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

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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

Reading Time: 6 minutes

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, 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

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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.