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).

Fullscreen capture 452017 75232 AM.bmp

  • 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.

SSD Hosting for Data On-Demand Websites of All Sorts

four Hard disk drives, HDD and SSD on white

These days, there are all sorts of expansive blogs and online discussion forums for pretty much every subject imaginable. The forums in particular are great for talking extensively with similar enthusiasts and getting as much perspective as possible on the things you’re into, and there’s no better place to get recommendations for the best gear or whatever it is you’re looking to acquire.

Many of them working with Canadian web hosting providers build their platforms using the popular vBulletin software, including the new vBulletin 5. And yes, successful discussion forums can bring advertisers and thus profit for the webmasters.

Websites like these have heavy data demands with the nature of their size and user interactivity. In this business, the I and O in I/O requests stands for input and output, and how that relates to a website is that – when there’s many of them – it’s a lot to ask of the standard drives that will be made available with basic web hosting. SSD web hosting is a specialty here at 4GoodHosting, and we’ve got many customers enjoying the stability and security it provides for their websites.

Ideal for Database-Driven Applications

During peak viewing times, the amount of I/O requests can slow down the recall of information from your database. This is especially true for sites on traditional “spinning media” disk drives. The physical limitations of spinning hard disks and the mechanical head restricts the amount of information that can be requested at a given time.

SDD hard drives are excellent for database driven applications. A custom application or an e-commerce website needs to have a significant amount of database input and output and as the site gets more traffic the person’s hard drive will be getting much more I/O requests. The vast amount of I/O requests could over time slow down the information from a database. SSD Hosting proves to be much more sufficient because-because SDD hosting has no use for any moving objects or parts data transfer is only restricted by the speed of the network.

Want stats? SSDs were able to outmatch the hard disk drives when on the I/O transfer. SSDs were able to push out at least 95 percent more data than the hard disks they were tested against.

Eliminating Latency and Near-Zero Risk of Memory Loss

SSDs are not subject to two issues which standard hard drives are encumbered by. The most relevant of these is the rotational latency that is on the disk, and the seek time which it takes for the read/write head to locate the data that is presented on the disk can be an issue too. Generally, your standard hard disk drive takes 20 times longer to obtain data during an instance of a large amount of I/O requests.

SSD hard drives are excellent for data loss prevention as well. Most can use RAID cards with the help of battery-backed non-volatile caching, and that is most notably useful should a power loss endanger any unwritten data. With an SSD drive, it would simply be stored in the cache until the server comes back on. Any inbound data at that point would be both written and stored, and crisis averted.

Sound like just what you need for your increasingly-popular discussion forum or any other site where data is going to be in demand? Check out our packages with features here and let’s get you set up right!

Making your blog profitable, plus the best hosting for WordPress

Digital Online Social Media Blog Working Concept

If you’re enthusiastic and / or passionate about a subject matter – and that could be ANY subject matter – blogging about it is almost certainly going to be a personally rewarding experience. That’s particularly true when you receive interaction on your blog, and that’s most commonly in the form of comments and having others link to your blog. It’s a nice feeling to know your writing is being read, and that others are taking an interest in what you have to say.

For some, there comes a point when they sense that their blog is capable of so much more. It’s true that some blogs are bonafide money makers for their authors and it’s quite common for well-established bloggers to think ‘hey, why can’t I make my blog profitable?’

Well, you can! But you need to take a strategic approach to it and get the most ideal web hosting from a reputable Canadian web hosting provider.

Tips for Making Money From Your Blog

Increase website traffic

You not only want search engines to be your friend, you want them to become a powerful ally in making your blog more popular, and thus more profitable. The first most effective way to increase website traffic is to focus on increasing your social shares. The more people who share your content on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the more people will be motivated to visit your blog / website. The best way to accomplish this is to write great headlines that are SEO optimized and persuasive in prompting people to click on your links. Also provide easy ways to share your blog posts.

Other ideas:

  • Use long-tail keywords and do extensive keyword research
  • Start writing posts for other blogs in your niche
  • Install the CommentLuv plug-in on your blog to make it easier and more inviting for feedback and discussion

Network and Reach Out To More People

Plain and simple, you grow your blog – and in the bigger picture your brand – by networking extensively. Reach out every influencer in your niche. Connect with them, build relationships and frequently share their stuff on social media networks. Be proactive in every way you can to foster good relationships with influencers and other bloggers. Not only is it effective, it’s actually really enjoyable to make connections with others who have similar interests and aims, plus a strong interest in the digital space!

Other ideas:

  • Attend webinars and join seminars
  • Start participating extensively in blogging forum discussions
  • Tweet! Comment and frequently retweet stuff to grab reader’s attention

Develop and Launch Your Own Products

This one is obviously a much more intensive step, but again it’s very worth the effort. Develop information products and marketing them allows you to develop what’s called a passive income stream. More like a steady trickle rather than an infrequent gush, if you will, and that’s actually really preferable in the long run.

Build a specific list of email subscribers who are interested in your products and who are ready to buy stuff from you, and take leads from the people who are already making money by selling information products. Give commissions to anyone who helps you sell these products.

Construct an Email List, and Grow It

Have a look at top bloggers and analyze their income reports to see that their major earnings come from by leveraging the power of their email list. Make sure to integrate your email list right from the beginning. One advisable step is to offer an incentive to boost your email sign ups and make sure to add value to the people by sending them useful newsletters often. Be wary of pitching your products too often – subscribers may end up unsubscribing from your email lists.

Other ideas:

  • Offer incentive to your visitors with a freebie. Freebies like eBooks, videos, infographics etc. can prompt people to sign up to your email lists.
  • Use content upgrades to attract the right people to your email list. Offer a freebie that is relevant to your blog post or turn your post into PDF and make it easy for download. This way you can effectively build your list.
  • Showcase testimonials – somebody had something good to say? Share it right up front

Most bloggers use WordPress to write and publish their blogs. WordPress web hosting is built specifically for WordPress. This type of hosting is often called Managed WordPress Hosting, with the entire infrastructure is designed to do one thing well—run WordPress!

All 4GoodHosting clients will have access to a WordPress blog through their CP (control panel) and we’d love to hear about the successes – personal, financial, or otherwise – you’ve had with your blog hosted by us.

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

young handsome business man engeneer in datacenter server room

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

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

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

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

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

Languages to Communicate Across OEMs

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

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

Virtual Gateway with Remote Diagnostics and Troubleshooting

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

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

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

The Need for Speedy Servers

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The very nature of the two terms ‘want’ and ‘need’ make very clear that there’s a big difference between the 2 of them. The majority of the time we will want something, but it’s hard to rationalize saying that we truly need it.

There are exceptions to this of course, and considering we’re going to be talking about speed here this week we’ll go with an automotive analogy. Many car enthusiasts – and guys in particular – would like to have a sports car with a powerful V8 engine under the hood and performance suspension tuning, but in reality their Toyota Corolla suffices for their day-to-day driving habits. Take a highway patrol officer, however, and having a vehicle that’s got plenty of acceleration and top-end speed at its disposal is every bit a necessity.

Nearly every Canadian web hosting provider is going to make a point of offering speedy web hosting servers available to their customers these days, and fact is that’s a reflection of a demand based much more in need than it is in want.

If your website serves as the primary contact point for e-commerce aims, then slow-loading websites and ones that are sluggish to respond may well be taking a big chunk out of your sales and revenue. Sales and conversions come from the combination of effective content with faster loading speed of your website, and you had better believe that prospective customers are as impatient as ever.
For years now, surveys have showed that loading speed of websites has a great impact on their traffic trends. So how is yours measuring up, and is it being hindered by slow servers?

Revenues taking a hit?

‘Bounce rates’ are a statistical reflection of visitors who choose to leave your site prematurely. A number of studies have proven that the average visitors will leave your website if it does not become accessible in 3 to 6 seconds. We could go into detail here, but really there’s no need – once they’ve bounced, they’re likely not coming back, much less making a purchase of any sort.
Here’s a relevant example. Shopzilla generated 12% more revenue by simply improving their website speed from 6 seconds to 1.2 seconds. That’s a significant jump, and shows that even a matter of seconds in website response time can make a big difference.

Similarly, other findings over the last few years seem to indicate that you can improve your conversion rate by up to 2% for every second you up your website speed. Of course, that will vary and be dependent based on the nature of your business and type of products, services – but the appeal of that statistic should be very genuine and something you want to keep in mind.

Ballpark Figures for ‘Fast Enough’

The ideal loading time of a website is under 3 seconds. If your website becomes visible in 5 seconds, you’re doing well. If it is under 10 seconds, it’s acceptable – at best. If your website exceeds 10 seconds, however, there’s no debating it’s going to be detrimental for you.
There are several performance metric tools available to report the performance of your website speed along with web page improvement suggestions. You can optimize the structure of your code to get faster responses, but for starters you need to be with a web host that has servers which pack the vroom-vroom you need.

Server speed may be an issue if your website is located on one of the more inexpensive shared hosting packages. The architecture of your web pages and the presence of more dynamic multimedia content (video etc) can be big factors in the need for more speed from servers. If you have a business website, mobile application or a professional service website, VPS (virtual private server) hosting is one option to get you the speed you need.

Dedicated servers also offer the benefit of:

  • Loading faster
  • Being able to handle traffic spikes
  • Offering better security

So we’ll conclude this week, by stating emphatically that here at 4GoodHosting we know that search engines out there incorporate page load timing in their search ranking factors and they, in part, give you back ranking points, traffic and sales. Our servers and solid-state drives are as fast as you’ll find – period – and we’re constantly testing them to make sure they stay that way.

DNS – “What Is It and How Does It Work?”

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DNS is an acronym that stands for “domain name system”. Without domain names, we wouldn’t have a way of getting to particular a website, such as numbers like 292.14.78.251, or worse the new ipv6 numbers that are much longer, too long in fact to provide an example here.

In this article we will give an overview of how D.N.S functions. The most important thing, that our web hosting customers can learn from this, is the process of how DNS records are changed, or updated to your web host’s “name servers” address’. These are important domain names which also rely on the DNS system to be converted into your webserver’s numerical IP-address.

“Name Servers”

Name servers enable people to use their domain name in order to access your webserver; which then in turn directs your site visitors to your specific web hosting account and files, rather than a complex IP address. DNS also makes economical “shared hosting” possible, since the server’s IP address can be reused for dozens of different websites.

Your name servers are the most important detail of your domain record, again their purpose is to redirect a visitor’s web browser to the place, that is web-server on a rack in a data-room someplace, where your site is being hosted.

Modifying your domain name server(s) enables you to change your web host without having to transfer your domain to another registrar.

Name servers can also be referred to as DNS servers; which can create confusion due to the two synonymous terms.

DNS Records

DNS refers to the layer of the internet stack, very similar to a database application, that contains the domain names, name servers, IP address’ and personal or company registration information encapsulating every public site on the Internet.
DNS records contain various types of data, syntax, and commands for how a webserver should respond to lookup requests.

Some of the most common syntax items defined:

· “A”-record. The actual webserver IP address that is associated with the domain.

· “CNAME”-record. CNAME indicates sub-domains that can be associated with your domain.

· “MX”-record. This refers to specific mail servers that might be optionally used in accordance with your domain, such as using gmail with your domain for email.

· “NS”-record. The nameservers that are currently set for your domain.

· “SOA”-record. Information about your domain, like when your domain was last updated and relevant contact information.

· “TXT”-record. Text about any additional information about the domain.

As you can see, there are numerous components of your DNS records, but most of this information can’t and shouldn’t be altered. The main component of your DNS records that will be of concern to you, if you ever have to change, is your name servers.

Changing Name Servers

Registrars are responsible for allowing you to edit your DNS record name severs. The default usually automatically assigns same host and registrar upon registration. Domain transfers usually carry over using the same name server information as from the previous registrar.

However, if your domain is not registered and also hosted in the same place, then you’ll follow the general steps below to update the name servers.

4GoodHosting customers can follow these instructions to change their name servers:

1. Locate Domain Management

Every registrar has domain management tools which allow you to edit your name servers. This ability will usually be found on the domain management area your client account/portal.

2. Find Your Name Servers

Under each of your individual domain(s) you’ll be able to change your name servers. Your name servers will look something like this:
ns1.4GoodHosting.com
ns2.4GoodHosting.com
You will need to change both the “primary” and “secondary” name server. The second server exists in the rare even that the first one crashes, or some other condition that prevents it from being resourced.

3. Setting New Name Servers

Simply change your existing name servers to the new name servers and click “Update” or “Save”. These changes don’t take place immediately across the entire internet. Domain name server updates usually take anywhere from 4-24 hours to ‘propagate’ throughout the global DNS internet system.

With this information, you are able to understand some key functionality of how the internet logically works. If you have any remaining questions concerning your domains or domain records, please contact us at support @ 4goodhosting.com for a rapid response to your inquiries.

Please contact us at one of the very best Canadian Web Hosting Companies, 4GoodHosting.

Amnesty International Report on Instant Messaging Services and Privacy

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Skype & Snapchat, among other companies, have failed to adopt basic privacy protection as recent stated in Amnesty International’s special report “Message Privacy Ranking” report. The report compares 11 popular instant messaging services.

Companies were ranked based on their recognition of online threats to human rights, default deployment of end-to-end encryption, user disclosure, government disclosure, and publishing of the technical details of their encryption.

“If you think instant messaging services are private, you are in for a big surprise. The reality is that our communications are under constant threat from cybercriminals and spying by state authorities. Young people, the most prolific sharers of personal details and photos over apps like Snapchat, are especially at risk,” Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Head of Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights Team said in a statement.

“Snapchat” only scored 26 points in the report (out of 100) and Blackberry was rated even worse at 20 points). Skype has weak encryption, scoring only 40.

The middle group in the rankings included Google, which scored a 53 for its Allo, Duo, & Hangouts apps, Line and Viber, with 47 each, and Kakao Talk, which scored a 40.

The report also stated “that due to the abysmal state of privacy protections there was no winner.”

On a side not protecting privacy rights is also part of the motivation behind the Let’s Encrypt Project, which to use to supply free SSL Certificates.

Amnesty International has petitioned messaging services to apply “end-to-end encryption” (as a default feature) to protect: activists, journalists, opposition politicians, and common law-abiding citizens world-wide. It also urges companies to openly publish and advertise the details about their privacy-related practices & policies.

About the most popular instant messaging app: “Whatsapp” – Facebook has thrown everybody a new surprise twist.

WhatsApp is updating its privacy policy. Facebook wants your data and end-to-end encryption is going to soon be shut off.
WhatsApp , now owned by Facebook, started some uproar this week after the announcement that it’s changing its terms (or privacy) to *allow* data to be shared with Facebook. It means that for the first time Whatsapp will give permission to connect accounts to Facebook. This is after pledging, in 2014, that it wouldn’t do so – and has now backtracked.

WhatsApp now says that it will give the social networking site more data about its users – allowing Facebook to suggest phone contacts as “friends”.

“By coordinating more with Facebook, we’ll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp,” Whatsapp has written.

“By connecting your phone number with Facebook’s systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. … For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you’ve never heard of.”

Many aren’t pleased with the move, especially since WhatsApp previously promised not to change its privacy settings.
If you want to carry on using whatsapp, you can’t opt out of the Facebook connection feature, as the update of terms and privacy policy is compulsory. “This allows us to do things like improve our app’s performance and better coordinate,” says WhatsApp.

The app’s end-to-end encryption will also be stopped. However previously the company implemented it earlier this year and claimed it made conversations more secure.

The popular messaging service’s recent change in privacy policy to start sharing users’ phone numbers with Facebook—the first policy change since WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 – has attracted regulatory scrutiny in Europe.

The Italian antitrust watchdog on Friday also announced a separate probe into whether WhatsApp obliged users to agree to sharing personal data with Facebook.

The European Union’s 28 data protection authorities said in a statement they had requested WhatsApp stop sharing users’ data with Facebook until the “appropriate legal protections could be assured” to avoid falling foul of EU data protection law.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy involves the sharing of information with Facebook for purposes that were not included in the terms of service when users signed up, raising questions about the validity of users’ consent, known as the Article 29 Working Party (WP29), as the European authorities have responded with.

The Wp29 group also urges WhatsApp to stop passing user data to Facebook while it investigates the legality of the arrangement.
Subsequently a spokeswoman for WhatsApp said the company was working with data protection authorities to address their questions.

Facebook has had run-ins with European privacy watchdogs in the past over its processing of users’ data. However, the fines that regulators can levy are paltry in comparison to the revenues of the big U.S. tech companies concerned.

The European regulators will discuss the Yahoo and WhatsApp cases in November.

“The Article 29 Working Party (WP29) has serious concerns regarding the manner in which the information relating to the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy was provided to users and consequently about the validity of the users’ consent,” it writes.

“WP29 also questions the effectiveness of control mechanisms offered to users to exercise their rights and the effects that the data sharing will have on people that are not a user of any other service within the Facebook family of companies.”

We haven’t heard of any discussion within Canada as of yet.

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