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  • Server Side Includes

What is SSI Hosting?

Server Side Includes (SSI) is not a specific type of hosting, but rather a simple server-side scripting language. SSI is an easy way to regularly update small pieces of information within a larger, static HTML website.

How Does SSI Work?

SSI works by embedding scripts into the HTML code of a Web content file. The server then evaluates these directives and updates the content before displaying the page to the user. This dynamically generated content does not require a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) program to serve the entire page every time it is viewed. As a result, users experience faster server performance.

When a page containing SSI is served, the viewer will see the coding language as a real value, such as the current date or time or a navigation menu. As a fast way to modify frequently updated content, SSI is ideal for presenting an active and relevant image. One example of content that may benefit from SSI is a daily quotation featured in a header or footer—all you have to do is alter the quotation file, and the change will be reflected throughout your site.

What Web Servers Support SSI Markup Language?

Currently, there are four different types of web servers that process SSI. They are:

  • Apache
  • IIS
  • lighttpd
  • nginx

Common SSI Directives Glossary

Below is a glossary of the 12 most common SSI directives.

  • include: for a file or a virtual parameter (HTML page, script, text file), this directive allows content from one document to be included in another. The most used SSI directive.
  • exec: for a cgi or cmd parameter, this directive executes a program, script, or shell command on the server.
  • echo: for a variable parameter, this directive displays the contents of a specified HTTP environment document.
  • config: for date, time, file size, and error message parameters, this directive configures display formats.
  • flastmod: for file or virtual parameters, this directive displays the date a document was last modified.
  • fsize: for file or virtual parameters, this directive displays the size of a specific document.
  • if: an expression parameter used for condition tests that may determine and generate multiple logical pages from one single physical page.
  • printenv: this directive produces a list of all variables and their values, including environmental and user-defined variables.
  • elif: an expression parameter that serves the same purpose as further conditioning.
  • else: things happen after ‘else’ if none of the if and elif directive catch the present condition.
  • endif
  • set: a variable or value parameter present in both Apache and lighttpd that sets the value of an SSI variable.
  • Final Thoughts On SSI

    SSI is easy, efficient, and typically cost effective. It can require a little extra work in the beginning, but if you have files that require frequent updating, it can save you a great deal of time and effort when maintaining your site.

    Generally, your host will support the use of SSI on your site as a part of your hosting package, though it is up to webmasters and administrators to create the appropriate files. The standard is to give HTML files containing SSI an .shtml extension for swift processing from the server. An Apache handler may also be helpful for accurate server processing. Check with your host for details.

    Server Side Includes Frequently Asked Questions

    • What are some good reasons to use server side includes?

      In these modern times of website development, the only reason you will need to use server side includes is to update a website still built primarily in HTML. The main reason server side includes (SSI) were used in HTML websites was to streamline the way small pieces of information were updated across a large site, like an online store or online news portal. With the development of PHP and PERL programming and content management systems, SSI is largely an obsolete programming method.

    • Are there any reasons not to use server side includes?

      Unless you are still running a large website built in old school HTML, server-side includes are an outdated programming technology that you should not plan on using on your website. With advancements in PHP and PERL programming over the last half decade and the widespread use of content management systems for site development, SSI is no longer a relevant method of preventing the need to constantly add repeated lines of code to every page of a site.

    • What are the alternatives to server side includes?

      Since the development of content management systems have eliminated the need for many server-side includes, the amount of relevant alternatives for SSI are also few and far between. Coding your site in PHP or PERL instead of HTML should eliminate the need for this SSI and also erase the need for finding an alternative. However, HTML5 is a viable alternative for video and interactive media content instead of SSI. With so many options for hosting media, third party embedding is also an option to consider when finding an alternative for SSI.

    • Do I have to know how to program to use server side includes?

      Yes. A common example of coding for a server side include looks like this: . With this snippet of code, a developer can call code from a file onto a webpage. In order to code this way, you need to know HTML coding and the proper location on your HTML webpage to add the SSI code, and then replicate that line of code on each page that needs to load the content. This is not advanced coding, however, modern content management systems largely make this an obsolete piece of programming knowledge.

    • What are the requirements for hosting server side includes?

      Server side includes will not work on a traditional .html webpage. Therefore, any webpage that loads a server side include (SSI) file will need to be renamed .shtml. In order to process a .shtml page, you need to create an Apache handler to load the new HTML extension. In the .htaccess file of your website, you may also need to add a line of code to run .shtml files in an .html page. Consult with your hosting provider if you need SSI hosting and are unsure how to configure it.

    • What does self-hosted mean? I don’t have to run a server myself, do I?

      Self-hosted websites and their associated scripts do not require YOU to personally own a server and manage it to host your site. Instead, self-hosted simply means that hosting is not provided directly by the development team that created the software and systems you are using to run your website. In order to use a self-hosted scripting language like SSI, you will need to contract a hosting provider before building your website and make sure they offer SSI hosting as an option with their packages.

    • Do I need managed hosting in order to use server side includes?

      The answer to this question depends on your answer to the question "how much responsibility are you willing to accept for the maintenance of your website?" The more complex your site becomes with SSI, javascript, and other custom features, the greater your need will be for professionally managed website hosting. Shared hosting often comes with some managed services included. If you have a dedicated hosting solution, however, managed services are likely required as part of your agreement. To be fair, this is the case with any self-hosted website - not just websites built in HTML that have features which require additional SSI hosting.

    • Can I host server side includes on a shared hosting plan?

      Shared hosting plans are likely capable of hosting SSIs because of the simplicity of the type of websites that require it to scale the publishing of content. Before committing to any shared hosting agreements, make sure you have access to the server to be able to add an Apache handler for .shtml webpages. If you can't do that on your shared hosting plan and your hosting provider will not add that capability, you should probably consider a dedicated hosting solution or find a different provider.

    • How does server side includes compare to HTML5 as a scripting language?

      These two script languages are not really comparable, but for video and interactive media content once served via SSI, HTML5 is the new modern solution for serving streaming video on any device. In addition to serving video content and other streaming media on mobile devices, HTML5 is also a standard Internet markup language for presenting all types of content. Considering the irrelevance of HTML and SSI, website owners who still use this type of coding for their sites should probably upgrade to the now current HTML5 standard.

    • How does server side includes compare to Java as a scripting language?

      Server side includes offer a lot more flexibility than javascript includes. In fact, a server-side include file can include javascript - but not vice versa. While you can program includes in a javascript, they are only executed once in a file which is reused multiple times. By comparison, a server side include needs to be included on every page and executed on every request. Unless you are working specifically with java on an HTML site, you should probably proceed with SSI because of the flexibility they offer. Consult with your hosting provider to make sure you have one of these options available to you before you sign an agreement or commit to a programming preference for server includes.

    • What’s the difference between a wire transfer and electronic fund transfers?

      Wire transfers are technically a form of electronic fund transfers (EFT), but they are a very specific form that provides additional security for both the sender and receiver. EFT is simply a means of transferring money from one bank account to another, either within the same bank or between banks. Wire transfers involve the banks directly communicating to each other through a secure, international banking network. Wire transfers provide significantly more security than EFT, but also come at a much higher cost. Sending a payment using the online portal for your bank account is generally free.

    • What is Know Your Customer framework?

      Know Your Customer (KYC) is a process banks and other businesses must follow when verifying a client’s identity. KYC establishes a number of standards that must be followed in order to prevent banks from being used for fraud or criminal activities. The standards regulate the bank’s customer policy, customer identification procedures, monitoring of transactions, and risk management systems.

    • What is Anti-Money Laundering Framework?

      Anti-Money Laundering (AML) rules were established to ensure banks were able to detect and report suspicious activities, including activities such as money laundering, terrorist funding, securities fraud, and market manipulation. AML regulations require banks to complete a number of verification steps to ensure their activities are not contributing to any such illicit activities.

    • How does a wire transfer compare to an Electronic Check?

      An Electronic Check, like a wire transfer, it is another form of electronic fund transfer. It allows you to make a payment using your bank’s routing information and your account number, is a transaction processed by an Automated Clearing House (ACH). The ACH processes the payment much the same way they process credit card payments. Many companies now accept Electronic Check payments, because the service is often provided through the same payment processor they use to accept credit cards. Of course, being that your information is being processed by a third party, and not directly with the involved banks as with a wire transfer, Electronic Check payments come with considerably higher risk.

    • How do charges for wire transfers compare to charges for a service like PayPal?

      Banks typically charge a flat fee for a wire transfer, regardless of the amount of money being sent. PayPal follows a model fairly similar to credit card companies, in which the recipient is charged a percentage of the money they receive. For small payments, this can be much more appealing than a wire transfer fee; however, for larger payments it can become significantly more than the cost of a wire transfer.

    • What alternatives exist if I don’t have or don’t want to use a credit card to pay for hosting?

      If you can find a hosting company willing to accept wire transfers, that might be a good option, especially if you are purchasing a larger hosting option or are planning to pay for an entire year or more up front. But if the host you want doesn’t accept wire transfer payment, find out if they accept other non-credit card payments, such as PayPal or Electronic Check. If you reach out to their customer service team, in some cases you may even find a company willing to accept paper checks, so long as you pay well in advance. This will likely be an exception, but most companies are happy to make those if it means getting your business.

    • Should I accept wire transfers through my own site?

      That one is going to take some soul searching. Wire transfers can cost you and your users, and they can take significantly more work that may not fall under the realm of your payment processor. If you already have a payment processing system, you should contact them to see what options are available. Of course, if you are handling large transactions, the flat fee involved with a wire transfer could end up costing you significantly less than paying those credit card processing fees.

    • Do I have to go to my bank to send a wire transfer?

      No. Wire transfers can typically be made online. However, some banks may have additional guidelines in place that require steps to be taken to verify your identity prior to allowing a wire transfer.

    • If I’m going to accept wire transfers from my customers, what other considerations should I take?

      The number one thing you need to consider is your site’s security. Make sure all of your software is up-to-date, and don’t let any of it lapse. This is true not just for wire transfers, but any time you accept personal or financial information from your customers. Additionally, you should ensure that the computer you use to manage your server and any customer records is secure and up-to-date as well. Beyond that, you should contact your bank to determine what requirements they may have.

    • Do I need to provide my social security number to pay with wire transfer?

      This will depend on your bank’s security measures. If you submit the transfer online, probably not, because you have already verified your identity by logging in to your online account. However, if you contact your bank to submit the payment, it may be required to verify they are speaking with the right individual.

    • Would the hosting site have to give me their routing information, or would I give it to them?

      Typically when you wire money to someone, they provide you with their routing information, which you provide to your bank. However, when setting up regular payments, it is more likely this would be handled online and you would providing your routing information to the hosting site.

    • Can I use a third-party payment provider to process wire transfers on my eCommerce site?

      Yes. A number of payment processors, including Buckaroo and Paymundo, will accept some form of wire transfer. If this is something you are considering for your eCommerce site, be sure to thoroughly research your options and requirements.

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