9 Best Communication and Commerce-Based Apps for Small Businesses

Colorful application icon concept and the shopping cartAs a small business these days, you need to be strongly fortified and streamlined with your digital marketing and business management fronts, perhaps more so than with any other aspect of your operations. As a reputable Canadian web hosting provider, here at 4GoodHosting we try to keep tabs on industry developments that will be of interest to our customers who are small business owners.

The construction of an information technology infrastructure can be decidedly complex – and expensive – for businesses that are either new or still in their formative stages. Common detriments include limited resources, expertise, and time constraints when it comes to the way they find they are limited with how much they’re are able to accomplish. And it’s not only a case of accomplishing, it’s also about doing so in a timely manner to take full advantage of opportunities for the business

Software companies have been receptive to this challenge, building web-based tools that are either specifically designed for small businesses, or ones that can be configured to be more ideally suited to the more-exploratory operating challenges for those of you who are still fairly wet behind the ears when it comes to running a business (and particularly ones where the business relies heavily on the digital marketing front).

No where are these challenges more readily apparent – for most at least – than they are within the realms of communication and commerce online. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Effectively communicating with prospective customers, and then facilitating their purchases or any type of commercial transaction in a speedy, reliable, and secure manner are 2 of the more pressing needs for any business.

So, without further adieu, we’ve compiled a list of 9 super communication and commerce-based apps for small businesses that we feel really make the grade and then some when it comes usability, functionality, and readily-apparent value for you.

  1. Asana Collaboration

Efficiently working together to accomplish tasks is a primary need for any business. Asana makes for a more natural and cohesive, collaborative teamwork process. Asana’s free version supports up to 15 team members, which is perfect for even smaller businesses that don’t need more advanced features. Built on HTML5, it features rich design functionality and easy, attractive task management.

  1. Citrix Grasshopper

Up until recently, Voice over IP (VoIP) solutions were a fit for big companies exclusively. But with tools such as Citrix Grasshopper, you’ll be able to quickly and easily set up your VoIP tool and gain access to basic phone systems features such as call routing, faxing, and voicemail. Admittedly, it doesn’t have more advanced features such as call recording, a unified communications application, and dial-in conferencing at the lowest price levels, but you’ll still be able to count on higher call quality and call centre features that you likely won’t find with your local telecom provider.

  1. ClickMeeting Video Conferencing

It’s quite common to have staff members who work remotely, and then of course there’s times you will meet with prospective clients, service providers – and whoever else – via the web. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use video conferencing tool, then ClickMeeting is pretty much your best bet. It offers a free 30-day trial, low-price plan options, and cool collaboration tools such as shared desktops, whiteboarding tools, and in-app private chat. It doesn’t offer access to operator-assisted meetings, but that’s about the only criticism we have of it.

  1. MailChimp Email Marketing

This one you’ve likely heard of, and for good reason! MailChimp is the most popular and most capable email marketing automator, and the value of quality email marketing campaigns these days needs to explanation. MailChimp offers a rich, free plan; tons of third-party integration (much of which is available at the lowest price levels), and you’ve got a wide array of email templates that start the design process off quickly and help you send out emails at a rapid clip. You’ll enjoy the email analytics too, as they let you determine whether or not your messages are not drumming up interest in your business.

  1. Campaigner Email Marketing

Some of you may need a bit more flexibility than MailChimp allows, and we recommend checking out Campaigner. It has many of the same benefits, but allows you a much larger scope and reach with your campaigns. For example, a small business with 2,500 contacts in its marketing database could send an unlimited amount of messages for about $29.95 per month. That’s not cheap in comparison, but we’re talking about a tool that has everything you’ll need to run robust and easily-automated email campaigns. Add the fact you can test the tool for 30 days for free and it makes our list.

  1. Shopify E-Commerce

Without a doubt, Shopify is the king of all e-commerce platforms. But it’s very much a generic fit that’s great for most but not ideal for some. Still, you should be considering this online shopping cart for your web-based storefront whether you’re a company of 1 or 1,000. Why? It requires very little technological expertise to set up, you can try it for free for 30 days, and it provides an abundance of free templates and tools that will make it especially easy to be wise overseer of your online business.

  1. Sprout Social

Sprout Social is – in our opinion – one of the best social media analytics tools available for companies of nearly any size or orientation. For small businesses in particular, however, you’ll love that Sprout Social offers a free 30-day trial, multiple price tiers, and a tidy, intelligent design that makes it quite simple and intuitive to sort and discover data.

  1. Hootsuite

We’re fans of these guys first and foremost because they make an undeniably great social media marketing platform, but also because they’re from the same neck of the woods as us. If you’re more interested in managing your social campaigns than you are in measuring them, then try Hootsuite. This tool scales as you grow by letting you pay for extras (as opposed to bundling everything into one price package). Hootsuite offers the most comprehensive package of listening, publishing, and third-party integration options for businesses of all sizes.

  1. Zoho Survey

Some businesses will be more inclined to need to know the ‘temperature’ of the market as it regards their products or services. If you need to gauge how well your product is doing with consumers – or if you more simply just want to know what people think of your newest ad campaign – then survey management software is something you’ll likely want to consider. Zoho Survey is optimal for small businesses. It boasts one of the simplest user interfaces to manage, offers superb reporting, and is available for a very reasonable monthly rate. You also have the option of using the free version, which is plenty well equipped to get you the most basic information, but you’ll be lacking some of the more advanced features such as email notifications and multi-language support.

It’s always a long and complex chain when you’re in business and working to position yourself most ideally in the digital world. We’re happy to help with the best prices on web hosting in Canada, and we’re also happy to help with tips and suggestions regarding the best tools out there for managing your small business online. All the best and much success to you.

Siri, Cortana, or the Guy at Google Now: Who’s the Best Assistant?

smiling businesswoman communicating with helpline operator

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a premier Canadian web hosting provider, and as such you can be certain we love anything related to the mobile communications world. You’d be hard pressed to find any newer-model smartphone and computer on the market today that doesn’t have a smart assistant preloaded and waiting on your every inquiry, Apple has Siri, Windows has Cortana, and then there’s the lesser known but equally useful Google Now.

So how do they stack up against one another in our opinion? To the more casual observer or passive participant it may seem like Siri, Cortana, and the nameless Google Now assistant are all pretty much the same — and, to a great extent, they are. But they also have several tangible differences and in each case they’ve got at least one quirk, flaw or strength between them.

So which one would be best for you? Of course, you’re not going to make a purchasing decision for your next smartphone based exclusively on the type of assistant it comes with, but it may be a prominent consideration.

It’s not an easy question to answer, with the fact they’re so similar making it hard to compare them without digging deep into their capabilities.

Let’s give it a try.

Siri

Siri has been one of the flagship features of iOS since the 2011 launch of iOS 5. It’s somewhat humble beginnings were with the basics, like weather forecasts and messaging, but it’s expanded in leaps and bounds since, and most notably it now supports third-party integration with MacOS Sierra and iOS 10.

Indeed, Siri’s jokes and witty comebacks continue to be a hit, but the virtual assistant is becoming more and more capable as the years go by. These days you can ask it to call people, send messages, schedule meetings, play games, launch apps and games, answer questions, set reminders, and still provide those weather forecasts.

Siri’s also very capable with understanding contextual queries, and with the MacOS Sierra and iOS 10 versions it relies a lot less on web results in choosing the response. Siri can also integrate with third-party apps and understand follow-up queries. This was a significant departure for Apple, which has always maintained tight creative control over which 3rd-party companies are granted access to its native functions. As a result, we feel it’s a bit premature to judge how well this stacks up to Cortana or Google Now.

Siri has no troubles contextually searching for files in MacOS, although we think it’s fair to say she doesn’t seem to have the learning capabilities that Cortana does. Especially when it comes to personalized responses.

Another detractor for Siri is in the way it’s reliant on voice input. Cortana and Google Now both work very well with text input, while Siri requires voice input. It is possible to edit your dictation after it’s been received, but that’s not going to appeal to any user. This is especially annoying with the MacOS version of the assistant, with the fact there are any number of reasons or scenarios where a user might not be able to talk to his or her Mac, like in a crowded workplace for instance, or while in bed with your partner asleep next to you.

Cortana

On Windows Phone, users can have Cortana make calls, send messages, set reminders, take notes, recognize music, find great restaurants, check your calendar, among many more functions. The Windows 10 version of Cortana offers a few more features, namely the ability to search files by context, and wit the Windows 10 Creators Update you have even more functionality, including the ability to lock, restart, or shut down your computer. Add the fact all of this is done using natural language and that’s fairly impressive.

Another appealing feature with Cortana is that Microsoft’s virtual assistant is analyzing your interactions at nearly every step to learn more about your preferences. This info is stored in something premier Canadian web hosting provider and the information includes the places you like to go, people your interactions suggest you care about, the times of the day that are your ‘quiet times’, and things you might be interested in based on your viewings, among other things. And if you’d like to overrule Cortana, you can edit them any time you like.

There’s more. Cortana is also capable of reading your emails, tracking your location, taking note of your browser history, checking your contact list, keeping tabs on your calendar, and then putting all this data together to suggest info / choices in the future, if of course you allow it to. Cortana has also been formatted to recognize context, so most of the time it will be able to understand follow-up requests, and you can even phrase inquiries or requests in different ways and Cortana is able to take the contextual clues and respond accordingly, again most of the time. You can also type your questions or requests if you’d rather not speak out loud.

Cortana is not limited Microsoft’s apps, either, as it can access third-party content as well. The assistant can also add something to your Hulu queue, or check out a friend’s Facebook feed. More and more third-party connectivity is being added all the time.

Google Now

Google Now is different from Cortana and Siri in a number of ways, but most particularly in that it’s designed with less personality – and more functionality – in mind. Yes, it is an integral part of Android, bit Google Now can also be used via an iOS app, or accessed via the Google Chrome browser on any mobile internet device.

The best way for you to conceptualize the functionality of Google Now is to think of it as an extension of Google’s existing search capabilities, as compared to it being more simply a full-on smart assistant. Google Now does much of what the other two virtual assistants do, and does it just as well the majority of the time and with similar speediness. Like Cortana and Siri, you can ask Google Now for directions to the closest Pho restaurant, or what kind of weather you can expect over the next 10 days.

With your approval, Google’s software will utilize your search history and customize its responses based on what it’s gleaned from your preceding queries. For example, if you ask Google Now to inform you about what’s in the news, it will provide news articles it believes would interest you, based on what you’ve previously read on Google.

Further, the platform’s additional third-party support means that – like Cortana and Siri – you can add new features to Google Now that aren’t a native component of its platform.

Google’s integration with its search engine is a BIG plus, and it makes Google Now one of the most useful virtual assistants out of the box. Unless you’ve yet to use Google as a search engine (highly unlikely), it will already have a mound of data and footprints for your movements on the web. It will also pick up on your habits if you’re using it on a smartphone, and will try to serve you a specific card in advance of your next request. You can even tell Google Now whether it’s actually serving you relevant cards, and if not the software will improve in short order.

Google Now on Android operates much like Cortana, given it’s tightly integrated with the operating system’s search functionality. As you go about your browsing, Google Now will pull up relevant information. If you’re reading about a new music album, for instance, it might suggest a card with a list of dates for that band’s tour, or recorded music from bands of the same genre.

The Decision

Despite the fact Siri finally made it to MacOS, Cortana has to be regarded as the most fully-featured assistant currently available. Apple has decided to finally open up Siri to third parties, and that will make a big difference, but the growth hasn’t happened yet, and it remains to be seen if it can even match what Cortana and Google Now are currently offering.

In truth, Apple remains at a disadvantage due to its own business model. Both Microsoft and Google own services that a vast array of web users already utilize. Combining this with a virtual assistant makes it more convenient to the person using it, because it will very quickly display its ability to anticipate what you might be looking for, with at least some effectiveness (and always improving in this regard)

All this said, the best smart assistant is the one you have ready at this very moment. Our recommendation is that you try their respective apps on your smartphone, your desktop, and perhaps even some of your smart home devices before deciding on the one you want to be getting to know you, so very well.

5 Ways to Promote Greater WordPress Website Speeds

Finger Pointing at Internet WebsitesIf you live in the heart of a major metropolitan city, having a sports car that can do zero to 60 in less than 3 seconds would is great – but it’s certainly far from being a necessity (or even practical for that matter) because of the fact that you’ll almost never be able to actually put that performance capability to use. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re city dwellers and some of the best Canadian web hosting providers around, but we certainly don’t drive Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Maseratis, or anything of the sort.

What we do have for you though is genuine speed for your WordPress-built website, and that IS a necessity these days. Users’ expectations have expanded these days, and they expected a website to

  1. Load quickly, and
  2. Be responsive when scrolling through pages or enjoying multimedia content

If a website doesn’t respond with sufficient speed, these users will move on. It’s that simple. It may not be ‘fair’ but that’s the way that it is. You may be left wondering about ways to increase your website speed, and you should do that for a pair of reasons. Not only does a lagging website risk losing visitors (and in some cases prospective customers) but more importantly…

Google has stated unequivocally that the speed of a website will reflect that site’s rankings in SERPs (search engine results pages)

Now that is a big deal, and no matter whether your website is e-commerce, personal, or whatever it may be.

Right then, here’s 5 nearly-guaranteed ways to improve the speed of your website.

  1. Choose a Reliable and Reputable Web Hosting Provider

Your proven web hosting provider in Canada must have solid and reliable hardware, and most particularly their servers. Researching your prospective host in line will almost certainly lead to at least one customer review that talks about their servers.

But while we have the same powerful dedicated servers that nearly any good Canadian web hosting provider will have, but we also boast our ‘fast fiber’ network designed to deliver optimal operation time and high throughput and packet per second capability.

Long story short, you should be demanding, and when you ask questions about the response speed of a web hosting service you should expect a more detailed and qualified answer than ‘oh yes, we’re plenty fast.” There should be numbers in that response.

  1. Enable Caching

Caching is the technical term for storing data in a temporary storage area. The relevance of that given our topic this week is that having this storage spot and directing data there improve’s a site’s vroom-vroom capabilities. That’s because much of the content has an opportunity to be ready-made for delivery on demand and does not have to gathered and then prepared for delivery / display to the user. It also reduces the load of various systems resources being piled on your server.

Typically, good web hosts will offer their customers caching plugins that can be implemented and activated via your control panel. You can usually also do this through you WordPress CP if you are hosted with WordPress hosting.

  1. Utilize a Content Delivery Network

This step comes very highly recommended, as a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a surefire way to speed up your website. A CDN is a worldwide network of servers that facilitate you duplicating and storing your site’s static elements and files. Examples of these would be cascading style sheets, Javascript, images, video files etc. These elements are then delivered to whoever asks for them via a server that is closer to their physical location. The time content takes to reach their browsers is, of course, drastically reduced. And not surprisingly that makes for satisfied folks.

  1. Ensure your Images are Optimized in Full

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that users now expect higher quality images to be features on websites. Image quality – and to a greater extent image size – both factor into the new challenges place on the speed of the website in delivering them to the expecting visitor without anything more than a slight delay.

The majority of images can be resized or cropped to fit with graphic-editing tools or plugins, and most of the time the web user will not notice any reduction in quality.

This is a step that’s not particularly technical, and we think it’s one you can probably take on by yourself! So here goes:

  • Use JPEG format whenever possible, or PNG if not
  • Avoid using BMP and TIFF formats
  • Crop your image to eliminate unnecessary elements and reduce size
  • Resize your images and use logic in making your decisions. Example – a web page only 750 pixels wide is going to have a devil of a time accommodating a 2000 pixels wide image. Resize it!
  1. Go Ahead and ‘Minify’ your HTML, JavaScript, and CSS

CSS and JavaScript have never been as integral to websites like they are today. You wouldn’t dare consider doing away with these files, but you certainly should try to reduce the size of them if you want more pep out of the site.

The term that they use for this move is ‘minify’, and what that means is basically getting rid of comments, extra spaces, extra line breaks, and so on and so forth. ‘Frivolous infrastructure’ is the term we like, and it also includes block delimiters in the code in order to make that code lighter and and really dialling back on the amount of data that needs to be transferred.

There are a selection of plugins specifically designed for WordPress websites to make this ‘minifying’ as easy as possible. Good ones include WP Super Minify and Better WordPress Minify, both of which automatically reformat your code to make it much leaner. Manual resizing is a possibility too, and quite easy when you use Closure Compiler. Many CDNs and caching tools offer built-in minify support.

More in Store

Of course, we’ve just scratched the surface of website optimization for greater speed. These 5 steps are pretty much failsafe in bringing your actual noticeable results though. If you’d like to dig deeper, here are 3 popular performance analysis sites that feature online tools that can run a series of tests on your site to identify performance issues and then instruct you on how to remedy them if you’re lagging in any particular area. They’re user-friendly and intuitive and the results and scoring can be displayed in a choice of manners.

Have a look

The Cloud Stack: SaaS, PaaS, & IaaS

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a reputable web hosting service provider in Canada and we like to think we’ve got our thumbs sufficiently on the pulse of what’s new in the digital marketing world too. The ‘stack’ we’re going to talk about today is all about computing and the new way in which cloud computing, in particular, has revolutionized the way people access and utilize resources made available through the internet. We always have tips for improving your online marketing presence, but this blog post is really more about some of the more notable developments in cloud computing as they pertain to business.

The Cloud is a broad collection of services, and these days there’s plenty of options in regards to the way you can optimize them for the benefit of your company and organization. The stack is the broad range of services built on top of one another – thus the stack. Each one owes much of its stability and practicality to the one underneath it, as we’ll highlight shortly.

Unparalleled Network Access

Services make the grade as ‘Cloud’ worthy when they feature:

  • On-demand self service – any time and anywhere you want it, sign up and receive service without delay
  • Broad and uninhibited network access across varied devices (desktop, laptop, AND mobile)
  • Extensive resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity – able to flex upwards and downwards in relation to demand surges and sags
  • Measured service that is billed accordingly, and with transparency

The Stack Itself

Alright, picture a pyramid divided into 3 sections. The pointed top is SaaS (software as a service). The middle section is Paas (platform as a service) and the base is IaaS (infrastructure as a service).

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  • SaaS applications are intended for delivery to end users, and that delivery occurs immediately via the web (analogy – think passengers)
  • PaaS encompasses all of the tools and services that make coding and deploying those services occur smoothly, reliably, and relatively understandably (analogy – think vehicles)
  • IaaS is the groundwork – the hardware and software powering it all along. This can be servers, storage, networks, operating systems (analogy – think roadways)

SaaS is software that’s deployed over the internet. To put it in more understandable terms for consumers, it’s embodied in the new phenomena where you don’t need to go and buy a physical hard copy of a software suite complete with install disc and take it home to then install on your computer. Rather, you sign up, pay your initial monthly fee, and nearly instantaneously you’ve got access to it.

SaaS offerings will feature:

  • Web access to commercial software
  • Software managed from a central location, with no responsibility put on the consumer
  • Software delivered with a ‘one customize-to-fit for all’ model
  • APIs that allow integration between different varieties of software

Keep in mind however that not ALL softwares are well suited to be made available in a SaaS model. One that are suited will be (among other characteristics):

  • Ones where the fundamental technology is well established and unlikely to change
  • Ones where there is plenty of interplay between the organization and the worldwide consumer base
  • Applications that have a growing need for web or mobile access, and where that is projected to increase even further
  • Software that is primarily intended for a short term need
  • Software where demand has been seen to spike significantly at times

PaaS is any computer platform that allows the quick and easy creation of web applications without the complexity of purchasing and maintaining infrastructure that must be in place beneath it in order for it to be functional / operational.

Simply, it’s a platform for the creation of software that’s delivered – ready made and ready to work – quickly and easily over the web.

Paas offerings will feature:

  • Services designed to develop, test, deploy, host and maintain applications within a same integrated development environment.
  • Web-based user interface creation tools that are intended for use in creating, modifying, testing and deploying different UI scenarios
  • Multi-tenant architecture where multiple concurrent users utilize the same development app • Programmed scalability of deployed software, with load balancing and failover included
  • Integration with web services and databases via common standards
  • Support for development team collaboration, with some specific ones featuring project planning and communication tools

PaaS products will be especially practical in any situation where multiple developers will be proceeding to work on a project, or where external parties must interact and work collaboratively within the development process. These models have been very well received in instances where a valuable data source already exists and the aim is to create new applications which leverage the established value of that data. PaaS is also expected to ease difficulties around rapid deployment and iteration of software.

IaaS is any proven method of delivering the servers, storage, networks, and operating systems of Cloud computing as an on-demand service. It’s obtained as public or private infrastructure, or a combination of both (very common, and also known as ‘hybrid cloud’).

IaaS offerings will feature:

  • Resources being distributed as a service, with full autonomy for the end user to apply them as he / she sees fit
  • A natural allowance for dynamic scaling, and to whatever extent is necessary
  • Variable costs, and different utility pricing models
  • In many cases, multiple users on a single piece of hardware

Examples of large-scale IaaS providers operating today are Rackspace and Amazon Web Services.

IaaS products will be a good fit in any situation where

  • Demand is volatile – increasing and decreasing, and often considerably so in either direction and without any discernible trend
  • A new organization finds investment capital for hardware to be a daunting cost
  • A growing organization finds scaling hardware to be problematic
  • A similar organization that needs to move from capital expenditure to operations expenditure

It’s a fact that Cloud computing is a rapidly accelerating revolution within the entirety of the IT world, and we imagine it will become the default method of IT delivery in the not too distant future. Becoming familiar with it is highly advisable!

Competing for Top Spots on Google SERPS in 2017

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As an experienced Canadian web hosting provider, we’re well aware that not ALL of our clients are in business – and more specifically in e-commerce businesses. There’s a good number of you who have your basic web hosting packages for personal interest or promotional websites, and for those folks knowing how to rank higher on Google search results won’t be as pressing a need.

For the rest of you who are fully into competing for higher search engine rankings, it’s a fact that Google is constantly altering and updating its algorithms. Let’s discuss approaches that are in line with the current search engine tunings coming from down there in Silicon Valley.

Those Ever-Changing SERP Algorithms

Many factors come into play as these aforementioned Google algorithm’s regularly evolve. Many of these transformations are in response to measurable changes among users’ habits (The increasing predominance of mobile web browsing, for instance). The way people consume search results and act on them plays a significant factor too, and Google monitors and analyzes every little detail extensively.

Here’s what you need to know about what determines online search results in 2017.

Featured snippets are now of increasing importance. Featured snippets can be more simply understood to be a direct answer, a summary of an answer to a query displayed on the top of the results page, often as a list of actionable bullet points or numbered steps. How they are advantageous is users get their questions answered directly on the results page, which is of course appealing because it means a straighter path to finding what they want and doesn’t involve any additional ‘clicks’. Google is showing these snippets in more than 32% of queries. (In 2015, the number was 28% and that’s expected to increase dramatically.)

How’s all of this relevant, you ask?

These featured snippets are extracted straight from the content of a website. One singular website that Google deems to have the best answer. If you want that website to be yours, you need to try to think about what questions your customers are asking and address those answers in as clearly and directly a manner as possible, and in the type of plain language that would make it easy for even the most unfamiliar individual to digest and comprehend.

Having these answers and text listed in bullet point form is often recommended, with the question on top. This increases the chances that Google will choose your site’s content to display in a featured snippet.

Searchers Entering Longer Queries Based on Specific Search Intentions

It’s natural that as users become more accustomed to looking for information on Google and other search engines, they are becoming more discerning with their searches. For example, instead of just looking for a “fishing reel,” a searcher today may well enter the search terms “large fishing reel for 2000 feet of line for bar fishing.” In response to the trend, Google is also becoming more adept at displaying results that match the specific intent of today’s searchers.

To successfully optimize your site, you want to be explicitly dialled in to your customers search targets. The more you understand their specific intent, the better you’ll do. Aim to target long tail keywords that match what you project to be your prospective customer’s search tendencies. These are keyword phrases that are at least 3-4 words long and really answer your customer’s needs in the most accurate way.

The Rapid Ascent of Mobile Web Browsing

Every year, a greater percentage of searches are taking place on mobile devices. Back in 2015, mobile search surpassed desktop search and the gap has only increased from there. Google therefore announced in November that they have “mobile-first” index on its way, where they will prioritize your mobile site over your desktop site when determining your rank. The long and short of that is that – for most business websites – optimizing your mobile web page will be more important.

Google is also on the lookout for accelerated mobile pages (“AMPs”) which load faster on mobile than regular pages. AMP creates mobile-simplified content for your site that shows up instantly on all mobile devices. Web pages with AMPs tend to rank higher on Google for relevant search terms.

Needless to say, you need a great mobile version of your website. That’s nothing new, and in truth you really should have one already. It’s not difficult to find a Canadian web hosting provider with a mobile website builder. Once you have yours, you can help make sure your blog posts load faster by turning on Google AMP.

Voice Search Gaining Serious Traction

Voice search is on the rise as ever-greater numbers of people conduct their searches by speaking with Siri, Alexa and Amazon Home. Sure, voice search still represents a relatively small volume of overall searches, but in the coming years we expect that its influence on SEO will expand considerably. Voice queries are often longer since people speak to these devices as they would to a person. In addition, users turn to Voice search when they want a quick, direct answer such as the weekend’s weather forecast, what was the score in the Leafs game, or where’s my nearest Pho restaurant?

When it comes to providing simple answers to simple questions Google will be providing that information directly in the SERP and that means the viewer is unlikely to need to reference secondary sites. To attract valuable traffic away from the SERP and to your website, you want to create what’s called complex content.

Complex content is content that’s not conducive to being answered in a small snippet of text at the top of a Google results’ page. When writing new content for your site, set yourself apart and create content that shows your expertise and creates value by going into greater detail without being long-winded or full of superfluous information. Go for depth and complexity instead of quick answers, but do so judiciously and have all of the content have discernible value for the reader

You can also try to attract clicks with website content that answers specific, niche questions, ones that Google wouldn’t be able to answer instantly right in its result page. Long story short, you will be able to attract clicks to your pages when you hone in on information that users won’t be able to get straight from Google.

Google’s Appetite Increasing

Google is a business and all successful do not rest on their laurels. These days, Google is sending more search traffic to ads or to websites that they own. They’re perfectly within their rights to give preference to the sites that can earn them clicks – and revenue! Research indicates a full 49% of Google search traffic is going to Google owned properties like YouTube and Google My Business.

If you want your business to show up on SERPs, promote yourself on Google-owned sites like YouTube and Google Maps. Create a YouTube channel and post related videos whenever you can. If you’re a local business, you MUST have a profile on Google My Business and make sure that users can find you using Google Maps.

There’s more to optimizing your website for Google search rankings in 2017, and we encourage you to do some research on your own. Considering the value your Internet Marketing has for the success of your business, it’s well worth it.

Weighing Cloud Analytics

Information technology leader is touching CLOUD ANALYTICS on a virtual interface. Information technology concept and business strategy metaphor for efficient cloud computing resource utilization.

Taking a critical look at big data gives companies valuable insights that allow them to make better-informed strategic decisions. Looking at these insights – and then making smart strategic moves based on your deductions – gives you the edge over your competitors and provides a more complete picture of your business. Undertaking big data analytics isn’t the simplest of processes though. You need the computing resources in place for it to be done effectively, and here at 4GoodHosting we like to share what we know as a Canadian web hosting provider who understands Internet marketing as well.

So, What Exactly is Cloud Analytics?

Cloud analytics is a cloud-based solution which enables businesses to carry out analyses and related intelligence procedures through integrated cloud models, whether that’s with hosted data warehouses, SaaS business intelligence (BI) or cloud-powered social media analytics. A whole range of analytical tools and techniques are put to work to help companies extract information from massive data and then present it in a way that is easily categorized, readily available via a web browser, and – most importantly – digestible and comprehensible for those who have interests in it.

A Unified Vision For The Business

Many companies face problems when different elements within the organization do not share the same perception of what is going well for the company – and what isn’t. Often, they are all working from their own data sets without a collectively agreed-upon ‘big picture.’

Cloud analytics makes it easier to identify and firmly define what that big picture should be.

One of the crucial advantages of using cloud analytics is its ability to consolidate big data from all sources and communication channels that a company employs. The capacity that cloud computing offers allows everything to feed in in a linear and timely manner: you can gather large-scale data from all your internal apps, devices, social networks and data subscriptions. Needless to say, that would be difficult to do in-house and on a single network.

Using a cloud-based data management platform lets you easily blend data from a range of sources, enabling it to be matched, merged and cleansed – with the collective volume of data being far more accurate results that enable you to have a unified vision of your business.

Increased Ease of Accessibility

The key to ensuring everyone sees – and comprehends – this unified vision lies in the ease of accessibility that cloud-based data management platforms provide. Compared to in-house applications which companies tend to be slow in adopting, cloud-based apps are much easier to use and can often be self-taught, reducing the need for staff training and instead utilizing the natural intuitiveness of the staff.

Further, employees don’t need to create one-off reports or log into separate systems to undertake analytics. That’s because the technology tends to be embraced more quickly throughout the company. This rapidity means cloud analytics become more accessible to everyone, and the fact they all quickly grasp and embrace it means it’s even more of an intelligent and productive choice.

Improved Collaboration

Many companies struggle to build a system that allows team members to collaborate effectively. A mix of in-house and external systems can be less than conducive to developing analytical models and sharing the results. As a result, development lacks pace, work is completed redundantly, and a good many people never get to contribute. This is particularly true for telecommute team members.

It’s entirely different with cloud-based data analytics. Teams can work together to curate data, create analytics designs and evaluate outcomes, no matter where they’re based. The fact that each member has access to real-time insights is of particular significance here. It’s a real benefit for operational teams who need those insights to make critical decisions in the interest of the success of the business.

Security

Cloud service providers take security very seriously. In fact, most public cloud providers have better security mechanisms in place and are much better at systemic security services than company managed, in-house systems.

In-house systems generally use a mix of older technologies and legacy apps that have more vulnerabilities than the state-of-the-art systems found in cloud data centres. Cloud systems also have less complex architecture, making them easier to monitor and defend.

The cloud also has an inherent ability to help companies meet recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives should a data disaster occur. Giant backup storage capacity and huge numbers of redundant failover servers make it a cinch for the Cloud to be able to do this, whereas for an independent it would be a staggering expense.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we are one of Canada’s premiere web hosting providers and have our thumb on the pulse of everything related to web hosting, including the newest technological advances that allow you to optimize your Internet marketing efforts and position yourself with maximum efficiency in the business world.

SSD Hosting for Data On-Demand Websites of All Sorts

four Hard disk drives, HDD and SSD on white

These days, there are all sorts of expansive blogs and online discussion forums for pretty much every subject imaginable. The forums in particular are great for talking extensively with similar enthusiasts and getting as much perspective as possible on the things you’re into, and there’s no better place to get recommendations for the best gear or whatever it is you’re looking to acquire.

Many of them working with Canadian web hosting providers build their platforms using the popular vBulletin software, including the new vBulletin 5. And yes, successful discussion forums can bring advertisers and thus profit for the webmasters.

Websites like these have heavy data demands with the nature of their size and user interactivity. In this business, the I and O in I/O requests stands for input and output, and how that relates to a website is that – when there’s many of them – it’s a lot to ask of the standard drives that will be made available with basic web hosting. SSD web hosting is a specialty here at 4GoodHosting, and we’ve got many customers enjoying the stability and security it provides for their websites.

Ideal for Database-Driven Applications

During peak viewing times, the amount of I/O requests can slow down the recall of information from your database. This is especially true for sites on traditional “spinning media” disk drives. The physical limitations of spinning hard disks and the mechanical head restricts the amount of information that can be requested at a given time.

SDD hard drives are excellent for database driven applications. A custom application or an e-commerce website needs to have a significant amount of database input and output and as the site gets more traffic the person’s hard drive will be getting much more I/O requests. The vast amount of I/O requests could over time slow down the information from a database. SSD Hosting proves to be much more sufficient because-because SDD hosting has no use for any moving objects or parts data transfer is only restricted by the speed of the network.

Want stats? SSDs were able to outmatch the hard disk drives when on the I/O transfer. SSDs were able to push out at least 95 percent more data than the hard disks they were tested against.

Eliminating Latency and Near-Zero Risk of Memory Loss

SSDs are not subject to two issues which standard hard drives are encumbered by. The most relevant of these is the rotational latency that is on the disk, and the seek time which it takes for the read/write head to locate the data that is presented on the disk can be an issue too. Generally, your standard hard disk drive takes 20 times longer to obtain data during an instance of a large amount of I/O requests.

SSD hard drives are excellent for data loss prevention as well. Most can use RAID cards with the help of battery-backed non-volatile caching, and that is most notably useful should a power loss endanger any unwritten data. With an SSD drive, it would simply be stored in the cache until the server comes back on. Any inbound data at that point would be both written and stored, and crisis averted.

Sound like just what you need for your increasingly-popular discussion forum or any other site where data is going to be in demand? Check out our packages with features here and let’s get you set up right!

Making your blog profitable, plus the best hosting for WordPress

Digital Online Social Media Blog Working Concept

If you’re enthusiastic and / or passionate about a subject matter – and that could be ANY subject matter – blogging about it is almost certainly going to be a personally rewarding experience. That’s particularly true when you receive interaction on your blog, and that’s most commonly in the form of comments and having others link to your blog. It’s a nice feeling to know your writing is being read, and that others are taking an interest in what you have to say.

For some, there comes a point when they sense that their blog is capable of so much more. It’s true that some blogs are bonafide money makers for their authors and it’s quite common for well-established bloggers to think ‘hey, why can’t I make my blog profitable?’

Well, you can! But you need to take a strategic approach to it and get the most ideal web hosting from a reputable Canadian web hosting provider.

Tips for Making Money From Your Blog

Increase website traffic

You not only want search engines to be your friend, you want them to become a powerful ally in making your blog more popular, and thus more profitable. The first most effective way to increase website traffic is to focus on increasing your social shares. The more people who share your content on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the more people will be motivated to visit your blog / website. The best way to accomplish this is to write great headlines that are SEO optimized and persuasive in prompting people to click on your links. Also provide easy ways to share your blog posts.

Other ideas:

  • Use long-tail keywords and do extensive keyword research
  • Start writing posts for other blogs in your niche
  • Install the CommentLuv plug-in on your blog to make it easier and more inviting for feedback and discussion

Network and Reach Out To More People

Plain and simple, you grow your blog – and in the bigger picture your brand – by networking extensively. Reach out every influencer in your niche. Connect with them, build relationships and frequently share their stuff on social media networks. Be proactive in every way you can to foster good relationships with influencers and other bloggers. Not only is it effective, it’s actually really enjoyable to make connections with others who have similar interests and aims, plus a strong interest in the digital space!

Other ideas:

  • Attend webinars and join seminars
  • Start participating extensively in blogging forum discussions
  • Tweet! Comment and frequently retweet stuff to grab reader’s attention

Develop and Launch Your Own Products

This one is obviously a much more intensive step, but again it’s very worth the effort. Develop information products and marketing them allows you to develop what’s called a passive income stream. More like a steady trickle rather than an infrequent gush, if you will, and that’s actually really preferable in the long run.

Build a specific list of email subscribers who are interested in your products and who are ready to buy stuff from you, and take leads from the people who are already making money by selling information products. Give commissions to anyone who helps you sell these products.

Construct an Email List, and Grow It

Have a look at top bloggers and analyze their income reports to see that their major earnings come from by leveraging the power of their email list. Make sure to integrate your email list right from the beginning. One advisable step is to offer an incentive to boost your email sign ups and make sure to add value to the people by sending them useful newsletters often. Be wary of pitching your products too often – subscribers may end up unsubscribing from your email lists.

Other ideas:

  • Offer incentive to your visitors with a freebie. Freebies like eBooks, videos, infographics etc. can prompt people to sign up to your email lists.
  • Use content upgrades to attract the right people to your email list. Offer a freebie that is relevant to your blog post or turn your post into PDF and make it easy for download. This way you can effectively build your list.
  • Showcase testimonials – somebody had something good to say? Share it right up front

Most bloggers use WordPress to write and publish their blogs. WordPress web hosting is built specifically for WordPress. This type of hosting is often called Managed WordPress Hosting, with the entire infrastructure is designed to do one thing well—run WordPress!

All 4GoodHosting clients will have access to a WordPress blog through their CP (control panel) and we’d love to hear about the successes – personal, financial, or otherwise – you’ve had with your blog hosted by us.

Regulating, Optimizing, and Identifying with Intel’s Smartly Designed Data Center Manager

young handsome business man engeneer in datacenter server room

No one will be better informed than a Canadian web hosting service provider to detail the way today’s data centers can really ramp up operating costs. There’s a whole host of reasons for that, but nearly every one of them is contained in those centers’ digital architecture, and their sensors and instrumentation specifically. Making correct analyses of where inefficient operation is occurring is often beyond the means of even the most digitally savvy of us, but certainly not for the smart folks at Intel.

Intel’s Data Center Manager helps data center operators lower costs and extend infrastructure life spans by automating data collection and presenting insights into ideal operating conditions and configurations. It involves identify and monitoring as many individual data points, so when there’s a problematic inefficiency, users are able to know exactly where it is.

One of the common issues DCM data reveals is a need to increase the temperature in datacenters and thus minimize cooling costs. This shouldn’t come as a surprise entirely, given the ever-increasing workload these data centers face and the according way they will tend to run hot as a result. There are more data points than ever, and so by extracting that data and looking at it from a more objective perspective, you can be confident in choosing to turn up the temperature as a means of lowering your air conditioning costs.

From there, the DCM team can set threshold levels and implement algorithms to try to predict temperatures and to alert datacenter operators of potential problems.

Just one example of how Intel’s DCM is super effective in helping to manage and keep a Data Center cost controlled. Here’s more:

Languages to Communicate Across OEMs

All hardware manufacturers follow the Intelligent Platform Management Interface, or IPMI, specifications to report performance metrics independently of the hardware’s CPU, firmware, or operating system. Each brand customizes their IPMI feed slightly to differentiate their products, and that’s to be expected.

DCM provides a simplified data feed to infrastructure and application performance managers to interpret or to connect with a facilities management interface. The out-of-band solution has its own discovery mechanism to locate network devices and languages, and if a new language surfaces that’s unrecognizable, it’s added to the library. Intel reports that updating and maintaining this library is a priority.

Virtual Gateway with Remote Diagnostics and Troubleshooting

Off the success of DCM, Intel asked the development team if they could access any other useful information. By running a remote session, they found they could access logs and BIOS data to monitor system health metrics. DCM’s companion product is called Virtual Gateway (click here to see Intel’s product detailing) and it features a set of APIs that let datacenter operators tap into those resources with a keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) interface. Intel’s logic here is in the understanding that not many data center operators will want to add more hardware unless it’s absolutely necessary, and Virtual Gateway allows them to avoid that scenario.

Lastly, it’s good to know that all data center hardware built after 2007 will have at least some degree of compatibility with Intel’s Data Center Manager, and that includes many already-installed / long-serving components from are not made by Intel.

No matter what business you’re in, you want to keep operating costs reasonable and for those of us in the web hosting business this is an extremely valuable tool that allows us to pass on the benefits of efficient data center operation along to customers in the form of lower service rates. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re always on the prowl for any such resource that allows us to do what we do even better day in and out and provide you with best web hosting services at the best prices!

What Exactly? The Ins and Outs of Subdomains

Domain

www.merriam-webster.com is pretty much the go-to online dictionary of choice these days, and it offers a full 10 different categorical definitions for the word domain, but most people will understand it to mean ‘space thats yours.’ The prefix ‘sub-‘ generally indicates a state of being beneath or under the suffix, whether literally or figuratively. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re web hosting experts in Canada but we’re the furthest thing from that when it comes to dictionaries.

Just this once though we’ll take a dissection approach to the word subdomain, and talk briefly about how it relates to web hosting as a whole. If we’re taking the literal meaning of it based on what’s explained above, it means ‘under space’ and while that’s vague and indeterminate it’s still fairly applicable.

A subdomain is the part of the website address before the domain name. More in sticking with our definition here though, subdomains are known as ‘third level’ domains, or canonical names, and as such they’re ‘beneath’ a website’s standard URL that’s registered, recognized, and functional within web directories. To put it more simply and understandably, a website’s URL will begin with the very recognizable http: (hyper text transfer protocol) – but you’re probably more familiar with it as it’s subdomain – www.______. com / ca etc etc.

Let’s use Merriam-Webster again as our example here. Their URL is https://www.merriam-webster.com/ but you’ll know them and link them with subdomain shown up on the first line of this blog post. That’s a subdomain!

So why subdomains?

Subdomains are commonly used to categorize portions of the website, and they can be easily moved to another server if the category gets very popular.

Subdomains are also used by free web hosting providers to resell web space under their own domain name (e.g. http://membername.hostname.com). Each member will have their subdomain, but every one of them there will still share the domain name of the hosting provider.

Subdomain names are also practical to balance the web servers for a high traffic website. Multiple web servers are assigned different subdomains like www.sitename.com, www1.sitename.com, www2.sitename.com etc, though each of them contain the same application code. When the request comes from the browser, the load balancing software redirects it to one of these servers. DNS load balancing is a simple method of load balancing using subdomains pointing to different IP addresses.

Webmaster Considerations

First and foremost, subdomains makes the URLs shorter and easier on the eyes. It allows website owners to categorize the content of the website, and – most importantly – facilitates better search engine rankings as most engines treat the subdomain as a separate website address.

However, there are certain things to consider before setting up subdomains for your website.

One of particular note is that if you use cookies in your website. A cookie set from a subdomain cannot be read from the main domain, and vice versa because of the security association feature tied to the domain which set it. This is also true for session cookies. If the user is logged in on the main site, and then moves to a subdomain, the subdomain site will not be able to access the same session cookie, and will assign a new session – which then forces the user to log in again. Implementing URL rewrites instead of session cookies is the common solution here, but it’s something a webmaster needs to be aware of.

In addition, your website stats will often not include the statistics of the subdomains and you’ll have to set up separate statistics for your subdomains. Subdomains allow a website to be broken down into smaller pieces without losing the brand image associated with the domain name. The subdomains can be hosted on separate servers in order to reduce the burden on the main domain hosting server.

Many web hosting providers do not provide subdomains in their hosting packages and / or charge extra for subdomain setup and maintenance. It’s also common that if you have a subdomain and want to move your site, you have to choose a provider which supports subdomains.

So if you’re looking for Canadian web hosting with subdomains included, we’ve got that for you with our Business and Advanced web hosting packages, competitively priced and featuring all the rock-solid reliability that 4GoodHosting is known for.