Why ‘Free’ Web Hosting Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

For the very few who might not been aware of its existence, a simple Google search of ‘web hosting’ will make it quickly apparent that there is the possibility of having your website hosted for free. That’s right, no so much as a penny will be required of you to have your site up and open on the World Wide Web for visitors to stop by and have a look over what you’ve chosen to display about yourself. However, as is the case with nearly every consumer service where you’ve got paid and unpaid alternatives you need to ask yourself the question; if the free option was every bit the equal of the paid ones, why would anyone choose to part ways with their money each month?

That’s a legitimate question 10 times out of 10 in such a scenario, and when it comes to web hosting the answer is the same as it in almost any other – ‘Free’ hosting may be appealing, but don’t be surprised if you quickly come to find it’s not meeting your expectations and / or needs with what you have to have out of your website. The old expression ‘you get what you pay for’ comes to be true yet again it seems.

We’ll say briefly that the best way to save your budget while building a website is to save on its development. Web design can be outsourced to anywhere in the world and it’s quite common to get quality work for a very competitive price. But enough about that, let’s get back on subject here. Fact is, choosing free web hosting is one of the most common mistakes many businesses make when beginning to develop their online presence.

Why Hosting Matters

Finding a reliable web hosting company is an important step in delivering the best user experience to your customers. 95% of the time (and that might be conservative) free web hosting isn’t going to be reliable, either partially or at all. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a Canadian web hosting provider like several others who have made a name for ourselves based in large part on our ability to offer real reliability and uptime guarantees to our customers. To successfully deliver your content to viewers, you’ll need a place to store your files and that’s where hosting comes in. Remote computer servers serve as a source of storage for your information. Your host keeps your files safe and accessible, so your website can deliver the information you want viewers to see when someone opens your website.

Free web hosting gets red flags right off the hop with 1) risk of losing revenue, 2) negatively affecting SEO rankings, 3) potential security issues and 4) risk of malware attacks. Free is obviously tempting, but here’s why anyone really should discard the idea of possibly going down this route

  1. Entirely Free? Really?

Most of you will surely concur that anytime you have signed up for something ‘free’ in your lifetime, 9 times out of 10 there’s a surprise something or other expense to be incurred somewhere down the road. Limitations aren’t usually mentioned in the sales pitches either, and you’re bound to not like any of them very much either. You’re then in the position of needing to pay an excessive service fee to get what you need, or are stuck with what you have and put at a serious disadvantage.

Most free web hosting services limit the amount of storage available to your website, the bandwidth of your service, and do not allow FTP access. Upgrading your services for a much higher fee than most premium hosting providers offer is common in these scenarios when you’re now under contract. And yes, getting out of these contracts typically isn’t very easy.

  1. Reliability? Forget About It

Many of the most highly marketed free web hosting providers are new companies themselves. The offer of free web hosting is made with the aim to draw in customers to pay for their other services. They’ll offer premium hosting for ‘free, before charging you for pricey services that make your hosting be more of the arrangement you had in mind, and with what your website and digital marketing objectives with it need.

One of the major risks associated with this unreliability is that instability of the provider company usually comes along with it. Keep in mind that domains purchased or renewed through them will be lost if they suddenly go belly up – and many of them do. This will of course hit your SEO ranking right where it hurts. Trust us, you want to avoid this scenario!

  1. No Transfers

Most free hosting solutions have a knack for working tricky wordings into their terms of service. For instance, you might think that you own your website and your domain, but turns out you don’t. Then there’s instances where your hosting provider will own all your content in all likelihood. That means no selling your website, or your content, and republishing any of your work is a no-go too.

Then, once you realize you need better services, it’s often a tremendous hassle to transfer providers. Those who can’t afford the upgrades needed from their free hosting provider won’t even be able to look for an affordable, reliable company, because you don’t actually own your website, your content, or even your domain. This means no transferring to a better provider. Not good.

  1. Lack of Server Control

Most of them time website hosted through free website hosting are not scalable. If your business grows, your website will be prevented from doing the same. Most free hosting services fall apart big time when faced with high volumes of traffic, so you’re going to have to make sure you don’t have too many visitors when your site is hosted this way. That’s really going to hurt you, wouldn’t you agree. Make sure you’re not successful, how does that sound? Right then.

Reliable web hosting in Canada is not particularly expensive. But more importantly it’s an investment in the security of your website and in your business’ future. If you exceed your limits with a premium hosting provider, more often than not you can upgrade your services at a fair and affordable price. And you don’t need to concern yourself with slow website speeds or downtime. That in itself is HUGE.

  1. Subpar Looking Websites

Free hosting will only come with a few basic themes for your website design. You may be able to make small changes, but customizing your website or make improvements as your budget allows is probably out of the question. Forget legit domain names too, because you will likely be using a subdomain.

We love WordPress, but WordPress hosting is a great example of a free hosting provider that limits your capabilities and often leaves you looking less-than-professional online. Clients who use the free WordPress hosting services often have a domain like biz.wordpress.com. We, and many others, can get you a top-level domain at a low cost and you can implement professional .com emails that go a long way to enhancing the appearance of your business.

Consider as well that free hosting excludes plugins, so your website won’t be capable of executing many important website functions. Consider further still that you will likely have to deal with forced ads that are placed on your website and have no value for your business. After all, your free hosting provider is going to have to make their money by some means!

  1. SEO Ranking Suffer

We’ve now firmly established that your webpage can be saddled with slow site speeds, increased downtime, and look bad, but there’s a more serious impact this can have on your business. SEO is a major priority for business websites these days, and we don’t need to explain why. Investing in professional SEO services is always best, as it it takes time to build a solid online presence. Free hosting providers can promote negative impacts on your ability to rank well, if rank at all in search results.

Google has implemented high standards by which only certain websites rank near the top of the first page. All the negative impacts listed above regarding free hosting make your website harder to rank because of its low quality when it comes to Google Standards. You’ll struggle mightily to get your business on the map when it comes to search engine results. This is truly the last thing you want when you’re relying on your website to be the primary driver of your online marketing efforts.

Paid – and subsequently quality and reliable – web hosting gives you full control over your website, better SEO, a genuine professional domain, and a scalable website that has the ability to grow with your business. Now not toot our own horn too much, but at 4GoodHosting this is what we’re been providing to Canadians from coast to coast for more than a decade now. Something to be proud of for sure, and that’s the way it’s going to continue to be.

6 Reasons Drupal 8 is the Best CM Platform Around

These days if your website – and overall web presence – isn’t backed up by fresh, relevant content being shared via it every week then you’re going to be at a disadvantage compared to those that do have good content. Drupal is definitely a household name when it comes to content management, and while WordPress may be king based on the simplicity of use it offers, Drupal is really where it’s at for those of you who have even the most basic of computer application wherewithal.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re not unlike any other Canadian web hosting provider in that we strive to relate the importance of promoting your business or personal venture effectively on the web. Drupal is currently the top content management platform used by governmental and non-governmental agencies, global companies, and higher education institutions, so it’s fair to say that it is the most solid choice for a content management platform that’s designed for those who have a more developed and polished web site and web presence, and know their way around that site with a measure of can-do authority.

Since Drupal was first released in 2000, it has stayed at the top of the industry by developing the latest innovations, raising the standards of digital experience, and being the consensus preferred content management platform available.

Here are the top 6 reasons why the new Drupal 8 is the best choice for you and whatever interest you have in promoting yourself online via quality, original content.

  1. It Is Easyand Intuitive to Learn Everything About The Platform

Drupal’s developers here introduced a convenient, user friendly interface that allows site admins and editors to quickly and easily perform foundational tasks like data modelling, front end, landing page, installation, establishing information architecture, and much more.

Further, training with it is very simple thanks to the Drupal 8 user guide and the large number of Drupal training organizations available on the Marketplace. You can also find a wide variety of video tutorials, books, forums, and even a community where you can have all your questions answered.

  1. It OffersThePerfect Combination Of Functionality & Features

Drupal 8 is indeed very functional and user friendly, but it also boasts a wide array of features and enhancements. It now lays claim to being the first CMS with almost 59 core modules, including JQuery Update, Entity API, and CKEdition. Users will also love automatic packaging and it is particularly good for businesses utilizing their website for e-commerce. It analyzes your site and automatically packages the site configuration into a set of features, rather than you having to do all that manually. Other important business features provided are:

  • Twig, a new PHP-based theming engine that is secure, fast, and flexible
  • Built-in themes that are mobile first, easily adapting to different screen sizes
  • Text editing on any page without having to go to the full edit form by default
  • Views are integrated with the core, allowing users to quickly create pages, admin section, blocks, and modify existing pages with real ease
  1. Drupal 8 Comes WithBuilt-In ConfigurationManagement

Configuration management is built in at the file-system level with Drupal 8, so you will have no problem carrying over configuration elements like fields, content types, and views from your local development to the server. Tracking your configuration changes is made easy by use of a version-control system. All configuration data is stored in files that are kept separately from the site database.

Drupal 8 also comes with the Drupal Module Upgrader, which lets you automatically convert your Drupal 7 code to Drupal 8, with a smooth and reliable migration process. The Module Upgrader scans and then upgrades the previous version, while flagging any code that should be upgraded and also pointing out relevant changes as they are needed.

  1. Drupal 8’s ScalabilityAllows for Transitions with Growth of the Business

Successful businesses grow, and with that growth comes an increasing demand for interactive websites with a variety of elements. Sometimes sites that are handicapped by one or more functioning components of the site can leave that website running much too slow. Drupal 8 is equipped for scalability, and has the enhanced features necessary for your website to be as dynamic as it needs to be without running slow.

  1. Drupal8 GivesThe Content Editor Real Power, and Unmatched to Date

Thanks to WYSISYG editor CKEditor being bundled with the core, authoring with a content management platform has never been easier. Drupal 8 is integrated with a variety of key marketing tools, and it offers a greater variety of better content authoring tools. Add improved translation capacity which allows your business to interact with a global audience that may have previously not been within your reach and this really is a big selling point for Drupal 8.

  1. Drupal8 IsFully Responsive from Day 1

You can use Drupal 8 to deliver experiences on desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, or anywhere else a customer chooses to view your content, and nothing additional is required of you. Keep in mind when considering this that if your site is not mobile-friendly, you can expect anywhere from 50 to 79% of your visitors to bounce within seconds of arriving and they will also be very unlikely to return anytime in the future. Avoiding this possibility is made easy when Drupal 8 is your CMP.

In conclusion, Drupal 8 is especially easy to use, and in the event you do run into a problem then there are plenty of directions you can turn to for assistance. You can also count on it making authoring, configuration management, and upgrading equally simple, while also offering translation services along with being able to immediately adapt for mobile devices. Slam dunk as far as the best CMP out there right now as far as we’re concerned.

2 Weeks To HTTPS Becoming a Necessity for Websites

It’s July 9th and two weeks from today the web is officially going with full HTTPS as requisite, and that’s a development that’s been a long time in the making. Securing traffic on the internet is an obvious priority, but of course there are people who are strongly opposed to having a secure web.

Two weeks today Google will be uniformly labeling any site loaded in Chrome without HTTPS to be not secure. Most webmasters will be on top of this and accordingly usage of HTTPS is exploding right now. In the 6 months up to a recent report, 32% growth in the use of HTTPS was seen in the top 1 million sites. Mozilla tracks anonymous telemetry via Firefox browser and recorded big growth (75% page loads) in the rate of pages being loaded over HTTPS. Chrome too, at around the same 75 percent.

We’re a Canadian web hosting provider who’s always got our thumb on the pulse of the industry, so it’s important to relate that quite a few popular sites on the web still don’t support HTTPS (or fail to redirect insecure requests) and will soon be flagged by Google. Plus, let’s clear up a few emerging myths about HTTPS:

  • It’s a Hassle
  • I Don’t Need It
  • It’s Gonna be Slow
  1. It’s A Hassle

No, it’s pretty darn simple. You can protect your site with HTTPS in a matter of seconds for FREE. Sign up for Cloudflare or using a CA such as Let’s Encrypt. We can assist you with any other web security and accessibility concerns you may have beyond https encryption of your website.

  1. I Don’t Need It

Well it turns out, you do – particularly as it relates to the safety and privacy of those visiting your site. Without HTTPS, anyone in the path between your visitor’s browser and your site or API can peer in on (or make modifications to) your content without you needing to be made aware of it. Governments, employers, and even especially internet service providers can and have been overseeing content without user consent.

If having your users receiving content unmodified and safe from maliciously injected advertisements or malware is a priority for you, you are advised to move your website to HTTPS.

Add the fact that the major browsers like Apple, Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft, are restricting functionality to only work over HTTPS. Google will soon block unencrypted mobile app connections automatically in their upcoming Android version. Apple has announced that apps must use HTTPS, but there has been no official announcement of this yet.

  1. It’s Gonna be Slow

The last common myth about HTTPS is that it’s not speedy enough. This belief is a holdover from an era when SSL/TLS might have had a negative performance impact on a site, but that’s not the way it is today at all or ever. HTTPS is also now required to enable and enjoy the performance benefits of HTTP/2.

Here’s two untruths to consider:

1) It takes incrementally more CPU power to encrypt and decrypt data; and

2) establishing a TLS session involves nothing more than 2 network round trips between the browser and the server.

HTTPS content from the edge – 10-20 milliseconds away from your users in the case of Cloudflare – SSL/TLS enabled sites are superior. And even when they are not served from an edge provider they still function at a high level. Advanced users should also consider using HSTS to instruct the browser to always load your content over HTTPS, saving it a round trip (plus page load time) on following requests.

Improving Site Security with WordPress User Roles

WordPress continues to be the most popular choice when choosing a vehicle for building a basic website. Those of you who are a single individual running such a website likely haven’t given much thought to WordPress user roles. In the event that you ever want to allow someone else access to your site then it’s helpful to know how to use these user roles. With them you can give people access to certain areas of your site, but only to certain areas of the site where they’ll be doing what you’ve requested them to do.

Enabling everyday folks to be more in command of their digital presence is a part of what’s made 4GoodHosting a leading Canadian web hosting provider and, while we prefer websites that are much more dynamic, we understand that WordPress is intuitive to use and works perfectly well for a good many of you.

So, today we’ll discuss what WordPress user roles are, have a look a their importance, and share some tips on how to use them the right way to improve overall site security.

Defining WordPress User Roles

WordPress features a role management system that enables you to specify what actions users can or can’t undertake on your site. As your site expands, knowing how to use these roles is a very valuable bit of knowledge. Each role can be specified based on certain capacities, and one example would be enabling one use to publish a post while allowing another to update plugins and themes. Here are 6 default user roles that can be taken on separately to improve security for the website.

  1. The Administrator Role

This is almost certainly one you’re already very familiar with, given the fact it’s the role you’re assigned when you create your site. There is commonly only one administrator role and it gives access to everything related to your site. Given this role is all powerful, you should be very leery of giving anyone this high-level access to your site.

  1. The Super Admin Role

Note as well that there is one user role that’s technically a step higher than the admin role – the super admin role. The super admin role will only exist when you have a network of connected WordPress sites working in conjunction via WordPress’ multisite installation. This role is responsible for the entire network of sites, and comes with the same privileges as an admin extending out across the entire network of sites. Having a super admin role diminishes the capacity of the standard admin role. He or she can will no longer be able to modify or install plugins and themes, or make changes to user information.

  1. The Editor Role

This individual will, not surprisingly, have pretty high-level access to your site. They’ll be responsible for content management – which is huge – and they’ll be responsible for creating and editing pages and posts, plus moderating comments and changing categories. Access to plugins or themes won’t be possible for the editor, but everything related to publishing content is dictated by them.

  1. The Author Role

Not much to be concerned about there. The author will be able to create, edit, and publish posts, but not much more than that. They won’t have access to any pages, nor any level of administrative access.

  1. The Contributor Role

The contributor role has even less access than the author role, and worthy of even less concern accordingly. Contributors will be able to read the posts on the site, edit them and delete their posts. Not much more than that. They will not be able to post publishings or upload media files.

  1. The Subscriber Role

This role is typically used for subscription-based sites. Subscribers usually have access to a diminished WordPress dashboard, where they’ll be limited to managing their own profiles. This role can be useful if your aim in having users sign up is to have them gain access to specific content.

Why User Roles Matter

As a website grows and your backend features multiple people working on your site, a way to manage these users without getting overwhelmed is definitely required. User roles are important for two reasons. The first is that they can simplify your workflow, and especially when you have a developer maintaining plugins and themes, a team of writers, and an editor making sure content is accurate and visually appealing.

The best choice is to assign them specific roles based upon the jobs they been instructed to take on. This will make their jobs easier, as well as preventing them from accessing parts of the site not related to their work. Secondly, they make your site more secure. Defining user roles makes it so that you’re giving people access to limited portions of your site. That’s recommended at all times.

How to Use WordPress User Roles to Improve Security

Assigning different roles to different users based on how they’ll be using your site will help to beef up your overall security. Giving every single site user an admin role means you are essentially giving them full site access. Even though you might trust these individuals, there are possible scenarios where the security of your site can be compromised. A poorly chosen weak password is a good example. Next, you never know if another person’s computer is infected, and in truth they might not even know themselves. Their computer could have malware or another virus installed, and if you give them admin access instead of a defined user role, your site will be at risk.

In conclusion, by specifying user roles you enhance site security and help to safeguard it against any user errors. Defining and utilizing user roles exclusively within themselves will not only improve your overall workflow, but will also improve overall site security.

Enhancing Customer Experience with IoT Devices

The Internet of Things or IoT as it’s come to be abbreviated has changed the role of the objects around us and the means by which we interact with them and that’s because the focus has shifted to enhancing customer experience for IoT and enabled devices. Data is now collected with the help of smart components, and businesses then probe it for insights to make smarter decisions about their products.

The majority of these smart components are sensors, microprocessors, niche software, data storage techniques and tailor-made operating systems. They work collectively to leverage information derived from the data, and the way that’s done is causing that technology to be adapted by everyday people making everyday things.

A new phase of user experience, Smart User Experience, has grown out of this and it has made the customer experience within IoT increasingly important. Here at 4GoodHosting, part of what makes us a top Canadian web hosting provider is the way we’ve got our ears to the ground with developments of this sort that carry weight in the digital world and will be of interest to our customers accordingly. Today, we’ll look at 6 ways you can enhance customer experience with IoT devices.

Smartest Users

Customer experience is playing an extremely vital role for connected devices, and more specifically smart user experience is front and centre with smart technologies pushing it forward. Being aware of their surroundings and sensing changes in their circumstances allows these IoT devices to take on measures that can be implemented to enhance their functionality.

A quality smart user experience via the right interface enables companies to offer product iterations that consistently drive up the engagement factor and enhance the customer experience when using IoT devices.

So those of you planning to provide a phenomenal customer experience for IoT products will want to take a detailed and deeply introspective look at how you design an IoT device. It will without a doubt dictate the way in which users interact with your products.

  1. Exercise Clean Design

Introducing a UX-based functionality that fails to comply with the core values that the product aims to provide is going to put you in a bad spot right off the hop. For example, adding Google Search through the touch screen of a bread maker might seem ingenious, but it will most likely be a distraction and nothing more. An interactive menu that provides quick recipes for different types of breads would be a much better and welcome choice.

Features should always be introduced in a way that has them taking advantage of the core functionality of the device. Keeping the engagement quotient relevant and as unadulterated as possible is really important.

  1. Introduce Smart Automation

Function should be right up there with the look and feel of the product too. Since IoT-enabled devices come equipped with sensors, they can easily capture loads of data regarding all sorts of inputs.

The product should then be using this data to learn extensively about the user’s use preferences and then begin taking smart and automated decisions on its own. An air conditioning system that learns the correlation between the weather outside and the preferred temperature of the user would be a great example. If it then starts keeping the home temperature optimized autonomously, obviously the customer experience for the IoT device is enhanced in a big way .

  1. Personalize the Interface

Smart interface designing in IoT can be personalized by users according to their preferences and this takes UX to a new level entirely.

A good example is the POP Home Switch, made by Logitech. It can be quickly customized by the user to take control of the smart devices in the house by making use of custom recipes. A single click turns on the TV, while a double one activates the AC and locks the door.

  1. Beyond Screens Approach

The examples listed above prove that a successful strategy for customer experience for IoT involves thinking beyond the usual interfaces based around screens. This is possible when you leverage the capabilities of sound, gestures and intuitive movements rather than designing a simple screen-based user interface.

Your IoT device design should make things simpler while not introducing more complexity into the equation, but at the same time being designed in a way that it involves a minimal amount of training being required for the user.

There’s an interactive IoT powered product called Knock that’s a great example here. This small wireless device has a simple yet powerful design that converts any ordinary service into a control interface, with users knocking on the service and the device then carrying out the user-defined functions on the basis of the number of knocks entered.

This is an excellent example of a smart interface design as it’s especially simple for the user.

  1. Have a Broad Perspective

It is indeed important to design for the appliance, but you’ll also need to keep in mind the broader picture and grasp the perspective of the whole IoT ecosystem.

How is your device going to fit into this ecosystem?The reason this question is important is that the technological backdrop today is driven through screens and the UI of your IoT device can become lost along the way.

The best aim is to design it with the intent of keeping machine-to-machine interaction to the maximum and autonomous behaviour to a minimum. Ensure your IoT device is able to easily integrate with the existing ecosystem, and not ending up creating one on of its own.

  1. Engagement Design

Engagement is always the primary and most valuable aim for IoT devices. The more the user interacts with the IoT system, the more data that can be collected and the system is then more able to optimize itself accordingly for best results and customer satisfaction. But it is also crucial to place the center of control in the hands of the users. Simply, the interface design should make them feel like they are entirely in control.

Remote user interfaces go a long way in this regard, and they go very well with the core idea of the Internet of Things where a connected virtual world that can be accessed and controlled anywhere and anytime is the big picture goal.

Designing for scenarios that enable automatic remote access is the trend now.One example would be an IoT application where when you start your car before heading home at the end of the workday, the air conditioning system of your house will be activated to reach your optimum temperature when you arrive.

In conclusion, it is crucial that you make your IoT platform – whether one already in the market or one you are developing yourself – to be a memorable experience for your users that drives them to the maximum amount of engagement.The key here is to make the functioning of the platform as immersive, personalized and simple as possible, and combining the experience of various devices from an array of companies to capture as much market as possible is a wise approach.

Making your product ‘smart’ is not enough to grab the attention of users these days. You need to carve out your niche by doing what your competition has yet to do, and that is focusing more on designing smart interfaces and the UX experience overall.

Understanding Proxy Servers

We imagine a good many of you will have heard the term ‘proxy server’ more than a few times but not have a clue what it means. Think of all those times you’ve seen someone visit your LinkedIn profile in anonymous mode. A proxy server is a computer that is used as an intermediary, of sorts, between your computer and the websites you are visiting. The purpose of its function in doing so is so that you can surf anonymously or bypass an blocking capability of the websites you’re visiting. More simply, proxy servers hide your home IP address from websites that would otherwise be able to take note of it.

Here at 4GoodHosting, it’s been a long road to becoming one of the best Canadian web hosting providers, but we like to think that a good part of our reputability is in the fact that we have a more value-added proposition than many of our competitors, and being informative and helpful regarding everything in the web world is definitely something that’s helped us out.

So let’s look at proxy servers in greater detail this week, and see what makes them so appealing in certain instances or scenarios when you’re making your stops along the information superhighway.

Anonymity

One of the primary appeal of these servers is that they allow you to leave an anonymous comment on a website. The website’s owner may choose to block the proxy’s IP address, but it won’t be blocking your home IP address. Trying to track the IP address wouldn’t have any ability to track back to your genuine home IP address. You won’t care much if the proxy server’s ID is blocked, and that’s kind of the idea.

Proxy servers used to be the only way anyone could access the world wide web, but times have certainly changed. Hackers now often use proxies to get behind network firewalls.

Say a building’s computer is being used as a proxy to get behind the network firewall of that building because the IP address of that computer would be allowed there. A proxy server is a hacking tool most commonly, despite the fact it was up until then the only way people could use the internet. At that time computers would basically be fighting with each other while trying to access the internet, so that one computer in a building would be the proxy and all of the other household computers would be working to gain an internet connection from it.

Proxy Server Downsides

The first major drawback for proxies is that they have incredibly low speed, and slow internet connections and inefficient hardware will make that speed even slower. Proxies also affect all browsers, so forgetting to turn it off may result in you entering information you don’t want to be volunteering while your’e still using someone’s proxy. Keep in mind again that proxy servers are often hacker tools. Hackers generally are the ones to use them, as well as those responsible for creating them. It slows down their computer and clogs it hopelessly, so what’s the appeal exactly?

Well, quite simply the aim is to gain mass amounts of information from people with as little work as possible. With that understood, never save passwords over a proxy. Any information you enter is initially sent through that proxy server, and you can be certain those hackers are saving that information. Always understand that while you might be using a proxy server for anonymity, there is a chance that whoever is providing it may well be using it for criminal purposes.

Proxy Server Upsides

It’s not all nefarious stuff when it comes to proxy servers. The privacy and anonymity appeals for proxies can be quite genuine. You can browse without websites knowing where the original request came from, and then personal information and browsing history remain private.

Proxy servers are popular for companies and schools when they are aiming to control where their employees and students can and can’t go online. Parents and school boards are also able to monitor children and employee’s browsing habits to be responsive to irresponsible or unproductive behaviour there.

How Does a Proxy Server Work?

Information is sent from your computer to the proxy, which then passes it along to the Internet. It’s going to be possible to link the two from the other side if the path exists in one direction. It’s quite possible to trace a proxy. If the police get a search warrant for your IP address, your company will be obligated by law to give them your information.

You may think that proxy servers sound much like virtual private servers (VPS servers), but they are not the same. The only function shared between them is that they both hide your home IP address.

Setting Up a Proxy Server

There’s more than one way to set up a proxy server if you require one. For starters, there are websites that will allow you to use their proxy servers, but again beware of hackers who will skim your information if they get the chance. Remember – if you can access their server, they can access your computer. These website proxy servers are almost like a private browser on Google. If maximum and reliable anonymity is what you’re after, there are also ‘proxy changing’ services you can use that change your IP address every minute. However, they do tend to be expensive.

Fact, Not Fiction; Undersea Data Centers

Having coaxial fibre optic cables crossing oceans underneath the sea floor has been commonplace for years now, but it would seem as if we’ve moved into new and definitely uncharted territory when it comes to having a part of the world’s digital connectivity found beneath the surface of the sea.

This past month saw Microsoft deploy – or more shall we say sunk – a shipping container-sized datacenter to the bottom of the sea near the Orkney Islands in Scotland as a part of its ambitious ‘Project Natick.’ This 40’ long datacenter is loaded up with 12 racks of 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of disk. What’s most impressive, however, is the way Microsoft claims it can hold data and process information for up to 5 years without maintenance.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re not unlike any other first-rate Canadian web hosting provider in the way we’re super keen to be right on top of groundbreaking developments in both technology AND the way it’s deployed as it relates to the online world. This is definitely one such example that’s worthy of mention and then some, so let’s take a long look at it this week.

Microsoft’s capsule-shaped is called the Northern Isles datacenter, and it is the working equivalent of thousands of high-end personal computers. It will use the low temperatures of the surrounding sea water to cool the datacenter externally, contributing to the biggest benefit of this datacenter – dramatic reduction in cooling costs and electricity consumption.

The Northern Isles datacenter will use specialized radiators that leverage technology from submarines to cool the internal hardware, while also using artificial intelligence (AI) to detect any signs of failure in servers or any other equipment. All in all, it will operate like any standard data center deployed on land.

Electrical operating power will be supplied by the Orkney power grid, with renewable energy being generated via sea waves, tide, windmills and solar plants.

Working towards eco-friendly sustainable solutions is admirable on Microsoft’s part, and Project Natick is a step towards their vision of data centres with their own sustainable power supply. It also expands upon the environmental promises the company has made, including a $50m pledge to use AI to help protect the planet.

Interesting to note here that more than 50% of the world’s population live within about 120 miles of a body of water. Locating data centers in water bodies near coastal cities will bring data closer to the billions of people who utilize the World Wide Web. It will result in fast and smooth web surfing, video streaming, game playing, and authentic experiences for AI-driven technologies.

Project Natick is at present an applied research project, and the team behind it will be monitoring and recording its performance, power consumption, internal humidity levels, temperature levels, etc. for the next full year before any changes, upgrades, or reorientations are made.

With available land in many major urban centers being increasingly at a premium, the idea of locating data infrastructure underwater is not only revolutionary, but it’s exactly the kind of ‘outside the box’ thinking that is needed more and more as we move into some of the uncomfortable realities of the 21st century.

 

Defending Against Domain Name Slamming

You may think that there’s not much more to your domain name than a simple identity and location where your website is situated for discovery on the World Wide Web. In essence that’s all it is, an address where you can be found. But of course there’s significant value in that, and especially so for anyone who relies on being business online. It’s a fact that scams involving domain names have been increasing at an alarming rate.

Collectively, all these scams are referred to as ‘Domain Name Slamming.’

Here at 4GoodHosting, a part of what makes us a reputable Canadian web hosting provider is the fact that we strive to look out for our customers’ well being on the web. There’s an increased chance that someone with bad intentions may try to use your domain name to take advantage of you, so we’ll identify some of these scams and share some tips here today that you can use to guard yourself against them.

The Fake Bill Scam

The Domain Registry of Canada, or DROC, has been in operation for years, leading many Canadians to be confused regarding what looks like a renewal bill for your domain names. This scam is the version of ‘domain name slamming’ you’re most likely to come across, a it’s a type of scam that aims to overcharge or falsely charge domain name owners.

It’ll most commonly start with your receiving a letter that begins by informing you that your domain name(s) will be expiring in the near future. You’ll then be presented with a list of prices for renewal over different time periods before concluding with a tear-away payment stub you’re to use to ‘renew’ your domains.

The trick here is in the way they bury information in the walls of text in the letter. If you look and ready very closely, you’ll see that the DROC is actually asking you to change the company you register your domains with. Most commonly this will be snuck just under or above something more attention-grabbing like “failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity”.

This of course gives you a sense of urgency to react, and individuals can be conned into paying up to 3X the price of a standard domain renewal. As if that’s not bad enough, you may also end up losing access to your websites and emails for extended periods of time.

Over the years, DROC has gone under many other names to continue their shady practices:

  • Brandon Gray Internet Services (a parent company – their certification as a .CA registrar has been revoked)
  • Domain Registry of America
  • Domain Renewal Group
  • Domain Registry of Europe
  • NameJuice
  • iDNS
  • Or any one of many others, unfortunately

Whatever such guise they’re using, they all use some variation of the same practice of mass mailing unsuspecting domain owners. The templates and logos may vary slightly, but the principle remains the same.

The 1-Up the Competition Scam

As mentioned, these scams need the domain name owner to feel a sense of urgency, but also a sense of fear of losing ground to the competition if they remain inactive or even delay in responding.

Generally delivered via email, these types of scams won’t request that you transfer your domain name, but they will ask you to purchase the same domain with a different extension. The standard ploy is to suggest that your domain name ownership is under question (almost never the case in reality), before sharing the helpful recommendation that you pay for the new registration yourself to wisely protect your brand and copyright around the world.

Their hope is that you’ll be sufficiently intimidated and ‘too busy’ to look into the matter much further. Then you’ll pay rather than spend time and resources pursuing what would be ‘legal matter’ developing out your continued inactivity.

Here’s an example of what this might look like:

Dear CEO,

We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in _____.

We Received an application from ______ Ltd on (date). They want to register (yourdomainname)as their internet keyword and
(yourdomainname).com.cn
(yourdomainname).net.cn
(yourdomainname).org.cn
(yourdomainname).asia
(yourdomainname).cn

But after looking into this further, we have found that(yourdomainname)conflicts with your company. In order to deal with this matter in the speediest and best manner, we need to send you an email and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner here in _____ or not.

Best Regards,

(The Scammer) / Service and operations manager

The communication seemingly comes from an overseas company, and the email warns you that a there is a mysterious competitor that is aiming to purchase a variation of a domain name for which you’ve had ownership, but usually with a different extension, such as .com.cn. As there is a potential copyright conflict, this scammer is very kindly offering you the option to beat them to the punch and secure the new extension domain for yourself.

How is Information Obtained?

The WHOIS database is a massive collection of information on the ownership of most domain names, and it also includes detailed contact information for owners and administrators. It needs to be a public database, but unfortunately that allows certain dubious companies to be able to scrape its data and store the information they need to solicit unsuspecting domain name owners.

Luckily, you can guard yourself against any such occurrence.

Protecting Yourself from Domain Slamming

There are 3 primary ways to effectively safeguard yourself from domain slamming.

  • Choose to activate privacy protection as a means of shielding your personal information on the WHOIS and the information will then be inaccessible to spammers and scammers. Noe that individuals registering .CA domains receive this protection FREE by default.
  • Keep your eyes peeled, scrutinizing any such communications and trusting your instincts. If it seems illegitimate, it probably is! Read through the content critically and if you continue to have doubts then Google search the company’s name or email address. If the results share talk of scams, immediately discard and ignore the communication.
  • When a scam email is received, mark it as spam in your inbox and forward it to spam@fightspam.gc.ca. The antispam filters will make a note and should be able to reduce the number of messages of this type in the future.

If you receive a scam email or letter, or have been the victim of one of these scams, keep in mind you’re not the only one who’s been duped and that it’s not any reflection on your smarts. Canada has an Anti-Fraud Center which you can contact as well as Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) where email scams can and should be reported.

10 DIY SEO Tips for New Websites

It’s really all too easy to assume that you need to have some type of special savvy mixed with a whole lot of know-how to get your newly-formed website ranking sufficiently. Truth is that’s not the case. You WILL get your money’s worth if you hire an SEO expert to optimize your site, but for many of you money may be a little tight and budget constraints are what they are.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like any other good Canadian web hosting provider in that we like to see our newbies be successful, and out of the gate as much as possible. SEO isn’t the be-all end-all of making that happen, but it factors in quite considerably.

There are quite a few things you can do to speed up this process, helping your site get better search engine rankings and more traffic much sooner than you’d expect. Here are 10 SEO tips specifically chosen with new websites in mind, and ones that are decidedly doable for even those of you with very little in the way of established SEO application knowledge.

  1. Start be targeting low competition keywords at the outset

When a site is first launched, it will have a very low authority with Google. This means it will rank worse than established competitors for high competition keywords. You’re perfectly free to target those keywords, but the speediest way to generate new traffic to your site is to target keywords that are less competitive.

You can determine how competitive a keyword is by using Google’s Keyword Planner. This will show you whether competition for a term is high, medium or low. Finding keywords which are less competitive gives you increased chances of ranking for them and receiving the traffic which they send. Choose to target highly competitive keywords only and you may not rank at all,meaning no organic traffic in the early days. This method is a good technique while you slowly establish your site authority.

  1. Locate your main keyword in the page’s title tag

Search engines use title tags and other meta information to determine the subject matter of each page or post on your website. This is very much essential, and so when you create your new website it’s highly advisable to have your page title tag featuring the most important keyword or term. Do it, and then when someone searches for that the search engines will quickly identify that your page has relevant content.

There’s a real link between keywords in the title tag and search engine rankings, so make the most of this technique. Also make sure that you include your keyword in the page’s meta description.

  1. Titles Are For Searchers, Not Search Engines

Getting ranked number one in Google is not a guarantee of any volume of traffic. You’ll only get people coming to your website if your result gets clicked on. When you write the title of your page or blog post, you STILL have to write it in a way that will make grab the interest of a visitor who may be a potential reader. Your title needs to pique their interest.

Let’s say you run an online store. Maximizing sales is made possible by writing titles that attract searchers who are ready to buy. Simply adding the word ‘buy’ to your keyword, for example, can do wonders.Titles like these are much more likely to get clicked on and result in a sale.

  1. Ensure Titles Don’t Get Cut Off

Hard to argue that space isn’t precious when it comes to search engine results. When it comes to titles, only about the first 70 characters get shown, and that number is sometimes less for mobile devices. The allowed length for meta descriptions is about 100 characters.

If your titles and meta descriptions are too long, they’ll be cut off. This can have a negative effect on click-through rates as searchers want all the information in front of them before deciding whether to click or not.

Make sure you keep within the limits and work with the title to be able to put your keywords near the beginning. Then they will be always be shown, and you’ll benefit.

  1. Clear the Way to Your Content

When searchers choose to visit your site, they expect to find the content they’ve been searching for as soon as they land on your page. To ensure this happens, don’t force them to scroll half way down the page before seeing the title and don’t overload them with adverts and pop-ups.

Google puts value on ‘above the fold’ content, meaning the content you see before scrolling down. Browser-sized images with no text or too many header ads are not seen favourably.

  1. Optimize Images

It’s increasingly common for people to search for products by doing an image search. If they see something they find attractive, they’ll visit the site directly from Google’s image results. If you sell products on your website and have lots of images, you can create better ranking opportunities by optimizing them.

All you need to do is add a description to the alt text tag, for example, <img src=“photo-of-closet-organizer.png” alt=“closet organizer” />

It also helps to change the actual image name from the number given by your camera like ‘DCSN-832467.png to something search engines can read – ‘photo-of-smart-closet-organizer.png’

  1. Use AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages

It’s possible to improve your search engine rankings by improving the speed with which your website loads. One of the best ways to accomplish this for mobile devices is by using accelerated mobile pages. These are lightweight versions of web pages designed to load very quickly on mobile phones.

AMP pages already rank highly for mobile searches, so it’s important to be receptive to this trend. Keep in mind that roughly 66% of our surfing is now done via mobile devices.

Another key to faster loading times is to make sure that your web host runs your website on a high-performance, fast loading server – and we’ve DEFINITELY got you covered there when you’re with 4GoodHosting.

  1. Add Internal Links

‘Link juice’ is a well-known phrase in SEO, and it refers to the fact that when you link from one page to another some of the ranking power of the linking page is shared with page being linked to.

If you’ve got a page that gets lots of traffic and want your other pages to rank higher, add an internal link from the high-ranking page to the ones where you want to see a bump up. Don’t overdo it, though: too many links will have a detrimental effect. No more than 3 is a good rule, and often times only 1 or 2 is best.

If you have just set up a new website, hopefully these8 tips given in this post will have got you pointed in the right direction for your site ranking in search engine results. From there, you should have more searchers to click through to your site. And that’s by and large what it’s all about when you’re in business online.

Mobile-First Indexing from Google

Mobile has revolutionized the entirety of how people peruse the online world, search for consumer goods and contents, engage with social media, and much more. Mobile has been a dominating trend since 2016, when mobile traffic outdistanced desktop traffic for the first time. A few months back saw Google announce that their search engine indexing would be reoriented to be mobile-first. Since then testing has been underway, and now we have their mobile-first indexing rollout. Over the next few years we can expect to see desktop websites being pushed back in the rankings, putting mobile and responsive sites first.

As a top Canadian web hosting provider, there is great relevance to all of this for both us and our clients. Some of you may have less of an understanding of what mobile-first indexing actually is, so let’s spend a short period of time discussing it here today.

Defining Mobile- First Indexing

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that most people use mobile devices when visiting the mobile versions of websites. When the site’s indexing system follows the desktop version of a site first for making assessments about both the quality and relevance of a page in response to that user’s query, a diminished user experience can be the result.

Most problematic in this scenario is the possibility that the mobile user will abandon the platform, and that happens quite frequently. This new mobile-first index is how Google will attempt to discover, crawl, and understand web pages and documents for indexing and ranking them – from a mobile-first perspective.

So, from here on out Google will primarily crawl and first index the mobile-friendly version of your website with the smartphone agent, rather than indexing the desktop version as it would have previously. However, it’s important to understand that Google will continue to show the URL that is the most appropriate to users – desktop or mobile URL – in the returned search results. So yes, there’s no need to be overly concerned that your rankings and traffic will disappear overnight.

But be very clear, this change in Google’s indexing priorities means you have to make mobile SEO a top priority.

Conduct a Mobile-friendly Test

Many of you will have already followed up on the advice that you need to have a ‘mobile-friendly’ website where the same design, structure, and content are adjusted dynamically in response to different screen sizes and devices. If so, you won’t be required to make any fundamental changes to your site. Fortunately, one of the easiest ways to check whether your site is mobile-friendly is by working with Google’s Mobile-Friendly test tool.

Are my Mobile Pages Visible to Google?

The Fetch and Render tool in the Google Search Console is great for looking at your site’s mobile-version preview after the fetch and render is complete. The rendered results will resemble what Google can see and index in response to what’s offered by your mobile site.

There is a possibility that your mobile results may not have been indexed correctly. If you have dynamic serving or different URLs for your desktop and mobile website, that will almost certainly be the case. You’ll then have to add a sitemap to your mobile site and also tag all your mobile URLs with canonical and alternate tags, before submitting it through the Google Search Console. It’s also recommended to add it to your robot.txt file, and then ensure you follow the best practices below to ready the content for mobile-first indexing:

  • The same content found on your your desktop site – text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos, all in in indexable formats – must be featured on the mobile version as well.
  • Structured data must be updated on both versions of your site.
  • Metadata, titles and meta descriptions should be present on both versions.
  • Employ search consoleto verify both versions of your site, and most particularly checking Mobile Usability to dig up any mobile usability issues that might be altering your site’s performance.
  • Check your hreflang links between mobile and desktop URLs, but do each of them separately. Mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to mobile URLs, while the desktop URL hreflang should do the same for desktop URLs.

In addition, your servers need to have sufficient capacity to a handle any potential increase in the crawl rate for the mobile version of your site, which of course is very likely!

You should also have the correct rel=canonical and rel=alternate link elements established between your mobile and desktop versions.

Next, you should run a page speed test to identify issues with the load time of any one of your pages. Free page speed tests are pretty easy to find online with a quick search. Being able to maintain a competitive speed is a must today if you aim to reduce bounce rates – and who doesn’t? If the speed of your site continues to lag, you might also want to consider implementing Google AMP for your blog and website pages. We’ve found this to be effective ourselves.

The time is definitely now to take a mobile-first approach with your entire site. It essentially means putting in the required time to fine tune everything; from structure to responsive design to speed, architecture, and all the way to the entire user experience that you’re able to offer to the mobile user. Who, more than likely, is making up ever more of the traffic to your website.