9 Best Communication and Commerce-Based Apps for Small Businesses

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Asana Collaboration

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

  1. Citrix Grasshopper

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

  1. ClickMeeting Video Conferencing

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

  1. MailChimp Email Marketing

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

  1. Campaigner Email Marketing

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

  1. Shopify E-Commerce

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

  1. Sprout Social

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

  1. Hootsuite

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

  1. Zoho Survey

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

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

The Cloud Stack: SaaS, PaaS, & IaaS

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

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

Unparalleled Network Access

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

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

The Stack Itself

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

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

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

SaaS offerings will feature:

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

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

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

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

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

Paas offerings will feature:

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

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

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

IaaS offerings will feature:

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

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

IaaS products will be a good fit in any situation where

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

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

Competing for Top Spots on Google SERPS in 2017

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

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

Those Ever-Changing SERP Algorithms

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

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

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

How’s all of this relevant, you ask?

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

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

Searchers Entering Longer Queries Based on Specific Search Intentions

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

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

The Rapid Ascent of Mobile Web Browsing

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

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

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

Voice Search Gaining Serious Traction

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

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

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

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

Google’s Appetite Increasing

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

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

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

Weighing Cloud Analytics

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

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

So, What Exactly is Cloud Analytics?

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

A Unified Vision For The Business

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

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

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

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

Increased Ease of Accessibility

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

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

Improved Collaboration

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

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

Security

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

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

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

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

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

young handsome business man engeneer in datacenter server room

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

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

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

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

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

Languages to Communicate Across OEMs

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

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

Virtual Gateway with Remote Diagnostics and Troubleshooting

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

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

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

What Exactly? The Ins and Outs of Subdomains

Domain

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

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

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

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

So why subdomains?

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

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

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

Webmaster Considerations

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Link Building for SEO

Businessman suggested effective 'SEO' optimisation approach. Hands presenting a 'SEO' flowchart.

We’re all familiar with what it means to ‘vouch’ for someone or something. That is, to say that you can attest to the quality or reliability of that individual or product. Many of those competing in the online world may not know the value of link building, however, but your Canadian web hosting provider will be explicitly aware of that value. Google of course is the world’s premier search engine, and it uses links to measure the authority of web pages. If a web page attracts links from other pages Google’s algorithm, the software it uses to rank pages and decide which page is number one for a search result increases the importance of a page – and thus how high it places in search engine results.

So in a sense it’s just like a vouch for that page – you feel there’s value there, and you’re recommending visitors might want to consider visiting it via your page to gain more in the way of quality information on the subject.

So let’s now take a look at some of the more common link building techniques, and ones that will be much easier to incorporate into your webpages, blog, or other digital communications.

Forums – Link building techniques using forums typically involve creating a profile page and a signature link. Signature links allow links to be created at the bottom of posts or comments left in a forum. Signature links tend to be regarded as low quality though, and while they may send a measurable amount of traffic they likely won’t have any long lasting impact on the pages you link them to. These links are not merit based, and search engines – Google in particular – are getting better at ignoring these links and assigning them no value.

Link Farms – The link farm technique is a standard approach form SEO companies. A link farm can often have a vast number of websites and web pages within it, all under the control of the individual link builder. Building a link farm link allows them to offer a set number of links for a specific fee, and the extent to which this can be done is pretty much unlimited. Where link farming becomes problematic is when it’s discovered by the search engines. If that occurs – and it does much more frequently these days – the links within them will cease to have any positive impact on the sites they link to.

Directories – These are useful and can create links that are nearly guaranteed to provide some value in the sense of attracting traffic to your website. However, they are a form of spam and, as with other spam techniques, links from directories tend to not be merit based and will almost always carry next to no weight in terms of helping to increase your ranking. Notable exceptions here include the DMOZ directory and Yahoo, among others.

Hubs – These are pages created on services like Squidoo. Hub pages, or lenses as they are also referred to, are a great idea and allow people to create pages about a subject matter they are passionate about. The issue here is in the fact that spammers have also realized it’s an easy way to create pages for more illegitimate link building. As a result, using hubs as part of your link building for better SEO isn’t as highly recommended.

Blogs – Genuine blogs are a great source of landing spots for outbound links with your link building. But be wary of those that are known as SPLOGS, meaning spam blogs. They tend to be a favourite spot for link spammers. The most common technique for this spam approach is to leave a comment and associated link to their client’s website. Long story short, an outbound link of this variety will have little value other than a very small amount of web traffic, unless your comment happens to be on a high traffic popular blog. Most however tend to be deleted by the blog’s webmaster.

Social bookmarks – Once upon a time in the early days of Internet marketing, social bookmarking sites were a source of valuable links. Yet again, link spammers have spoiled that for everyone. Most of the credible bookmarking sites now categorize these links as nofollow links, so it’s best to look past them when weighing which ones might work well for you.

Be in touch with us here at 4GoodHosting to learn more about the most effective ways to improve website SEO, including ways to incorporate link building. We want to get ahead, and we imagine you do too. Let’s talk!

For SEO Services please visit http://4goodhosting.com/seo-services.

Build it Better: Getting the Most Out of Your Website

It’s increasingly rare these days to find a business that doesn’t have their own website. As is the case with every one of them, there’s a whole lot of work that goes into a website – planning, designing, and the actual construction of the different HTML elements that together make up those web pages we’re happy to just visit and browse through as we like.

Be aware that there are choices you can make when putting your website together, however, that can have negative repercussions down the line and quite possibly sabotage the successes you envisioned for yourself when you decided to take your business onto the World Wide Web.

Start with the Right Conceptual Thinking

First off, all of the following are FALSE:

  1. I need a flashy website that looks ‘cool’

Believe us when we tell you that substance trumps flush in a big way when it comes to the entirety of your online presence. Stressing to your web designer that it’s all-important to have a ‘cutting edge’ site is creating the wrong perspective for what you want to be accomplishing here.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a competition about ‘looks’, it’s about effectively conveying to your customers THAT WHICH IS IMPORTANT TO THEM – which, in nearly every instance, is a quality product or service that’s priced reasonably and comes with positive reviews from buyers just like them. What your website looks like will pretty much be the last of their considerations.

  1. It’s always good to save few bucks by having my friend / relative / other design my website for a discount

For sure, hiring designers or developers with many years of experience and a proven portfolio of work can be expensive. The best professionals can and do charge what they do because – in addition to designing the website – they also often research, plan, and strategize the entire conversion process and site flow as well.

Needless to say, you stand to benefit IMMENSELY from this value-added part of their service, and these types of analytical approaches are very likely going to be beyond the ability of the guy or gal you know.

Hiring a qualified design pro can also mean that your project isn’t completed as quickly as you’d like. Without going on at length, we’ll just suffice to say that – again – any delay that’s related to making your website a more soundly constructed portal THAT WORKS TO SERVE YOUR MARKETING INTERESTS effectively is very much worth it in the long run.

Conversions, sales, followers, in-store visits (if you’ve got a brick n mortar) etc etc. – you want them, and working with a reputable and experienced web designer / developer is the straightest path to getting there.

  1. A simple ‘electronic brochure’ is really all I need from my website

Maybe so if you’re fine with just staying where you are in as far as the size and scope of your business (and its success). In all likelihood though, you’d like to see more out of your business and in this day and age the BEST way to build your business is to promote it effectively online. And if we were to tell you that there’s not too much involved in going from an electronic brochure to a fully-vamped website, why wouldn’t you choose the one that’s going to give your more sales / service opportunities and make your brand all the more visible?

Right then.

Taking the Right Approach

This starts with answering one direct question – what is it that you need your website to do? The answer can vary, but it’s safe enough to assume that anyone who’s in business will have ‘helping us sell more of our product(s)’ at or near the top of their list.

So, with that understood, your website MUST:

  • Attract the right customers

Determine what your customer demographic has for a ‘buyer profile’ – how do they buy, when do they buy, what types of advertising / marketing collaterals are they attracted to? If you can’t answer these questions yourself, it’s very wise to hire someone who can analyze these correctly for you

Once these questions are answered, your designer should be able to start making design choices that are in line with the findings. Your website’s primary focus must be on attracting the right prospective customers to your site, keeping them there, and converting many of those visits into conversions etc.

  • Be optimized for people and their searches through Google, Bing etc.

Are you familiar with the acronym SEO? You should be, and if not then – again – you REALLY need to hire a web copywriter to put together your site content. SEO is search engine optimization, and having quality SEO for your content means your site will be presented higher up in search results conducted by potential visitors / customers

  • Be sufficiently easy to use

A frustrated or flustered visitor is never a good thing, and 9 times out of 10 they become a contributor to your site’s bounce rate (also a big negative). Your website must be explicitly user friendly, where content is supported, messages are clearly communicated, calls-to-action are firmly identified, and visitors are guided – subtly – toward a conversion.

  • Help you stand out in the crowd

This one tends to be overlooked sometime, but it’s important to remember that there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of websites out there that are similar to yours. You need to distinguish your site from them as best you can, ensuring that your visitors are likely to remember you, respect you, and – down the line – even refer you!

Some of this stuff can be very overly-conceptual for many folks, so if it’s above and beyond your comprehension then do trust your website to a digital marketing professional. You’ll be glad you did.

Determining the Best Website Strategy

Every page of every business website has some type of conversion objective, even if that objective is simply to redirect them to the page where you’re making your primary conversion objective accessible.

This last part if important to keep in mind, because it’s a fact that not every visitor to your website will enter it via the landing page. A clear, comprehensive website strategy outlines the paths to conversion from multiple entry points on the website. How they move from their entry points, and what type of information they request on their way to a) buying or b) bouncing is very relevant to take into consideration.

So, we’ll now introduce the 4 types of content found on effective websites;

‘Know’ content – lets them learn about you, your brand, and the products and services that you believe will be of value to them. Always be sure to show yourself to be an authority with your subject matter.

‘Like’ content – helps visitors see who you are, where you stand on certain issues related to your products / services, and what you have to say. It can offer quick looks into your personal life, your personality, and your opinions

‘Trust’ content – to attach credibility, reliability, and trust to you in the eyes of your visitors. Shows you to be an expert with a history of proven results, and conveys an understanding that there’s no risk to choosing you as a retailer or provider.

‘Conversion’ content – utilized to persuade visitors to take specific actions and convert new visitors into clients, customers, subscribers, or any other role in the promotion of your business online

Let’s Get Going

Now you’ll have a more broad-reaching conceptual approach. Remember – don’t rush headlong into anything, think things through and get second opinions along with revisiting your own.

When you understand your website’s function, eliminate distractions, establish multiple different paths to conversion, and apply the 4-type content process highlighted above, you’ll be on the right path for sure. Last but not least, keep in mind that all websites need web hosting, and quite often a web hosting service provider in Canada will offer Internet Marketing services that include optimizing your website. 4GoodHosting certainly does, and you’re encouraged to learn more at www.4goodhosting.com

Defining DNS…. And What’s Exactly In It For Hackers?

DNS isn’t exactly a buzzword in discussions among web hosting providers or those in the web hosting industry, but it’s darn close to it. DNS is an acronym for Domain Name Servers and what DNS does is see to it that after entering a website URL into your browser you then end up in the right spot – among the millions upon millions of them – on the World Wide Web.

DNS. Domain name system sign on white background

When you enter this URL, your browser starts trying to figure out where that website is by pinging a series of servers. These could be resolving name servers, authoritative name servers, or domain registrars, among others. But those servers themselves – often located all around the world – are only fulfilling an individual part in the overall process.

The process itself is a verification of identities by means of converting URLs into identifiable IP addresses, which the networks communicate with each other and by which your browser confirms that it’s taking you down the right path. In a world with literally billions of paths, that’s a more impressive feat than you might think, especially when you consider it’s done in mere seconds and with impressive consistency.

It’s quite common to hear of DNS in conjunction with DDoS, with is another strange acronym that is paired with the term ‘attack’ to create a phenomena noun. What DDoS is and how it’s related so explicitly to DNS much of the time is as follows:

A DDoS attack is a common hack in which multiple compromised computers are used to attack a single system by overloading it with server requests. In a DDoS attack, hackers will use often use infected computers to create a flood of traffic originating from many different sources, potentially thousands or even hundreds of thousands. By using all of the infected computers, a hacker can effectively circumvent any blocks that might be put on a single IP address. It also makes it harder to identify a legitimate request compared to one coming from an attacker.

The DNS is compromised in the way browsers essentially can’t figure out where to go to find the information to load on the screen. This type of attack happens typically involves hackers creating a little army of private computers infected with malicious software known as a Botnet. The people that are often participating in the attack don’t realize their computer has been compromised, and is now a part of the growing problem.

Why Go To So Much Trouble?

With all of this now understood, it begs the question – What’s in it for hackers to do this?

technology, cyberspace, virtual reality and people concept - man or hacker in headset and eyeglasses with keyboard hacking computer system or programming over binary code projection

It’s believed that the initial appeal of hacking is in proving that you can penetrate something / somewhere that’s purported to be impenetrable, and where someone with a skill set similar to yours has gone to significant effort to make it that way. It’s very much a geeks’ chest thumping competition – my virtual handiwork is better than yours!

As hackers become established and the ‘novelty’ of hacking wears off however, these individuals often find new inspiration for their malicious craft. The more time they spend doing it, the sooner they realize that a certain level of skills can introduce them to opportunities for making money with hacking. Among other scenarios, this can be either by stealing credit card details and using them to buy virtual goods, or by getting paid to create malware that others will pay for. And that happens much more often than you might think.

Their creations may silently take over a computer, or subvert a web browser so it goes to a particular site for which they get paid, or lace a website with commercial spam. As the opportunities in the digital world increase, hacking opportunities increase right along with them and that’s the way it will continue to be

Here at 4GoodHosting, we are constantly reevaluating the security measures we have in place to defend our clients’ websites from DDoS attacks, as well as keeping on top of industry trends and products that help us keep hackers and their nefarious handiwork away from you and your website. It’s a priority for sure.

Data’s Really Moving: Superior Fibre Optic Technology is Here

PrintIn all this talk about, servers, databases, cloud storage etc etc., fibre optics have been a bit of a lesser light despite being the unsung hero in the successes we’ve seen in the supercharging the digital world. Now some of you will know what a Terabyte is, and others won’t. Most of you will be familiar with a Gigabyte though, and a Terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes.

That’s a lot of capacity, and with that understood fibre optics cable these days can achieve transfer speeds up to 255Tbps. Simply put, that’s blazing fast and nearly every Canadian web hosting provider we don’t overlook the value those transfer rates have in letting us work with our clients in making their websites – and in the bigger picture their online marketing efforts – really pay off.

What’s different nowadays is that it’s not just one single-core fibre. Fibre optic cables now feature a multi-core glass stem that allows for an enormous load of data to flow through it. While this technology is still a long way off from being used extensively throughout cities, it’s setting the tone for the newer upgrades poised to hit the fibre optics market, and they’re not far off.

Information Super Expressway

Many cable providers plan to upgrade their lines, with some of the major cities in the world soon to see cables capable of handling 400Gbps. That’s a huge upgrade from the current standard of 10Gb/s that many companies use. The newer fibre optic cables also include a host of upgrades and capabilities that really outdistance them from their predecessors. Here’s a quick reference of the improvements:

Security – The integrity of an optic cable actually plays a role in how easily hackers can force their way into data stores. Now, fiber optic cables use light. That makes it tough to ‘grab interference’ as the term goes. About the only way to break into them is to physically break the cord. Since they use light to transmit data, all of the light escapes and makes it easy for network security to notice breaches in data.

Design and Speed – These newer materials are lighter and thinner too. They can be more easily wrapped in a protective coating and hung from poles. In North America the majority of wires are still suspended from poles and not buried in the ground, so weight is a major issue. The reduced weight also allows them to be thicker, which means more data transfer.

Reliability – Since all of the data is transferred through a core of glass, it’s by in large entirely insulated from any threat that might interrupt or shut down transfer. There’s no fear of electrometric interference or radio-frequency interference, otherwise known as EMI and RFI. There’s also very little risk of impedance or crosstalk. Although it’s still susceptible to temperature changes, it’s more reliable when running through water or industrial equipment.

New fibre optic technology continues to expand in leaps and bounds, and it’s not a moment too soon with the way demand for internet usage continues to skyrocket in North America. The aim course is to reach the point where the world is full of nearly instantaneous data transmission, and with us being as much as an eager beaver as can be when it comes to web hosting and online communications – that sounds pretty darn great!