E-Commerce Journal Part 1 Page 4

By Joe Burns

The Server

When HTML Goodies first went live as its own domain, the site was housed on a server in California. I am not revealing the name here at the request of the Webmaster. This server was known for housing some pretty big names. They had the Playboy network, ESPN's Real server, NBC, Cops, and a few others that are worthy of name dropping. I got space on the site through my advertising representative at the time. Goodies remained on the site until Earthweb bought it in 1998.

I knew the people there and felt they were professionals. I knew that they would be able to at least lead me in the right direction. I say lead me because my wife knows nothing about computer programming or servers. Her only involvement with the Web was surfing every now and again. I was in charge of all things technical.

At first I asked the Webmaster to price out StreetArtist.com sitting on a shared server. That meant I would have a basic business account sharing a server with a few other businesses. We talked a little longer about exactly how the site would work. At that point I hadn't given the workings of the site much thought. I just knew we would sell art, art that we didn't even have yet.

He made two major observations, first, the site would need to run from a search engine. The site could not be a simple static page format. The reason is because we will sell only original art. If a person buys a painting, that's it. It's gone. We can't sell an equal second piece to someone else. That means that a search engine had to be set up that would show users only what was available to them. We didn't want people to come to a page that displayed a piece of art that they couldn't buy. Yes, I know we could leave the static page up there and simply write "SOLD" across the picture, but I hated that idea. I wanted the site to display only the pieces that were available. If a piece had been sold, it wouldn't show up for someone else to see.

So, we now knew that the site would be rather CPU intensive because no one could navigate the product without using the search engine. I had learned earlier how much brainpower search engines use when I first put a search engine on HTML Goodies. When people searched, the search engine took 3 of every 4 CPU cycles, and Goodies was brought almost to halt. Add to that the fact that Goodies wasn't the only site on the server and you can guess how slow the whole process had become.

The Webmaster's second observation was that the server would need to generate a dynamic page for every painting. Since the painting is only there long enough to be sold, there's no point in cluttering up the hard drive with static pages. Have the server drive the content by creating a page when a specific painting is called upon.

The webmaster's points were good and I couldn't argue with them. It all lead to one inescapable conclusion. StreetArtist.com needed to be on its own server. That's the only way we could ensure that the site would have enough power and enough space to perform correctly and quickly.

The Webmaster then asked how long I was going to give the site to succeed. How long would I wait until packing it in?

I had never thought of that before. Failure wasn't an option. The site was going to succeed. He wouldn't hear of it. He wanted a time frame.

Next: Planning and financing the site



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