Web Site Change Management
Keeping track of changes to Web sites can be of a great importance, a good reason to put SiteRecorder to work for you.
Change management can be a tricky thing when it comes to managing a
Web site. For a lot of companies, there is a single webmaster who keeps
tabs on who changes what on the corporate Web. But if the organization
is a nice big monster of a company that has many teams adding information
to the different Web pages on a daily basis, the webmaster could get seriously
bogged down with just managing changes.
It can become far too easy for anyone with permission, notwithstanding
those without, to make a quick change without any control. This can be
a dangerous prospect for an e-commerce site whose entire revenue drive
is based on their Web site. And with more and more news of Web site defacement,
insuring that code stays right and where it belongs is essential.
SiteRecorder from Lockstep Technologies answers this question by facilitating
a means to manage changes through notification. SiteRecorder keeps track
of changes, keeps backup copies of the managed Web site, and has a fast
restore operation, should the site controller have to roll back to an
earlier iteration of the Web site. SiteRecorder sends a quick e-mail notice
to the administrator when a change is detected. Couple this functionality
with, say an e-mail notification to a cell phone, and the administrator
can literally keep tabs on the Web site from anywhere.
SiteRecorder also has a younger sibling, called SiteRecorder Express.
Express is only a backup tool that takes up to 10 iterations of your Web
site. SiteRecorder has this functionality, although it's not restricted
to 10 iterations. SiteRecorder increases the number of iterations to an
unlimited number and incorporates change notification as well. For the
purposes of this review, we'll discuss SiteRecorder. Just know what Express
can do, should this be an influence to your decision about this product.
SiteRecorder has a simple and intuitive installation procedure. Having
two install options, it can install as a server service on an NT or 2000
Server box or as a remote administration client that can run on any 32-bit
SiteRecorder has three ways to access Web spaces. It can connect via
FTP, folder share, or FrontPage Server Extenstions (FPE).
So, to put SiteRecorder through its paces, I set up a test environment
of three machines, an Apache Web server running on Redhat 6.2, a Windows
2000 Server running IIS, and my notebook as the client running Windows
2000 Professional and FrontPage 2000. I, then, configured three different
Web sites, one on the Apache box, the other two on the IIS box. I defined
each of the three connection methods respectively for each Web site, FTP
for Apache, FPE and Folder access for the IIS sites.
I was able to configure SiteRecorder to use the respective access method
for each Web site to access the Web site. It took a baseline copy of the
Web site and cached it. Then, I set the constraints of when and how to
check each Web site for changes. I was able to control how much or how
little SiteRecorder checked my changes. It does a fast check by looking
at the time-date stamp and file size of the files or a thorough check
through an effective binary comparison. SiteRecorder allows you to configure
how much bandwidth is used for each connection, so the administrator controls
the amount of network lag is generated from the operation.
One would think that SiteRecorder takes up a large footprint, since it's
actually caching many files from many different Web spaces, but that's
not really the case. The program itself takes up about 2MB of disk space,
not including the Web cache. The cache holds only the changes, to facilitate
roll back. Although SiteRecorder can effectively store an infinite number
of change iterations, the administrator can limit this number to reduce
actual disk space usage. Essentially, the oldest revisions are rolled
into the baseline after the cutoff.
SiteRecorder does exactly what it is supposed to do. It backs up Web
sites locally and remotely. It keeps track of revisions and notifies folks
of changes. But there isn't any way in SiteRecorder to keep changes from
happening. You can set constraints to alert you each time, but there's
no way for SiteRecorder to directly act as an intercessor for changes.
So, it's not true change management, but it's close.
The only other downer I found about SiteRecorder is the price tag for
the package. At $795 per license for each managed Web, it could be a little
out of the league for a small business whose principle revenue doesn't
roll in from the Web. Not to negate the purpose of their Web site, but
it's not as important as a major e-commerce site, which could make or
break the company with each second of downtime. SiteRecorder would be
a good insurance policy for make or break Webs, but I'm afraid that price
would be out of touch for any business other than a major player on the
Web. It would be up to the company to decide if the cost is justified.
At the end of the day, Web site security is always a good thing. And
if this is what you need, then SiteRecorder just may be your tool for
Rick A. Butler, MCSE+I, is the Director of Information Services for the United States Hang Gliding Association.