Cloudflare is changing the game

In a world where Google, Amazon and Facebook dominate the tech space, Cloudflare has stolen away the headlines for the betterment of the internet with its recent announcement. The company announced on its 8th birthday that they would be launching a domain registry, and it is unlike any we have seen before.

Cloudflare, to the shock of many in the industry, has decided not to charge anything above the federally mandated cost to register a domain with the government. That is right; this multi-billion dollar company has chosen to not make a single penny off of your domain registration. In a world where the average Canadian spends between $10-$15 per domain, this is remarkable.

Cloudflare is not a small company and is about the same scale as Google at the moment. It has a core set of business that sees itself as a content distribution platform and secure infrastructure vendor for millions of client across the globe. It also has recently announced it is on a path to an IPO and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in preparation for this. So why do this?

Cloudflare is a unique company in the tech and capital market as they are doing two different things than any other major brand. First, the company does not see the internet as a property that you can corner, and instead looks to promote a free, equal and open internet, much like the values from Internet 1.0. Secondly, the company is doing things for the good of the internet, and although this might ultimately fail once the company scales, it is still a refreshing view from a larger company in the tech space.

This does leave one important question for consumers, what does this mean for the cost and registration of their domain? Well, it is a little up in the air. The Cloudflare system is still being tested and should be live within the month, but it looks to be set up similar to every other registry system. If you are up for renewal, it might be time to take a look around and see if you can benefit from using this new system. As well, for those who are operating hosting or other third party services, your overall cost to your company to get a website should start to drop for your packages if you choose Cloudflare as your registry option.

However, this does still leave some questions. Will the other registry companies like GoDaddy also drop their prices, or will they continue the same old costing options going forward? As well, if you are looking for other nations or domain names, will Cloudflare offer those? Finally, will Cloudflare provide an easy to use swapping option? These are all tough questions, and we will need to wait and see how Cloudflare’s announcement has changed the industry in only a few short weeks.

What are your thoughts? Is this just a bump in the road for the major registry options on the web, or the start of more competitive space for those looking to register domains?

The Dangers of Abandoned Domain Names

Many people will have a domain name they once owned that eventually lost its value and was discarded. Most of those folks won’t have given much thought to it after declining to renew it with their web hosting provider, and 9 times out of 10 it’s true that nothing more will come of it. However, cyber security experts are now letting people know that an abandoned domain name can allow cybercriminals to gain access to email addresses of the company or individual that previously owned it.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re not unlike any other Canadian web hosting provider in the way we claim domain names for clients across hundreds of different industries. Many of whom will have that same domain name for themselves to this day, but some will have abandoned one or more because they found something better or simply because the domain name wasn’t required anymore for whatever reason.

Here’s what happens when a domain name expires. It goes into a reserved state for a certain time, during which time the the recent owner has the ability to reclaim it. If and when that time expires, it becomes available for re-registration for whomever at no additional costs, identity or ownership verification. Now while it is true that SEO professionals and spam trap operators are good at keeping track of abandoned domain names for various purposes, many of them will not know they are a potential security risk. So let’s discuss this here today.

Insider Access Information

Look no further for a pressing concern than the fact that the new owner of the domain name can take control of the email addresses of the former owner. The email services can then be configured to receive any number of email correspondences that are sensitive in nature. These accounts can then be used to reset passwords to online services requiring sensitive info like personal details, financial details, client-legal privileged information, and a lot more.

Recently this has been more in the new because of research performed on domain names abandoned by law-firms in Australia that were cast off as a result of different mergers and acquisitions between companies. These law firms had stored and processed massive amounts of confidential data, and when the domain names were abandoned they still left breadcrumbs that could possibly lead the new owners of those domains to sensitive information.

The possibility of this being VERY problematic should be easy to understand. Email is an essential service in every business, and is a company lost control of their email lists it could be devastating, especially considering sensitive information and documents are often exchanged over emails between clients, colleagues, vendors and service providers due to the simple convenience of doing so.

The study Down Under found that an average of nearly a thousand ‘.au’ domain names (country code TLD for Australia) become expired every day, and we can assume that number is considerably larger here in North America. Further, the list of expiring domain names is typically published in a simple CSV file format and accessible to whoever would like to see it, giving access to anyone who wants to see the domain names that have expired.

Communications storied in the cloud are especially at risk. IIf all the messages aren’t deleted from these cloud platforms, they may remain accessible for the new owner of the domain and then you now have the potential for a leak of sensitive info.

Of further concern is the fact that if that email address has been used to sign up for an account on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, etc. then the domain’s new owner can reset the passwords and gain access to those accounts.

To avoid this scenario, Companies should ensure that the domain name remains valid for an indefinite period even if it has been abandoned. All the notifications that may contain confidential information should be unsubscribed from the emails.

In addition, disconnecting or closing the accounts that are created using business emails is recommended. Enable two-factor authentication for all the online services that allows it as well, and be sure to do this as soon as possible and leave it in place indefinitely. This is good advice not only for businesses or venture that make use of multiple domains and have moved on from plenty in the past, but it’s good advice for anyone in today’s day and age of cyber threats.

Linux or Windows

The vast majority of websites are hosted on either Linux or Windows OS servers, and the market share is now shifting towards Linux according to a recent report from W3tech. Consumer surveys indicated that Unix servers make up some 66% of all web servers while Windows accounts for just over 33%. For most this isn’t going to be something they’ll give any consideration to, and it’s true that websites with standard HTML pages will be served equally well with either OS.

These days greater numbers of websites have been ‘revamped’ since their inception and now feature dynamic design elements that enhance the UX experience for viewers. If you are planning to design or redesign your website to be much more engaging, you should work with forms and execute web applications both systems will serve your needs.

Linux and Windows are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to functionality. Each works with a number of frameworks and front end programming languages, and have impressive features when it comes to hosting. Linux and Windows handle data in the same way too, and both sport easy, convenient and fast FTP tools to serve a wide range of file management functions.

Nine times out of 10 you’ll be at your best with either, and at 4GoodHosting our Linux and Windows web hosting specs make us one of the best Canadian web hosting providers with data centers in both Eastern and Western Canada.

Our standard web hosting is via ultra-fast, dual-parallel processing Hexa Core Xeon Linux-based web servers with the latest server software installations, and our Windows hosting includes full support for the entire spectrum of frameworks and languages: ASP.NET, Frontpage, Choice of MySQL, MSSQL 2000 or 2005 DB, ATLAS, Silverlight, ASP 3.0, PHP4 & PHP5, and Plesk.

Let’s have a look at the difference with each.

Price

The most significant difference between Linux and Windows web hosting is the core operating system on which the server(s) and user interface run. Linux uses some form of the Linux kernel, and these are usually free. There are some paid distributions, Red Hat being a good one, which comes with a number of special features aimed at better server performance. With Windows you’ll have a licensing fee because Microsoft develops and owns its OS and hardware upgrade needs can be a possibility too. We like Linux because over its lifespan, Linux servers generally cost significantly less than a similar one that’s Windows-based.

Software Support

Before choosing an OS, you’ll also have to consider the script languages and database applications that are required to host the website on it. If your website needs Windows-based scripts or database applications to display correctly, then a Windows web hosting platform is probably best for you. Sites developed with Microsoft ASP.NET, ASP Classic, MSSSQL, MS Access, SharePoint technologies will also head over to the Windows side.

Conversely, if your website requires Linux-based script or database software, then a Linux-based web hosting platform is going to be your best choice. Plus, anyone planning to use Apache modules, NGINX or development tools like Perl, PHP, or Python with a MySQL database will enjoy the large support structure for these formats found with Linux.

Control Panel And Dev Tools

Another consideration with these two web hosting options is that Linux offers control panels like cPanel or WHM, and Windows uses Plesk. There are fundamental differences between them. cPanel has a simple user-friendly interface and users can download applications, such as WordPress, phpBB, Drupal, Joomla, and more with super simple one-click installs. Creating and manage MySQL databases and configuring PHP is easy, and cPanel automatically updates software packages too. Plus, we like our Linux hosted websites for people new to the web. cPanel makes it easy for even people with no coding knowledge to create websites, blogs, and wiki pages. You can get tasks done faster without having to learn the details of every package installed.

Plesk is very versatile in that it can help you run the Windows version of the Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP stack. Plesk also supports Docker, Git, and other advanced security extensions. Windows servers have many unique and practical tools available as well, such as the Microsoft Web Platform Installer (Web PI) for speedier installation of the IIS (Internet Information System web server), MSSQL, and ASP.NET stack.

Because it’s been on the field longer, there are loads of open-source Linux applications available online. Windows hosting has fewer apps to choose from, but you have the security of knowing they are all from from vetted licensed providers. This increases the rate you can move ahead with database deployment.

Performance And Security

A reputable Canadian web host can be expected to secure your website within its data centres, but online attacks on Windows servers over the last few years show that they may be more of a red flag here than with Linux servers. That’s not to say that Linux – or any OS that has been or ever will be developed – will not have any security issues. Solid security is a product of good passwords, applying necessary patches, and using the rack for support.

Further, Linux server is pretty much universally considered to superior to Windows for stability and reliability. They rarely need to be rebooted and configuration changes rarely require a restart. Running multiple database and file servers on Windows can make it unstable, and another small difference is that Linux files are case-sensitive and Windows files are not.

Penguin for the Win

Your choice of server should be dictated by the features & database application needed for the proper functioning of your hosting or website development project. Those of you working on your own external-facing site and looking for a combination of flexibility and stability will be set up perfectly with Linux and cPanel. Those working in a complex IT environment with existing databases and legacy applications running on Windows servers will be best served being hosted on a Windows OS server.

What’s in a ‘Tweet’: Understanding the Engagement-Focused Nature of Twitter’s Algorithm

It would seem that of all the social media platforms, Twitter is the one that businesses struggle with most in understanding just how to harness it for effective promotional means. The common assumption is any shortcomings are related to your use of the ever-ubiquitous #hashtag, but in fact they’re not nearly as pivotal as you might think.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’ve done well in establishing ourselves as a premier Canadian web hosting provider and a part of that is sharing insights on how to get more out of your online marketing efforts. Social media is of course a big part of that, and as such we think more than a few of you will welcome tips on how to ‘up’ your Twitter game.

It’s easy to forget that these social media platforms have algorithms working behind them, and working quite extensively. What’s going on behind the screen controls and narrows down what you actually see on your timeline.

For example, let’s say you have specific political affiliations. The algorithms ensure that the majority of the tweets you’ll see will be linked to that party’s views. Or perhaps you’re especially into sports. If so, plenty of sports news sources will be all over your timeline. Oppositely, if you dislike something then that theme will slowly end up disappearing over the course of the week or beyond.

All of this is a reflection of ALL social media platforms, Twitter included, are using more and more complex algorithms to satisfy their user base and deliver content they are likely to find favourable.

So this is what do you’ll need to know about Twitter’s algorithms, and the best ways to use them to your advantage.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For These

There’s no disputing the fact that Twitter has faded quite considerably in popularity and the strength of its reach. Despite this, Twitter is really narrowing its scope of engagement and a key way to increase engagement is through increasing relevance of the posts seen.

Directly from Twitter’s engineering blog, here are a few of the factors that decide whether a Tweet is sufficiently engaging and thus worthy of ‘appearances’

  • The level of recency to your posts, the likes, retweets, and other things such as attached media
  • Whether you have previously liked, or retweeted the author of the tweet
  • Your previous positive interaction with certain types of tweets

Twitter will then recommend people to like over the next couple of days. Depending on your responses to those recommendations, it will then adjust the content that’s seen by you to better reflect how it is gauging your preferences.

What’s easy to conclude is that users themselves play a predominant factor in what’s going to be seen on their timelines. Liking or using the “I don’t like this” button once or twice goes a long way in this regard.

By this point it begs asking the question; is Twitter’s algorithm perhaps a little too simple? It is definitely not as complex as other media platforms such as Facebook, but the benefit in that is that it is easier to manipulate. Among the many benefits of this is the way that smaller companies may tag a random brand or company in a tweet that is completely non-associable with their tags. Twitter’s algorithms allow this to be a very effective means of getting increased exposure.

Gain Your Advantage

Generating engagement with your tweets is a reliable way to boost exposure and put yourself on top of the algorithm game. Engaging your audience and boosting exposure keeps you ‘in’ the talk and seeing to it you’re using the correct hashtags will ensure you’re being talked about.

Smaller companies can benefit from tagging large companies in their tweets to gain exposure, and that’s especially advisable if the company relates to what you’re talking about. Sure, it only works to a certain degree, but gaining followers by any means possible is always a plus.

Putting all this talk about engagement into perspective, it’s important to understand how to spark the right sorts of conversation. Asking random questions will make it look forced, while if you don’t interact at all you may see a dip in exposure. Find a way to be genuine in your responses, and adhere faithfully to what you’ve defined as your brand’s voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related to the Cloud & ‘Unclassified’

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

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

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

Cloud Makes $ and Sense for Canada

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

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

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

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

7 WordPress Plug-Ins Guaranteed to Boost SEO Big Time

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

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

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

  1. Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress

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

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

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

  1. All in One SEO Pack

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

All in One SEO Pack includes robust features such as:

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

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

  1. SEOPressor

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

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

  1. SEO SQUIRRLY

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

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

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

  1. SEO Optimized Images

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

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

  1. SEO Post Content Links

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

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

  1. SEO Internal Links

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

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

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

One Play Ahead: Trends for Web & App Hosting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how that 15.5% breaks down:

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

Promoted Changes

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

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

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

Constant Change

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

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

Promising Predictions

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

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

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

The Appeal of Hybrid Cloud Hosting

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

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

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

What Exactly is the Hybrid Cloud?

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

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

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

If that’s not you, read on…

The Benefits of Hybrid Clouds

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

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

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

The Drawbacks of Hybrid Clouds

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

Good Fits for Hybrid Clouds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the SEO Standpoint Only

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

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

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

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

Multiple Domains are Suitable When..

  1. You Have A Single Business with Diverse Audiences

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

  1. Your Niche Website Is Designed to Showcase a Specialization

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

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

  1. You Have High Turnover

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

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

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

Multiple Domains are Less Suitable When..

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

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

  1. People Are Have Difficulty Finding You

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

  1. Your Domain is Less Authoritative Due to Name Changes

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

  1. Your Related Expenses are Problematic

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

  1. You’re Experiencing a Diluted identity

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

  1. You’ve Got Merging Issues

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

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

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

The Next ‘Disruption’: Artificial Intelligence Set to Explode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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