Planning your network

There are dozens of possible ways that you can set up a local server for Web development. The correct one for my work may not be the right one for you. Web protocols run on a wide variety of systems, from UNIX and VAX/VMS to Windows 3.1 and the Macintosh. You can use a wide variety of networking solutions, not just ethernet, and can set the machines up next to each other or across continents if you have the right setup. You may not know anything about networking, operating systems, or all the arcane technicalities that have grown up around them, but this kind of network can be simple enough that even a network novice can design one.

There are three different pieces to the network that you'll have to assemble:

The way your network turns out depends almost entirely on the parts you choose for these. You can mix and match a wide variety of pieces, because of the flexibility TCP/IP gives you, so choose the ones that seem most appropriate to your situation. These networks can often be scraped together from available machines - a 486 that used to run the accounting department can be pressed into service with Windows NT or even Windows for Workgroups, using and old ethernet card and a portable computer for the client. Most people aren't lucky enough to have old UNIX boxes lying around, but if you can find one...

My only warning is to try to get parts good enough to support more than the bare minimum. As Web publishing gets more complex, you'll need more capacity. As long as it can grow with your needs, don't worry about using cheap or secondhand equipment, but don't get stuck with a complete Linux system on a 386 with no hard drive space and not enough memory for scripting. If you can add memory and upgrade the processor, it might do though, at least at first.

The two keys things to worry about are usability and expandability. If you can, you want a setup that is as close to what you'll use in the real world, capable of doing for you what larger systems provide the whole Internet. Web publishing is a constantly moving target, and you'll want to be able to keep up.

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Copyright 1995 by Simon St.Laurent. All rights reserved. You may print this document for yourself or others at no charge, but commercial distribution without permission is prohibited.

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