Filter: Web Hosting

website hosting service, web host service, web hosting service

End Of The Road For Google Drive Website Hosting Service

The death knell has been sounded for Google Drive web hosting. It is not alone in facing such an untimely end as other applications, such as Google Answers, iGoogle, Picnik, or Google Reader have all been killed off early by the search giant. Google first allowed users and developers to use their Google Drive account as a web hosting service in 2013; however, that service will officially be discontinued on August 31st 2016. Google Drive will still be running as usual.  It is the Google Drive based web hosting feature that will not be operational as of the end of next month. It’s not hard to understand why Google is pulling the plug on this offering.

Whether it is a sole proprietorship, small business or a large enterprise, everyone needs a website to maintain their digital presence. Many businesses with just static pages, listing their hours and location, took a shine to Google drive web hosting due to the cost savings. Google Drive also made it possible to publish a directory as a website. Even many Google Apps Script developers and users have been using Google Drive feature to host CSS files, images, JavaScript libraries for use in code because deploying it is as simple as copying files into the specific folder and changing the sharing options. But the cessation of web hosting service from Google is currently forcing these business users to find a new provider to host their websites, images and files.

File Storage or Web Hosting?

Many companies are left asking, Now what?  The first thing to do would be to ask yourself, do you need web hosting or just file storage?  To determine your need consider what you are using Google Drive web hosting for.  Do you house your website on the platform or just files and images?   If you are primarily looking to store and share files & other content, you can continue to use Google Drive, or turn to Google Cloud Platform, Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive.

Web Hosting

If you were truly using the Google Drive web hosting platform as a web hosting provider, it’s time to start shopping for a new solution.  You can find a reputable and functional web hosting company, like Lunarpages, to get your site online without doing much damage to your wallet.  Start by considering whether you need a shared or dedicated server.  A shared website hosting solution means that your website is sharing a server with other websites where as a dedicated hosting approach puts your website on its own server.

Once that decision is made, move on to consider hosted vs. managed services.  Hosted service providers simply provide space on a server for your website to sit.  If you choose the web hosting route, you will only be provided with the necessary hardware, software, and communications to run your site—nothing more.  If you need more than just a place for your site to reside, consider managed services.  When you partner with a managed hosting company they provide proactive support, monitoring, and remediating intervention when things go wrong. 

Move On

August 31 will be here before you know it.  If you don’t have a plan in place you better start thinking about it today.  If you are going to move your site to a new web hosting provider make sure you take the necessary steps to make sure it is a smooth transition.  Downtime can cost you customers, which translates into lost revenue.

4 Steps For A Painless Website Hosting Migration

There may come a time when your site has outgrown its current hosting plan, or things are not working out with your current web hosting company. It may be that you are disappointed with the support of your web host or you may have shopped around and found a better set of features. Whatever is the reason for switching, now you have to face the tedious task of packing up your files and moving your site. There is more to a web hosting transfer than simply copying files over to the new server. You can avoid many headaches associated with the server switch, if you know what the process entails and methods to adopt for a seamless transition.

To successfully move your website to another web host without a hitch you have to properly manage your domain name, email, and the site itself. You must first find and join a new web hosting company for your website with fast servers, minimum downtime, robust security, and good customer support. Find out if the new web host can offer assistance with the transfer process as it will make the move much easier. Do not cancel with your old hosting provider before you have moved your files to their new location. Canceling prematurely may prompt your old host to throttle bandwidth or cause downtime by prematurely terminating your site.

Step 1: Copy Files To The New Host

If you maintain only one copy of your website, make sure you backup your existing website content on your local hard drive. Download all the files on your current host’s server and save them on your computer in a single folder through the “File Manager” option in your control panel, or your favorite FTP client. Once the new hosting contract is in place and you have your login information, start by moving your files from your current host to the new host with a simple FTP transfer, or using your preferred file manager in your control panel. Using the FTP client, open two windows for both servers and copy everything.

HTML Pages

If your site was built in Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage, you can upload your HTML pages from the program in its entirety, for your site to appear as it did in the old host. With FrontPage, the new host’s web server needs to have the same version of FrontPage extensions installed for it to work without any issues. Alternatively, visit your live website and right click on the page you want to save. Go through the menu and select the “View Source” option to save the HTML code. You have to copy, paste, and save the code for all the pages you want to transfer to the new server.

Database

When working with databases within your site, be sure you export them from any site that uses a MySQL database so that you can import it to the new site. Your new website host and platform provider will have support documents to help you do all this. You must also backup any databases on the old host in order to upload the files to the new host via FTP, and then restore the database via SSH or cPanel’s phpMyAdmin. For any site based on database driven components or with a complex content management system (CMS) there is a chance that pages may not display exactly as they did on the old host server. If the problem persists with the code, you can contact your new web hosting provider for support, or, if your provider doesn’t offer support, get help from an expert web developer.

Email

If your email is managed by your domain host, you will have to follow instructions from your domain host to change some DNS settings when the new site is up. If your email is managed by your hosting company, you may have to move your email account too. To do this, find the email client settings for your new host and set up a new account with your preferred settings. You will be able to connect to this account only after you switch the DNS. Delete the old account only when you’re sure that your new email account is the one getting all new messages.

Step 2:Test Your Site On The New Server

The next vital step for a problem-free web host transfer is testing your site to make sure all your files and pages have been moved to the new server successfully. You must check your links, images, and services to ensure everything is working. Links may have to be reactivated if there are hardcoded URLs leading to the old address. This may not be an issue if you have your own domain because your web address will not change. Otherwise make all your internal links relative links for a smooth relocation. Images may have to be resized too. If everything checks out to be functioning well once you upload and test your pages, using a temporary IP address provided by your new host, you can then move ahead and repoint your domain name to the new server.

Step 3: Switch Your DNS

If your content displays well in your new host, it is time to cut the cord on your old server and transfer your domain name to the new server. This is the trickiest part of the entire switching process since DNS records the links between a domain name and its numerical IP address. Log into the account you have with your current domain name registrar to swap the old server information with the new server information. If you did not have a domain name before, simply point the new domain name to the new host. It can take between 24 to 48 hours for DNS changes to get propagated to all the name servers around the world. Preferably do not make any changes to your site during this period. When all of the servers show your new IP address, you can safely begin to update your site on the new server.

While your IP address is switching do not delete the old site. Have two copies of your site to avoid losing visitors in the interim period. Hold off on informing your old host about the switch until both sites run concurrently for at least a week. If you moved your own previous domain name with your site, you can now safely terminate your account with your old web host. If everything goes right, your visitors will probably not have noticed that you changed hosts and your search engine listings will not have been affected since they still point to the right domain. That said, if you were with a free web host previously, you may have to take further measures in order to reduce chances of losing search engine visibility.

Step 4: Take Measures To Keep Your Search Engine Rankings Intact

.htaccess File

The web hosting transfer process could potentially result in a few hours of downtime; however, if you do not want to see your search engine rankings go down you must set up 301 redirects when switching web hosts. The way to do this is by creating an .htaccess file in a word processor such as NotePad. Your new web host must provide access to the file so that you can make necessary changes before uploading it back to the server. For every page under the old URL, you must put a Redirect statement pointing to the new location so that the server can tell the visitor’s browser to load the file from your new site location. Visitors will consequently be redirected to the new host without having to click on a link. Search engines, such as Google, will also follow the link to index the new address as a substitute for your old one.

Update Referral Links

Check web logs in your server to track referral sites that send visitors to your website and visit those sites to see if they are still using your old URL. If they are, you may want to pass on your new address to the webmaster of that site. You may also want to submit your new URL to the search engines. You can even search for links that point to your old address by entering the old URL with a link prefix in Google or the name of your website into any search engine. Despite your best effort, you may still not be able to exhaustively remove all links pointing to your old URL.

Plan Ahead For A Successful Transfer

The web hosting transfer process can be virtually pain-free if you complete all the critical steps covered above. If you cannot complete all processes of the transfer at one time, you can carry it out in planned phases. Regardless of how you approach the transfer, always ensure that your business runs without any disruptions during the transfer phase. Your new hosting company should have the support system to help you with any hitches that do come up. If you have a managed hosting account, you can even coordinate the timing of the website transfer so that the support group at your new web hosting company is on standby to assist with the process.

Advantages of the Improved CentOS 7

If you are going to run Linux, take a moment to consider that Community ENTerprise Operating System (CentOS) has proven to be the most popular, superior, lightweight, fast and reliable operating system for your web server. CentOS is an enterprise grade, free open source project with the same functionality, performance and stability as the paid operating system Redhat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). CentOS shares nearly 95% of the features of the commercial RHEL with the major difference being the lack of IBM System z port and limited variants for virtualization. The other differentiator for most IT admins is that the Centos.org site lacks the polish of Red Hat and does not have as many supported applications, finished projects or management skills.  That said, there are many outstanding benefits to CentOS 7 discussed below.

Benefits of Adopting CentOS 7
CentOS 7 is compatible with the upstream vendor’s redistribution strategy and gains full industry support with security updates and training material. In fact, CentOS is the only OS compatible with the popular cPanel web hosting control panel.
When CentOS 7 is properly configured, and running on quality hardware, it is a very stable server operating system, with very few (if any) problems. There is reduced risk of crashes and errors, as it runs only stable versions of packaged software.

With CentOS Linux distribution you can get the advantage of open source server software such as Apache Web Server, Samba, Sendmail, CUPS, vsFTPd, MySQL, and BIND.

You may improve performance and load-balance resources by configuring computers to work collectively, with a group of servers sharing a common file system, and offering high-availability applications.

CentOS 7users have access to updated enterprise-level security features, including a powerful firewall and the SELinux policy mechanism. With a new CentOS install, users get long term support for six years, with security updates and critical patches maintained for a decade after the initial release.

CentOS 7 platform enjoys superior long-term stability with fewer bugs and security holes as compared to other distributions on the market, which is why it does not need new releases or hardware upgrades as frequently.

What’s New in CentOS 7 Build 1511?
The CentOS Project proudly announced its third major rolling release of the CentOS Linux 7 series, CentOS 7 (1511) for 64 bit x86 compatible machines, on December 14, 2015.  It is based on RHEL 7.2, with varied new features and software updates, such as the addition of a Kerberos HTTP proxy for identity management, ECC support for TLS connections in OpenJDK 7, and EC ciphers in pre-installed packages, as well as updates to the Atomic packages, NSS also now enables TLS1.1/1.2 by default

CentOS 7, just like the Linux based OS ,has moved to systems with 64-bit processing and memory addressing. That said, 32bit libraries will allow you to run 32bit applications if needed. This advanced stable build of the Linux distribution now fully supports the virt-v2v command-line tool, TLS connections in OpenJDK 7, TPM 2.0 driver, nanosecond timestamps support in tcpdump, the GNOME 3.14 and KDE 4.14 desktop environments, X.Org Server 1.17 display server, LibreOffice 4.3.7 office suite, and OpenLDAP 2.4.40.

Additional Important Changes
In addition to what has been mentioned above there are other important changes worth highlighting.

  • Bugs can be reported directly to bugs.centos.org in CentOS 7, since release 1503 (abrt>= 2.1.11-19.el7.centos.0.1)
  • Command checksums can be verified on sudo now
  • NSS no longer accepts DH key parameters < 768 nor RSA/DSA certificates with key sizes < 1024 bits,
  • Increase in the maximum number of SCSI LUNs
  • dd can now show transfer progress
  • Updates to the networking stack (i.e. VXLANs, Data Center TCP, TCP/IP Stack, IPSec)
  • Includes virtualization and hypervisor technology projects such as Xen, oVirt, Docker, for light-weight isolation with sandboxing features
  • Update to the libATA, FCoE and DCB storage drivers
  • Storafes such Gluster Project, Ceph, OpenAFS, SCST included in the main repos
  • Storage, network and graphics drivers have been updated
  • Anaconda now supports NFS when adding additional repos during install
  • You can update simply by running “yum update” command in a terminal emulator

With all these upgrades and changes, it is no wonder that CentOS remains one of the most popular Linux distributions for web servers, with its speed, stability and improved performance over its peers. When it comes to enterprise level operating systems, you could not ask for anything better.

What Does Website Hosting Have To Do With SEO Success?

Everyone wants to improve keyword ranking for their website and business.  Whether large or small, being above the fold – or at least on page one – is coveted by businesses of all sizes.  Typically, businesses consider tactics such as content marketing, link earning, and social media to help them achieve their SEO goals.

It is true that these marketing tactics are important; however, in the chase for great results, many companies often overlook the architecture and technical aspects of a website as a tool for attaining high rankings and improving relevant traffic to the website.

Did you know the type, quality, and reliability of your website impacts your visibility on Google? Not to mention that where the website is hosted and the quality of the servers you site resides on s to your search ranking success. That’s why it is essential for webmasters to integrate technical and non-technical aspects such as website design, on-site and on-page technical optimization, link building, content creation, and more for organic search success.
The choice of a web hosting provider, your web hosting plan and the server your site runs on further impacts SEO strategies. Get to know how your web hosting plan defines your SEO success.

1. Website Page Loading Speed

Your customers and web visitors expect your web pages to load fast (2 seconds or less).  If they take longer than that, consumers are quick to navigate to another site or abandon their purchase. Not only does a slow load time impact consumer satisfaction, but Google also positions sites with slow page load times lower in search rankings.
The speed of your site is dependent on a number of factors; one of the most crucial among them is the hosting provider. You definitely want to avoid unreliable web hosts with poor performing servers and out of date hardware and software, as this will definitely slow your site down. Or even worse, render your website unusable if the entire website crashes often.
The way you’ve designed your site, image size, JavaScript and lack of compression are just a few additional things that can drastically affect your site speed. Run your site through various speed checkers and also use Google Developer Tools, as this will not only tell you the speed of your page loading times, but these tools will give tips on how to improve the overall site speed.

2. Website Security

Websites hosted on servers that are not adequately protected from attacks will suffer in search engine rankings. There are ‘spiders’ crawling on the lookout for unsecure servers and if they find any malicious script at your site or bad links pointing to your website pages, your rankings may suffer.
Google has also added HTTPS as a ranking factor in order to promote the implementation of SSL certificates on websites so as to improve users’ safety. A good web hosting provider can assist you in getting a SSL certificate to assure Google and visitors of the security of your website.  

3. Technical Issues

Technical issues with web hosting providers or your server that result in website downtime can impact your search results. Google continuously accesses your site to identify new content for indexing, and if it finds the site unavailable or struggling to load, then it may decrease your ranking. Google wants to offer the best user experience possible, so it will rate other sites with no loading issues as better and more reliable website than your site.

What Can You Do About It?
Choosing a reliable and proven web hosting provider is the foundation for any online business or any business that has a significant requirement for an online presence.  Look at the plans offered by your provider. Basic plans may be the right fit for starters with less traffic but when your brand starts expanding its presence on the web, you will need to be prepared for large number of visitors. Choose a web host with scalability and an impeccable reputation for a stable foundation on which to streamline your web site and online marketing efforts.  

10 Popular WordPress Plugins You Should Be Using

WordPress is the most popular and easy to use content management systems (CMS) utilized by millions of entrepreneurs, businesses and webmasters across the globe. Because WordPress is a free open source platform, it allows developers to contribute themes and plugins that extend the design and functionality of your website. The best part for many businesses is these added features come without the need to know how to code. Developers have generated thousands of useful free WordPress plugins in addition to premium plugins that carry a price tag. This article will guide you in making the best plugin choices for your website.

1. W3 Total Cache

Your site’s speed plays an important role in search engine rankings. W3 Total Cache helps you optimize your WordPress site for speed and performance. It allows you to easily setup page and browser caching, compress pages for quicker downloads, and setup a content delivery network for your static files.

2. Hello Bar

HelloBar is one of the more popular lead generation tools available.  It allows you to add eye-catching notification bars to the top of a webpage which can be used for driving traffic to a designated landing page. Any WordPress blogger can easily integrate HelloBar onto a blog with this simple WordPress plugin.

3. Akismet

Say goodbye to content spam.  Akismet is a content spam filtering service that is able to identify anything that appears to be spam and automatically moves the content to WordPress installation’s spam folder. You can look in your dashboard to check Aksimet Stats for a breakdown of your spam, missed spam, real comments, and false positives that have been mistaken for spam by Akismet that you can flag as genuine.

4. WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin

Yoast SEO is an absolute must to boost any WordPress site’s search engine optimization; enabling more potential customers to find you. This plugin allows you to manage page titles, add meta descriptions, homepage descriptions, sitemaps or keyword stuffing. There is also a premium version with many additional, helpful add-ons.

5. Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms is the most beginner and developer friendly contact form plugin for WordPress. It can be used to add almost any kind of online form to your WordPress website. It comes with powerful add-ons which allow you to create online survey, user submitted posts, web directory, or almost anything where a user input is required.

6. Broken Link Checker

Broken Link Checker is a great plugin that can help improve the user experience on your website. Why? Because clinking on links that don’t work can be frustrating and often times a visitor will just leave the website. This plugin will check your content for broken links and missing images and notify you.

7. Google XML Sitemaps for videos

Google XML sitemaps is the best plugin to help you in submitting a XML sitemap of blogs containing video to search engines so that the search engines can easily recognize and index them.  Your Video Sitemap will include web pages which embed videos from YouTube or which links to videos on YouTube. If a YouTube video that you have in your blog has been removed from YouTube, the record in the Sitemap file will be ignored by Googlebot.

8. Floating Social

Social media share buttons are a must have for every site, but they can significantly impact your site’s speed. The floating social bar was created to maximize your social media visibility without impacting your site speed.Floating social bar is a light-weight WordPress plugin that adds a horizontal floating share bar to your blog posts, pages, and other post types. The floating ability allows this eye-catching social media bar to get you maximum shares.

9. Disqus

Enabling comments on your blog is one great way to engage with your readers.  Disqus makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.

10. Sucuri Security

Everyone wants to keep their WordPress site protected and secure from hackers. Sucuri Security is a useful web based security toolset plugin for security integrity monitoring, activity monitoring, malware, malicious coding scanning, or bug detection, blacklist monitoring, security hardening, and security notifications. This plugin is the best way to ensure your site is secure, especially if you are running an online retail store or if you store sensitive customer information. Sucuri Security works in the background to actively monitor your site for potential threats and warns you immediately to take post-hack security actions.

The List Doesn’t End There

There are many more useful WordPress plugins such as WordPress Importer and Next Gen Gallery. The one caveat is more is not always better. Sometimes plugins can conflict with each other or your theme, and the possibility of this happening increases with the amount of plugins you use. Your best bet is to use only the plugins you need. The good news is, if you do find that a plugin conflicts, there is probably a similar plugin that works perfectly with your set up.  This flexibility is one of the features that makes WordPress and its plugins such a popular platform.

Registering a Domain Name & Setting up Email Solutions for Your Business

Every company needs a memorable domain name so that people can find their website easily.  A domain name is what is typed into the address bar to locate your website, such as www.lunarpages.com and it is also used in company email addresses, such as tom@domainname.com. Without a suitably professional domain name, it will be difficult to set up either a website or personalized email solution to reflect your business brand.

Types of Domain Names

Switching domain names later can get tricky. Since you will be stuck with your online domain name for a long time, be wise in your choice.  Your domain name will become part of your brand, as it will be important to users finding you online and it will be listed on all of your company stationary and literature. 

Domain names are classified by extensions like .com, .net, .biz or .org.  Some name extensions are linked to countries such as .uk for the United Kingdom or .de for Germany. There are no restrictions on who can buy specific domain names. The most popular and familiar domain names that lend credibility to websites are .com, .org, and .net.  It is worthwhile for businesses to keep their domain name short & simple and – depending on the availability – find one of these extensions.

Choosing Your Domain Name

Your company’s domain name forms a crucial part of your online presence and branding. Domain names should ideally be easy to remember and intuitive, rather than being too creative or using tricky elements such as hyphens. If you want to be creative, select something broad to cover future expansion; otherwise, be specific to what you do if you don’t use your business name as your domain.

Keep in mind that the registration fee for a domain is a recurring cost, as you’re only buying the right to use it for a period of time. Do not fall for super cheap deals for the first year, followed by price increases for the years after. Find a provider who offers you freedom to use the domain name however you may choose to and does not charge you to transfer your domain elsewhere. This way you can buy the domain name from one company and set it up to work with your website and email system supported by another company. It is important to note that the domain name should always be registered in your company’s name, even if an outside IT supplier is registering it for you. You always want to retain ownership of your domain.

Get Email Solutions

Once you have wisely chosen a domain name, the next thing to consider is your email.  The success of any business depends on a communication network.  Unfortunately, businesses often make the mistake of using unreliable free online email services.  These services may not work across all platforms and are likely to attract viruses & spam. When setting up a business email system, it is best to estimate how many email addresses you will need and how you want to access your email. For example, in addition to having your email on your computer, you may want to access it remotely or on a mobile device. Many email services also have a limit to the size of attachments and the number of messages you can store.  These are all important things to consider when deciding on a system.

Business Email Options

  1. Use a free email service–  examples include Hotmail or Gmail. These choices may limit options for businesses; however, they may be adequate for your needs. There are paid versions with some extra business features too. You will have to manage these options yourself in most cases, and the domain name will not reflect your business.
  2. Buy an email service package- use a web hosting firm who will set you up on a hosted email system that is both inexpensive and frees you from worry about the technical side of things. You may also purchase the premier hosted business option, Outlook Exchange, through a web host. This option does allow you to use your business domain and is probably the best option for most companies.
  3. Host it yourself- on a networked server. Get the flexibility of a company email system and create as many email addresses at no extra cost.  However, you may need to outsource the job to an IT supplier. For many companies, this is not the best option, unless you have hundreds of email addresses, as it requires fairly constant management for security and uptime.

Once the email system is set up, users will need a way to access their email. This requires accessing email through webmail, or by installing email software on each computer or using an office suite. The most commonly used business email software is Microsoft Outlook.

Your email solutions may be customized with a built in range of services such as spam and virus filtering, hosting, groupware tools, archiving Outlook Web or mobile Access, and fax to email solutions that can be scaled up or down according to your needs.

Let’s Get Started

Registering a domain name and setting up an email solution for your business can be a tedious task for some people.  Businesses need to concentrate on critical jobs at hand rather than technical chores. For the success of your business and to ensure your domain name and email system fits your needs, you may consider an external hosting provider that can get the job done for you.  This will in turn give you peace of mind that the job is in the right hands and getting done correctly.

If you choose an external hosting provider to help you, your job is essentially limited to providing the email addresses you need to use, the access that is needed, and the features you want included. After that, all work is done for you, your email is set up, and you’ve put the management and security of your email in the hands of IT professionals. And you can get focused on growing your business.

Why Should Businesses Have A Website and Social Media Presence?

There is no substitute for an online presence when it comes to building credibility for your business; after all, a website and your social platforms work for you 24 hours a day, 7days a week and reach a global audience. Today’s consumers prefer to get information about a business online, so a robust, informative website and a highly engaging presence on social media are vital for early engagement with consumers.  

Your Website is the Face of Your Business

Your potential customers are nearly 60% of the way through the purchase process before they ever engage with sales.  They see your website long before they see the face of one of your employees; therefore, a reliable website with minimal downtime, quick load time, and rich content needs as much of your attention as employee development. 

A website can be as simple as few web pages for your business with simple text, contact form and stock photos or a sophisticated, comprehensive, multimedia marketing and sales site. Generally it describes your business and what you want to offer; maybe you  will even sell your products and services from the website. Regardless of whether you go with a simple or complex format, a well-designed, responsive website with valuable content can help you win and retain customers, while generating much-needed additional revenue, especially for online retail sites.

If your business does not have a website or it has one that looks shoddy, it can leave an equally bad impression on people. You can build your own website to save a little money but the DIY option of creating your own website, getting email addresses, even setting up online shopping and payment facilities may cost your business dearly, especially if the end result is not up to par.

Promote Your Business through Social Media

For businesses in all industries, it is essential to use a website, as well as social media, as a means of communication, promotion and revenue. With over a billion people using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social platforms, no business can afford to turn their backs on such a huge base of potential customers. But it is not enough to just build a website and set up social media profiles for your business. Each social media network has different features that appeal to its unique audience of users. For example:

Facebook- you can reach a massive global audience with different content types.

Twitter- post frequent updates or content that is newsworthy.

Google+ – can be used to build your profile, especially if you have a physical location and want to appear in local search results.

YouTube- is best for posting product demos, testimonials or for adding a human face to your brand.

LinkedIn- is useful to market to professionals by industry, especially if you are in the B2B space.

Foursquare- use if you have a brick-and-mortar location to list. If your business name is not already in their system, opt to create a new location.

Getting Started

The first step in launching a website and social media platforms is to secure your brand name, or some variation of it, for your company URL and across all of the social networks. Then you can concentrate on marketing to relevant audiences for your brand, with sustained meaningful content.

Use the popularity of social media to spread the word about your company and to drive visitors to your website. You can even use both as a promotional tool to offer coupons and discounts to followers once you launch. And perhaps most important, be sure to keep these digital assets up-to-date with relevant, interesting content about your business and industry as well.

What Matters When Building Your Web Business

When planning to launch or update your ecommerce site there are a lot of important factors to consider. Take, for example, website hosting. Is a shared server right for you? Or should you be forward thinking and start with a dedicated hosting solution right off the bat? Do you know what managed hosting can do for your business that website hosting can’t? These are all important discussions to be having with your potential web hosting partner.

Shared or Dedicated? Which is Right for Your Business?

Don’t tell your kindergarten teacher, but sharing isn’t always the right thing to do. A shared website hosting solution means that your website is sharing a server with other websites where as a dedicated hosting approach puts your website on its own server. Why is this important? When you share the server the amount of disk space and bandwidth that you have access to is limited because there are other businesses sharing it with you. If you have a spike in business and exceed your allocated amount you will typically be charged for that extra usage. This is called scalability. When you’re on a shared server your business has little room to scale up to your growing needs.

Another thing to consider when choosing between shared and dedicated is the cost. When you are on a shared server the operating costs are divided among all the users on that server; making it cheaper for your business. However, if you run into scalability issues you will have fees added onto your costs. Additionally, when your business reaches a point where it is too large for a shared server there are migration fees associated with starting on a shared server and moving to a dedicated solution. This is where it becomes increasing important for you to have growth conversations with your service provider before signing up for any website hosting service. Make sure your provider knows you intend on growing your business and key them in on how quickly you’re aiming for that growth. This will help them in recommending the best solution right off the get-go.

As with anything on the internet, security is very important with website hosting. When you are on a shared server, the hosting company installs firewalls and security programs. Having a dedicated server is in fact more secured compared to shared hosting because you are provided your own firewall. Therefore, the information stored in a dedicated server is less vulnerable to attacks by hackers or any malicious codes.

Hosted or Managed? How Do They Affect Your Success?

A common mistake that businesses make when choosing to expand their online business is to spend a lot of time on deciding which type of server is right for them and stopping there. Yes, it’s vital to be on the right server but if you don’t consider hosted vs. managed services you’re only fighting half the battle.

Hosted service providers simply provide space on a server for your website to sit. A web hosting service provides the necessary hardware, software and communications to run your site. But that’s it. A hosting service provider does little to keep the site up and functioning. That’s where managed services come into play. When you partner with a managed hosting company they provide proactive support, monitoring, and remediating intervention when things go wrong. Your business could lose a lot of money on a shared hosted platform if there is downtime, if every moment of uptime is worth many dollars to you. Alternatively, when your website is on a managed dedicated server, you have someone troubleshooting for you immediately so that you’re business doesn’t lose customers.

So How Do You Choose?

When business owners want to improve their businesses, stay competitive, and enhance traffic on their website, they must continually update their website. They can launch new products or services, publish new content like blogs, newsletters and client testimonials, or add enhanced functionality. Web hosting brings a lot of advantages and plays an important role in developing trustworthiness and protecting the integrity of the company. All this can help a business owner to attract more potential customers that ultimately results in great returns and revenue. But don’t let the wrong server choice or wrong services put you at a disadvantage to your competition. It your website delivers a good revenue stream to you or is mission critical to your business, take care to choose the right server and the right services.

Apache vs. IIS: Which Web Server Should You Choose?

The web runs on several protocols: HTML (HyperText Markup Language); HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol); and URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) — or as some people call it, a URL. But underneath all of these protocols — the quick and dirty version of how information on the Internet is built and distributed — is this simple truth: Web pages are served by web servers.

There are two meanings to the term “web server”; one is the physical (or virtual) server that hosts applications, and the other is the software (or application) that delivers the web content (or other tasks, depending on the application) to the end user or system.

The actual box that hosts the applications can be physical or virtual. If you have a server closet or run a data center, you most likely have a complex infrastructure topology consisting of routers, firewalls, web servers, application servers and database servers. Often, these servers have combined roles (e.g., all of the applications and web servers are on the same machine), but this really depends on organizational security requirements and the complexity and performance of the infrastructure.

You can also host applications within virtual or cloud environments and have dedicated virtual instances for each type of server. Again, it depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Using a particular type of physical/virtual server may determine the type of web-server software you use. If you are a Microsoft shop, more often than not you will choose to use IIS (Internet Information Services/Server) by Microsoft as your web-server application solution. If you are using a Linux distribution, you have other choices available to you, including Apache, NGINX and LiteSpeed.

The Most Popular Web Servers

So which web server should you choose to operate your website? That depends on a number of factors. But first, let’s take a look at popularity.

The web-server space is dominated by four web servers: Apache, Microsoft IIS, NGINX and Google Web Server.

A NetCraft survey in April 2014 showed the following market-share breakdown:

Web Server% Share (all sites)% Share (active sites)% Share (top million busiest)
Apache38.60%52.44%53.44%
IIS31.10%11.37%12.40%
NGINX15.56%14.22%17.82%
Google Web Server2.28%8.33%2.96%

 

W3Techs reports a similar breakdown of market share (as of May 2014):

  • Apache: 60.6%
  • NGINX: 20.6%
  • IIS: 13.9%
  • LiteSpeed: 2.0%
  • Google Servers: 1.3%

W3Techs report updates daily and investigates the technology of a website, not an individual webpage.

Trends are indicating that NGINX is gaining momentum within the web-server space while Apache, the long-time leader, is slowing down.

Choosing the Right Web Server

As with any infrastructure decision, your choice hinges on a few key items:

  • Cost
  • Support
  • Capabilities

Cost and support tend to go hand in hand. While you may choose a particular web server because it is open source, there may be hidden costs associated with maintaining your choice — specifically, supporting it. Many open-source companies now charge for professional support, so when you have an issue, you can jump to the front of the line by contacting a dedicated and experienced support team instead of having to solve the problem yourself or going on a forum and parsing through other users’ discussions of the issue.

The capabilities you desire may also determine which web server you go with. One popular “stack” to consider is the pairing of operating system and web server with a database and programming framework. There are a few of these to consider, including:

  • LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP
  • WIMP: Windows, IIS, MySQL/MS SQL Server and PHP
  • WAMP: Windows, Apache, MySQL/MS SQL Server and PHP
  • LEMP: Linux, NGINX, MySQL and PHP

There are other variants of this as well. If you go down the “free” and open-source route, the most popular are LAMP and LEMP. It is important to note, though, that you can install Apache, MySQL and PHP on Windows-based machines.

A Breakdown of Each Web Server

As the statistics show, Apache, NGINX and IIS are the primary players in this space, with Google Web Server and LiteSpeed also appearing toward the “top of the bottom.” Below is a quick overview of each, including some of the popular sites that are using the respective applications.

Apache

  • Home Page: http://httpd.apache.org/
  • Cost: Open source, free, no licensing fees
  • Advantages:
    • Is flexible because of ability to pick and choose various modules
    • Has enhanced security (notable, because vulnerabilities typically are attacked in Windows-based machines)
    • Has strong user-community support
    • Runs on UNIX, Windows, Linux, Mac OS
  • Disadvantage:
    • Is a process-based server, which means each simultaneous connection requires a thread that can incur significant overhead
  •  Popular Sites Using It: Baidu, Wikipedia, PayPal, Apple, Huffington Post

Microsoft IIS

  • Home Page: http://www.iis.net/
  • Cost: Comes with Windows (could mean increased costs through licensing)
  • Advantages:
    • Is supported by Microsoft
    • Provides access to .NET framework & ASPX scripts
    • Integrates with other Microsoft services (Active Directory, MS SQL server, ASP, etc.)
  • Disadvantage:
    • Isn’t able to customize as much as open-source web servers
  • Popular Sites Using It: (mainly Microsoft properties) Live.com, Bing.com, Microsoft, MSN, Barbie.com

NGINX

  • Home Page: http://wiki.nginx.org/Main
  • Cost: Free (open source)
  • Advantages:
    • Is known for speed and for being a reverse-proxy server
    • Is an event-based server, which enables high performance and scale
    • Is potentially better for a VPS (Virtual Private Server) environment
  • Popular Sites Using It: WordPress.com, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, CNet, Meetup.com, Weibo, Time.com

LiteSpeed

Google Web Server (GWS)

Of the options available, your development environment, coupled with the expertise of your developer and system administrator, will most likely dictate which web server you actually end up using. It is important to carefully weigh all of the options, balancing cost and support with the features and capabilities you require.

While choosing the more popular server may make sense, each choice truly depends on what you want to accomplish within your hosting environment. And if you are using shared hosting, you may not have that choice at all.

Regardless, talk to the community and do some research with your IT peers to find out what they like or dislike about a particular web server. You may be surprised by some of the answers.

[Image: Tashatuvango/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos]

Compliance Standards Roundup: Avoiding Common Website Woes

In 1993, Global Network Navigator became the first commercial website. Less than a year later, the CommerceNet consortium developed secure credit card transactions, and the future of e-commerce began to take shape.

Regulations were few and far between; government was struggling to keep pace as illicit websites sprang up, spam advertising emerged and the once-academic Internet became a consumer haven. Twenty years and hundreds of technological leaps later, enterprises and web hosts must comply with a number of Internet standards. Here’s a quick primer on some of the most important.

Section 508 and the ADA

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act focuses on making websites easily accessible for users with disabilities. It is closely related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which guarantees access to public services and places of public accommodation to all citizens.

Although the ADA doesn’t specifically mention websites, several lawsuits have been filed against companies with web pages that are not ADA compliant. Section 508 challenges are also becoming more common as the amount of data hosted on sites grows exponentially.

To remain compliant with Section 508 and the ADA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released several checklists. Some of the highlights include:

  • Ensuring that file names do not contain special characters
  • Avoiding the use of flashing, flickering or animated text
  • Using client-side rather than server-side image maps
  • Making sure information is not conveyed using color alone

Simply put, websites must be designed to afford all users broad access.

HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) contains a Security Rule that all covered entities — healthcare providers, health plans and clearinghouses — must follow. The rule includes a subsection on electronic protected health information, which specifies that all web pages hosting patient information must be properly secured. Many companies rely on secure socket layer (SSL) protection to achieve that security, but with recent OpenSSL and Heartbleed issues, many organizations have migrated information to new, insecure pages or have neglected to obtain new SSL certificates. Either of those actions could place a business in jeopardy of violating HIPPA.

Bottom line? Secure all web pages, deal with Heartbleed and other issues promptly, and always keep information encrypted, even on local networks.

PCI DSS 3.0

All companies running e-commerce websites must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). On January 1, 2014, PCI DSS was upgraded to version 3.0, which requires companies to periodically conduct penetration testing on their payment card systems, inventory system components (hardware and software) regularly and document how vendors are using cardholder data. Version 3.1 requires companies to minimize the storage of cardholder data, develop a retention and destruction policy and limit storage time to its absolute minimum.

DSHEA

In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was signed into law. DSHEA separates the classification and regulation of prescription drugs and dietary supplements, which contain one or more ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, herbs.

Supplement manufacturers must adhere to specific guidelines with regard to product labeling, including ingredients lists and assertions of nutritional support. Retailers must curate the information that appears on their website because unsubstantiated claims — even if they come directly from a manufacturer — can result in a warning or a sanction from the FDA.

Website compliance can seem overwhelming, owing to the large number of acts and standards currently in use, but most boil down to a single, salient point:

  1. Section 508: Accessibility
  2. HIPPA: Security
  3. PCI DSS: Accountability
  4. DSHEA: Accuracy

[image: filmfoto/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos]

Patients, Please: Hospitals Going Online to Cure Wait-Time Problems

In 2009, President Obama signed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which set aside $20 billion dollars to help hospitals and private practices make the switch from paper to electronic medical records (EMRs). According to a recent Forbes article, however, only 37 percent of hospitals are in the final three stages of this seven-step process; six percent haven’t converted even the most basic information.

Some hospitals are taking an alternate route, providing information directly to patients via online services, such as wait-time lists, payment portals and even text messages. But with EMR adoption lagging, can these kinds of consumer-facing services really cure healthcare ills?

Wait and See

In Providence, R.I., Our Lady of Fatima hospital has taken wait times online: When patients visit the hospital’s official website, they’re told approximately how long the wait will be in the Fatima emergency room, helping them to decide whether the trip is worth it. At Weiss Memorial in Chicago, patients can quickly pay their hospital bills online with credit or debit cards. And Hudson Valley Hospital Center in New York state is rolling out a new web portal that allows patients to access portions of their medical records and check on upcoming appointments.

U.S. hospitals may also want to take a cue from their northern cousins; in the province of Alberta, Canada, for example, Alberta Health Services maintains online wait lists for emergency rooms at all of the major hospitals — and the lists are updated every two minutes. And as reported by the Montreal Gazette, the Montreal Children’s Hospital is rolling out a text-messaging program. Once a child has been evaluated by a triage nurse, parents can submit their telephone number and their child’s healthcare number in order to receive text messages with status updates every five minutes. Ideally, the messages should cut down on overcrowding in the waiting room and limit cross-contamination among sick children.

Emergent Issues

ABC News reported that emergency-room wait times in the United States are getting longer, and doctors warn that an overburdened health system is now clogging up the ER. It stands to reason, then, that online alternatives should provide at least some relief. Yet many doctors and hospitals are hesitant to adopt the new systems. Why?

One problem is an increase in physicians’ workloads. Jonathan Bauer, CIO of Somerset Hospital, makes the case in a Becker’s Hospital Review article (reporting on a 2013 Datamark roundtable) that EMRs pose a challenge for doctors not familiar with the system or comfortable with computers, since the amount of data entry required can take time away from patient care.

Theron Pappas of Holy Family Health argues that “one way of improving the user experience is asking patients to fill in information themselves,” but the issue of privacy comes into play, as noted by William R. Hersh in his paper The Electronic Medical Record: Promises and Problems.

Hersh points to both inappropriate access and unnecessary duplication of records as potential privacy issues for EMRs. And some problems lie outside provider control — consider the recent Heartbleed bug, which, according to Modern Healthcare, could affect provider websites, email services and patient portals.

Online or Offline?

Despite privacy and access concerns, hospitals can’t afford to ignore its digital future. Going online, even if it just means reporting wait times or offering payment services, can go a long way toward limiting patient frustration and ensuring ER doctors treat those who need it most.

For hospitals and other enterprise health agencies, the road to online healthcare starts with the right web host, one that provides robust security for online portals and speed of access for patient queries. Moving forward, hospitals will be best served by taking small steps — perhaps a wait-time counter, then a text-message program and eventually limited access to medical records.

Although serving patients online won’t cure the healthcare system overnight, it’s a step in the right direction; start small, take it slow and consider a prescription based on other successful online efforts.

[image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos]