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Eastern PA Weather Authority: A Managed Hosting Case Study

If you’re looking for a professional hosting service that manages your web hosting servers, you don’t have to look further than our Managed Hosting team for a dedicated Managed Hosting Service. Our hosting spotlight is focused on the Eastern Pennsylvania Weather Authority (EPAWA) website. The EPAWA website is a great example of the capabilities and reliability of our dedicated hosting solution.

The EPAWA website is a growing website that provides daily forecasts, interactive radar, and analytical models for weather in the eastern portion of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Recent increases in their population of viewers have led to challenges to the dedicated hosting team. This has resulted in an evaluation and scaling up of the service provided by the InMotion Hosting Managed Hosting team. The success of the EPAWA website shows the attention to detail and flexibility of the InMotion Hosting Managed Hosting service.

EPAWA Website

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The Custom Managed Hosting Solution

Like all of the websites under their management, the Managed Hosting team continually monitors the EPAWA website to keep the server operating optimally. Our Elite Class Dedicated Servers are set up so that downtime is kept to a minimum while providing quality performance for their website. In order to do this, they use various software and hardware configurations.

For EPAWA, we used the following tools to ensure proper website performance.

Varnish Caching

Varnish Cache (also known as caching HTTP reverse proxy) is a web application accelerator designed to optimize HTTP requests. Varnish is installed on the front end of the server to cache the Website contents. The performance of Varnish Cache is exceptional. It typically speeds up delivery with a factor of 300 – 1000x, depending on your architecture bringing the server load down.

Apache DSO and mod_ruid

Apache DSO (Dynamic Shared Objects) is a PHP handler that speeds up the server using opcode caches. The Apache module mod_ruid2 is a suexec module for Apache that causes forked Apache processes to be run as a particular user. This allows for PHP to be run in DSO mode without the typical security problems of running PHP as DSO in an environment shared by multiple users.

Alternative PHP Cache (APC)

The PHP PECL module APC is Alternative PHP Cache. This allows the interpretation of PHP scripts to cache opcode. The module can cache objects like database objects and full page views. PHP code is processed faster with APC which leads to better website performance.

Elite Class Server for Website

The website is set up on a Elite Class dedicated server. The server is carefully optimized to provided maximum performance.

  • Intel Xeon X3440 @2.53Ghz
  • 4-Cores/8-Threads
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 500GB 7.2K SATA2
  • RAID-1

Managed Dedicated Hosting

The installation of the server is completed by our Managed Hosting technicians. Our Managed Hosting support team is capable of providing complete solutions, even when there problematic issues such as high traffic requirements or server-side situations. Each server can have different levels of support as per the needs of the customer. Thousands of customers in eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware rely on the information provided by the EPAWA website and you should too! Try out and learn more about our Managed Hosting service.

Keep Your Business Strong with Effective Communication

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The majority of our customers at InMotion Hosting are small companies or startups with a strong vision and desire to build a solid foundation to grow their business on. Like many of our customers, InMotion Hosting started off small and worked its way up to be the successful company it is today. What every company should try to keep in mind is how they first started off and what specifically accelerated their initial growth spurt. What’s most amazing about a lot of startups is how quickly they are able to get things done, how well they stay focused, and how they maintain the passion and motivation that drive it all. That is the envy of most major companies today.

When you start off small, you have some great advantages. Communication is easier and tasks are done more effectively and efficiently because there are less people to reach out to or wait on. Keeping this process strong is the hardest part when a company begins to grow. Waiting on people seems to be the biggest obstacle when communication isn’t fully there. Being aware of this and making sure you have a good system in place for getting things done, no matter how big your company becomes, will save you a lot of time and headache, and make a world of difference.

With our team still growing, we’ve had to try to adjust and figure out the best way to manage our projects. At first, we had hit some obstacles that we had to overcome with trial and error. Then we looked back at old processes and tried new ones instead. Finally we realized that using different channels to reiterate the same things can get confusing and messy. You want to go along with what your team feels more comfortable using, instead of using just one solution for the sake of simplifying. When processes begin to become a struggle, reassess them and find out why; Find a different solution. Don’t keep doing something because that’s how it was done before.

Use a Project Management Tool

We’ve come to rely on Basecamp as a project management tool to assign projects, refer to message threads, check out the project calendar, and add people to projects or reassign them. It helps to visually see what’s going on, what’s been done, and what still needs to get done. Being able to easily reference interactions among everyone within a team makes a tool like Basecamp a great resource.

Daily Stand-Up Meetings

Another good way of keeping the communication strong and everyone in the loop are daily stand-up meetings. Everyone literally stands up and moves away from their desks. The benefit of this is that it allows for participation from all team members and frees them from distraction.  You can customize these to your liking of how often you’d like to do them, and which departments you want to include.

For our marketing team, every morning everyone stands up and tells the team what they’ve been working on, what they plan to work on, and if they have any obstacles that someone else within the team can help out with. This way, everyone is aware of what’s going on and it keeps all the processes clear. If you have multiple teams within a team, a representative from each team informs the group as to what’s going on. The total amount of time of the meeting should be limited to about 15 minutes.  If more meetings are needed to discuss specific projects, then these can be arranged during the stand-up meeting and taken away from the group.

Face-to-Face Conversations

And don’t ever forget about the good ol’ face to face interactions. It’s great for team building and a lot of small things won’t fall through the cracks as they often do in communicating through technology channels. It can also save a lot of time when you’re waiting on responses and going through a bunch of email threads. If you need to have a record of what was discussed in a conversation, write one quick email to reiterate what was just said and use that as your reference.

This type of communication may lead to more interruptions, so you need to be approachable and open to face-to-face conversation. However, these interruptions are worth it since you don’t have to deal with going back and spending more time clarifying an issue again. You can always block out time and find a quiet space in the office to be interruption free and stay focused once a week or for a few hours in the day if you do begin to get interrupted too frequently. In the end, you will save a lot of time and everything will be crystal clear.

Smooth and clear communication has to be a priority of the company and it has to be optimized to keep it going strong, no matter how quickly or big your business grows.

Premier Support™ Customer Testimonial

Written by Voitek Klimczyk of Hartford, CT. Currently hosting on a VPS.

I’m a former IT guy who has been publishing websites since 2004. When my website was small, hosting didn’t matter that much. But once I started to grow my business, I started to notice more and more, that where you host your website really matters, because you don’t want customers to visit your site and all they get is an error or loading page.

InMotion Hosting is the most reliable web host that I have used since 2004 – and I’ve tried several of the popular ones out there. Most of them had horrible support, that almost always blamed outages on me and they were also slow to load my site.

InMotion Hosting was the first web host to not only help me troubleshoot problems, but sometimes even proactively take care of problems for me; like the time hackers used denial-of-service (DoS) attacks against of one of my sites. Another leg up InMotion Hosting has on the competition is the actual page speed of your website. Nothing compares to their Shared Hosting as far as reliability and speed goes from what I personally tried.

Since my business grew, I was seamlessly moved to their VPS solution, which is extremely reliable and fast. Seamless becomes a bigger deal, once your website grows to the point that you need it up all the time to maximize business profits. I’ve had other hosts put my site on the back burner and extremely slow servers, while I lost business and profits from people who didn’t want to wait 10 seconds for the page to load.

It’s the reliability, professional support, and page loading speed that has kept me a customer far past the introductory deal.

By the way, another thing that I really like is that when I call support, I get to speak with someone that actually understands what’s happening, instead of non IT people trying to help you by reading from a script. I tried top rated hosts and top advertised hosts out there, but in reality none of them came close to the up-time, speed, and expertise that I have grown accustomed to from InMotion Hosting. Trust me, that means a lot coming from someone who worked in IT for a long time.

Voitek Klimczyk
Hartford, CT
www.simplyadditions.com

An Affiliate Manager’s Tale: Joomla! World Conference 2013

I had the privilege of attending the 2nd Annual Joomla! World Conference this past November 8th – 10th in beautiful Boston, Massachusetts. With InMotion Hosting as a sponsor once again to support the Open Source Community, we were part of an amazing group of passionate developers, end users, and supporters.

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The Joomla! World Conference was one of the most unique events ever. I don’t say this lightly. I have been to tons of shows and conferences, but there is something special about the Joomla! community that sets these events apart from others.
Continue reading

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

InMotion Hosting is the Power Sponsor of Joomla! World Conference 2013

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InMotion Hosting continues to support the Open Source Community and Joomla! users everywhere by once again sponsoring the Joomla! World Conference this year. The event was held in Boston, MA this past weekend.

With a one-click install process, it’s easy to host your Joomla! site with InMotion Hosting. Latest versions of MySQL5 and PHP5, high grade software, max speed zones and suPHP are just some of the hosting features that keep your Joomla! site secure and deliver content at blazing fast speeds. We also make it easy to transfer your Joomla! site from other hosts. Our technical support has specific Joomla! expertise and is available round the clock.

As a Power Sponsor of the Joomla! World Conference 2013, we had a booth and provided conference visitors with special hosting offers geared towards the Joomla! user base. Check out some of the pictures below.

We even gave away free Joomla! hosting to event attendees! Didn’t make it to the event? Click here to take advantage of the same limited time offer for FREE. This includes a FREE new domain for the first year. Go on, try us out and find out why InMotion Hosting is the way to go for your Joomla! sites.

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Getting Schooled by 99U: Building a Successful Career & Business

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I was fortunate enough to fly out to New York City last month to attend the first ever 99U Pop-Up School held by Behance. Behance, which is huge in the design industry, is an online portfolio platform widely used by creative professionals. The purpose of the pop-up school was to enhance people’s skill sets and ideas for their personal or business development.

The event was broken up into 3 days; career development, entrepreneurship, and brand & digital strategy. The attendees consisted not only of designers, but of marketers and entrepreneurs as well. It was a great mix of people that all had the same values and passion, and they were either there to better themselves or impact their current or future companies.

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Not only did I get a chance to listen to many leaders from within the creative industry, as well as those who have become successful entrepreneurs, but I had an opportunity to interact with them. I joined round-table discussions with other people on topics such as how to launch your start-up. I got involved with mentor sessions and portfolio reviews with the people from Behance. And I watched their side stage where people in the audience would go up and practice building skills like pitching ideas to clients.

These were my biggest takeaways from the speakers of the event:

1. Self-awareness is the only sustainable competitive advantage. 

Scott Belsky starts off Day 1 of the Pop-Up School. Photo: mackme.com

Scott Belsky starts off Day 1 of the Pop-Up School. Photo: mackme.com

Scott Belsky, Co-Founder & Head of Behance, discussed some interesting points about competitive advantages by asking two questions: 1) what do you want to be good at? and 2) what are you willing to be bad at? If you’re focusing on being good at everything, you’re not focusing on anything. For example, he brought up how Southwest Airlines decided to re-evaluate and change their focuses, and as a result they chose the opposite values of their competitors. They chose to focus on service and price, and gave the amount of routes and free snacks the back seat. Southwest Airlines is now the world’s largest low-cost carrier. In the past with the computer industry, design wasn’t important and variety was optimal. But then Apple decided to sacrifice the variety of choices and amount of distribution, and focus on quality, design, and fewer options. By valuing the opposites of their competitors, Apple captured their market.

2. If you look out for the people around you, you’re a true leader and you’ll inevitably be successful.

Simon Sinuk, Author of “Start With Why” & Leadership Expert, said “We put a premium on people who give us their time vs. money, because you can’t get time back. Good leaders are the ones who give us their time and energy.” If you want to accomplish great things, such as a successful start-up business, great leadership is required of you. You have to be empathetic, inclusive, open-minded, and help the people around you reach their highest potential. If you do this from day one, your company will thrive with loyal, happy employees and A-players. And you have to know the ‘why’ of your company. Great leaders can inspire movements by knowing the ‘why’ of what they’re doing. What is your cause and what is your purpose, and it has nothing to do with making a profit.

3. Building an impressionable brand and personality starts with the founders.

The best companies that are innovative, remarkable, and memorable, are the ones that stand for something, which is what keeps people loyal to them. The companies that are crystal clear about who they are and are consistent with their beliefs attract people who trust them. And that sense of trust comes from sharing common beliefs. Simon talked about how every decision we make is a piece of communication and a symbol of who we are. You have to say and do the things that you actually believe. This is why authenticity is so important. It’s how trust is formed. And with trust, we’re more willing to take risks and experiment. Sincerity is vital to building a brand. Customers can recognize fakeness immediately and become hesitant when they do. That’s why it’s so important to build a strong relationship with your customers from the get-go. A solid fan base is what makes successful start-ups grow so fast. Simon also mentioned how companies focus too much on themselves and not about what they are willing to do for the people. People don’t gravitate towards companies with a list of things they offer or are. They gravitate towards companies that value the same things they do. They don’t buy what you sell. They buy what you believe. Apple was just a computer company, but then they started selling mp3 players and phones. Why do we buy an mp3 player or phone from a computer company? It’s because we believe what they believe.

4. You win people’s loyalty with the little things.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian speaking at the Pop-Up School. Photo: mackme.com

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian speaking at the Pop-Up School. Photo: mackme.com

Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder of Reddit, said take advantage of opportunities on the most mundane parts of your website to surprise people, like the 404 page. Reddit lets users design these for them. People hit a low when they hit a 404 page, so take that opportunity to brighten their day instead. On Hipmunk, a travel website which is a sister company of Reddit, if people get the dates mixed up and enter for instance March 9 to March 5, the error message will say “We don’t yet support time travel.” Or if you search for a flight to Las Vegas on Hipmunk, it’ll say “Vegas, Baby!” Just that little bit of humor when people don’t expect it, catches them off guard and delights them. You make people feel like they’re a part of something bigger rather than just a website they type into their web browser. People are more drawn to things they feel a connection with. It’s human.

A web form building company called Wufoo built a strong connection with their customers the old-school way. Every Friday, everyone one in the Wufoo team, including the CEOs next to the interns and new hires, sits down and writes a hand-written note to its paying customers as a team building exercise. One customer took a photo of their note because they were so surprised by it and they uploaded it to Flickr. People want to share this stuff because it’s so novel and they can really appreciate it. A personal touch, like hand signing a letter at least, goes a long way. Be grateful and helpful without selling yourself. That’s how you build genuine relationships with people.

5. Not everything has to have a business objective.

Jonathan Perelman, VP of Agency Strategy of BuzzFeed, said we need to engage, bring value, be human, and give real storytelling. We don’t have to correlate everything with making money. You have to give before you can expect something in return. Create content that people want and will share, and that you are proud to share, because content which is essentially storytelling, is part of your identity. Be authentic. A product can be copied, but a story can’t be. Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder of Warby Parker, said, “If someone is copying you, they’re always going to be two steps behind.”

With all this in mind, you should be on the right track for a successful personal brand, a new start-up, or even a current business you’re looking to turn around. Remember your ultimate goal is to make your customers and the people you affect happy. So make everything about them, not about you.

Open Source Central: Joomla 3.1 and Articles

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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.

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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

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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.

Back to School

books

It’s back to school time!  Am I the only one who is excited?  I’m a giant nerd, so back to school time is a lot like Christmas to me.  I love wandering through the school supply section and buying things I just don’t need because I am not currently in classes.  (Don’t worry, that will be remedied soon).

What does back to school have to do with hosting?  Our Education Hosting Packages, of course!

http://www.inmotionhosting.com/edu/web-hosting-for-schools/

Educators and students alike can really benefit from hosting.  How, you say?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  I’ve detailed some of the best ways to use one of our hosting packages while in school.

  1.  You have to for class.  Let’s start right out the gate with the obvious.  More and more students are learning about the internet and websites.  Whether you’re a developer, designer, or Server Administration student, you’re probably going to be required to have your own hosting.  We’ve dropped our prices just for people like you.  Paying for college is expensive enough, so quality hosting to ensure your grades are perfect (because I know you’re all perfect students) is imperative.
  2. Classroom Interaction.  I used to be a teacher, so I understand how difficult it can be to get students engaged in the classroom, much less outside of school.  Creating an interactive class website with activities and ways of connecting and learning from each other will keep your students learning even outside of the classroom.
  3. Creative Expression. Broadcast your skills online!  Photography, painting, poetry, song writing: all of these skills are important to continue well into adulthood. (Moody poetry is always at its best in your teens and early 20s.)  Don’t let a busy class schedule or peer intimidations keep you from your craft!  Plus, nothing impresses the ladies like being in a band more than having a band website.  Trust me.
  4. Email.  Simple as that.  Nothing is as cool as telling people your email address is czajaisawesome@czaja.com or dontbejealous@czaja.com.
  5. Your Future.  This one is more serious.  In a job market like our’s, having a strong technical background will take you far.  It doesn’t matter what your major is, understanding servers, Content Management Systems, and scripting language is always a plus to put on your resume.  I earned my degree in writing, but it was my understanding of technology that got me the job.  So learn it while you can, surround yourself with smart people, and brag about your awesome internet skills.

So, do you know someone starting school this year as a student or teacher?  Pass this news along. We make affordable hosting even better with our Education Discounts.  We love the internet and technology, and we are always working to spread that love to the world, regardless of age.

Don’t forget, Facebook was created in a college dorm room.