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Old 07-29-2009, 08:06 PM   #1
Registered: Oct 2006
Location: Crestview, FL
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Suggestions on servers, or other information?

Okay, so here's the question. First off, didn't know if this one would fit in "Linux - Server" or not. Might - but might not. If so mods, please move as appropriate.

My uncle wants to set up an online business to take orders for a cheese shop, as a seller or franchisee of a place he visited while on vacation. I've mentioned to him that he needs to research out a good domain name and possibly a web hosting service. I also mentioned that if he got the go-ahead from his broadband provider, he could set up a separate business account with them for service and run a webserver from his house. I suspect that he will want to go for this latter option.

I have computers sitting around that I am not using at the moment, and am willing to donate to his new endeavor. He's retired and has been itching for something to do. He has PCLinuxOS installed on his play computer (guess who is the technical support) and if he wants to run the business from his house, I'll install Slackware on a computer for that. He's getting very used to using Linux, so that should not be a problem.

I can do the website itself, no sweat, along with the networking cabling and things like that. But, I would like comments on those things that I might forget to install. A webserver of course, possibly a mail server, (LAMP) but the stumper for me involves inventory databases and order tracking. Can these four pieces be integrated into one machine? He does not have a lot of room in his house.

The first and the second are not problems, but third and fourth require help. Any comments or suggestions here?

Also, what is the feasibility of using SSH for remote administration? I'd rather administer his business machine from my nice comfy chair at home than have to drive 25 miles away. Any comments on this one? It works will for my home computers, but over the Internet?

At the moment, I am not worried about firewalls or other types of security. I have a router that I can donate to him for that one.
Old 07-30-2009, 07:18 AM   #2
Registered: Jun 2007
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I am sure you will not be surprised when I say the answer to this question is - it depends on a lot of unknowns.
"inventory databases" and "order tracking" really comes down to some type of DB usage (MySQL is the `M` in LAMP).
So, yes it is perfectly easy to setup Linux Apache MySQL and PHP/Perl on a single server and easily host a website that does the type of work you are looking for.
The considerations of course are performance - that depends on the hardware, the number of concurrent (expected) users and the efficiency of the web application code.

I have no idea about online selling of cheese, but really, in the first year are you expecting more than 60 users an hour which is 1 user a minute? Is it realistic to expect 10 users concurrently? You would need some really slow/old hardware and/or some really badly written code to not handle 10 concurrent users buying cheese.

You already have the hardware, perhaps you should start on the design and putting it together, and then do some performance testing to see where your bottlenecks are and are they big enough bottlenecks to affect what your uncle will need.

Also, you said you are not worried about security and I realize you said this from an inbound (open ports) perspective, but you really need to consider SQL injection attacks as highly possible if your web code isn't up to standard. Are you planning to use something pre-designed, or are you literally doing the HTML yourself?

Something else to consider - what are the costs of having a business DSL line into your house + the hassle of ensuring uptime and everything else verses buying an online hosting account that still gives you complete (ssh access included) access to a virtual machine? Why not have someone else worry about hardware + cooling + space + electricity + Internet access and that way you only need to worry about the code. Also, it is then easier to buy something fairly inexpensive at first (GoDaddy or whatever) and as your needs grow, up the amount of CPU + RAM time of your virtual machine. In other words, buy your way into better hardware as your business grows. Just a thought.

Finally, ssh access remotely over residential DSL is fine. I would recommend turning off password authentication and only allowing ssh access via a keyfile. Also, if possible, limit access (via Firewall) from specific IP's if they are known in advance.

Hope this helps.

Last edited by zQUEz; 07-30-2009 at 07:21 AM.
Old 07-30-2009, 09:51 AM   #3
Registered: Jun 2003
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It would be my contention that you should farm as much of this out as possible. It's one thing to set up a box to play with, but where a business, with associated potential losses, are involved, I would recommend a data centre/hosting company.
They will look after connectivity, power continuity, backups and the basics of security. I would also recommend using a pre-built eCommerce solution. There are many good, FOSS ones out there, that just require customisation, population with data and an account with PayPal to start making you money.
If you choose to do this yourself, you have the headaches of making sure it doesn't go down, making sure orders are processed properly, that customers data is secured... the whole nine yards in other words.
Old 07-30-2009, 11:11 AM   #4
Registered: Oct 2006
Location: Crestview, FL
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Thank you for the replies. I have been thinking about the eCommerce sites, and definitely farming out as much as possible - now to convince him of the best way to go about it. Power continuity is one thing that I'd forgotten.

Neither he nor I expect a lot of users at first. We'll have to see. I have been researching the eCommerce stuff and other things too.

Any other thoughts, please keep them coming.
Old 08-02-2009, 04:59 AM   #5
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Talk to a few hosting companies, see what plans they have available, also they may know of what web applications that are out there that maybe suitable for the type of business your uncle is planning to run.


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