Over the past few years, I’d get a package that was supposed to help me create a Website for Internet marketing. “Just add it to your hosting service and you’re ready to go!” Well, not quite. How does one go about preparing, configuring, testing, and deploying such a package? There are many more things to do to get it functional. When you start, it’s almost overwhelming.
Writing an HTML file and displaying it in your browser is so far away from running an online Website, that it defies comparison. As a next step, you can get a regular shared host service, but that implies that you know what you want to do (to some extent). It may make you feel a bit queasy, since all your experimentation and partial pages are on the Web for whomever to see. If you’re just trying to get your arms around it all first, you may feel like you’re jumping onto a moving train.
As an alternative, I advocate using a WAMP system (which stands for Windows-Apache-MySql-PHP) for testing. This set of programs produce the essential services that constitute a Web server environment. Not that I’m trying to slight the Linux environment, but most people don’t have Linux systems readily available.
By setting up a Web server on your own computer, you can have a totally private development environment to work in, without the worry that people will be seeing your mistakes. You can create a page, test it (within limitations), and then deploy it to a regular hosting environment, without worrying about the complexities of uploading each change to a separate site just to check the modifications. Another significant benefit is that you don’t need to be connected to the Internet to test. Furthermore, you can learn about all the aspects of configuring, controlling, securing, updating and enhancing the Web server environment without crashing your production system, and learn how at your own pace.
The WAMP packages I will be reviewing consist of various components, and offer different features. Their main strengths are that the developers have put emphasis on different aspects of the environment. One package has ease of implementation. Another has ease of creating multiple concurrent sites. Still another allows for dynamic changes in the versions of the components. And another has built-in ftp and email servers as well as web server log analysis. I’m sure there will be others to look at.
The key factors I used to select these systems are that all are free to use and, more importantly I think, updated often by dedicated volunteers. Some offerings have significantly helpful documentation, while others use the “discovery” method for training.
I intend to give you some key details on these systems, allowing you to set them up without all the normal fuss and problems. I will also point you to some of the resources you’ll need to know about in order to learn how to support these systems beyond the initial installation.
Secondly, I’ll give some tips and procedures for installing some primary Web applications, like WordPress, Drupal, various Wikis, phpBB, etc.
With this introduction, you now have perhaps some idea where the next series of articles is headed. The neat part of this is that I’ll be looking for your comments and help, hopefully making this an independent resource for Web developers.
I haven’t developed any long term plan for this particular site yet, but I’m going to involve you all (to the extent it makes sense). If this grows into something big, I may be looking at donations, advertising, etc. to help keep the lights on.