Federal Government Taking Canada.ca Out of Country for Web Hosting

The top dogs in the world of web hosting all reside south of the 49th parallel, and their sway of influence over consumers and the way they command the lion’s share of web hosting business is well established down in America. Recent news from the Canadian government, however, suggests that their influence may be making perhaps the biggest of inroads up here in Canada too.

Here at 4GoodHosting, in addition to being a quality Canadian web hosting provider we’re also keenly interested in developments that are both related to web hosting AND are tied directly to any of the different offshoots of the business as it pertains to Canada as a whole. As such, the Canadian Government’s announcement last month that it was moving web hosting for its departmental and agency website related to the Canada.ca domain to Amazon Web Services in the U.S.

March of 2015 saw the government grant a contract to Adobe Corp. for a fully hosted service with a content delivery network, analytics, and hosting environments. Adobe then contracted Amazon Web Services in the U.S. to handle all of the government’s website data.

That contract has been extended by one year, and the value of it has grown exponentially – to $9.2 million.

It would seem that Canada.ca is now no longer as Canadian as it sounds. With all the reputable and reliable web hosting providers in Canada that would have no problem accommodating such a busy client, it’s worth taking a look at why the Federal Government would make this move.

Related to the Cloud & ‘Unclassified’

The Government recently produced a draft plan for cloud computing that recommended that data deemed to be “unclassified” by the government — meaning it’s seen as being of no potential harm on a national or personal level — can be stored on servers outside of Canada.

There is however some debate as to whose responsibility it is to determine what information should be considered sensitive. Further, when information is deemed sensitive, it remains unclear how that data will be stored, and where it will be stored. Of course, this raises some obvious questions on the part of registered Canadians who want to know that personal data is always entirely secure.

Spokespersons have reported that no sensitive information is being stored on the American servers, adding further that as more departments join the Canada.ca website – Canada Revenue Agency being the most notable – there will need to be workarounds implemented to ensure that sensitive data is not relayed on to the American servers.

Cloud Makes $ and Sense for Canada

The appeal of cloud computing for the Canadian government is that it will help them get better value for taxpayers’ dollars, become more streamlined in its operations, as well as better meet the evolving needs of Canadians.

Managed Web Services will be used solely to deliver non-sensitive information and services to visitors. Similarly, secure systems such as a person’s ‘My CRA’ Account will continue to be hosted on separate platforms and servers within the current GC network.

The previous Conservative government spearheaded the move to Canada.ca in 2013, and it was regarded as being a key part of the federal government’s technological transformation. The idea was to help the government save money and become more efficient by creating better efficiencies between the technological needs of the 90 departments and agencies that will be a part of Canada.ca very soon. Prior to all of this, each of the entities had their own website that came with a URL that the majority of people found very hard to remember.

All departments have until December 2017 to take themselves over to the new Canada.ca website.

7 WordPress Plug-Ins Guaranteed to Boost SEO Big Time

WordPress continues to be the most predominant web publishing platform around, and the many years it’s had that title is a testament to just how intuitive, versatile, and capable it is for taking your content and making it presentable on the web. The old adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ certainly applies, and while WordPress is elementally the same as it was when first rolled out in 2003.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’ve always had a front row view of just how well embraced WordPress is in the digital world, and in addition to be a quality Canadian web hosting provider we also try to have our thumb on the pulse of as many aspects of the industry as we can. Page rankings are going to be important for anyone who’s on the web for commercial or promotional purposes. In fact, 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their number one priority.

So this week we’re going to share a handful of WordPress plug-ins that are a breeze to install and will serve to improve your site SEO.

  1. Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress

Feel free to regard Yoast as the Maserati of SEO plugins. It’s usually the first one that will be recommended by an experienced marketer. It is incredibly easy to use and can help you optimize multiple aspects of your WordPress site, addressing and optimizing your URL, meta description, chosen tags, keyword density, internal and external links, and content readability.

It works by first selecting a focus keyword. Next, it will analyze your SEO and provide recommendations on where improvements could be made. Green indicates you’re good as is, orange means your page needs some work, and red means you need to start from scratch as there’s multiple deficiencies. Yoast will then serve up specific actions you can choose to move ‘up’ in the colour spectrum.

Even if you’re decidedly technically inept, you’ll likely have your SEO amped right up with this plugin.

  1. All in One SEO Pack

Yoast definitely takes top spot, but this is quite likely the second best overall SEO plugin (plus the 3+ million installs to date suggest it’s effective). All in One SEO pack was first developed in 2007 and has evolved over the past 10 years to meet the majority of demands today’s SEO marketers tend to have.

All in One SEO Pack includes robust features such as:

  • Automatic meta tag generation
  • Title optimization
  • XML sitemap support for a site that’s more readable to search engines
  • Prevention of duplicate content being created

Essentially, it addresses all of the major elements of effective SEO and – like Yoast – it works with WordPress like a charm.

  1. SEOPressor

SEOPressor also gets high marks from us. This plugin works under the same premise as Yoast and the All in One SEO Pack, delivering comprehensive on-page SEO analysis, as well as providing tips for improvements.

SEOPressor is great as an ‘insta-advisor’, helping you make ideal small tweaks and adjustments that will boost your overall SEO quality. Also, like the preceding two, you don’t need to be anything of a ‘computer whiz’ to get installed and going to work for you.

  1. SEO SQUIRRLY

When top SEO experts like Neil Patel of Kissmetrics and Brian Dean of Backlinko endorse a plug-in, you can A) know it’s good stuff, and B) trust it’s been designed for non-SEO experts.

How SEO SQUIRRLY differs from other plug-ins is that it puts an emphasis on helping you create content that’s designed equally for both search engines and human readers. The importance of this is in the fact that Google places a strong emphasis on positive user experience when orienting their ever-changing algorithms.

SEO SQUIRRL helps you find great keywords, analyzes your articles, offers advice on how to resolve issues, and helps you optimize your content for human consumption, plus it generates an XML sitemap for Google and Bing

  1. SEO Optimized Images

Image optimization is typically a lesser consideration for your WordPress-based site, yet it’s a critical aspect of SEO, and that’s often overlooked. It’s important to ensure that search engines are able to understand the content within your images.

SEO Optimized Images is a WordPress plug-in that makes it easy for inserting SEO-friendly alt attributes dynamically, along with adding valuable title attributes to your images. Long story short, it streamlines the often-laborious process of optimizing the website’s content.

  1. SEO Post Content Links

Any reputable and experienced SEO marketer will tell you that internal linking is of paramount importance for creating a strong link profile. This serves to create better indexing in search engines, it points visitors to other helpful content they may be interested in, which can increase the average amount of time spent on your site.

This is a plugin that takes the guesswork out of internal link building and streamlines the process very impressively. Further, SEO Post Content Links also helps you create proper anchor text that matches current best practices.

  1. SEO Internal Links

Here’s another plugin that’s proven effective for optimizing your site’s internal link structure. Directly from its WordPress description, SEO Internal Links ‘can automatically link keywords and phrases in your posts and comments with corresponding posts, pages, categories, and tags on your blog.’ Enough said? Very likely. SEO internal links is ideal for anyone who’s not so savvy with linking or having a sound understanding of the value of linking and indexing for the website.

In a nutshell, SEO internal links is a convenient way to create internal links, while at the same time avoiding black hat SEO practices that could backfire on you big time should you choose to employ them. Quite plainly, don’t. The damage you can to your site’s credibility in the eyes of the search engine bots isn’t worth the benefits you may get, not at all.

Here’s to you trying one or more and seeing your SEO get a much-needed push up the hill!

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

The Appeal of Hybrid Cloud Hosting

Most of you will need no introduction to the functionality and application of cloud computing, but those of who aren’t loaded with insight into the ins and outs of web hosting may be less familiar with cloud hosting and what makes it significantly different from standard web hosting. Fewer still will likely know of hybrid hosting and the way it’s made significant inroads into the hosting market with very specific appeals for certain web users with business and / or management interests.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’ve done well establishing ourselves as a quality Canadian web hosting provider, and a part of what’s allowed us to do that is by having our thumb on the pulse of our industry and sharing those developments with our customers in language they can understand. Hybrid hosting may well be a good fit for you, and as such we’re happy to share what we know regarding it.

If we had to give a brief overview of it, we’d say that hybrid hosting is meant for site owners that want the highest level of data security along with the economic benefits of the public cloud. Privacy continues to be of a primary importance, but the mix of public and private cloud environments and the specific security, storage, and / or computing capacities that come along with the pairing are very appealing.

What Exactly is the Hybrid Cloud?

This combination of private and public cloud services communicate via encrypted technology that allows for data and / or app portability, consisting of three individual parts; the public cloud / the private cloud / a cloud service and management platform.

Both the public and private clouds are independent elements, allowing you to store and protect your data in your private cloud while employing all of the advanced computing resources of the public cloud. To summarize, it’s a very beneficial arrangement where your data is especially secure but you’re still able to bring in all the advanced functionality and streamlining of processes that come with cloud computing.

If you have no concerns regarding the security of your data, you are; a) lucky, and b) likely to be quite fine with a standard cloud hosting arrangement.

If that’s not you, read on…

The Benefits of Hybrid Clouds

One of the big pluses for hybrid cloud hosting is being able to keep your private data private in an on-prem, easily accessible private infrastructure, which means you don’t need to push all your information through the public Internet, yet you’re still able to utilize the economical resources of the public cloud.

Further, hybrid hosting allows you to leverage the flexibility of the cloud, taking advantage of computing resources only as needed, and – most relevantly – also without offloading ALL your data to a 3rd-party datacenter. You’re still in possession of an infrastructure to support your work and development on site, but when that workload exceeds the capacity of your private cloud, you’re still in good hands via the failover safety net that the public cloud provides.

Utilizing a hybrid cloud can be especially appealing for small and medium-sized business offices, with an ability to keep company systems like CRMS, scheduling tools, and messaging portals plus fax machines, security cameras, and other security / safety fixtures like smoke or carbon monoxide detectors connected and working together as needed without the same risk of web-connection hardware failure or security compromise.

The Drawbacks of Hybrid Clouds

The opposite side of the hybrid cloud pros and cons is that it can be something of a demanding task to maintain and manage such a massive, complex, and expensive infrastructure. Assembling your hybrid cloud can also cost a pretty penny, so it should only be considered if it promises to be REALLY beneficial for you, and keep in mind as well that hybrid hosting is also less than ideal in instances where data transport on both ends is sensitive to latency, which of course makes offloading to the cloud impractical for the most part.

Good Fits for Hybrid Clouds

It tends to be a more suitable fit for businesses that have an emphasis on security, or others with extensive and unique physical data needs. Here’s a list of a few sectors, industries, and markets that have been eagerly embracing the hybrid cloud model:

  • Finance sector – the appeal for them is in the decreased on-site physical storage needs and lowered latency
  • Healthcare industry – often to overcome regulatory hurdles put in place by compliance agencies
  • Law firms – protecting against data loss and security breaches
  • Retail market – for handling compute-heavy analytics data tasks

We’re fortunate that these types of technologies continue to evolve as they have, especially considering the ever-growing predominance of web-based business and communication infrastructures in our lives and the data storage demands and security breach risks that go along with them.

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?

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!

5 Expectations for Data Centres of the Future

With the way the business and private worlds both are ever more relying on digital capabilities, it’s really no surprise that data centers are constantly growing and evolving to take on the increasing demands being asked of them. It’s a trend that doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon, and as seeing to it that data centers are expanded in the smartest and most foresighted manner is very much a priority in the IT management world.

Here at 4GoodHosting, in addition to being a reputable Canadian web hosting provider we’re also keenly interested in the workings of our industry as a whole and both keeping on top of and being responsive to trends in the industry. This is one that is immediately relevant to us, and so today we’ll take a look at what experts predict will be the nature of data centres in the not-too-distant future.

The popular belief is that over the next 3 years, we’ll see the conclusion of a trend that has promoted change in almost every area, with networks, servers, and storage having been altered very drastically in a very short period of time. Folks like us will need to ensure our data centres are ready by focusing on networks, software, hardware (including servers), and storage. Preparing these crucial components of our data centres well in advance of the coming demands is supremely important.

Here’s 5 developments we believe we can expect to see with regards to data centres

Hyper Convergence Infrastructure Systems
There are greater numbers of different infrastructure systems than ever before, but hyper-converged infrastructure systems are increasingly the top choice for data center operators. Hyper-converged infrastructure systems are software driven systems that combine networking, storage, and other technology to enable the virtualization of the infrastructure system. By utilizing commodity computing, the system is able to streamline processes and maintain lower operating costs while still being administered by an individual hosting company. This essentially creates a nice consolidating of services and resources into a single system.

Certain critics do question whether or not hyper-converged systems have the ability to keep up with technological advances, especially considering the number of different components bundled into one system. Still, hyper-converged systems do offer cost savings and – perhaps more importantly – promise to be easier to operate. Hyper-converged systems are bound to continue to be attractive for data centre decision makers on account of their ease of deployment, ease of management and lower overall operating cost.

Automation Tools for Data Centers
Employing automation tools is critical for your data center if you intend to be prepared for the future. They simplify complex processes and thus allow administrators to focus more on the data centre’s overall performance. In addition to being cost effective and requiring less human control, automation tools also offer heightened and improved security for the data center.

It is indeed effective, and you’ll have struggles with your data centre running smoothly in the cloud (public or private) if automation is not part of your strategy. Looking at the modern data center and cloud landscape, you’ll notice a lot more interconnectivity and new capabilities that optimized the process of passing resources dynamically. Automation tools will definitely be a part of the future

Open (Source) Standards

The idea that open standards or open source resources could be hugely beneficial came about when developers made mounds upon mounds of free software available to the masses on a widespread scale. Today, open standards encompass software, hardware, and other technological functions for fostering public computing by granting administrators access to free resources. The advantage of that for data center operators is clear, with the costs saved being able to be invested into different resources and necessities required for the operation of the data center.

Open source resources will run on any commodity hardware, and as such they will allow free access. Hyper-converged infrastructure systems and open resources then worked together more synergistically, and when you factor in that cloud computing resources were made available through commodity hardware as well the appeal of open standards is here to stay for data center operators as well.

In fact, it’s changing the very foundations of the modern data center. By reorienting the way developers treat IT infrastructure that’s driven by application containers. Adoption of open source practices will continue to transform the modern data center ensuring it is ready for the technological changes that are most certainly on their way.

Cloud Computing
Cloud computing has drastically revolutionized how we receive, send, and share information and data – and in a good way! The development of a software-driven infrastructure system gives data center managers much more freedom and accessibility with the delivery of information. Software-driven infrastructure systems allow for more freedom and accessibility with the delivery of your information and cloud computing returns that control to administrators. The appeal of that also goes without saying, and many companies who have already embraced cloud computing are doing so more and more each month and especially in how it relates to the intake and output of data from data centres.

Software Advances
Not surprisingly, newer and ever-better software continues to be rolled out for consumers. The variety of it means you must be particularly discerning about updates and new if your data centre is to be functioning optimally. Networking is of significant importance too, and advances in Ethernet networking protocols have been a BIG plus for data centres as well. Keep up on the trends and dig deeper when possible and you’ll likely be kept in good stead when it comes to software advances for your data centre.

If nothing more, the sheer volume of data that data centres will have to both house, process, and export in the future will be staggering, but it’s good to know that technological developments are doing a decent job of keeping pace with the expansion and all the operation challenges it poses.

A Selection of Recommended Webmaster Development Tools

souris connecte usb mot webThe last 3+ years or so has seen some very useful web development application tools being introduced to streamline the process of both creating and further developing websites. Here at 4GoodHosting we are always keen to offer more to our clients as part of being a quality Canadian web hosting provider, and we know that more than a few of you are the webmaster behind your website. In this week’s blog we are going to offer our recommendations on some of them that have really made the grade in our opinion and have much promise in allowing you to develop and expand upon your website.

Developer Tools

Notepad ++ – Choosing Notepad to write or edit your code is still a viable option, but there’s the potential to increase your productivity and efficiency with Notepad++. Among the more notable improvements with ++, it has syntax highlighting and syntax folding features that simplify the process of weeding out bugs, and a well designed tabbed interface allows you to work on multiple documents.

In addition, Notepad++ boasts an auto-completion feature that makes writing code that much faster (relative to using Notepad). Notepad++ is available as both a full install and as a portable app.

FileZilla – FileZilla is regarded as one of the best free FTP, SFTP, and FTPS clients around. Aside from being available for multiple platforms (Mac OSX, Linux, & Windows), it is relatively easy to navigate and use. It’s optimized for allowing webmasters to manually backup the files on their sites’ FTP servers and while FileZilla is only available as a full installer, it’s still really a top notch tool and worth the space if you’re especially active.

Database Browser – This free tool lets you easily connect to databases, as well as modify data on your DBs and export or import data plus run SQL scripts any time you like. Notable supported database servers include MS Sql Server, ODBC, Oracle, MySql, BDE, SQLite, Firebird, and Interbase, among others. Like Notepad++, the program is available as both a portable app and full Windows installer.

XAMPP – XAMPP gets high marks for the fact it is an extremely important tool for testing and debugging your site. It is more specifically a distribution tool that packages Apache, MariaDB (as compared to the more dated MySQL), PHP, and Perl to let webmasters locally host their own sites in advance of their going live. As a result, you can stress-test and debug your sites. XAMPP is available as a full installer and portable app.

Google Chrome – A quick mention here, as it truly is the best browser to use if you’re a web developer. In particular, it provides you with a handy feature that aids in letting you make temporary on-the-fly changes to your site for testing and debugging purposes.

Graphics And Photo Manipulation Tools

Share X – Very useful for taking enhanced screenshots and screen prints, and what distinguishes Share X from other similar tools is that you can automatically share your screenshots to the popular media sharing site Imgur, which of course is very useful if you’re an instructional aide or consultant in web development. In addition to screenshots, ShareX also features screen recording .gif and .mp4 formats for you take advantage of.

GIMP – No getting around the fact that Photoshop is especially pricey. GIMP is a nice free alternative if you’d rather not pay for Photoshop Elements or a Photoshop CC subscription. It’s Photoshop’s equal in terms of features, and is quite easy to get the hang of in a short period of time. GIMP is available as both a portable app and a full installer.

Krita – Similar to GIMP, Krita is yet another free alternative for Photoshop. In comparison to GIMP however, it’s primarily designed for artists. Webmasters who want to create graphics or artwork for their sites will likely find it preferable to GIMP.

Video Capture And Editing

Audacity – The consensus seems to be that Audacity is the best free audio recording software available. It’s great for recording and editing your audio files is impressively easy too. It’s currently usable on Mac OS X, Windows, as well as Linux and is available as a portable app or as an executable.

Camstudio – Camstudio is a webcam and screen recording tool that’s decidedly more affordable than others currently on the market. Those of you who are also creating video content (reviews, commentaries, video tutorials) for your site will certainly find it very useful for recording your screen.

OBS – A free live streaming software that is also applicable for video recording. It differs from Camstudio in that webmasters can use OBS for webinars on nearly any live streaming platform – Youtube, Twitch, Dacast etc. – and it’s a great for allowing webmasters to leverage the extent of their interaction with a target audience.

Communications & General Productivity

Slack – Slack is quickly becoming one of the more popular group and collaboration communication tools around. It’s got much more in the way of features and custom user options as compared to Skype. Have a look and see for yourself, we imagine you’ll find it preferable.

Pidgin – Managing multiple freelancers who are contributing to your site? You’ll find Pidgin is ideal for easily communicating with them. You can manage almost all of your IM accounts under one client, and you’ll never have to worry about opening multiple chat windows to talk to your freelancers or clients.

Understanding the New ‘Perimeter’ Against Cyber Attacks

Hacker in hood with laptop initiating cyber attack. View from the back.

If you yourself haven’t been the victim of a cyber attack, you very likely know someone else who has, and in fact the numbers suggest that upwards of 90% of organizations experienced at least SOME level of an IT security breach in the past year. Further, it’s believed that one in 6 organizations have had significant security breaches during the same period.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’ve established ourselves as a top Canadian web hosting provider but we’re always keen to explore industry trends – positive and negative – that impact what matters to our customers. And our array of customers covers pretty much any type of interest one could have in operating on the World Wide Web.

Cyberattacks have pretty much become a part of every day life. While not to suggest that these types of incidents are ‘inevitable’, there is only so much any one individual or IT team can do to guard against them. Yes, there are standard PROACTIVE web security protocols to follow, but we will not look at those here given the fact that they are quite commonly understood amongst those of you who have that as part of your job detail and responsibility within the organization.

Rather, let’s take a look at being REACTIVE in response to a cyber attack here, and in particular with tips on how to disinfect a data centre and beef it up against further transgressions.

Anti-Virus and Firewalls – Insufficient

It would seem that the overwhelming trend with cloud data security revolves around the utilization of firewalls, believing them to be a sufficiently effective perimeter. Oftentimes, however, exceptions are made to allow cloud applications to run and in thus doing so the door is opened for intrusions to occur.

So much for firewalls securing the enterprise.

Similarly, anti-virus software can no longer keep pace with the immense volume of daily viruses and their variants that are being created in cyberspace nearly everyday. A reputable cybersecurity firm recently announced the discovery of a new Permanent Denial-of-Service (PDos) botnet named BrickerBot, which serves to render the victim’s hardware entirely useless.

A PDoS attack – or ‘phlashing’ as it’s also referred to – can damage a system so extensively that full replacement or reinstallation of hardware is required, and unfortunately these attacks are becoming more prevalent.It is true that there are plenty of useful tools out there such as Malware bytes that should be used to detect and cleanse the data centre of any detected or suspected infections.

Making Use of Whitelisting And Intrusion Detection

Whitelisting is a good way to strengthen your defensive lines and isolate rogue programs that have successfully infiltrated your data center. Also known as application control, whitelisting involves a short list of the applications and processes that have been authorized to run. This strategy limits use by means of a “deny-by-default” approach so that only approved files or applications are able to be installed. Dynamic application whitelisting strengthens security defenses and helps with preventing malicious software and other unapproved programs from running.

Modern networking tools should also be integrated as part of your security arsenal, and if they are configured correctly they can highlight abnormal patterns that may be a cause for concern. As an example, intrusion detection can be set up to be triggered when any host uploads a significant load of data several times over the course of a day. The idea is to eliminate abnormal user behaviour and help with containing existing threats.

Security Analytics

What’s the best way to augment current security practices? Experts in this are increasingly advocating real-time analytics used in tandem with specific methodologies that focus on likely attack vectors. This approach revolves around seeing the web as a hostile environment filled with predators. In the same way behavioural analytics are used in protecting against cyber terrorists, we need to take an in-depth look at patterns to better detect internal security threats.

However, perhaps the most important thing to realize is that technology alone will never solve the problem. Perfect email filters and the transgressors will move to using mobile networks. Improve those filters and they’ll jump to social media accounts. The solution must address the source and initial entry concepts, with training and education implemented so that people in the position to respond and ‘nip it in the bud’ can be explicitly aware of these attacks just as they first begin.

End-user Internet security awareness training is the answer, but we are only in the formative stages of making it accessible for users across all the different types. Much of it is all about teaching users not to do inadvisable things like clicking on suspect URLs in emails, or opening attachments that let in the bad hats.

Putting all staff through requisite training may be expensive and time consuming / productivity draining, but we may be at the point soon where it’s no longer an option to NOT have these types of educational programs. The new reality is that what we previously referred to as ‘the perimeter’ no longer really exists, or if it does it’s by in large ineffective in preventing the entirety of cyber attacks. The ‘perimeter’ is now every single individual on their own, and accordingly the risks are even greater with the weakest link in the chain essentials being the entirety of your system defences.

6 Recommended PHP Rating Scripts for Feedback & Interaction on your Website

Web Development on Laptop Screen. Online Working Concept.

A good many of you who web designers out there may in fact be correct in your assumptions regarding what your defined audience wants, but there’s likely an equally large percentage of you who have made design, layout, and content choices with your site that have missed the mark. You might have hunches, and more than a few folks will have opinions for you. But how do you really take the pulse of how intelligently your site is laid out for and experienced by visitors.

Here at 4GoodHosting, our expertise is naturally with quality web hosting in Canada, but our enthusiasm for trends in Internet marketing leads us to discover a number of topics that would likely interest our customers. This week, we’re inclined to discuss these 6 good PHP scripts for Canadian websites that are very practical for letting your site visitors leave you with quantifiable feedback on specific elements or components of your site, via ratings.

Here are 6 that we’ve come to be familiar with, and in order of the ones we think most highly of.

  1. Thumbs Up

The ThumbsUp rating script gets high marks for its modern, stylish design and how it makes it easy to implement an engaging ratings system for any of your websites. The ThumbsUp script works with a MySQL database, and incorporates an easy-to-understand configuration file, plus includes six custom templates. It looks sharp, and performs well too. The admin area offers plenty of control and customization options along with several selectable features. Users report finding it very easy to customize scripts to suit website styles and needs.

  1. Rating System

The Rating System script provides a very plain way for allowing visitors to engage with your content by leaving a rating score. Choose one of the 3 different user interface styles, and the proceed to documentation which explains how to implement and configure the script to suit the specifics of your website. Another big plus is that it allows visitors to leave feedback on your content, products, and media releases, and more.

  1. Skinnable Rating System

The Skinnable Rating System is not only a modern, comprehensive rating script that’s easily implemented, but it also boasts an advanced administration panel that provides an impressive level of control over your ratings system, statistics and the appearance of the system itself within the website. In addition, there’s also a handful of snappy features that also come included and add to the scripts’ overall high-quality finish.

It’s a strong fit for all modern browsers and mobile devices, and last but not least it can be integrated with any of your online content fairly simply for even the least experience webmaster.

  1. Poll

We like Poll for the fact it’s a useful little script than can be used to set up opinion polls on your website without much know-how or effort on behalf of the webmaster. Like Skinnable Rating System, it comes with a nice advanced admin panel where you’re able to manage your opinion polls via an intuitive user-interface that even a newbie could work their way around quite easily. Poll also comes fully documented, and is bundled with 3 poll styles to choose from, so it would bet #1 on the list if convenience and ease of use were the only criteria.

  1. Advanced Rating System

Advanced Rating System is the way to go for those of you who want comprehensive data from your ratings. It is a modern rating system that you can easily implement onto your website, and it lets visitors leave feedback and engage with your content on-the-fly – which of course means they’re more likely to do so! You’ve got your choice of a variety of bundled rating icons and colours that match the style of your website perfectly, and by making use of modern technologies including AJAX, IP protection, cross-domain embedding, and MySQL database it’s a champ for storing ratings data. The consensus it that it is a hugely customizable and attractive rating system that’s ideal for nearly any type of website.

  1. Minty AJAX Ratings

Those in the business seem to agree that ‘Minty’ AJAX Ratings script delivers a ‘cool’ solution for anyone wanting to set up a basic rating system for their website. It scores well for its smooth implementation steps, optional MySQL database use, easy customizable nature using simple CSS code, and AJAX instant-refresh. The Minty AJAX Ratings script is a great way to engage with your visitors with content that is more likely to promote that interaction. You can also retrieve feedback to see how your content, products or media releases are performing.

As mentioned above, the appeal of having visitors rate your site and / or individual parts of it is in the fact that it’s quantifiable input on how inviting the pages or site as a whole are for different types of users visiting it. There’s definitely a lot to be said for implementing one of these PHP scripts.