Discuss what it will take to build a web architecture, move an existing website with minimal downtime, and provide a disaster recovery solution to ensure the site is always available. A new independent company has recently purchased Tony’s Chips and the new leadership has decided to move the website to an internally hosted site instead of the current external hosted site. The new leadership is also requiring that a back-up site is available as they are very concerned about redundancy for the site. In addition to the migration of the website from an external host to an internal host the website will need to be redesigned in order to allow customers to order and purchase products online. In order to build the architecture, migrate the existing website along with adding the ability for the customers to place orders online and providing for redundancy of the site the system development life cycle (SDLC) will be used. The SDLC consists of five phases that will be utilized in this project and the five phases are systems planning, systems analysis, systems design, systems implementation, and systems support and security.
When building a web architecture the first and possibly most important step in the process is the systems planning phase. The reason this is possibly the most important step in the process is that this is the time when you will gather all of the information required in order to build an architecture that will be successful and meet all of the requirements established by the leadership. The systems planning phase is also the time when you will establish the foundation of the project and the decisions made at this time will have an effect on the rest of the steps encountered when developing and implementing the new system. As an IT professional you must familiarize yourself with the business practices in order to build an architecture that will meet the requirements of being hosted internally, having redundancy built in, and also allowing the customers to purchase the products online. This is also the phase where a feasibility study must be conducted to review the associated cost and benefits which will enable you to make recommendations on a specific course of action that takes into account all of the operational, economic, time and technical factors.
The next phase in building a web architecture is the system analysis phase in which a logical model of the architecture will be built. It is during this phase when you will continue with the investigation that was started in the systems planning phase and you will perform interviews, surveys, observation, or document reviews to gather the facts and get an understanding of the system. During this phase you will create the system requirements document that will describe the costs and benefits associated with the system, the management and user requirements, and it will outline alternative development strategies. The next phase in the SLDC is the systems design phase in which a physical model is created that will satisfy all of the documented requirements. This is the time in building the architecture where the hardware as well as the systems software will be determined. During this phase the system design specification will be created and presented to the management and user for review and approval.
The architecture for Tony’s Chips does not need to be a large, in depth architecture but rather a simple architecture due to the size of the company and the current web site. As the new leadership has included the requirement for redundancy in the system this must be taken into consideration and planned for which will require additional equipment to be purchased as well as the infrastructure to be put in place. Due to this requirement the architecture will require having two web servers, two database servers, and a replication server installed in order to have the backup system and system redundancy in case of an outage in the primary system. Connectivity to a wide area network must be established in order to allow the customers to access the sight from locations from anywhere. In addition to the servers the system will require the purchase and use of a firewall to ensure the security of the site. A DMZ network will also be established which will allow users to access the sites web servers which will allow them to view the information on the site as well as make purchases online. The database servers and the replication servers will be placed behind another firewall which will prevent outside users from being able to access them.
This will secure the site and will prevent outside users from having access to the database servers which will prevent unauthorized access and changes. The systems software that will be used for this site will be based on an open source web development platform commonly referred to as LAMP. The different components of LAMP are Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. For a little more detail on the components, Linux is the operating system that will be used, Apache is a web server, MySQL is the database to be used, and PHP is a server-side scripting language to be used which will allow dynamic content. As all of these components are open source and freely available this will reduce the overall cost of implementing the system in comparison to using other models such as a Windows model which would be at a substantial cost. Another benefit of using a Linux based operating system is the security features that are available which are arguably far better than those available with Windows. To migrate the site from the externally hosted site to the internally hosted site with minimal downtime prior planning is essential.
The new servers must be up and running with the site ready to be accessed prior to beginning the migration. To ensure that there is a smooth transition with minimal downtime the pilot operation will be used in the migration of the site. Prior to starting the migration you must first ensure all of the data has been loaded onto the new servers and that the replication server is functioning properly to ensure all transactions will be replicated from the externally hosted site to the new internally hosted site. To provide a disaster recovery solution to ensure that the site is always available redundancy must be built into the architecture.
Primary hardware that must have a backup to ensure availability is the web server and the database server. In addition to having a primary and a backup of each of these two servers a replication server must also be implemented into the architecture in order for the databases on each server to mirror each other. With proper planning and implementation of this system if the primary servers have a failure there will not be any interruption of service to the customer who is accessing the site. Evaluate alternatives to the company self-hosting the site.
There are a couple of alternatives that the company could pursue other than self-hosting the web site. One alternative is to host the site with an external service that already has the servers and services in place but this option reduces the amount of control that the company has over the site. A web-hosting company is another alternative to self-hosting the site which could be beneficial to the company. With these web-hosting companies you can rent or lease entire servers that are already online and physically stored at the web-hosting company site or server farm instead of being located at your company location. This option will allow you to have control over the servers without having the requirement to either store the servers or perform routine maintenance on them.
Some of the benefits of this alternative is that you will have reduced downtime as many of these companies are up and operational over 99% of the time, enhanced security as these companies have first rate security and security experts employed at their sites, and cost savings as all of the hardware as well as the physical site and infrastructure is provided by the web-hosting company. Build a Gantt chart using Microsoft Project or equivalent software, showing all tasks associated with implementing the website.
Explain and justify the system architecture you have selected. The system architecture that has been selected will provide a primary web server and database server as well as a backup web server and database server. In addition to the two web servers and two database servers the architecture will also consist of a replication server. Another component of the architecture will be the two firewalls that will allow the users or customers to access the web servers and will also prevent them from accessing the database servers or the replication server. With this architecture all of the leadership’s requirements for internal hosting of the site, backup capability, allowing customers to order products online and it will also provide the company with sufficient security on the system to prevent unauthorized access to the database and replication servers. One of the main concerns of the leadership is a back-up site in the event the main site goes down for any reason.
With this in mind there is a requirement for a backup system to take over in the event of a failure which is the reason for the installation of two web servers and two database servers. The justification for the replication server is because as the name implies, the replication server will replicate all of the data between the two databases. This is important for the system due to the fact that with this server in place there is not a requirement for personnel to transfer or replicate the data from one database to the other on a daily basis. This will prevent the database becoming corrupt due to human errors during data input and will also ensure that the two databases have the same data. If one of the database servers fails then the backup server will take over and the site will continue to run as designed. Once the failure is fixed the two database servers will have to be reconciled or replicated prior to bringing the primary server is back online.
During the failure of one of the database servers the users of the web site will not realize that there is an outage as the backup server had the same data at the primary due to the constant replication of data between the two database servers. In addition to the web, database, and replication servers another important piece of the architecture is installing the firewall’s to prevent unauthorized access to the database to prevent data corruption and also to prevent any customer information from being obtained from the database.
The justification for using the LAMP platform is that this system software is commonly used when building a web site and will meet the entire requirement for implementing and running the site. Another important factor is the security features that are available in the distribution of Linux. Due to all of the components in the LAMP platform being open source and freely available this will reduce the overall cost that will be incurred by Tony’s Chips during the design, set-up, and implementation of the site. Illustrate the system architecture using Visio or equivalent software.
Create a use case that documents the event of a customer ordering a bag of chips from the new website. A use case that documents a customer ordering a bag of chips from the new website begins with the customer navigating to the new site and finding the bag of chips that they wish to order. Once the chips have been located the customer will then add the chips to the shopping cart and view the cart to ensure that the correct item is in the shopping cart. After confirming that the correct item is in the cart the customer will then proceed to checkout.
When the customer proceeds to the checkout they will then be required to enter additional information. The information that is required will be to enter the shipping information and the billing information. After the customer enters both the shipping and billing information they are able to submit the order which will complete the order process. The use case is depicted in the diagram below.
Discuss the support operations that the internally hosted website will require after implementation. After the planning, analysis, and designing of the system the internally hosted website will be implemented during the implementation phase. Once the implementation phase is complete we move to the systems support and security phase. By hosting the website internally there are additional support requirements that are required by the company that would not be if the site was hosted by an outside company. All of the regular maintenance that is required on the system hardware as well as the website maintenance are now the responsibility of the company. Some of these maintenance requirements are backing up the databases regularly, either daily or weekly and preferably having these backups stored in another location.
Another support requirement is maintaining all of the hardware to include the servers, cabling, firewalls, as well as the room where the servers are stored and maintained. In addition to this there is also the requirement to monitor and maintain the room itself where the servers are located, including ensuring that the temperature is at the correct setting and is maintained for optimal operation of the servers, ensuring the cleanliness of the area and the equipment. An additional support requirement is the requirement to monitor the network for network performance to ensure that the network is running efficiently and will give the customers a good experience when accessing the site. Another requirement for monitoring the network is to detect any malicious attacks against the network such as port scans or denial of service attacks. By adding the capability for the customer to order products online this brings about another support function after the site has been implemented, customer support.
Support must be available to process the orders, respond to e-mails, or answer phone calls from customers who have visited the site and need assistance. This will also add a requirement for additional supervisor’s to be available in order to speak with any customer who has had a problem with an order or has a complaint that cannot be resolved by one of the customer service/support representatives. Explain how you will evaluate the performance of the new site and the success of your project. The evaluation of the performance of the new site will be an ongoing process from the moment that the migration from the externally hosted site to the internally hosted site begins. During the evaluation of the migration process the evaluation will concentrate on if there were any down time and if so what was the duration of each time there was an outage. Once the site has been migrated and the primary and backup web and database servers are online and functioning there will be testing completed to ensure that they are functioning properly in the event of an outage of the primary servers.
During this evaluation the primary server will be taken down to ensure that the backup servers are taking over and performing as designed so that the customer will not notice that there are any problems in the system. With the addition of the purchase system giving the customers the ability to purchase products online the operation of this portion of the system must also be evaluated. When offering the ability for customers to purchase products online the customer experience must be evaluated to ensure that the customers are receiving the best service possible. Some of the items that need to be evaluated are whether or not the items are able to be selected and put into the “shopping cart” or not.
The number of customers who visit the site should also be compared to the number of customers who actually purchase products from the site. If there are many customers who visit the site and place items in the “shopping cart” but do not actually make a purchase this could be an indicator that there is a problem with the function of the purchase system. If it is discovered that there is a problem with the purchasing system, corrective action should be taken immediately to improve the customer experience when visiting the site which in turn will also increase revenue for the company.
Shelly, G.B., &Rosenblatt, H.J. (2012). Systems analysis and design.Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
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