New WPA2 Wi-Fi Protocol Security Flaw Warning

This past week has seen an explosion of cautions extended to people using home Wi-Fi networks (which of course is pretty much ALL of us) regarding a security risk that makes private information and personal content increasingly vulnerable to theft or misuse. It’s certainly not the first time such an issue has come to the attention of the digital world, and it won’t be the last. This one, however, is particularly noteworthy given the fact that it has such far-reaching and widespread potentially negative implications for anyone who’s on the web via a Wi-Fi connection – at home or elsewhere.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we strive to be on top of trends and developments in the industry to go along with being a premier Canadian web hosting provider. This ‘heads up’ should be especially welcome for business owners operating an e-commerce website, but we imagine it’s going to also be well received by your average web browsing guy or gal as well.

Malevolence from your Modem?

Credit for catching this new flaw goes to a team of Belgian researchers. They’re the ones who recently discovered a security vulnerability in the WPA2 protocol. The WPA2 protocol is a system of rules that dictate how your Wi-Fi networks function and behave. As mentioned, it’s a near ubiquitous and wide-reaching ‘standard’ – it’s installed and in use with almost every single modern Wi-Fi modem or router. We’re going to go ahead and assume that includes you, and as such this warning is one you’ll want to take note of and follow the precautionary measures we’ll lay out here.

The research has indicated that there’s a loophole in the WPA2 rules that’s creating the possibility for hackers to tap into a Wi-Fi network and grab sensitive information that’s being relayed back and forth over it, with one example (and likely the most disconcerting of all the possibilities) being stealing your credit card details when enter them in the process of buying something online. Another possibility could be snagging your password when you enter it into the login for a particular website.

Here is a good read on the issue in detail, via the official website.

Who’s Most at Risk?

Plain and simple, the answer here is as suggested above. Meaning pretty much everyone is at risk. That’s because WPA2 is the most common protocol utilized with Wi-Fi modems and routers these days, and has been for quite a while.

We’ll also go ahead and assume the majority of you are relatively computer savvy, but for those of you who aren’t you can easily determine if that’s the case by looking under computer>system preferences>network connections and then have a look at your Wi-Fi network settings. It’s nearly certain you’re on a WPA2 network, so read on.

Your Best Course of Action

Modem and router manufacturers are very much aware of this issue, and are working hard to make patches for their products available to their customers.

We recommend a visit to the website of the manufacturer of your Wi-Fi modem or router. Determine if they have released a recent update for your model (look for a date within the last month or two). Check out this list of popular modem & router manufacturers to determine whether or not a suitable patch is already offered to protect your make and model against this vulnerability.

Some of you may not be able to install an update for your modem or router on your own. If so, not to worry – most manufacturer’s websites offer support guides, or the option to call them for technical support.

Should I Change My Wi-Fi Network’s Password

It shouldn’t be necessary. Your Wi-Fi network isn’t a factor with this particular security flaw. You’re fine to leave it as it is, and that’ sure to be welcome news for most of you who’d rather not have to create a new one.

This threat gains access to networks via non-primary means, and to use an analogy it’s like a burglar who comes in through a window or down a chimney rather than front door of your house. Your password is guarding your front door, but that’s not where you need to be concerned.

We’ll continue to monitor developments with this new WPA2 security threat and keep you informed as necessary. Be a little proactive on your own part with the recommendations above and you should be good to continue enjoying wireless Internet.

The Rise of ‘Cryptominers’ and Why You Need to Be Wary of Them

Over the past few months we’ve devoted a post or two to rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and how they’re still worth taking note of despite the fact they haven’t ‘taken off’ quite like people expected them to. Different people have different takes on whether they will ever become a legitimate player on the global currency scene, but we believe that there is in fact going to be a demand for currencies that are not internationally regulated by any specific bodies and can be uniform from one country / currency to the next.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a leading Canadian web hosting provider who also takes a keen interest in developments in the digital world. That’s likely a hallmark of any good provider –staying on top of trends and the like and choosing the most relevant ones to share with their customers.

Right then, let’s continue.

Not-So-Harmless Browsing

It would seem that Internet ads are now the least of your concerns when it comes to annoyances. Recent news indicates that the websites you visit could now be prompting your computer to do what’s called ‘cryptocurrency mining.’ So with an existing understanding of what a cryptocurrency is, we now need to ask what exactly cryptocurrency mining is.

The entirety of the creation, management, conversion, and transaction of digital currencies demands a lot of computing power. Each block of transactions involves computer owners around the globe racing to solve a very challenging cryptographic puzzle, and winning means you get paid in the relevant cryptocurrency. Contestants, known as “miners”, up their chances by building up their processing capacity. Most commonly this is done by building server farms in remote locations where electricity is cheap, but they are always searching for inexpensive ways to mine for cryptocurrencies more effectively.

Conversely, website publishers are always on the hunt for new ways to generate revenue. The standard means – subscriptions, ads, etc. are often insufficient. They don’t have much appeal for most users, can be hijacked, and the big search engines like Google typically take their cut of revenues.

So increasingly these days they are resorting to an unscrupulous approach. They’re offering miners access to the computing power of the people who visit their sites, and then selling it to them.

Browsers Gone Bad

Here’s how this whole seedy transaction works. Say, for example, you go to a site to download some free stock images. As your web browser loads the first page, it also initiates a script that prompts your computer’s processor to undertake calculations for a cryptocurrency miner. That miner could be located anywhere. The only thing that might make you aware of it is a slightly slower computer, and a slightly higher power bill. The miner pays the website publisher for the use of your resources, and you’re kept in the dark about it.

Now we have to say that reputable web publishers will not hijack your computer for profit. It’s sites that haven’t been successful with traditional ad networking (many are in China) who have embraced browser-based mining as a popular revenue stream. Regrettably, at this time there’s little to stop them from doing it, and little in the way of means of blocking them from doing so.

The concept of capturing value from underutilized computer resources isn’t a new one. It actually goes back to the early days of the web. In the late ‘90s a team at the University of California, Berkeley, built the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. It was a software system that took the spare capacity on personal computers and re-dedicated it to scientific purposes. Some of you may remember SETI@home, its most famous application – a screensaver that contributed to the hunt for signs of alien life in radio signals. SETI@home has since aided with climate prediction, drug discovery, protein folding, and many other applications. More than 300,000 users actively participate with it today, and not surprisingly that makes it the largest computing grid in the world.

Doing What They Will

You might think it is, but this type of distributed computing isn’t always cost-effective. Cloud computing would be a much better choice for the type of application suggested above and many others. With browser-based mining, however, visitors are compensating publishers with their computer resources and energy consumption. With the latter part of that comes an involvement with local utility providers in each transaction. Yes, they’d get a better deal by just paying a few cents per page view, but that’s something else altogether.

The Internet has made it quite clear that micropayments don’t work very well, in large part because the decision-making costs associated with each transaction outweigh the actual value transfer. As a result, the most viable kind of internet payment is one that doesn’t look like a payment at all. Keep in mind that hundreds of thousands of volunteers happily donated their computing power to SETI@home because it felt costless, even though it consumed $8 of energy each month. Ad-based models have become the default method because users don’t consciously attach a dollar value to their attention and data.

So while it does occur and is problematic, there’s no debating that in-browser cryptocurrency mining is an inefficient way of paying for content. It’s not clear that users will be accepting of the appropriation of resources, but if you like at it from the other perspective it’s potentially less invasive than targeted advertising. Which is creepy for many people and takes advantage of underutilized processor resources.

Make Smart Browser / Interactivity Choices

No one’s sounding the alarm regarding cryptocurrency mining, but it’s still a growing trend and you certainly don’t want to have yourself as a prime candidate for these leeches. Be smart about the sites you visit, but more importantly be selective about the way you interact them. We won’t go as far as to say to be wary of the site’s seeming source of origin, but if you’re particularly concerned you may want to take this into account too.

Marea Reaches Shore: High-Capacity Telecom Cable Now Stretches Across Atlantic

The world of digital and fibre-optic technologies continues to grow in leaps and bounds, and this week we saw one of the most profound examples of just how much of a priority the business world is placing on web-based technologies. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a leading Canadian web hosting provider who always has a little more wind in our sails due to the fact that we’re so passionate about anything and everything that pertains to our industry.

As such, the news that a high-capacity fibre optic cable that left Virginia Beach, USA much earlier in the year has now emerged on the coast of Spain is a profound development that definitely excites us and is very much worth sharing with our customers.

‘Marea’ (Spanish for ‘tide’), as the cable has been named, has been funded by Facebook, Microsoft, and Telxius – a subsidiary of the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica – and is the highest-capacity cable to have ever crossed the Atlantic. In terms of significance, it represents a weighty shift in the balance of power in the submarine-cable industry. Up until now, transcontinental cables have been funded by telco consortia, and the arrangement tended to be that they would offer capacity on those systems to customers like Facebook and Microsoft for a price.

Recent years have seen skyrocketing demand for global bandwidth, and that trend has made it so that the largest of these customers have had no choice but to join in the funding of construction projects which always cost hundreds of millions of dollars at a minimum.

This one is worth that level of investment and then some. Marea is more than 4,000 miles long and boasts transmission speeds of up to 160 terabits per second. To put that in perspective, it’s roughly 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection and equipped to stream 71 million high-definition videos simultaneously.

It’s well understood that international network bandwidth and traffic have been growing in leaps and bounds, although the growth rate has been slowed notably in recent years.

The fact, however, that this bandwidth and traffic grew at an annual rate well in excess of 30% between 2013 and 2017 does show the need for these types of advances and cross-continental information-exchange infrastructure. Approximately 196 Tbps of new international internet capacity was added over those 4 years, upping global capacity to 295 Tbps, but that figure doesn’t include domestic network routes.

Marea’s capacity is downright impressive, coming in at about 1/15th of that global total. As mentioned, the cable sets out from Virginia Beach, Virginia, on the US side, and lands in Bilbao, Spain. Virginia Beach is 230 miles to the south of Ashburn, Virginia, and that’s very much by design as Ashburn is the largest data center market in North America, and one that’s well on its way to becoming the largest in the world.

The appeal for Facebook and Microsoft is clear too; 4 Microsoft Azure cloud data centers are located in Virginia, and Facebook leases data center space in Virginia too. The Facebook-owned data center that’s nearest to Virginia Beach is about 400 miles to the northwest in Forest City, North Carolina.

Lastly, it’s interesting to note that another submarine cable, this one belonging to Tata Communications, connects the same Spanish town, Bilbao, to England and the UK and then to Portugal. Cables linking Europe to Africa and the Middle East are then accessible from Portugal.

Exciting times for those of us who are beyond keen to have the fastest and most thorough data and network connections for both business and personal pursuits. What’s nearly certain though is that – as hard as it may be to believe – it’s quite conceivable that these new submarine cables may one day become insufficient themselves. Such is the nature and projection of the digital world!

 

 

Domain Extensions and SEO Impact

Before any website makes its way up onto the information superhighway, the domain name attached to it must be registered with a hosting provider. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a top Canadian web hosting provider among many and we can certainly take care of that basic and straightforward formality for you. What we’re going to discuss today, however, is the way that your domain name’s extension (.com being the most common) can have direct and measureable results on your SEO, and search engine ranking more specifically.

Let’s review the basics briefly; a domain name is a unique internet address that is made up of a name and extension (such as .com, .ca etc.). This extension is also referred to as a Top Level Domain (TLD) and it is the most relevant part of your domain name. We’ll move now to putting you in the know with factors that influence choosing the right domain extension and how it dictates your SEO rankings in a significant way.

Various Types of TLDs

In the infancy days of the Web, domain extensions were initially introduced to facilitate browsing across different domains. There were 6 general top-level domains (gTLDs) marketed to folks looking to get themselves up and running, and we saw different domain extension for different types of organizations. Some may be surprised to learn that the .com extension was actually introduced for websites for commercial purposes, and has nothing to do with the term computer.

Much more common nowadays are domain extensions with a country code, also known as country code Top Level Domains (ccTLD). These took off between 1985 and 1990, and examples of these types website name domains are .ca for Canada, .kr for South Korea (who have the fastest internet speeds in the world) .in for India, .co.uk for the United Kingdom, etc.

1998 saw the creation of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an international nonprofit organization designed to keep the Internet secure and stable. New gTLDs were released in 2001, including .info and .pro, designed for informational websites or those representing certified professionals.

The number of domain extensions has quickly expanded since. There are now even domain extensions that utilize Arabic characters instead of the usual Latin characters. A complete list of all extensions (with Latin characters) can be referenced at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) website.

Specific SEO Benefits for Each Domain Extension

  • Country code Top Level Domain

Advantages

A ccTLD provides Google with the strongest and clearest indication of where a website originates. Provided all other SEO factors are equal, the ‘example.com’ website will be better ranked by Google than an ‘example.ca’ or ‘example.co.kr’.

Disadvantages

The primary disadvantage of a ccTLD is that you will be required to purchase a new extension for each language, which will add to the cost quite considerably. Further, Google’s crawlers (aka ‘bots’) do not recognize multiple websites as one website because they have different extensions. Each website must develop its own authority.

By authority we mean the value that Google assigns to a website. More authority results in Google’s bots staying on the website for a longer period of time and indexing deeper pages of the site. This of course is very beneficial for SEO. Higher authority leads to a greater likelihood that your site will rank high on Google’s SERPS (search engine results pages). There are other factors that determine how well a website performs in this regard, and in fact Google uses more than 200 signals to determine which results are most relevant.

  • Generic Top Level Domain

Generic domain names are increasingly popular these days, with examples like .pizza, .amsterdam and .club, websites that distinguish the nature of the business or venture very explicitly. People continue to speculate about the advantages and disadvantages of these new extensions as they relate to search engine rankings. Google has shared that the new TLDs are not more likely to score high with Google than older TLDs or ccTLDs. However, there are several examples that suggest otherwise, at least to some extent.

Coffee.club is one of them. It climbed to the first page in Google US search results within the span of a week. That’s worth taking note of, as it takes a lot of time to get to the first page on Google US, and that can be true even if you’ve built up plenty of authority.

Coffee.club was purchased in November 2014 and received several links from authoritative websites that announced the transaction. The backlinks had 80% of ‘coffee.club’ as clickable text, and one week after the launch the website was already on the first SERP for the term ‘coffee club’. We can understand that when a gTLD (in part) matches a keyword you want to match in Google, it counts only links with the domain name in the clickable text.

Simply, ‘coffee.club’ is interpreted by Google to be “coffee club”. In such instances a TLD with a relevant keyword will indeed have an SEO advantage over a traditional TLD like those ending with a .com.

Google still insists that there is no advantage or disadvantage to having a new gTLD, stating that each gTLD has the same opportunity to rank well. With a gTLD, it is possible to specify which country the website is intended to serve within the Google Search Console. This of course is done via international targeting, but keep in mind that when you expand your website with a different language you must adjust or disable international targeting.

Choosing the most appropriate domain extension

Your best choice for a TLD will depend on a number of factors. Want to score well on Google.com? Then you’ll be best served by choosing the overall top level domain, a .com. Conversely, if you only sell products in Canada, you’ll be wise to choose the .ca extension. Google will then recognize that your website is intended for the Canadian market and that your aim is to score better on Google.ca.

It continues to be that SEO is often not taken into account when people are weighing which TLD extensions is best for them. For example, there are websites that buy a ccTLD so the website has a nice name and is easy to remember. For example, ‘autorepair.ca’ may seem like the ideal choice for the nature of your business, but it’s probably not going to score well on Google.com. This is because you indicate to Google with the .ca extension that your website is taking aim at the Canadian market explicitly.

When your website is in fact targeted to a specific country, though, it is advisable to choose the ccTLD of that country. In this case, you may need to purchase a new domain with another TLD at any international expansion. The country-specific nature of the ccTLD will definitely have a positive impact on your search engine results.

When you go with a gTLD, Google will not see it as a .com, .pizza, or .whateveritmaybe. GTLDs have as much chance to score well and as a result do not affect SEO status of your website. And yet, even while Google insists on the validity of that, there are cases like those coffee.club mentioned above that show that links with only the domain name in the clickable text are counted in Google search results. This is the case when a gTLD will create a partial match with a keyword you want to match.

The important thing to keep in mind when using a gTLD is that you communicate this choice to the consumer. Consumers will often undertake searches including the domain extension in the search terms. If you choose a gTLD, make sure that you make that fact very clear to your target audience, and that’s most commonly done by presenting your company name WITH the extension attached in Headers or any other component of the communication piece that will be visually grabbing and readily identified

Also – last but not least – go into your Google Search Console and make sure to set the international targeting to the right country.

One Play Ahead: Trends for Web & App Hosting

A big part of what makes an elite offensive player who he is on the ice is the ability to think the game one-play ahead. Gretzky was less concerned with where the puck was and more with where it was going to be next, along with knowing exactly what he’d do with it once the puck was on his stick. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a top Canadian web hosting provider who similarly likes to look ahead at trends is the web and app hosting world that will dictate how we should adapt to best serve our customers.

This blog post is based on data from a comprehensive report from 451 Research, and it gives significant insight on where the marketplace should be within 2+ years. It highlights in particular the meteoric rise in demand for managed web hosting in Canada, and how growth for web and application hosting has slowed predictably in recent years.

That’s not necessarily cause for alarm, though – it just means the plays are slower to develop now. Technology is evolving. All you have to do is take the pulse of your own web or app hosting business. Workloads tend to be moving out of the web and app hosting category, and that’s true of some products as well.

Many are responding by shuffling the IT services deck for data-gathering purposes. More and more service providers are specializing, serving a narrower or niche target market. New service categories are emerging, and we realize that we need to analyze the user preferences of our customers very insightfully right now to see where we can best put the bulk of our services technology to work for you.

Here are the numbers of the report, with three statistical predictions:

  1. As a category, web and app hosting will grow from $18.2 billion in 2015 to $25.8 billion by 2019.
  2. Total hosting revenue will increase at an annualized rate of 15.5%. What’s interesting is that the “balance of power” in terms of revenue drivers has shifted. Managed hosting is growing at a far faster rate than web/app hosting.

Here’s how that 15.5% breaks down:

  • Dedicated hosting should grow about 5.7% per year
  • Shared hosting should grow about 10.4% per year
  • Managed hosting should about 18.7% per year
  1. In market share:
  • Web/app hosting will drop from 36.8% to 28.5%
  • Managed hosting will increase a mammoth 71.5%

Promoted Changes

The evolution of technology has changed the way every business competes. There have been discernible shifts in the way customers function and think about IT, and it necessitates changes to the way folks like us will approach our future moves regarding web and app hosting.

A reduced number of workloads need to be managed as part of service delivery. Internet-based infrastructure is increasingly common these days, and ever greater numbers of enterprise workloads exist in hosted environments. IAAS is gaining a lot of ground with web masters whose workloads previously existed as a dedicated hosting environment or VPS.

Further, certain environments are now considered to be part of managed hosting. Increasing modularity of managed services means more versatility, and it’s timely for a widening range of infrastructure types and applications.

Constant Change

Identifying and understanding trends is a must for hosting providers. As a business in this industry you need to keep your feet moving and have your head on a swivel, again like your anticipating where the play is going and the puck is going to be.

Customers are going to be struggling to find these new IT solutions for their businesses, and we imagine every reputable Canadian web hosting provider is going to be very proactive in responding to the new industry realities.

Promising Predictions

The ever-constant growth of the web for business continues to steam ahead as a whole. 451 Research volunteers that the sector should see an additional $7.5B in revenue each of the next few years. That’s a large pie to be pieced, but those who want a little more of it will have to reinvent their business model and very likely the marketing strategy that goes along with it.

Continued growth for web and app hosting will primarily come from 2 sources:

  • Adding new subscribers to grow your customer base
  • Adding new services you can sell to existing customers

3 Years Left: Flash’s Shelf Life Drawing to a Close in 2020

Video content has become so standard in every aspect of the digital world, from news to sports to commercial videos for business and many more examples of where you’ve been able to watch video from your computer or smartphone over the last nearly 20 years in much the same way you were only able to do so with a TV prior to that. Behind that capability was Adobe, and their much-heralded and long-ubiquitous Flash plug-in multimedia player. It’s been a staple for pretty much every device since it emerged in the late 1990s, but now it seems it seems its working life is drawing to a close.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we take pride in being a top Canadian web hosting provider and we believe that a small part of what gives us that distinction is in being in touch with all the reaches of the industry within which we operate. Given that dynamic multimedia content delivery is an important component of many of the websites we host, we feel this is a relevant topic for our blog this week.

Adobe has announced that it will stop updating and distributing Flash by the end of 2020. That’s right, the 2-decade long reign of the most commonplace media player will finally come to an end. Until that time, Adobe will continue to partner with Apple, Mozilla, Microsoft, and Google to offer security updates – including patches – in their browsers but no new Flash features will be forthcoming. The 20 year run as the undisputed ‘go-to’ guy for video within web browsers has been an impressive one, but one can’t deny that Flash and its more outdated versions have become prime targets for hackers because of the extent of its distribution and inherent security vulnerabilities which unfortunately allowed intrusion far too easily very often.

Flash’s Legacy

As mentioned, Flash emerged in the late 1990s, and its popularity was firmly cemented with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer becoming the default browser in Windows. Quickly leaving low resolution GIFs or blinking text behind, Flash allowed designers and developers to make web-based video, and animated, interactive content that could play on any computer or within any browser. Flash has been a website thoroughbred ever since, making it easy to play online games, stream radio station music and – perhaps most importantly for many of us – watch YouTube videos. It has also let people build features like photo galleries, and allowed a whole array of multimedia applications to be implemented, like using webcams for video chat!

So while it is indeed on its way out, we should celebrate Flash’s legacy, and that being one of a profound and positive impact on further creative content initiatives on the web in an era where content had become king.

A Slow, Lengthy Demise

Flash loaded content in a web browser and ensured that the content looks and behaves identically for anyone who loads it, independent of what type of browser or computer they were using to access it. Nowadays, however, we’re fortunate to have advancing technologies that are capable of running natively in web browsers. Having unilateral and wide-sweeping plug-in requirements has become a liability.

The earliest sign that Flash was inevitably going to be phased out came in 2004, when Mozilla, Apple and Opera Software came together to form a group promoting advance core technologies for HTML that would consolidate the building of websites. They wanted industry standards as opposed to proprietary softwares, but the world web consortium didn’t give them much of an audience.

The first death knell really came in 2007, when Apple decided not to support Flash in the newly introduced iPhone. Mobile web was rising to prominence and the fifth version of HTML was promising to replace some of the functionality Flash provided, and as a result developers began moving away from Flash and toward HTML5 and JavaScript.

Indeed, it wasn’t long before HTML5 became the new standard. Rather than use Flash, Apple adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript due to the fact that all were open standards that web browsers could build on. Flash still remained integral to the web and was used to create native apps for iOS, but here ten years later even video streaming sites such as YouTube, Dailymotion and Vimeo have made HTML5 their default video player.

What To Expect in 3 Years?

Safari: Apple’s Safari has blocked Flash from running since 2016, but it’s possible to re-enable it on websites that offer a download of Flash.

Chrome: Chrome began asking permission to run Flash on some websites since 2015, and it’ll likely continue to do so, perhaps even more frequently. From the close of 2016, Flash is allowed by default on 10 websites only, including its own YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. It’s stated it will disable Flash by default come 2019.

Firefox: This browser will ask you specifically regarding the sites for which you want to enable Flash, but it will also disable Flash altogether by default in 2019. There will, however, be lingering support in Firefox’s Extended Support Release through the end of 2020.

Edge: Microsoft’s newer browser uses a click-to-play option for when you want to run Flash on a website, and this will continue through mid-2018. Following that Edge will be more aggressive about requiring you to authorize Flash, plus in 2019 Microsoft will disable Flash by default, and disable it entirely by the end of 2020.

Facebook: Facebook is home to a large number of Flash-based games, including FarmVille and Words with Friends, which will continue to run on Facebook via Flash until the end of 2020. Nothing more is known regarding this at this time.

The folks at Adobe, meanwhile, have renamed the software for making Flash – Flash Professional CC – to Animate CC, which will be, according to them, the “premier web animation tool for developing HTML5 content.” Adobe is also strongly suggesting that developers migrate their content to open formats like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly.

HTML5 has slowly and surely replaced Flash Player as a viable alternative for delivering content on the web. Most browser vendors have integrated functionalities once provided by plugins now directly integrated into the browsers themselves, and with HTML5 built into most of the big name browsers already there is the convenience of no need to install anything to use it.

In the big picture of things, no one should be too distraught over the demise of Flash. Instead we should be eager to see how Adobe plans to usher in the next era of digital content creation.

Multiple Domains for the Same Company: Yea, or Nay?

You’ll find many business owners (or their e-commerce shot callers) that are proponents of having multiple domains for a single venture. Others will insist it’s an unnecessary expenditure if you utilize and position for your single domain with maximum effectiveness. For the average person, being able to make the correct determination here may well be beyond what they’re able to objectively determine, so let’s spend a little time this week to help those of you asking ‘is it better to have multiple domains and websites for a business?’

Here at 4GoodHosting, it’s our mix of solid hosting, competitively priced packages, and excellent customer support that makes us a good Canadian web hosting provider, but we feel another aspect that sets us apart is the level of insight we have into our industry and all of the subject offshoots that come from it that will be of interest to our customers.

Having multiple domains means carrying more than one website for the same company. The general logic is that it’s especially wise to do so if you have a product or service that appeals to different audiences. A site that’s tailored to the viewing / interacting / purchasing preferences of each respective target audience. Typically you will aim to customize the messaging, sales content and collaterals, and other marketing strategies so that they’re more likely to be ‘hooks’ for that demographic.

For example, a website for communications professionals will use a different approach than one for a staffing agency, for example, and this means that so a cross-over product (e.g., copy / scan / fax machines) might prove to be challenging to pitch effectively on a single site. It’s in these situations where the business will often consider having 2 (or more) sites with different domains so as to maximize the effectiveness with which they promote themselves to multiple specific buyer demographics.

From the SEO Standpoint Only

Should you take the decidedly narrow view and only consider search engine optimization (SEO), any reputable SEO expert will advise you that multiple domains can hurt your page ranking. That’s because having several keyword-rich domains pointing to your website is of no real specific benefit. SEO is directed towards a single domain name and will be regulated by site popularity, the volume and type of content featured, keywords located in meta and title fields – not to mention whether or not you’re paying or ‘sponsoring’ your spot in the ‘top 4’ at Google. What’s really most beneficial and should take precedence in your decision making process is taking into account the functionality of the site and how it specifically supports your goals. You should determine very specifically what is the exact role of your website (or sites) when choosing to use more than one URL.

Websites that can be identified as serving a simple purpose, like a portfolio of work for example, will be just fine using multiple pages on the same. Or they should be. If the business model is a little bit more multi-leveled, then considering multiple sites is warranted.

But now let’s have a look at where multiple domains for a website are suitable, and where they’re not. But before that let’s take quick stock of 3 considerations many people may overlook when starting to consider multiple domains:

  1. More work – For starters, each of these sites will require unique content, regular updates, and their own specific SEO optimization. You’ll be spending more time seated in front of the screen, for sure.
  2. Increased costs – Unless you’re going to shoulder all of that increased workload on your own, it’s almost certainly going to cost staff time, tech support, and don’t forget that outside vendors are now going to require a pair of paycheques. Yes, there can be economies of scale for hosting and other services to an extent, but that needs to be weighed against the value added to the goals for the sites.
  3. Organization – You’re going to have to do more as regards regular maintenance and content updates, plus you’ll have to ensure your marketing messages are consistent across all platforms, including the websites themselves.

Multiple Domains are Suitable When..

  1. You Have A Single Business with Diverse Audiences

Most people won’t need to be reminded that 1-size does not fit all when it comes to communicating with different audiences online. Each group has its own set of needs and expectations about how products or services fit their needs. When an array of messages is required, separate sites makes it possible to tailor content as well as approach an individual group.

  1. Your Niche Website Is Designed to Showcase a Specialization

Niche websites always tend to more appealing as compared to large, generic ones. Larger are prone to having too much overlap with a competing site, and this diminishes the likelihood of being able to get the value you need from links. Niche sites are ideal for allowing the kind of specialization that makes them helpful with complementing the information (or services) of other sites.

This in turn can support the development of deep, topic-specific content that then works to make your site a valuable (and linkable) resource. That of course goes a LONG way it you getting what you need out of your website

  1. You Have High Turnover

Name changes are more common in certain industries. An accounting or law firm might change associates or partners, adding new names or removing that of a retiree. In addition, if an affiliation exists with a parent company, such as a broker with being part of a larger umbrella of multiple provincial or regional offices, wholesale changes can result from rebranding efforts and the like. In these and other cases, multiple domain names can be helpful in leveraging an established identity or geographic presence.

  1. You’re Visible in Multiple Countries, with Multiple Languages

Those of you doing business in multiple countries might want to consider having separate sites for each geographic location. Localizing the colors, images, and content to match the social and cultural norms will serve to make your site much more user-friendly. Further, matching local preferences and habits can make it so that the URL is easier to find.

Multiple Domains are Less Suitable When..

  1. Your Challenges in Managing Multiple Domain Sites are Primarily SEO related.

When it comes to page rankings, at the most basic level there is zero benefit to having multiple sites, while there very well could be negatives. Garnering bad links to phishing sites is one example, and if it occurs that requires significant technical troubleshooting.

  1. People Are Have Difficulty Finding You

Most people are inclined to look up a company by name, and that means multiple domain names can make it difficult (or confusing) for a prospect or customer to find what they need.

  1. Your Domain is Less Authoritative Due to Name Changes

Frequent changing of one or more of the domain names can hurt the site’s credibility.

  1. Your Related Expenses are Problematic

As mentioned, the time and money that will be required of your for building and maintenance (including troubleshooting) increase in line with the number of sites you’re maintaining.

  1. You’re Experiencing a Diluted identity

Depending on your brand, separating products and services between different sites could undermine the power and market influence of the company.

  1. You’ve Got Merging Issues

Anyone who’s eyeing a possible merge into a single website will need to keep in mind that the migration needs to be done correctly (and that will come with significant expense).

All this said, it’s entirely true that a single website can support multiple product lines and services, but the catch is that it’s got to be decidedly easy to navigate. That needs to be the primary motivation you’ve got to keep at the forefront in your mind, rather than focusing on the ease or low cost of design maintenance.

So, any feedback? Are you a multiple domain holder for your site(s) based on your type of business interests, or the nature of the business itself? Or is a single domain perfectly sufficient for your needs?

Notable Upgrades with Email Hosting on Cpanel and WHS

Being up and open on the information superhighway isn’t a set-it and forget it kind of deal. Every good Canadian web hosting provider will offer their customers what they consider to be the best and most intuitive control panel for site updates when and as needed. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’ve always seen cPanel to be the best choice and recently they’ve made a good thing even better with significant upgrades to their email hosting capacities.

This week let’s talk about some of the awesome features that have been rolled out to make hosting email on a cPanel & WHM server a breeze for webhosting providers, system administrators, and cPanel users.

 

cPanel & WHM Version 58

SubAddressing

SubAddressing (or ‘plus addressing’) refers to the name of an email that incorporates a ‘+’ as part of the destination user. Subaddressing optimizes the filtering of emails out of your inbox without having to configure filters for each sender. It’s definitely useful for system administrators and more standard cPanel users.

You know what it’s like in some instances when you sign up for a user account from any service provider or retailer. You’ll then be bombarded with future ‘offer’ emails and the like, but by using an address like denos+partyrentals@domain.tld to filter them all into a folder named ‘partyrentals’ at my email account denos@domain.tld. Plus you can also track who is sharing your email address with other companies as well with the fact each address acts as a unique one.

One quick thing to note here is you don’t create the folder before you use this address you do have to go to the server and manually subscribe to the new folder.

MDBox

MDBox continues to be a hit with system administrators, and the list of reasons why you should convert from Maildir to MDBox is long.

Both are storage formats used by the mail application on cPanel & WHM servers, called Dovecot. There are more than a few differences between them, but the one that necessitated adding support is that email stored with Maildir uses a simple 1-to-1 format, while MDBox employs what they call a many-to-1 format. For your average Joe cPanel user it makes no difference at all, but for a server administrator it’s something of a big deal. It allows more than one mail message to be stored in a single file for lower inode use, and that lets you enjoy a whole lot faster disk access. Things like backups and account transfers for any cPanel with large email accounts take a fraction of the time, and can be done with minimal server impact.

cPanel & WHM Version 60

SNI Support in Dovecot

cPanel made it a point to be eliminating domain-mismatch SSL as much as possible with the introduction of AutoSSL last year. The idea was to help prevent end-user confusion and reduce support load for webhosts and system administrators. That’s been accomplished by adding SNI support for all services across cPanel, including Proxy Subdomains and common service subdomains. Adding SNI support to Dovecot means that emails users can set up a secure connection to their mail server using their own domain name, with no chance of coming across a mis-matched SSL Domain error that many user will know all too well. No more!

cPanel & WHM Version 62

Email Account Settings

It seemed the primary frustration of end users was when they wanted to check their email outside of the webmail interfaces on the server. Keeping your documentation updated for those users can be a huge resource drain for a Canadian web hosting provider. That starts with the fact that there are a ton of different devices (phones, tablets, laptops, etc) that you and your support team should be fairly familiar with. Then add in the number of native applications (like Mail on MacOS and iOS) and 3rd-party applications (Thunderbird, Outlook, Mailbird, Claws, Opera Mail to name a few) and it becomes a little much.

It’s easy to have the webmail interface send yourself instructions for configuring any cPanel-hosted email account. From there you’ll notice that the email containing instructions also has a mobile configuration file attached to it. Open that mobile config file on your mobile device and that’s pretty much it for the procedure. All you have to do is confirm the settings and enter your password, and just like that the account is set up for you.

More adept users can take this a step further: Add your WHM account login for your server to the cPanel app (for iOS and Android). Then you can login to webmail for any user on your server via your mobile device, and send them the new account setup instructions with ease.

cPanel & WHM Version 64

IMAP Full-Text Search Indexing

IMAP Full-Text Search Indexing is one of those features that’s more sublime in its usefulness and thus appeal for system administrators. The entirety of that is in the way that it delivers incredibly fast search capabilities for all of your email hosted on a cPanel & WHM server over an IMAP connection. As an email user you’ll love how you can search your email so quickly, even if your email is hosted on the server. If you’re not a big fan of folders, it’s pretty darn nice. It comes highly recommended for hecking email on my phone or any iOS device, Microsoft Outlook, SquirrelMail, Horde, Roundcube, and Mozilla Thunderbird.

Quick note: If you didn’t enable SOLR on the upgrade to version 64, you can enable it via the WHM’s Manage Plugins interface (Home >> cPanel >> Manage Plugins), or by running the install_dovecot_fts (full text search) script.

iOS Push Notifications

Another gripe users had had in the past was with the inability to get email in a timely manner from your cPanel & WHM server on an iOS device. As an email user, you are forced to choose between a delay, either that or manually refresh your inbox. cPanel did add the best support possible for android devices in version 54, but didn’t add support for iOS push notifications until version 64.

There’s a lot of manual work that goes into setting up iOS push on a server, and that’s due to Apple requiring extensive configuration. It’s well worth it though, and if you visit cPanel’s website there’s good iOS Push Notifications set up documentation.

cPanel & WHM Version 66

Mail Compression on delivery

Here we are at the latest and greatest from cPanel. This feature promises to be the most exciting to anyone (sysadmin or cPanel user) that is concerned about their email bear hugging up disk space in their cPanel accounts. It has yet to be rolled out yet, but there’s one particular feature of version 66 where they’re adding compression for emailed delivered to your server. It will be compressed as the email is delivered, whether you’re using Maildir, or MDBox, reducing the amount of space needed by any email account on your server. Pairing Compression with MDBox promises to make email hosting blazing fast!

If you’re like us, you love what you do but it’s always best to get away from the desk with updates complete as soon as possible.

The Next ‘Disruption’: Artificial Intelligence Set to Explode

Generally speaking, if you’re an information technologies trend that’s given an acronym then you’re a part of the mainstream understanding, or are soon to be a part of it. The latter part of that definitely applies to artificial intelligence. If you’re not explicitly aware of what ‘AI’ stands for, it’s only a matter of time until you do.

Further, if you think that digital assistants like Siri are encompassing the cutting edge of artificial intelligence technology, you’re very much mistaken. They are in fact examples of artificial intelligence, but voice-recognition based software that access the information on the web based on those recognized prompts is but the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming. Nonetheless, they serve as good and fairly commonly recognized examples of the basic premise of AI; you have a source of deductive reasoning integrated into your devices(s) and it goes through those deductions ‘intelligently’, despite being an ‘artificial’ being.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re firmly established as a good Canadian web hosting provider, but we’re also keenly interested in staying on top of trends in the digital world that – and particularly ones that are set to make big waves. AI is definitely one of them, so this week we’re going to discuss specific AI applications that are going to be coming to the forefront in a big way over the coming years.

A significant part of the digital revolution circles around the consumerization and digitization of everyday lives. No revelation there. Whether it’s healthcare, education, government, or the corporate world, it’s going digital in a big way and being tailored towards a more consumer-centric acquisition model. Front and centre are cloud computing, virtualization, user mobility, and a good many more of them.

Data is already everything in regards to these trends, and it’s going to be even more so. Driven by the Internet of Things, the average total amount of data created (and optionally stored) by the majority of devices is predicted to reach 600ZB per year by 2020, and that’s even higher than what industry predictions were for this trend just 2 years ago in 2015. Data of course needs to be created first, and it’s in the creation stage that the volume and magnitude of data’s presence is most notable.

What’s notable as well is this data isn’t benign. Instead it’s a conduit to accomplishing something more based on the prerogatives of the user. It carries very valuable pieces of information that is related to users, products, services, and even the entirety of specific business operations as a whole.

So the question becomes – how do you mine this data in the most timely and effective manner, and get the entirety of your defined value out of it?

In advance of our diving further into the topic, it’s important to understand that many organizations and partners are already looking at ways to bring AI further into the market.

Intelligent applications based on cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, and deep learning look to be the next wave of technology that will radically transform how consumers and enterprises work, learn, and play.

These applications are being developed and implemented on cognitive / AI software platforms that offer the tools and capabilities to provide users with recommendations, predictions, and intelligent assistance made possible by cognitive systems, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Not surprisingly, cognitive / AI systems are quickly becoming a key part of IT infrastructure and the proverbial early-bird enterprises are working to understand and then plan for the adoption and use of these technologies in their organizations.

Get ready for a new working reality where cognitive systems and artificial intelligence across a broad range of industries will be one of (if not the) primary forces driving worldwide revenues from nearly 8 billion dollars in 2016 to more than 47 billion dollars by the time we reach 2020.

Here’s the big point to understand – deploying and implementing intelligent systems that learn, adapt and potentially act autonomously will become the primary battleground for technology vendors and services partners through at least 2020. These technologies will aim to specifically replace legacy IT and business processes where functions were simply executed as predefined instructions. These machines will contextually adapt and help make powerful business as well as IT decisions

And so, here are the most prominent large-scale AI disruptions that will be arriving very soon:

  • Applied Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – These technologies can be more explicitly understood to be AI platforms that process data and help make decisions in a more contextually / other-sensitive manner that goes well beyond simple, rule-based, data processing algorithms. Instead, they are able to learn, adapt, predict, and – in some cases – even operate without any human interaction of any sort. Applied AI is going to be found in everything from self-driving cars to consumer electronics.

For example, IPSoft has an engine named Amelia which has every capability of being your very own digital employee. It acts as a learning engine and takes the initiative to monitor data, movements, processes etc. to learn your business, leverages key data points, and overall learn the entirety of the ‘ins and outs’ of what you do. From there, you can deploy Amelia as a cognitive agent capable of taking on the role of a service desk assistant, customer service associate, and even patient entry assistant.

  • Smart Apps Interacting with Data – How impressed would you be if your apps could help prioritize specific functions for you, based on conditions of the market, the customer, or any defined prerogative? Imagine if you could have a very informal conversation and then have your app go back and define important tasks based on that conversation? Smarter applications will leverage data to help transform the way we conduct day-to-day business. In the very near future almost every application dealing with data will come with a machine learning aspect to it.
  • Intelligence and User Augmentation – AI and smart systems will allow users to “double” up on what they’re trying to accomplish. Most of all, we’ll be able to integrate with wearable technologies, various business functions, and even create and orchestrated flow of information based on very specific use-cases. Leveraging AI and machine learning will allow users to function at a much higher level, bringing even more value to their business. This is NOT user replacement… rather it’s augmenting their capabilities and improving all of the processes surrounding their digital work (and home) life.
  • AI-Driven Security – Security is of increasing importance in the digital world, and particular in how it relates to e-commerce operations. AI-driven security architectures will mesh together with IT infrastructures, virtual technologies, user behaviour, cloud analytics, and a whole lot more. There will be a major need for smarter security systems as we merge into a much more complex – and inevitably interconnected – world. Look for these systems to be able to monitor contextual points around users, devices, flow of information, and much more to create intelligent security architectures. It’s going to be very impressive.
  • General Data-Driven IT solutions – These solutions will continue to deliver considerable value to users, as well as enhancing the services they consume and improving how businesses perform various functions within the digital realm. Some will be concerned that these systems are here to replace them, but that’s a shortsighted and off-base concern. The reasonable perspective is to understand that if you embrace AI technology and incorporate it judiciously it has the potential to bring so much more value to your operations and involvement in the digital business world.

There is always a degree of uncertainty and trepidation that’s attached to incoming new technologies that look as if they will thoroughly reinvent many aspects of the working world. Machine learning and AI systems should be welcomed, as they will help augment functions and aid us in making better, well-informed decisions and focus on growing our businesses, making them more streamlined in their operations, and creating better services.

The explosion of AI is definitely on its way, and we for one couldn’t be any more enthusiastic about it!

The Ins and Outs of Bitcoin Transactions for Web Hosts

Elon Musk is by and large a household name these days, not only for his creation of the first widely-used digital payment alternative in PayPal but also for being the engine behind the Tesla line of high-end electric vehicles. PayPal is well established, but Bitcoin is moving out of the shadows of the could-be class of digital technologies and yet next to no one will know who Satoshi Nakamoto is.

He’s the man who developed Bitcoin in 2009, and he’s acknowledged to be something of a ‘mysterious’ figure in the tech world. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a top Canadian web hosting provider, but we’re also keenly attuned to how many of your clients are operating e-commerce websites. Bitcoin is something of a buzzword these days, and as it continues to gain momentum there’s more than a few who are wondering how easy or not it will be to adapt Bitcoin as a payment method for customers.

Bitcoin is what’s come to be known as ‘cryptocurrency’ that is based on blockchain technology, rather than being regulated by a national currency, Bitcoin is considered by its proponents to provide unmatched privacy and security when compared to other currencies or payment systems, and without transaction fees or taxes. Where it’s iffy is that some of these same advantages also make Bitcoin appealing to those conducting criminal business online. In addition, security issues with Bitcoin exchanges and wallets contribute to its extreme volatility.

Still, its growing popularity cannot be denied, and we bet that it will continue to make inroads into the e-commerce world

A cryptocurrency is a subset of digital currency that is decentralized and structured on a set of algorithms and protocols that enable a peer-to-peer, cryptographically based payment mechanism, medium of exchange and store of value. It’s independent of external monetary value influences, and as such presents a more organic, interpersonal buyer / seller experience.

Independent Currency

Bitcoin’s currency supply is created through “mining,” and transactions with it are conducted peer-to-peer before being verified by network nodes. The blockchain is where each transaction is recorded in a public database.

Blockchain technology is based on the concept of a distributed database, in which all transactions are broadcast across a peer-to-peer network of users, and an algorithm is used to validate the users and transaction. The transaction will most commonly be an exchange of cryptocurrency, but can encompass other types of data, such as contracts.

The database (aka the “ledger” in Bitcoin lingo) is the record of transactions and is automatically distributed by all networked nodes running Bitcoin software. Bitcoins are mined by writing a new portion – or “block” – of the algorithm, incorporating a cryptographic hash of the previous block plus a separate number generated to continue the algorithm. The creator of the new block is awarded a set number of bitcoins and can then verify them and claim ownership of it with public and private keys.

Some of you may also have heard of Ethereum. It’s another cryptocurrency, and there are also offshoots of Bitcoin with Bitcoin XT and Bitcoin Classic.

The general belief, however, is that Bitcoin is still 5 to 10 years away from widespread adoption

Pros and Cons of Bitcoin

Proponents of Bitcoin rave about its security and low transaction costs. There are no fees for receiving a Bitcoin payment, and fees for confirming spending are flexible. It can be traded across borders without extra fees, delays, or limitations, and with the fact payments cannot be reversed, you’re protected against the risk of chargeback fraud. Another plus is that processing payments does not require PCI or other regulatory compliance, and sensitive customer data is never stored. Multi-signature payment authorization for organizations and accounting transparency are also appealing for online retailers.

However, certain service providers will consider the irreversibility of payments a drawback, although it is important to note that the receiving party has the ability to reverse transactions. There is also the potential of coins being stolen by hackers, and the possibility of national regulatory measures may become a dissuading factor in the future. Bitcoin has been associated with online criminal activity at times, due to its use on platforms like Silk Road.

It would seem, further, that price volatility may be the greatest potential problem. In 2012, one bitcoin (BTC) was worth roughly $12. It passed $1,000 each in late 2013 amidst drastic fluctuations. A massive breach at the Mt. Gox Exchange led to the loss of 850,000 bitcoins worth an estimated $450 million in early 2014. Next, the price fell to roughly $200 in early 2015, but by the year’s end it had rebounded and more than doubled. It was worth nearly $800 per coin throughout 2016, and has spiked here in 2017.

In fact, The Economist reported that the price of a single bitcoin surpassed the price of an ounce of gold in March of this year. It’s definitely on the up as of now, but the currency’s propensity to volatility is well established.

How Web Hosts Can Accept Bitcoin

First, you’ll need to have a Bitcoin wallet to store your Bitcoins, and a public Bitcoin address to receive them. To accept payments in Bitcoin, businesses generally use a payment processing service, but it is not entirely necessary. Bitcoin community documentation recommends merchants use a full node and not a ‘light’ wallet, as it makes payment confirmation easier and makes you less vulnerable to hackers or the like.

BitPay and Coinbase are popular payment services for Bitcoin, and you can find a helpful guide for small businesses looking to implement Bitcoin payments at the Bitcoin Wiki.

Data indicates that in the vicinity of 100,000 merchants were accepting bitcoin as of 2 years ago, and there are now close to 300,000 Bitcoin transactions every day. We thinks there are several factors that will come to the forefront when a company is considering whether it’s worth it to set themselves up for Bitcoin, with the specific customer base, purchasing priorities and home jurisdiction being notable among many. The explosive growth and continuing development of Bitcoin and digital currencies make it important to pay attention to, and it’s definitely an emerging technology that’s worth keeping an eye on.