A Reminder About the Relationship Between VPNs and SEO

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It’s likely fair to say that Virtual Private Networks have been enthusiastically promoted by web hosting providers in Canada enough for the foreseeable future, at least from a consumer’s perspective. But it’s also fair to say that if the interests that lead you to have an online presence have SEO and search engine page rankings among them then the benefits of a virtual private network can’t be overstated. We may have touched on this before, but in a new decade where the digital sphere is scheduled to become even more prevalent in the business world it needs to be said again.

So that’s what we’ll talk about here today. Part of being a leading Canadian web hosting provider here at 4GoodHosting is being attuned to what’s important to people who trust us to ensure their website is up and open 24/7 and 365. We don’t need to take a survey to know that for the vast majority who have business interests with their website, ranking well in SERPs is going to be well up there. That people aren’t inclined to sift past the end of the first page – if they even get that far – isn’t likely ever going to change. And so the importance of 1st page search rankings isn’t going to change either.

So let’s take a short but thorough look at it for anyone who’s open to the idea of anything that can improve my website’s SEO and search engine rankings.

Brief VPN Introduction

Virtual private network services, or VPNs, are different from shared networks in that the user is able to create a new path for their online activities to connect to the Internet. Rather than directly connecting to the web, a virtual private network directs the traffic via one of its own servers in advance of sending it on to the resource. Data is also encrypted in this process, and that’s also a big part of the appeal of VPNs, but we’ll leave that for anther discussion.

We will say that when end-users connects to the Internet in this way, there’s a lot of security benefits; Their identity, IP address and what they’re accessing online is all kept entirely private and masked from view. This functionality has plenty of practicality for people working in SEO, but what that is may not be immediately clear.

Local SEO Results

Anyone working on SEO projects for global clients will be aware that achieving good organic results and paid ads on search engines can be quite challenging. The difference with a VPN is that since it allows people to choose their country of connection, they are then able to search via the VPN to get a clear view of how competitive it is to rank for certain keywords. Being able to easily switch between countries makes it a lot easier to handle multiple clients, especially when those clients are a geographically diverse bunch.

Better Visibility with Domestic Searches

Unless you’re extremely SEO savvy, you likely won’t know that the search results that Google shows a person is based strongly on their search history and location, plus other markers that the search engine uses to identify an individual. As a result, simply checking on rankings to see whether they made progress with their clients’ sites isn’t a very accurate representation of the strength of a site’s SEO. They will be a viewing a skewed representation that may not reflect how frequently or withing what phrasings people are searching for these keywords. However, when a user’s identity is masked, the VPN service takes out the identity-based adjustments that Google makes and allows the webmaster (or anyone else) a much more accurate representation.

They can then report this information to their client and give them a more smartly designed plan to improve their search engine rankings. By being able to see the competition and exactly how far they have to go, they can create a plan that best addresses the reality of their search engine ranking deficiencies.

Protection of Sensitive SEO Data

Effective SEO strategies and targeted keywords will be something you will want to keep to yourself, not only for a competitive advantage but also because this can be sensitive information. You won’t want the competition or another unauthorized entity to get their hands on it. Malware exists in many forms and hackers are quite sophisticated in their strategic approches these days, so anything extra an SEO pro can do to protect this information when it’s moving from their computer to the client is going to be helpful.

A VPN offers this to the user, with strong encryption built into the system that makes it fairly unlikely that a hacker would be unable to access useable information, even if they mange to intercept the transmission.

It’s also true that some VPN services have infrastructure in place to block ads and protect the user against malware and phishing attempts automatically. That’s always going to be a big plus, no matter what you’re doing and how vigorously you’re working to improve your SEO.

Stay Safer on Public Wi-Fi

SEO experts do enjoy the freedom to be a digital nomad as one of the perks that come with the nature of their work. Working remotely in different locations is almost always going to involve public Wi-Fi internet connections now and then. They’re great, but they put data and systems at risk. The potential risks of public Wi-Fi networks are nothing new, but some people have more to lose than others

The good news with a virtual private network in this regard is that A VPN encrypts all of the traffic going from the person’s computer through the VPN server. Plus, not needing to tether to mobile data-reliant device in order to get the same level of safety is advantageous for obvious reasons too.

Advanced Understanding of Google Ads

The benefits of a VPN don’t end there. It’s also a better choice for anyone who makes regular use of Google Ads in the promotion of their business. When you use a VPN for paid ad placement it allows you to see whether it’s showing up in the position you’re expecting it to. You can see the geographic disparity as they move around servers. Information learnt from this process can prompt you to make smart strategic changes to your SEO strategy and other improvements.

No Geo-Restrictions

Some countries have geo-restricted content, and for some people that impedes their efforts to do their job. A VPN gets around these limitations since that traffic will look like it’s coming from a different country. Firewalls aren’t much of a wall at all when you’re working from a VPN.

 

Choosing the Right VPN

A good place to start is by looking for ones that have a variety of supported countries. Another important consideration is the type of encryption that the service uses. Look for VPNs that have military-grade or bank-grade levels of encryption. If someone has the means of getting through this type of security, they’re probably the type who would be getting through no matter what you had in place to lock them out.

Most quality VPNs will also have a kill switch that stops all Internet usage if the VPN connection goes down. Price is also a consideration, but those who opt for a free VPN will almost certainly find it’s bare boned nature isn’t to their liking. Typical restrictions for free services include a small number of supported devices and connections, and a data cap. Premium services don’t have these types of limits or eliminate them entirely to make life easier for their users.

 

“Fleeceware” – What is It, and What’s the Risk?

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It’s likely accurate to say that most people put a lot more priority on security measures for their desktops or notebooks than they do for their phones. While it is true that most mobile operating systems will have anti-virus features to some extent, it’s becoming increasingly clear that nowadays that’s not going to be sufficient much of the time.

Incidences of phones become infected with malware are increasingly common, and there’s going to be very few people who aren’t familiar with that term.

However, one newer variety of ‘ware’ that isn’t going to be as universally well known as malware is going to the subject our post here today. Here at 4GoodHosting, we may a quality Canadian web hosting provider but our higher level of web-savviness doesn’t make us any less at risk of these bugs messing with our mobile devices than the rest of the average citizenry is. The difference is we’re in a position to always be made aware of new threats that come along, whereas most of your likely aren’t.

That’s why we always make a point to share these types of information. Who wouldn’t be especially displeased to find out their phone has been compromised, so here it is – a discussion about the newest type of malware to arrive onto the scene – what exactly is ‘fleeceware’, and what can we do about it?

Perils of Free Trial Periods

Before we discuss this new type of malware, iPhone users can breathe easier and then see themselves out. Fleeceware is making victims out of Android users exclusively, at least for now, and it’s de facto delivery method is actually through the Google Play Store. Obviously this is one of the most visited digital storefronts in the world, if a recent research survey is to be believed then these Fleeceware apps have been unwittingly downloaded and installed by over 600 million Android users after making purchases through Google Play.

Now for those of you who don’t have the most expansive vocabulary, fleece – when used as a verb – is ‘to strip of money or property by fraud or extortion’ (credit to the good folks behind Merriam-Webster’ excellent online dictionary). So that gives you an idea of what’s going on here with this.

It was last September when this term was coined, after it was discovered a new type of financial fraud taking place on the Google Play Store. The term itself refers to apps that abuse the ability to offer trial periods to users before their accounts are charged. But of particular caution here is when a person signs up for an Android app’s ‘trial period’. If this is something you’re considering, be forewarned that you really need to proceed with caution.

How it Happens

Here’s how this plays out, both nefariously and all too discreetly; When a user signs up for an Android app trial period, they must manually cancel the trial to avoid being charged. Most users choose instead to uninstall apps they don’t like, and most app developers take this as an indication they wish to cancel the trial period without being charged.

It was only recently that it was discovered that some app developers made no such cancellations to an Android app’s trial period after it was uninstalled. Rather, they kept charging them in spite of the fact that they were no longer using the app.

They were ‘fleecing’ these former free trial-period users, and doing so in a way that didn’t allow these individuals any way of knowing they were still ‘on the hook’ for the app even though they’d deleted it from their devices before the free trial period ended.

More Than a Few Fleeceware Apps

Industry watchdogs discovered 24 Android apps that were charging high fees, ones that were between $100 and $240 on average per year, for simple apps such as QR readers and calculators. And again, after their trial periods hand ended and independent of whether or not the person had deleted the app from their phone

Plus, it’s also been revealed that another set of Android fleeceware apps have been unwittingly downloaded by people through the Google Play Store with no reason for them to be suspicious. The good news is that many of these dark-sided apps have telltale signs that indicate a possible fleeceware app.

  • Unprofessional design and ‘cheap’ appearance and / or UI (user interface)
  • Abnormal number of 4 or 5-star reviews that do not have any commentary attached to them, or very little and vague wording (aka ‘sockpuppet reviews’)

The industry consensus seems to be that while fleeceware apps are being scrutinized and put in the public spotlight more, there’s still less focus on them as compared to ‘debilitating’ types of malware that affect the function of the device more directly. It’s a problem that Google will have to deal with for their Play Store, and it would be nice to seem them move more quickly in response to this.

What can you do to protect yourself? For starters, and quite basically, you should think twice about signing up for any trial period, and especially for any app that meets the criteria listed above for possible fleeceware ones. Next, be sure to actually cancel any trial periods rather than opting to simply delete the app.

More and more folks are choosing an anti-malware software for use with their mobile devices, and it’s really a smart call these days. Here’s hoping all of you who frequent the Google Play Store are more informed when it comes to shopping safely these days.

Understanding UWB (Ultra Wideband) and Its Significance for the Internet of Things

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Most people will need to look no further than their video doorbells, wireless thermostats, and the like to know to just what extent the IoT (Internet of Things) is increasingly integral to the conveniences of modern life. It was inevitable that consumer goods and appliance manufacturers would utilize the power of the Internet to make these products more personalized AND powerful. The majority of us are quite enthused with the development, although there are some concerns about privacy.

All in all though, the ongoing development of the IoT is a big benefit for consumers for whom their everyday lives take up nearly all of available attention, and anything that can make the task that come along with it easier is going to be especially welcome. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like any good Canadian web hosting in that these types of trends and technological developments are especially interesting to us given the digital nature of what we do here.

While it would be a challenge to find anyone who’s not at least somewhat familiar with IoT, it’s going to be understandable if you haven’t hear of UWB (Ultra Wideband) connectivity. That’s what we’re going to discuss with our entry here today, and the first thing to know about it is that it’s going to be an integral part of the IoT being expanded to have even greater functional capacities.

Getting to Know UWB

The new line of iPhones need no introduction, but one interesting point about them is they contain a chip called a U1 chip that provides Ultra Wideband connectivity. These chips are said to provide ‘spatial awareness’ – the ability for your phone to recognize its surroundings and the objects in it. In more example-based terms, it’s what allows one iPhone 11 user to point their phone at another iPhone 11 and transfer a file or photo.

UWB is a short-range, wireless communication protocol that is similar to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi in that it uses radio waves, but it’s different in that it operates at a very high frequency. It also uses a wide spectrum of several GHz. 15+ years ago, UWB was used for military radars and covert communications and for some medical imaging applications too.

Today, however, engineers are aiming to utilize it for location discovery and device ranging. UWB is more precise and accurate than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when locating other devices and connecting to them. It also uses less power and should offer a lower price point.

All of the world’s largest smartphone makers are all involved in UWB projects including chip and antenna production. Apple has beaten all others to the punch when it comes to actually deploying it in a phone though.

How Does UWB Work?

UWB transmitters work by sending billions of pulses across the wide spectrum frequency before a corresponding receiver then translates the pulses into data by identifying a familiar pulse sequence sent by the transmitter. One pulse will go out about every two nanoseconds, and this is how UWB is able to offer real-time accuracy.

 

UWB is extremely low power, but the high bandwidth (500MHz) makes relaying extensive quantities of data from a host device to other devices much more possible, and up to roughly 30 feet away. It is true that UWB does struggle with transmitting through walls.

But as long as there’s a direct ‘line of sight’, if you will, it has some seriously impressive data transfer capabilities. Increasing UWB’s range and reception reliability is made possible by a MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output), distributed antenna system added to the standard that enables short-range networks. When embedded into a smartphone or other devices such as a wristband or smart key, it creates a whole new ballgame as far as connectivity and data transfer are concerned.

Superior Receptiveness and Responsiveness

With use cases like asset tracking or device localization, one of the UWB devices calculates the precise location of another UWB-enabled object. For example, a UWB-enabled device can be used to unlock a car like a key fob or enable entrance to a secure area within a building. Or, a UWB-enabled smart phone or watch could establish secure access to a bank account via an ATM.

Security is always a popular topic these days, and UWB can augment that too. It could be a way to thwart relay or man-in-the-middle attacks, where bad actors monitor an area like a parking lot in an attempt to intercept and then store authentication messages between two devices, such as a key fob and a car. The UWB device’s signal would ignore all other devices in an area if they’re not oriented as a UWB-ready device themselves.

What is UWB Capable of Doing with the iPhone 11?

Apple developed its U1 chip has enabled all three models of the iPhone 11 to transmit data using the AirDrop file transfer service, and it will work with distances similar to those of Bluetooth.

While Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are indeterminate in their working, the Apple-developed U1 chip enables specificity. To put that differently, you have more physical control over which device(s) have access to yours based on where you position it. This makes us believe that it’s almost certain that Apple will enable the iPhone as a type of vehicle key fob sometime in the not-too-distant future.

 

6 Skills for Web and App Developers to Learn for 2020

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The new year – and a new decade – are upon us now and for many of us our New Year’s resolution will be to further our careers. Sure, there’s going to be many other resolutions too but no matter what industry you work in there’s always something to be said for expanding the horizons of what you’re able to do. For those who work in IT, it’s probably fair to say that there’s even more pressure to continually be mastering more given the extremely competitive nature of the industry and the willingness of companies to jettison employees in favour of more capable ones if an when they present themselves.

That certainly is the nature of that industry, but every one of us that enjoys digital connectivity and everything that comes along with it needs to be thankful for what web and app developers do for us. Here at 4GoodHosting, being a leading Canadian web hosting provider doesn’t qualify us for such appreciation, but we do sit in position that lets us have a more insider’s view into what goes on in the IT industry and how there’s never a day when these developers can rest on the laurels. It’s entirely true that if you’re not moving forward and learning and exploring all the time, you’re likely not long for the profession.

As long as user behaviour and user needs are changing, then web and application development will always be changing similarly. Fail to keep up with that and it’s going to be impossible to keep your products and projects relevant. The answer of course is to expand your skill set so that you’re able to catch the balls no matter which direction they fly at you from.

With that understood, here are 6 key skill areas where web and app developers would be wise to put their focuses in 2020.

  • Artificial intelligence

AI’s importance in application development can’t be stressed strongly enough at the moment. Most people who are in this business will know the extent to which it’s become so ubiquitous. Many users won’t even realise their interacting with AI or machine learning systems, but the fact that they are offers major benefits to both the inputter and receiver of the information.

The ways in which AI can be used by web and app developers is extensive and constantly growing. Personal recommendations is likely the most obvious example of it, but chatbots and augmented reality are where the boundaries are really being pushed with what’s possible with AI in the development field.

For some developers, AI might still be a little intimidating. And that’s fine, but be aware that you don’t need a computer science or math degree to use it effectively. Platforms and tools that make it possible to use machine learning technology out of the box are coming out quite regularly now, from Azure’s Cognitive Services, Amazon’s Rekognition, and ML Kit, built by Google for mobile developers.

  • Azure Cognitive Services for Developers

Azure Cognitive Services lets you build smart, AI-backed applications with impressively intuitive and user-friendly design. It does require a basic degree of wherewithal regarding web development, but what it does most primarily is make processes quicker to save you time that you can then use for more challenging parts of the development process.

  • New Programming Languages

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘polyglot’, it’s a term used for a person who has a natural gift for learning multiple languages and speaking all of them with real fluency. When a programmer is similarly ‘fluent’ with different programming languages, they’re more able to choose the right language to solve tough engineering problems.

Web and app developers responsible for building increasingly complex applications and websites won’t need to be reminded of this fact. The emergence of languages like TypeScript and Kotlin attest to the importance of expanding on your programming proficiencies every chance you get. However popular core languages like JavaScript and Java may be, there are now some tasks that they’re just not capable of dealing with.

Learning a new language (or 3) is a great way to build your skill set. Use your time wisely.

  • Accessibility

Real, functional web accessibility cannot be overlooked any longer. With increasing pressure to deliver quality, bug-free software on time, thinking about the consequences of specific design decisions on different types of users, is almost certainly going to be pushed to the bottom of developer’s priorities. Nowadays a two-pronged approach is the much wiser choice, and developers will do well to commit to learning web accessibility themselves, along with actively communicating its importance to non-technical team members.

More from the developer’s own perspective, though, it will also help developers to become more aware and well-rounded in their design decisions. That’s going to keep you in good stead no matter where and how you’re working.

  • JAMStack and Static Websites

Traditional content management systems like WordPress can be a major headache for developers if you want to build something that is more customized than a standard offering. This is why JAMStack – a smartly designed combo of JavaScript, APIs, and markup – offers web developers a way to build secure, performance-oriented websites very quickly.

Some have said that JAMstack is the ticket to producing the next generation of static websites, but it’s important to know that JAMStack sites aren’t exactly static, as they call data from the server-side through APIs. Developers then put a templated markup to work, and usually in the form of static site generators (like Gatsby.js) or build tools to serve as a pre-built front end.

Among all the benefits that can come with learning JAMStack, likely the most important is how it offers a really great developer experience. It allows you to build with the tools that you want to use, and integrate with services you might already be using, and minimizes the level of complexity that can come with some development approaches.

  • State Management

State management is a bit of a buzzword these days, and we’re sure many of you who are developers have noted that. Among the many strengths related to its use is that it’s especially well suited for accommodating increasing app complexity.

 

It’s highly advisable for developers to learn some of the design patterns and approaches for managing application states that have come to the forefront over recent years. The two most popular are Flux and Redux, and both are very closely associated with React. And if you’re a Vue developer then Vuex is well worth learning.

Like to take the chance to do the same thing we did this time last week in wishing you all well, but this time for a Happy and Prosperous New Year, whether you’re a web or app developer or if you choose (perhaps wisely) to not sit in front of multiple monitors for 8 hours as part of your work day