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Maintenance: System, Platform, Application

Maintenance: System, Platform, Application

by Alban Taraire

application-serverRecently we discussed about a new critical bug that affects Drupal-based websites. This critical bug lies in the code of Drupal, which is a popular framework used to build websites.

We urged our readers to upgrade as early as possible, and that lead to some interesting questions, in particular: whose job is that?

As Hosting providers, we are expected to provide stable and secure service to our clients. What does that imply? Surely patching a critical Drupal bug should be part of “providing stable and secure service”?

Long story short: it’s not. Your Application has been developed and customized for you by a Web Agency or developers, and a blanket upgrade is likely to break something. Application upgrades are best performed by the developers, not the Hosting company.

Longer story, it’s not that simple, and it is important to understand the 3 main layers of a standard website.

 

 

layers infrastructure website system framework application

A website is an application, like Drupal, based on a certain platform, like PHP/MySQL and runs on a system, such as Linux.

This small diagram shows these 3 layers:

  1. System
  2. Platform
  3. Application

The System is the core of your server. It’s what runs all the hardware, starts the programs, etc. You are of course familiar with Windows, which is the most common System for laptops and desktops. For servers though, Linux is king. If you run a website, odds are you are running Linux.

The Platform is the basic bricks with which your website is programmed. It contains the programming language used to make the website, and the database in which all your content is stored or referenced. The most widely used platform for hosting is PHP/MySQL (PHP being a programming language, MySQL being a database).

Finally, the Application is your website itself. In many cases, your website is actually an existing application, like Drupal, that has been customized to look as you want. Your Visual Identity, your articles, links etc. are just content added to a Drupal program.

 

So who does what? As a general rule, your hosting company, like shanghai-hosting.com, is in charge of the System, and the Platform. They make sure both are running smoothly and updated regularly withing the limits imposed by the Application. As things evolve, your Application built today might not be compatible with the newest system in a few years, just like your old programs on Windows XP might not run on Windows 8.

The Application itself has been designed and programmed by a Web Agency, or a developers team. They know how they customized your website, and they master the ins and outs of their specific code. This makes them the only ones who can ensure that an Application upgrade will not break your design. As such, they are responsible for the updates of the Application.

Many, if not most, websites are seen as one-shot projects and no maintenance is planned. This means you will have to find someone to patch your Application, should some critical bug show up. It might take time and be costly. Good thing to keep it in mind when selecting your Web Agency!

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