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Using OpenSource Databases

Using OpenSource Databases

April 24, 2008
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" You need software that organizes and protects data — a relational database. "

As the online adult industry grows across the Internet, by definition, the amount of traffic packets and raw data will also grow. For a small startup, this amount of data is easy to deal with, but as an x-business expands, simply storing endless files on disk just doesn't cut it. You need software that organizes and protects data — a relational database.

Of course, the big relational databases like Oracle, DB2, and SQL/Server offer the ability to manage huge amounts of data, but these offerings are expensive and resource-intensive. This is where the OpenSource database comes into play, allowing you, the adult content provider, a free way to store and protect your data when it is at rest.

The OpenSource software movement started with the GNU project out of MIT. When we refer to OpenSource software, we are talking about software that has its source code available to anyone, thus free. MySQL is one such offering and can be downloaded at www.MySQL.com. Adult webmasters frequently are provided an OpenSource database with their hosting service. In most cases, this will be MySQL.

The good news for adult webmasters is that MySQL has become the industry standard for OpenSource databases on the internet, and it is poised to become even more prevalent in light of Sun Microsystems' purchase of the Sweden-based MySQL in January. Sun's ownership of this company will insure good programmers, tools, and support available for years to come. Just click on the CPanel interface of your website and chances are you will see the MySQL database software already installed.

The downside of using an OpenSource database is that storing multimedia and business information in a relational database and moving that information to an HTML webpage does create an extra layer of work. You need PHP, JavaScript, or some other component to act as a go-between your database and your HTML tags.

The adult industry is a fast and dangerous world. Simply leaving your multimedia content in protected directories invites hackers who might find a hole in your hosting provider's security. Furthermore, with the new 2257 regulations, all adult content must be married to data that tracks the actual participants involved. For every picture of a beautiful model, the adult webmaster might one day be required to provide information on that model, or the original owner of the material being displayed.

Therefore, with both the government and hackers knocking on the doors of the adult webmaster, the relational database offers a haven. In our example of the 2257 regulations, a relational database offers easy storage of such disparate information as graphics and text in the form of tables.

The first step in designing a database to store pictures and information is to define two tables that relate to each other. In this case, we might create something like this:

CREATE TABLE IMAGE
(IMAGEID INTEGER,
ORIGINID INTEGER,
PICTURE BLOB
) CREATE TABLE ORIGIN
(ORIGINID INTEGER,
INFO TEXT)

In this example, we have two tables. The first table, images, is going to be very large because it actually stores our website images, some of which may be of adult content. This image table has a foreign key to the Origin table called Origin ID. From the second table you can retrieve information about the photograph or video — model's name, origin, etc. using the info column.

Because someone wielding 2257 regulations might one day require you to provide information on any image your website displays, using an OpenSource database schema affords the adult webmaster a quick way to link information using SQL, the language of relational databases:

SELECT
INFO
FROM IMAGE, ORIGN
WHERE IMAGE.ORIGINID =
ORIGIN.ORIGIN_ID
AND IMAGEID = :X;

The above code is a select statement that is run on our two tables by the MySQL database. At the end of this statement, we see the variable ":X", which is simply the image-id we want to look up.

Delivering adult content that can't be easily downloaded or copied is paramount for the adult webmaster. If you store your multimedia content in a relational database, you are automatically afforded another layer of protection in the form of a database password. By leaving your intellectual property on a protected operating system disk, you have one layer of protection. The hacker who cracks your hosting provider still hasn't penetrated into the MySQL database where your images are stored.

A third layer of data protection, which now ships with most OpenSource databases, is encryption. With encryption, even if a hacker cracks the directory structure of your hosting provider and then figures out the MySQL passwords, they will still be stealing junk if your data is encrypted.

MySQL already ships with encryption algorithms, yet they are standalone functions. Using one of these algorithms in the last query would look like this:

SELECT
AES_DECRYPT(INFO)
FROM IMAGE, ORIGN
WHERE IMAGE.ORIGINID =
ORIGIN.ORIGIN_ID
AND IMAGEID = :X;

Using an API encryption to protect your multimedia content adds another layer of complexity to our SQL statement. The advantage of just this one statement is considerable, though. As you can see, the column Info, which contains address, phone, and date of birth information is now protected. If this adult company is ever hacked into, both its image files and personal data will be safe.

Ideally, the adult webmaster who manages a large amount of valuable content, should seek a transparent data encryption tool. Transparent data encryption is ideal if you already have a huge code base built around your website. Transparent data encryption hides the details of encryption so programmers can just issue standard SQL, like in the first example.

Companies like CritoTech.com and RelationalWizards.com offer software that can be installed on relational databases that take care of encryption for you — allowing your online database to accept standard SQL queries that most ready-made scripts require. Popular scripts issue standard SQL and require transparent encryption because who wants to rewrite every line of code with encryption functions.

Obviously, encrypting your whole disk is the best way to protect your adult content. The drawback with this transparent hardware solution is that you will have to purchase a remote server or a virtual server package from your hosting provider. Even most high-powered hosting packages share disks with other applications and users.

Less important than your multimedia images, yet still copyright protected, is your website HTML content. Of course, many competitors lift snippets of each other's HTML all the time. If you don't want to contribute to this free international pool of text, you can hide your HTML content in an OpenSource database and dynamically call it when a user makes a request over the internet.

To start embedding SQL in your HTML, your website hosting service will need MySQL and PHP or an equivalent scripting language installed on your CPanel account.

PHP is easy to interface to MySQL. Users can simply use a <?php tag in their HTML and extract data into variables as such:

$RESULT = MYSQL_QUERY("SELECT DATA FROM TABLE", $CONN);

This variable "result" would then typically be assigned to an empty HTML table. Of course, in the real word, we would need to connect to MySQL before issuing this statement. This is why password protected databases offer the adult webmaster more security for their content than simply hidden UNIX or Windows directories.

Copyright protection is not the only advantage of using an OpenSource database. Once we can embed SQL to build HTML content, we can display different web pages for individual users based on their spending habits or preferences. For instance, an adult website might have bronze, silver, and gold level memberships — with MySQL and PHP, you can display different ads and announcements dynamically for each group.

Another benefit gained from storing your intellectual property in a database and querying it at runtime is flexibility.

Even if copyright infringement is not your main concern, it pays to become familiar with relational databases and their OpenSource offerings. Many of the free OpenSource scripts that will supercharge an adult website already require MySQL. As government regulations for adult webmasters continue to expand and hacker's become more sophisticated, the OpenSource encrypted database may become the last safe-haven for the adult webmaster of the future.


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