Create or Remove an Alias

EPA builds all web content in the Drupal WebCMS as of January 2013. All new microsites and resource directories will be created using Drupal.  There is still content on EPA's legacy servers and this content will be maintained there until it is transformed and moved into the Drupal WebCMS.  The following information should be used only for minor updates/maintenance of existing pages; any significant updates or revisions to existing pages should be done in the context of One EPA Web content transformation into the Drupal WebCMS

You should create and select a preferred alias for every area of EPA's Web site unless the directory name (the 8-character TSSMS account name) is an easy-to-understand word or phrase that matches your topic. We strongly discourage (but do not prevent) creating multiple aliases for a single area. It is not necessary to provide URLs with different cases or plurals (e.g., airmarket. AirMarket , AIRMARKET, airmarkets, AirMarkets, AIRMARKETS), as most folks come to our site via search engines, and they never type the URL. This redundancy clutters our search results and your analytics.

An alias is a short name that is easier to remember and type than the full directory path. For example, epa.gov/superfund/ is easier to remember than epa.gov/oerrpage/superfund/, even though both go to the same page.

Aliases can also replace the awkward TSSMS naming requirements with something logical. For example, epa.gov/region5 is an alias for epa.gov/reg5oopa where reg5oopa is the TSSMS account name.


Requesting or Removing an Alias

To obtain or remove an alias, please use the Submission Form For Requesting Alias Names Intranet. The Office of Public Affairs reviews requests and the Office of Environmental Information's National Computer Center creates and maintains aliases. You must have access to the relevant TSSMS account to request an alias.

To transfer an alias from one TSSMS account to another, someone with access to both the old TSSMS and the new must concur with the change.

 

General Cautions on Aliases

  • Aliases can only point to directories, not to individual files within a directory. Therefore, it is not possible to create an alias to a particular file. Aliases cannot be created on one server for a site on another server, and should not contain special characters such as @, ', <, > and #.
  • Aliases, like all URLs at epa.gov, are case-sensitive. The alias "water" is NOT the same as the alias "WATER."
  • Aliases can cause headaches for relative addresses, particularly when they point below the TSSMS level. If your styles aren't appearing correctly, change the style sheet code to an absolute URL.
  • It is inadvisable to have particularly long aliases - the longer the alias, the more likely the user will mis-type it.
  • Aliases can be "orphaned" if the directories to which they point are moved or deleted during site maintenance or re-organization. This may cause frustration for users. "Orphaned" aliases are a particular risk on complex sites managed by many people.

 

Multiple Aliases

When creating multiple aliases, pay attention to the following:

  • Pick one primary alias to advertise and use everywhere. You'll need to indicate this primary alias on the alias request form.
  • See Aliases and Statistics for information about how aliases affect Web statistics.
  • You'll need to keep track of your aliases and which directories they point to. Usually, this is simply a matter of ensuring that this knowledge is passed along to new Web staff.

 

Aliases Below the TSSMS Level

Aliases below the TSSMS level can be as useful as those at the TSSMS level. In addition, they can provide an easy URL for one section of a TSSMS that is the focus of a short-term initiative.

As of 2005, NCC recognizes the value of multiple aliases. It is still necessary, however, to pay attention to a few items related to lower-level aliases:

  • They can be "orphaned" if the directories they point to are moved/deleted during site maintenance or re-organization, causing frustration for users. "Orphaned" aliases are a particular risk on complex sites managed by many people. This is an issue with TSSMS-level aliases, too, but entire TSSMS rarely change names or locations.
  • Aliases below the TSSMS level are often created in addition to other aliases previously requested (e.g., to highlight one portion of an area within a TSSMS). Thus, they carry the same considerations as multiple aliases.

Example of a lower-level alias: epa.gov/airlinewater for epa.gov/ogwdw000/airlinewater/.

 

Aliases and Statistics

The Analog statistics package counts page requests by URL. Therefore, if multiple aliases point to the same page, Analog will report how many times someone viewed that page using each alias. For example, if people viewed the page at epa.gov/ogwdw000/airlinewater/ 25 times using that URL and 50 times usingepa.gov/airlinewater the "Request Report" would show both numbers instead of combining them and reporting 75 page views. This adds to your workload and invites errors in reporting page interest.

This is one reason it is important to use only the primary alias in advertising, news announcements, print materials, public service announcements, and emails. Otherwise, analyzing statistics will require you to combine values for multiple URLs.

 

Creating a User-Friendly URL for Dynamic Sites and Applications

Can I have an alias on the public access server (epapub.epa.gov) point to my Oracle, ColdFusion, or Domino web site?
No. Symbolic links cannot link from one system to another. Therefore, an alias on one server cannot point to a location on another server.

However, to circumvent long URLs, establish an informational page on epapub.epa.gov or a page that redirects people to the actual URL on the database server.

For example, the Environmental Data Registry (EDR) uses an informational page. People entering the alias epa.gov/edr/ find links to EDR applications which live on the Oracle Application Server.

An example of a redirect page is epa.gov/npdes/, which uses an HTML redirect to send readers to cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/ as follows:

<HTML>
<HEAD>
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0" URL=http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/">
</HEAD>
</HTML>

This particular code does not incorporate a delay. To incorporate a delay, simply change the value of the content tag. For example, content="3" would provide a three second delay, which would allow you to display a transfer message.

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