of the person who answers the phone with a hello of your own. Animate your voice and always remember that simply saying ?please? and ?thank you? can go a long way. Be the kind of caller that you would want to talk to if your job was answering the phone all day. People will respond to your positive attitude with a positive attitude of their own. Next, consider your confidence level on the phone. Do you tend to get tongue-tied and stumble over your words? That kind of delivery from you will set all the warning bells ringing on the other end of the phone, and you will find the person with whom you wish to speak always ?out of the office.? Instead, work on sounding like you are confident that it is a forgone conclusion that you will get to speak that busy person you want to talk to. Be confident that what you have to say is something that is worth hearing. It may help to write out a framework of what you will say and practice a few times so you sound relaxed and composed when you make that call. Once your attitude is right to make the call, you can then employ a few tricks of the trade for getting through to those busy people. Instead of giving away too much up front, start your call by asking if the person with whom you need to speak is in. If the answer is yes, then you can remove on potential ?excuse? for not putting your call through. If your call can?t be taken at that time, skip the message. Let the PA or operator know that you will call back again. That way you have a legitimate reason to keep calling. Of course, you might have to keep calling and calling, and that assistant might start knowing the sound of your voice. If you keep speaking to the same person, it?s time to open up with some person details. Let them know your name, why you?re calling, and if someone referred you, who that person is. Developing that personal relationship can help you get your call through to the boss. Last but not least, don?t give up. Busy people are, well, busy, and not necessarily avoiding your call. Persistence pays off, so keep on calling until you get through.