Tag: Shared Hosting

Are websites becoming irrelevant? With Megan from websites503.com

Are websites becoming irrelevant? With Megan from websites503.com

Today on episode 27, Web Hosting Podcast.  I sit down with Megan of websites503.com and discuss the current state of websites.  Are websites really needed in a world of apps, social media, and smart devices?  Are website going to be extinct or irrelevant in the coming years if not already?

Are websites becoming irrelevant?

With google indexing and providing a constant flow of instant information for things like business listings, movie showtimes, sports scores and a wealth of other information.  Is it time to think about if the website as we know it is dead or dying.  With the initial invention of Siri and now alexa, google, and apple homepod, information is only a command away.  Social media has never been stronger in use for marketing in a app based world.  Is the website, as we know it, gone?  This is the question I proposed to Megan of websites503.com and I ask you, the listener.  Have you stopped putting emphasis on your website in favor of joining the billions of others in a app based world?  You can currently do just about anything right from your phone or smart device.  I myself find I don’t use websites nearly as much as I once did.  I use google to direct me to the information that it has indexed on the topics I request.  Need to know how to fix something?  I search google, and it normally directs me to youtube.  Want to know if a movie is worth seeing?  This will take me to a app on my phone.  80% of my searches and internet viewing is done from my mobile device, using a mobile app.  Want to start a ecommerce website, redbubble, etsy, shopify all have mobile apps.  Even WordPress has a mobile app.  You can even create and master videos using adobe apps on your devices.  The current trend is mobile first and even google is preferring mobile in their indexing of your content.  The app based world is here and it is likely going to stay, even if it will evolve into something more than what we currently use.
I don’t think or know if a website will be entirely irrelevant.  I do enjoy the browsing experience on a large screen and personalized domains are also likely not going away.  So what does this leave for the future?  This is what Megan and I discuss in this episode.  This recording took place a while ago on a whim.  I hope you enjoy it and we would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
cPanel tools you will use most often.

cPanel tools you will use most often.

Today on episode 25, Web Hosting Podcast. Some of the most common cPanel tools you will use after you signup. Did you know there is a app for cPanel access that also includes webmail? We will be going over installing, and then configuring the app which is available for both iOS and Android.

cPanel App for iOS and Android.

Go into your devices app store and search for cPanel. Go through the process of installing the app, like you would any other app.
Before you launch the newly installed cPanel app, you will need to have your cPanel login information. The items you will need are:
Domain: This is normally the website on your hosting account.
Username: This is the cPanel username, not your CMS username, that you use to login to cPanel.
Password: This is the cPanel password, not your CMS password, that you use to login to cPanel.

You will also want to have your email address and password if you want to setup access to your webmail account in the app.

Open the cPanel app that you previously installed.
You are now presented with a few options to add an account, don’t worry we will be going over all of the settings you need.

In the server information are three boxes, name, address, service.
In the name area, give this a unique name. This can be anything you would like to identify this connection.
In the address area, this is where you will put the login url you use to get into your cPanel account. This can possibly be your website url, or the server hostname. If one does not work try the other. Hopefully you were sent a welcome email when you signed up with this information.
In the service, change this to cPanel. Do not use WHM or Webmail.

Now in the authentication box do the following.
In the username box, put in your cPanel username.
In the password box, put in your cPanel password.
In the touchID, if your devices supports it I would highly recommend using it. This is the same as unlocking your iPhone with a fingerprint. If you do not use touchID, then you will be asked to enter your password every time you want to connect.

Once these are filled in, click on “CONNECT”. If everything went correctly, you should now have a setting that will connect, it should have logged you in. If not, check your settings and try again. Make sure you are using the correct username and password. As a diagnoses process, you can try logging into your cPanel account through a web browser first.

Once you are logged in, you can now do anything you would normally do from a web browser inside cPanel.

To setup webmail, click on the “+” icon to add another setup. Give this a unique name as well in the name field.
In the address area, enter the address to connect to your webmail. This too will often be the domain you use for your email.
In the service area, change this to webmail.
In the username field enter in your full email address. This is important, the full email address including the “@” is required.
In the password field enter in your password for your email address.
In the touchID, if your devices supports it I would highly recommend using it. This is the same as unlocking your iPhone with a fingerprint. If you do not use touchID, then you will be asked to enter your password every time you want to connect.

Once these are filled in, click on “CONNECT”. If everything went correctly, you should now have a setting that will connect, it should have logged you in. If not, check your settings and try again. Make sure you are using the correct username and password. As a diagnoses process, you can try logging into your webmail account through a web browser first.

You should now be presented with a few options, depending on your web hosting provider. In my app, I am able to choose between horde, roundcube and squirrelmail. Horde is the only one that seems to be mobile friendly. All of them do work but you will have to move around on the screen to see everything. Below these options, you are presented with the mail client automatic configuration scripts, mail client manual settings and the ability to email setup instructions to a specific email address for the account you logged in with.

Mail Client Automatic Configuration Scripts.
This is used if you are on a desktop client and do not seem to work on a iOS/Android device. It is best to just ignore these.

Mail Client Manual Settings.
These are provided to you so that you may manually setup your email client of choice. These are great instructions for the do it yourselfer. The instructions provide the username, incoming and outgoing mail server, and the ports needed.

Email Instructions.
This allows you to email the same settings from the manual settings to a specific email address. This is handy if you have a user that has a gmail or other email account already and you would like to provide them with specific email setup information for an account you have setup for them.

Why you would want to use the app.
The app is a handy and convenient way to be able to login to cPanel quickly. Using the fingerprint to be able to login means you only have to remember the password once, then use your fingerprint to login. Once into cPanel, you have full control of your cPanel account, just as if you were using a normal browser. This means you can use one click installers to add a website or setup a email address. Being able to access it from your phone, means you can access cPanel from anywhere you have cell coverage for internet or on the go. No longer do you need to race home and pull out a computer to make a change or add a domain. The ability to access webmail is just icing on the cake. If you can login to webmail on the desktop and don’t want to mess with setting up a email client, you can quickly get into webmail through this app and do your business.

In short, I think this is a wonderful addition to your cPanel hosting environment. In the past the app was pretty buggy. Since I have started using it over the last 4 months, I have had zero issues with it. I have used it to access webmail, cpanel, and even log into my wordpress install through installatron.

If you are a admin and manage your own cPanel server, this is also a handy tool. One additional option that we did not cover is the ability to login to WHM. WHM is the administration level control panel for the server itself. This is only used if you have root access to the server and only if you manage your own cPanel server. I can say it works wonderfully to access WHM and allows me to things when I am on the go in a pinch.

The most common cPanel tools you will use.
This is a list of just a few of the most used and common cPanel tools that I use and think you will use. Even if you have used these in the past, cPanel updates the features of these tools to add to the already expansive option list. If it has been a while since you looked at the full option list for these tools, I would recommend you take a moment to revisit them.

Email Accounts
This is the place to manage your email accounts. From here you can create, delete, suspend among many other useful tasks. To create a email account, click on the Email Accounts button. Depending on your cPanel theme, things may be a little different from here. You should be presented with the option to create a email address, and have places for a name, domain, password and quota size. In the name area, enter what you would like the email address to be. If you have more than one domain on your account, a drop down will be available to you to select the domain you would like to use for the email account. In the password field, enter or generate a secure password. Please be sure not to use something like password123. The simplest thing is to use the generate button to create a password, then copy this to someplace secure. Yes, they are going to be difficult to remember and type out, but that is the whole point of a secure password. Password security is likely the most important thing you can do for yourself, so do not make this easy to guess. In the quota field, enter in a number in megabytes you would like to use or choose unlimited. The quota is used to prevent a single email account from using all of your disk space, which can happen. This is why I recommend not using unlimited, choose a value that you can live with and know that you can change this value to something higher if you hit the quota limit. You can uncheck the “Send welcome email” unless you really want to send this out. This is not needed if you are setting up a email account for yourself. At this point, hit the “Create Account” button to create your new email account.

  • Some additional things of note on this area. On the “Email Accounts” tab, you can do the following.
  • Access webmail – simple way to get to webmail.
  • Change quota value for the account.
  • Manage Suspension. This is useful if the account has been hacked or is sending spam. You can prevent sending, receiving and login individually or all three at the same time.
  • Change Password. This is where you would change the password for the email account.
  • Configure Devices. This allows you to view connection information for email clients like Outlook or thunderbird.
  • Delete. This is how you delete the email account.

Some things to consider when creating email accounts. Some hosting providers limit the number of email accounts you can create. Keep this in mind when creating email accounts. Keep an eye on the disk use for email accounts. This will add up faster than you might think and cause you to go over quota. If you whole cPanel account goes over the plans quota, then your site will stop working until the quota is either increased or lowered below the threshold. If you need to create email accounts and want those accounts to not contain a mailbox, a place for mail to be stored on disk, then use a forwarder.

Forwarders.
Email forwarders are a simple way to have a email address that do not store mail to disk, instead they accept the mail and then pass it onto another actual account. This is very handy if you are limited by the number email accounts you can create or just do not want a large number of email accounts to setup on your external devices. Nothing is worse than have to setup a bunch of email accounts and be checking them constantly. Instead setup a single email account that you will check, and then setup forwarders for all other email addresses you may want. You can even setup rules to put email in specific folders that are sent to forwarder addresses in your email client of choice. Forwarders are your friend. Just remember if you reply to a email that came from a forwarder, it will show as being sent from the actual email address and not the forwarder address.

Addon Domain.
This is where you add a new domain to your cPanel account. You will need to ensure the domain is registered and owned by you first. Do not add a domain that you do not own or control. To add a new domain click on the “Addon Domain” button. From here you are presented with a few options. In the “New Domain Name” field enter the domain name you want to add. Be sure to enter the exact name with the “.” and the tld. The subdomain option should be filled in for you after entering the domain name. This can be changed if you would like. This is used by cPanel and really should not be used by you directly. In the document root field, this too should be auto filled in. The is the location on disk, starting from your home directory, where your site files will be served from and where you will put your site files. This should not be located in your default, public_html, folder used for the primary account site files. The reason for this is simple, if one site is hacked then they are all going to be hacked. Keeping them in unique folders away from each other adds a little layer of security as well as making it easier to orgranize and backup. Another reason to do this is site indexing. If you have a site in public_html and then add another site in the same folder so it looks like public_html/site2 , you will then be able to browse the second site by going to the first site, adding a slash “/” and entering in the folder name for site2. Google will find this and index it along with your real website. Just keep things separated.

Aliases.
Aliases are like forwarders but for domains. For example if you have a .com domain, but also own the .net and .org versions but want the .org and .net to go to the .com site, then you want to use a alias. Make sure the domain is registered, then click on “Aliases”. From here enter in the domain you want to have pointed to your live web site. You will be able to change the redirection settings after you add the alias. You can always remove the alias and start over or point it to a new location too.

SSL/TLS Status – Access to AutoSSL
To access this, click on the “SSL/TLS Status” button. From here you can run the free AutoSSL certificate service provided by cPanel. Depending on your web hosting provider this may not be available for you to use. To generate a AutoSSL certificate for your domain, it must be added to your account using the Addon Domain feature or be the primary domain on your cPanel account. If you see your domain listed, you should be good to go. At this point, you can click on the “Run AutoSSL” button. This will generate the needed pieces to get you a free SSL certificate for your domain. Once you click the button your request is added to a queue and will take some time to get and install a valid certificate. Do not keep hitting this button, it will not do anything after the first click. If for some reason you do not see a new SSL certificate after a few hours, you may have to contact your hosting provider to see what may be wrong. Some common issues are Drupal .htaccess file does not permit AutoSSL access to the needed folder to validate the domain. If you are using Drupal, you may need to modify your .htaccess file to permit this to happen correctly. Another issue could be you already have a expired or valid paid SSL certificate installed, you must remove this certificate before running AutoSSL, it is not likely that it will replace a already installed SSL certificate valid or not. You can also exclude domains from AutoSSL, in the event that you have a purchased SSL certificate for your domain. You can also click on the “View Certificate” area to see the status of your installed ssl certificate. Things like expiration date, what domains it is valid for, uninstall the certificate along with a few other options.

Optimize Website
This is the ill fated name for gzip compression. Don’t ask me why it is named this, I have no clue. But this is used to enable gzip compression on your website files. Click on “Optimize Website”, then click on “Compress All Content” and then click “Update Settings”. If you have more questions on this useful option, please listen to Episode 1 WHPOD.

MySQL Database Wizard
The “MySQL Database Wizard” is used to manually create a MySQL database and user inside of cPanel. This is useful if you do not have a one click installer and you want to install a application that requires a MySQL database and a user, like wordpress. Click on “MySQL Database Wizard” button, this will present you with a area to create a database using a unique name. Enter in a name to call your new database. It will prepend your cPanel username followed by a underscore, then the new database name. Make sure this is a unique name as no two database names can match. Once you enter the name click the “Next Step” button. You will now need to create a new user to access this database. Just like the database, the username should be a unique name. Enter the name in the username field, it will prepend the cPanel username with a underscore, just like the database name. Now you need to enter a password. I highly recommend using the password generator and copying the password to a safe location for use later on. Now a database and user are created the next step in the wizard is the permissions the user has for the database. It is very common to just click on the “All Priveledges” button, this gives full read/write permissions for the chosen user to the chosen database. Now we just need to click on “Next Step” one last time. The database and user, with its permissions, are ready to be used.

Virus Scanner.
Depending on your hosting provider this may not be available. Click on “Virus Scanner”, now you are presented with a few options. Scan email, scan home directory, scan public web space and scan public ftp space. If you click on “Scan email”, cPanel will start scanning all of your email accounts for viruses that it has in its definition files. This is a great way to check all your email accounts for malicious viruses. If it finds a virus here, you can choose to quarantine it or delete the infected file. The “Scan Home Directory” is the other option that I recommend you do on a regular basis. If a virus is found in a file you will be given the same option to quarantine the file or delete it. If the file is part of a installed website, it might be best to make a note of the file and take a look at the file. Deleting the file could potentially break your website, so keep that in mind. If you do not have the ability to look at the file or have someone that can examine the file, then contact your web host and see if they can help you out. This might be something they would charge for, so keep that in mind. It is not something you want to ignore as you could be spreading a virus to your website visitors and google will eventually mark your site as unsafe. It is also possible, as well as very rare, that the scanner marks a file as a virus when it is not. This is a false positive result, it should still be investigated to determine the status of the file in question. I would recommend that you scan your whole home directory at least once a month and scan your email every other week.

Cron Jobs.
Cron jobs allow you to automate certain commands or scripts on your site. Cron jobs are useful if you have a website that needs to process something regularly. I often setup a cron for wordpress to run wp-cron.php instead of having wordpress take care of it. Click on “Cron Jobs”, this will present you with a few options and examples. The first entry area is for a email address, this is used to send the results of the command when it processes. This is not likely something you want to get. If you are having issues getting a cron to work, then you can enter a email address here to get the notification. Once the cron is working, I would recommend removing the email address and sending the output of the cron command to /dev/null (more on that in a moment). In the drop down called “Common Settings” is a list of common time settings. Since crons run at a specific time, this drop down allows you to choose quite a few of the most common times from every minute to once per year. Do not run cron scripts every minute, this is a bad thing to do. You have to give your script time to run and running something every minute can be a great way to cause scripts to overlap as well as get your hosting provider angry at you for using a lot of CPU. Just be aware of this when you setup your cron job. I like to use twice per hour or once per hour for my cron jobs unless I need something very specific. Now that you have picked your time, you have to enter the command you want to run. I am going to assume that the command you want to run is a php script, in reality this can be anything you want to run on a regular basis. In the command window we are going to first start by calling “php”, so type php then press the space bar. Now we need to tell php what script we want it to run. This is done by typing the full path on disk to the file we want to execute. This will likely be /home/cPanel_Account/filename.php. There should be a example command entry at the top of the page with a full path that includes your cPanel username. So after your php command enter in the path to your script. The final thing we want to do is to tell the script to send its results someplace, I like to use /dev/null, so the results just get deleted. If you do not do this step then you may start to see a lot of files show up in your cPanel home directory that will eventually fill up your disk space. This is because cron must do something with this output status, so do yourself a favor and use /dev/null. To tell cron to send the output to /dev/null , just add >/dev/null 2>&1 after the command path. Make sure to put a space after the command and before the output. Now click on the “Add New Cron Job” to add that entry to your crontab. Adding crons can be a bit overwhelming at first, and quite confusing. Do not be discouraged by all the info, cPanel will do a large majority of the setup for you. Just pick a time to run, add your command, make sure to send the output to either email or /dev/null. If you have issues, I would recommend contacting your web host to see if they can help you out.

File Manager.
The File Manager is just what it sounds like. If you have ever used a computer, then the file manager should feel familiar, just in a web browser. Click on the “File Manager” button and you will be presented with a whole new window with a lot of buttons and folders. On the left side is the directory structure of your home folder. From here you can choose to make new folders, or browse to current folders. The right window will show you what files are in the folder you have chosen on the left. You can select files, or folders, in the right pane that you may want to modify. For example, if you want to modify your .htaccess file for a given site. One gotcha is the fact that, by default, cPanel does not show hidden files. These are files that start with a “.” period. To enable viewing and modifying of hidden files/folder, click on the settings button located in the very top right. A new window will pop up, find the option for “show hidden files (dot files)” and put a check next to it and click save. You should now see all the hidden files and folders. Now you can browse to the .htaccess file you want to edit, select the file and click “edit”, a new window will open, make your change and then click “save changes”. Some other options you might use is “view”. This allows you to safely view the contents of a file without the possibility of accidentally changing the file. Copy is used to make a backup copy of the file. I would highly recommend creating a backup copy of a file before making a change, accidents do happen. Never delete any folders that you are not sure you can live without on the left pane. Some of these folders are created by cPanel for various reasons and applications. Deleting folders at random, or accidentally could result in your cPanel account needing to be restored or mail being deleted. You don’t want to run into issues, so use caution when in the file manager. Folders of note, public_html, is the location of your primary account domain. Any folder outside of this area with a name like a domain, will likely be a addon domain that was created. Any folder named “.well-known” is used for AutoSSL, do not delete these folders. The folder named mail, is where your email is stored. The folder named etc and var, is where cPanel stores some critical config files for your account. Public_ftp is the public ftp space, if you have one setup. I just want to stress, do not delete random folders and files, bad things will happen. If you start deleting stuff, make sure you have a full backup of your cPanel account just to be safe.

PCI DSS Changes to TLS and Chrome 68 marks sites as not secure.

PCI DSS Changes to TLS and Chrome 68 marks sites as not secure.

Today on episode 21 Web Hosting Podcast. PCI (Payment Card Industry) changes that have come into affect. These changes make a dramatic shift to the encryption standard that you may not be aware of. If you are on a older operating system, and even some new ones, you may be left out in the cold and unable to get email or see your website. Chrome 68 is coming this month and if your site is not using https, then your visitors will start to see a “not secure” message. Moving your site to https should not break your budget with free SSL (AutoSSL) by cPanel.

What is PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)?
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard applies to companies of any size that accept credit card payments online. If you accept credit cards as a form of payment for anything online, then you need to host your data securely with a PCI Compliant hosting provider. This is not the same as accepting PayPal payments on your website. This is strictly for credit card payment processing. Normally this is done through a payment gateway like authorize.net or others.

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) changes for this year.
Primary change of interest happened on June 30th, 2018. This change made old and outdated forms of SSL/TLS no longer secure by standard. What this means is a higher level of encryption is now required if you are doing any form of credit card processing. This change has the potential to block out users on old outdated operating systems. It will also have the potential to disrupt your email workflow if you are not up to date on your email application. All forms of connections should be using a minimum of TLS 1.2. This means http(s), email, and ftp(s) have to be using TLS 1.2 to make a connection.

How this may directly affect you and your customers.
TLS 1.2 is a pretty old standard (2008), with TLS 1.3 on its way. However, some operating systems do not support TLS 1.2. This includes computers, tablets and phones. If you are currently not using a updated operating system, then you may not be able to send or receive email through your PCI compliant host. This is the most typical scenario I have seen. Most browsers have supported TLS 1.2 for a number of years. However, it has only been recently that IOS, for example, has supported TLS 1.2 in their own mail app.

What to do if you can’t get email or visit your site anymore.
Ensure you are running the most recent version of your operating system of choice. This means upgrade to Windows 10 or the latest Apple OS X. Simply updating Windows 7 to its latest release is not advised. You really need to run the latest operating system version. This also goes for any tablets or phones you may have. Once the latest version is installed you will likely not have any problems. For supported browsers for TLS 1.2, Firefox, Edge and Chrome support the latest TLS standard. For email clients, mail.app (on latest version of OS X 10.13) thunderbird and windows 10 mail.

Chrome 68 will start showing “Not Secure” for sites using http:// this month.
This should come as no surprise to anyone that develops sites or owns their own site. For the past 2 years google has been warning people that this day was coming (queue ominous music!). Google has even said your SEO ranking will suffer if you are not using https:// on your sites. If you are still some of the minor few that have not moved to https for your site, do not delay any longer. Web Hosting Podcast has discussed in many episodes how to use a free SSL certificate if you are on cPanel called AutoSSL. This is a SSL certificate process that is 100% free and will allow you to move to a more secure https. Gone are the days of having to purchase a SSL certificate every year, there really is no reason to not be using https for your site today. For more information on AutoSSL listen to these previous Web Hosting Podcast episodes.

Here, here and here

Beginner steps to launching a new website.

Beginner steps to launching a new website.

Today on episode 20 of Web Hosting Podcast. Beginner steps to launching a website. We will cover all the steps needed to go from concept to launch, for the beginner. It is now easier than it has ever been to get a brand new website online and serving content. Have you wanted to make the jump and have your own website? Follow along and learn how to get your own website online.

0. Brainstorm
Choosing the purpose of the website, whether you are going to sell something or just blog, is an important step. This will likely direct your choice on a domain name to use. After all, you want your domain name to reflect the sole and purpose of the web site you are going to launch. Outline and brainstorm what you are going to do with the site first. This includes things you may do later after launch. For example, if you are just going to blog now, but think you might like to sell some merchandise later on. Take this into account and write it down. Don’t leave any detail out. This process will also help you decide what software to build your website with.

1. Domain name.

Your domain is your site address or URL. For example, webhostingpodcast.com is my domain. A domain should be easy to remember and not very long. After all, you don’t want your visitors to have to remember a long confusing URL. For example, webhostingpodcast.com is long but a memorable and easy to remember name. However, the-greatest-web-hosting-podcast-of-all-time.com would be very hard to remember and contains characters that are diffficult. I normally recommend that you not use odd characters or misspelling in domains, unless you have to. This makes it harder to remember.

Domains have to be registered and purchased. This is more like a lease than a purchase. You have to renew the domain every time it comes up for renewal. This could be every year if you chose to register the domain for 1 year. Ultimately it depends on the length you decide. Domains can vary in price depending on what you choose. Typically they are about $14 per year.

2. Hosting.
Hosting is where your site lives and is served from. A good web host is key here. Do not skimp on choosing a great and dependable web host. Often, you can purchase your domain and hosting at the same time. But be aware of the potential hidden costs of doing this. A lot of times a host will give you a free domain for signing up for web hosting. Looking at what the cost to renew that domain per year is important. You don’t want to be surprised when you get a domain renewal charge. There is nothing wrong with registering your domain with one company, and hosting your website on another. You just have to remember that you will have 2 different bills. You can also use a online website builder like, wix, weebly, squarespace or blogger. If you don’t want to have your own personal domain (URL) then these might be a logical choice for you to put some online content. However, if you want the ability to fully customize and optimize your web site along with email, ftp, and other services, then web hosting will be needed.

Also, keep in mind that the actual website software you choose may affect your choice of host. If you are using wordpress, which most people do, then you will want to find a web host that is well equiped and educated about wordpress.

3. The website itself.
Most people starting out will want to use something simple. I highly recommend that you use Worpdress to do this. It is by far the number one blogging platform, but it does so much more. If you want to sell trinkets online, there is a plugin for that (woocommerce), if you want to do photo blogging there is a plugin for that (NextGen Gallery). If you can think of it, then there is likely a plugin for it. If you want to change the look of the site but are not a coding expert, you can just add a new template (these are the wordpress of themes). There are hundreds and possibly thousands of free templates available to change the look of wordpress, just check those ratings before installing anything you find.

If you have chosen WordPress for your site, then you likely will want to choose a WordPress specific host. These are hosts that have trained staff to help you sort out issue. Their servers are optimized for WordPress sites. They often have a simple way or even a automatic way to install WordPress as well as keep it updated automatically. These are the things that often trip people up and make you want to pull your hair out or shut down your website. You take your car, likely, to a certified mechanic when it has issues. Do yourself a favor and take your WordPress site to a Worpdress specific host. There are a lot of them out there to choose from that are reliable and knowledgeable.

For those that want a no fuss site and want to use the online site builders, here are a few that I have used in the past. Keep in mind that this will not give you the ability to have email on your domain. This means that @thedomain.com email addresses will not be available to you without doing more work and spending more money. You will still need to sort that out by using google or other means.

These are free or paid options that do not require a domain name use them.

wordpress.com
Blogger.com
Squarespace.com
weebly.com
wix.com

 

Opus Interactive on location interview

Opus Interactive on location interview

Today on episode 16 of Web Hosting Podcast, I venture out on location to talk to Shannon and Eric about their company Opus Interactive.  We also now have a phone number for the podcast for you to call into.

Opus Interactive is located in Hillsboro, Oregon at the Infomart Datacenter, this is the same world class facility that Linkedin chose to house their infrastructure. Opus Interactive has additional locations in Portland, Silicon Valley and Dallas with more coming online. The Hillsboro facility is 345,000 square feet and has 24 MW (megawatts) of power. That is enough to power almost 4,000 homes according to some sources. I would highly recommend that you visit their website for more information on Opus Interactive and the services they provide.

We now have a google talk phone number that you can all into the show on. On Thursdays, from 9am PST – 12PM PST, I will be taking calls. If you have a question, idea, or just need some guidance, feel free to call the number and press 2 when prompted. This will put you into a queue that will allow me to take your call on a first come first served basis. If you would like to just leave a message, you can press 1 and I will get that voicemail emailed to me. Please make sure to let me know if I can put the recording into the podcast. If you are not comfortable with that idea, then no problem, just let me know. Since this number is a google talk number, I have no idea how well it will work. This is an experiment that I have wanted to try for quite a while, please keep that in mind.

Web Hosting Podcast Phone:
971 249 2359

Commonly used web hosting terminology.

Commonly used web hosting terminology.

I discuss some of the more basic web hosting terminology used.  This is the link I used for the glossary of terms.

This episode may be a little basic for some listeners, but I want to make sure that everyone knows the terminology and language that we talk about. My hope is to bring some listeners up to speed that may be confused by some of the terminology used in hosting. Again, this episode may not be fore everyone.

Additional information you should know:
Google will be marking all sites that DO NOT use https, ie http, as not secure starting in July 2018.  This will happen with chrome 68. If you are not using https on your website, you have a limited time to get this going. What this means is users to your site will start to see a “not secure” icon in the title bar.  This has the potential to scare away your users/customers.  If you are currently not using https, your SEO is most certainly being affected, this is another reason you really should be using HTTPS.

Gutenberg is coming to WordPress 5.0 are you ready?  For those of you that may not know, gutenberg is the new editor that is coming out in wordpress 5.0.  There is a current test release you can install through a plugin.  I would not recommend doing this on a live site, it is still quite beta and breaks a lot of things.  It is coming though, so if you have a test site I would recommend installing it there and take it for a spin. More info on WordPress and gutenberg can be found here.

This podcast now has a facebook page.

Marketing Automation with Mautic

Marketing Automation with Mautic

What is Mautic?

Mautic is a marketing automation platform.  There is a paid version at mautic.com and a open source self hosted community version at mautic.org
First, lets talk about marketing automation.  If you are familiar with applications like, hootsuite, hubspot and mailchimp, then you likely have already seen or used a marketing automation tools.  The idea or concept is simple, marketing automation is the act of using software to automate marketing actions.  This alleviates the repetitive tasks that are executed during a marketing campaign.  These could include, email, social media, and other actions related to marketing your online presence.
Mautic is either a paid solution or a self hosted open source solution.  I am going to specifically discuss the mautic.org version or self hosted version.

Requirements:

PHP 5.6.19 php 7.0 supported
Mysql with innodb 5.5.3
Web server: apache 2.x, nginx 1.x , iis

Pro:

Free with a paid option, active development and updates. Active community. Addons for just about anything you can think of. Works both in desktop browser and mobile friendly.

Cons:

Not the easiest to install. Must setup cron jobs correctly. Documentation is a little lacking in clarity. Easy to get overly excited about all the options, sidetrack syndrome.

mautic includes 31 integration plugins installed by default (list below).  This can be expanded by installing additional plugins from the mautic marketplace located here.  There are also many ways to integrate common CMS applications into mautic, like wordpress, magento or woocommerce by using CMS plugins.

Mautic plugins available after install.

Amazon s3
Clearbit
ConnectWise
Constant Contact
Dynamics CRM
Facebook
FourSquare
FullContact
Gmail
Google+
GoTo Suite
HubSpot
iContact
Instagram
Linkedin
MailChimp
Mautic Focus
OneSignal
OpenStack
Outlook
Pipedrvie
Rackspace
Salesforce
SugarCRM
Twillo
Twitter
vTiger
Zoho
I personally have been using the twitter plugin and a plugin for wordpress.  The wordpress plugin allows my contact form data to be inserted into mautic.  I use contact form 7 and the associated mautic plugin to do this.  The twitter integration allows me to gather twitter data that is permitted by the twitter API and capture it inside of mautic.
The email portion of mautic allows you to do targeted email marketing using contacts you collect.  The collection process can be any way you choose.  A simple example would be from a contact form on your site, or maybe through a e-commerce platform that would allow you to collect your customers contacts for future campaign targeting.  How you choose to get the contacts is up to you and your platform of choice.

Workflow concepts in mautic:

This is a big subject that I am still learning about.  One of the interesting features of mautic is the ability to create a workflow of actions based on rules and triggers you setup.  For example, I collect information from twitter.  I can then decide to collect those twitter users inside of mautic.  My rules I have setup collect information from hashtags.  I use two distinct hashtags to collect my target.  #wordpress and #webhosting, are my chosen tags to capture, and once a contact is pulled in, I can then define an action.  These actions can be used to trigger other actions.  For example, when I capture a contact through twitter their base points are 1, if they use the hashtag #wordpress they are given 2 more points, another 2 points for using #webhosting, and another 2 points if they mention me on twitter.  If a contact reaches 8 points, I can choose to execute another action, if I have their email address I can send them a personalized email.  Since I am collecting leads through twitter, I have their twitter name, I can now sent the contact a personalized tweet when they reach 8 points.

Forms and PopUp on your site:

With mautic, you can create static assets (Images, pdf), forms, dynamic content, and landing pages.  This allows you to collect contact infomation by offering them a pdf, for example.  You can have pop overs to promote something through the website.  These are done by first creating your component, then adding a small bit of code to your site.  Other ways of doing this is through plugins, wordpress has a supported mautic plugin that is free to use.

Other ideas:

e-commerce (woocommerce), target users from your store that order more than X times, you define what X is.  Example: if you have a customer that orders 3 times, then you could send them a custom coupon code for being a loyal customer.  If they order 5 times, maybe send them a free gift.  You can also organize your customers by location.  Maybe you want users that order 5 times that are located in the United States to get a free gift, while ignoring customers outside the defined area. Capture lead information in exchange for a free PDF download.  This is often used by marketers that want to make something available but not charge for it.  Capturing the lead becomes the actual cost and your contact database can be one of the most valuable assets for any business.  Since mautic also uses the MaxMind GeoLite2 database, you can track IP addresses that come to your site.  This gives a a very fine grain way to track customers point of entry.  This same information can be obtained through normal web analytic software as well, no concern on privacy there.  There are many many different ways you could use mautic through your current site.
Conclusion: Mautic is a excellent platform if you put the time in to setup, learn and use it.  The learning curve can be a little steep for a new user, but the time you spend with it will pay off if you stick with it.  Being a free application, the price is right.  If you are looking for a way to do marketing automation, you really can’t go wrong with mautic.  My only regret is that I do not have a way to try the premium paid version of the software at this time.

Final note.

I attempted to record a part about creating the cron entries for mautic.  It was a train wreck and after hearing it, I decided to remove it from the episode.  I fully plan on creating a youtube video that will cover cron entries.  It was just too confusing to explain things with only audio.
Disaster plan or success planning your website.

Disaster plan or success planning your website.

Do you have a web site disaster plan in order?
I am betting you likely don’t.

Why is a disaster plan important?

The unknown is ever present in the world of technology. With the rise of malware and CPU defects, the chances of your site going down by unseen forces is getting higher every day. You literally could wake up one morning and your site is no longer online, or worse it is being held for ransom. Add into the mix the number of web hosting companies that go out of business or are sold to another company. If you don’t have a worse case disaster plan in place, it is my opinion you are not doing yourself any favors. It is very easy to put together and can be accomplished by anyone. This would be like having an emergency go bag if you live in a earthquake zone.

What are some key things you need to have on your disaster plan?

Login details for your Domain and where it is registered (username, password, phone number and support email address).
It may or may not be registered with the same company that hosts your website. I would make a document that includes your login details, contact phone number and support email address. Put this along with the others we will be covering into a envelope and seal it, then put that in a safe place.

Login details for your hosting account (username, password, phone number and support email address).
This is the location where your website is actually being served from. Put this information in the same envelope as the rest of the ones we are covering. It is also important to have a phone number and support email address along with your login details.

A current backup or archive.
We have discussed this several times on this podcast. You should have a current backup or archive you can work with of at least your website, and possibly of your whole hosting account. If you have been backing up externally or manually copying to a local disk drive, put this information and location of the backup in the envelope with the other information.

Now that you have your login details sorted out, you need to have some basic DNS information. I personally like to have a complete zone listing of all of my DNS entries. These are things like;

  • What are my nameservers and where are they pointing? Nameservers are vital to knowing where your zone record is being kept. If your nameservers vanish, your domain vanishes from the internet.
  • Where does www and yourdomain.com point to?
  • What are my MX records?
  • Do I have a custom record that is used for connecting to my mail server? For example, do you use mail.yourdomain.com and if so where is it pointing too?
  • Are there any other records I need for my site to be online? Custom records for a cdn, custom txt records that have been added, SPF records? There are many types of records that can be added to DNS. Some of them are for email, some are for proving you own a domain (google validation comes to mind). All records should be tracked and kept with your disaster plan records. You never know when you may need to recreate a zone entry.

 

Success plan not unlike the disaster plan.

What happens if your site starts getting a large amount of traffic. Good for you, bad for your hosting company if your on shared hosting. I have seen this type of thing happen time and time again. A article you may have written, or a product you are offering gets picked up by national news or celebrity likes your product. This is great news for you, but this can often result in your site going down or even being taken offline by your hosting company. How do you deal with a “scuccess” hit often involves the same things as a disaster plan. You may find yourself needing to move to a new host rather rapidly. Have those contact information and login details at the ready in your disaster plan packet. Lets just call this the “What if” packet.

If you are just experiencing some temporary increased traffic, meaning you don’t think it will last for very long as the hype dies down. There are a few steps you can do to help with the site traffic increase, which will likely help with server load.

  1. Use a caching service like cloudflare. We have discussed this in the past. Basic cloudflare services are free and it only takes a minute to setup. This will act as a buffer between your host and the people trying to access your site.
  2. Make sure you use expires and headers so files are cached. Another topic we have discussed in the first episode.
  3. Make sure you are compressing the site files with mod_deflate. See episode 1 for more details. Or listen to the end of this episode for the quick tip.
  4. Enable a caching plugin in your framework. Something like wp super cache or w3 total cache for wordpress will save you a lot of headaches with a sudden spike in site traffic. This will also lower server load by reducing the mysql queries required to load your site by making some of the site pages almost static in nature. This will in turn keep your host happy. This is not the same as cloudflare caching service.
  5. Serve a static site during the increase in traffic. This one is a little more tricky, but it is definitely possible. By removing the need to have mysql and php render pages, your site will load faster and have almost zero load on the server. This requires planning ahead however and having static pages ready to go.
  6. Work with your hosting provider to see if you can to keep your site online. If they are less than helpful, then reach out to the world and get a recommendation for a new host. A good host will want you to grow and be a part of your growth process. If they just suspend your account because you are successful suddenly, then they are impeding your growth and should be removed from the equation. If the host offers some suggestions to you, no matter if they sound complicated, and want to work with you in providing even a temporary solution to the situation, then you should listen and see if they can help.

Things to NOT do. Do not allow your host to move you to a tiny VPS of your own. This is the number one thing I see and it will kill your site, but save your hosts butt. If your site is already creating a problem on a very large shared servers with possibly many CPU cores and many Gigs of ram, what good is moving you to a 1 core and 1 gig of ram VPS going to do. They just want you off their shared server as fast as they can, they are not offering a solution but passing the buck to you and making a few bucks in the process. You site will never stay online in a small VPS unless you have someone that you can call on to make massive tweaks to the VPS itself, install specific software and configure it, this often requires a system administrator/engineer to do.

Do NOT try and block the inbound traffic that is being generated, this includes changing the URL, blocking IPs in .htaccess or server firewall. You want that traffic to come in, if there are elements on that page that require external resources, like a facebook or twitter feed, remove that code during the spike in traffic. These can potentially slow down your page speed.

The biggest take away I want to share with everyone is to be proactive and not reactive. Whether it is a disaster plan or a success plan, the “what if” scenario should be on the minds of everyone. And if you are not ready for it, it can be devastating to your site, your finances and even your emotional state. Like any other disaster preparedness scenario, regaining control of the situation as fast as possible will allow you to continue on with your life. It will remove stress and worry. If you get an email from your hosting provider saying, “your site has been shutdown because….” you will know how to proceed because of your planning. Take some time out of your busy week and determine the best way to handle your “what if” scenario, it will make your life a lot better. If you have already put together a “what if” packet, then please share your experience and tips you may have with me. I would love to hear about them.

Quick tip today is gzip compression in cPanel, you can also see a video I did on this here.

Backup and Archive your website in preparation of the New Year.

Backup and Archive your website in preparation of the New Year.

Backup and Archive your website in preparation of the New Year.

What is the difference between a Backup and a Archive?

A backup is for short term recovery. This means a backup is likely a more current snapshot in time. Often a backup will be done daily/weekly/monthly. You should be able to restore your site from any of these backups. But what happens if the backup is corrupt, or your site is hacked and has been hacked for a while? This is where a Archive comes in. A archive, to me, is a snapshot in time of your site that you are comfortable and capable of starting from.

Example: You have a site or a blog, you do a weekly and monthly backup. You find out that it has been hacked and has hundreds of files that contain malicious code. You can spend all of your time, and possibly a large amount of money cleaning the site up. Or you could restore from a backup, but what if your backup also contains the hacked code? Maybe your site has been hacked for more than a month. Now those backups will likely not do you much good or save you time and ultimately money. A archive is what you will need to restore from. A snapshot in time, where you know your site is clean and functional and can also be rebuilt from. It is a starting point that you are comfortable with. it may not be a ideal situation to have to do, but at least you know you can do it. The alternative is to possibly spend hundreds of hours and maybe thousands of dollars with a developer or systems administrator cleaning up your now hacked site. It is possible that starting from the archive will be the quickest and safest path. If you do decide to restore from a archive, and it is because of a hack, be sure that you update everything and if possible determine how the hack originated. It would not hurt to change passwords and follow standard procedures for dealing with a hack, see episode 7 Web Hosting Podcast.

Backups in cPanel are created using a .tar.gz file format.

What is a .tar.gz file?
The .tar in the filename stands for Tape Archive. The .gz is a compression method known as GZIP. These can be opened with standard Windows, Mac and Linux applications. The first thing it will do is unzip the file, or decompress it. This will then leave a .tar file. This can then be extracted to get the contents of the full archive.

Generating a full backup through cPanel will generate a .tar.gz file in your chosen destination. To do this, login to cPanel and search for backup. This will show you either, backup or backup wizard. If you want a step by step process, use the wizard. If you want specific files then choose backup. They both will ultimately give you the same thing. If you choose to create your backup file in your home directory, be aware that this could take your account over quota and start breaking things rather quickly. Other options for backup destinations are FTP and SCP. You can also choose to download a current near line backup, which will download to the Downloads folder set by your web browser. If you plan to make a archive, be sure to generate a new full backup of your entire home directory. This will include mysql databases, email and your website directories.

Other things that are good to do at the start or end of a year?

Verify your whois data is current. This should be done regularly and is required by domain owners. Whois data is maintained through the company you registered the domain with.

Determine if there are domains that you no longer wish to keep before they are renewed. I find myself over the year purchasing domains for ideas I may have. Some of these ideas never see the light of day and become abandoned. This is a good time to determine if you wish to proceed with keeping these domains and websites going. This can save you a bit of money if you no longer wish to keep them going.

Do you have specific things you do to bring in the New Year for your website? I would love to hear what they are and discuss them on a future podcast episode. Contact me through the contact form.

In our quick tip, autoresponders for email.

3 Free WordPress Managed Solutions

3 Free WordPress Managed Solutions

Minimum options needed for hosting and hosting further explained.

  • Space (disk space) Small plans normally start at about 10G of disk space. Roughly 200 hours of music per month.
  • Bandwidth (network connections) Small plans normally accommodate up to 10,000 unique visitors per month.
  • SSL free or paid option.
  • A way to upload, add or modify files to your hosting space such as SFTP.
  • Instructions for getting into your hosting space.
  • Documentation – Online self service documentation that you can follow. Think Knowledgebase.
  • Support – helpful and knowledgeable support that will NOT charge you for simple things. Does not need to be phone based!?
  • One click installer. Click here to listen to a previous episode about one click installers.
  • A way to serve your files.
  • A script processor – php, ruby, python, perl…etc. customer preference.
  • Database and databse connecticity -mysql/postgresql/oracle/mongo.
  • Security mechanism Firewall or other intrusion detection system.
  • Backups at least weekly – although the user should also have their own backups.

Not on the list

  • Email – use google, wibble, outlook for hosted email.
  • DNS services including domain registration.

Goes without saying

  • Way to add domain to your hosting account.
  • Way to add domain aliases; this might be known to some people as parked domains.

 

WordPress managed soloutions

What is managed WordPress?

A complete service package where all technical aspects of running WordPress is provided by your chosen host. This style of web hosting does and should cost more than web hosting that does not provide these services.

This includes:

  • Security
  • Speed
  • WordPress Updates
  • Daily Backups
  • Premium support – this is handled by WordPress experts with lots of experience.

This is why the typical managed WordPress hosting plan is much more expensive than standard hosting.

Companies that do managed WordPress hosting

 

What is WordPress hosting?

WordPress specific hosting, not to be confused with managed WordPress hosting, is specialized shared hosting with optimizations specific for WordPress sites. These changes often improve site speed and response.

Why/How is this different than regular hosting?

Managed WordPress hosting, WordPress hosting and shared hosting are all different and very specific to the needs of the customer.  Shared hosting, the lowest level and most basic hosting is setup so there are many accounts on a single server.  These shared servers will be serving many different websites, this makes it hard to optimize for a single application.  WordPress shared hosting, or WordPress Hosting, is a shared server optimized specifically for WordPress web sites.  Managed WordPress is all the benefits of a optimized server experience without having to also worry about updates, security, speed and support.  These are handled for you as part of the hosting package.

How is this relevant?

Do it yourself managed programs you can use on your WordPress site.

All 3 add a plugin for remote management of

  • core updates
  • plugin updates
  • theme updates
  • And more features below.

 

Infinite WP

Infinite WP (IWP) is a self hosted free or paid product, although version 3 is suppose to provide for a managed install version (SAAS). The free version installs as a plugin that then installs a command interface where you can add your site to be managed, as well as others. It provides a simple backup and updater. The paid version includes a reported $2888 worth of add ons. This is all self hosted and you are responsible for updating and securing your install of infinite WP. The biggest drawback to Infinite WP is the support. For the free version, good luck getting any response. Even their website lists 96 hours for a response for free tier, and for the enterprise tier it can be 12 hours. This is just not acceptable if you are paying for this product.

Ease of Use rating from beginner to advanced? 

This is more advanced than I would like.  You have to not only manage your WordPress install, which is fine, but you also have to manage the install of Infinite WP.  Installing the command interface could be problematic and if you have problems, good luck getting a reply back from support.

WP Remote

WP Remote is operated as part of maek.it, which is a full service client management portal.  This is ideal for designers/developers or agencies that want one place to go for everything from invoicing to hosting.  Features of WP Remote include.

  • One click deploy.
  • Simple Hosting (not sure what they mean by “simple”, they also advertise FTP but no SFTP or FTPS 🙁 ).
  • Unlimited WordPress management.
  • Invoices.
  • CRM.
  • Domain Management.
  • Track sales & leads.

Ease of Use rating from beginner to advanced?

This is more simple than Infinite WP, but the interface may be quite confusing.  Only thing to install is the control plugin which is quite simple to do.  More options than a simple WordPress management interface.  If you want to generate invoices, track sales leads and let Maek.it handle your hosting then this might be for you.

Manage WP

Mange WP is owned by GoDaddy which also owns Sucuri .
This is a cloud based software as a service application and Manage WP handles updates and security for the product. There is nothing the end user needs to install or manage except the control plugin. This is installed into your WordPress website. Manage WP is free for unlimited sites and certain addons are free. Premium addons are very reasonable at $1-$2 /mo. each, and you can purchase group bundles for multiple site activations. This means you can spend as little or as much as you need. I prefer this to having to pay $35/mo. for all of it. By only charging me for what I want/need it becomes very easy to turn on a few things that interest me or my customers.

Ease of Use rating from beginner to advanced?

This is super simple to install.  The only thing to install is the control plugin which is quite simple to do and I think anyone can/could do it.  The interface is very user friendly and easy to understand.  The notices, billing, and alerts are very clear to see and understand.  The only downside to Manage WP is that the basic backups do not allow you to download them or push them to another location.  They maintain the backups for you on their S3 drive.  Paying $2/mo. is the only way to get your backups sent to another location or be able to download them.  Other than that, there are many wonderful and free features that I use everyday.

Free with Manage WP:

  • Backup
  • Sucuri security checks
  • Performance check
  • Client reports
  • Google Analytics
  • Maintenance mode
  • Code snippets
  • 2-factor authentication
  • 1-click login
  • Manage comments
  • Manage plugins and themes
  • Vulnerability updates
  • Collaborate

Many paid options increase the functionality of the free options. For example, $2/mo extra will give you cloud backup destinations with scheduling, or you can use the free basic backup. Or for $1/mo. enable the SEO monitor feature to track the SEO of your site.

Listeners of the Web Hosting Podcast have been given a wonderful bonus, if you want to try Manage WP. You can use the code WHPOD and you will get $10 added to your account to try any of the paid features. This means you can get SEO monitoring for 10 months.