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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Cloud Computing for Small Businesses

The entire tech world seems to be floating on the clouds these days. Nope, we aren’t talking about a sudden boom in this field where everyone’s riding on a high. Instead, we’re talking about the new rage in the industry, cloud computing. This new technological breakthrough has ushered in a sea change in the way the IT sector works, and is an absolute blessing for small start-ups. There couldn’t be a better time to start up your own IT firm.

Cloud computing is making it all possible. In case you’re wondering what cloud computing is all about, read our detailed article here. If you too harbor thoughts of starting up a small IT firm, here’s how cloud computing can really help your business take off.

No maintenance

Perhaps the greatest benefit of cloud computing is the fact that you do not have to worry about space constraints at all. All you need to do to set up shop is a basic computer(s) and a speedy net connection. All the other heavy machinery is at the server end, and you only need to have a gateway to make the entries and to receive the output. A very simple analogy from our daily lives can best explain this; think of cloud computing as a food-vending machine. You select what you want (the desired operation), insert the coins (enter the commands), the machine does the rest (processing), and gives you the desired item (output). So, you need not worry about where to set up the vending machine, all you worry about is the change, and yes, remember to collect what you paid for!

Reliable

Cloud computing services are usually provided by major IT firms. These firms usually have huge server farms (thousands of computers) which provide these services to their customers. Needless to say, these farms are very well-maintained, and are powered by extremely powerful hardware. You can pretty much count on cloud computing to deliver almost every single time, promptly and efficiently. Having said that though, there are bound to be the odd outage problems, which might either be at the server end or at the end of your Internet service provider. But these are minor hiccups which do not take away from the overall reliability of cloud computing.

Secure

Cloud computing service providers go to great lengths to ensure that they provide the best service to their customers. Cloud computing is handled by powerful hardware which is perfectly complemented by equally effective software. Industrial standard security software ensures that your data is always secure. We won’t quite say that these firewalls are unbreachable, but your data is certainly a lot more secure in the clouds than it is with you. Another good thing about this is that you can always have a backup of all your data on the cloud.

Cost-effective

Cloud computing services are offered at tempting rates. The best thing about it is the fact that you can choose exactly what services you would like to avail of, and pay only for those services. This is a very cost-effective option as you need not worry about the maintenance and security of the computers. Also, you save a huge amount on office rent too, as you no longer need a large space for all the computers and servers.

Easily accessible

Cloud computing offers you flexibility like none other. As all your processing is done offshore, you can virtually carry out operations and access your data from almost any location. All you need is a computer and a good Internet connection, and you’re good to go. So, you no longer need to worry about getting late to work; work instead could come to you. This is especially useful if you have multiple people working on the same project simultaneously across different locations.

Cloud services have opened up avenues that were, until now, out of reach for an aspiring entrepreneur. Simply put, for any new business, with cloud computing by your side, the sky, undoubtedly, is the limit. So, what are you waiting for? Chase your dreams and make it happen. Cheers.

Web Container Vs. Web Server

Though it started out as a pure information resource, freely accessible to people all over the globe, the world wide web has evolved to offer much more today. As opposed to the passive information repository it was before, now Internet offers many services ranging from online banking, social networking, email, e-shopping, video sharing, online auctions to multiplayer gaming and much more, which are all made possible due to the advances in web technologies.

All these services are enabled by web servers, which host the pages and handle all the client queries. Associated technologies like web containers are used to extend server functionality and provide additional services through usage of Java servlets. In this Buzzle article, I present a web container vs web server comparison which clarifies the differences between these two commonly used web technologies.

What is a Web Server?
The whole TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol) based Internet architecture is based on a ‘Client-Server’ model. Every time you type in a web site address in your browser, a query is sent to the web server, hosting the pages. All the web site resources (pages, images) and services are hosted on it, which are then served to the client web browsers, according to request. Through HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), a server communicates with client computers to facilitate the sharing of data and resources.

Of the different types of computer servers, these types have the most complicated software architecture and are usually run on high-end machines with great processing power, with 24×7 battery backup. Ergo, when one refers to a web server, it refers to the server software, as well as computer hardware. Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS), Apache HTTP Server and nginx are some of the most commonly used web servers on the Internet.

What is a Web Container?
A web container (more commonly known as a servlet container) is an application implemented on web servers to makes the implementation of ‘Java Servlets’ and ‘Java Server Pages’ possible. A container creates a completely independent environment for running servlets and Java server pages for the purpose of offering dynamic content to website visitors. It is primarily designed to run Java coding on a web server. All web containers are JEE (Java Platform Enterprise Edition) compliant. The servlets are executed in the run time environment provided by the container through the use of JSP engine and servlet engines. One of the most popular web containers is Apache Tomcat. It is an open source software program developed by the Apache Software Foundation.

Difference Between Web Container and Web Server
A web container is purely devoted to running of servlets while a web server is involved in delivering web page data and resources, according to client requests. A web server runs several applications including a web container software. Therefore a web server is a super set, of which a web container is only a part. However, some modern web containers can function without the support of a web server and act as standalone servers, for providing dynamic content. With the help of web containers, a web server can offer applications running on the Java platform. The fact that modern web containers can be implemented independently, may have led to the confusion between the two technologies.

To conclude, a web container is an application run by a web server to provide added site functionality for a hosted website and is primarily an environment in which servlets are implemented. On the other hand, a web server is the ‘mother-ship’ of all technologies deployed by a web site which directly handles all the client requests for data and resources hosted by it. For more information on servlets and web containers, it’s suggested that you refer to Sun’s tutorial on the same topic.

How an ISP Actually Works

ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. These are the agencies that help you connect your computer to the Internet. The first cross-country link through the Internet was established in 1970. But, till date there are many people who are not aware of the working of the world wide web. The answer is the ISP, which connects you to the Internet.
What is an ISP?
As mentioned above, ISPs are agencies that provide access to the Internet. They can be either privately owned, i.e., by an individual, or they can be group owned, i.e., by a group of individuals/community. The Internet is a huge network, formed by the interconnection of many small and big networks throughout the world. There is a mind-boggling quantity of data on the Internet, but it would have been pointless if we didn’t have access to all this information. ISPs are the agencies that bridge this gap between us users, and the Internet. They provide the technology that is necessary for us to be able to access this information, as well add information and data on the Internet.

A simple analogy should make the concept easier to follow. Imagine you are in a huge mall where the goods are stored from floor 1 and above. You are standing on the ground floor. How do you get to the goods then? You can either take the stairs, the escalator or the elevator. These are the things which will take you where you want to go in the mall. The mall is like the Internet, and the stairs, escalators and elevators are the ISPs. They take you where you want to go on the Internet.

The ISPs are classified based on the way in which they provide service to their customers. There are 5 types of ISPs:

  • Dial-up ISP
  • DSL ISP
  • Cable/Fiber Optic ISP
  • Wi-Fi ISP
  • Satellite ISP

All of them have varying speeds and their own pros and cons. There are various terms related to the Internet. For explaining how an ISP works, certain terms need to be presented before starting with the actual working.
Terms Related to ISP
Modem
Every computer that connects to the Internet has to do so using a modem. The full form of modem is ‘modulator-demodulator’. The function of the modem is synonymous to its name. It modulates the data and converts it into digital form before passing on the information to the Internet service provider. The data that it receives from the Internet service provider is also in the form of digital signal, and so it demodulates the data.

IP Address
IP stands for Internet Protocol. Every computer that connects to the Internet is assigned an IP address by the ISP. When we type in the name of a particular website in our web browser, we are actually typing in the Internet Protocol address of the website. The IP address in this case is the address of the server machine that holds the desired web pages. It is generally of the form ‘n.n.n.n’, where n stands for a number.

DHCP
‘Dynamic Host Control Protocol’ in its abbreviated form is known as DHCP. A protocol is nothing but a set of rules that decides the process of doing a work. The dynamic host control protocol is used by the ISP to assign temporary addresses to any of its subscribers who intend to connect to the Internet.

Backbone of ISP
This is the point that connects your ISP to the Internet. The ISPs buy a particular range of bandwidth for the working of its backbone. It is through this bandwidth that information is sent or received.
The ISP Facility
The Internet service provider carries out its entire functioning in a room called the data center. The advanced data centers consist of various equipment. A pool of modems inside the data center is used to connect every subscriber to the Internet. Once a modem in the pool receives the information, it connects the subscriber to the backbone. The entire functioning of the modem pool is controlled by algorithms running in a computer to which the modems are connected. This setup of modems is generally referred to as the ISP port server.
How does an ISP Work?
Here is a simple flowchart to help you understand the working of an ISP…

Connect your computer to the network with the modem/router.

Modem sends request to the ISP.

ISP checks whether you have a static IP address.

If YES, your request is processed.
OR
If NO, the ISP communicates with the DHCP server and allots your computer a dynamic IP address.

Your request is processed by the ISP, i.e.,
the ISP figures out the IP address of the page that you are requesting.

Once it knows the IP address of the requested page, it refers to its own cache.

If the page is available in its cache, it transfers the data from that page to your IP address.

If the page is not available in its cache, then it tracks the IP address that you have requested, and sends a request to that IP address.

If the server accepts the request, it allows data transfer to the ISP.
OR
If the request is declined, you have to try again till it is accepted.

Once the request is accepted by the server, the data is sent to the ISP.

The ISP then redirects this data to your IP address.

You now have the data on your computer.

Let’s start with the procedure right from the local computer. Home computers connect to the ISP using telephone cables or broadband Internet connections. Large networks like that of educational institutes connect to the ISP using a D1 line. The way of logging into the ISP is same for both. For connecting to the Internet, you will need a modem and an ISP subscription. Let’s try to understand the entire procedure in a step-by-step process:

  • The first step is to login into the ISP using the user information provided to you by your ISP. Here, you enter the username, password and telephone number of the ISP.
  • Once the ISP receives your information in its modem pool, it verifies if you are an authentic user or not.
  • Once the user authentication process is done, the ISP provides you with a dynamic IP address using the DHCP.
  • If you have bought a static IP from your ISP, then this step is not required. However, buying a static IP will cost you a lot.
  • Now, you are allowed to browse any web page through your web browser. When you type in the name of the URL on the address bar, you are actually requesting for the IP address of the server machine, that holds those web pages.
  • The information is received at the modem pool. Once this information is received, the ISP connects the subscriber to the modem pool.
  • The requested server machine is reached through an array of dedicated lines and routers.
  • Once the ISP finds the required IP address, it transfers the requested web pages to the source IP address.
  • Some ISPs store every page that is requested by their users in their own cache. So the next time you request the same page, if it is still in the cache your request is directly fulfilled by the ISP without contacting the server.
  • If the page has been flushed from the cache, the above procedure is repeated.

ISPs have large caches and are transferring data to and from hundreds of computers at super fast speeds. A pause in their service can cause losses, and inconvenience to their customers, and their improper functioning can result in the network getting jammed! Hence, it is very important to maintain ISPs properly and have the necessary equipment required to do so. Cooling devices and backup power supplies are among the important components used by an ISP to ensure its smooth operation. These components are of utmost importance for the effective functioning of the ISP.

Computer Hardware Repair and Maintenance

What is computer hardware? Hardware components like the monitor, keyboard, CPU (Central Processing Unit), mouse, and other I/O (Input-Output) devices constitute a computer. The working of the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and I/O devices depends largely upon the CPU. Due to some minor causes, like loose connections or dust saturation, any of them can stop functioning.

Faults occurring in the CPU are most hazardous, as it has a very complicated structure. The CPU is an assembly of the motherboard, hard disk drive (HDD), random access memory (RAM), compact disc-read only memory (CD-ROM) drive, and the floppy drive. Unless you are well-acquainted with the CPU hardware, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly where the fault has occurred. If any one of these components fail to perform, there are a few repair tips that can be followed. In order to view the circuitry inside the CPU, its casing has to be removed.

Motherboard
The entire functioning of the computer depends on this component. The processor chipset, that performs all the logical operations of the PC, is embedded in the motherboard. Ribbon cables, power supply, CPU, and RAM are the things to be checked first on the motherboard. Check if any of the ribbon cables or the power supply cord is loose. Check if the RAM chip has been misplaced from its slot. The CPU (chipset embedded in the board) will not show any marks on the outside if it is blown. The only way to check whether the CPU is working or not, is to test it by mounting it on the motherboard of another PC. The motherboard has a real-time clock, ROM BIOS, CMOS RAM, RAM sockets, CPU sockets or slots, cache RAM slots, keyboard controller, interrupts, internal connectors, and external connectors mounted on it. Do not tamper with these components, unless you know each and every one of it well. Do not touch the motherboard without turning off the power.

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
Also known as hard drive, it is the long-term storage device of the system. If the hard drive cannot be detected, check the jumper setting. The jumper setting can change the mode of the hard disk from master to slave or vice-versa. Make sure the Windows version being used for partitioning is consistent. Check that each drive has been assigned a drive-type. Make sure the pin numbers of the plug are attached to the corresponding pin numbers of the socket. Do not force the plug into the socket with extra force, the pins may bend. If the plug is not fitting perfectly in the socket, try inserting it again by flipping it over. Do not attempt to open the hard drive without enough knowledge of its components.

Random Access Memory (RAM)
It is the temporary memory of the PC. The data in the RAM is erased when the computer is shut down. Check if the RAM is misplaced from its slot. While replacing the RAM in its slot, check the small niche at the center of the chip (the niche indicates how the RAM is supposed to be placed in the slot and may not be at the exact mid position of the chip-strip). Do not forget to secure the side clips that hold the chip in place. If you are unable to secure them, it means that the chip is not placed correctly in the slot.

Compact Disc-Read Only Memory (CD-ROM) Drive
Data stored on external storage device like compact discs (CD) is read by inserting the CD in the CD drive. If the CD drive is not functioning, check if the CD is scratched. If the CD works fine in another PC, check if the power cable of the former drive is loose. Check if the plug and socket pin numbers match. If the tray of the drive is not opening, right click on CD-ROM icon and select eject option. If the tray does not open, insert a straight thin metal pin into the edge and try to pull it open. Do not apply too much of force while doing so. Avoid connecting the CD-ROM drive on the same controller cable as the primary hard drive, this will slow down its performance.

Floppy Drive
If the floppy disk is not opening, try opening it in the floppy drive of another PC. If the disk does not open, then it is probably corrupt. If the disk is stuck in the drive, hold down the eject button for sometime or right click on floppy drive icon and select eject option. If the disk is still stuck, wiggle it up and down till it can be ejected or use tweezers to pull it out. Do not apply too much of force while doing so.

In order to avoid any kind of faults, following maintenance tips can be followed:

  • Do not let dust saturate on the motherboard. Clean it with a vacuum cleaner or a hand broom once in 2 to 3 months.
  • The hard drive mostly does not need any external cleaning, though by performing de-fragmentation and disk clean, it can be prevented from crashing.
  • In the case of the CD-ROM, do not pull the tray forcibly. Make use of the insert/eject button rather than pulling and pushing the tray.
  • Clean the tray once in a while. Do not keep any heavy object on the tray. Avoid running scratched or damaged CDs in the CD-ROM.
  • If the CPU fan is making too much noise, unmount it and oil the bearings.
  • Do not attempt to start the PC if the fan is not in a working condition.
  • If the fault persists, contact professional services. Also make a note of what exactly is happening when you start the PC. It makes the diagnosis a lot easier for the professional.

The CPU is the brain of the computer. Proper maintenance of the CPU, as well as all other components, enhances the computer performance.