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Web Hosting - Managing Disk Space
Few things are less exciting than managing the disk space that always seems to be in too short a supply. But few things are more important to the health and well being of your site.
The most obvious aspect of managing disk space is the need to have enough. If you have only a few dozen web pages, that's not an issue. But as the amount of information (web pages, database content and more) grows, the quantity of free space goes down.
That's important for two reasons.
All permanent information on a computer is stored on hard drives. Temporary information is often stored in memory only. The two components are completely separate, though they are sometimes confused with one another. As the amount of free space on the hard drive decreases several effects occur.
Here's one way to picture them...
Imagine you had a table with a certain area and you lay out playing cards on the table. At first, you lay them out in order, the 2 at the side of the 3, then 4, and so on. But then you pick up one or two cards from the middle and discard them. Then you add some more cards. Pretty soon things look pretty random.
Now cover the cards with a big opaque sheet of paper.
You want the cards to appear in order when displayed to someone. A special robot could be designed to always pick up the cards from underneath the sheet in order. Or, it could slide a hole in the sheet over the cards to display them in the correct order (2, 3, 4, ...), no matter what order they are really in. That's similar to how the operating system always shows you information in a sensible way, even though it's actually stored randomly.
Why should you care?
Real files are stored in pieces scattered around the drive wherever there is space for them. The more free space there is, the quicker the operating system can find a place to store a new piece. That means, if you delete the junk you no longer need (and free up more space) the system actually runs quicker. It helps create space you might need, and allows the operating system to store files for you faster.
But there's a second effect.
As you delete old files or change them, the pieces get more and more scattered. It takes the 'robot' longer and longer to fetch or display the 'cards' in order. Existing files are fetched and put together 'on the fly' (say, when you request a graphical page or a list of names). But, it takes longer to put together the web page when there are more scattered pieces.
So, the other aspect of managing disk space is to keep the pieces of the files more or less in order. A utility that does that is called a 'de-fragger' or de-fragmentation program. You can request that a system administrator run it, or if you have the authority, you can run it yourself. That keeps the 'cards' in order and allows for quicker access to them.
So, managing disk space involves chiefly three things: (1) keeping enough space to store what you need to store, and also (2) keeping enough free space to make new file storage quick and (3) making old file retrieval fast by keeping things orderly.
When only a few files are involved the benefit isn't worth the effort. But as the number and size of the files grow, to thousands of files or several gigabytes of data, the effect becomes more noticeable. Keeping things organized then makes a significant difference in performance.
Much of this can be automated using utilities. Some will delete files in a certain folder older than a certain date. A de-fragger can be set to run automatically during times of light usage, or quietly in the background at all times. Discuss the options with your system administrator and help him or her do the job better by keeping your house in order. You'll benefit by having a better performing web site.
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.