Server Side Includes (SSI) is perceived by website developers, owners, and programmers to be a useful feature in a website account. The reason for this is that it minimizes the time spent on repetitive or logical tasks like:
- The IP address of the website visitor
- The current time of the web server
- Information included in the navigation bar
Testing for SSI
Most webhost providers do not reveal that they have and enable SSI support in their offered packages since it is an application under Linux or Apache. This means that a Windows based webhost provider will need to find a SSI equivalent. The availability of SSI in a webhost provider can be tested by inserting the code “<!–#echo var=”DATE_LOCAL” –> under the file test.shtml. If the webhost provider displays the current date and time of the server in the browser, then SSI can be used.
In case the current date and time is not displayed in the server, then the website owner can ask the webhost provider to have it enabled.
SSI Advantages to Website Owners
The most common problem for website owners is maintaining the relevance and working efficiency of the website. This is because part of the website’s design needs to be regularly updated by copying new codes to various webpages or files. The modifications can be done one by one but this is considered to be both time inefficient and problematic since the website owner may forget a significant file.
This potential problem can be mitigated by the use of SSI since the new code can be embedded into a single file, which will be used to insert into other linked files. The purpose of this is that the website owner does not forget a single file at the same time maximizes their maintenance time. The value of SSI is that the source code of the main page is easier to understand since other elements are linked into other independent files.
SSI and Linux
Most webhost providers are assumed to have SSI support but there are some companies that do not offer this additional feature. This makes some webhost providers less desirable since SSI makes maintenance easier for website owners. Some of the requirements to use SSI are:
- SSI is enabled in the website account
- Shtml file used for configuration directives
- Limited use of .shtml files
SSI and Apache
Webhost providers that make use of Apache must have an installed mod-include module in their servers. This is because Linux already has SSI support embedded in their codes. The website owner will need to edit the httpd.conf file, which is normally found under the /etc/httpd/conf subdirectory of the website server. The website owner will need to include the “Options +Includes” directive in the httpd.conf file.
Any upgrades in Apache can result in potential problems especially with regards to SSI enabling commands. The reason for this is that new versions of Apache from the 2.2 version has already enabled the use of SSI for HTML files. Therefore, enabling commands will only result in coding errors such as the “500 – Internal Server Error”.
Assumption Problems with SSI
There is however a danger for the programmer with predetermined assumptions such as that all of the files included in the website server will be able to support SSI. The reason for this is that the webhost server will have to do some extra work when looking for the “includes option”. The problem is that checking each file for the “includes option” will result in a slower operating performance for the website. Therefore, it is suggested that the server is directed to only scan specific files that actually has the “includes option” instead of all the files.