Eight reasons why you should consider using HTACCESS file. Learn how you could improve security and speed of website using .htaccess.

For most webmasters, the “.htaccess” file on their web-browser is a mysterious file that they dare not touch. However, for a minority the .htaccess file is a fantastic way in which to quickly SEO their website, improve security and simplify tasks that would take hours.

This article is an introductory article about what htaccess can do and the benefits that you can derive by using it.

Advantages of using .htaccess file

Here are eight reasons why using .htaccess file is beneficial for your website.

1. Improve Security

Parameters that are presented within a website URL that is publicly view-able, to some extent could be a security risk. HTACCESS offers the opportunity to mask a URL or parameter with something else that doesn’t directly control a website page. This minimizes the awareness of how your website is build and minimizes opportunities for users to manipulate your website URL creating events that haven’t been tested for (which could result in website down time) and also minimizes the opportunities for hackers to make use of code injection within your website URL.

Additionally, HTACCESS provides the ability to block access to IP address ranges that are attacking your website. For example, if your website is being attacked by bots or a user has attempted that is trying to hack your website. HTACCESS can be used to block access and as such minimize the impact on your websites up time.

2. Search Engine Optimization

It’s fairly rare now for a website to not make use of a content management system of some sort, particularly now since there are so many great off the shelf solutions both free and paid that offer great CMS functionality. Gone are days when most websites used to be made out of plain HTML coding which whilst inefficient for browsers, users, programmers and webmasters alike they did allow you to easily specify the page name for a particular page.

Many content management systems integrate control of .htaccess from behind the scenes to allow you to specify the file names that you want after your domain URL. However, some don’t. Moreover, if you want control graphics or change rules – your best course of action is to make use of the htaccess file directly.

In the event that you decide to remove web-pages, or change the structure of your website – making use of 301 and 302 redirects (permanent and temporary redirects) ensure that no “link juice” is lost from websites that are linking into your website by broken links.

Moreover, by using HTACCESS you can ensure that your website users are always viewing your URL with www. Or “http://yourdomain name – canonical URL”.

3. Efficiency

It is popular to make use of web page redirects with JavaScript and HTML, however, it’s not very efficient. Server side redirects by way of using htaccess directly on an Apache server are much more efficient.

Htaccess redirects communicate directly with the server before a user “pulls” a web page, whereas JavaScript and HTML require the downloading of, in effect, two web pages.

4. Speed

Consider this, if you could make your website load 10, 20, 30 or 40% quicker with no loss of content would you do it? The answer is probably yes, however, few people make use of the GZIP functionality provided by HTACCESS.

GZIP is like zipping up your website and delivering it to visitors browsers – it’s compressed server side and decompressed by your visitors browser. The benefit of this technique isn’t just the faster loading of your website for visitors, it’s also the added benefit that your website will make use of less bandwidth thus saving on hosting costs.

5. Browser Detection

To the mutual dislike of web-programmers and designers alike, different browsers make use of different standards. The consequence of this is that it can be difficult to ensure 100% compatibility of a website with all browsers. Often its desirable to deliver slightly different content to a specific browser or to block out old browsers altogether as a users experience will worse than sub-optimal otherwise. HTACCESS gives you the power to do this.

6. Control

The use of a htaccess file within the root (public_html) folder of your domain will give you control of the whole website domain from one little text file. Placing it in a specific folder will give you control over a specific folder and all of it’s sub-directories. It’s a handy way in which to enforce centralized control of your website.

7. Error Pages

No one likes to see an error page, whether one is dealing with a payment, registering or making use of the functionality on your website instances where error pages are delivered look unprofessional and casts a negative perception shadow on your business by users whom click that particular link. It can also encourage undesirable surfing away from your website.

It is possible to customize the 404 and other errors that your server can generate in the event of code not working as it should or browser errors. This will enable you to “brand” your error pages and integrate script to report instances where such instances arise – it will also encourage visitors to stay on your web-page. It makes unprofessional errors look that much more professional as they are acknowledge and appeared to be controlled.

8. Cache Control

Often it’s left to a users browsers and cache controls to determine whether a particular web page or image is stored or retrieved again from a server when a user visits a web page. However, this is often undesirable.

HTACCESS makes it possible to effectively customize use of the cache in order to maximize a users experience whilst minimizing bandwidth use.

Final Words about .htaccess file

The aforementioned facts are lucrative enough to convince you guys about properly using .htaccess file. While the advantages of .htaccess file may only be utilized through proper application of technical knowledge but a few resources over the internet will help you write your .htaccess file easily.

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