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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.
The Job Interview ? How to Handle Getting Around a Negatively Asked Question Many dread that day that they have to go for an interview. Looking professionally dressed, acting professional and displaying the knowledge is all important. Employers and interviewers test you for anything and everything that you can think about--from your likes and dislikes to the actual experiences with this type of work to the facts. Most of these questions you can dodge and answer safely and securely. But how about those negatively asked questions, how could you professionally dodge those questions? Often times a reaction to a negative question is what can make or break the deal. Sometimes employers ask these questions on purpose to see what your reaction might be and to be able to determine first of all your character and second of all, if the negative event in your life is related to a good or bad character. So how can you master these questions and possibly pass the tests? One of the most important factors when getting prepared to dodge difficult questions is to be secure and knowledgeable about any points on your résumé and in your life. If you have a good answer prepared for difficult situations that happened in your life, it will be an ease for you to get around negatively asked questions. Whenever an interviewer asks you a negative question, make sure you stay calm and do not answer hastily. Sometimes it is enough to give a very short answer and it does not necessarily need a complete explanation that might get you stuck. The longer the answer you try to make up, the easier you might stumble over something and then fall hard. When trying to get around a negatively asked question, besides that fact that you need to stay calm and give a short answer, try to get to a different topic. Strike up a conversation about your more positive skills and accomplishments and therefore get around that question that might have bothered you otherwise. In some instances, depending on the content of the question, it might even be best to answer truthfully. What if you were asked about staying home for no obvious reason? At least according to your résumé there is no job, no new degree or similar mentioned. Maybe it was for a sick relative or the birth of a baby? Why not use the truth in these cases as an answer. When answering difficult questions you might have to decide often on the spot how to answer. In any case, it will almost never help you to make up a lie for a negatively asked question. A lie can get you into a situation you cannot get out of, but the truth can never get you in a worth situation than you are in by answering the questions truthfully. If you do not want to answer truthfully because you think it can hurt your image, sometimes it then is better not to answer the questions. Try to divert the attention successfully to another more positive topic such as your achievements, earlier project or similar other experiences that led to a positive result. Keep in mind that the interviewer is testing to see if you are a good fit for the company and they do not exactly know you. They know a few facts about you, but the do not know the whole picture and especially not about the more negative things they might want to find moiré information about. So when going for a an interview and trying to get around a negatively question, make sure to be honest or to not get into details if you do not want to discuss the issue, but mainly make sure that you stay calm, do not get excited about it. A calm confident person can easily answer any and all questions that might be posed to him or her.
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.