What is Apache? How it Affects Your Websites

What is Apache? How it Affects Your Websites

Apache Defined –  What It Is, What It Does, And How It Affects Your Business…

What is Apache?

Apache, is an HTTP web server that is developed and maintained by an open community of developers under the Apache Software Foundation.  “The Apache HTTP Server Project is an effort to develop and maintain an open-source HTTP server for modern operating systems including UNIX and Windows NT. The goal of this project is to provide a secure, efficient and extensible server that provides HTTP services in sync with the current HTTP standards.”

Apache is noted for having had an integral role in the initial growth and development of the World Wide Web and was the first practical alternative to the Netscape Communications Corporation web server.  Today, Apache rivals the biggest Unix based servers in functionality and performance.

Uses

Apache used to serve both static content and dynamic Web pages on the World Wide Web.   The quick and dirty definition of a server is a Software that sends web site pages back to browsers.  The benefit of Apache is that it is

Apache is used for many other tasks where content needs to be made available in a secure and reliable way. One example is sharing files from a personal computer over the Internet. A user who has Apache installed on their desktop can put arbitrary files in the Apache’s document root which can then be shared.

Additionally, some programmers test their web application code on a local server, installed with Apache.  Programmers developing web applications often use a locally installed version of Apache in order to preview and test code as it is being developed.

What does it mean to you?

If you host your own website, or plan to, then you will need a server.  Apache has many benefits that are discussed in the next section.  Among them is the fact that it is free and it is extremely stable and widely acceptable.  But what if you don’t host your own website?  Why should you care about Apache?  Maybe you won’t, however if you’re doing any kind of programming, say you’re going to add some scripts or applications to your website, you will want to make sure the language you use is compatible with Apache.

Benefits
 
Quite simply, Apache is free.

It is available for a wide variety of operating systems including Microsoft Windows, Novell NetWare, Linux and Mac OS X.

Apache supports a variety of common language interfaces including mod_perl, mod_python, Tcl, and PHP.

Virtual hosting allows one Apache installation to serve many different websites.

Apache features configurable error messages, which will help guide your visitors to the right area of your website rather than lose them all together.

Apache can run on virtually any hardware platform, which means you don’t have to go out and buy new hardware.

Apache is extremely secure, partially because it has such a long history and is so widely used.  The open source nature of it also means that there are a committed group of people working on making Apache the best server software available.

Apache interfaces with just about any database including commercial products like Oracle, Sybase, DB2, and Informix and open source databases like MySQL. This is important if you want to access statistics about your website traffic and usage, if you want to track customer information, orders, accounting numbers and reports, create forms, forums, and other various database uses.

Apache is generally safe from the variety of viruses that commonly attach Microsoft Web servers.

Because of its size and success, Apache has attracted numerous developers from around the world. These wonderful developers have created modules, or blocks of code designed to do things like letting you run CGI scripts whenever a file of a certain type is requested. Many of these modules can be found at http://modules.apache.org/.  And Apache is intuitive enough that it is easy to create a module if you can’t find what you need and there are many books written on the subject.

While tech support is not what you might get from a commercial software product, a product you’ve paid tons of money for, Apache does offer bug reporting services, forums to discuss how to solve problems and they are quick to find solutions to bugs and security issues.  Additionally, any security issues or bugs reported are posted on the organization’s website along with updates to resolve them and users can subscribe to a mailing list to receive bug reports and updates in your email box.

Drawbacks

Apache has of late, since 2006, lost some of its market share.  Most of this share has been lost to Microsoft Internet Information Services and the .NET platform.

No real technical support.  Here is the quote you will find on the Apache website, “With millions of users and fewer than sixty volunteer developers, we cannot provide personal support for Apache. For free support, we suggest participating in a user forum.”  That being said, there are numerous commercial support companies available.

Bottom Line

Even if you never decide to host your own website, plan to set up a web server, or even want to test code before you integrate it into your website, it is helpful, and beneficial to educate yourself about the uses and benefits of Apache simply because it affects your business.  As your company grows you will likely want your website to be more than a static page.  Apache, and all of its flexibility, enables your business website to not only become more interactive but to provide you a number of resources to research and connect with your customers.  Apache is sponsored by Google, Yahoo, and HP just to name a few which means it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Plus…it’s free!

Jeremy Gislason is a leading expert on membership sites, marketing and online business. Check out the world’s leading client and content management system to skyrocket your sales at http://www.memberspeed.com

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