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RISMEDIA, Jan. 25, 2007-(MCT)-Web site disaster prevention and Web site disaster recovery is linked to education, reputation and the size of your wallet.

When a business customer asks a Web designer to build a site, the customer should have researched the Web host possibilities.

The Web host company is the source for security-prevention measures at the site and for data backup and recovery.

Phil Ryker, director of technical operations at Swift Systems Inc. in Frederick, owned a Web hosting company in 1996, sold the business in 2000 and has worked for a number of hosting companies.

"There is such a huge difference in the technology available from one Web host company to another," Ryker said. "Some clients have had great experiences, some don't."

A client's goal should be to find out if the host firm can provide reliable server space at an economical price, Ryker said. How much a company spends for reliability is based on the business's revenues.

A prospective customer should know the right questions to ask, said Steve Flook, senior systems architect for 270net Technologies Inc. in Frederick.
"Where are the servers located? If they are in the office, avoid that company," Flook said. "Ask if data backup is provided nightly and are there redundant Internet connections."

Redundancy means that a secondary peripheral, computer system or network device will take over when the primary unit fails, according to PC Magazine's Web site.

"Ask if there is support for the Web site, including by telephone, Monday through Friday or is support 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Mr. Flook said.

If a client finds a hosting company that charges $5-a-month, that is an example of commodity hosting, which features very low cost, almost no customer service and support, and very rigid support procedures for the business, he said.

Caressa Flannery, who owns Create-a-Pulse Marketing in Frederick, sends customers an information guide that lists the features and details of the Web site she proposes to build for customers.

Included is a page on the server facility that will host the site. The guide lists the server name, the processing technology and where the servers are co-located (an alternate site). Then there is a list of features such as remote video surveillance of the data center, electronic motion sensors around the center's perimeter, UPS (uninterruptable power supply), and backup HVAC supplemental systems to the principal cooling systems.
"Some of my clients have been burned before; I can tell you of disasters from both Web hosting firms and Web development firms," Flannery said.

"Every industry has bad apples. Those of us who do a good job and have integrity have to reassure our clients," she said. "The hosting company I am hooked up to will do exactly as I say they will do."

Web design firms and the Web host firm should be geographically close, Ryker said. "If there is a problem, it is much easier to visit the host company and talk with the sales or technical representative. It's better to eyeball; at a remote location, you can't see the person you are talking to," he said.

The first thing Joseph Alberici tells his clients is that there is no such thing as 100% Web site availability.

Alberici, the owner of Inroads LLC in Frederick, says that he has two laws: no 100% availability for the user and no 100% solutions to fix the problem. "The closer to 100 percent you get, typically the more expensive and more complex the solution," he said.

Alberici worked in corporate America for 28 years before starting his company. In his experience, most Web designers start with the graphics and the best visuals to deliver the marketing message. "But the Internet must be looked at from a technological standpoint as well. A complete solution to designing a Web site includes complete protection."

The Web designer can offer suggestions or the customer can find a Web host company.
"The Web designers are the interface with the clients; the designers secure the host company with client approval," Ryker said.

"If the customer does the homework, the customer can work more economical deals than with a Web designer, who has to charge for the time."

A business does not have to pay expensive monthly fees for Web hosting, Ryker said. "A client can have an entry-level share in which the customer's account is shared with other accounts on the same server, which still can be cluster aware," he said.

Clustering is using two or more computer systems that work together, according to PC Magazine. Multiple servers are linked together to handle variable workloads or to provide continued operation in the event one server fails.

A better option for a client may be to move to a virtual private server that allows an entire open system segmented to the customer account, Ryker said. This guarantees resources on the server through virtualization technology.

A virtual server is multiple servers that appear as one server for load balancing, according to PC Magazine. For example, all clients would use the IP address of the virtual server, which in turn uses address translation to point to a real server.

Load balancing for a computer system, network or disk subsystem will more evenly distribute either data or a process across available resources.

A high-end client option might be a dedicated server that is only for the customer's use. For reliability, there could be another server added that is load-balanced, Ryker said.

How well a host company responds to a disaster is very important, Flook said. "It's common among big servers; they are busy. We have spare parts in inventory for repairs, and we have redundancy."

Flook's firm uses RAID hard drives with redundancy built into the hardware. If one drive fails, the second hard drive will run, he said.

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks, a disk subsystem that is used to increase performance or provide fault tolerance or both, according to PC Magazine.

RAID improves performance by disk striping, which interweaves bytes or groups of bytes across multiple drives, so more than one disk is reading and writing simultaneously.
Fault tolerance is achieved by mirroring or parity. Mirroring is 100 percent duplication of the data on two drives (RAID 1). Parity is used to calculate the data in two drives and store the results on a third (RAID 3 or 5).

It's important to note the difference between redundancy and backup, Alberici said.
"They co-exist. Redundancy is like a backup for hard-drive failure. You minimize hardware failures by putting in redundancy.

"Backing up data could mean taking a snapshot of all the servers and writing the information to a tape once a week. If the system went down, theoretically, you could run the tape of backed-up information back onto the computer," he said.

A snapshot, according to PC Magazine, can be one of two things:
–A saved copy of memory including the contents of all memory bytes, hardware registers and status indicators. The snapshot is periodically taken if the system needs to be restored in the event of failure.
–A saved copy of a file before it is updated. Part of a storage management program, snapshots enable previous versions of files to be brought back for review or to be placed back into use.

Depending on the price, you could back up information more frequently — every day, every hour, simultaneously, Alberici said. "The danger of backing up frequently is that if your data is compromised, the virus will also be transferred to the backup," he said.

A host company has to weigh the time intervals, Ryker said. For security, an analysis has to be made of how the system works, and make real time snapshots. "The data can be constantly replicated so that I can immediately take action if there is a failure. Within 3 seconds I can have the site up and running with a second network. That means a 3-second delay in accessing information at the Web site."

Copyright © 2007, The Frederick News-Post, Md.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.