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Windows Web Hosting FAQ
By: Rich Smith
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    Get the answers to your most common questions regarding Windows Web Hosting. Our Windows FAQs guides you through from the basics to what to look for in a Windows Hosting Company.

    What is Windows? 
    Windows is a personal computer operating system from Microsoft that, together with some commonly used business applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel, has become a de facto "standard" for individual users in most corporations as well as in most homes.

    Can I host my site on Windows?
    Yes. As a matter of fact, more and more people every day are choosing Windows as their hosting platform. The tools for developing web applications on the Windows platform are quickly gaining momentum in the web design marketplace, in turn making creating websites on Windows more appealing.

    What is IIS, and what can it do for me? 
    IIS (Internet Information Server) is a group of Internet servers (including a Web or Hypertext Transfer Protocol server and a File Transfer Protocol server) with additional capabilities for Microsoft's Windows NT and Windows 2000 Server operating systems. IIS is Microsoft's entry to compete in the Internet server market that is also addressed by Apache, Sun Microsystems, O'Reilly, and others. With IIS, Microsoft includes a set of programs for building and administering Web sites, a search engine, and support for writing Web-based applications that access databases. Microsoft points out that IIS is tightly integrated with the Windows NT and 2000 Servers in a number of ways, resulting in faster Web page serving.

    Why should I choose to host my site on a Windows-based machine? 
    Windows machines should be used when Microsoft technologies are needed or desired. IIS (Internet Information Server) is the standard for utilizing ASP (and ASP.NET), and is required if you wish to utilize Windows databases, such as Microsoft Access and SQL Server. Windows hosting is also required if you wish to use any components (CGI, ISAPI, or COM) that were developed using a Windows-based programming language.

    What scripting languages are available for Windows? 
    There are many options available when it comes to writing CGI scripts on a Windows machine. The most common at the time of this writing are ASP, ASP.NET, and PHP. There are many introductions, tutorials, and even sample scripts available on the Internet when it comes to utilizing these scripting languages.

    Can I get pre-made code for my Windows website? 
    Yes. There are many pre-made programs and objects written for Windows web servers. These programs vary in functionality from small components that you build into your website, to full-blown enterprise applications. Likewise, the price for such varies as well, ranging from free to very expensive. There are a number of websites on the internet that cater to Windows website development, that offer links to both free and purchased software.

    What databases are available for my Window website? 
    That depends mostly on the web hosting provider you select to host your website. There are many flavors of databases that run on Windows, but the most prevalent among web host providers are Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server (SQL2000), and MySQL. These databases (with the exception of Access) are all relational in nature, and allow highly optimized communication with your website for quick retrieval of information. Microsoft Access databases are actually just database files created with Microsoft Access that the web server can read and write to. Access databases don’t offer the processing power of the other database options.

    How does Windows compare to Unix Hosting? 
    Here is a short comparison of key features, and which are available for the Windows and Unix platforms.

    MS FrontPage 2000, 2002XX
    Real Audio/Video XX
    Cgi Scripts XX
    SSH (Secure Telnet)XX
    Web-Based Control SystemX 
    Anonymous FTPXX
    Web Site Graphical StatisticsXX
    Web-Based Email SystemXX
    SQL 2000 X
    Cold FusionXX
    ASP (Active Server Pages)XX
    MS Access X
    Visual Basic Scripts X
    Windows Media X

    What should be my main concerns when searching for a Windows hosting provider? 
    As with any business relationship, it is important that you provider has a solid foundation in the business, and isn’t a fly-by-night type of operation. Many web-hosting providers fail each year, so it is important to find a well-established company to do business with. Next, you want to make sure of their technical abilities. What are their technician’s qualifications, what is their connection to the Internet, what are their guarantees in regards to customer support and uptime? All of these questions are crucial to locating and selecting a quality Windows hosting provider.

    What qualifications should my Windows host provide? 
    It is essential that the support and management staff be properly trained to handle all of the nuances associated with networking and hosting on the Windows platform. The two most acceptable certifications in this matter are the MCSA and the MCSE. The MCSE certification covers the planning, design, and implementation Microsoft Windows server solutions and architectures. The MCSA is more of an administration certification, which covers the management and maintenance of typically complex computing environments of medium- to large-sized companies.

    Glossary of terms:

    An Active Server Page (ASP) is an HTML page that includes one or more scripts (small embedded programs) that are processed on a Microsoft Web server before the page is sent to the user. ASP is a feature of the Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), but, since the server-side script is just building a regular HTML page, it can be delivered to almost any browser.

    ASP.NET (originally called ASP+) is the next generation of Microsoft's Active Server Page (ASP), a feature of their Internet Information Server (IIS). Both ASP and ASP.NET allow a Web site builder to dynamically build Web pages on the fly by inserting queries to a relational database in the Web page. ASP.NET is different than its predecessor in two major ways: it supports code written in compiled languages such as Visual Basic, C++, C#, and Perl, and it features server controls that can separate the code from the content, allowing WYSIWYG editing of pages.

    Common Gateway Interface. In Layman’s terms, a CGI program is a program that can be executed as part of a web server process.

    Cold Fusion
    Special software package that simplifies the creation of database driven web sites.

    A small piece of functionality, that may consist of a script, small program, or even a COM object that can be used within a Windows website.

    Microsoft Certified Systems Administrators (MCSAs) administer network and systems environments based on the Microsoft Windows® platforms.

    Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSEs) analyze business requirements to design and implement an infrastructure solution based on the Windows platform and Microsoft Servers software.

    In Web programming, PHP is a script language and interpreter that is freely available and used primarily on Linux Web servers.

    This is Microsoft’s SQL based database server. It’s speed and processing power are among the best available in the industry today.

    Uptime is a computer industry term for the time during which a computer is operational. Downtime is the time when it isn't operational. Uptime is sometimes measured in terms of a percentile. For example, one standard for uptime that is sometimes discussed is a goal called five 9s - that is, a computer that is operational 99.999 percent of the time.

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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