Web Administration: Maintaining a Web Server and Website

Tools used in web administration

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Web administration is one of the most important, but overlooked aspects of web development. You may not think this is your job as a web designer or developer, and there may be someone at your organization who normally does this for you, but if you don't have a good web administrator keeping your website running, well, you won't have a website. This means that you may need to get involved — but what does a web administrator do?

User Accounts

For many people, the first and often only time they interact with their web administrator is when they get an account on the system. Accounts are not simply magically created from scratch or because the computer knew that you needed one. Instead, someone needs to enter information about you so that your account can be created. This is generally a system administrator for the website.

This is only one tiny part of what web administration entails. In fact, creating user accounts is usually automated and the sysadmin only looks at them when something breaks rather than for every individual account. If you happen to know that your accounts are created manually, be sure to thank your administrator for creating the account. It may be a relatively simple task for him or her to do, but acknowledging the work your administrators do for you can go a long way when you need their help on something bigger (and trust us, you will need their help for something bigger in the future).

Web Security

Security is probably the most important part of web administration. If your web server is not secure, it can become a source for hackers to use to either attack your customers directly or turn it into a zombie sending out spam messages in every spare second or other even more malicious things. If you don't pay attention to security, rest assured that the hackers are paying attention to your site. Every time a domain changes hands, hackers get that information and start probing that domain for security holes. The hackers have robots that scan servers automatically for vulnerabilities.

Web Servers

The web server is actually a program running on a server machine. Web administrators keep that server running smoothly. They keep it up-to-date with the latest patches and make sure that the web pages that it displays are actually displaying. If you don't have a web server, you don't have a web page — so yes, you need that server up and running.

Web Software

There are many types of web applications that rely on server-side software to work. Web administrators install and maintain all these programs and many others:

  • Active Server Pages
  • CGI
  • PHP
  • Server Side Includes
  • JSP
  • Databases

Log Analysis

Analyzing the log files of your Web server is very important if you're going to find out how to improve your website. Web administrators will make sure that the Weblogs are stored and rotated so that they don't take over all the space on the server. They can also look for ways to improve the speed of a website by improving the performance of the server itself, something they can often do by reviewing logs and considering performance metrics.

Content Management

Once you have a lot of content on the website, having a content management system is essential. Maintaining a web content management system is a big administrative challenge.

Why Not Consider Web Administration as a Career

It may not seem as "glamorous" as a web designer or developer, but web administrators are critical to keeping a good website going. We are extremely grateful to the web administrators we work with on a regular basis. It's a hard job, but we couldn't live without them.