Getting to Know the Next Big aaS – Container As a Service

If you’re a layperson like most and haven’t heard of Kubernetes, or container orchestration systems in the bigger picture of things, then your unawareness is excusable. If you’re a web developer and you haven’t heard of either, however, you almost certainly have been living under a rock as the expression goes. These days the digital world is doing everything on the grandest of scales, and with that size of operations comes the need to be able to consolidate and store data and everything else that makes that world tick as much as it needs to tick.

Now even most of the most ordinary of you will have heard of SaaS – Software as a service – and it’s likely a good many are even taking advantage of it at this very time. One of the most common instances is how, for example, you’re paying a monthly fee to enjoy the Microsoft Office suite on your desktop or notebook rather than having had to fork over big bucks all at once for a box containing a disk and a need for you to install the software. The SaaS train continues to pick up speed, and truth be told that’s a good thing – no one needs excess packaging OR having to spend time installing anything if there’s a legitimate alternative to it.

With SaaS, there is – and here at 4GoodHosting we’re not unlike any other good Canadian web hosting provider in that we ourselves are benefitting from all these ‘aaS’ developments too and it’s something we’re almost certainly just seeing the tip of the iceberg of when it comes to how much of what we previously ‘bought’ hard copies of is not available as a service provided through the web.

CaaS – containers as a services – is just the latest and shiniest offering in this regard. So what’s it all about, and how is it going to be relevant for who? Let’s get into that here today.

Brief Background

Global enterprises are more and more eager to make use of containers, with 65 percent of organizations stating they use Docker containers, and 58 percent using the Kubernetes orchestration system in some way or another according to a recent report.

However, as appealing and mega functional as they are, the primary challenges for new converts is with lack of resources and insufficient expertise with using containers to build and maintain applications. This is the primary reason why containers-as-a-service (CaaS) offerings are being very welcome conveniences as soon as they’re made available.

Containers-as-a-Service Defined

When cloud vendors provide a hosted container orchestration engine — typically based on the super-popular Kubernetes open source project, which originated at Google — the appeal of a CaaS option to go along with is in the ability to deploy and run containers, manage clusters, automate scaling and failure management, and allow easier maintenance of the common infrastructure layer. Governance and security is included in this.

The entirety of networking, load balancing, monitoring, logging, authentication, security, autoscaling, and all continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) functions are handled by the CaaS platform, making it an excellent task consolidator and handler.

CaaS allows individuals to take the benefits of their cloud infrastructure and best leverage them, while helping to avoid any vendor lock-in common with platform-as-a-service (PaaS) — that might come along with them. The containers are very portable across various environments, and this makes them even more versatile and multi functional.

For most it will be helpful to know the difference between a CaaS and running on classic infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). In large part it comes down to whether the organization has the resources and skills to implement and manage a specific container orchestration layer itself, or perhaps leaving that to a cloud provider would be a better choice. That will often depend on whether your container environment must span multiple clouds and/or on-prem environments. CaaS platforms that can be deployed either on-prem or in the cloud are offered by a number of vendors these days.

To summarize, the big benefit is in you either managing things at the infrastructure level and set up the orchestrator yourself, or using a container platform that handles the underlying infrastructure and puts in place a pre-installed orchestrator that is ready for you to deploy and scale your containers.

CaaS Benefits

Running containers on CaaS is very much like running your virtual machines on IaaS. Speed of deployment and ease of use are the primary benefits, along with the simplicity of the pay-as-you-go cloud model and the ability for vendor lock-in we mentioned previously.

Leaving your container infrastructure to a cloud vendor means you can get up and running without investing in your own hardware and no need to build or run your own container orchestration system(s). In addition, by containerizing applications you’re able to migrate applications into different environments or vendor ecosystems more easily, giving greater flexibility and scaleability options.

Cost efficiencies are definitely a part of the appeal too, as containers are better equipped to scale horizontally as demand dictates and make it so that organizations pay only for the cloud resources they use. Containers are also nowhere near as heavy as VMs, meaning they’re less resource intensive, which usually means better speeds and general operating costs reductions.

Another benefit comes with consistency of instrumentation and logging, as isolating individual services in containers can allow for more effective log aggregation and centralized monitoring through the popular sidecar deployment model.

After a long string of pluses, we do have to share one minus. Migrating traditional apps to containers is a hurdle for some who are interested in making the switch. It’s common to have to break down monolithic applications into microservices when migrating to containers, and for larger, older organizations that can sometimes be too drastic a change to be expected of them all at once.

Google’s Revamped Gmail Looking To Be More Competitive with Microsoft Teams

Real-time messaging, video chatting, and just-like-that file sharing have become everyday norms in the digital world now, and it’s hard to imagine that there’s anyone who doesn’t take advantage of what these technological advances have made available to use these days. Venturing into this space isn’t without risk of venture capitalists-slash-software developers these days, as Zoom’s recent fall from grace regarding the ‘zoom bombing’ incidents have made clear. The demand for these conveniences – especially in the workplace – mean that all the big players need to be onboard to at least some extent.

Now if there’s one thing we know about Google it’s that they’re not hesitant to throw their weight around and they’ll be onboard of anything to whichever extent they’re inclined. Which likely explains why they’re making strategic moves to counter their #1 rival at the top of the digital kingdom when it comes to these kinds of flash communication and sharing means. Microsoft’s Teams has made meteoric gains over the last little while (and in large part at the expense of Zoom if we’re to call it like it is), so it makes sense that Google is going to get their elbows up a bit.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we can relate to the growing ubiquitous nature of these apps and digital conveniences and like any other quality Canadian web hosting provider we’re the same types of enthusiasts for them that the rest of you all are. Time during the workday is an invaluable resource, and these ones make it so that many of us are working much more effectively and on-point with co-workers. Productivity is a great thing.

So let’s now get into what we’re talking about here today, how Gmail is being revamped to expand its already-significant sphere of influence over people in the world of digital communications.

Big Hub Getting Bigger

So here we are these past two weeks with Google having unveiled a revamped Gmail that will serve as an even bigger hub for collaboration and providing quick access to video, chat and shared files available directly from the email client. Not only is this being done in direct competition with Microsoft Teams but it is also being done to solidify its position against newcomers that might fancy a slice of the pie.

Google began by integrating its various G Suite apps with Gmail, and that involved the Meet video and Chat team messaging applications being slowly but deliberately integrated into the email client. Word in the industry is that Google has had this play in mind for a long time and sees Gmail as the most logical home base for this strategic collaboration.

A new Gmail app unveiled at the company’s Cloud Next event on Wednesday underscored Google’s intention to connect its various tools even more tightly.

The most noteworthy of what we can expect here is an updated mobile app with quick access to Mail, Chat, Rooms and Meet functionality via four buttons on the bottom menu bar. In these ‘rooms’ users will be able to jump straight into a group chat, for example.

Easier Leaps

Google is also aiming to make it much simpler to switch between apps in the browser-based version of Gmail, like jumping from a text chat to a video call or flipping a conversation from an email into a chat room without missing a beat. The belief is that the primary reason this will appeal to users is because it will reduce distractions. This then allows the participants to be having their conversations in the most appropriate channels more naturally, and that could be for real-time conversations, face-to-face video, or email for asynchronous messaging.

This is also being lauded as having the potential to boost productivity in a big way, and find us a department manager anywhere on earth who won’t really like the sound of that. This revamped Gmail and its functionalities will include ‘side-by-side’ document editing that lets team members work together on a document within Gmail.

You’ll also have access to Google Docs and Sheets from within a single app, and that functionality is probably fairly intentional with the way it mirrors Microsoft’s focus with Teams and having it act as a portal to its Office apps.

On the Menu

Here’s what else is going to be unveiled with the new Gmail:

  • Expanded Gmail search that can oversee Chat conversations quickly and effectively, with the idea of making it easier to locate information on a specific project, regardless of where that information is located or where the discussion of it got its start.
  • Do not disturb and out-of-office warnings able to be set up across the various apps, along with suggestions and nudges that can aid with prioritizing information.
  • New features like the freedom to jump into a video meeting from a shared document with picture-in-picture video that lets you still reference the document directly while you’re meeting to discuss it

If you’d like some visuals to go along with your enticement package, the new Gmail is currently available as a preview, and the word on the street is that Google will be expanding access to G Suite customers nearly imminently here.

Search on Steroids

Most people can relate to having the search function in their email client coming up really short, especially after manually digging over however long a period of time reveals the email / information you were looking for all along. So the good news here is that this revamping is also going to include an expanded Gmail search will cover Chat conversations, making it easier to locate information on any specific project and get right down to utilizing it without delay.

By fixing Gmail as the focal point of its collaboration strategy, Google is definitely playing to its existing strengths. Especially as it is competing with other collaboration vendors offering a suite of apps, and many of them have already made their initial inroads in this regard.

What Google has going for it that counters any such leads is the fact they are the de-facto number one Internet giant, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be the preferred central hub for productivity within G Suite in very short order once G suite apps are strengthened in as far as their ability to work together with massively increased functionality.

No need to necessarily be watching for this, as it’s likely going to be impossible to miss even if you’re not paying even an ounce of attention but you spend any portion of your workday on a computer or mobile device. As the expression goes, ‘you can’t stop progress.’

3 Tips for Applying Agile to Data Science and Data Ops

It’s plain for all to see that nearly everything is becoming increasingly data driven these days, and the explosive emergence of the IoT has fuelled a lot of that. Every effort made to harness data and either implement it or make decisions based on it is in the interests of competitive advantages, and for as long as we live in a capitalist society where only certain birds get worms that’s going to be the driving force behind much of what goes on in the digital world.

Visualizations, analytics, and the ‘biggie’ – machine learning – are among other aspects of big data that are demanding more attention and more budgetary investment allowances that ever before. Machine learning in particular is kind of like an unexplored continent and it 1620 rather than 2020. Most of you who’ll be reading this blog won’t need us to go into the how’s and why’s of that, so we’ll just continue with where we’re going with all of this in today’s blog.

Here at 4GoodHosting, it probably goes without saying that we’re very front and center in as far as the audience for all these developments are concerned. While anything regarding big data isn’t immediately relevant for us, it certainly is in a roundabout way and that’s very likely true for any good Canadian web hosting provider in Canada. The changes has been revolutionary and continue to be so, and so let’s get to today’s topic.

While we are not shot callers or developers, we know that some of you are and as such here are 3 solid tips for applying agile to data science and data ops.

All About Agile Methodologies

Nowadays you’ll be hard pressed to find even one organization that isn’t trying to become more data-driven. The aim of course is to leverage data visualizations, analytics, and machine learning for advantages over competitors. Strong data ops programs are essential for providing actionable insights through analytics requires and the same goes for a proactive data governance program to address data quality, privacy, policies, and security.

The 3 components and their realities that should be shaping aligned stakeholder priorities are delivery of data ops, analytics, and governance. Being able to implement multiple technologies and amass the right people with the right skills at the right time are going to become as-expected aspects of any interest group that’s working towards this.

Further, agile methodologies can form the working process to help multidisciplinary teams prioritize, plan, and successfully deliver incremental business value. The benefits of having these methodologies in place can also extend to capturing and processing feedback from customers, stakeholders, and end-users. This volunteered data usually has great value for promoting data visualization improvements, machine learning model recalibrations, data quality increases, and data governance compliance.

We’ll conclude this preface to the 3 tips by saying agile data science teams should be multidisciplinary, meaning a collection of e data ops engineers, data modelers, database developers, data governance specialists, data scientists, citizen data scientists, data stewards, statisticians, and machine learning experts should be the norm – whatever that takes on your end . Of course you’ll be determining that actual makeup on the scope of work and the complexity of data and analytics required.

Right then, on to our 3 for applying agile to data science and data ops:

  1. Developing and Upgrading Analytics, Dashboards, and Data Visualizations

Data science teams are nowadays best utilized when they’re conceiving dashboards to help end-users answer questions.

But the key here is in taking a very deep and equivocal look at agile user stories, and each should be looked at through 3 different lenses:

  • Who are the end-users?
  • What problem do they want addressed?
  • What makes the problem important?

Answers to these questions can then be the basis for writing agile user stories that deliver analytics, dashboards, or data visualizations. You may also want to make efforts to determine who intends to be using the dashboard and what answers they will be looking for. This process is made easier when stakeholders and end-users provide hypotheses indicating how they intend to take results and make them actionable.

  1. Develop / Upgrade Machine Learning Models

Segmenting and tagging data, feature extraction and making sure data sets are run through selectively and strategically chosen algorithms and configurations needs to be an integral part of the process of developing analytical and machine learning models. Also increasingly common is having agile data science teams taking records of agile user stories for prepping data for use in model development.

From there, separate stories for each experiment are logged and then cross-referenced for patterns across them or additional insights determined from seeing them side by side.

The transparency helps teams review the results from experiments, decide on successive priorities, and discuss whether current approaches are still to be seen as conducive to beneficial results. You need to take a very hard look in regard to the last part of that, and be willing to move in entirely different directions if need be. Being fixed in your ways here or partial to any approach has the ability to sabotage your interests in a big way.

  1. Discovering, Integrating, and Cleansing Data Sources

Ideally geared agile data science teams will be seeking out new data sources to integrate and enrich their strategic data warehouses and data expanses. Let’s consider data siloed in SaaS tools used by marketing departments for reaching prospects or communicating with customers as an excellent example. Other data sources might provide additional perspectives around supply chains, customer demographics, or environmental contexts that impact purchasing decisions.

Other smart choices are agile backlogs with story cards to research new data sources, validating sample data sets, and integrating prioritized ones into primary data repositories. Further considerations may be automating the data integration, implementing data validation and quality rules, and linking data with master data sources.

Lastly, data science teams should also capture and prioritize data debt. To date many data entry forms and tools did not have sufficient data validation, and integrated data sources did not have cleansing rules or exception handling. Refer to this as keeping a clean house if you will, but it is something that’s a good idea even if it’s not something that’s ever going to take priority.

Between all of this you should be able to improve data quality and deliver tools for leveraging analytics in decision making, products, and services.

A Reminder on Webhosting and Its Relation to SEO

We realize it’s not the first time we’ve decided to go over the subject, but it has been a while since we took the opportunity to point how much of a factor your web hosting will have for your website’s search engine rankings. While it’s true that there are a good many other factors that are more relevant in that equation, anyone who’s new to the digital world with their website should be aware that going with the most inexpensive option for web hosting may negatively affect the visibility of your new found site.

Now we will add quickly before going on further here that we are not the only good Canadian web hosting provider, and there are a number of others who can offer you equally reliable and competitively priced web hosting. That said, there are a number of advantages we do provide for our customers that should give us something of an edge but we’ll leave that for another discussion. What we’re going to share with you here today regarding the relationship between web hosting and SEO is going to apply no matter which Canadian web hosting provider you choose.

The Very Real Connection

SEO involves a lot more than just keyword optimization and link building. There’s a long list of things webmasters can do to promote major jumps with where the site ranks in SERPS (search engine result pages). In this regard what you may be getting as a package and at the same price points from one web hosting provider may well not have the same benefits in this regard.

So what do you do? Well, you start by being in the know about how all this stuff, so let’s get to it. The first thing you do is by establishing your objectives – namely, what you’re hoping to gain from all the efforts you’ve put into taking yourself online.

Defining Objectives First

For most people, the reason they’ve built a website and taken it online is to either increase online sales, increase customer interaction with the business (online or otherwise), or to simply increase traffic to the site itself. No matter what your main priority is, one of the primary understandings anyone will have is the page-load speeds play a big part in how your website is evaluated by search engines like Google and the like.

Now if you’re thinking it’s a simple as faster is better, you’re at least partially correct.Bottom of Form While it’s absolutely true that your website should load quickly, page load speed is only one small part of the equation. There’s going to be any number of providers who can promise you quality page speeds and especially when you’re purchasing a more expensive web hosting package. And quite often those promises are legit.

Make sure they are, because quite often your experience with page load speeds on say, your desktop, may be very different than what another person visiting on a mobile device might experience. Try it and see, and have your friends or family do the same and report. Do they see what they wanted? Did the right stuff load quickly? Your website’s visitors should see your site’s core content quickly. Some of the ancillary content can take longer to load, and if so that’s okay.

Indicator Number One

What this is referred to is First Meaningful Paint, and it’s a measurement (albeit a subjective one) of how your site keeps visitors happy and retains them. What this means is that while your actual page-load process may be three seconds long, visitors may see all of your meaningful content in just a little more than a second.

It’s nearly always true that some elements that take longer to load are not essential to the immediate visitor experience. Facebook pixel loads are a really good example.

Where all of this goes next is in preventing those visitors from becoming part of your bounce-rate stats. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your site who leave within a certain (short) period of time after entering it. And yes, page load speeds are far and away the primary cause of that.

Should Google see that users are making their way into a page and then coming back out within a certain amount of time, that becomes a signal that the website didn’t deliver in the way the visitor was expecting it would. Having a slow website or irrelevant content is going to be problematic, and while web hosting may have nothing to do with the second part of that it definitely can have much to do with the first part of it.

Uptime – Related to the Right Host

Another majorly important aspect of providing a premium user experience is uptime. Any time Google or a user requests access to your site but has it constantly timing out or the server’s unable to return a result for it then your SEO is going to be taking a hit. Ensuring 100 percent uptime – or as close to it as is possible – is integrally important for providing a user experience for an average visitor that they’ll deem to be acceptable.

There are also a pair of load-time factors that Google uses to measure your site. Not surprisingly, both of them can be affected by your web host. The first of these is DNS lookup. When it takes longer for your host to complete DNS lookup, it takes a correspondingly longer time for your host to begin loading your page.

Long look up times aren’t conducive to high SERP rankings, and neither is the same for number 2 – delayed page load times. Find yourself with a host that uses a slow server and you’ll be ideally situated for a SERP ranking slide. The general guideline here is anything longer than 100 milliseconds to load the first bite is the beginning of unacceptable territory.

The time it takes the server to answer a browser’s request should ideally be no more than 50 milliseconds, and most hosts with quality servers will be answering even more speedily than that.

Solid SEO Strategy Choices

Here’s four approaches you can use to improve your site’s SEO

  1. Have Clean Code

Even the most solid of web hosts won’t be able to remedy the damage done by a website that has poorly written code slowing down load times and making the user experience unsatisfactory. Code be kept light and clean, and if you don’t know what that means then you’re clearly not the one writing it. Extra CSS, JavaScript, and files that aren’t necessary for site loading purposes don’t belong in your code. Another good idea is to make sure your code is W3C compliant by using a markup validation service.

  1. Keep Your Site Secure.

Site hacking is more of a problem these days than it has ever been before, and having hackers maliciously adding links to a site without permission or anyone even being aware of them is a real potential problem now. If Google sees a website with these irrelevant links they’ll proceed to penalize the site and decrease the page’s rankings for it. You’ll have to work to proactively keep these bad links away or choose a hosting provider that can help you keep them at bay.

  1. Measure Site Load times and Time to First Byte

There are a few free tool like Tools.pingdom.com, among others, where you can determine how long your site really takes to load and communicate with browsers. Even testing from different regions is possible. GTMetrix and Yslow may be better choices if you’re using Google Chrome. Do some digging on this, there’s plenty of good information to be found with a simple search.

  1. Take a Look at Managed Hosting

One the biggest overall benefits that comes with managed hosting is making the user’s site experience that much easier. It addresses a lot of the issues website owners commonly have, and managed hosting makes it so that you are paying someone else to worry about the SEO-critical aspects of your site so you can focus on other things – and ideally creating great content.

This can also mean you’re more ready for anything unforeseen, like traffic spikes or hacker-related activities. Managed web hosting can be worth the increase in price, and especially given how important website performance is in relation to SEO.

Take Advantage of Available SEO Tools

We’re among the many reputable web host providers in Canada that also offer tools that can fast-track SEO optimization of your website. They’ll start by scanning the content on your website and then comparing the information gathered against the SEO influencing aspects of your website before giving it a score. You’ll then have strategies suggested to help you increase your ranking on the popular search engines.

Some of the better and further reaching ones will also analyze the structure of your website and whether or not it’s presented in a form that can be understood by the popular search engines. You might also have tools that’ll check whether important characteristics of your post such as titles and meta description can be read clearly by search engines.

3 Cloud Realizations Coming Out of COVID-19

We’re coming up on 4 months into this current topsy-turvy world of ours that is the global COVID pandemic. While absolutely no one is pleased that this has transpired the way that it has, there’s going to be more than a few who’ll say it’s best to just roll with the punches and do what’s needed to get through it. Any time you have a chance to have the mettle of something tested in the climate of challenges and adversity there is the possibility for learning, and when that’s about learning about the application of what you ‘have’ there’s value in that.

We imagine we are much the same as any other good Canadian web hosting provider here at 4GoodHosting in that we can’t help but take an interest in every single turn in the world of digital connectivity and the realm of e-commerce. Not so much because we work in it of sorts, but really more because the nature of what we do gives us a front row to seat to all of this. Both in what has the potential to do or become for the people who make up our clientele, and also with how it has the potential to affect the directions we’ll be taking in the future.

The meteoric rise to precedence taken by cloud computing has been one such topic. One of the things that people like us and industry experts have taken notice of is how the new and challenging realities of COVID have made us all come to new understandings about our utilization of the Cloud. 3 of them in particular are ‘hard lessons’ worthy of some discussion, so that’s what we’re going to do here today.

Cloudops – More Important Than First Realized

For most enterprises, cloud operations have continued to be by and large an afterthought and that’s been especially true after the deployment of them. While IT organizations have given it some attention, the reality is the constraint of cloudops best practices and the use of the technology is most attributable to limited budgets and a general lack of understanding. With this pandemic those shortcomings have had a spotlight shone on them in a big way.

Much of this is attributable to the increased use of public cloud providers and cloud systems being accessed by an increasingly numerous and industry-crossing remote workforce. This has put increasing focus on the need for operational tools and talent. Cloudops were in place, but it seems their self-correcting capacities aren’t up to scratch for dealing with scaling on such an instantly-bigger level.

We’re continuing to see so many enterprises lacking the tools to automate self-correcting processes, and then there’s the often concurrent issue of a lack of available talent to set up the systems properly. Whether that shortage is temporary or not remains to be seen once all of this is over, because it’s quite likely that the expansion of cloud utilization is outstripping the supply of individuals qualified to be setting up the different platforms properly.

Urgent Need for Solid Enterprise API Strategies

The way data integration has gone from a nice-to-have to have to a necessity in record time is something that’s one of them more front and centre aspects of the Cloud shift. Then there’s the similar need for enterprises to be sharing services that bind behaviour to data. Leveraging well-secured and governed APIs is the solution to both those challenges, but that still remains a challenge and it’s one of those areas where more thought would have gone into it if the need had not been so pressing with the Cloud.

While it’s true that some systems have APIs (ones provided by SaaS vendors in particular), the majority of cloud-based custom enterprise applications have little to nothing in the way of APIs providing access to system data and services. It’s for this reason that integrations need to occur using one-off processes that won’t scale as the business needs to change because of the problems created by this current global pandemic.

Remote Workers & Cloud Security Not An Easy Pairing

Even before all of this befell the world cloud security teams were already working with remote employees, and enterprises became quickly aware that an employee’s home network is not the company’s network.

Look no further than VPNs, virtual private clouds, encryption, and legal compliances for vulnerabilities around cloud security, and much of that as a result of a completely remote workforce. Security teams working with cloud infrastructure were overwhelmed with the speed with which all this was required, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise then that in many cases what was built in response to the demand didn’t cut the mustard.

It’s been reported that the risk of a breach increased from .0001 percent for most enterprises to .2 percent in a few weeks following the new digital and working world realities that came with the pandemic, and that has to be a red flag for cloud computing security experts moving forward with all of this.

New Safari Browser with iOS 14 Introducing Biometric Authentication for Logins

The expression ‘the future is now’ has been bandied around for decades now with regards to new innovations, and perhaps so much so that it really doesn’t have the same weight of meaning anymore. But every once in a while we do see genuine examples of futuristic technology being realized and becoming available to everyday people. Being able to gain access to resources online through you face or fingertips definitely meets the criteria for being one of them.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re just the same as any other reliable Canadian web hosting provider in that we fill only the basic of roles in the big picture of what the ever-expanding digital world is. But what it does provide for us is an even more engaging view of all of these advances and something of a platform to share the futuristic news with the likes of you all.

So here it is – with Safari on iOS 14, MacOS Big Sur and iPadOS 14, you’ll now have the abilit to login to websites using Apple’s Face ID and Touch ID biometric authentication. All of this is being made possible with a technology called FIDO (fast Identity online) that’s speeding our way to a future where typing in a password is by and large an obsolete approach.

The term that’s being used for this is ‘biometric authentication’, and Apple made the announcement of this on Wednesday of last week at an annual developers conference. While biometric scan access means aren’t entirely new, they are stating that the appeal of this new wrinkle is that it’s faster and offers more solid security.

Big Leap for Web Authentication

All of this is a major boost for Web Authentication browser technology (often shortened to be WebAuthn) as it’s been constructed by FIDO consortium allies. Apple joins Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge among other allies here, and this is the same engine that’s been behind Windows Hello facial recognition and Android fingerprint authentication.

Now of course Apple’s clout in the smartphone market makes it so that any such development on their side of the fence creates a much bigger splash in the pool.

And that splash just may be what’s needed to push the entire online security sphere onto its side, and that’s going to be a good thing if so. Passwords just don’t cut it anymore. Unfortunately nowadays hackers often can use one single password obtained through a data breach to also break into many other websites.

Plus there’s then the fact that good passwords are hard to make up, and often even harder to remember. For older people typing them into phone screens isn’t easy, and then there’s the way that password managers are complex and often have cross-device compatibility issues.

FIDO technology has the potential to be a far-reaching fix for all of this, and eliminate the need for punching in characters of passwords every time you want ‘in’. It looks like it will be able to standardize how apps and websites utilize hardware security keys and biometric authentication, and in that sense it may well be the last piece (or one of the last pieces) of the puzzle.

The key part of that will be in bolstering passwords with two-factor authentication systems that are more secure than SMS codes, which simply don’t have the solidity they need to. There’s quite a bit to that, but to boil it down what it’s likely to do is enable two-factor authentication with no need for passwords at all.

You start with a registered device with a phone or fixed / mobile internet access device or security key. Then the biometric check completes the 2nd factor by scanning your face or fingerprint.

Apple will let you log in to websites with Face ID or Touch ID, and that’s a big step towards being able to discard flawed password technology once and for all. To move to FIDO login, you’ll have to jump through a hoop once to register your device, like a Mac or iPhone.

No Good for Phishers

One big benefit sure to be readily embraced with FIDO is that it blocks phishing efforts pretty much entirely. Login credentials are locked to the real version of a website, and then of course hackers lose the primary means by which they gain access – by stealing passwords. There’s nothing there to steal anymore!

There is a general consensus that we shouldn’t be getting ready to dump all our passwords, at least not yet. Obviously, if you lose your iPhone or iPad all of this new technology is rendered immediately obsolete and you’ll need to have some other access means.

This is really where the developers need to look at next, but this is definitely a huge leap for people who are iPhone or iPad devotees.

Defending Your Site Against Spamdexing

Last week we talked about ways you can make sure your website is optimally indexed, and in keeping with that theme will talk about another aspect of being proactive in ensuring your website is optimally ‘positioned’ as it were when it comes to be indexed by search engines.

Nearly all of you will know spam to be a reference to unsolicited, unwelcome communications through the Web rather than as jellied meat concoction that most of you most certainly don’t have in your kitchen cupboards. Truth is, however, it’s a lot easier to avoid that kind of spam than it is to avoid the email kind and the like.

The fact that spam – of this sort at least – is so universally unwelcome is the reason that search engines make the effort they do to ensure those of us surfing the web for whatever reason are exposed to it as little as possible. To that end they’ve developed algorithms that evaluate a website about whether or not it’s oriented to serve ‘spamming’ purposes.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like any other good Canadian web hosting provider in that we know maximizing visibility is going to be a priority for anyone who’s having a website hosted for e-commerce purposes. There’s a lot that goes into that, but making sure your site is indexed as it should be and without anything that’s marginalizing it in that way is a big part of what’s important.

So today we’re going to talk about what you can do to see to it your site isn’t ‘spamdexed’ without you even being aware of it.

What’s Spamdexing?

Spamdexing is defined – and loosely considering it’s an industry-lingo slang term for the most part – as an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings and generate traffic which is used later to fuel a scam designed by people who have less-than-legit intentions.

How this is accomplished is these threat actors gain access to a normal, healthy website before injecting malicious keywords and links into it.

It’s defined a little differently when it’s in occurring in the sphere of digital marketing and online advertising. Spamdexing here is also called SEO spam, and it’s one of the most common hacks to increase search engine ranking. It’s estimated that nearly half of all sites that end up being hacked were broken into and ‘reformatted’ for SEO reorientation purposes.

These hacks typically take aim at web sites in order to manipulate the success of a site’s SEO campaign and boost its ranking in Google, Bing or other search engines.

SEO Spam

SEO spam is when an individual attempts to manipulate search engine rankings and generate traffic, but traffic for their own interests and safe to say not the same ones you’d have.

Then, as mentioned, what happens then is an otherwise normal website is injected with keywords and links intended to lure traffic to different scams. This practice tricks unsuspecting users who believe that they are visiting a real website to purchase orders but end up getting scammed.

Types of SEO Spam

Search engine spam can be executed through:

  • Spammy links
  • Spammy keywords
  • Spammy post & pages

Negative Impacts

So the long and short of all this is that by gaining access to a legit website and injecting links and keywords, the hackers create a working path to their scam-oriented websites. They’re piggybacking off that site’s credibility to get their own rankings with search engines.

So the question then becomes what can you do to stay safe from SEO spam? Spamdexing is going to be an ongoing threat, so it’s going to be helpful to know what you can do to counter it effectively. Here’s the list of best practices:

  1. Run updates – Be certain to keep plugins and other website applications updated with the latest security patches. Overlooking updates may make your entire site totally accessible for spamdexing or SEO spam
  2. Maintain strong passwords – Using strong and unpredictable passwords is important, especially for protecting access to sensitive areas of your site.
  3. Conduct regular scans – Scanning websites on a regular basis goes a long way to ensuring owners are identifying and understanding security issues with those sites. The problem is it’s fairly common for owners to not know they’ve been hacked until they’re being penalized for having been identified as an SEO spammer source. When that happens, the damage is done in as far as your credibility with search engines is concerned.
  4. Utilize a firewall – A web application firewall (WAF) is a proven-effective solution to prevent a search engine spam infection. It defends websites from unknown threats, plus speeds up the efficiency that the website’s operating with.

Ways to Ensure Your Website is Optimally Indexed

When it comes to your online presence, you’ve got to be seen in order to be heard. Reliable web hosting in Canada like the type we’ve been providing for customers for years here at 4GoodHosting will have you set up and open for business along the Information Superhighway, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be especially visible to prospective visitors moving along it. A site that is properly indexed is going to be optimally situated alongside the highway, and that’s what you want for yours – especially if it’s the primary resource for e-commerce interests.

So what we’ll look at here today is 5 very doable tips that can improve the indexing of your website, and what you’ll likely find is that you don’t need to the most knowledgeable of webmasters to do them. Plus, the good thing is that you don’t need anything more than the same web browser you’ve always used to be able to test the effectiveness of what you’ve done.

Let’s get right to them, because it’s fairly important to ensure that Google can index and read your website easily.

Be Welcoming for Bots

When Google’s bots crawl over your website, they’re looking to access information about what your website covers, how fresh the information is, and how authoritative and trustworthy you are for whatever subject it is you’re presenting yourself. This is a big part of what goes into Google presenting your website as a relevant result when web searchers search for information.

Before we get to our tips for improving website indexing, we should maybe go over the ‘crawling’ part of all of this for anyone who might not be as tech savvy as others here.

What does ‘Site Crawling’ Entail?

Creating the website is only just the first part of the equation. You then need Google to index it to determine how and when it will be displayed to searchers. ‘Bots’ or ‘Crawlers’ are the automated programs that browse the web for content to index and these programs add information to Google’s index. There’s then an algorithm that determines which relevant information makes the cut to be served up in response to individuals Google searches.

Making sure that your website is appropriately structured is the best way to help Google index your information correctly. Basic approaches that everyone uses are to utilize tags and other search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to make clear the topic and focus of your site.

5 Tips for Better Site Indexing

  1. Use HTML to Maximize Crawling

Plain and simple, the best coding language for building websites is HTML and that doesn’t look like it will be changing anytime soon. Google has made advances with crawling Flash, XML, and Javascript, but it still has a long way to go. Other search engines other than these ones aren’t even on the radar.

So it’s best for you to focus on having your site created in HTML. By doing so you’ll be sure to be indexed correctly no matter what search engine your prospects are using to find information.

  1. Repair Broken and Redirected Pages

Any page that generates a 400-based or 500-based error code (like 404 or 503, the most common ones) not only impedes the ability of search engines to understand your site, but they also don’t make a very favourable impression on prospective visitors to you site – also known as the people you’d like to keep around to turn them from prospective visitors in t prospective customers.

Using a website audit tool is highly recommended here. One that will help you identify these types of errors and point out broken links and other problems. Taking care of your sitemap is also a good idea, making sure it’s up-to-date with changes to make it so that those bots easily understand where your internal links direct to.

  1. Maximize SEO

Once you’ve done what’s needed in regards to the technical aspects of the website, you now need to focus on content. Learn SEO strategies that will help drive traffic and show search engines what keywords are most relevant to what it is you have to offer. This helps ensure your website shows up when prospects are looking for information, products, and services that you offer.

  1. Maximize Tags

Tags that provide summaries of your content are an integral part of effective SEO. For example, the Title Tag informs search engines as to the title of a blog post, and the Meta Description gives a short summary – including the primary keyword always – on what the post is about.

These are the best practices for tags:

  • Title Tag: Between 50-60 characters with keywords near the beginning

  • Meta Description: In the vicinity of 160 characters and with keywords that will promote click-throughs into your site proper

  • Image Tags: Name image with keywords and provide image height and width

  1. Use Right Keywords

Keywords are not to be located just anywhere in your site content. Instead, they should be placed strategically throughout your blog content and web pages. Doing research to determine what relevant terms receive the most search traffic is very basic and it’s well worth the subscription cost to use an online keyword research too.

You should also ensure that you choose keywords that aren’t too competitive. If you go with ones that are competitive (and the competitiveness of a keyword will be shown to you with a paid keyword research tool) then ranking on page one like you’d hoped is probably not going to happen.

5 Ways for Redirecting a Website URL

It’s been a while since we chose to go web development with the theme of our blog, and so that’s what we’re going to do today. While these are not topics that are going to have a wide-reaching appeal in as far as what’s interesting to most readers, it’s always valuable stuff and of course like any other Canadian web hosting provider a good many of our customers here at 4GoodHosting are going to be ones who are the architects and overseers of their websites.

One aspect of retaining visitors and increasing the likelihood of their interacting and participating / purchasing within your web presence is to have effective redirects. This is especially true when your site grows more complex. In addition to considering upgrading and looking at different web hosting plans, you will also have more pages, posts, and URLs to deal with.

There’s more likelihood of pages and posts that no longer exist, or you may have decided to simplify the URL structure of your content. Then there’s the scenario where you’ve purchased a domain name you want to redirect to your site, or another one where you want to switch domains altogether.

All create the need to redirect from one website to another. However, before we get into best practices for setting up website redirects, perhaps we should define what exactly a website redirect is.

What’s a Website Redirect?

A website redirect is simply when one website URL (or ‘address’ as many people know it) proceeds to point to another. Type in or clicks on the original URL and you’re automatically taken to the new page or website. Provided the website redirect is functional.

Now for the most formative developer knowing how to implement a redirect may be something you haven’t come to yet, but it’s probably something you’ll need to do eventually. Knowing how to implement a redirect will a valuable skill moving forward.

Implementing redirects on a URL or page-by-page basis is the norm, and there are a few different types of URL redirects you’ll want to be aware of. Here they are:

  1. 301 Redirect

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect, and is the most commonly used and powerful redirect. That’s because it passes on nearly all of the link goodness that exists with the current domain. This type of redirect takes place on both a browser and server level. In time, the search engines will index this redirect.

  1. 302 Redirect

A 302 redirect is applied when you want to temporarily redirect a URL, but you still intend to move back to the old URL. A common example is when a site is being redesigned, but you wish to direct users to a different domain while that redesign is still underway.

302 redirects aren’t used very often, and much of the time as 301 redirect is a better and more practical choice.

  1. Meta Refresh

Meta refreshes aren’t used very often, but they’ve been in use so long that nearly everyone will remember having seen one before. Most of us have landed on a page and been greeted with a message reading ‘The original URL has moved, you’re now being redirected. Click here if you’re not redirected in 5 seconds’. That’s a meta refresh.

Reasons You’d Put a Website Redirect in Place

Right then, after your familiarization with the types of redirects we now move to the reasons you’ll want to redirect a URL in the first place. Standard scenarios include:

  1. Redirect a Subdirectory to a Page on Your Site

It’s fairly common when creating a site to decide to create your blog page on a subdomain of it. What will happen then is instead of your blog URL being ‘mysite.com/blog’, it will be ‘blog.mysite.com’ instead. If that doesn’t work for you, you’ll then want to put a redirect in place.

The same goes for any other reason you’ve created a site or section of your site on the subdomain, and now you want to switch up the URL structure.

  1. Redirect Duplicate Content to the Original Page

It’s well understood that duplicate content across your site really messes up your rankings. Larger sites have higher chances of some pages having duplicate content. Having more than one version of the same page makes it so that Google has difficulty figuring out which page should rank.

Duplicate content issues can be avoided by redirecting the duplicate piece of content to the original. In addition to making visitors less confused, this will also improve your search engine rankings as well.

  1. Redirect Multiple Domains to a Single Domain

The last 10 plus years or so has seen a growing trend where people will buy up multiple domain names related to their main URL in order to protect the brand, or however else you want to define the interest.

A different suggestion with all of that is rather than just buying these domains and letting them sit have them as redirects to your main website. This works well for any of the many types of URLs purchased for this purpose; common misspellings of your existing domain name, other top level domain name extensions, etc. More often than not there’s enough benefit in redirecting them back to your main site to make it worth they effort.

  1. Redirect Your Old Domain to Your New One

Sometimes individuals build out a site on a domain that wasn’t their first choice, and then end up buying a much more desirable domain later on. Whatever the reason that happens, you’ll commonly need to put a redirect of your old domain in place, and having it redirecting to your new domain. Sure, that may mean an eventual migration of then entire site, but for the initial stage it’s not too much work to set up a redirect.

  1. Redirect an Old URL to a New URL

Other instances will have you needing to change the URL of existing pages and posts. That may be because you’re cleaning up your existing URL structure, or you moved some pages around and the old URL no longer makes sense.

In these scenarios you’ll want to implement a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. This is especially true if your older posts are already indexed in the search engines, or you have links out anywhere online.

The For-All Benefits of Google PageSpeed Insights

We’ve talked about ‘bounce’ rates before here on more than a few different occasions, and for those of you who have any type of vested interest in the appeal of you website you won’t need to be convinced how too much ‘bouncing’ is hugely problematic. But for those who may not be familiar with the term, let’s share the definition exactly as it’s provided by Wikipedia.

Bounce rate is an Internet marketing term used in web traffic analysis. It represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and then leave (“bounce”) rather than continuing to view other pages within the same site. Bounce rate is calculated by counting the number of single page visits and dividing that by the total visits. – source; Wikipedia

It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say that an advanced bounce rate is more of a problem for sites that exist for e-commerce purposes, but it’s fair to say they’re going to have more to lose. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like any good Canadian web hosting provider in that we know explicitly well how much of a concern this will be for customers who have a good portion of the profitability of their business – whether entirely online, or only partially – relying on a website that retains customers fairly reliably.

There’s any number of reasons why a visitor may bounce, but obviously one of the primary ones is going to be choosing to move on when a page loads too slowly. Patience is in short supply all across the board these days, and it’s especially true for those utilizing the web to find what they want or need.

You’ve Got 2 Seconds – Or So

Here’s the issue; most website visitors expect a website to take no more than two seconds to load. Your site may offer the freshest content, the most creative design, and top-notch service, but if pages load like pouring molasses you are going to struggle to increase your monthly visitors. In the bigger picture, faster page load times equal a better user experience (UX) and with that comes much lower bounce rates.

Good Stuff; Google PageSpeed Insights

Google PageSpeed Insights is a service offered by the Internet Services Giant that will both help you identify what is slowing you down plus give you the keys to online success and the ability to have greater control of your website.

So what is it exactly?

Google PageSpeed Insights was designed to be a free web performance tool that can help you make your website faster and more mobile-friendly. It analyzes how your web pages run and can show you the necessary steps required to improve the page load time by following recommendations on best web practices.

PageSpeed Insights measures the performance for desktop and mobile devices and provides reports on the performance of your pages, along with an overall score. With that also comes their suggestions on what you can do to improve page loading speeds for your site. The PageSpeed Insights Score ranges from 0 to 100 points, where a higher score stands for better performance.

Why You Need It

We’ve already established that many would-be visitors will bail on a page if it takes too long to load. And yes, if you’re in e-commerce than some of them may well end up at your competitors’ websites. Headlines, the design of your website, or the right placement of a Call-To-Action (CTA) button are all important, but page load time is as critical as anything else for your conversion rate.

Using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is recommended, and after you perform the tests on your site you can then make any necessary corrections needed to increase your score. The goal is to keep your web page size down and optimize everything you — or the tool — can possibly think of.

Ways to Improve your Score

We’ll preface here by saying the following is not meant to substitute for actual using of PageSpeed Insights. You should make use of it, and considering it’s free why wouldn’t you?

However, here are known ways to increase the time a user stays on your page, and ones that will likely be confirmed when you get your results from PageSpeed insights. The score report will present the areas where it detects loading issues in yellow and red (depending on how bad you are scoring), which shows you where you should focus your efforts.

  1. Prioritize Visible, Above-the-Fold Content

Page load time isn’t determined only by how quickly your page loads, as perceived performance is also part of the equation. Perceived performance is the feeling a user has while it loads. If the code is structured incorrectly, it can create a lag for content on top of the page. This makes the page load time seem slower. Improving it by prioritizing the loading time of the areas that are likely most important to the user is the best approach. Concentrate on the content above-the-fold, and see to it that it loads first and relatively speedily.

  1. Avoid Landing Page Redirects

Websites not created for responsive use – meaning the page adjusts itself to the specific type of device – could result in a redirect. Having a user redirected to an optimized page means additional seconds for page load time, and that’s not a good thing. The best way to prevent this problem is by opting for responsive web design.

  1. Enable Compression

If you serve the full content of your page with uncompressed files, your page load time can go up by a lot. By enabling gzip, a file format used for file compression and decompression, the page can shrink in size and deliver much faster load times. Compressed files allow a web server to provide faster requests to your users.

  1. Improve Server Response Time

When a user opens a website, the web browser used presents a request to your server to view the available content. Server response time refers to the time your server needs to begin loading the page content, and that time can be extended too far by a number of factors like slow routing or database queries. The biggest factor is usually the hosting platform you have chosen. There are some options out there, like the Secure Web Accelerator with DDoS protection from 101domain, that offers you excellent server response time with increased uptime, and protection from malicious cyberattacks.

  1. Optimize Images

Graphic elements are great and add to the visual appeal of a site in a big way. No one’s going to suggest you shouldn’t make good use of them, but pictures, logos, or icons can negatively affect page speeds. So much so in fact that they can be responsible for up to 2/3 of your page’s total weight.

There are many free tools that you can use to resize images and optimize them so that they’re easier and quicker to load.

  1. Leverage Browser Caching

There’s going to be time required for a web browser to display various items to load the page completely, but what you need to do is make it so that the amount of time required is as little as possible. Caching allows a browser to remember what loaded previously, which will mean faster page load times. The more elements your browser can cache, the fewer it has to load when a user makes a request. It’s well known that Google recommends a minimum of one week of caching.

These are just a few of the basic guidelines for increasing page load speeds as based on what most people will see as recommendations following using Google PageSpeed Insights. Using this tool is a can-do way to improve your page speed and both attract and retain potential customers at your website. Check it out and see for yourself, and again – it’s free to use.