Computers that run the 'Net
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When people think about the internet they usually envision huge computer systems that take up entire rooms. The truth is, most "servers" are the same physical size as your personal computer. The main difference is what is inside the machine: faster processors, more memory, more disk space, and very flexible networking abilities. Most servers run an operating system called UNIX. UNIX is a very mature and weathered operating system that is only recently being noticed by mainstream users now that the internet has become so popular.
What makes the UNIX operating system architecture so well suited to serving internet services is its superior multi-user capabilities. Your personal computer is just that, for use by one person: you. UNIX is what we call a preemptive multi-tasking operating system. This means the computer can easily share its resources amongst many different requestnrs and prioritize these requests to ensure the highest overall performance. For instance, if one user requests a very computing intensive task, like a database search, the operating system will ensure that more important services, like accepting new connections from other users, are always given priority. The database search is "preempted" by the higher priority new connection request.
UNIX also has sophisticated multi-threading capabilities. If a program is multi-threaded it will allow many simultaneous tasks to be done at the same time. A good example is your home e-mail application. While you download your new mail from your mail server, can you open one of your mailboxes and start browsing other messages? If not, your mail program is not multi-threaded. It can only do once task at a time.
How Servers access the 'Net
Servers access the internet through means that you are already familiar with, regular telephone lines. The main difference is in the type of telephone line the Server uses. Most professional Servers use what is called a T1 line. This is a very high speed telephone line that can receive and send information very quickly. With this speed, comes an amazing price tag of around $1,500 a month. That is why we have providers that can share the expense over communities of subscribers like you and I.
Now even though the physical telephone line connecting to the computer looks familiar, the method that it uses to connect to the computer is a little more complex than your average modem. Usually this connection involves a customized configuration based on what your provider needs. This information is not vital at this time.
Once the Server is connected to the internet via a T1 line that is provided by the local telephone company, the Server is on the net. It can make requests, provide data, and offer all kinds of internet services as they are developed.
How you access the 'Net
Internet services are provided by your local telephone or television providers. If you're reading this we assume you've found a suitable method to connect to the net. We prefer cable companies at the moment because their technology is solid and doesn't need to evolve or pass along the expense of evolving like the phone companies do. An average telephone call requires very little data, but your average television picture has always required massive amounts of data, and therefore the services provided by cable companies is usually superior by default. However, some phone companies are making moves into this area, so make sure to read further if you have questions about their differences.
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In this day and age broadband is the only solution. The days of modem connections at 56k are over. If you're still using a modem, check yourself into a museum before you're lost forever. Below is a quick review of the two most popular broadband solutions available.
DSL services come from the telephone company, and in the recent years many neighborhoods across America have thrown what's called fiber optic wires. These wires have greatly improved the performance of DSL, but unless you have this latest and greatest wiring, you might want to investigate Cable modem speeds in your area. When it comes down to it time is money, and the longer you have to wait for a download, the more money and life you're losing. Make sure your DSL server can provide at least 1meg/sec downloads before settling. That's a bare minimum these days.
The cable companies have done a great job providing internet connections for people's homes. As of this time (Summer 2010) it is the our favorite solution to date. A good cable modem connection can provide downloads in excess of 2.5meg/sec with 500k/sec uploads. It's not uncommon to get your television service from one company, and your internet from another, so don't feel like you have to purchase a "package" deal to get your internet. There is no discount in buying more of what you don't need.
This concludes your introduction to how the internet is connected together.
More detailed lessons will follow to address individual issues as they
become available. This is the basic information you need to
begin constructing internet services of your own, i.e., web pages.
- Internet servers are physically similar to normal computers but have faster processors, more disk space, memory, and network abilities.
- The most popular operating system for internet servers is UNIX.
- UNIX uses preemptive multi-tasking to prioritize connections with users before transmitting information.
- UNIX uses multi-tasking to perform multiple tasks at the same time making several connections possible.
- Internet servers are usually connected to the internet using a T1 line that is provided by the phone company.
- There are a number of methods to connect to the internet including Modems, ADSL, Cable Modems, and direct connections via T1 lines.