InMotion Hosting

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Category Archives: Technology

Top Open Source Applications

top_open_source

PrestaShop

PrestaShop is one of the fastest growing e-commerce solutions in the market. Prestashop is incredibly user friendly and has a great interface that makes it much easier to setup and manage than some of the traditional platforms like Opencart. With support and technical help available from all regions of the world, PrestaShop has quickly gained a reputation as an all in one e-commerce provider.

Joomla!

The most unique aspect of the Joomla CMS is the way in which the organization is structured. The Joomla! Project takes into account everyone’s feedback and tries to develop Joomla with all the users/developers in mind. Therefore, virtually anyone can become an integral part of the project by just contributing. Whether it’s code, sponsorships, or helping out in forums, you become a true community member from the first day you join. With most of the other CMS platforms, there is usually a straight hierarchy or a chain of command where decisions are made on what features/components/versions to develop next. With Joomla!, that is decided upon by all the users and developers involved. This can make processes a bit longer to complete, but it ensures that everyone’s feedback is taken into account. From an end user perspective, there is definitely a higher learning curve with Joomla! than say WordPress, but the people who are devoted fans say it is the best out there.

WordPress

You may be surprised that the many of the websites that you see on the internet actually use WordPress.  Originally intended as a blogging platform, WordPress has extended its functional reach through continual development and thousands of plugins – many of which are free.  These plugins allow the application to handle website needs such as image galleries, ecommerce shops, and forms – to list a few.  It is often classified as a CMS (Content Management System) because of its flexible nature. Add to this the many thousands of themes that allow you to quickly change its appearance and it’s easy to understand why WordPress is the most used open source application on the internet.  WordPress is easy to use and there are many avenues of support including many tutorials in the InMotion Hosting Support Center. Check out WordPress and you’ll find out why it is the top solution for your website building needs.

Drupal

Drupal is one of the most popular content management systems online. Drupal is the oldest of the Big 3 (WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal), being established in 2001. It is an open source application that is built upon PHP and MySQL. Drupal was conceived as an enterprise system and powers websites like Whitehouse.gov. Drupal has several advantages that make it a power player in the CMS community. It is extremely flexible and can build anything from a small blog to an enterprise level site supporting millions of users. It was built to be search engine friendly from the very start. The Drupal software is very stable and can serve thousands of users at the same time. It is also very developer-friendly, and developers can easily create their own modules and custom solutions.

Breathe New Security Features into your Website with SSL

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Almost every day I hear the term ‘SSL Certificate’ strewn about in conversation with customers.  Most people inquiring about whether we provide SSL certificates are generally interested in some sort of eCommerce solution.  I hesitate to delve deeper into the true powers of SSL encryption often times, but the advantages of being a proud owner of a SSL are overly abundant!

To understand exactly why an SSL certificate is beneficial, it’s important to understand the basics.  Have you ever noticed that when you go to facebook.com, google.com, or twitter.com that your browser automatically displays a lock in the top bar?  If you have, you might have also noticed that the URL in the address bar changed what you typed, and now displays https:// at the beginning of the URL. This means that the site is secured with an SSL certificate, and is forcing you to use that path.  Most SSL certificates contain the domain name, company, address, city, state, and country.  The Certificate Authority, which is the company who issued the SSL, is also in there.  Basically, when a browser attempts to establish a connection to the website through SSL, it will make a check to ensure the certificate is not expired, is from a trusted Certificate Authority, and is being used on the correct website.  If any of these criteria are not met, your browser will warn you, and let you know this site is not a trusted source, and is not being encrypted through SSL.

What exactly can an SSL certificate do for you? So let’s get down to it.  What are some cool things I can do with an SSL certificate?

Secure Your E-Mail

So many clients come to InMotion Hosting because they want a more secure e-mail platform.  Sure, not using a free public e-mail service will do wonders in your control over spam and viruses, and even having your account compromised, but why not take that extra step?  The extra layer of security that can be provided with just a few clicks will allow you to sleep better at night just knowing you’re more secure in your daily messages.

There’s an excellent article available that will walk you through the steps of having your e-mail send and receive over SSL here: http://www.inmotionhosting.com/support/email/email-client-setup/email-client-configuration-email-over-ssl

Connect to FTP over TLS

If you’re in a shared hosting environment, you won’t have access to SSH access, which is required to use sFTP (Secure FTP).  This is for security reasons, but you can easily implement an SSL certificate to securely connect via FTP.  In fact you can use the server’s free shared SSL certificate to accomplish this by following this guide: http://www.inmotionhosting.com/support/website/ftp/securely-connecting-your-website-using-ftp

Website Security

As mentioned earlier in this article, we typically think about the things that NEED to be encrypted to successfully conduct online business.  Of course credit card information would need to be handled with an SSL certificate, but what else on your site could benefit from this extra security?  Well one thing that comes to my mind is your password.  If I’m using WordPress, Joomla!, or any other CMS – SSL can help protect my website from being compromised.  When I login to make a post, or when my users login to browse their accounts, I always implement SSL.  Think about it.  You type in your username and password combination into a webpage. It’s traveling over the internet, leaving your browser, going through a wireless network, going to a router, and an ISP.  At any point this information could be easily intercepted.  If you ever travel and write new content for your websites, or work on a site while you’re on vacation – then DEFINITELY get yourself an SSL to protect this information.  You never know who might be sitting at the same Starbucks, or airport as you – so why just throw your password out there without having it be secure?

You can follow these simple steps to provide SSL encryption to your WordPress or Joomla! site very easily.

WordPress:

You can easily implement SSL over the WordPress admin login, and registration pages by dropping in some code to your WordPress config file (wp-config.php):

define(‘FORCE_SSL_LOGIN’, true);

Alternatively you can force SSL encryption over the entire WordPress admin area:

define(‘FORCE_SSL_ADMIN’, true);

Typically the second option is the way to go, as this will force it over the entire administration area, giving you added security for your administrative duties.

Joomla!:

Joomla! makes SSL encryption very simple.  You just need to login to your admin area, navigate to your Joomla! Login module, and select ‘Yes’ for the Encrypt Login Form. This option will encrypt your login data for you and your users. You may want to go the extra mile and ensure SSL encryption is set across the entire site as well.

Since session cookies are vulnerable, those can be encrypted.  This typically isn’t going to make or break a site as cookies are set to expire anyways, but leaving session cookies unencrypted will make your site susceptible to Man-In-The-Middle attacks, which can pose a threat and compromise your site.  Luckily Joomla! makes preventing this a simple task as well. Go into the Joomla! Global Configuration area, and then go down to the ‘Force SSL’ area.  Selecting Administrator Only will provide encryption for your administrative section, and admin cookie sessions. You can also select Entire Site, which will provide SSL encryption for everything on your website, including the administration area. This will protect all session cookies for all users as well, so if you’re worried that a MiTM attack would be targeted to your user base, then enable the Entire Site option.

While there are many other CMS platforms available and different ways to enable SSL for each, it would be impossible to cover all of them.  You can always force SSL through your .htaccess file as well if you custom coded your page, which will redirect a user who might type in http://yourname.com to be forced and redirected to https://yourname.com automatically.  So we will want to re-write based on the incoming host and request uri to achieve this.  The following code can be used in your .htaccess file to accomplish this:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI}

When forcing SSL across your entire site, make sure you’re not linking to anything protocol specific. Instead of linking to your style sheet http://yourdomain.com/style.css, leave it open as //yourdomain.com/style.css.  It’s good practice to be doing this anyways.

So now that we’ve discussed some of the benefits that you can experience with adding an SSL certificate, what are you waiting for? You can easily obtain a dedicated IP address and dedicated SSL certificate issued by Comodo, one of the most trusted certificate authorities, directly through AMP!

http://www.inmotionhosting.com/support/website/ssl/how-do-i-obtain-an-ssl-certificate

Open Source Central: Joomla 3.1 and Articles

joomla_logo

Please don’t be intimidated by Joomla!.  Please.  Give it a try, do some research; take your time to learn something new.  I know you can do it.  I believe in you.  What you’ll end up discovering is something awesome.

Don’t be like me.  Don’t live in regret.

I, too, was convinced that I could never learn to use Joomla!.  But, then again, I was intimidated by all content management systems (CMS) before I started really trying to learn them.  I didn’t think it was something I could figure out much less something I could excel at and even become a resource from which others could learn.  Then, a friend of mine, Christi, taught me WordPress.  (Christi’s currently the Technical Team Lead in our Design Department, so she’s an awesome source from which to learn.)

It was a snowball effect from there.  I built a lot of sites with WordPress and loved it.  But, I wanted to learn more, so I ventured into some of the other free software we offer through Softaculous.  I was still intimidated by Joomla! though.  Everything I read about it made it something I wanted to learn, but it is so different from other CMS software I had been working with, I was convinced it was beyond me.  The truth of the matter is, of course, that I didn’t put in the time and effort to learn something new.

But, a few months ago, I decided to install Joomla! on two of my personal blogs and give it a try.  From that moment on, I was challenged to change my perspective.  But, more importantly, I discovered something:  Joomla! is actually very easy to use.  It also comes with a lot options that aren’t available in other CMS software.

joomla_homepage

I think the most confusing part of Joomla! for most people is the lingo.  It’s different from other sources, but the meaning behind the words is the same.  Once you have a firm grasp of what everything means, it all starts to click into place.  So, in order to help get you started in using Joomla!, we are going to explain what Articles are and how they are used in Joomla!. This will help demystify the software and afford you a bit more comfort when reading up on what Joomla! is and how to use it.  So, study up, there will be a quiz at the end. (Probably. But, probably not.)

Articles = Web pages. 

Don’t be confused because it says “articles”.  The truth of the matter is that articles are both static pages and individual posts or listed posts (if you are going for a blog).  They are all referred to as Articles in Joomla!

When using Articles as static pages, you first need to create an article.  This tells Joomla! that you are going to have a page based on that title.  I always start my Joomla! designs by brainstorming on paper (Yep, pen and paper.  Call me old fashioned, but it really helps me see what I’m doing) the pages I would like to see on the site.  Joomla! is easiest when you have an idea of the content you will want on your website.  While you can of course make changes and update the information, it is best to have an idea of where you want the site to go before starting to build the site.

If your intention is to have the article act as a static page, you will need to take one more step when creating the article.  You will need to go into the “Article Options” (either while you are creating the article, or by clicking on the article title in “Article Manager”.  Everything that is set to “Use Global” should be changed to “Hide” or “No”.  This will prevent odd information, like the article title, creation date, and author from showing up on the pages you create.  While this is perfect for a blog page, it can be confusing on a static page.

My suggestion is to create blank Articles for the pages you want to see on your site.  So, for example, if you want a page on your site titled “Reviews” you would first create an article (Content – Article Manager – Add New Article) make the title “Reviews” and then leave the content area blank.  You can then add this to the menu (Menus – Main Menu – Add New Menu Item) and select “Single Article” (Menu Item Type – Articles – Single Article) for the Menu Item Type.  This will allow you to select the article you just created and will generate the blank webpage on your site.  You can then add modules to customize the appearance of the page.

If you are looking for a blog look, you can go through the same process of adding the page to the menu, but instead of selecting “Single Article” you have a few options to have a page of posts.  You can select featured articles, which will pull up articles that you label as “featured”.  This, however, may be a problem if you are using an image rotator or another module that pulls from the featured articles.  Then everything you want in your blog would also be pulled by that module.  A better option would be to select “Category List” which will pull from a selected category.  If you are only having one blog page, you can create a category called “Blog” or something to that effect and use the “Blog” category when selecting which category that page should pull from.   Choosing “Category List” will also allow you to have multiple blog pages by selecting a different category for each page.  You will just need to create a category for each of those topics.  (Content – Category Manager – Add New Category).

So, remember, when working with Joomla! an article is a web page.  You can set up any article in any manner through the use of the menu options and modules.  This will help get you started in the world of Joomla!

Digital Security: Keeping Your Website Safe

digital_security

I like to play, and make jokes, and say silly things in an attempt to keep this blog relatively light.  But, I think for this post, we need to buckle down and get serious for a second.  Don’t run off!  I’m not going to bore you, I just think we need to take a second and talk about site security.

Working at a hosting company, we deal with hacked accounts on a daily basis.  Hackers are sophisticated individuals with expert knowledge in the internet and computers, something not all site owners have.  Hacks and Denial of Service Attacks happen all over the world, every day, taking down sites, servers, even entire networks with shocking efficiency.  In headlines this month, we see huge websites like the New York Times, Twitter, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times becoming victims of hackers.

So, how do you protect your site?  Like any security measure, there is no absolute guaranteed way to keep your website safe, but I have a few suggestions that will tighten up the security on your hosting account.  It is important to understand that the security of your website and hosting account is in your hands.  Like any hosting provider, we offer a high level of security on the network and server, but in regards to your account, you have the most power to prevent unwanted access.

1.       Keep everything on your server up to date.

It doesn’t matter if you aren’t using that software or theme currently, if you have it on your server, you need to keep it updated because even inactive subscriptions could open up vulnerabilities to your account.  The most common reason for updates is to install security patches to current versions of software, so take advantage of that.

If you aren’t using something, uninstall it.  This will prevent the risk of someone accessing your account through something you don’t actively monitor.  The bonus to this is that you will be able to reduce your overall resource needs by ridding your account of extraneous software.  If you are using it, or plan on using it in the future, be sure to update it regularly.

2.       Use and rotate complex passwords.

Remembering passwords can be annoying, but it is necessary.  For the security of your account, you need to use complex and unique passwords and rotate them regularly.

To make your password memorable, but complex, try using a phrase you can easily recall.  For example, I will use, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done…” because I can always remember the last line of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, but you can use whatever phrase you like.  Take that phrase, and abbreviate it with the first letter of each word:

iiaffbttidtihed

Then capitalize some letters in a way that you will remember:

IiaffbTTIdtIhed

Now, add some numbers and symbols:

I!a55bTTIdtIhed

BOOM. Secure password with a pneumatic built in.

If you can’t remember your passwords, do not store them in an unprotected document on your computer.  If someone hacks your computer, they will find your passwords.  If you want to store your passwords so you don’t have to remember them, try an application like KeePass (http://keepass.info/) which will store all your passwords in an encrypted file.  The only password you will have to remember will be the master password.  Just make sure you aren’t using a simple password as your master password!

Also, don’t use the same password for everything.  Keep a variety of passwords.  That’s where tools like KeePass will be really helpful in keeping you organized.

3.       Consider an upgrade.

Please don’t take that to mean that shared hosting is not secure, because all servers at InMotion Hosting are secured to the same high standards.  However, VPS or Dedicated hosting packages will offer you more separation from other accounts and more control over the server itself.

That can be a double edged sword, because it means that your access level could compromise the site, so if you are not confident, or are not working with an experienced developer, make sure you don’t make too many changes to anything server-side.

4.       Check your code.

Checking your code means more than just updating your HTML for site changes.  It also means testing any changes you make prior to making them live.  You want to ensure that there are no holes written into any custom coding.

While you are reviewing new code, take the time to review old code as well.  If you see any unfamiliar code, it is possible someone has hacked your account and is using it without your permission.  By keeping up with your website’s code you can ensure that you know when changes are being made to your files.

In addition to the coding, check your access logs to ensure that the only IP address attempting to log into your server is your own.  If you notice something askew, update your passwords and block that IP address.

5.       Check your file permissions.

When you create a file, it will at times open the access to the world.  Yep, the entire world.  Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but if your permissions are set to 777, that means that anyone can access and change your file permissions.

This is just enough of a crack to let a hacker through, so make sure that you have everything set properly.  Ideally, you want your permissions set to 755 (or 644 depending on the purpose of the file) which means that you can access and change the file, but others can just see and use it.

If you’d like some more details on file permissions, our Support Center has a basic explanation of them as well as some details on changing them.

http://www.inmotionhosting.com/support/website/how-to/change-file-permissions

The above suggestions are just to get you started in securing your site.  There is a lot of information out there, and diligence is required to keep your hosting account secure.

While you may not have the resources to have someone monitoring your account 24/7 like our Systems Team monitors our servers and network, it’s not a bad idea to get in the habit of checking in on your account daily, even when you aren’t updating any of its information.

Open Source Central: PrestaShop Partnership

Prestashop

We made a new friend!

Recently, we at InMotion Hosting have been given an awesome opportunity to work with PrestaShop in a partnership to improve the experience for our customers.  Our Marketing Team was able to forge bonds with the staff at PrestaShop over our mutual love of Open Source software.  Because InMotion is one of the few remaining hosts that still openly supports and interacts with Open Source software, it was a match made in heaven. Through interactions with PrestaShop employees at open source events, our marketing team developed a relationship and an opportunity arose to turn that relationship into a business partnership that will benefit not only InMotion and PrestaShop, but also our customers.

Over the next 6 months, our relationship with PrestaShop will grow, and as such we have been preparing to offer the best support possible.  Our Development team partnered with our Marketing team to create an auto-installer so that customers who purchase our hosting through the PrestaShop website will have an account with PrestaShop already installed and ready to go for them.  This development is a huge step in our ability to better serve our customers’ needs.

We have been working to increase staffing including specialized training for our PrestaShop experts on our Tier 1 Support Team.  These individuals have improved knowledge and experience in working with PrestaShop so that we may better answer any questions our PrestaShop customers may have.

Even before becoming official partners, we have known how valuable a tool PrestaShop is to our customers.  We focused a lot of information on our Support Center to learning more about how to use PrestaShop and presenting that information to our customers.  Our PrestaShop Education Channel was a huge success as we introduced our clients to this shopping cart option.  (http://www.inmotionhosting.com/support/edu/prestashop-15)

On behalf of InMotion Hosting and our entire staff, we would like to welcome everyone at PrestaShop and all our new PrestaShop customers to the InMotion family.

The Power of Account Management Panel

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The internet – The final frontier.  These are the continuing features of AMP.  Its ongoing mission: to explore new customization options, to seek out the best services for InMotion Hosting’s customers, to boldly go where no hosting company has gone before.

Have you seen the new Star Trek yet?  It’s fantastic.  Like all good fangirls, I’m enamored with all things Benedict Cumberbatch.   But that has nothing to do with this post, except that it gave me the opportunity for a timely and creative opening to talk about our Account Management Panel (AMP).

If you haven’t been using our AMP software yet, you’re really missing out.  But, now is the time!  We’ve added some awesome new features that will give you more control than ever over your account and server.  It’s majestic.

But, before we get into those new features, let’s recap what makes AMP so fantastic.  If you haven’t used it before, go to our website.  On the top of every page you’ll see the log in button.

AMP

From here, you can go anywhere!  It has an option to check your billing information, including reviewing what items are currently being billed for your account, reviewing past receipts, and even updating contact and payment information.  This saves you time and effort and takes the stress of billing off your shoulders.  You can even set renewal reminders, so you will always know what renewal is coming and when.

AMP also gives you direct access to your cPanel, and if you’re on a VPS or Dedicated platform, Web Host Manager (WHM).  This makes accessing all your accounts easier and faster as they are all linked to one central location.

But, you probably already knew that.  What you may not have known, is that we’ve added even more awesome features.

Purchase a new IP Address

You can now purchase a new IP address to your account directly through AMP. Yep.  You don’t have to contact our Support Team for it anymore, just click a few buttons and you’re on your way.

How do you do this?  It is located under “Additional Services” then, “Other”.  Select purchase IP address.  Done and done.

Change Your Primary Domain Name

We’ve also added the option to update your shared hosting account’s primary domain name.  So, if you decide the domain that was your primary is no longer needed, you can just log into your AMP, cancel the renewal on that domain and put a new domain in its place.

Start in the “Details” section under “Account and Billing”.  From there, click, “Make Changes”, and select “Change Primary Domain”.  Follow the prompts from there and with a bit of propagation time, you have a new primary domain name.

Restart Your Virtual Private Server

For whatever reason, there may come a time when you, or your site administrator, may need to reboot your server.  Before, that was a contact to our Support Team with an escalation to our System Administrators.  That took time.  However, now you can restart your VPS’s services right from the comfort of your living room, or office, or bathroom, or wherever you do your work.  We don’t judge here.

In AMP, we’re going to venture back to “Details” under “Accounts and Billing”.  In your “Active Subscriptions” section, you should see a button that says, “Restart VPS”.  Click that.

WHAMO!

Your VPS is restarting.  It’s like a direct line to our System Administrators.  Or magic; if you’re like me and think all this internet and technology stuff is secretly operated by wizards in disguise.

Once everything is restarted and ready to go again, you’ll get a SUCCESS message.  You’ll feel good about yourself.  You will have accomplished something that day.  This is what InMotion Hosting and AMP does for you, it brightens your day and boosts your confidence.  Maybe we should rename it to Awe-inspiring Magnificent Panel of Wonder.  AMPOW! That’s practically perfection.

With this newfound confidence, you can do anything.  Go out, live your dreams.  Interview for that dream job (we’re hiring, by the way: http://www.inmotionhosting.com/employment/), ask out that girl (or guy) you’ve been crushing on (I’m married, sorry), or just enjoy the world with your new positive outlook on life.  AMP, the internet, and our 24/7 Support Team will be here for you when you get back.

 

Managed Hosting and Launch Assist

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Let me introduce you to Managed Hosting and Launch Assist. When I was given this assignment for the blog and newsletter, I was really excited.  I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me as a topic earlier, but I’m glad someone thought of it.

Why am I so excited, you ask? I mean, let’s be real, it’s not like I’m writing a post about Doctor Who or anything (don’t judge).

I am excited because I get to tell you about our new Managed Hosting service and Launch Assist for our Virtual Private Server and Dedicated hosting packages!  Okay, admittedly, without a little background on why that’s awesome that reveal is mildly anti-climactic, but stick with me, you’ll be excited too.

First, let’s flash back to just under three years ago when I first started working for InMotion Hosting.  I was hired onto our Customer Care team because I am awesome with customers.  My tech knowledge was not my strong suit.  I mean, I had a website and a blog and previously was a Genius at the Apple Store, so I knew my way around a computer and had a working knowledge of the internet.  However, my server knowledge wasn’t quite as good.  I mean, I could tell you that you needed accurate name servers, but I had no idea why.

Working here over the last few years has taught me a lot about servers and site design, but before that, I had no idea what I was doing.  However, I was bound and determined to learn it.

I ended up breaking things, a lot.  So, I started pestering the tech support reps to both fix the things I broke and explain to me how to not break it in the future.  Because I work here, I had a direct line to the brilliance.

Now, thanks to Managed Hosting, you have a direct line to the brilliance too!

Seriously, Managed Hosting is essentially a hook-up to our best and brightest.  They’re that friend everyone has who is willing to fix your server for you.  This is a team of Systems-level technicians dedicated to you.  While they are not account managers, we do keep the team intimate so they all can get to know our customers directly.

Keeping the whole team available to your account means you are almost guaranteed to have someone available who has expertise in your question.  You can also rest easy knowing that the Support Representative working on your account is not only experienced but also has the upper level server knowledge you can rely on.

These guys are brilliant enough to work directly with you or your developer on any level.  So, if you need to be able to jump right into a higher tier of support without going through our base T1 Premier Support Team, Managed Hosting is the place to be.

But, technical knowledge is not the only factor we take when selecting technicians for our Managed Hosting Team.  We also look for those agents who have some of the best customer service on the floor.  After all, that’s what sets InMotion Hosting apart from the pack, our dedicated focus to our customers.

We pride ourselves in the service our representatives offer.  We bring this up in the initial job interview, and it is a focus of every aspect of our training because it’s so much a part of our daily tasks.  It’s InMotion Hosting’s thing.  Go Daddy has elephants, HostGator has Texas, InMotion Hosting has Customer Service.  We strive every day to set the industry standard for customer service.

At the moment, Managed Hosting is only available to our VPS and Dedicated hosting customers, so if you have been on the fence about upgrading, now is the best time to do it!

Launch Assist

With your upgrade or new VPS or Dedicated purchase, you have optional Launch Assist to help get you up and running.

Included in all Dedicated packages and available for $99 on VPS packages, Launch assist gets you up to 2 hours of Managed Hosting within your first 30 days.  They can help you get your server set up just how you like it so you have a lean, mean, website hosting machine.

Between Managed Hosting and Launch Assist, our team has your team covered.

See?  I told you this was exciting.  This is better than when those stores give you employee discounts.  Except, the employee discount that you get is access to our employees!  That seems weird, but let me tell you; these guys have gotten me out of a lot of jams and have always been able to explain what I did wrong without confusing me.  They are gifted.

Just remember to do one thing that I didn’t.  Call Managed Hosting before you break your server.

Open Source Central: Concrete5

concrete5

Have you used Concrete5 yet?  I think it’s my new favorite thing ever.  (Don’t tell WordPress I said that.)

What is Concrete5 you ask?  It’s an up and coming content management system (CMS) and it is taking over.  Quite frankly, I think I am ok with that.

It’s an ultra-lite, easy to use, über powerful CMS that caters to the broad range of site builders out there.  From designers to developers, to people like me who just go into a software and clunk around until something works, Concrete5 has the power and features to fulfill all our needs.

I was able to think, “I wonder what all this Concrete5 hype is about?”, then install it through Softaculous, and begin working on my site in a matter of minutes.  I kid you not.  Within 2 hours, I had a good-looking website with customized CSS and full content on the home, about, and contact me pages.

Now that Concrete5 and I are in love, I figured I’d share some of this excitement with you, our lovely readers.  Here is my list of the top 5 most awesome features of Concrete5.

 

The Top 5 Most Awesome Features of Concrete5

1.       Most themes are Responsive.

Yep.  Right out of the gate, most themes are built to be responsive or have a mobile version you can use.    Even better?  You can change the mobile theme to be different than the full site.  That way, if you want something a little simpler for those tiny cellphone screens, you just pick a different theme for the mobile version.  How cool is that?

Responsive

2.       Easy and optional SEO features.

Built right into the site format, you’ve got the ability to automatically add the Meta Title, Meta Description, and Meta Keywords!  It’s a one click choice.  This means you can select what to add and when, and it also means you have easy access to update your SEO keywords to ensure that you are meeting the needs of your customers and remaining competitive with search engines.

SEO

3.       Direct, on-page editing.

Are you looking for a point and click style builder that is easy to customize, has a wide variety or templates to choose from, and has the power to allow full site development?  Look no further.  Concrete5 is set up in blocks which show up in black dotted lines.

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You pick which blocks you want to add by clicking within the black dotted lines.  Then, select add block.  This will open a pop up window where you can select what you want it to be.

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You can pick anything from adding navigation, to an image, even a YouTube video, right here on the page you’re working on!

You can see your site as you build it.  Most content management systems require that you work on the content and coding of the site in the back end.  That means you have to bounce back and forth between your code and the site to see the changes you are making.  While you will have to do that to some extent with Concrete5, you can get a good feel for the layout before delving into the code.

4.       The Marketplace.

Typically, when you want an add-on or theme, you have to look all over the internet to get all of your options.  Concrete5 simplifies that.  It’s all in one place, the Marketplace.  Any plugins or themes that you would like can be found right in the software, so you don’t have to stop working to get the functionality you want.

5.       Extreme Theme Customization.

You can customize your themes and add any CSS (custom style script) right in the theme.  Through your themes page, click the “Customize” button next to your selected theme.  This will open color options and the CSS entry.

Talk about easy control.  I love that I can make changes to the CSS and see it change right in the same screen.  Color matching on my site became so much easier when I didn’t have to open another window to see how the colors look together.

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With its combination of simplicity and power, Concrete5 is an all in one CMS that is sure to meet your needs.

Go forth, give it a try, and tell us your thoughts in the comments below!  We’d love to know what features you loved best.

 

The Modern Blog and Your Business

business_blog_photoBlog.  It’s a weird word with a lot of meaning.  Historically, blogs have been perceived as a digital journal for an individual to voice opinions, thoughts, or stories, and this definition holds true today, for some blogs.  For example, I have three personal blogs that I update regularly and they are just that, an online journal of my life.

But, I also have a professional blog designed solely to display my skills and services to the internet.  I use it to market my skills and display my knowledge.  This concept of the professional blog is becoming a regular occurrence for many businesses with an online presence.

But why?  Does it behoove your business to add a blog page to your website?  What content should you include, and how often should you update it?

First, ABSOLUTELY, you should have a blog on your website.  Groomers, caterers, graphic designers, even hosting companies (like this one) can benefit from a blog.  There are several reasons the blog page will benefit your business.

1.       Traffic:   You can increase traffic to your site by posting relevant or interesting content to your site’s blog.  Short posts full of interesting material, graphics, and media will draw more people to visit your site and see what’s going on.  If they are interested in what you have in your blog, they will explore the rest of your site to get to know your company.

 2.       Social Media:  Posts that are widely viewed are often shared on social media.  You can cheaply and easily promote your site, or an upcoming event, or your brand simply by having a post go viral.

Twitter and Facebook are two of the most prominent social media outlets, but if you use videos, YouTube is a great addition to your social media repertoire and if you use a lot of images, Pinterest is one of the fastest growing sites on the web.

However, don’t stop there, use social media to your advantage, Google+, Reddit, Tumblr, and StumbleUpon are other options to broadcast fun and interesting information about your business to a seemingly endless variety of demographics you wouldn’t be able to reach anywhere else.

3.       Search Engine Optimization: The big SEO.  The reason we put our sites online is to be viewed, and strong search engine optimization is a way to introduce your website to like-minded people.

Your strongest asset to both increase your rankings and the frequency of being crawled by search engine bots?  Content. Simple as that.  There are other factors in optimizing your site for search engines, but number one, focus on your content.  Interesting, keyword rich, relevant content will increase your rankings in your field.

However, there are some aspects of SEO worthy content that are best given by having a blog.  First, regular and frequent updates.  The more you update your site, the more it will be crawled.  Because you are continually updating your content you are showing search engines that this site is active and regularly monitored, thus increasing your ranking.

Next, linkability.  Remember when I mentioned a post going viral or driving traffic to your site?  This means your content is interesting and something people will read and share.  It’s linkable.  It’s easy to find, and interesting to read.  This will help increase backlinks and simultaneously improve your search engine ranking.  We call this a win-win.

Finally, a blog gives you more space to talk about a wide variety of topics that relate to your business.  Through this, you can also have a variety of keywords that you may not have been able to fit on your static pages.  This will introduce different aspects of your business to people who may not have searched for you previously.

Now that you have a blog, what content should you use?  Well, anything will work.  Give a short tutorial, maybe an image of one of your recent projects, or introduce some of your employees.  Let people get to know you and your business.  Open up the personal aspects of what you do.  This will give your readers someone to connect with.  It’s a blog, so there is more freedom and range in your topics.

Have a restaurant?  Give some cooking tips, recipes, or video tutorials.  Work in finance?  Have some of your experts offer budgeting tips, savings advice, or opinions on the current economy.  Work in construction?  Review the brands you use, show images of projects as they start, are in development, and the when completed.  Any of these topics will bring interested parties to your site, and better than that, if they find something interesting they are likely to pass it on and keep coming back to see your updates.

So, how often should you update your blog.  Ideally, you should update with a new post as frequently as possible.  Weekly or daily is best, but monthly will work as well.  Also, try to keep your updates on a regular schedule.  Don’t forget, every time you update your blog you should submit your site to search engines to be crawled!

Go out, add a blog page to your site and introduce yourself to the world.  Show the personal side of your company or show off all that knowledge you have on your field.  Open your site to the online community and draw new customers to your business!

The New Norm in Cyber World

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Being security aware is becoming more and more important in the web hosting world. Over the past year, it has been estimated that the damage caused by DDoS and Hackers is costing the global economy approximately $2.5 Trillion a year in losses. In the first quarter of 2013, DDoS attacks grew by over 700%. If you believe you have never been impacted by a DDoS or Hacker attack, you are wrong.  You have been impacted by either a DDoS or Hacker Attack, and you probably lost revenue or customers due to the attack.

Although DDoS are not new and we’ve been hearing about them in the news for years, the types of DDoS attacks are becoming larger and more sophisticated.  What is concerning to me is that most individuals and companies who have a web presence don’t even understand what a DDoS attack is or the fact that at some point in the past, their website has been impacted by a DDoS Attack.

What is a Denial of Service attack (DoS)? A DoS attack is quite simple. The attacker attempts to prevent a website from functioning properly by sending a large amount of requests or other traffic to the target website causing it to become unresponsive.

With all the great advances in technology, there is always someone trying to exploit the technology to do harm. When companies started using distributive technologies for business purposes, attackers started using distributive technologies to enhance their attacks.  Just a few years ago, a large DDoS attack was 10-20mbs of traffic. Today, we regularly see DDoS attacks between 2-4gbs in size and we have seen attacks as large as 10gbs. There have been reports of DDoS attacks exceeding 100gbs.

DDoS attackers are extremely clever, and believe it or not, you may have unknowingly helped one of the attackers to attack another site. It’s true! You may be helping a DDoS attacker right now and don’t even know it. DDoS attackers are always looking for ways to exploit computer systems to host their attacks. Attackers use several techniques to gain access to systems. The most common are:

  • A malicious program is installed on your system and connects it to a hidden server, enabling the hacker to gain enough control of your system.
  • A malicious program is installed on your system allowing the hacker to monitor your key strokes, thus providing the hacker with account information.
  • Hackers gain access to systems through a security exploit in an application.

Once a system has been compromised, the attacker connects your systems to other compromised systems forming a botnet. Once the attacker has enough resources to take down the intended target, the attack is on!  The next thing you know, your IP address is being blocked and your customers are no longer able to get to your website.

Not all hackers are interested in sending DDoS attacks. In many cases, the hackers are interested in using your compromised system to send out email SPAM. This has been a growing trend throughout the industry.  Over the past year, we have seen a steady increase in customers’ sites being exploited to send SPAM.

The reason for this trend is quite simple. Most people who have an individual website don’t understand the need to keep their website application(s) up-to-date with the latest security patches, creating a bigger risk for a hacker to exploit the vulnerability. Recently one of the major content management systems (CMS) reported major security vulnerability in an older release. Within a few hours, hundreds of thousands of systems around the world were compromised by hackers exploiting the vulnerability.

The good news for our customers is that we take security very seriously and we work very hard to minimize hacks and DDoS attacks. With our recent upgrades to our networks, we have significantly reduced the number DDoS attacks. Unfortunately, there is only so much we can do and we need your help to be more security conscious.

We can block the DDoS attacks, we can tell you about the vulnerabilities with your website, but if you don’t act on our recommendations, there is a very good chance you will be the next victim of a hack attack. If your website has been hacked or you feel as though you may have been hacked, please feel free to contact us. We’re here to help you and we want to make sure you get the best service in the industry.