A media house is well aware of the importance of keeping its content in safe hands at all times, and away from hackers. Bineeta Guharoy is a senior Web developer at a national news and media organisation, and believes in the power of open source. She shares with LINUX For You how she uses open source solutions to ensure the safety of the firm’s content.
The first stint with open source
Guharoy got acquainted with UNIX when she did a short course on programming in the early 2000s. She started exploring Linux in 2003, but got discouraged, as people assumed open source solutions were not secure. At that point in time, she worked with BSM Networks. Guharoy proved the rumours wrong by using MySQL and PHP. She claims, “People generally feel that the Windows environment is more secure, but the fact is that Windows machines hang faster, and are prone to more virus attacks. People can easily hack files and install EXE files when you use Windows. On the other hand, there are many security-related features in Linux that make it difficult to hack or install files.”
She joined her current employee, the media house, in 2008 and was pleased to find that open source was already a part of the organisation. However, she was not very pleased in the beginning, as the team was not using MySQL, which Guharoy was comfortable with. “The media house has seven Web portals and all these websites are maintained on one database on PostgreSQL,” Guharoy explains.
PostgreSQL is used for the CMS, website database maintenance and backend functions. “It doesn’t matter what is used in the front end — we can develop applications in PHP, C or Java. One of the best things about open source is that there are no costs involved. We did not require major hardware, and continued to use our simple servers. At present, the organisation uses IBM System X3620M3 for database management, which is a very efficient and high-capacity storage system,” Guharoy comments.
“There are so many features in PostgreSQL that we have not implemented as yet. Right now, I am still learning the features that it offers by reading up information online. When we face a problem, we look for a solution and apply it. This method has been working for us so far. For instance, with two to three lakh visitors to the websites, there are too many database connections, which creates a problem. There are many variables that can be configured and tuned for smooth viewing. In our case, we tuned the RAM.”
A secure database solution
Guharoy’s profile is related to security and firewalls, and after her encounter with PostgreSQL, she has discovered that it is more secure than MySQL and proprietary solutions. It took her a while to get acquainted with PostgreSQL, as it is a vast subject, but Guharoy finds that the security offered by it is on par with that of an Oracle environment. “Keeping the data content of websites safe, and making it available to viewers 24/7 is mission-critical to the organisation. With PostgreSQL, it is difficult for outsiders to find out where the database is stored. For instance, if I create a database in MySQL, the default directory of installation is
/var/lib/mysql. It shows the database directory, with names and categories, and hackers can easily rip the database, tar and download it. However, in PostgreSQL, the directory names are not shown. If hackers log in and want to copy files, they cannot find where the directory of the database is located,” Guharoy claims.
Smooth handling of large data
Guharoy also considers PostgreSQL a good choice for handling the large volumes of data at the media house. The average number of views per day for its websites range between 500 and 700, and on peak days, this figure is in the thousands. Handling this traffic is made easier as the organisation uses a cache server. “When there are repeated requests for some news stories, that data gets stored on the cache server. As a result, when viewers request the same news, there is no direct connection to the database, yet their requests are answered by the cache.
Data backup made easy
PostgreSQL also makes it simple to take a data backup, for those just-in-case scenarios. Guharoy adds that she learnt about these features by reading articles and participating in online forums. She explains, “Usually, if the size of the database is large, we face a lot of difficulty in restoring data if it crashes. However, you can easily backup your data on PostgreSQL with some simple commands. You can dump the database, and if you have problems with your database, you can restore all data from the dump. It will reconstruct the database to the state it was in at the time of the dump. If it was stored in a previous version of PostgreSQL, the data can still be converted by giving the appropriate command.”
PostgreSQL has proven to be a good solution when multiple paths of execution are running at the same time. “We can run simultaneous processes like PostgreSQL, Apache and basic Linux environment applications at the same time. It also ensures a high performance on large workloads, with lots of concurrency. Our Apache connection has 2,000 Web connections, and the database on PostgreSQL has 300 connections simultaneously,” she adds.
In the future, the media house intends to upgrade its servers, as it has been noticing an increase in traffic to the websites. “There has been a continuous growth in the number of website visitors, and we intend to upgrade our servers to match the growth of our websites,” Guharoy concludes.