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When most people think of web servers, they think about accessing sites (like this one) on the world wide web.  Web servers can also be a valuable service on your internal network (intranet).  Some effective tools you can use:

  • Let them see but not touch.  Give managers and other casual users access to application logs, on-line reports, etc. without having to assign them a UNIX system account.  Almost no training is involved because most managers, programmers, etc. already know how to use a web browser.

 

  • Let only those who need to know see system logs.  Some companies have security groups to monitor system logs, etc.  The problem is that these groups need the root password on a UNIX system to read them (unless, of course, all security was removed from the files).  With a properly configured web server, security groups can monitor log files, etc. without having to have any UNIX system account.  A special web account would give them read-only access.

 

  • No UNIX command training.  By incorporating some basic scripting, users can execute basic UNIX commands without having to know the command.  For example, a programmer wants to monitor the availability of disk space for log files, test reports, etc.  Instead of trying to remember the UNIX commands, the programmer selects "Show Available Disk Space" from a list and clicks on an 'execute' button.  It also improves security by controlling how the command is executed.

 

  • View and run from anywhere.  Operations staff can monitor logs, etc. across numerous UNIX servers without having to log in to each one.  They can access the information they need from a single console and by using familiar technology - the web browser.  They can also send e-mail or page support groups or on-call personnel from their console.

 

  • Ad-hoc or as-built notes.  Support groups, such as database administrators or system administrators can maintain a set of quick reference notes, status reports, etc. that cross servers for quick and easy reference.  These areas can be easily restricted to use by these groups.  They can even control what goes in there.  Quick reference notes and procedures, etc. can be kept on-line with minimal maintenance.

 

  • The list goes on and on and on....

Moderation is the key to success.  Fancy web pages with animation and music will not add any value.  Follow these hints and you will be very pleased with the results:

  • Use the KISS method - "Keep It Simple Stupid".   Don't get carried away with it or it will become a maintenance burden.

 

  • Little to no maintenance.  Minimize the use of HTML.  Have a page or two of HTML that is updated once or twice a year.  Point to directories, etc. where users can maintain their own files.

 

  • Use scripts.  Use the features of UNIX scripting to keep HTML pages up to date.  Make sure that the scripts are documented.

 

  • Use plain text.  Assign a directory to each interest group so that they can put information there for reference.  Keep it text-based so that they can maintain it.

 

  • Standardize web sever configurations to the maximum extent possible.

 

  • Check system file permissions carefully.  Don't compromise fundamental security.

Do you want to impress YOUR clients?  Implement an intranet web server that is practical and easy to use.  They'll love it.