7 Key Factors Behind Data Centre Outsourcing

Data center outsourcing has really cemented itself all over the planet as a viable alternative to the demands of building and managing an in-house data center facility. Recent research results bear this out quite clearly. A study undertaken by a reputable firm last month predicts that the global market for colocation data center services should grow from $30.9 billion in 2016 to approximately $54.8 billion by 2020. Obviously there are factors driving organizations to outsource their data centers to professional colocation partners, but what are those factors exactly?

Here at 4GoodHosting, we understand that part of being a Canadian web hosting provider at the forefront of the industry means being receptive and adaptive to trends in web hosting. This is certainly one of them, and it thus hasn’t gone unnoticed here. We think it’s one that may be helpful for those with big data accommodation needs of their own and a need to understand where they’ll get the most bang for their buck.

Getting back to that study, the Americas as a segment is expected to grow from nearly $16.8 billion in 2016 to $26.4 billion by 2020, with the period of 2016 to 2020 seeing in the vicinity of a 12% cumulative annual growth rate. Asia-Pacific is expected to grow from $5.4 billion in 2016 to $13.2 billion by 2020, at a much higher CAGR of 25.0% for the same time period (2016-2020).

Not surprisingly, cost has always been a big factor behind data center outsourcing and it will remain a key element driving the outsourcing of data centers to colocation providers. We also have the fact that customers are concentrating more and more on the value of the colocation services being provided, as well as the appeal of being able to reduce certain risks.

Here are the five top reasons pushing ever greater numbers of customers to outsource their data center operations these days:

  1. Cost

CIOs for some time now have been under constant pressure to reduce all costs associated with IT operations, and – again not surprisingly – running an in-house data center is decidedly expensive. There’s not getting around it. The level of investment required to deploy and maintain modern, energy-efficient data center infrastructure is substantial, and therefore colocating IT infrastructure in a professionally managed data center facilities is an attractive cost-saving alternative.

  1. Cloud Connectivity

Cloud services have grown massively in popularity over recent years. Public cloud providers like Amazon AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud and Alibaba Cloud continue to be very much in demand, and that’s in large part because the public cloud offers real flexibility and is a fantastic resource for enterprises and others with dynamic IT operations.

Tempering expectations somewhat, it’s quite clear that the majority of users will still need a combination of in-house IT and (public) cloud providers. Connectivity towards those cloud providers is going to be a primary priority for enterprise-grade business operations. Further, outsourcing in-house data center infrastructure to the right colocation data center also works out to mean better access to high speeds and reliable connectivity. The cloud-enabled connectivity providers located in colocation data centers tend to offer high levels of performance, reliability and scalability, all at a more attractive price point in comparison to in-house data center operations.

  1. Compliance

Those same CIOs also need to comply with a host of government and market regulations these days, including PCI-DSS, ISAE, and others. Having sufficiently knowledgeable staff with the needed skills and compliance expertise can be a real challenge, but a good number of the colocation data center providers operating on a worldwide level have been 3rd party audited and / or regulatory certified to confirm their ability to comply.

  1. Reducing Risks

Been told it is difficult to access your in-house data center? Not uncommon at all. Colocation data center providers are often able to offer advanced security layers that match the latest security and compliance requirements. Notable among these security measures are biometric scanning, video surveillance, alarm systems, mantraps, and personnel onsite 24/7. In short, organizations are more thoroughly equipped to secure their company data. Which, more often than not, is their most valuable asset.

  1. Capacity/Flexibility

With an in-house data center, companies may fail to be able to respond to changing capacity requirements, and this might restrict or even hamper organizational goals. Outsourcing data center operations to a colocation provider who has all the ample floor space to grow and be flexible in their contracts lets you manage your data center operations dynamically and the easily scale your operations up and down as dictated.

  1. Expertise Shortage

Running a modern, energy-efficient data center with low Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) figures is more of a challenge all the time. A little more than a decade ago one could operate a data center without much in the way of to-do or must have. Get yourself a hall, some racks, and power and compressor cooling and you were pretty much good to go. Nowadays, data center operators are all pioneering to get the lowest and most energy-efficient PUE-levels, as the cost of current has become a forefront consideration for data center operations. Modular deployments to keep things flexible and cloud-enabled are more important now too.

Long story short – companies outsourcing their data center services may benefit from having access to more sophisticated data center infrastructure than their budgets would allow otherwise. Lastly, it’s natural that CIOs like to free up IT staff and lower their in-house data center costs by outsourcing core data center operations to external data centers as well as cloud providers.

  1. Uptime Guarantee

Data centre outages can be painfully costly. Professional data center providers are capable of operating state-of-the-art facilities that sport sophisticated backup systems to keep things running, even if an outage occurs. Most data center providers will also be able to extend Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that guarantee high levels of availability.

Not having to worry about the technical aspects of data center and IT infrastructure uptime, along with being able to reassured of the low risk of downtime promotes more focusing on accomplishing corporate goals, applications and supporting the business.

Cost reduction may be the big initiator, but there’s much more to this trend. Compliance, improved resilience/uptime, cloud connectivity, scalabilty and flexibility, expertise shortage, and reducing risks are promoting the growth of colocation data centres too. Keeping data center operations in-house may continue to work for some, but if you’re even just starting to see that your needs have changed then it makes sense to take the bull by the horns and get it done sooner rather than later.

Donuts, Anyone?

Most of us that long understood that while donuts are decidedly tasty, they’re equally as surely detrimental to anyone who could stand to lose a little around the middle. But it would seem that our understanding of donuts now needs the be extended beyond baked goods. donut domains are actually one of the hottest new developments in the domain name industry, and they don’t fall into any sort of a ‘moment on your lips, lifetime on your hips’ category for tasty but terrible sweets.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re not unlike any other leading Canadian web hosting provider in that we’re very much aware of donut domains. The average person, however, probably isn’t aware of them even though they’ve likely seen them often before as they’ve explored the web. We’re a long way from the days when .com was the only domain extension to be had, and it seems there’s another addition to the selection.

Today we’ll look at premium Donuts domains. What are they, Why are they used, and how do you get one – without even the slightest reference to dietary concerns.

Let’s get at it.

Donuts Domains Defined

Go back to the beginning of the internet and websites have since either been part of a top-level domain or TLD. The TLD is the last part of the website’s address, and of course the most well known and popular TLD has been .com. The majority of the biggest websites on the planet use this TLD, and our home site here is no exception. Specific country codes are the other popular TLDs, like .co.uk, .co.za in South Africa and .ng in Nigeria. WE also have other popular and frequently seen TLDs like .org, .net, and .edu.

Donuts domains have arrived on the scene and being ‘suitably disruptive’ to the status quo. Donuts domains have brought new TLDs to market, and they’re extremely distinctive. Below are some examples of TLDs you can use through a Donuts domain:

  • .today
  • .agency
  • .life
  • .games
  • .solutions

Going Bigger: Premium Donuts Domains

Not surprisingly, all domain names are NOT created equally. Domain names that fit together especially well with their TLD are Premium Donut Domains, and they are very much in demand. Because they’re so sought after, they also have more value. They’re more expensive, and less frequently available.

The company behind Donuts domains – Donuts of Belleville, WA – turned to industry veterans to decide what domain names would have more value, and therefore be designated as premium ones. Some were memorable words, others were more simply 1, 2, or 3 character domains, others still were designated as such for really no obvious reason.

Here are some examples of premium Donuts domains:

  • solutions
  • services
  • agency

Why go with a Premium Donuts Domains?

The primary advantage of premium Donuts domains as compared to standard web addresses is distinctiveness. Choose the right premium Donuts domain and your web presence will be much more memorable, shareable and noticeable.

Business owners that can identify a Donuts domain TLD that’s relevant to their industry should consider matching the prefix and the TLD to make one that’s truly relevant and powerful in its scope. For example, running an animation studio with the web address animation.games? It’s easy to see the value that would have.

However, change is always slow to become thorough. The domain industry still places inordinate value on the .com TLD, but with new domains being released all the time by Donuts it’s likely that wholesale change is inevitable and likely soon on its way. As of now premium Donuts domains are relatively easy to obtain and may well be underpriced compared to their future value. There are going to be individuals who will make a profit selling them later on.

It certainly won’t hurt to give some thought to investing in premium Donuts domains while other people are thinking about .coms.

Getting Yourself a Premium Donuts Domain

Is possible in one of 3 ways. The right one for you will be determined by a) how badly you want one, b) your budget and c), its availability.

The most effective way to claim them is when they’re first rolled out, although this is typically the priciest way to acquire one. There is the option of registering with Donuts to be notified about new releases, and get yourself in the priority queue for their release.

The name for this first phase of release is Sunrise, and it’s when trademark holders can register their domain names before they’re made available to the public. This aim here is to prevent cybersquatting, and that’s definitely commendable.

Donuts sets the price relatively high at this stage, but for many it’s worth it to secure a trademarked domain name.

‘Landrush’ is the next phase, also known as Early Access. That’s where people who have registered with Donuts can then attempt to the buy the domains they are after. The prices are at their highest on day 1 of the release, and then they drop every day that the domain isn’t sold. Yep, it’s pretty much a reverse auction pricing strategy.

This is the best chance for anyone to get the domain they want. The price will be higher at the start, but how badly do you want it and how important is it to you that it becomes yours?

Eventually each Donuts domains will be made available for purchase to everybody, and the prices are lower. If you’re interested, search the Donuts.domains site to peruse what is available and what is either not in existence (yet) or already owned. Then as a final step you can choose a domain purchase from which you’d like to buy them.

You’ll never see donuts the same way again, and that’s perfectly alright.

Largest Ever DDoS Attack Highlights Cybersecurity Needs for 2018

2018 isn’t even at the quarter pole and the predicted trend of increase cyber attacks for they year is coming to actualization early on. The week past GitHub was the victim of the largest ever DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack ever recorded, which topped out at 1.3 terabits – or 126.9 million packets per second. It preceded the pervious record break which came just a week before when customers of a US-based service provider received a 1.7 Tbps attack. This is the new reality of the cyber world, unfortunately.

Us here at 4GoodHosting are as keenly aware of what this may forecast for the future as any Canadian web hosting provider would be, and – to put it plainly and right to the point for those of you not familiar with how the Web works – a DDoS attack makes it so that hosted websites are rendered inaccessible for would-be visitors.

These recent DDoS attacks were based on UDP (User Datagram Protocol) Memcachedd traffic, Memcached being a protocol used to cache data and reduce strain on heavy data stores like a disk or databases. It lets the server inquire about key value stores that are intended to be used on systems which will not be exposed on public internet.

What attackers do is spoof the IP addresses of UDP traffic, and then directing the request to a vulnerable UDP server. The server prepares the responses as it does not know the request isn’t legit. The information is then delivered to an unsuspecting host, and you have a DDoS attack.

What happened at GitHub last week was its servers ceased to respond for a few hours, until Akamai was able to filter out the malicious traffic from UDP port 11211 – the default port for memcached). The conclusions was that because of memcached’s reflection capabilities, similar attacks were likely to follow with the high data rate.

Further, it is believed that many other and smaller organizations experienced similar reflection attacks over this same time period, and again it seems there could be many more, potentially larger attacks in the near future. A marked increase in scanning for open memcachedd servers since the initial disclosure was noted as well. It is likely that attackers will adopt memcached reflection as their favoyrite sabotage tool because of its ability to generate such large and sweeping attacks.

We can understand that despite the fact that the internet community is making concerted efforts to shut down access to the numerous memcachedd servers out there, the sheer number of these servers that run memcached openly is very likely going to be an ongoing vulnerability that attackers will choose to exploit.

To be proactive, you can mitigate these attacks by blocking off UDP traffic from Port 11211, and the proceed to lock down the system to insulate yourself against being a victim of such attacks.

Prior to March of 2018, the biggest DDoS attack ever detected occurred in September 2016 in Brazil, and peaking at 650 gigabits per second. These new memcachedd DDoS attacks are the first ones to exceed the terabit limit, suggesting that the extent of these new DDoS attacks have much greater reach and potential than previously was the case.

Public Cloud & Big Data: The Best Match

With ever greater numbers of companies using big data, we’re definitely starting to see the benefits of their migrating to the public cloud. There are some challenges with it as well, but overall it would seem the good outweighs the not-so-good quite handily though, and the consensus seems to be that it is often a much more ideal environment for large-scale storage, remote access and all without the need for extensive physical infrastructure.

Here at 4GoodHosting, in addition to being a leading Canadian web hosting provider we’re also equally as much of a cloud computing enthusiast as the rest of you. It’s hard not to be a fan of such a positive, game changing development in personal and business computing, and it seems that the shift to the public cloud is more sweeping every day.

Cloud-based Big Data Rising Big Time

A recent survey from Oracle found that 80% of companies intend to migrate their Big Data and analytics operations to the cloud. Powering this decision was the success that these companies have had when experimenting with Big Data analytics. Consider as well that over 90% of enterprises had carried out a big data initiative last year and in 80% of those instances the projects were seen to be very successful.

Further driving the public cloud are the many IaaS, PaaS and SaaS solutions that are now offered by cloud vendors, and the way they are so much more cost effective in their setup and delivery.

One of the main challenges with having data in-house is that it frequently involves the use of Hadoop. Apache’s open source software framework has revolutionized storage and Big Data processing, but in-house teams have challenges using it. Many businesses are therefore turning to cloud vendors able to provide Hadoop expertise along with other data processing options.

The Benefits of Moving to the Public Cloud

Tangible, immediate benefits are the number one reason for migrating. These include on-demand pricing, access to data stored anywhere, increased flexibility and agility, rapid provisioning and better overall management.

Add the unparalleled scalability of the public cloud and it quickly becomes ideal for handling Big Data workloads. Businesses now instantly have the entirety of the storage and computing resources they need, and – equally as importantly – only pay for what they use. Public cloud can also provide increased security that creates a better environment for compliance.

Software as a service (SaaS) applications have also made public cloud Big Data migration a more appealing choice for certain businesses. Almost 80% of enterprises had adopted SaaS by the end of last years, a 17% rise from the end of 2016, and over half of these use multiple data sources. The fact that the bulk of their data is stored in the cloud makes it so that it’s good business sense to analyze it there as opposed to going through the process of reverting to in-house data centre operations.

Next up is the similarly obvious benefit of decreasing the cost of data storage. While many companies might evaluate the cost of storing Big Data over a long period to be decidedly expensive compared to in-house storage, technology developments are already reducing these costs significantly and that can be expected to continue. Expect to see vast improvements in the public cloud’s ability to process that data with much larger volumes and at faster speeds too.

The cloud also enables companies to benefit even further by leveraging other innovative technologies – machine learning, artificial intelligence and serverless analytics – to name just a few. And there is some urgency to get onboard with this, as companies who are slow to migrate to Big Data in the public cloud will likely be quickly at a competitive disadvantage.

The Challenge of Moving Big Data to Public Cloud

Migrating huge quantities of data to the public cloud isn’t a breeze, however. Integration is one of the biggest challenges. It can be difficult to integrate data when it is spread across a range of different sources and many find it challenging to integrate cloud data with data that is stored in-house.

Workplace attitudes can factor in as well, and that can be anything from internal reluctance, or incoherent IT strategies to other organizational problems related to moving big data initiatives to the public cloud. Technical issues are less common, but they can exist as well. The most common of these are data management, security and integration.

Planning your Migration

It is important to plan ahead before starting your migration. Before moving big data analyses to the public cloud, it is advisable to cease your investment in in-house capabilities and instead focus on developing a strategic plan for your migration. This plan should begin with the projects that are most critical to your business development.

Moving to the cloud also presents the opportunity for you to move forward and make improvements to what you already have in place. Don’t plan to keep your cloud infrastructure as it currently is. You now have the ideal opportunity to create for the future and build something superior to your current setup. Take this chance to redesign your solutions taking all that you can from the cloud; automation, AI, machine learning, etc.

You’ll also need to decide on the type of public cloud service that is the best fit for your current and future needs. Businesses have plenty to choose from when it comes to cloud-based big data services, and these include software as a service (SaaS) infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS. There’s the option as well to get machine learning as a service (MLaaS). The level of service you decide on will be dictated by a range of factors, like your existing infrastructure, compliance requirements, and big data software, as well as the level of expertise you have in house.

Clearly there’s much pushing the migration of Big Data analytics to the public cloud, and it does offer businesses a whole host of benefits – cost savings, scalability, agility, increased processing capabilities, better data access, improved security and expanded access to technologies. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are at the forefront of those technologies, and the premise of their incorporation is decidedly exciting for most of us.

Quick & Easy Simple Steps for Better SEO

SEO has definitely become one of the most ubiquitously known acronyms in the world these days, and especially so if you’ve got a vested interest in the performance of your website as it relates to the success of your business. Some will be surprised to learn that SEO is largely about performing specific tasks repeatedly rather than doing something once and then expecting it to ‘work’ from there on out.

We know SEO explicitly well here at 4GoodHosting, and it’s part of the sphere of knowledge and expertise that makes us a top Canadian web hosting provider. Yes, a large part of that knowledge comes from a base of technical familiarity with how search engine algorithms work, but a significant part of what we – and many others like us – have learned has come from trial and error and more simply picking up what others have learned and shared.

So today we’re going to share a simple SEO ‘tune up’ routine that anyone can do, and pretty much anytime. Follow these seven small tasks on a regular basis and it can add up to major page rankings gains long term.

  1. Upgrade and Update Older Blog Content

No matter how old a blog post may be, you don’t have to be done with it forever. Make that piece of content more useful with anything – new information you’ve learned, successive developments in the industry, new and interesting statistics – whatever. This is especially advisable for content that isn’t ranking as high as you think it should. Spend some time going through your older content and see where it can be expanded to make it even more useful or valuable for readers.

For most people who enjoy blogging, this step is one they’ll like

  1. Pump Your Content On Social Media

Understand first that social media doesn’t have a large influence on your rankings, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore its significance. Social media does work to send traffic to your site, and having a high social share counter will afford your posts and site more authority. A post with hundreds of shares across social media is going to be seen more favourably and as trustworthy by visitors. They’ll then be more likely to organically share it on their own social media channels and with family and friends, amplifying your reach. Spending a little time each day sharing your content and engaging across social media can help with SEO.

  1. Upgrade Your URLs, Titles, and Metas

Confusing URL structures aren’t good for SEO. Simplifying your existing URLs so they’re cleaner, more relevant to your topic, and include keywords (without stuffing) is recommended. Also consider improving your titles and meta descriptions. Making titles more clickable and your meta descriptions more appealing will promote better click-through-rates from the search results, and having a higher organic CTR will additionally help to improve your search engine rankings too.

  1. Be on The Lookout For Broken Links

Simply put, broken links on your site will kill the user experience for visitors. Most websites that have been as they were for a long time will be linking out to resources that are no longer online, and then there’s situations where you’ve changed the URL structure of certain posts and pages on your own site.

Internal links on your site and external links redirecting to other information sources are important for SEO and the overall user experience. Many sites run on WordPress, and you can then install a plugin like Broken Link Checker that will look over your website and identify broken links. You can also install a Chrome extension with the same name – Broken Link Checker – which will scan the open page for broken links.

Keep in mind as well that it’s important to incorporate relevant internal links into the various blog entries posted on your site. Content pieces that have received a lot of links can and should be linked to other posts across your site, but make sure you do so naturally and not awkwardly within the writing.

  1. Perform Blog Email Outreach

Writing the content itself is only part of it. You need to spend time promoting that content for shares and backlinks as well. Send emails to other influencers in your space but make sure you don’t ask for a direct backlink. Your goal with blog outreach should instead be to make people aware of the quality of your content and inviting them to share and link to it if they’d like. Create good content and get it in front of the right people, and the links will follow.

  1. Analyze the Competition

While analyzing effectively is beyond the means of most people, there are tools like Buzzsumo and SEMRush where simply type in the URL of your competitors and then receive information on which content has been the most popular and the keywords used that are sending them the most traffic.

Buzzsumo also lets you see the people who shared a specific piece of content. This makes it easier for you to spend time promoting your content to the very same people who’ll more likely share it.

SEMRush will also give you backlink data on the competition’s posts, letting you reach out to those same people when aiming to promote a similar piece of content. All of this will give you endless content ideas while determining where new opportunities to promote your content exist.

  1. Big Blogs and Sites in Your Niche – Engage with Them

Let’s start by understanding that blog commenting is NOT an effective way to build backlinks to your site. It does serve a purpose, however. Commenting with your name and link to your website is effective for getting on the radar of top bloggers and website owners in your space. Comment with something thoughtful that also adds value, and adhere to best practices. Commenting intelligently may lead to a guest post opportunity down the road that comes with a legitimate and forefront linking opportunity. SEO is all about relationships and regular commenting can be more of an ‘investment’ than you might think.

The tips shared here will help you steadily improve your search engine rankings over the long-term, and the beauty of them is that they really don’t take much time or are overly intensive. Do them when you’ve got some time at your disposal and get better SEO.

International Optimization: Tailoring SEO to Global Aims

These days it’s increasingly common for e-commerce retailers to be expanding their horizons and aiming to move beyond having only a domestic customer base. The Internet has been a boon in every sense of the word when it comes to making this very much possible, and manufacturers, retailers, and consumers all stand to benefit greatly from what is now a global marketplace.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re not unlike any top Canadian web hosting provider in the way that a great many of our customers are retailers who rely on their website – and their web hosting – as an integral part of their digital marketing resources. The need for quality and competitive pricing is a given, but in the information age it’s equally as important to have yourself standing out from the crowd online when most consumers rarely make it to a 2nd or 3rd page of search engine results.

If your business is one aiming to sell internationally, then your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts need to be tailored to that aim. International SEO can be complicated as there are multiple countries with multiple languages, and often multiple languages within a given country. It inherently becomes much more difficult than focusing on the domestic market, and it’s not something that you can turn to a translator to correct.

It is possible to gear your SEO to be ‘internationally effective’, with a little planning and the right approach for your unique situation.

Here are ways you can target international customers and make wise decisions when it comes to ranking in multiple countries.

What Makes Up international SEO?

International SEO involves organizing and optimizing your webpages to allow search engines to identify the countries you are targeting, incorporating specific content and language for each user in a given location. In many ways, it is similar to how we provide SEO for small businesses that target multiple locations, with the fact they are often organized by towns, cities, municipalities or entire provinces.

Domain names for international SEO

There are some primary considerations when choosing a domain name for your international SEO campaigns.

Certain domains, referred to as country code top-level domains (ccTLD), will default to a specific location. Other top-level domains (TLDs) give you the option on geotargeting them to point at specific countries. The sub-folders and subdomains on these TLD domains can also be geo-targeted to specific different countries.

You must ensure you have the correct domain for your international SEO requirements.

It’s not a simple matter to make these determinations though.These rules are often loosely in place, and one such example is when you are promoting content with SEO. Even ccTLD domains or geotargeted TLD domains can rank informational content internationally, but they won’t do so on their own unless they’re geared for it.

For example, let’s say your company operates out of the Toronto, but has customers all around the world. The majority of your customers are finding you through articles on our blog, which runs on a CAD (Canadian) ccTLD. Those numbers may be sufficient and consistent,, but this is not to say you should disregard geotargeting; for the majority of industries, it’s not the right approach. Ranking internationally is about providing the right content for the right audience, and audience predispositions for content will vary.

You want to be certain that Google does not become seriously confused with what-may-be several versions of your site and bury you in SERPs.

How to target a specific country

Here’s a basic checklist for targeting a specific country with international SEO:

  • Use a country-specific domain
  • Specify the location you are targeting in Google Search Console
  • Register your business address with Google My Business
  • Include the street address of the business on the website
  • Host the website locally (as much for usability as for SEO)
  • Get links from country-specific websites
  • Use local language(s)

The aim is to send a clear signal to Google about where you operate and who you’re hoping to have see and interact with your content. You want as many indicators and prompts as possible, so try to include all items on the checklist.

International SEO strategy

It’s common for most international SEO efforts to include targeting of multiple countries, which means you must scale your approach to address and cover all desired locations.

There are a number of ways to approach this, and some will be suitable for your situation while others will not. Here are two approaches that will almost certainly be effective for the majority of serious international SEO efforts.

Content marketing – We now know that targeted content marketing can help pages rank internationally, even from a ccTLD site. If you are able to generate leads through content, then promoting your content with SEO can be the simplest option. This isn’t difficult if you have a defined audience and some measure of professional authority with your content, but you must also make sure this is a viable business model for your company. It’s typically a good fit for companies that are well established online, but for more traditional businesses that are not as solidly set in the digital realm this is often not the best choice.

Single TLD site – Some industries will present automatic international search results. This is often true of niche businesses that rank fairly well across English-speaking countries but even without International SEO optimization. Should they want to focus on international SEO, it’d be quite easy to do that with a more traditional SEO process.

Of course, do your research before you wade into a complex international setup.

Subfolders and Geo Targeting – For those requiring country-specific content, one of the easiest options is to create localized sub-directories on your own site. These sub-directories can be geotargeted in Google Search Console and may include country-specific content and language. Here are examples:

  • example.com — root site targeting the USA.
  • example.com/uk/ — UK.
  • example.com/de/ — Germany.

There are three key benefits to taking this approach. First off, you are only expanding your existing site and that will likely mean less technical management and overhead, e.g., hosting.

Secondly, your sub-directories will inherit authority from the parent domain.

Third, you only have one site to promote, and so while you will want country- and language-specific links, going this way is still simpler and more cost-effective than promoting multiple sites.

Keep in mind though that users may not recognize geotargeting from the universal resource locator (URL), and you’ll have a single server location. So yes, it’s a relatively easy way to get started with true international SEO, but be aware of the limitations of this approach.

Country-specific domains– Here you can use country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) or subdomains on a TLD. Both will take you to the same objective with your International SEO.

  • Geo-targeted subdomains. These TLD subdomains must be geotargeted in Google Search Console:
  • example.com — US
  • example.com — UK
  • example.com — Germany
  • Country-specific ccTLD domains. The country associated with the ccTLD is automatically targeted:
  • com — US
  • co.uk — UK
  • de — Germany

Businesses with a physical presence, operation or local offline marketing in the target country will usually find this to be the best approach. But it may not be the most cost-effective one, as each site must be configured and marketed independently. This is typically done by the local marketing team.

Both approaches allow the business to use local web hosting and build clear location signals with country-specific links to the URL. This is ideally what you should want and should be considered when making a decision to enter a competitive international market, especially one where you are competing with companies that are resident in that country.

Using ccTLDs here is preferable to subdomains if that’s something you can do. However, it requires you to own all the international ccTLD versions of your domain. If you can make that happen, it will provide big branding benefits where users prefer to click on their own ccTLD.

Folks in specific countries will of course prefer domains that indicate their home country, as well as be more trusting of them. SEO is just part of a larger conversation, making it that the right approach should be determined by the wants and needs of the target customer.

Subdomains are thus not as popular because users may not recognize or understand the domain and that could impact trust and click-through rates.

If money is no object and you are taking a long-term committed approach to the International visibility of your business online, we definitely recommend going the ccTLD route.

One last important consideration here is to remember that any problems can be multiplied across your entire portfolio of sites. Make sure your initial site is technically perfect in advance of you creating international sites.

URL variables

There’s also another option worth mentioning here, which is using URL variables like country=ca. While it’s doable, Google’s own page on multi-regional and multilingual sites states it’s not a recommended course of action.That’s primarily because this option cannot be geotargeted, and it’s easy to see how that would take away a lot of the potential exposure power you’re after.

This has been an overview of the options for international SEO. Your objectives, budgets and you marketplace will define what’s right for you, but be sure to work with these guidelines if you’re going to go it alone and work with your existing knowledge of SEO.

Of course, if we can be of assistance in any way – please don’t hesitate to ask!

Ways to Solid Cloud Security

Cloud computing and all the many varied advantages it offers for a business’ digital realms is definitely here to stay, and access and storage convenience, consolidation, and capacity are front and centre as to why that’s the way it is. Most of us have benefited greatly from the advent of the cloud, and we wouldn’t want to go back to the way it was.

Here at 4GoodHosting, as a quality Canadian web hosting provider we’re just as enthused as most of the rest of you about what the future holds in as far as cloud computing is concerned. So while it’s perfectly natural to be keen on getting more out of the cloud, we need to ensure that our sensitive data is key entirely safe while it’s perfectly suspended ‘up there.’

So today we’ll discuss some considerations for setting yourself up so that there’s no unexpected disappointments as you enjoy this wonderful 21st century advance in computing technology.

Priority 1 is Secure Code

While we’ll get to code in a moment, it is important that you trust in the security model of your cloud service provider. Understand what information the service provider will deliver to the customer (vulnerabilities/exploits discovered, patched, requirements from customers, security bulletins etc.) and what is your (the customer’s) responsibility. There are many cases where the provider takes the appropriate measures but the customer is neglecting to take care of their end. It is important to know all these beforehand.

Alright – code. If you’re developing code, making sure it’s 100% secure is your responsibility. Code that has not been thoroughly tested – inside and out – can be a big time risk. It’s something that if you don’t have a capable tester on staff then it’s something you should outsource to someone who IS proven capable.

One that you can check out is uTest. They employ testers worldwide and provide impressively detailed reports. Your code can be tested by teams of people on very different platforms and they’re more likely to dig up bugs and vulnerabilities as compared to the average in-house testing team.

Identity and Access Management

Next up is the important of identity and access management. Your cloud login information is essentially the key to your front door, and the nature of the arrangement is your door -locked or not – is immediately visible to many more potential enterers. You need to have a policy for access management. Start with consideration of obvious security risks:

  • ex-employees
  • outside parties (vendors, consultants etc. who have outside access)
  • employees (weak passwords) – a more legitimate issue than you might think

Address first two there with a policy that insists on a temporary check of people and / or organizations who have been granted temporary access. Accounts that have expired should be removed from the central directory – Active Directory, LDAP etc. Many people would be shocked with the the extent of the problem wit rogue logins with “password never expires” option set in companies directories.

Next, we can understand the importance of updating systems. First and foremost, keep your systems at the latest patch levels as much as possible. You’ll be able to patch security holes as well as enable your applications to use the secured APIs/DLLs to make them MUCH more secure. And don’t concern yourself overly with ‘breaking’ things. If your application / system is being broken just because a security patch, it’s an inferior product and should be replace anyways!

Log Management

In today’s workloads, logs primarily serve two purposes. That’s troubleshooting and security (access logs). But they become even more important if they are aggregated. Aggregating logs with an IT analytics tool is highly recommended, as it will enable you to monitor for malicious activities and undertake detailed analyses to dig up the root cause of any such vulnerabilities. You’ll have a big-picture view of your infrastructure as a whole, from patch levels all the way to application behaviours.

A quality IT analytics tool serves functionally as a tool kit to aggregate logs and further to be extended with additional tools. A holistic view of your IT architecture is a must, and it’s smart to have the relevant tools in place to cover all the bases; firewalls, anti malware applications (end point security), intrusion detection, valid certificates and so on.

As one last tip, keep up on the latest security information. There’s plenty of available detailed information on the vulnerabilities, zero-day attacks, proposed temporary solutions etc to be found on the Internet. Cloud-security conscious webmasters learn about what type of breaches, exploits are happening in their specific industry, and learning about ways to secure their infrastructure and keeping one step ahead when it comes to security matters / concerns.

There is no such thing as 100% security when it comes to the Cloud – the nature of what makes it so great and versatile is exactly what makes it perennially insecure as well. But there’s plenty you can do to stay as secure as possible while enjoy all the benefits of Cloud storage and access. Not like we’re going to be regressing anytime soon, so just be smart about it.

Smart List Building for Email Marketing

Take a look at the inside workings of a business that’s successful in the modern information age and you’ll almost certainly find evidence of well-constructed email marketing campaigns. Reaching out to prospective customers isn’t difficult, but reaching out them effectively certainly is. The vast majority of those prospective customers are quick to trash an email that’s coming across as overly salesy or downright spammy, and when that happens all the effort you’ve put into getting it in front of them is for not.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we take an interest in the wellbeing of our customers who are in business and that’s likely a significant part of what’s made us one of the best web hosting providers in Canada. We’re not email marketing experts, but we’ve been fortunate to be able to pick up on some of the best approaches to the subject over the years.

Let’s discuss some of them today, and hopefully there’ll be some beneficial wisdom in this for those of you that want to supercharge your email marketing efforts. Email marketing, despite all the options available in an evolving digital world, is still the most personal and effective way to market services… if it’s done right.

Before we begin, one inflexible rule. DON’T buy lists – ever – and if you need further convincing why then you can dig on your own, but you’ll find the same advice everywhere.

Start With The Right ‘Hook

‘The Hook’ – as it’s known in sales – is what grabs the attention of a target customer and is a specific call-to-action that gets them to willingly offer you their contact information. Examples of good ’hooks’ are discount coupons, tips or information not readily available to others customers. They can go a long way to getting your emails opened, and not trashed right off the hop.

Utilize Existing Customers

Existing customers are the biggest base for your email list, but they also have the potential to be sharing your emails with their friends and will often happily do so if what you offer clearly relates the potential of value to them. Start determining which of those email addresses are receiving your communications more enthusiastically and begin focusing on them and working with them.

Don’t email existing customers. Instead, get back to some good old communication means and give them a phone call. This is also a good way to remind customers/clients about your company if you have not seen them in a while.

Promote Your Biz with Ads on Your Site

Some people might think this to be a rather odd suggestion, considering it’s your website and you’ve already ‘drawn them in’, so to speak. There’s really something to this, however, and an eye-catching ad on your site’s sidebar or integrated into your content can prompt people to opt-in, and much more often than you’d think. While you’re collecting opt-ins for emails, you should also collect Twitter names as well as encouraging people to follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or any other social media channels you’re utilizing at this time.

Pair that advertising, content, and the hook together to sell, as well as gather information on the most suitable recipient demographics for responsiveness. OptimizePress is a great tool for converting click-throughs to customers. Google it and check it out.

Promote People Sending Your Content to Others

Another tip is using share buttons to get site visitors or blog readers to share content on their own social media channels and then provide a means for others to opt-in to your emails. One example might be a site that has a blurb about a sale or new product that’s then made sharable with an eye to making it go viral.

Use LinkedIn Contacts

More and more people spend a good amount of time expanding their LinkedIn network, and so downloading their cards and add them to your email list is a good idea – as long as you use sound judgement in doing so. As long as you give them an opt-out option, you won’t be a a spammer by default. Make sure you do.

Another approach is to participate in appropriate LinkedIn groups and using your status update function to drive like-minded prospects to your email opt-in sign up page.

Guest Blogging

The types of blogs for every type of business are so numerous, so get writing (or enlist a ghost writer) to post interesting content on assorted blogs to garner the interest of prospective clients and drive them to your opt-in page. A quality blog can be absolutely massive in this regard.

Be Certain not to Spam

By opting in, individuals are giving you permission to send them your emails. As mentioned, you must have an ‘opt out’ option clearly and visibly displayed in the email. Deal with opt-out request QUICKLY! With an email marketing service, opt-outs are automatically deleted. If you are doing it yourself and recipients continue to receive emails after opting-out, you’ll be a spammer – simple as that. Running afoul of spam laws is something you want NO part of.

Consider Email Services

Email services can definitely be money well spent. Be careful about Googling ’email marketing services’ as some sites have their own ‘top ten reviews’ with their company situated right up top. You want to find a service that will allow you to upload v-cards that make it easy to set up your list. From there you should be able to upload that file effectively and correctly.

There’s a direct line between email marketing done right and company growth and profit, so it makes a lot of sense to revisit your campaigns and revamp them if they’re not bringing the returns they could.

Repairing Broken Links: A How-To, + Recommended Tools

Likely none of you will need to be made aware of just how important links – both inbound and outbound – are for the functionality of your website and the overall vitality of your online presence. In particular, link building is an integral part of effective SEO and there are a whole host of other reasons why you want to make sure your links continue to serve their internally or externally-oriented purposes. Unfortunately, it’s not a ‘set it-and-forget it’ process, as links that were once active can be made inactive and many times you won’t become aware of that until valuable ‘downtime’ has passed.

Here at 4GoodHosting, a part of what makes up a quality Canadian web hosting provider is the fact that we take a genuine interest in your well being out there on the Information Superhighway. We imagine any information that’s especially helpful for optimizing your website is going to be welcome, so here goes.

Why Breaks Are Bad

Let’s start with a reminder that the web is named as such because of the ability of pages and sites to link to other sources and relevant information. A broken link is defined as ‘a hyperlink which is linked to an empty or non-existent external webpage’, and some people will refer to them as dead links.

Most commonly when a link is broken you will receive a 404-page error instead, with the page telling you that the webpage or file you are looking for is not available. Websites that neglect to address broken links for a long time will suffer from ‘link rot’ – a term used to describe sites with many broken links.

Causes of Broken Links

Broken links can be the result of many causes. Sometimes the fault is on the webmaster, and other times they are the fault of the site a link ‘points’ to.

A short list of possible and more common causes for broken links:

  • The wrong URL is entered by the website owner for the link. Often from a simple typo or mistake when entering the URL into the <href> tag
  • The destination website has removed the resource you intended to link to
  • The destination website has permanently moved to a new URL
  • The destination website no longer exists. Interesting stat here – the average lifespan of a webpage is 100 days

Your intended link destination is located behind a firewall that prevents access to the content, or a ‘paywall’ that requires subscription of some sort to move further.

Understanding what causes broken links makes you less likely to make those mistakes in the first place. By reducing the chances of your link breaking from the outset, you are minimizing the likelihood that they will be detrimental to your website in the future. Yes, a few broken links aren’t going to crush your SEO efforts, but they certainly aren’t going to help either.

How Harmful?

Here’s a quick look at how broken links can be harmful to your website:

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engines look very unfavourably on broken links. If you are linking to a page within your site and that link is broken, those search engine spiders are going to have trouble finding it. When they come across that ‘page not found 404 error’, they’re not going to be displeased with your site. That and any successive pages that are not crawled do not get indexed. Pages that aren’t indexed will not receive a ranking, and surely you can see where this is going. Not good.

Another way broken links harm your search engine optimization is related to how long visitors stay on your site. If they encounter broken links they are likely going to look elsewhere for the information they need. After all, they can’t find it on your site, and pages with high bounce rates don’t rank well. Enough said – broken links are decidedly detrimental for SEO.

  1. User Experience

Users are easily frustrated. If pages don’t load fast enough they leave. If there are too many advertisements, they split. If there is a paywall, they turn around right quick. Broken links are a surefire way to frustrate your visitors and prompt them to leave. Again, enough said.

  1. Reputation & Revenue

Relatedly, when a visitor encounters a website that is full of broken links, they will simply avoid it in the future. They won’t trust that site to provide the information they need, and if that’s you then your reputation is pretty much permanently in the mud.

The magnitude of this potentiality is made even bigger when you consider that a recent study that showed 44% of people are inclined to inform their friends of unpleasant or time-wasting experiences online, and when it comes to e-commerce in particular another 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with a website’s performance are less likely to buy from that site again.

Finding Broken Links

It’s recommended that you check for broken links on a monthly basis, if not more often even.

Those of you actively building your site and its reach are going to want to check more frequently.

As broken links are a problem for webmasters and businesses, there are a number of different tools available to check for them. Some are free, others are not.

  1. Google Search Console

Free and effective!

Open this tool click on Search Traffic in the right-hand menu and then Internal Links. If you are missing an important page, or the number of links looks off, it could be due to a broken link.

Next, click on Crawl -> Crawl Errors. Scroll to “Not Found” Section. You’ll receive a report of all the missing pages on your site with both internal and external links pointing to them.

  1. Xenu

Xenu is also a good choice for finding broken links, and it is also free. Since its primary focus is looking for broken links, it is also much easier to use and provides you with a complete report about the links on your site.

Start by opening Xenu and clicking File and then Check URL. The following window will open for you and you’ll then be prompted to enter the URL of the page you wish to check. You also have the option of only checking for internal links that are broken. To do this, uncheck the Check external links box. Once you run the tool, you get a report of the links it has found and their current status.

Xenu also allows you to export the report, build sitemaps and perform some other tasks. You can also check local files before you upload your code to the web, and examine a list of URLs for checking your entire site at once.

  1. Domain Hunter Plus

Domain Hunter Plus is actually a Google Chrome extension. This allows you to analyze any current location page for the presence of broken links. Once you add the extension you will see a small green target on your browser.

Navigate to the page you wish to check and click on the target. It will run a check on that page and provide you with a report of all the broken links it finds. You then have the option of exporting this report to refer to later.

Repairing Broken Links

Now that you have found the broken links on your website, you ought to start repairing them.

Start by examining why exactly they are broken:

  • Did you mistype or mis-copy the URL? If so, make certain you type it in correctly this time.
  • Did you rename or move a page? The link will need to reflect the change.
  • Did you remove the page from your website? You now need to either remove the link or find another piece of relevant content to link to

The process for repairing external links tends to be a little more intensive. If the site you were linking to is gone, you will need to find another destination or remove the link altogether. If the link was to content that supported a claim or statement, it’s important to find another resource so you keep your credibility intact.

Incoming Broken Links

If the links pointing to your site are broken, you will lose any SEO benefit you would otherwise be enjoying, and most notably improved rankings in the search engines and more visitors to your site.

Keep track of any links you earned through guest posting or other link building strategies and audit these links from time to time to ensure that they are still working. When you find broken links, reach out to the site owner and ask them to fix them.

Some tools you can use to keep track of and monitor links pointing to your site:

  • Ahrefs
  • Majestic
  • Raven
  • WebMeUp

These backlink checkers are paid tools, but most offer free trials to help you decide if they will be beneficial for your website. Often they’re a smart investment, particularly if you’re in e-commerce.

Repair those links, as the old Field of Dreams saying is true – ‘build it, and they will come.’

Bitcoin Mining: Any Interest?

A month or so back we follow the lead of nearly everyone in the digital world by discussing the Bitcoin phenomenon. Since then the rabidness of interest in Bitcoin has waned somewhat, and while that’s to be expected it is still is a representation of the new frontier of digital currencies and still a worthy topic of discussion. Yes, it’s not going to be the ‘get-rich-quick’ investment opportunity many thought it would be, but it’s safe to assume that it will be a legitimate player in the e-commerce world eventually.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we follow the lead of any good Canadian web hosting provider by keeping our customers up to date on trends that will be of interest to them. It’s safe for us to assume that many of you will have an interest in the development of cryptocurrencies, and some still may want to actually get off the sidelines and get into the game.

So, for those of you who are interested in ‘mining’ bitcoin as the verb goes, let’s discuss exactly what you’ll need to do. This is an easy to follow, step-by-step tutorial to get you started with 5 steps; choosing your mining software, acquiring a Bitcoin wallet, getting in on a Bitcoin mining pool, purchasing with your Bitcoin, and then verifying Bitcoin transactions.

What Kind of ‘Mining’ is This?

Bitcoin mining involves a software process where Bitcoin is earned depending on what you do. It’s referred to as ‘mining’ because the process associated with acquiring it is quite similar – figuratively – to what you’d do to try and find gold or another precious metal in the earth. Sometimes you dig or pan in the right place, most of the time you don’t.

First and foremost you need to understand that you exchange processing power for this cryptocurrency. Your computer is used to mine Bitcoins, but understand that there are a limited number of Bitcoins available to be mined. Of a total of 21 million bitcoins, it’s currently estimated that there are a little over 4 million left to be claimed.

Yes, the early birds have got most of the worms.

Your mined bitcoins are then generated into circulation using the proper software (we’ll touch on this shortly), which works to solve difficult math problems that would be indecipherable for 99% of us. When problems are successfully solved, the ‘miner’ receives new Bitcoins. This process also verifies transactions.

So where to start?

Step 1: Choose Your Bitcoin Mining Software

It’s necessary to run specific software to mine Bitcoins and verify transactions. You can choose from several different Bitcoin mining software programs. Each of them offers its own set of features and works on different OS platforms. Here’s the most well known of the bunch currently:

GUIMiner: GUIMiner is a GPU and CPU mining tool that lets users to work independently and pool mining through a simple graphic interface. It’s solid with both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs (graphics processing units) and works on Windows platforms.

CGMiner: CGMiner is an open source ASIC/FGPA cross-platform software, meaning that it works on Linux, Windows, OSX, and other platforms. CGMiner is categorized as a command line software, meaning it doesn’t have a graphics interface.

BFGMiner: BFGMiner is especially popular as an open source command-line software program that lets you mine Bitcoin on any platform. Attractive features include dynamic clocking, monitoring, and remote interface capabilities.

Ok, now you’ve got your ‘miner’ on board. What next?

Step 2: Get a Bitcoin Wallet

Bitcoin miners will need a bitcoin wallet to store all of your coins that you earn. Your wallet will have its own address, and that address is yours exclusively. Payments are also directed to your wallet. That bitcoin wallet will have a public address you can pass along to anyone who wants to direct a payment to you.

There’s more than one type of wallet for you to choose from. If you intend to be more of a bitcoin ‘hoarder’ who’ll wait for a good time to sell them, there are web-based wallets such as BitcoinPaperWallet that will be a good fit for you. Bitcoin Paper Wallet makes your profits safe in the form of ‘paper cash.’

If you’re more the type to be regularly cashing out or making payments, you’ll be best served by desktop software that keeps your Bitcoin funds stored on your computer. Be aware though that you should use this type of wallet via a computer that is offline exclusively. If not, you risk losing money if someone hacks into your software. We like Electrum, one of the most popular solutions and compatible with virtually every desktop OS.

Ok, you’re set up with your virtual wallet.

Step 3: Join a Bitcoin Mining Pool or Go Solo

Working solo is best if you’re aiming to be profitable with your Bitcoins. However, it will require some serious hardware resources. Anyone not ready to spend a few thousand bucks or more on powerful mining hardware will need to join a mining pool. They allow multiple miners to consolidate their processing power and generate blocks to earn Bitcoin together. The profits are then split based on how much of your processing power you’ve contributed.

You can join a mining pool by choosing one, creating a user profile, dedicating a worker, and then adding your Bitcoin Wallet’s public address so you’re set up to receive funds when the profits are divided and paid out. Inform yourself about all the possible options and pick the one that best suits your needs.

If you think you want to go solo to earn more Bitcoin than you would collectively in a mining pool, you’re going to have some extensive hardware outlay costs as we’ve mentioned.

Step 4: Buying Products or Services with Bitcoins

So what about actually buying products with Bitcoin? The number of companies around the world accepting Bitcoin for products and services is growing every day, and here’s how you can purchase from them with Bitcoin.

Debit Cards: Funding your debit card using the Bitcoins from your Wallet is now possible and is the most flexible way of making payments, withdrawing cash from ATMs, and sending payments to another account. There will be fees however, and some services insist that you convert your Bitcoins to a flat currency before making payments. This process can result in certain payments ending up being more expensive, but that’s the price you pay for the convenience of it. And it is very convenient!

Gift Cards: Bitcoin can be used to buy gift cards from certain stores. The main benefit of gift cards here is that most businesses offer discounts attached to them. Yes, you can buy gift cards for birthdays, Christmas, etc. and pay for them with gift cards.

Online Shopping: Your Bitcoins can be used to buy directly products from online retailers who accept them. The numbers of those retailers are growing rapidly.

Step 5: Bitcoin Transaction Verification

Your Bitcoin will never be ‘attached’ to any physical address, so its record is open to everyone, and the information related to it is universally available to the same level. It’s completely transparent. Sending a Bitcoin payment required inclusion of three pieces of information:

  1. Your Bitcoin address.
  2. The number of Bitcoins you are transferring to the recipient
  3. The recipient’s Bitcoin address

That’s pretty much it. If we’ve peaked your interest in mining Bitcoins then we’re happy to have helped you with the discovery and we wish you well with your mining.