Author: John Papiewski

What Is File Compression?

Target audience

This article is good for general audiences and provides an introduction to data compression techniques and uses.
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Introduction

File compression is a technique for “squeezing” data files so that they take up less storage space, whether on a hard drive or other media. Many different kinds of software, including backup programs, operating systems, media apps, and file management utilities, use this technique. While the type of source file and the type of compression algorithm determines how well compression works, a compressed set of an average mix of files typically takes about 50 percent less space than the originals. This technology has applications ranging from archives and backups to media and software distribution.
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Effectiveness

Most compression techniques work by reducing the space redundant information in a file takes up. The more redundancy the compression algorithm detects, the smaller the compressed file becomes. Text files, for example, may have many repeated words or letter combinations that can produce significant compression–as much as 80%, in some cases.

Databases and spreadsheets often also make good candidates for file compression because they, too, typically have repeated content. Conversely, files that have already been compressed, such as MP3s and JPEGs, have low redundancy. Compressing them further yields results only a few percent smaller than the originals–in some cases, they may become slightly larger when compressed, since the compression can add a small amount of management data to the file.
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Lossless vs. Lossy Compression

Compression comes in two basic types, lossless and lossy. A lossless compressed file retains all information so that decompressing it restores the original file in its entirety. Most lossless compression algorithms build upon the work Abraham Lempel and Jacov Ziv pioneered in the late 1970s in creating the algorithms that would be called LZ (many subsequent compression algorithms build upon this work, so their names begin with this pattern: LZO, LZW, LSWL, LZX, LZJB, etc.). The algorithm uses an adaptive technique that analyzes the source file for strings of characters that repeat. The larger the string it can find, and the more often that string recurs through the file, the more it can compress the output file. Documents, spreadsheets, and similar other files are often compressed with lossless techniques like these LZ-based algorithms.

Lossy compression can often produce more compact results by discarding data that may not affect the final resolution of the file. Files relying upon human perception often utilize lossy compression, since the source material may have more resolution than we can realistically perceive. For example, a photo in its raw form may take 5MB, but if you want to use it on a web page, using that photo would cause the page to load more slowly. Using an image editor and lossy compression, you might create a compressed version of that photo that is 200KB. It may lose some of the clarity of the original but is still perfectly usable and is far quicker to download.
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Archiving

It is frequently convenient to package many files and/or folders into a single compressed file, such as for emailing a collection of files or distributing a complex software application. This packaged collection of files is called an archive. Some compression programs also let you combine multiple files together, providing the dual benefit of smaller space and archival packaging. Other programs, particularly in the Linux/Unix domain, only handle compression of one file at a time. Archiving usually requires a separate program.
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Windows Compression Software

PKZIP, a commercially-available utility program first introduced in the late 1980s, has become a de facto compression standard for the Microsoft Windows environment. PKZIP compresses, decompresses, and allows the creation of complex archives, saving them with the file extension .zip. In recent years, Microsoft has bundled PKZIP technology into Windows, allowing the operating system to automatically recognize and open most zip files. Open-source compression utilities are also available, such as Peazip, 7-Zip, and gzip. Windows has its own built-in software that lets you designate files, folders, and entire drives as compressed, extending the capacity of storage media.
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Linux Compression Software

Linux has several different useful utilities for file compression, such as bzip2, gzip, and xz. These utilities are single-purpose and compress single files only–they do not by themselves create archives. The tar package (from “Tape ARchive”) often does archiving in conjunction with other utilities. Linux, like Windows, uses the combination of compression and archiving to reduce the space some files (such as log files) take up.
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Conclusion

File compression lets you pack more data into a given amount of storage space. In addition to saving space on hard drives and other media, compression can dramatically improve the speed of file downloads. The technology is available as an integral part of most modern operating systems or as stand-alone programs.

 

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What Is RAID?

Target Audience

This article is an introduction to (or basic review of) storage options utilizing multiple computer disk drives.
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Introduction

RAID, (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, or often now, Redundant Array of Independent Disks) encompasses an industry-standard set of enhanced data storage technologies. RAID combines the storage resources of several physical disk drives into a single logical device recognized by the computer’s operating system. It comes in several standard implementations called levels, each of which has different cost/benefit trade-offs, including disk read/write performance and resiliency.
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Common RAID Levels

RAID 0

A RAID 0 configuration joins multiple physical drives into a single logical drive having space equal to the sum of the constituent drives. It utilizes a process called striping to write a segment of data, or stripe, on the first disk, puts the next segment on the second disk, and so on, until the last disk in the array. The process repeats for all subsequent segments, laying them down in a round-robin fashion.

This configuration offers improved read/write performance over a single drive (or other RAID configurations), but it offers no data protection in case a drive crashes; in fact, the loss of any drive in the set results in the loss of the whole set. RAID 0 takes a minimum of two drives.

RAID 1

RAID 1 uses a process called mirroring to create a redundant copy of data on each drive that is a member of the array. Because RAID 1 duplicates data, the total useful capacity is half of the drive total, compared to RAID 0. So, for example, two 1 TB drives, configured as RAID 1, can store a total of only 1 TB. In the case of one drive’s failure, however, you can still access your data from the remaining drive.

RAID 5

RAID 5 works similarly to RAID 0 striping, but it also creates an extra piece of data called parity that is mathematically derived from existing data on the other drives. This parity data, distributed evenly among all drives, allows for the recalculation of the original data if that data is not accessible, as in the case of a drive failure. It has a similar resiliency to RAID 1–in that the array can operate if one drive fails–while offering some of the speed increase of a RAID 0. RAID 5 requires at least three physical drives.

RAID 6

Similar in many respects to level 5, RAID level 6 adds extra parity information, allowing up to two drives to fail without impacting system availability. RAID 6 requires a minimum of four physical drives.
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Nested RAID

You can also combine RAID levels to obtain additional benefits. This technique, called nested RAID, merges physical drives with one RAID level, and joins the resulting logical drives into another. Nested RAID levels are written as two and three-digit numbers: the first digit is the “innermost” level that governs the physical drives, and the next digits denote how the logical drives are combined. The nested RAID levels listed below are frequently used examples, though several others are possible.

RAID 10

RAID level 10, also written as “1+0”, combines the techniques and benefits of levels 1 and 0. In RAID 10, you configure multiple RAID 1 mirrored disk sets, then join them into a single logical RAID 0 drive. For example, with four drives, you create two sets of Level 1 RAID logical drives consisting of two physical drives each. The two logical drives are then combined to create a single RAID 0 drive. RAID 10 has two main benefits: continued operation despite multiple drive failures, and fast I/O processing. The mirrored RAID 1 sets each tolerate a single drive failure–although if both drives in one of the RAID 1 configurations fail, the whole set fails.

RAID 50

Level 50 is a combination of levels 5 and 0. Here, several level 5 sets are elements of a single RAID 0 logical drive. Each of the level 5 sets can survive the failure of an individual drive. The total set can survive the failure of two or more drives, as long as none of the level 5 sets has more than one failed drive. For example, you configure nine drives as three level 5 groups of three drives each. Each of these groups can continue despite a single-drive failure, so the whole set of nine can handle up to three drive failures as long as it doesn’t exceed one per group.

RAID 100

RAID level 100, or 1+0+0, uses RAID 1 mirrored disks combined into two or more RAID 0 sets. The RAID 0 sets are themselves combined again with an outer RAID 0 into a single logical drive. Although expensive in terms of disk overhead, with the mirroring taking 50 percent of available space, it offers significant performance advantages over other techniques. RAID 100 is well-suited to very large and highly-active databases where speed and uptime are important. RAID 100 requires a minimum of 8 drives: you begin by creating four RAID 1 drives, then merge each pair of RAID 1 drives into two sets of RAID 0, and finally join the two RAID 0 drives with RAID 0 again into a single logical drive.
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Other RAID Levels, Uncommon or Obsolete

RAID levels 2, 3, 4 and 7 also exist but are either not in common use or are obsolete. Level 2, for example, required a complex drive mechanism synchronization, increasing costs and leading to its virtual abandonment. Level 7 is a proprietary standard developed by Storage Computer Corporation, which has since gone out of business. Levels 3 and 4 are similar to level 5, though less common.
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Hardware and Software

Both hardware and software approaches exist for implementing RAID. Software methods rely largely on an operating system’s built-in disk management facilities, such as those offered by Microsoft’s Windows Server, Apple’s Mac OS X, and Linux. However, when you use the software approach for RAID, it increases the server’s CPU workload, which can affect overall system performance.

The hardware alternative to RAID uses an intelligent drive controller with its own CPU and memory. This approach places little to no extra burden on the main CPU but adds cost to the server hardware. When planning a RAID-based system, check your hardware and software to ensure they support the RAID level you want to implement.
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RAID and SSD

RAID techniques work with either traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) or solid-state drives (SSDs). When RAID 0 is applied to multiple SSDs, I/O performance gains can be striking. Performance increases with level 5 and SSD can be complicated, however. A RAID 5 array can be slower than a single SSD for write operations, as the drives are writing parity as well as user data.
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RAID and Backups

RAID is not a substitute for regular data backups. Although most RAID levels reduce downtime and take the sting out of most drive failure situations, it cannot compensate for the loss of individual files, such as from human error or corruption or from system-wide losses due to fire or other physical catastrophes. It pays to think of RAID not as a cure-all but as an additional tool for improving server reliability and availability.
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Conclusion

RAID is a data storage technology that joins multiple physical drives (HDD or SSD) into a single unit. Depending on how RAID is implemented, it can offer markedly improved I/O speed, reduced downtime, or a combination of the two. Knowing what the various levels offer can help you to determine the implementation that works best for your data storage needs.

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What is: Solid State Drives (SSDs) – A Non-Expert’s Guide

John Papiewski February 2, 2016 by under HIPAA Data Centers 0 Comments
Target Audience

This article is intended for non-specialists wanting to know a little bit more about SSDs.
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Introduction

The solid-state drive (SSD) is a relatively recent addition to the technologies available for mass data storage. In place of the spinning magnetic disk used in hard disk drives (HDDs) since the 1950s, an SSD relies on solid-state digital chips to store information. In recent years, SSDs have seen increasing use in many computer systems, from laptops to commercial web servers. Although SSDs offer clear benefits such as faster performance, the technology has a few limitations worth considering.
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SSD Technologies

The marketplace currently offers a few different SSD memory chip technologies, each intended to fill specific needs. Among these is a low-cost NAND flash device called Multiple Level Cell (MLC) that gives the most bytes for the dollar, and performs well enough for consumer use. At the high end is Single Level Cell (SLC), which costs more but is faster and has longer device life.
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Advantages

SSDs have no moving parts and can store and retrieve data faster than a traditional hard disk drive. In an HDD, a mechanism scans the data recorded on the surface of a spinning metal platter. Due to physical inertia, it takes a few thousandths of a second to locate and fetch information. Although this seems quick, solid-state memory, not having that physical inertia to deal with, can perform much faster. In general, an SSD will outperform an HDD by up to a factor of 1,000, with random reads/writes racking up the biggest improvement, and sequential writes showing the least. In addition to faster speed, the lack of a motor-driven mechanism means the SSD is completely silent. SSDs are also more rugged than their mechanical cousins, standing up better to everyday bumps and jolts. Most SSDs also consume less power and physical space than HDDs, so they are a growing and popular choice in storage for laptops (not to mention tablets).
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Wear and Tear

Although SSDs have no mechanical moving parts, each memory cell degrades electrically when writing new data over old. This means the drive can read data indefinitely but writing takes its toll on the memory chips. Depending on the specific SSD technology, any given memory bit can be rewritten from 5,000 to 100,000 times. When a bit is degraded, it can no longer reliably hold data. At this point, the drive’s controller circuit automatically moves the data from it and neighboring memory cells to a “fresher” area and marks the worn area as “out of service.” The controller skips the marked area for all future use.
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Wear Leveling

Because of the memory wear issue noted above, most modern SSDs now come with wear-leveling technologies that keep track of where data is written. This technology avoids repeatedly over-writing the same physical bits and spreads the wear throughout the drive. Wear-leveling prolongs drive life and postpones the time at which the drive takes blocks out of service.
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Over-Provisioning

SSD manufacturers build extra capacity into each drive, amounting to roughly 7 to 30 percent of the rated capacity. This practice, called over-provisioning, ensures that the drive maintains its rated capacity for the reasonable operating lifetime of the drive, despite losses from worn bits. The extra room also helps maintain drive performance as the drive fills with data. In addition to factory over-provisioning, you can manually adjust the drive’s overhead space with utility software.
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Other Limitations

As of 2016, SSDs come at a premium price, offering less capacity for each dollar spent compared to HDDs. The storage capacity of a given SSD also tends to be somewhat less than HDDs, so if you manage many terabytes of data, you’d need more SSDs than you would the cheaper and larger HDDs.
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Formats and Compatibility

Many consumer-grade SSDs are available in the 2.5-inch standard drive format used in laptop PCs. Other formats include mSATA and the newer M.2; these slim, card-style designs use a fraction of the space of traditional drives, attaching directly to the motherboard through PCIe or a dedicated socket. Manufacturers make available adapter brackets that allow you to fit these new form factors into the older 3.5-inch HDD slot or into interfaces that might not exist on some older motherboards.
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Consumer vs. Enterprise Grade

Solid-state drives come in consumer or enterprise-grade units. Consumer-grade drives tend to be less expensive but still well-suited to everyday personal tasks. Enterprise-grade drives tend to be faster and more expensive with enhanced, brownout-resistant power supplies and memory chips that hold up better under continuous, write-heavy workloads.
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SSD Economic Trends

Since the 1960s, solid-state memory chips have increased over a millionfold in capacity. This dramatic trend will likely continue as semiconductor makers push the limits of their science. The price of SSDs has steadily fallen over the past several years, and capacities have risen. It seems all but inevitable that SSDs will overtake HDDs at some point, rendering them obsolete.
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Conclusion

Solid-state drives represent serious competition to traditional HDDs. Although currently more expensive and not without their own technical issues, they are clearly faster than mechanical hard drives, and as the technology advances, the benefits will only improve with time.

 

Atlantic.Net

Since 2010, we have been offering industry leading cloud hosting and have upgraded our solutions to include fast SSD cloud Servers at our worldwide HIPAA compliant data centers.
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What is: Networking Basics – Switches, Routers, and Firewalls

Target Audience

This article is intended for those looking for a primer on basic networking terms and concepts.

Introduction

Switches, routers, and firewalls are electronic devices used to build data networks. They serve as essential components of the Internet, ferrying information rapidly from one computer to the next. In many commercial networks, a separate piece of hardware handles each of these functions. For small office/home office use, the switch, router, and firewall are typically combined into one convenient, low-cost unit.

Switch

A switch connects multiple computers and mobile devices together into a local network.

It serves as a central point through which computers on that local network communicate with each other. A switch can handle simultaneous connections between dozens of computers, with no connection interfering with any other. However, a switch cannot connect to other networks by itself–it requires a router to communicate with other networks.

A network is a group of computers that exchange data. Networks may be simple, such as a home office with PCs and mobile devices, or they may be large and complex, like the Internet.

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What is Stateless and Stateful Models of Web Development

John Papiewski December 18, 2015 by under Managed Server Hosting 0 Comments
Target Audience

Developers who are new to website programming or who might like a review of stateless and stateful models of site design.

Introduction

The stateful and stateless models of software application behavior define how a user’s web browser communicates with a web server. In the earliest years of the Web, sites tended to be stateless. Pages were static, not varying from user to user. Later, websites included the stateful model, which delivered pages with information unique to each user. Stateful web applications are essential for modern e-commerce such as online retailers and banks, but require sophisticated programming to work effectively.
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Stateless Model

In the pure form of the stateless model, a client program makes a request to an application server, which sends data back to the client. The server treats all client connections equally and saves no information from prior requests or sessions. A website that serves up a simple static web page is a good example of the stateless model. The server receives requests for pages it hosts and sends the page data to requesting browsers, much like a short-order cook making meals for diners.
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What is: Backups – a Review of Basic Concepts

Target Audience

This article is aimed at a non-technical audience looking for an introduction to or review of data backup options.
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Introduction

It’s a fact of life that computer files can be lost through human error or hardware crashes. A data backup is a process that duplicates a computer’s data files, creating copies that can be used if the originals are lost or damaged. Regular backups have been a necessary and standard part of professional computer operations for many years.
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Devices and Media

A backup process copies files, placing the duplicates on a separate storage device. The type of device you use can depend on cost, convenience, and the amount of data involved.

  • Tape Cartridge — A palm-sized mechanism containing a spool of magnetic tape
    • Benefits: Relatively low media cost, portable, easy to store, fast backup speed, high capacity, reusable
    • Drawbacks: Expensive drive cost, tape is less common than other media
  • Hard Drive — A standard computer hard disk drive, internal or external
    • Benefits: Speedy backups, low cost per byte, high capacity, unlimited reuse of media
    • Drawbacks: less portable than other media.
  • Optical Disc — Blank CD, DVD, or Blu-ray media
    • Benefits: Low-cost drive and media, widely available, compact, easy to store, portable
    • Drawbacks: Limited or no reuse of media, backups can be slow
  • Flash Drive — Solid-state data storage, such as a USB stick or solid-state drive (SSD)
    • Benefits: Fast backups, portable, rugged, reusable media, no moving parts to wear out
    • Drawbacks: Relatively high cost per byte compared to other media, although flash memory price has declined with advances in technology

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Types of Backups

Full Backups

As the name suggests, a full backup copies virtually every file on a computer. Although essential, full backups can be time-consuming and use large amounts of data storage space. It’s common to do a full backup once a month or once a week, with partial backups filling out the rest of the schedule.
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Partial Backups

A partial backup stores only a selection of files, so it is typically faster than a full backup and uses less space on the backup media.
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Differential Backups

A differential backup is a partial backup that copies only files changed since the last full backup. For example, a computer has 1,000 files. On the day after the full backup, 30 files have data changes, so a differential backup copies only those 30 files. The next day, 5 other files have changed. The subsequent differential backup copies 35 files — the ones from the first day plus those that changed on the second. With each passing day, more files might change, so backups can take longer and consume more data storage space.
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Incremental Backups

An incremental backup is another type of partial backup that copies files that have changed since the last backup of any sort, full or partial. Following the previous example, an incremental backup copies 30 files on the first day but only 5 on the second. Because it looks only for files that changed that day, an incremental backup typically takes less time and storage space than a differential backup. On the other hand, differential backups are easier to manage when you need to recover files after a hardware failure; the full backup and the most recent differential backup have all the files necessary, whereas every daily incremental backup is needed to rebuild your files.
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Piecemeal Backups

You can back up individual documents manually to an external drive, such as a USB flash drive. Although this is a simple backup option, it does rely on your ability to remember to perform the backup and increases the opportunity for human error to negatively affect your data.
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Handling Backup Data

Encrypted Backups

With most backup software you can choose to encrypt files, making the copies unreadable without the correct password. This feature can be important for backing up proprietary and confidential information, helping to keep it safe from hackers and identity thieves.
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Compressed Backups

Your computer may have large files or large groups of files. The more data you have to back up, the more you’ll spend on media. A technique called compression makes data more compact, squeezing the same information into fewer bytes of data and helping to save backup storage space and reign in media costs. Compression gives best results on general documents such as PDFs and spreadsheets; some types of files, such as JPEGs and MP3 sound recordings, are already compressed, making backup compression less effective on them.
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Deduplication

Another technique, called deduplication, is similar to compression in that it reduces the storage space needed for backups. The process looks for duplicate information in your original files and skips it during backups, storing a small piece of data instead that marks the location of the duplicate information. For example, a shared drive has folders belonging to hundreds of users, each of which has a copy of the company phone directory. Deduplication stores one copy of the directory and records the duplicate locations but does not store the duplicate files. When restoring files, the deduplication software recreates the data, duplicates included. Deduplication can be very effective at reducing backup media requirements.
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Database Backups

A database management system (DBMS) might require its own backup process in addition to the regular file backups on your computer; this is true in particular for commercial DBMSs such as Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server. An improper database backup can leave you without critical business records after a hard disk failure. Check with the database software’s documentation on backups for special requirements.
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Offsite Storage

An offsite backup involves storing backup media at a different geographical location from the originals. You can, for example, keep a flash drive containing critical file backups in a safe deposit box or other secure facility. Offsite backups preserve valuable information in case of flood, fire, or other calamity.
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Internet Backup Services

The growth of high-speed Internet access in recent years has made online backups possible. Services such as Carbonite, OpenDrive, and Barracuda offer automatic backups over the Internet. However, for home and small-office use, bandwidth and data caps may affect how practical this sort of service is. Even a single PC can hold terabytes of data, and a full backup that size could potentially take months. On the other hand, medium to large companies typically have much faster Internet service, making large online backups more realistic. Another important issue common to Internet backup services is that they cap the amount of data you can send them on a given day regardless of your Internet speed.
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Restoring Files

A restore operation works like a backup but in reverse; it copies files from the backup media to your main computer hard drive. A catastrophic failure may require a full restore of data, which can be an ordeal as you copy all of your data from your backup to your computer. To take another example, if delete a file accidentally, you might restore only that file.
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Conclusion

Backups serve as a critical “safety net” for your data, protecting it from crises ranging from fire and flood to computer viruses and hardware crashes. Backup hardware and software packages are available to suit any size business, whether you need a simple program for a one-person shop or a sophisticated solution for a global enterprise.

 

Atlantic.Net

We offer industry leading cloud servers with redundant backup to make sure that our HIPAA compliant database hosting is secure, reliable and always available.
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What is: Web Analytics – A Beginner’s Guide

Target Audience

This article is a good starting point for website administrators wanting to learn about Web Analytics and some tools and methods for seeing how their sites perform.
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Introduction

Traffic — it’s one thing nearly all website owners want. How can you tell if your site is thriving or anemic? Web analytics has the answers. When checked regularly, web analytics provides crucial feedback, giving you clear numbers that gauge the effectiveness of your site.
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Web-based Reporting

Most web analytics software comes in the form of a web-based dashboard or control panel. By selecting options on a form in your browser, you can obtain a variety of reports that show the kinds of traffic your site has had. Since the analytics software is web-based, you can check on your site’s activity from nearly any Internet-connected PC or mobile device. Many of the reports have graphics that chart activity by time or geographic location.

Examples of analytic software include Google Analytics, Advanced Web Statistics, and Clicky. Many hosting providers also bundle an analytics program with their cloud hosting service.
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Types of Web Analytics Software

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Log File

The server that hosts your website has a log file that keeps track of every page it delivers. Among other information, the log records the date and time, the page requested, and the IP address of the requester. In addition to pages, log files keep track of graphics, PDFs, video and other files sent. A typical log file might contain thousands to millions of records–raw data that by itself makes for dull reading, but some analytics software can use it to generate highly-detailed, accurate reports.
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Page Tagging

The page tagging approach to web analytics dispenses with log files, relying instead on programming code embedded in the pages themselves. The code passes data to an analytics server that logs the site’s activity in its own database. Page tagging can track information not found in the log file, such as items purchased or JavaScript buttons clicked. Because it doesn’t depend on the log file (which may be inaccessible to website administrators in some hosted environments), page tagging allows greater choice in analytics software. A possible downside to page tagging is slower website response time. The extra code may invoke lookups to additional domains, which can add to the load time of a page.
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Web Analytics Metics

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Quantifying Traffic

When a visitor goes to your website, that visitor’s browser requests files from your site’s server, and the server serves the requested files in response. Each request is called a hit–a hit counting as one page, graphic, or other content. A visit to a single page, then, involves the file for the page itself and any other files the page code refers to (scripts, images, videos, etc.). One page request may result in multiple hits per page. A single user session spanning many pages can generate hundreds or thousands of hits. Although hits are a significant number in web analytics, their ability to indicate traffic is somewhat vague. To give reports more detail, analytics software uses the visitor’s IP address or a data token called a cookie. All of a user’s hits are tied to this identifier, so analytics software can sort visits by this identifier and track the number of unique visitors per day, week, or month.

Web Analytics: A Beginner's Guide : Hits and Unique Visitors

Hits and Unique Visitors

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Page Statistics

Analytics software also generates statistics showing you which pages are most popular and those that see little traffic. This information is essential when you’re checking the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, for example; a spike in a page’s hit numbers can mean more people found it.
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Geographic Statistics

The IP address can also indicate a visitor’s general geographic region, giving you a broad idea, for example, how much of your site’s traffic came from the US, Japan, or other countries.

Web Analytics: A Beginner's Guide : Hits and Unique Visitors

Visitors by Geographic Location

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User Experience

Some Web analytics programs can show you the order in which visitors click through your pages. For example, a visitor begins a session on your home page, clicks on a “products” link, views several products, and then clicks a “support” link. If your site is a simple one with few pages, the page order is simple with few variations. On larger sites, page order can be more critical, especially if you expect visitors to take specific paths. Page order statistics can reveal interesting and unexpected information about your users’ behavior, giving you insight into how you might fine-tune your site to improve their experience.

Web Analytics: A Beginner's Guide: Simple Example of Page Order Tracking

Simple Example of Page Order Tracking

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Heat Maps

Heat maps are an innovative way of visualizing website performance. They display the most popular clickable areas of a page in “hot” colors such as red and yellow and low-activity areas in “cooler” greens and blues. Heat maps can be easier to grasp and quicker to evaluate than pages of dry statistics.
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Referrers

An analytics report can also indicate how your visitors found your site, showing statistics for search engines and referring links on other sites.
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Error Reporting

You can also get reports on errors with your site, such as pages not found. If the errors portion of your web analysis report has several problems, it may indicate your site is missing files or contains outdated links.
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Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is another important metric measuring how many visitors purchase goods, sign up for a newsletter, or otherwise make a tangible commitment to what your site offers. To accurately measure conversion, analytics software tracks the user through the transaction pages, omitting incomplete actions such as abandoned shopping carts.
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Bounce Rate

A website’s bounce rate is the fraction of web visitors who land on a page, and then leave the site without exploring it any further. This number gauges how well the site or a page holds a visitor’s interest.
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Conclusion

These metrics are just a few of the ways you can get more insight into how well your site attracts, keeps, and engages visitors. We hope this introduction gives you a good start in how you can learn more about how your cloud hosted website performs. Learn more about our reliable HIPAA-compliant cloud hosting solutions.
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What is a Relational Database?

John Papiewski November 13, 2015 by under Managed Server Hosting 0 Comments
Target audience

This article provides a quick overview of relational databases, so some experience with programming and knowledge of data structures is necessary. The article is also helpful for non-technical users of databases, including website owners.
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Introduction

A relational database is a system that organizes information into neat, orderly structures. A relational database management system (often abbreviated RDBMS) accommodates large numbers of records, provides data to many users simultaneously, and serves as a central data repository for application programs. A database eases the task of data management, making information more accessible, secure, and useful.

While it would be more accurate to refer to relational databases as RDBMSes, we will stick with the more colloquial shorthand “relational database”, or sometimes just “database”.

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Why Use a Relational Database?

Most programmers deal with the nuts and bolts of saving and retrieving data files, details that can be complex and cumbersome. Although any good software developer might be able to create data-management code from scratch, reinventing the wheel isn’t necessary, particularly when working with a program that is designed to work with a database. The database handles all the low-level details of data management, retrieving data efficiently and reliably. Databases also have robust, sophisticated security features, allowing appropriate levels of access for administrators, customers, and many other kinds of users.
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Data Items

A relational database stores data in basic elements called fields or data items. A data item is a specific piece of information, such as a zip code, a phone number, a credit card number, or a ship date. Each item is defined in terms of the type of information stored in it, such as numbers, dates, or text. A warehouse record, for example, might include an item cost, which is a numeric data type. The distinction between types is important because the warehouse owner might want to find a total cost by adding individual costs together. A database can’t add text character fields, but it can add numeric fields.
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Data Tables

A data table is a useful grouping of data elements. A customer table, for example, consists of elements such as a customer ID, name, phone number, and address; each record in the table has data representing one customer. Most databases have several tables organized by a common purpose; for example, an engineering database might have tables for parts, drawings, materials, and suppliers.
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Indexes and Keys

A database administrator can designate some of a table’s fields for high-speed lookups; these fields are called keys or indexes. If a table has no indexes, the database must read every record, one after the other, to find a particular one. For larger databases with millions of records, this process can be prohibitively slow. Setting aside a customer number as an index, for example, tells the database to permit fast lookups by customer number, cutting search times to a fraction of a second.
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Common Elements and Linking Tables

The “relational” part of a database is its ability to relate, or join, information from multiple tables. In most databases, some tables have one or more elements in common, such as a customer number that is found in both the customer table and an order table. Although a customer has only one record in the customer table, that customer may have dozens of records in the order table–one for each purchase. Linking tables together with common elements creates a temporary “virtual table” that contains useful combinations of information. For example, a manager wants a list of customers and the last date they bought something. The name is in the customer table, but the date is in the order table. By temporarily joining the customer and order tables, the manager can obtain both pieces of information.
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Structured Query Language

Most relational databases use the Structured Query Language (SQL, pronounced either as the letters, “ess-kew-el”, or sometimes as “sequel”), a software language that lets programmers build databases and access the information in them. In SQL, the SELECT statement retrieves information from databases, UPDATE changes data, and DELETE removes records from tables. A simple example of a SELECT that lists all records in a “customer” table might look like the following statement:

SELECT * FROM customers;

To see a few more basic SQL commands and to get a feel for how the language structures queries, we have an introductory guide as well.

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Vendors and Major Products

Examples of commercial relational databases include Microsoft’s SQL Server (MSSQL), Oracle Corporation’s Oracle and IBM’s DB2. MySQL, MariaDB, and SQLite are open source databases, available for free (paid options of these open source implementations are also available that include various levels of support).

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