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I have a server in my office (Microsoft Server 2008) on a huge rack that we use for handling messages (we're an answering service). All information is stored in dBase database files.

My question is, in the very most basic sense, how do I get this server "online", and what classes/etc can I use in PHP to access the data so that I may manipulate it to create a web application?

I understand that it begins with getting a static IP from my internet provider, but where do I go from there?

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A static IP is not the only way to do this - indeed if I were consulting on this project I would not place the primary hosting on your site. However working out how to connect to the internet is not the first step in a project like this.

If you don't even know how to begin doing this, I would VERY strongly recommend that you get some help.

As soon as you connect to the internet you are a target for other people to attack. If you're running a server then you're not only advertising the fact that you are available for attack, you are exposing services which may be used to leverage an attack.

dBase files are not the right medium for storing data on a multi-user system.

I'm cautious about pointing out some of the things you should be considering in case you interpret this as providing you with all the information you need - sorry, but you're a very long way from being able to build this system.

Actually building systems is one of the best ways to learn - and I'm all in favour of that. You might consider investing your effort in building some basic tools for interacting with the data using PHP - and defer exposing your systems on the internet until you've acquired a LOT of knowledge.

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I understand what you're saying - perhaps what would help me moreso is a point in the right direction to where I can begin learning these things. I've always learned by doing, but I don't even know where to begin 'doing'. What would the most general concept of doing something like this be called? Networking? Thanks! – Allen Gingrich Jan 29 '11 at 20:17
There's lots of disciplines involved in setting up an internet facing application - but a very important and pervasive one is security - which encompasses networking, systems admin and software engineering. In addition to getting some practice on the programming side, do go and read up on how to secure systems and how systems are compromised - in particular, XSRF, CSS, code injection session fixation/hijacking – symcbean Feb 1 '11 at 10:29

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