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WebSite Pro: High-end enterprise-level server for Windows NT/98/95 platforms

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Dec 9, 1998


Although a distant third in popularity among Windows-based Web servers (behind offerings from Microsoft and Netscape), O'Reilly's WebSite Pro for Windows NT/95 has attracted a loyal base of users. By providing a variety of add-on tools, scripting flexibility, ease of installation and use, and excellent documentation, WebSite deserves serious consideration from firms considering a Windows-based Web server solution. Beyond the standard HTTP Web services, WebSite Pro is bundled with a variety of add-on tools useful to webmasters, including the HomeSite 2.5 HTML editor, an image map editor, WebView for site management, WebIndex for site indexing, and QuickStats for site traffic analysis.

Scripting support is WebSite's strongest point. Developers have a variety of choices for developing scripts with WebSite including standard CGI and WinCGI using languages such as Visual Basic or Delphi. For improved performance, API support for both WebSite (WSAPI) and Microsoft (ISAPI) servers are provided. Netscape (NSAPI), however, is not supported at this time. Developers can create Active Server Page (ASP) applications using VBScript, Jscript, Perl, and Python. Unfortunately, ASP support requires installing a Microsoft Web Server on the same box. Server-side Java support is provided with WebSite Pro, and as of the 2.1 release, the server also offers support for servlets written to JavaSoft's servlet API. Although a distant third in popularity among Windows-based Web servers (behind offerings from Microsoft and Netscape), O'Reilly's WebSite Pro for Windows NT/95 has attracted a loyal base of users.

Cold Fusion has been replaced with iHTML in the latest major release of WebSite Pro. iHTML is a scripting language that provides over 100 server-side HTML extensions designed to simplify the development of data-driven and dynamic sites. While iHTML presents many benefits to new users, the lack of Cold Fusion support in the newer versions of WebSite Pro is a disappointment for previous WebSite users who have already developed elaborate Cold Fusion applications. At this point there are two solutions for developers facing this issue. One is to purchase Cold Fusion separately in order to continue utilizing existing apps created with WebSite 1.x and earlier. Another option is to purchase a product called iHTML Transfusion that will soon be available as a separate add-on program for WebSite Pro. iHTML Transfusion is designed to facilitate the conversion of existing Cold Fusion code.

Developers needing to build an online store will welcome the addition of iHTML Merchant, another add-on product for WebSite. iHTML Merchant greatly simplifies creation of online stores using electronic commerce. A very useful feature for WebSite users needing to house multiple sites on the same box is support for IP-less virtual servers in which multiple sites share a single IP address. Administrators may also assign unique anonymous accounts for each virtual server enabling protected file uploads. Security is another of WebSite's strengths. Support for SSL (including full-strength 164-bit encryption technology as of version 2.1 for U.S./Canadian users), native Windows NT authentication, and NTLM authentication (in addition to the built-in user, group, and realm schemes) should satisfy the security needs of most sites. Although remote administration is supported, the fact that it is not browser-based is a serious shortcoming for WebSite Pro.

WebSite Pro deserves serious consideration by users needing a flexible Windows-based solution. WebSite offers several advantages over similar vendor offerings in addition to those listed above. The client is much easier to install and configure than most Web servers and the documentation and online support are also superior. If flexibility in scripting languages is needed, WebSite is an appealing choice, but for static sites Microsoft's offerings make more sense. Another area that weakens WebSite's position relative to Microsoft IIS and other servers is its bundled collection of utilities. The add-on tools, while quite strong compared to the tools bundled with many entry-level servers, pale in comparison to several of the better Web servers as well as to many standalone products. Picky Webmasters will likely find the need to purchase another Web server or different tools for site management and statistics.

One of WebSite Pro's biggest drawbacks when compared to other high-end servers is its expensive price tag. Another disappointment is that WebSite will no longer be offered in two distinct releases. The standard edition will not be updated past the 1.1e release, making the Professional version the only server to continue to be developed and supported by O'Reilly. This is a deterrent for cost-conscious developers who don't need all the extra bells and whistles but could still benefit from WebSite's ease of use and superior documentation. Two changes that would make WebSite better are for O'Reilly to once again offer a low-cost entry-level server solution in addition to the Professional version and to lower the price of the Pro version.

Pros: 7 Scripting language flexibility, 7 Runs on Windows NT Workstation/Server and Windows 95, 7 Numerous add-on tools, 7 Flexible security and virtual server support, 7 Ease of installation and configuration, 7 Excellent documentation and online support

Cons: 7 No Unix version, 7 No browser-based remote server administration, 7 Cold Fusion support no longer provided, 7 Lacks NSAPI support, 7 ASP support requires that a copy of Microsoft IIS, Peer Web Services, or Personal Web Server be installed on the same machine as WebSite Pro, 7 Expensive, 7 WebSite standard server no longer being developed/supported, 7 Add-on site management and statistics tools are mediocre

New: 7 Full-strength 128-bit encryption, 7 UpLink publishing utility, 7 Improved WebView, 7 Enhanced JavaSoft Servlet support, 7 Improved performance; 7 Release Notes

New in v2.3.7: JRun 2.14 (Java class library), iHTML 2.15, iHTML Merchant 1.04, security hole fixed (blocks users from viewing code from scripts), improved performance, Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 5

New in v2.3.15: Support for multiple certificates that were created with different key strengths, remove any newlines in Referer, User-Agent, etc., SSL improvements; bug fixes; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 2

New in v2.3.18: IP-based virtual server support now works for HTTP/0.9, Increased the number of hostnames WebSite Pro can support to 100,000, Fixed SSI.DLL so it will not cause an access violation on a query string with a name and no value, QuickStats is now Y2K compliant; bug fixes; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 2

New in v2.4: Supports Transport Layer Security (TLS) version 1.0, and features significant improvements such as client certificate authentication and the newly-approved exportable 56-bit cipher strength; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 3

Version Reviewed: 2.3.15
Last Updated: 1/18/02
Date of Review: 12/8/98
Reviewed by: Allison/Stroud

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