Tag: web host

WordPress 5 release date, Social Media experiment and CloudFlare turns 8.

WordPress 5 release date, Social Media experiment and CloudFlare turns 8.

Today on episode 26, Web Hosting Podcast. WordPress 5 gets a tentative release date. I discuss a social media experiment I tried. And cloudflare celebrated its 8th birthday in style by releasing some great new features and services.

 

WordPress 5 has a tentative release date of November 19th, 2018 Release Notes
This date could be pushed back as needed and even moved to 2019. It appears that this may coincide with the coming release of PHP 7.3, which is due December 13th, 2018. If you are currently using the Gutenberg editor plugin in your current version of WordPress, then version WordPress 5 will be familiar to you. You will still have the ability to go back to the classic editor, the one currently in use, by installing a plugin. However, there are likely big code changes that are still going to break a lot of plugins and themes when WordPress 5 comes out. Here are some things you must know before the big WordPress 5 release comes out.

1. Test your plugins and themes as well as any custom code you may be using on your site.

Option 1, for a while, there was a Gutenberg database of listed plugins that you could use to validate your install. This project has since been abandoned and is no longer maintained. The CSV file is still available to download, but it is likely very outdated. Use with caution as it might not be complete or current. Download CSV here.

Option 2, copy your current website to a staging url. Something like test.yoursite.com or dev.yoursite.com. Then activate the Gutenberg plugin. You will then need to manually test every plugin and theme you use. This is a very tedious task and is fraught with perils. You really are going to need to know what you are doing. I would recommend, if you plan to try this, to disable all plugins and set the theme to a default theme after you copy/clone your site to the staging environment. Then one by one, make sure your plugins are updated and then activate them and test. If you find a plugin that does not work, then you may have to start over unless you know how to debug plugins or deactivate plugins using ftp/sftp methods. Once you are completed with the plugins testing, then I would update and activate your theme. You will have to test again and again after each and every change. This sounds like a monumental task, and lets be honest it is, but it is something either you or your developer really needs to do. The last thing you want happen is for your site to be updated and then break.

2. Make sure you have a full and complete backup of your WordPress install and you know how to restore from it. I can’t stress this enough at this point. If you do NOT know how to make a backup or do a restore using the backup, then you or your developer need to get on this. I mention backups in almost every episode and it is very very important that you take this step seriously. If your site automatically updates and things break, there is likely no way to go back to a previous version even if you try the classic editor plugin, your site may still not function as expected or just not render at all. There are dramatic code changes in a major release that my just not work, even in classic mode.

Before hitting that update button on WordPress 5, make sure you have all your options thought out. Backups, any testing needed, a good developer on standby and a restore plan. It is very likely that a large number of installs will break and your web host of choice will very likely have their hands full. They may not even help you at all without charging for it. So be prepared for the worst and work backwards from there.

Social media

Top social media platforms in the U.S.
Facebook – 2 billion active monthly users
YouTube – 1.9 billion active monthly users
Instagram – 1 billion active monthly users

Last month, I did something as a test for myself. I used social media heavily and I mean really heavily. I challenged myself to post regularly on twitter and instagram, preferring to use instagram as my platform of choice for video. My personal challenge was to promote the podcast, but to also have fun and be myself. I posted random cloud photos, pictures of my dog, and information about my podcast. The task was to see if doing this would have any impact on my podcast downloads and website hits. I posted at least once a day, but more as needed or when the desire struck. I primarily used instagram, but by doing this I also allowed instagram to post to facebook and twitter. My primary use for twitter is to post news articles that I find relating to hosting or security. My results shocked me, in the 3 weeks that I tried this I gained almost 600 new podcast downloads and it is still climbing. I went from having 1 or 2 downloads a day to having 20 or 30 a day.

Think about that, in the case of a podcast they are listeners, but in a business that could be customers and potentially big sales opportunities. Now, it should be noted that I am not a social media master or anything like that. I just do what most others do, post, and I use what I have access to. Meaning, posting pictures of clouds or my dog, is my staple and easy for me to do. I don’t post pictures of my family, other than the dog, online unless I have some form of control of the content. So I am left with what I have access too. I also have some skills in video, so making a short video on the do’s and don’ts of hosting was easy for me to do. Those types of videos I posted on instagram as posts, not stories, so everyone could see them. I did not always promote my brand, or podcast. Again, I had fun with it and let people see my human side, not just the business side.

I think what I learned is that anyone can do this type of thing but the biggest thing is to have fun. I don’t worry about the number of followers, and actually I don’t watch my podcast download count either. Neither of those really mean anything to me. What I do keep an eye on is the interactions. If someone comments on a post, I thank them or answer their question. If someone retweets a tweet, then I might follow them. Things that can generate a conversation or communication of some sort is what I go for. That would be my first piece of advice. Don’t fret over numbers, if someone does not hit the “heart” button don’t assume it was not seen. Don’t worry about the total number of followers and likes you get. If you do that, then you are likely going to add stress and not have fun. That would be my second piece of advice, have fun. Social media is social, it is a chance to let your guard down a bit and let people into your life, have fun with it. I would rather see photos/videos of someones dog chasing its tail then another almost informative ad on a product. I am sure most other people would too, but if you post product info every third post, that might work.

Anyone that is listening to this, I challenge you to promote on social media. Get creative with it and have fun. The results you see might surprise you as it did me.

CloudFlare

CloudFlare recently had its 8th birthday and did so with a bang.
If you have not heard of or use CloudFlare, I invite you to listen to Episode 2 here
For the most part, CloudFlare is a software as a service cache that does a whole lot more. Now celebrating their 8th birthday, congratulations by the way, CloudFlare does even more. In addition to adding caching features to your site and helping to keep it secure, CloudFlare offers domain registrations at wholesale prices and adds domain privacy for free. This service is currently in early access and I invite you to head over to their site to check out all of their service offerings, most of which are free. I use CloudFlare on all of my sites and love it, I can’t wait to be able to also register domains through them.

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.

Google pagespeed insights headache.

Google pagespeed insights headache.

Today on Episode 24, Web Hosting Podcast. Are you obsessed with page speed ranking? Speed is always a great thing to have but the realization is, getting that perfect score is almost impossible with a website. Megan joins me to discuss some things that may cause your site to be slow. We also dive into pagespeed insights and discuss some surprising and shocking results we got.

 

What can make your website slow?

  • Slow hosting environment
  • Images too large
  • No caching setup on website, expires
  • long database queries
  • Running old versions of software, PHP, Apache, CMS software (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc..)

If you use google pagespeed insights or pingdom website speed test, you may have got a low score for your website. A low score would be something in the 60-70 range. Anything above a 80 would be considered a pretty good score. I just want to point out that you should not obsess about getting a perfect score.

google pagespeed insights

Pingdom website speed test

Both of the pagespeed tests use a score from A (great) to F (fail). Of course you want to try and get all A in your grade score. But sometimes it is just not possible.

For a base line, I installed a default version of wordpress (4.9.8) on a domain I own. Right after installing, I ran both google pagespeed and pingdom website speed tests. The site is being served over SSL using the default free cPanel SSL certificate.

Google – Mobile = 70
Google – Desktop = 92

Pingdom = Overall 88 (B)

When you first run the test, you will get a list of currently applied optimizations as well as improvement recommendations.
My list of currently applied optimizations on a default install are as follows. NOTE: these may be different depending on your hosting providers setup and environment.

Avoid landing page redirects
Enable compression
Minify HTML
Optimize images
Prioritize visible content

From the list, you can see that I do not have redirects for the landing page, I have gzip compression enabled, my html is minified, my images are optimized, and I have content that is visible that is prioritized. But what does this all mean?

Landing Page Redirects :
This occurs when you redirect the main site the user is going to, to another page. Google provides some great examples.
Here are some examples of redirect patterns:
example.com uses responsive web design, no redirects are needed – fast and optimal!
example.com → m.example.com/home – multi-roundtrip penalty for mobile users.
example.com → www.example.com → m.example.com – very slow mobile experience.

Enable Compression :
We actually discussed this in the very first episode and it is worth noting again. Compression will shrink down elements before sending them to the browser. This saves bandwidth and can improve site speed by sending smaller elements through the internet. You can enable gzip compression in cPanel by going to “optimize website” and click on compress all content.

Minify HTML :
According to google here is what they mean by Minify HTML:
Minification refers to the process of removing unnecessary or redundant data without affecting how the resource is processed by the browser – e.g. code comments and formatting, removing unused code, using shorter variable and function names, and so on.
You should minify your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript resources:
To minify HTML, try HTMLMinifier
To minify CSS, try CSSNano and csso.
To minify JavaScript, try UglifyJS. The Closure Compiler is also very effective. You can create a build process that uses these tools to minify and rename the development files and save them to a production directory.

Optimize Images :
This rule triggers when PageSpeed Insights detects that the images on the page can be optimized to reduce their filesize without significantly impacting their visual quality.
This means that I do not have a image that is to large and scaled to fit the area. Do not scale images in your web framework. Always scale the image before uploading.

My initial run of items that needed improvement.

Reduce server response time
In our test, your server responded in 0.64 seconds.
There is not much to be done here. That is almost 1/2 a second for a response time. It could certainly be better, but this value will shift up and down depending on a lot of factors. If this value is higher than 1 second, then you may have a overloaded server.

Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content
Your page has 1 blocking CSS resources. This causes a delay in rendering your page.
None of the above-the-fold content on your page could be rendered without waiting for the following resources to load. Try to defer or asynchronously load blocking resources, or inline the critical portions of those resources directly in the HTML.

Leverage browser caching
Setting an expiry date or a maximum age in the HTTP headers for static resources instructs the browser to load previously downloaded resources from local disk rather than over the network.
This is simply setting a cache header or expires header. We covered this in Episode 1.

Minify CSS
Compacting CSS code can save many bytes of data and speed up download and parse times.
Like the Minify of HTML above, this is the same only for CSS. Removing objects and comments that are not needed will shrink the file size and allow the file to be served faster.

Minify JavaScript
Compacting JavaScript code can save many bytes of data and speed up downloading, parsing, and execution time.
Like the Minify of HTML above, this is the same only for JavaScript. Removing objects and comments that are not needed will shrink the file size and allow the file to be served faster.

Now here is where things get sketchy with these reports. Remember, my initial scan was Desktop 92, Mobile 70. On my next run, the test was worse and the only thing I changed was the .htaccess to allow for caching (See below). Now with this single change in place, my score is Desktop 90, Mobile 57. What gives here? Dropping 2 points on desktop after applying a fix makes no sense, and even worse is mobile dropping 13 points. To make matters worse, running the test a 3rd time with no changes except caching results in even lower numbers. Desktop 89, and Mobile is back up to 64. So lets make some more changes and see what happens.

Browser caching in .htaccess file
# 3 Months
<FilesMatch “\.(flv|gif|jpg|jpeg|png|ico|swf)$”>
Header set Cache-Control “max-age=7257600”

# 1 Week
<FilesMatch “\.(js|css|pdf|txt)$”>
Header set Cache-Control “max-age=604800”

Deleted two plugins
Hello Dolly and Akismet

Added
w3 total cache.
For this plugin, I enabled and then set the following options to turn them on. The first time I enabled this plugin, I got a 500 error. I had to remove the browser cache line from above, then the site rendered and I was able to adjust the settings for w3 total cache. Once the settings were saved, I was able to add the browser cache from above and things worked fine.

Page Cache enabled and using Disk : Enhanced
Minify enabled and using Disk : Enhanced
Database Cache enabled and using Disk
Object Cache enabled and using Disk
Browser Cache enabled
Fragment Cache set to disk

Click on Save All Settings and purge any cache by going to Performance in the top menu and Purge all caches.

After removing those two plugins, and adding w3 total cache my scores are as follows on the first run.
Desktop 97
Mobile 93
These numbers held after repeated attempts over several hours. It is still a mystery as to why the numbers dipped so bad after just adding caching, which should have helped the numbers not hurt them.

The changes above resulted in only needing two fixes, according to google.
Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content
Leverage browser caching

I am not going to worry about the first one, Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS. But what gives with the second one, I thought we added browser caching already. Well, we did, but there are some things you may not want to cache, or in this case W3 total cache does not want cached. The file in question is a minified JavaScript file, and it is likely that this file will change over time as you build your website and add plugins. If you cache a file that is known to change, then your users may not get the new file until the cache expires. So be aware when you want to cache files, make a note on which ones might change regularly.

With these settings my pingdom website speed score went from 88 (B), to 96 (A).

As you can see it is pretty simple to get some good scores, if you are worried about that. And you should be worried about some of them. Browser caching, minify files, everything helps improve the user experience. But focusing on getting that 100 is a lofty goal and not practical for a website that has valuable content. Try and keep it real by getting in the 90+ range and resolve the issues you can fix. W3 Total Cache is one of the easiest plugins to setup and use just to get these speed benefits and get your score up. There is no coding it is all done for you.

IDNS deceptive practices, IGTV is now live, cPanel now supports git.

IDNS deceptive practices, IGTV is now live, cPanel now supports git.

Today on episode 22 of Web Hosting Podcast. iDNS misdirection, this is a public service announcement for the alleged service provided by iDNS. This company may send out actual mail to you in an attempt to trick you into renewing your domain name with them. IGTV (Instagram TV) is now live, did you even notice? cPanel now supports git.

IDNS

IDNS is a company that sends out actual mail when your domain is close to renewal. IDNS, or Internet Domain Name Service, sounds pretty official and the letter looks even more official. However this is not a bill and is an attempt to trick you into moving your domain to their registry. This letter looks so official that it has tricked many people into sending them money. IDNS, sends out these letters in an attempt to trick you into paying their exorbitant fees for domain renewals. A standard domain renewal from a legitimate company is averaging $10 for a .com, however IDNS tries to get you to pay $45 for each domain. This is then compounded by a fee if you want to move away from IDNS. I think we will start to see fewer of these letters since the GDPR is in place and effectively hides some of the required information IDNS needs for these mailings. If you get one of these letters be sure to send it to the shredder.  Here is what these letters look like.

IDNS-Deception
IDNS-Deception

Git on cPanel

cPanel 72 now allows you to host git repositories as part of your cPanel account. This is great news for those of us that need to use git to share and track files.
From cPanels documentation page.
The Git™ Version Control feature allows you to easily host Git repositories on your cPanel account. You can use Git to maintain any set of files (for example, a website’s files and assets, a software development project, or simple text files). Here is a link to cPanel documentation.  We will likely discuss Git in a future podcast episode in more detail.

IGTV

IGTV is part of Instagram or Facebooks attempt to bring video to the social media giants platforms. This is very different than the current use of Instagram stories which are only limited to 15 seconds and expires after 24 hours. IGTV allows users to upload videos up to 10 minutes or 1 hour for verified users and these do not expire after 24 hours. This medium, in my opinion, is very different than having a youtube channel. IGTV is really trying to go after the “In Real Life (IRL)” moments, where youtube is more of a “produced” format. That is not to say you can’t do produced video on IGTV, it is just not as easy of a workflow. IGTV and Instagram in general is for a cell phone viewing audiences where the viewing device is vertical. Being mobile first is Instagrams strong suit. As it is mobile views account for over half of the current watched content online and is expected to grow to 78% by 2021.

Why is IGTV important for you or your business?

I was very doubtful about IGTV at first. I watched some videos from people I follow and watched some information on IGTV on youtube. It took me a while to see the potential and understand what all the excitement was for this platform. The vertical format is very hard for me to get use to, I do prefer the tabloid viewing option of youtube. However, putting all of the issues I have aside I think this is a great platform for businesses or personal. Almost everyone is going to have a cell phone and that is all you need to get started. This makes the starting cost nothing, granted you can do the same thing with youtube but I think most people expect a higher quality video on youtube. Starting up a IGTV channel is super simple. Just go to instagram.com, login and click on the IGTV button, then click on the “get started” button. From here you have to create and setup your channel. This is just like setting up a youtube channel. Once this is done you can start uploading your content. Make sure your video is in the vertical format. You can also make a custom thumbnail for your video, along with a title and description when you upload.

Currently Instagram has reached the 1 billion monthly active user total. That is billion with a b, per month. Put that in perspective. If you are able to reach 1% of 1% of those users, that is 100,000 new customers for your business. Since this platform is very new, you can get ahead of your competition by putting out great content. Here are some ideas you could try.

Video about you and your business. Make sure to include any social media links, website links, etc..
Micro vlog. Instagram is perfect for doing a small micro sized vlog series. You could show behind the scenes elements of your business.
Public Service announcements. These could be short snippets about product awareness or new items you are offering on your storefron.
Flash sales. Test your Instagram reach by having a flash sale only through Instagram.

These are just samples of ideas, but I think you get the idea. I am planning on using IGTV for podcast promotion and public service announcements for security and product updates. So follow me on Instagram so you can get notifications of new videos.

IGTV Specs and info:

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

Migrating your site to SSL : HTTPS with installatron. Useful website tools to use for your site.

Migrating your site to SSL : HTTPS with installatron. Useful website tools to use for your site.

Useful website tools to use for your website.

https://www.ssllabs.com/
This is a useful site to check your site for proper ssl settings. You will get a grade once the report is done. An “A” is the best, while a “B” would be acceptable, you should really try and get the “A” grade. I would also recommend when you do your test that you click on the check box that says “Do not show the results on the board”, unless you have a perfect score you want to show off.

https://haveibeenpwned.com/
This site is useful to check if the email you use for logins has been seen on hacked lists. It is also very useful to check the security of passwords you use for logins.

https://www.whatismyip.com/ – list your current IP address

http://www.whatsmyip.org/ – Not to be confused with the .com version of the site. Many useful tools from gzip testing, to password generation. Not as useful as it once was since it does not seem to handle https based websites. But the DNS tools and password generator is quite useful.

https://checkgzipcompression.com – another tool for checking to ensure your site is using gzip compression. This one works with https based sites.

Speed test – google and http://www.speedtest.net/

https://slack.com – Team focused chat with many useful options.

Moving a site to ssl with installatron one click installer. This assumes you are using cPanel with autossl enabled.

1. Test your site to ensure you have a ssl certificate installed. This can be done by going to https://yourdomain. If you your site loads with no errors you can proceed. Some common issues you may run into, site is not fully secure and ssl mismatch. You may need to resolve these errors before you proceed.

2. Inside of your cPanel account, create a new subdomain using the subdomain tool. You will need to wait for the server to generate and install the free SSL certificate for this subdomain. You can test this just like step 1 above.

3. From inside of installatron, clone the live site to the new subdomain, but make sure to select the https version of the subdomain. This should only take a few minutes depending on the site size. This will create a complete copy of your site and move it to the subdomain you created. You can now test the site and fix any issues you may have by going to the subdomain https site. For example, https://subdomain.yourdomain

4. Once things look good on the subdomain, you can go into installaron and clone the site back to the live site but use https version in the drop down.

5. Once the live site is cloned back to https, test again. Things should have been resolved when you used the subdomain, but there may be some lingering links or code that may need to be changed.

At this point your site should be using a valid SSL certificate. If you are uncomfortable doing these steps you may want to contact your developer or your hosting company to see if they can help you out. I would also recommend that you have a full backup of your site before proceeding with anything that is going to change your site. This would include installing plugins, updating core site files, etc… A backup is a simple way to ensure you have a way to get back to a known working state.

Please understand that you use these instructions at your own risk.  I do not acceptable responsibility for anything you do to your website.

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.
SEO Search Engine Optimization with Megan Ferrell

SEO Search Engine Optimization with Megan Ferrell

SEO, Search Engine Optimization

Listen as I get schooled by Megan Ferrell of websites503.com about SEO, Search Engine Optimization. Megan gives the listener some great tips and advice on how to improve your SEO ranking. Listeners of the podcast may remember Megan from episode 4 , where we discussed 10 website security tips.

Some of the questions and topics we cover on this episode are.

What is SEO?
Process to start doing SEO on your website?
Getting ranked by google and other search engines?
Some of the tools that are needed to achieve this?

  • google webmaster tools
  • google analytics
  • sitemap file
  • same tools for other search engines like Bing.

Are other search engines important? Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc..?
Is a social media presence important to SEO?
Does site speed play into SEO?
3 things that anyone could do right now to increase their SEO presence?

Some useful links.

Official Google webmasters blog
Google webmaster youtube
Google Analytics
Google Webmaster Search Console