Content management and logging features are an important aspect of any Internet services implementation. Without them, the end-user’s experience will not be as rich and administrators will not be able to adequately track usage patterns. Features to look for include the following:
Redirection to provide a seamless end-user experience when content is relocated.
Custom error pages to enhance the user’s experience when problems are encountered.
Custom footers to allow the appendage of common information (such as copyrights) to every page.
Content indexing services to allow users to search site via keywords.
PICS support to automatically rate server content via industry-standard RSAC ratings.
HTTP Content expiration support to help improve client-side performance via content caching.
WebDAV support to provide IETF standards-based Web publishing.
The Sun WebServer 2.1 shipped with Solaris 7 offers content management features including the following:
Redirection support, allowing administrators to transparently redirect obsolete URLs to correct locations – either on local or remote servers. This feature eliminates the needless display of not found error messages or the need to maintain obsolete content and URLs when content is moved from one location to another, providing a considerably more seamless experience to the end-user.
Custom error support allows the administrator to customize all of the standard HTTP error messages to provide additional information, corporate branding, or special instructions. This provides a richer and more seamless experience to the end-user and a friendlier user interface than unexplained HTTP error codes. It should be noted that only Unauthorized, Forbidden, Not Found, or Server Error can be customized. All other W3C-defined HTTP error conditions cannot be modified.
FrontPage server extensions are supported via the Microsoft FrontPage services for Solaris.
Web-based file administration is supported through WebNFS. WebNFS extends the standard features of NFS to the Web, enabling users to access data on the Web just as they access local data. WebNFS uses HTTP over TCP/IP to communicate and is designed to be more reliable and dynamic than FTP.
Additionally, WebServer 2.1 provides logging support for Web services. Logging can be configured on a per-site per-server basis. With regard to log file formats, most common log types are supported including the NCSA Common Log File Format, the W3C Extended Log File Format and the Extended Common Log File Format. Logging of email (SMTP, POP3 and IMAP4) services is handled by Solstice Internet Mail Server 1.0.
Windows NT Server 4.0 Implementation Details
Windows NT Server 4.0 provides a comprehensive content management solution as part of Internet Information Server 4.0. Features included with IIS 4.0 content management implementation include:
Microsoft Index Server 2.0, an integrated content indexing solution for IIS 4.0 users. Index Server 2.0 provides a high-performance query engine to index Web content (such as HTML, text, Office, and other documents) on both local and remote directories. Index Server 2.0 allows for total customization of the user’s search experience via Active Server Pages (ASP) technology. Numerous templates are shipped with Index Server 2.0 to allow users to get up and running quickly. In addition, Index Server is integrated with Windows NT Server security allowing users to see only the documents they have been granted the rights to view.
PICS Ratings, integrated into IIS 4.0, allows users to automatically set and maintain RSAC content ratings for such things as nudity or violence at the server-side with an easy-to-use graphical interface. Nothing special needs to be inserted into the content itself in order for PICS ratings to function properly. With this feature, any PICS-compatible browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, will automatically query the IIS server and disallow users access to content that has been restricted at the browser-level, negating the need for special content monitoring software.
Redirection support in IIS 4.0 allows administrators to transparently redirect obsolete URLs to correct locations – either on local or remote servers. This feature eliminates the needless display of not found error messages and the need to maintain obsolete content and URLs when content is moved from one location to another, providing a considerably more seamless experience to the end-user.
Custom Errors allow the administrator to customize all of the standard HTTP error messages to provide additional information, corporate branding, or special instructions. This provides a richer and more seamless experience to the end-user and a friendlier user interface than unexplained HTTP error codes. All W3C defined HTTP error conditions can be customized.
Custom Headers and Footers can be set at the server side to allow administrator-defined HTTP headers and the inclusion of user-defined content on every page within a given site or directory. With this feature, administrators can set custom HTTP headers to allow pages to be cached by client browsers but not by proxy servers or search engines, giving the administrator the ultimate flexibility without requiring HTTP headers to be modified in individual pages. Custom footers allow a user-defined file to automatically be inserted within all pages within a given site or directory, allowing for commonly used information, such as copyright notices, corporate logos, or navigation bars, to be centrally administered without the need to modify or maintain individual Web pages.
Content Expiration allows IIS 4.0 administrators to set an HTTP header determining how long a Web page should remain in a client’s cache. This allows for centralized administration of caching information without the need to modify or maintain individual HTML pages.
FrontPage Server Extensions are included with IIS 4.0. This allows the FrontPage Web site creation and management tool or any other FrontPage-capable client, such as the Microsoft Visual InterDev® Web development system, to create, manage, and maintain content on the server using easy-to-use, GUI-based tools. Additional capabilities added with FrontPage include hyperlink verification and security permissions management via FrontPage clients.
IIS 4.0 provides full logging support for all Internet services. Logging can be enabled or disabled on a per-site basis. Every directory and file can also be marked for inclusion or exclusion from access logging. Logging can be configured to automatically rollover to a new log file on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, or when a log file reaches a set size in megabytes. Alternatively, all logging can be directed to a singular file on disk. Logging to any ODBC-compatible data source is also fully supported. With regard to log file formats, all popular log types are supported including the Microsoft IIS Log File Format, the NCSA Common Log File Format, and the new W3C Extended Log File Format. W3C logging also supports all extended attributes as defined by the W3C extended logging specification.
Windows 2000 Server Implementation Details
Windows 2000 Server platform extends the already strong content management infrastructure found in IIS 4.0. The major addition is WebDAV. The Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (DAV) protocol is a ratified IETF extension to the HTTP 1.1 standard for exposing a hierarchical file storage medium, such as a file system, over an HTTP connection. With the WebDAV implementation of DAV on IIS 5.0, remote authors can easily access resources on the file system over HTTP. Administrators can allow remote authors to edit, move, search, or delete files and directories on the server all while using the HTTP protocol, IIS 5.0, and a DAV-compatible client such as Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or Microsoft Office 2000.
Content Management and Logging Support Summary
Both Windows 2000 and Windows NT provide powerful content management solutions. While Windows 2000 Server stands out as the most complete solution because it is the only platform to support WebDAV, Solaris 7 does support WebNFS, which is a similar technology.
Windows NT Server 4.0 provides a comprehensive solution differentiated from Windows 2000 Server only by its lack of WebDAV support. Windows NT Server 4.0 features a comprehensive solution that includes content indexing, redirection, PICS ratings, custom errors, custom HTTP headers, custom page footers, and HTTP content expiration. Additionally, FrontPage Server Extensions are provided to allow distributed content authoring and management via the popular Microsoft FrontPage Web site creation and management tool. Logging support is also the most comprehensive – providing the largest variety of configuration options and support for all popular log file types including NCSA Common Log, W3C Extended Log, and the Microsoft IIS Log Format.
Solaris 7 and Sun WebServer 2.1 provide limited content management support. No support for PICS ratings, content indexing, or custom HTTP headers is included. Logging is not nearly as comprehensive, especially when looking at how logging is handled and controlled. Given the lack of features in comparison to both of the Microsoft offerings, or the Netscape Enterprise solution also marketed by Sun, it is less than a desirable solution.