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Setting up HTTP-based Message Control File locations

Successfully configuring a HTTP-based Site is more complex in a number of different areas than the default UNC-based Site type and, depending upon your environment and skill-set, may well require input from a number of teams within your organisation. For this reason, you are advised to use a UNC-based Site if at all possible (see the Deciding upon Site type(s) topic for advice on when to use certain Site types)

The Message Control File (MCF) location for a particular Site acts as the "drop off" & "pick up" point for that Site - the Ticker Tape Administrator 'drops' the message for the Site there and the Agents (configured for that Site) 'pick' it up from there. In reality, in the case of a HTTP-based Site, the Message Control File location is actually a simple PHP script that accepts a message from the Administrator software and stores it in a location that the Agents have permissions to download from, via HTTP.

For a HTTP-based Site, the MCF location will be hosted on a 'Web' server running the HTTP protocol and capable of executing PHP-based scripts, that may or may not be within your companies infrastructure and that the Agents for that Site -wherever they are - have access to. If this Web server is hosted within your infrastructure it may well be within your companies Internet-facing De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) - if outside of your infrastructure, the server could be hosted on the Internet, literally anywhere in the world.

Either way, in order for the Administrator software to upload messages to the server hosting the PHP receiver script for a Site, it will need to ability to communicate with the server via HTTP - depending upon your corporate security policies and infrastructure, it's possible that you may need to speak to your security officer or I.S. department in order to allow your workstation to send and receive HTTP traffic through your firewalls / edge devices successfully, especially if the server is hosted in your corporate DMZ.

Additionally, a particular requirement for HTTP-based Sites only, you'll also need to put a PHP-based 'receiver' script in place to accept and process the message data posted by the Administrator software.

Setting up HTTP-based Message Control File locations 
A HTTP-based Message Control File location can be used with a group of Agents that aren't normally connected into your corporate infrastructure, but that do have access to the Web server that their Message Control File is hosted on. Note that Agent computers that connect into your infrastructure via a VPN normally don't fall into this category as, when connected, they are effectively part of your private infrastructure.

Note also that it is also possible to host multiple MCF locations on a single HTTP server - you'd just need to ensure that each Site had a unique 'receiver' PHP script in place and that each script stores the received message in a unique location on the server that the Agents for that Site can access via HTTP. This can be a good solution in situations where you have access to a HTTP server that, while distant from you, is hosted geographically close to a number of offices which have reliable connectivity to it. One disadvantage in this scenario however is that this HTTP server now becomes a 'single point of failure' for multiple Agent Sites.

For clarity, irrespective of where you physically host your MCF locations - whether on a "one MCF/receiver script to one HTTP server" basis or "multiple MCF's/receiver scripts per HTTP server" - each MCF & receiver script is unique to a Site and it's the number of Site's that influence whether you need to purchase a license or not. The number of Sites you require is based upon how you wish to group your Agent computers as explained in the topic  What's a Ticker Tape Site?

Important: Th e instructions below may differ depending upon the HTTP server type, your companies’ security best practices or other factors in your environment. If in doubt, please seek advice from your security officer, I.S. department or hosting provider.

Creating a MCF location for a 'HTTP'-based Site is reasonably straight-forward following the guidance below and should take less than 30 minutes - however, of the 3 different Site types (UNC, FTP & HTTP), it is the most complex due to the need for the PHP 'receiver' script that processes and stores the message posted from the Administrator software. For context, the fictional environment we'll be setting the new MCF location up for comprises;

To setup the MCF location;

  1. Create the 'Australia' MCF location;
    • Access 'ourwebserver.au' via your usual mechanism so you have visibility and management of the file system - in this instance, we'll use the browser based web management system supplied by the web hosting provider (although Web servers often have FTP-based access to the file system also)
    • If you've not already got an preferred PHP script repository, create a directory called 'phpscripts ' in an appropriate location to store the PHP receiver script for the Australia Site
      • The exact / 'best' place to create this directory is dependent upon your corporate policies & conventions, as well as server configuration. In this instance, we create the new directory at the '/ ' (root) directory level
    • Within an area of the file system that is accessible via HTTP (ie. accessible via a browser for example), create a new directory called 'australiamcf '
      • Again, the exact / 'best' place to create this directory is dependent upon your corporate policies & conventions, as well as server configuration. In this instance, we create the new directory under the '/httpdocs' directory which is actually the base directory for the company web site.
      • The new '/httpdocs/australiamcf ' directory is the place to which the PHP-based 'receiver' script, configured later, will store the actual message posted to it from the Administrator.

  2. Alter the PHP 'Receiver' script to fit the environment
    • As described in greater detail in the How Do I... Configure the PHP receiver script for a HTTP-based Site? topic, using a local copy of the script, alter the '$destination' line so that it's appropriate for your configuration. In this example, the line would be altered to:
      • $destination=$_SERVER[DOCUMENT_ROOT]."/httpdocs/australiamcf/" . $_FILES["file"]["name"]; 
  3. Upload the locally altered script to the 'phpscripts ' directory created earlier (or your preferred PHP scripts directory)
    • The actual receiver script filename can be any valid name but, for this example, it is named 'receive-australiamcf.php '
  4. Ensure the permissions on the directories are appropriate;
    • For the Administrator software;
      • It will need to be able to post data to the 'receive-australiamcf.php' script in the 'phpscripts' directory, which itself should be able to create & write files in the '/httpdocs/australiamcf ' directory as that is where it will store the posted message
    • For the Agents;
      • They only need access to Read files within the '/httpdocs/australiamcf ' directory, not to create or write to them

At this point, the Australia Site MCF location is effectively ready for use - the Administrator user should be able to post a message to the 'Australia' PHP receiver script using the Administrator software and, once the workstations in the 'Perth', 'Brisbane' & 'Sydney' offices have had the Agent software installed, they'll be able to download from the HTTP accessible 'view' of the MCF location.

The next task is to configure the Administrator software so that it knows where to post messages to - to do this we'll need to make a note of both the location the PHP receiver script resides and the corresponding HTTP accessible URL that the Agents will use. In this example, these are ' http://ourwebserver.au/phpscripts/receive-australiamcf.php' and 'http://ourwebserver.au/australiamcf' respectively and, after configuration, the Australia Site would look similar to;


Note the difference between the MCF Upload and Download Locations and the fact that the Upload Location refers to the PHP script, whereas the Agent MCF Download Location refers to the place where the script stores the posted message file.

Continue to the topic 'Configuring Sites within Ticker Tape Administrator '

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