Tag Archives: FTP

Network Monitoring for Serious eCommerce

In the real world, businesses come in every size, from self-employed entrepreneurs like me to mega malls like Wal-Mart.

On the Internet, companies come in every size, too, from a stand-alone ebook sales page with webmaster and owner all in one, to 300 pound gorilla like Amazon, with over a million pages requiring the entire population of a small country to serve as webmaster.

If your site is a single page, it is its own network. But if your site is any bigger, and you have plans to grow, it is a network or is fast becoming one. You need network monitoring.

Most ecommerce webmasters are at least somewhat familiar with website monitoring. Many use a website monitoring service or software to keep track of “uptime” and “downtime”.

At your local shopping mall, serious business requires more than just knowing when the front doors are open and when they are closed. Serious ecommerce needs to know more than just when the site is accessible. That is what network monitoring is all about.

Chances are, your e-business owns one of the following, or uses one of the following remotely:

DNS servers: These are used to translate your site name, like www.mycompany.com, to the numbers called “IP addresses” that computers understand. If DNS servers are not working properly, end-users will not be able to find your site and will get an error. Usually only an external or remote monitoring service will detect such a problem.

An FTP server: File Transfer Protocol servers are used to help you
exchange files with remote users. If you use FTP, a monitoring
service can make sure it is always up and running.

POP3 and SMTP servers: These are used for exchanging emails. If you are using email, chances are you are using SMTP and POP3. If your SMTP server is down, everyone who sends you email will receive an error, stating that your mail
server is down and cannot accept incoming email. To say that the impression this leaves your customers is bad would be an understatement. If your POP3 server is down, you will be unable to retrieve email from your mailbox. Once again, only external monitoring will prevent such a problem.

Firewalls: Many businesses use firewalls to protect their internal network from un-authorized traffic, such as spyware, viruses and sabotage by competitors. Furthermore, a firewall is your first line of defense. If your firewall goes down, your whole network may actually become inaccessible from outside. In other words, if you host your own web site and mail servers, those will become
inaccessible to the outside world if your firewall goes down. Once again, remote network monitoring is required to detect that a problem exists and quickly get it repaired.

Internet connections: Users come to your network from multiple backbones, depending on the company they use to connect to the Internet and their location. It is important to ensure that your connection performs well for each user. A remote monitoring service can ping your networks from multiple locations around the world, thus testing most major routes to your web server or network. Before hiring a network monitoring service, check to see that they have both your customer geography and the Internet backbone layout covered.

Very few websites of any size and functionality are anything less than a complete network, and many networks rely on servers in different parts of the world.

A good network monitoring service can ensure, as a base, that all servers are properly functioning, that data can be sent to and received from each server, and that each function sharing the server responds as required. An advanced network monitoring service can even remotely monitor the temperature of your servers.

What you need to monitor depends on how extensive your network is. A network monitoring expert can help you determine what needs monitoring. If you own the servers, or are remotely hosted on dedicated servers, you most likely need everything monitored. If your site is hosted on shared servers, you might need fewer functions monitored.

ExpanDrive: FTP that doesn’t suck

With the advent of intelligent one-to-one file sharing solutions such as Streamfile and the increasing popularity of great cloud storage and sharing solutions such as Dropbox and Syncplicity, FTP’s days are numbered. Why bother with unsightly FTP software and annoying server settings when a solution like Syncplicity will allow you to securely share any directory in about five seconds? The answer: You don’t have to. Massachusetts-based ExpanDrive offers two solutions, one for Mac and one for PC, that will make you look at FTP in a whole new light and think twice before shelling out big bucks for a trendy cloud storage solution.

ExpanDrive offers two products that essentially accomplish the same thing: sexify the way you interact with FTP. For the purposes of this post we’ll focus on the Mac solution though the Windows solution accomplishes the same thing on a PC. In a nutshell, ExpanDrive allows you move files to and from FTP servers as if each server was an individual remote drive. By making use of the standard Finder UI on a Mac, there’s nothing new to learn – transfer files simply by dragging and dropping just as you would anywhere else in Finder. You’ll have access to FTP drives on your desktop (as seen in the image at the top of the post) and from within the Finder sidebar just like you would with a network drive or iDisk:

There is also no limit to the number of simultaneous connections you can have. In other words, unlike a standard FTP client you can maintain an active connection to your FTP site along with clients’ FTPs, software company FTPs and any other servers you want.

Beyond the Finder interface, the only other piece of UI is the Drive Manager where you can connect to drives as well as add and remove drives. You can also choose to auto-connect to a drive within the settings which is awesome when using FTP as a remote storage solution. Green lights indicate connected drives, yellow disk icons represent standard FTP drives and red disk icons represent secure SFTP drives (FTPS is supported as well in the Mac client, coming soon to Windows):

ExpanDrive places an icon in your taskbar as well, so you can easily connect, disconnect and see the status of each of your drives:

Apart from standard FTP functionality wrapped in the Finder UI, ExpanDrive gives you a terrific front end for as many iDrive-like remote storage drives you can stomach. The obvious benefit over other remote storage options such as iDrive however, is the cost. iDrive gives users 150 GB of storage for $49.50 per year and a slightly sexier solution, ZumoDrive, will run you an outlandish $450+ per year for 200 GB or a still-ridiculous $240 per year for 100 GB. For real?

These days just about everyone has a website and even the cheapest hosting plans typically come with free secure FTP access and a massive amount of storage. For example, the base plan from HostGator offers unlimited disk space for just $4.95 per month. Unlimited. So if you already have a decent hosting plan like HostGator’s, ExpanDrive gives you a ridiculous amount of remote storage for absolutely no additional monthly or yearly cost — just a one-time software purchase. If you don’t already have a hosting plan or an FTP account somewhere, plenty of services provide them for pennies compared to Amazon S3 front-end solutions like ZumoDrive.

We still say there’s no better sharing / auto-sync / remote back up service than Syncplicity – but where files you don’t need hogging up local space are concerned, ExpanDrive literally trounces the more expensive options mentioned above. Plus, it removes the need to use cumbersome and tricky FTP clients; ExpanDrive is actually a front end solution and can use any FTP client such as CyberDuck or even Firefox to move data (don’t worry, it will chose from available FTP apps on its own when you install it). As far as cost you’re looking at a one-time purchase price of $39.95, or $34.95 if you first join the ExpanDrive group on Facebook. Not bad at all. Don’t take our word for it though — ExpanDrive offers a free full-featured 30-day trial on both applications.

ExpanDrive for Mac
ExpanDrive for Windows