This is the fourth and final installment of a four-part Plus Edition article, copyright by Dick Eastman.
In the first article in this series, I described how to create web sites, CD-ROM disks, and ebooks of genealogy information that others will be interested in purchasing. In the second article, I described how to advertise your products online and how to create a “web store” to sell CD-ROM disks and ebooks. The third article in the series described how to collect the money. This week I will describe a process of selling information that you have stored online on your web server.
Warning: This week’s article will be the most “techie” of all the articles in this series. The processes described here are not complex but will require some knowledge of web servers. If you are not familiar with the terminology in this article, I would suggest that you obtain technical assistance before attempting to set up your own secure e-commerce web site.
Selling information online is very popular. Thousands of large and small companies offer information for a fee, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports, the Disney Corporation, MyHeritage, and Ancestry.com, as well as thousands of smaller web sites, such as Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. Indeed, a single individual can create protected web content and offer it to those who are willing to pay for the information. This works well for e-magazines and e-newsletters as well as for images of old genealogy books, extracted records, or other information of genealogical interest.
In fact, it is easy to place content on a web server and make it accessible only to those who have an appropriate user name and password. Almost all web hosting services run Apache software, which lets the content owner define who can access the information and how. Apache is a very reliable open source web server for Linux, UNIX, Windows, and Macintosh operating systems, and its low cost attracts both service providers and their customers. Given this popularity, the remainder of this article will assume that your genealogy site is hosted on Apache.
Apache grants access to protected directories by using .htaccess and .htpasswd files. The .htaccess file describes the access to the protected directory while the .htpasswd file contains user names and passwords. Nobody can access information in a protected directory until a valid user name and password is entered.
NOTE: In Linux and UNIX, a file name beginning with a period indicates a hidden file. In order to maintain compatibility with other operating systems, Apache for Windows also uses .htpasswd and .htaccess files even though such file names are unusual in Windows.
You can find more information about setting up security in Apache on the official Apache.org web site at: https://httpd.apache.org/docs/current/howto/auth.html. However, I found that description to be rather terse and confusing. A better guide for novices can be found at http://www.apacheweek.com/features/userauth.
Most hosting services provide a “control panel” that simplifies the process of creating protected directories, user names, and directories. For most hosting services, it is no longer necessary to create text files of this information and then upload the files. Instead, the web site owner uses a normal web browser to access a user-friendly program that does the “grunt work” easily.
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