What is Server Side Includes?

Server Side Includes is an interpreted server-side scripting language. Server-side scripting language is a method used in designing websites in which scripts are embedded in an HTML source code. This technique results in a client’s request to the website being handled by a script running server-side before the server can respond to the request of the client.

SSI is a simple programming language and supports only one type which is the text. Because of the simple design of Server Side Includes, it is much easier to learn and use than other much complicated server-side scripting languages.

Server Side Includes is almost entirely used for the web. SSIs are directions that are embedded in HTML pages and are assessed on the server while several pages are being served. It allows you to add dynamic content to an existing HTML page. Its function is similar to that of CGIs. However, Server Side Includes is used to take actions even before the page is loaded or while it is being visualized. In doing so, the server analyses SSI before allowing the user to view the content of the page.

Usefulness of SSI

Server Side Includes allows you to save time on tasks such as incorporating the contents of an external file towards several pages on your website, or access and display specific information of server such as but not limited to the following: visitor’s IP address and current server time.

Server Side Includes permits you to have a text file in an unlimited number of web pages. If there will be a need to update those web pages, changes can take effect by just editing one text file. For you to do this, you need to confirm that SSI is supported by your server. Servers that are sure to support SSI are Unix/Linux. To be able to conduct updates all over your website, you need to add a certain SSI command in each of your webpages.

Advantages and disadvantages of using SSI

Server Side Includes gives the load of processing on your web server. There is an increased amount of load which your web server needs to deal with. Today, however, this is not anymore an issue because web servers have since evolved and are now capable of supporting different applications.

The use of Server Side Includes offers tremendous benefits. Cited below are some of those:

  • No issues arise on cross platform and browser compatibility since processing takes place on your server.
  • The results are uniform and highly predictable.

On the other side, SSI also has its drawbacks. Among those are as follows:

  • It is costly for a server to continually analyse documents before sending them to the client.
  • The use of SSI creates security risk.
  • Beginners who are using this scripting language may embed directives to execute commands that expose confidential information in the process.
  • SSI is not as efficient as other languages such as PHP, ASP and the like.

Given these drawbacks, SSI is still a powerful scripting language and has been continuously used since it works well and saves a lot amount of time.

Considerations for server-side includes

You have to consider performance, risk issues and security when using server side includes. Performance of the server can be reduced significantly when the server is processing files while at the same time sending them. If ordinary users execute commands on your server, security can be compromised. You have to take extra caution in deciding which directories you place server-side includes and where you will place the exec command. You may simply disable the exec command to minimize security risk.