W&M Web Environment

What's Supported and What's Permitted

Information Technology has developed the following guidelines to help departments plan web and dynamic web (database-driven) development projects. After considering these guidelines, departments interested in developing web projects are encouraged to contact IT through the Academic Technology Specialists or the Technology Support Center (TSC) to discuss the project and the College resources available for it.

The W&M Web Environment

The W&M web environment is hosted on multiple Sun Solaris servers sitting behind a Cisco load-balancer that takes care of secure connections (SSL). The web servers run Apache v.1.3.x and PHP v.4.3.x with PEAR, gd, ldap, and both MySQL and Oracle database libraries installed.

PHP is configured with register_globals turned off (the default for PHP v.4.3.x). PHP utilizes the open_basedir directive on each top-level folder to provide one layer of additional security compared to the old web server's configuration. PHP is restricted from executing shell or command-line code via exec, proc, or shell commands. The file or folder permissions cannot be changed to allow PHP to write files to the hard drive.

The W&M web environment provides Apache Server-Side Includes (SSI) in a restricted environment. In particular, exec code via SSI is disabled. IT suggests using PHP as the preferred language for creating dynamic pages.

The web server mounts the web drive space as a read-only drive. So, regardless of what permissions you grant to an anonymous web user account, you will not be able to write files to the hard drive from the Web server. Thus, the only method for collecting and storing data via the W&M Web server is to use one of the database tools below.

A content management system called Cascade is available on the W&M web server.

The web servers do not run Apache mod-spelling to correct (or guess intended) spelling for pages and sites that do not exist. Instead, the servers use custom 404 error pages that suggest alternative pages by performing a search on the key terms in the misspelled URL.

Server-side Scripting Languages Supported by IT

ColdFusion
The ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML) is one of the server-side scripting languages supported by IT. Similar to HTML in its syntax and usage, ColdFusion provides a means for connecting to any of the supported databases listed below.

PHP
PHP is an Open-Source language gaining in popularity throughout the Internet. PHP allows web pages to connect to MySQL and Oracle databases (MS Access databases are not supported within the current web environment at the College). The syntax and usage is a bit different from HTML and JavaScript. Additionally, there are currently no supported WYSIWYG (graphical) tools for producing PHP content. Some support for PHP is available through IT-contact IT through the Academic Technology Specialists, the Integrated Web Services Team, or the Technology Support Center (TSC) for assistance.

Web-Enabled Databases Supported by IT

MS Access 2000 or XP
Access is a fully-relational database providing functionality for most desktop and ColdFusion uses. Access databases cannot be connected to PHP dynamic web sites within the current web environment at the College.

MySQL - preferred database for dynamic web sites for either CFML or PHP.
MySQL is an open-source, fully-relational database providing functionality for both small and large database applications. MySQL can serve as the datasource for both ColdFusion and PHP dynamic web sites. If you need to store data collected from Web pages, you need to request a MySQL database (from support@wm.edu).

Oracle
Oracle is the most powerful production-level fully-relational database available at the College, allowing connectivity with dynamic web sites developed using PHP or ColdFusion. Current MS Access, MySQL, or MS SQL databases whose applications have been tested in ColdFusion or PHP may be allowed to migrate to Oracle for long-term hosting (decisions about allowing departmental content on Oracle have not yet been made). Contact IT through the Academic Technology Specialists, the Integrated Web Services Team, or the Technology Support Center (TSC) for assistance.

MS SQL Server 2000
MS SQL Server 2000 is a production-level fully-relational database engine currently available by special request to IT. Contact IT through the Academic Technology Specialists, the Integrated Web Services Team, or the Technology Support Center (TSC) for assistance. Future long-term support for MS SQL Server 2000 has not yet been determined.

IT Offers No Training, Support, or Debugging Assistance For the Following Protocols

ASP
Hosted on Windows 2000 web servers, ASP is Microsoft's proprietary scripting language. By special arrangement, Active Server Pages (ASP) can be made available for developers to use at their own risk. Contact IT through the Academic Technology Specialists, the Integrated Web Services Team, or the Technology Support Center (TSC) for assistance.

FrontPage Extensions
Hosted on Windows 2000 web Servers, FrontPage Extensions are Microsoft's proprietary extensions to be used within HTML documents. By special arrangement, they can be made available for developers to use at their own risk. Contact IT through the Academic Technology Specialists, the Integrated Web Services Team, or the Technology Support Center (TSC) for assistance.

Perl
Hosted on most web Servers, Perl is the mother of all scripting languages on the Internet. By special arrangement, Perl can be made available for developers to use at their own risk. Contact IT through the Academic Technology Specialists or the Technology Support Center (TSC) for assistance. Perl scripts are not permitted in user folders.

MS FrontPage
Microsoft's web editing software product can produce HTML, DHTML, JavaScript, FrontPage Extension, and ASP code. Because ASP and FrontPage Extensions can be incorporated within pages without the developer's explicit permission, because the DHTML and JavaScript code produced may not function on browsers other than MS-IE, and because professional developers prefer Dreamweaver and HomeSite to FrontPage, IT has chosen not to provide support for this product. Developers may purchase and use the product at their own risk.

Server-Side Java and JSP
Java "Servlets" and Java Server Pages (JSP) are not supported within the web environment at the College. Although Client-Side Java "Applets" are served (like any other web content), IT does not provide training, support, or debugging assistance for this code.