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.

Siri, Cortana, or the Guy at Google Now: Who’s the Best Assistant?

smiling businesswoman communicating with helpline operator

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a premier Canadian web hosting provider, and as such you can be certain we love anything related to the mobile communications world. You’d be hard pressed to find any newer-model smartphone and computer on the market today that doesn’t have a smart assistant preloaded and waiting on your every inquiry, Apple has Siri, Windows has Cortana, and then there’s the lesser known but equally useful Google Now.

So how do they stack up against one another in our opinion? To the more casual observer or passive participant it may seem like Siri, Cortana, and the nameless Google Now assistant are all pretty much the same — and, to a great extent, they are. But they also have several tangible differences and in each case they’ve got at least one quirk, flaw or strength between them.

So which one would be best for you? Of course, you’re not going to make a purchasing decision for your next smartphone based exclusively on the type of assistant it comes with, but it may be a prominent consideration.

It’s not an easy question to answer, with the fact they’re so similar making it hard to compare them without digging deep into their capabilities.

Let’s give it a try.

Siri

Siri has been one of the flagship features of iOS since the 2011 launch of iOS 5. It’s somewhat humble beginnings were with the basics, like weather forecasts and messaging, but it’s expanded in leaps and bounds since, and most notably it now supports third-party integration with MacOS Sierra and iOS 10.

Indeed, Siri’s jokes and witty comebacks continue to be a hit, but the virtual assistant is becoming more and more capable as the years go by. These days you can ask it to call people, send messages, schedule meetings, play games, launch apps and games, answer questions, set reminders, and still provide those weather forecasts.

Siri’s also very capable with understanding contextual queries, and with the MacOS Sierra and iOS 10 versions it relies a lot less on web results in choosing the response. Siri can also integrate with third-party apps and understand follow-up queries. This was a significant departure for Apple, which has always maintained tight creative control over which 3rd-party companies are granted access to its native functions. As a result, we feel it’s a bit premature to judge how well this stacks up to Cortana or Google Now.

Siri has no troubles contextually searching for files in MacOS, although we think it’s fair to say she doesn’t seem to have the learning capabilities that Cortana does. Especially when it comes to personalized responses.

Another detractor for Siri is in the way it’s reliant on voice input. Cortana and Google Now both work very well with text input, while Siri requires voice input. It is possible to edit your dictation after it’s been received, but that’s not going to appeal to any user. This is especially annoying with the MacOS version of the assistant, with the fact there are any number of reasons or scenarios where a user might not be able to talk to his or her Mac, like in a crowded workplace for instance, or while in bed with your partner asleep next to you.

Cortana

On Windows Phone, users can have Cortana make calls, send messages, set reminders, take notes, recognize music, find great restaurants, check your calendar, among many more functions. The Windows 10 version of Cortana offers a few more features, namely the ability to search files by context, and wit the Windows 10 Creators Update you have even more functionality, including the ability to lock, restart, or shut down your computer. Add the fact all of this is done using natural language and that’s fairly impressive.

Another appealing feature with Cortana is that Microsoft’s virtual assistant is analyzing your interactions at nearly every step to learn more about your preferences. This info is stored in something premier Canadian web hosting provider and the information includes the places you like to go, people your interactions suggest you care about, the times of the day that are your ‘quiet times’, and things you might be interested in based on your viewings, among other things. And if you’d like to overrule Cortana, you can edit them any time you like.

There’s more. Cortana is also capable of reading your emails, tracking your location, taking note of your browser history, checking your contact list, keeping tabs on your calendar, and then putting all this data together to suggest info / choices in the future, if of course you allow it to. Cortana has also been formatted to recognize context, so most of the time it will be able to understand follow-up requests, and you can even phrase inquiries or requests in different ways and Cortana is able to take the contextual clues and respond accordingly, again most of the time. You can also type your questions or requests if you’d rather not speak out loud.

Cortana is not limited Microsoft’s apps, either, as it can access third-party content as well. The assistant can also add something to your Hulu queue, or check out a friend’s Facebook feed. More and more third-party connectivity is being added all the time.

Google Now

Google Now is different from Cortana and Siri in a number of ways, but most particularly in that it’s designed with less personality – and more functionality – in mind. Yes, it is an integral part of Android, bit Google Now can also be used via an iOS app, or accessed via the Google Chrome browser on any mobile internet device.

The best way for you to conceptualize the functionality of Google Now is to think of it as an extension of Google’s existing search capabilities, as compared to it being more simply a full-on smart assistant. Google Now does much of what the other two virtual assistants do, and does it just as well the majority of the time and with similar speediness. Like Cortana and Siri, you can ask Google Now for directions to the closest Pho restaurant, or what kind of weather you can expect over the next 10 days.

With your approval, Google’s software will utilize your search history and customize its responses based on what it’s gleaned from your preceding queries. For example, if you ask Google Now to inform you about what’s in the news, it will provide news articles it believes would interest you, based on what you’ve previously read on Google.

Further, the platform’s additional third-party support means that – like Cortana and Siri – you can add new features to Google Now that aren’t a native component of its platform.

Google’s integration with its search engine is a BIG plus, and it makes Google Now one of the most useful virtual assistants out of the box. Unless you’ve yet to use Google as a search engine (highly unlikely), it will already have a mound of data and footprints for your movements on the web. It will also pick up on your habits if you’re using it on a smartphone, and will try to serve you a specific card in advance of your next request. You can even tell Google Now whether it’s actually serving you relevant cards, and if not the software will improve in short order.

Google Now on Android operates much like Cortana, given it’s tightly integrated with the operating system’s search functionality. As you go about your browsing, Google Now will pull up relevant information. If you’re reading about a new music album, for instance, it might suggest a card with a list of dates for that band’s tour, or recorded music from bands of the same genre.

The Decision

Despite the fact Siri finally made it to MacOS, Cortana has to be regarded as the most fully-featured assistant currently available. Apple has decided to finally open up Siri to third parties, and that will make a big difference, but the growth hasn’t happened yet, and it remains to be seen if it can even match what Cortana and Google Now are currently offering.

In truth, Apple remains at a disadvantage due to its own business model. Both Microsoft and Google own services that a vast array of web users already utilize. Combining this with a virtual assistant makes it more convenient to the person using it, because it will very quickly display its ability to anticipate what you might be looking for, with at least some effectiveness (and always improving in this regard)

All this said, the best smart assistant is the one you have ready at this very moment. Our recommendation is that you try their respective apps on your smartphone, your desktop, and perhaps even some of your smart home devices before deciding on the one you want to be getting to know you, so very well.

5 Ways to Promote Greater WordPress Website Speeds

Finger Pointing at Internet WebsitesIf you live in the heart of a major metropolitan city, having a sports car that can do zero to 60 in less than 3 seconds would is great – but it’s certainly far from being a necessity (or even practical for that matter) because of the fact that you’ll almost never be able to actually put that performance capability to use. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re city dwellers and some of the best Canadian web hosting providers around, but we certainly don’t drive Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Maseratis, or anything of the sort.

What we do have for you though is genuine speed for your WordPress-built website, and that IS a necessity these days. Users’ expectations have expanded these days, and they expected a website to

  1. Load quickly, and
  2. Be responsive when scrolling through pages or enjoying multimedia content

If a website doesn’t respond with sufficient speed, these users will move on. It’s that simple. It may not be ‘fair’ but that’s the way that it is. You may be left wondering about ways to increase your website speed, and you should do that for a pair of reasons. Not only does a lagging website risk losing visitors (and in some cases prospective customers) but more importantly…

Google has stated unequivocally that the speed of a website will reflect that site’s rankings in SERPs (search engine results pages)

Now that is a big deal, and no matter whether your website is e-commerce, personal, or whatever it may be.

Right then, here’s 5 nearly-guaranteed ways to improve the speed of your website.

  1. Choose a Reliable and Reputable Web Hosting Provider

Your proven web hosting provider in Canada must have solid and reliable hardware, and most particularly their servers. Researching your prospective host in line will almost certainly lead to at least one customer review that talks about their servers.

But while we have the same powerful dedicated servers that nearly any good Canadian web hosting provider will have, but we also boast our ‘fast fiber’ network designed to deliver optimal operation time and high throughput and packet per second capability.

Long story short, you should be demanding, and when you ask questions about the response speed of a web hosting service you should expect a more detailed and qualified answer than ‘oh yes, we’re plenty fast.” There should be numbers in that response.

  1. Enable Caching

Caching is the technical term for storing data in a temporary storage area. The relevance of that given our topic this week is that having this storage spot and directing data there improve’s a site’s vroom-vroom capabilities. That’s because much of the content has an opportunity to be ready-made for delivery on demand and does not have to gathered and then prepared for delivery / display to the user. It also reduces the load of various systems resources being piled on your server.

Typically, good web hosts will offer their customers caching plugins that can be implemented and activated via your control panel. You can usually also do this through you WordPress CP if you are hosted with WordPress hosting.

  1. Utilize a Content Delivery Network

This step comes very highly recommended, as a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a surefire way to speed up your website. A CDN is a worldwide network of servers that facilitate you duplicating and storing your site’s static elements and files. Examples of these would be cascading style sheets, Javascript, images, video files etc. These elements are then delivered to whoever asks for them via a server that is closer to their physical location. The time content takes to reach their browsers is, of course, drastically reduced. And not surprisingly that makes for satisfied folks.

  1. Ensure your Images are Optimized in Full

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that users now expect higher quality images to be features on websites. Image quality – and to a greater extent image size – both factor into the new challenges place on the speed of the website in delivering them to the expecting visitor without anything more than a slight delay.

The majority of images can be resized or cropped to fit with graphic-editing tools or plugins, and most of the time the web user will not notice any reduction in quality.

This is a step that’s not particularly technical, and we think it’s one you can probably take on by yourself! So here goes:

  • Use JPEG format whenever possible, or PNG if not
  • Avoid using BMP and TIFF formats
  • Crop your image to eliminate unnecessary elements and reduce size
  • Resize your images and use logic in making your decisions. Example – a web page only 750 pixels wide is going to have a devil of a time accommodating a 2000 pixels wide image. Resize it!
  1. Go Ahead and ‘Minify’ your HTML, JavaScript, and CSS

CSS and JavaScript have never been as integral to websites like they are today. You wouldn’t dare consider doing away with these files, but you certainly should try to reduce the size of them if you want more pep out of the site.

The term that they use for this move is ‘minify’, and what that means is basically getting rid of comments, extra spaces, extra line breaks, and so on and so forth. ‘Frivolous infrastructure’ is the term we like, and it also includes block delimiters in the code in order to make that code lighter and and really dialling back on the amount of data that needs to be transferred.

There are a selection of plugins specifically designed for WordPress websites to make this ‘minifying’ as easy as possible. Good ones include WP Super Minify and Better WordPress Minify, both of which automatically reformat your code to make it much leaner. Manual resizing is a possibility too, and quite easy when you use Closure Compiler. Many CDNs and caching tools offer built-in minify support.

More in Store

Of course, we’ve just scratched the surface of website optimization for greater speed. These 5 steps are pretty much failsafe in bringing your actual noticeable results though. If you’d like to dig deeper, here are 3 popular performance analysis sites that feature online tools that can run a series of tests on your site to identify performance issues and then instruct you on how to remedy them if you’re lagging in any particular area. They’re user-friendly and intuitive and the results and scoring can be displayed in a choice of manners.

Have a look

The Cloud Stack: SaaS, PaaS, & IaaS

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

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

Unparalleled Network Access

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

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

The Stack Itself

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

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

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

SaaS offerings will feature:

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

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

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

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

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

Paas offerings will feature:

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

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

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

IaaS offerings will feature:

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

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

IaaS products will be a good fit in any situation where

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

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

Weighing Cloud Analytics

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

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

So, What Exactly is Cloud Analytics?

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

A Unified Vision For The Business

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

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

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

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

Increased Ease of Accessibility

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

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

Improved Collaboration

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

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

Security

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

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

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

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