Web Application Security Best Practices 

Many of you may not need to know what an enterprise stack is, but if you do then there’s a darn good chance you either have one or you’re responsible for one. Businesses have no choice but to have their operations tailored to digital operating realities nowadays, and being visible online with their website is the only connection that a lot of people will make with that. What they won’t know is that any business relies heavily on data in ways that didn’t exist 20+ years ago, and that is where the real importance lies when it comes to those new digital realities.

Software applications are commonly an enterprise stack’s weakest link. A 2020 report found that over 70% of external hacks result from vulnerabilities with software and web applications, and this pushes the need for better web application security. This is beyond the scope our expertise here at 4GoodHosting, as providing good web hosting in Canada is where we’re your best bet but having all the workings of your site being secure is something that everyone can see as important. So let’s use this entry to share what we DO know from doing a little reading of our own.

So what is web application security exactly? It is the process of protecting your website and online services against cybersecurity threats that take aim at the app’s coding. Database administration tools like phpMyAdmin, content management systems like WordPress, and SaaS apps are the most common targets for web-app attacks.

All Devices at Risk

Hackers then use the breached apps to attack devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers when they have access to the internet. Sensitive personal information is often contained here, and this makes them appealing targets for hackers who’d like that data for performing fraudulent transactions. Retail, finance, government, and healthcare sectors are more likely to see cyber-attacks because organizations in these sectors hold massive databases containing personal and financial data.

Companies lose the trust of their customers with security breaches, and that’s very understandable. Significant financial losses can result too. Look no further than the $575 million penalty given to Equifax because of a 2017 data breach that exposed the data of over 145 million customers. Data security should be taken seriously, and so here are best practices for web application security.

  1. Ensure Full Data Encryption

Data encryption takes readable data and converts it into encrypted data that is only readable after the user or recipient uses a security key. Encryption of both static and transit data is crucial for data security, and anyone and everyone can start by getting an SSL certificate. They work well for making your website secure. Next, if you haven’t transitioned your website to HTTPS then that is something you should so as soon as you can get around to it.

Next, don’t store sensitive user information such as user IDs, passwords, and financial details in plain text. A password storage app is a much better choice.

  1. Do Risk Assessment

Risk assessment allows your organization to view its application portfolio from the perspective that a potential attacker would have. This will let you identify, assess, and implement security controls over your applications. Here is the 4-step process for this

Identification – list all the critical applications in your technology stack and create a risk profile for each

Assessment – determine type and volume of data each application handles, the number of users accessing it at a given time, and the likelihood of unauthorized users attempting to gain access to it

Mitigation – Identify ways to reduce the impact of security breaches with mitigation strategies, and there is plenty of information on the web about what you can do in this regard

  1. Keep a Data Backup

Backing up your website, user information, and application data will not thwart all data security threats. Backups are particularly useful if you encounter malware attacks that primarily target things like ecommerce platforms. It is common for web hosting providers to be able to provide backups of your data in cloud-based storage.

With mission-critical data, you should back up your databases on daily basis. If your business is software development, you can use a code repository like Git that will allow you to roll back to specific code changes.

  1. Regularly Site Scans

Safety and security of your web app will always benefit from scanning your website regularly, and once every week is best. Also don’t just rely on one scanner to do all the work for you. It’s common for malware to be structured in a way that isn’t readily detectable by scanners.

  1. Use Web Application Firewall

A web application firewall (WAF) provides a filter for traffic between a server and its clients. This will prevent malicious requests from intruding into your web application and core infrastructure. It inspects all incoming traffic and stops different types of risky behavior before they happen.

Network-based: installed on specialized hardware and filter all incoming traffic to a server. Best for low latency

Host-based: Fully integrated into the web application and operate at the software level. Complicated to implement and maintain and take up more system resources.

Cloud-based: Implemented in a specialized cloud and does not require any upfront costs on the web application developer. Not much in the way of customizability.

  1. Use a Content Security Policy

Protecting applications on the client-side is important too. A content security policy stops cyberattacks that involve hijacking websites as displayed on a user’s screen and ensures that only content from sources you approve is displayed. Tactics such as cross-site scripting (XSS) are prevented by having a good CSP. Malicious hackers can use XSS to convince your website that their content is legitimate and should be executed.

eCommerce Being Transformed by Web Data

Looking to analytics to determine what are the best courses of action is nothing new, and it’s been a part of making business decisions since long before the business world shifted to digital. I takes a trained and educated eye to make good sense of numbers and the like when doing that, but the parameters of everything were different when all of them were tracked manually and often jotted down on paper. As in nearly always the case with interests of any sort, computing technology has been very beneficial in making business analytics better.

It’s not something business managers will be fully intuitive with right off the hop, and given how increasingly competitive the space is becoming for nearly any industry or commercial venture online it is important to at least try to be ahead of curves. Other businesses will be leaning on web analytics too, and so it is important to do as well as possible with turning your data into decision making. This is why some businesses will hire a 3rd-party advisor in this regard, and many times it is a worthwhile investment.

Our business here at 4GoodHosting takes value from web data too of course, and that will be true for any good Canadian web hosting provider. The reason this topic becomes of even greater interest and worthy of an entry here is that many of our customers are also operating a website for commercial purposes, and when anything related to profitability is involved you’re going to want to get it right. So let’s look at how eCommerce is being transformed by web data.

Big for Pricing Strategies

Increasingly relying on insights drawn from web data to guide their pricing strategies is increasingly common for online businesses, plus for finding the best time for product and service launches. Estimates are that upwards of 80% of eCommerce businesses have bumped up their web data collection and management budgets over the past year, and that’s an immediate reflection of how this type of web data is really increasing in value.

What web date provides for eCommerce businesses is enhanced visibility over the competitive online market landscape. It creates an informational set for insight on anything from current sales offers to product pricing to positions to consumer reviews and more. There’s nearly no limit to the applications for this vital resource, and here’s a brief bit about each reason online retailers typically collect public web data:

Price comparison

Web data can let retailers create benchmarks against the competition by taking identical products / services and comparing and monitoring the prices for them directly competing with their own site. This provides good insight into how much competitors are charging, are there any sales or special offers coming up, are shipping costs a factor, and what patterns exist with how prices are raised or lowered.

Positioning and inventory

Web data also provides information on how online retailers may be able to best position their products for public consumption. Information can be utilized by online retailers to identify specific keywords or messaging that could promote their products being higher in SERPS, and of course that is absolutely huge in the greater success and viability of your business online. It can even be taken a step further by tracking competitors’ online stock and using web data to discover new merchandising and product opportunities. This can be very beneficial for multinational businesses looking to launch in a new market.

Search engine strategy

Most eCommerce businesses collect SERP web data on an ongoing basis, with a primary focus on both the paid and organic search results of different keywords and queries that are entered into those search engines. The data is then applied by digital marketers to strategize around brand sentiment, online reputation management as well as better keyword rankings so that visibility in search engines is improved.

SERP web data enables businesses to gain advantages over their competition on the search engine results page, although if there’s one point here you likely already knew this is probably it.

Social sentiment

Millions of consumer interactions take place on marketplaces, social media, and different forums each day. eCommerce businesses want to better tap into this information, and collecting public web data from social media is a big part of that. It helps social media marketing experts to spot changes in consumer behavior, as well as staying ahead of the popularity of products and campaigns.

Web Data Collection Strategies

The demands of data collection internally are too much for online retailers sometimes, and many are looking to make acquisitions or find external partners to enhance their web data collection efforts. There are two options here for most of them; they can collect data at scale themselves, or they can utilize web scraping applications or technologies to assist them. Either choice is usually better than relying on a manual approach.

Cleaning, structuring, and analyzing the data is essential in all of this, and it can time-consuming and eat up a lot of resources. But generating these up-to-the-minute insights is crucial in helping eCommerce businesses make the smart decisions they want to be making.

Pre-made data sets can be a good choice here, and these large sets of data focus on a single subject collected from either single or various sources. They are structured into readable tables or formats to provide valuable insights, although they may be more approximated than individually built ones. But it is a more affordable approach for businesses that are working with a budget when it comes to web analytics. The disadvantage is that these are only updated periodically, so they don’t offer the minute-by-minute accuracy of mass-scale web data collection.

Multi Cloud Security Issues Problematic for Businesses

Progress isn’t going to be stopped, and while the ubiquitous shift to cloud computing makes so much sense given the way it removes the need for physical storage of data it still comes with challenges. They need to be met, as we’re not going to go back to having so much data stored physically and all the resources and energy required for doing that on planet with 8 billion people. So it is what is with regard to the challenges of having Multi Cloud platforms as the norm, and all that is left is to find ways to make it work.

Security is at the forefront of all of that, and especially considering the ongoing rise in cyberattacks with both frequency and complexity. Business have the most to lose here of course, and the way it works that the larger the business the more sensitive data there is at risk if their cloud security isn’t what it needs to be. Providers aren’t resting on their laurels there, and there is ongoing progress with cloud security that fortunately is keeping pace with the threats these days for the most part.

This is a topic of continued interest for us here at 4GoodHosting in the same way it would be for any reliable Canadian web hosting provider, and naturally because many of the sites we host are for people who have commercial interests in them. The reality of the current situation with MultiCloud security issues is that many businesses feel they are ‘sitting ducks’ of sorts and that they are far too much at risk of suffering a crippling cyber attack at this time.

Increased Risk

Multi-cloud setups are increasingly integral organizations of all shapes and sizes, but more and more of them are becoming difficult to secure properly. This exposes them to breaches that leak large amounts of sensitive data to malicious third parties. There was a survey recently where near 300 senior executives DevOps leaders, and seniors in other security roles had 70% of them reporting not enough confidence in their ability to properly secure both on-prem and multi-cloud environments.

This comes at the same time that cyberattacks are on the rise, with more than 2/3rd of those respondents and their companies having either experience their own data breach or some type of similar data exposure. Ones occurring because of multi-cloud security configuration issues and apparently enterprise cyberattacks are occurring quite often to the same companies.

Around half of these same respondents stated the company had regularly experienced bot attacks. 20% of the were occurring on a weekly basis, and application attacks had 30% occurring the same way. The overall belief is that the tools they currently have to work with are inadequate when it comes to blocking, preventing, or mitigating cyberattacks in a multi-cloud environment.

Near Half

Along with this nearly half of businesses (45%) reported their experience of a cloud-based data breach or failed a security audit in the last year. Around a quarter of them experienced more malware attacks and ransomware attack, and slightly less that had some type of challenging experience with phishing and whaling attacks. The problem is even more compounded by the fact that businesses continue to rely on cloud infrastructure to facilitate the hybrid work environments that began with the Covid-19 pandemic. Better cybersecurity, encryption, and key management solutions are needed and it highlights how and why business tech stacks should survive cost cuts and no matter what the current economic outlook is at the time.

Boosting WordPress Speed and Performance

That’s not something that is exclusive to these types of websites, but it can be a little more perplexing when the site is simple and doesn’t have a lot of dynamic elements that would be asking for a lot of bandwidth of any other sort of technical explanation for its being slow. We won’t get into the workings of that, but what we will do with this blog entry is share what you can do to boost WordPress speed and performance without having to exert yourself too much.

All these years later and WordPress continues to be easiest way for any not so web savvy individual to put together a basic website. For many of us it was the means for our introduction to web publishing of any sort, and the value that comes with the simplicity and practicality of it has never diminished. Next year will be WordPress’ 20th birthday, and way back in 2003 it was much more bareboned in the way it didn’t have all the many plugins that there are today. For a website that is more informational and content-based with text, WordPress continues to be the way to go.

Any type of expansion of functionality with software of this type tends to be organic given its age, but fortunately with WordPress there continues to a sufficient number of enthusiasts who don’t mind putting a little bit of effort into that. This is something that those of us at 4GoodHosting will take an interest in, and that’s because there’s still many of the websites that we host for customers that are WordPress-hosted sites. That’s an indication of how it continues to be a popular option, but one thing that uses may find is that the speed and performance of the site starts to lag over time.

Why Speed Matters

Apparently from 2000 to 2016 the average human attention span has gone down from 12 to 7 seconds. The relevance of this to anyone who’s behind a website is that you have very little time to show users your content and convince them to stay on your website. Nowadays so many of them will leave a website even before it loads if it is slow. A study not long ago showed a 1 second delay in page load time can lead to 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views, and 16% decline in customer satisfaction.

Plus Google and other search engines have already begun penalizing slower websites by diminishing their relevance in search results, and means less traffic for slow websites and including WordPress-hosted websites.

So that leads to the question – how do you check WordPress website speed? Keep this in mind first when evaluating speed based on your own experience. You likely visit your own website often, and modern browsers like Chrome store your website in the cache and automatically retrieve it as soon as you start typing an address. This makes your website load almost instantly.

But for other users who are new to it or have only visited infrequently, it’s a different story. They don’t have the cached experience with it and it may well load much slower for them. Geographical location may be a factor in it too.

Aim for Under 2

A good page load time is under 2 seconds, but the faster you can make it, the better. This leads to needing to know what slows down a WordPress website.  Here are the primary causes:

  • Web hosting – improper server configuration can hurt website speed
  • WordPress Configuration – a site that is not serving cached pages will overload the server
  • Page Size – images that aren’t optimized for web are detrimental
  • Bad Plugins – poorly coded plugins can slow down a website
  • External scripts – ads, font loaders, and others can negatively impact website performance

Speed It Up

The first thing we’ll say is that good WordPress hosting is key here, and that in some instances shared hosting doesn’t cut it for a WordPress site. A managed WordPress hosting service may be a much better choice as it gives you the most optimized server configurations to run WordPress. We have this for you here at 4GoodHosting, and if there’s anything more you’d like to know then we encourage you to contact us.

Let’s get right to what you can do to increase the speed and performance of your WordPress site:

  1. Install a WordPress Caching Plugin

Caching can make your WordPress site anywhere from 2 to 5 times more speedy for visitors

  • Optimize Images for Speed

There are studies that have shown that using colored visuals makes people 80% more likely to read your content. It’s a good idea to use photo editing software to optimize your images for the web before uploading them onto your website.

  • Keep Your WordPress Site Updated

WordPress is updated frequently because it’s a well-maintained open source project. Each update will not only offer new features but it will also fix security issues and bugs. Your WordPress theme and plugins may have regular updates, too.

  • Optimize Background Processes

Background processes in WordPress are scheduled tasks. They run in the background of your WordPress site. Examples of ones you can optimize are WordPress Backup plugin tasks, WordPress cron jobs to publish scheduled posts, WordPress cron jobs to check for updates, and Tasks like cron jobs for scheduled posts and updates have minimal impact on website performance.

Adjusting crawl rate is important too

  • Use Excerpts on Homepage and Archives

Your homepage, categories, tags, and other archive pages will all load slower because WordPress displays the full content of each article on your homepage and archives. Speed up your loading times for archive pages by setting your site to display excerpts instead of the full content.

  • Split Comments into Pages

Paginating comments is a good idea because loading a lot of comments can impact your site’s speed. You can fix that in your WordPress backend by simply going to Settings » Discussion and check the box next to the ‘Break comments into pages’ option.

  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Using a content delivery network can help to speed up loading times for all of your visitors, and that’s done by having static files converted to dynamic files that are presented to visitors when they enter the website.

A CND will also increase the speed capacity of the web hosting server will itself by doing a lot of the work. Pair this with WordPress themes optimized for speed and you’re likely to see immediate improvements.

Digital Hoarding? It’s a Thing Now

Most of us are plenty agreeable with letting things go when it’s time to let them go, unless of course it has some sentimental value like something your grandfather gave you or the very first one you had of whatever it is. But usually when we talk about hoarding, we’re talking about tangible objects, meaning things that you can hold in your hands or at the very least physically touch. It’s not uncommon for the scope of things to expand, and in this case, technology has made it so that with hoarding it appears you can hoard inanimate objects too.

We wouldn’t be talking about this here if it didn’t have some connection to the digital world and data storage, and but it seems that digital hoarding is now a thing. The old stereotype of a hoarder also having far too many cats in a house with little if any space to move around has to go now, as these new types of hoarders are likely going to be living lives just as normal as the rest of us. This does have everything to do with how the demand for data storage has been met with more it, but there are some that want to be retaining more than they’d need.

This is a topic that we can relate to here at 4GoodHosting, and in much the same way that any good Canadian web hosting provider would give the fact that data storage is front and center for all of us. It certainly should be something to be used judiciously, but that’s just not the case as it with so many things in life where one is able to have a ‘possession’ – animate or inanimate in this case.

What’s to be done? That’s what we’ll look at with our blog entry here this week as we go over what is likely an entirely new term for all of you – digital hoarding.

As data storage has become more accessible than ever, the amount of digital “stuff” we all have stashed away is on the rise, too—for many of us, it’s becoming more unwieldy by the day.

More Bytes

This is definitely a new phenomenon that reflects the times we’re living in, and digital hoarding is defined as the need to acquire and hold onto digital content while having no intended purpose for it. It is then related to the way we interact with digital content through our smartphones, social media and messaging apps and the behavior is exacerbated by it.

Like so many other aspects of our lives these days, social media platforms are a very negative influence in this area too. They are at the forefront of what encourages hoarders to behave this way, as some people become overly attached to the digital content being shared with others, and look no further than photos with lots of shares or likes. The sheer volume of content creation is immense, and is there any way that it can be managed responsibly?

It’s creating a brand-new type of clutter that’s not as easily cleaned or tidied up, and for obvious reasons. Traditional hoarding is said to be a persistent difficulty in discarding one’s possessions, and it’s a legit mental health disorder. The thought of getting rid of the ‘stuff’ causes them mental distress, and as such they strongly resist doing it.

Making It Digital

Digital hoarding happens when the person constantly acquires digital content, isn’t inclined at all to discard it, and accumulates digital content for the primary reason of similarly acquiring it. Newfound experts on this claim that this tendency can spiral out of control in the same way it can be for physical-item hoarders and they say there are a number of foremost reasons for this.

It seems individuals are less likely to notice space limitations in the digital world. The boundaries of a physical space may be clear, but they’re much less clearly defined in the digital space. Plus, hoarding of physical objects happens in fixed boundaries, but digital spaces can expand quite easily and without much resistance if any. Additional digital storage can be obtained with minimum effort at very little or zero cost.

The final factor is how hoarding physical items requires a person to put literal effort into it, and starting with purchasing them or acquiring them by other means. Digital content is different because it is usually either self-created, free, or made available through a subscription. Another important consideration is that digital content can be multiplied very easily, and how that works will need no explanation for most of you.

Inadvertent Hoarder

The combination of being in various formats of digital content plus having an endless capacity to expand storage pairs with people having an increasing emotional attachment to the content. If there is also a lack of a sophisticated retrieval system it may make them apprehensive about deleting this digital content, and then what tends to happen is the person inadvertently starts to become a hoarder.

From there they may be meeting 3 criteria: constant acquiring of digital contents, difficulty discarding it, and having a propensity for digital content clutter.

Constant acquisition – the ongoing gathering of digital content, while paying no attention to its value, purpose, or utility. The electronic medium of it means that people don’t pay much attention to the ramifications of behaving this way. This can include emails, images, videos, and more. Apparently, it’s not uncommon for people to build up more than 40 terabytes (TB) of digital content over time. Content uploaded to social media counts too and is a major factor

Difficulty discarding – most people are very lax about deleting emails and similar moves. Some compulsive digital hoarders will feel there is more value to the contents they have, and they really struggle to discard them.

Clutter propensity – abundant digital contents, often unrelated, are stored in a disordered fashion. Feelings of being disorganized and cluttered in digital spaces don’t have much attention paid to them.

What Can Be Done?

Researchers are finding that digital hoarding can lead to higher levels of anxiety. There has been other research that shows that females are more prone to this than males, and that likely doesn’t come as much of a surprise either. The next consideration is that the number of data storage devices someone owns makes the impact of digital hoarding worse.

Here are tips if you feel you’re becoming a digital hoarder:

  • Try a ‘spring cleaning’ every year, and put some real effort into cleaning up your digital footprint
  • Limit unnecessary digital content
  • Arrange simple mechanisms to organize your files, emails, pictures, and videos
  • Determine how important your many social networks are to you, and try to be particularly objective about it

Google Paying Big Bucks to Retain Search Engine Dominance 

You might think that it’s a simple matter of popularity with how Google and its web browser are usually the ones of choice for most people. That’s true, but it turns out the popularity and predominance of Chrome and the like isn’t entirely organic. There’s money influencing how most people regard Google as their de facto choice for a web browser, and it’s interesting to learn that these web technology giants are buying their way to the level of renown that they have. For anyone that’s not familiar, it was earlier this year that there started to be some talk about Google losing some of its popularity with people.

New web browsers will continue to arrive, and that will always eat into the popularity of existing ones, even if only for a short period of time. But people do stick with Chrome by and large, and having a look over at least some of what’s contributing to this is what we’ll discuss with our entry here this week. It’s all about the number one spot for search engine use in the USA, and the numbers that Google and others will pay to have a sway of influence over technology developers. They’re not small values, and you’ll soon see what we mean about that.

This is a topic that is going to be of interest to any Canadian web hosting provider like us here at 4GoodHosting, or any other. That’s because it’s web browsers and search engines that allow people to visit the websites we host for customers, and of course much of the time there are business interests in those sites and the means by which people visit can be a valuable metric.

Buying the Spot?

All of Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics and other telecom giants receive billions of dollars from Alphabet Inc. (Google) to allow it to maintain its spot as the world’s No. 1 search engine, and while they didn’t specify exactly how much it is costing them to stay as the default search engine on most browsers and all US mobile phones, but apparently it is an enormous number. The belief is that Google is buying default exclusivity because there is extreme value in having that for them.

Google’s contracts are also forming the basis of a US Department of Justice’s landmark antitrust lawsuit, and the allegation being that Alphabet Inc. has attempted to maintain its online search monopoly but in violation of antitrust laws while doing so. This Google antitrust suit has been slow to get going with the fact it got its start during the Trump administration, but it does signify the first major effort to control the power of tech giants, and this is occurring at the same time as the world becomes increasingly aware of how major tech platforms can wreak on the economy and children’s health.

The countering belief is that the DOJ misunderstand the market and focus too much on smaller search engine rivals like Bing, Firefox, and others. Keep in mind as well that Google faces competition from dozens of other companies, and there is no shortage of additional sites where consumers are able to search for information. Google does face competition that is outside of the realm of search engines / web browsers themselves.

Fresh Data Needed

Obtaining fresh data on user search queries is integral to any search engine’s success, and as we know Google has Chrome – the most popular browser – and Android – the second most popular operating system. Google’s search engine and its popularity have much to do with contracts that Alphabet Inc. have with Apple, smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and Motorola as well as 3 major US telecom carriers in AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.

Between all of this the result is that Google’s search engine is the default install on nearly all new phones and these contracts make Google the gateway with which most people find websites on the internet. This is what allows Google to prevent rivals from gaining anything of a similar foothold with regards to market control. It results in Google’s dominance being difficult to challenge.

The company has had working contracts with Apple and browsers like Mozilla for nearly 20 years now, with the revenue-sharing deals that Google offers to browsers being essential to companies like Mozilla Corp as they offer their products to users for free. Partnering with Google has a lot of inherent value for them, even as they likely have some level of resentment towards the near monopoly the tech Giant is buying for themselves.

Big Data and AI in Manufacturing Processes 

We live in a consumerist society, and that means that products of all sorts are being made all the time. That’s been the case since by and large the start of the Industrial Revolution, but what’s being made in more recent years is definitely of a greater variety and that’s a good thing. So much more of what is made these days AND has widespread buyer appeal for people will be classified as tech, and that really shouldn’t come as a surprise given how incredibly digital our lives are now.

There’s more a cyclical arrangement with this though; technology is affecting manufacturing, and manufacturing is affecting technology to much the same extent. There’s a term that’s come into use recently and it’s probably one you’re not familiar with – the Industry 4.0 paradigm that puts some structure to how there is an exponential increase in the use of technology in manufacturing. For many of use the first thing that will jump to mind is the use of 3D printing for example.

That gives us one great example of how technology is at least to some extent revolutionizing manufacturing, and here at 4GoodHosting we’re going to always take an interest in any of these kinds of topics because better technology in manufacturing is front and center with data centers too plus a whole lot else that’s tied into what we do for people. So let’s take this week’s entry to look at big data and artificial intelligence and how they’re contributing to redefining what manufacturing is.

Collection of Building Blocks

Getting back to the Industry 4.0 paradigm, it is most characterized by an exponential increase in the use of technology. Software solutions are at the forefront for this, with enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing engineering systems (MES), and computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). Then there are the technology building blocks required for industry 4.0 with the IoT (Internet of Things), cloud computing, low latency network connectivity with 5G / Wi-Fi 6E, and big data analytics. And it’s big data working with the IoT that is situated to have the most integral role in manufacturing processes.

IoT sensors help with the various parts of the manufacturing process by capturing generated data, and the right ones are capable of sending this data over a low latency network to the cloud infrastructure. Data collection is continuous and happens at all times and as a result it is always a huge volume of data that is collected. One single manufacturer could generate terabytes of data every day and so using the term ‘big data’ is warranted here.

Making the right type of sense of the data and incorporating it properly is not easy. Plus, traditional analytical methods don’t fit here because they either can’t be scaled at all or they can’t be scaled anywhere to the extent they need to be. But here’s where AI steps in and assists in a big way. By enabling big data analytics gaining more accurate and usable insights from large volumes of data becomes possible.

To a lesser extent machine learning and deep learning technologies come into play here too.

Proven Impacts

Big data and AI have major impacts on modern manufacturing in more than a few ways. The five biggest of them are these”

  • Supply Chain Improvement

The complexity of most supply chains usually makes them challenging. Multiple vendors, suppliers, customers, warehouses, and distribution centers are all parts of them for most manufacturers. Organizations supply chains produce a large volume of data and existing procedures don’t cut it when making data visible in the way and extent it needs to be. AI can process large volumes of data and give the optimal way to manage the supply chain, plus more efficient synchronization of data from vendors, suppliers, and other supply chain partners. The result has the potential to be a more streamlined end-to-end supply chain.

  • Costs

Artificial Intelligence can also aid in the manufacturing process by reducing costs. Manufacturing facilities are cost-centers for organizations and it’s possible to cut back on the coast for manufacturing operations that boosts profits and / or the ability to sell products at more competitive prices. This can be done through mapping cost distribution and AI can also determine the importance of each line item in the expense table, identify waste, and be more actively involved in maintenance too.

  • Predictions

When it is paired with a large quantity of historical data AI can make solid predictions about various aspects of a manufacturer’s operations. This can be anything from optimizing production according to demand or getting ahead of predictive maintenance can also be done where machine breakdowns are predicted. Better inventory management can be a part of this too.

  • Quality Control

Artificial intelligence can contribute to quality control using hi-resolution images to identify defects. Machine learning and deep learning algorithms compare the products produced with the standard product and this may allow products with shortcomings to be identified and removed from the production line.

  • Product Development

Better analysis of big data may also mean better new products. One thing that is available is usage patterns from consumers made available as digital data. By identifying unfulfilled needs of consumers to develop new products AI can be very effective, and may be contributing to anything and everything from design, testing, production, and marketing to sales.

Andi – New Search Engine Powered by AI and Natural Language Processing

There’s a lot of acronyms out there that people won’t know what they stand for, but if you’ve got any interest in the digital world and / or work in digital marketing you’re going to know what a SERP is. That acronym of course stands for search engine results pages, and it’s well understood that coming in on the 1st page of any browser’s SERPs is pretty darn important for the visibility of your company or whatever interest you have that has you online with your website.

But what if the basis of all that was to be turned on its head, and what the search engine presented to you based on your search query wasn’t a simple list of web pages that match it. That’s the way a new search engine called Andi works, and what makes it different is that it goes further than simply just understanding the question itself. Instead, it uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to instead understand the question and make educated guesses as to the intent of the question.

The one criteria is that for best results the search terms need to be as detailed as possible, but there’s plenty of times when even the longest and most detailed search terms don’t bring back anything more appropriate than what a more basic version would. This is something that gets our attention fast in the same way it would for any Canadian web hosting provider, and naturally as we make it so that websites are on the web and available for indexing in SERPS.

If there’s room for improvement then that’s always the way to go, and there’s plenty to like about the sound of finding exactly what you’re looking for on the web more quickly. So let’s use this week’s entry here to look at Andi in more detail and see if this isn’t one new web browser that’s about to explode in popularity.

Smart Alternative

The Andi search engine mixes large language models and live web data to come up with a more detailed answer to questions entered by searchers. AI and natural language processing are used to understand a question’s intent, and from there the browser will look at the top 10 to 20 results for any given query. The locations that make the cut are then overviewed with large language models to generate a more direct answer to the question, and ideally one that will get the user to where they want to be quicker.

The makers of Andi have said this is something that has been very needed for a long time, and especially given the way the web has evolved over the better part of 30 years. The belief there is that Google – among others – is built for how the web worked 20 years ago. What’s happened is the cognitive overload generated from ads and links overloading the user has gotten the point where it’s distracting and degenerating the web-searching process.

The aim is to provide direct answers to questions, not simply dump out a list of links where you might find that answer. It’s a real departure from the standard way of thinking around all of this, but it’s something that is going to have more and more merit to it as users demand a better web browsing experience.

Geared for Younger Demographic

It’s also very clear that this new browser is designed for a younger demographic and one that simply doesn’t get the same amount of nookie as the generations that came before them. Andi is likened to getting search results in a social media feed, and that may be all that needs to be said about why this new browser type is going to be a really good fit for younger uses.

People from that age demographic who were able to try Andi out said they like the clean reading appearance of the search results too, and all in all it’s believed to be designed so that it lines up with younger users’ preference for visual feeds and chat apps. These are conversational interfaces, and catering to that preference played a big part in how Andi came to be.

It’s a marked departure from every other approach to designing a web browser, and it’s that conversational interface that is going to allow Andi to take on the big guys in Chrome, Edge, Safari and the like. If you feel that too much information, spam, and clutter in the results

There’s some reason to believe this new type of web browser may appeal to older folks too, and that’s because there’s a concurrent belief that users are tiring of Google’s search algorithms not being as objective as people would like them to be. Takes a very discerning user to be able to even conclude that, but there are ever-greater numbers of them in the older segments of users too.

Search Alternatives Needed

The question becomes though how many people will be easily persuaded to move from their current browser to a new and experimental one like Andi. The one thing that will sway them is if they are aware that there is simply too much information online now, and the problem being that most if is not quality information. Many of the newer search engines simply duplicate the look and feel of Google, but new means of intaking and digesting information may be an impetus to slow change.

There are also other ways this browser is going to be different. There will be no charge for the service and it won’t track users’ personal identifying information. There is already talks of it partnering with tools like Amazon Alexa and other kinds of voice-powered search, but departing from the model of current searches where they are bundled with advertising may create a need to create revenue by some means.

Estimates of More Than 3 of 4 Websites Are Stealing Data

It was a long time ago now when browsing the web was a newfound thing, and of course that will be going back to the days of dial-up modems and all the other archaic stuff that we’ve been fortunate enough to leave far behind now. But as much as using the World Wide Web was more of an ordeal back then, the one thing it may have had going for it was it was a much safer and less risky endeavor. We certainly didn’t hear of malware, spyware, or -ware of pretty much any sort and we weren’t at risk of having our data stolen.

No one would suggest devolving when it comes to the Web given everything we use it for these days, and that sentiment is probably universal. For some though the way we’ve swayed to the other far end of the spectrum needs to be a concern, because cyber security risks are more ominous and more of a threat than ever before too. The way the Internet has evolved and continues to evolve is what makes these risks and threats possible in the same way it makes all of the ‘good’ possible too.

What we’re going to look at with our entry this week is research that suggests that upwards of three-quarters of websites are either stealing data, or have the capacity to do so. Here at 4GoodHosting we’re like any quality Canadian web hosting provider in that this is a subject that makes sense to be shared with our customers and those who might be here reading our blog. It’s fine to be reliant on the web safety protocols you either practice or already have in place for your device, but a question for you then – how much of the time are you on the web and NOT on your home Wi-Fi network?

Probably fairly often now, just like the rest of us. So let’s look at all of this in more detail and try to gauge just how much of a problem this is.

Wary of Search Bars

They may seem like nothing out of the ordinary and never a cause for concern, but seeing a search bar at the top of a webpage may need to be cause for caution now and in the future. See one, use it, and there is a chance that your personal information is in the process of being leaked. Leaked to who? Large networks of advertisers who are keen to get as much of your disposable income as possible. This is known as data crawling on the internet, and it’s happening with increasing frequency all the time.

So frequent in fact that research conducted by Norton Labs has come out with an estimate that more than 80% of websites you visit are sending your search queries to 3rd parties, and they’re given plenty of incentives to do that unfortunately. This security experiment crawled 1 million of the top websites on the net, and then once they’d used the internal site search feature on websites they tracked what happened with their searches. The results were a little shocking with how bad they were.

From what we can understand, the search term they used for each was ‘jellybeans’ and the idea behind that was to have search terms easily found in the network traffic. The results showed that with the top websites having internal site search, 81.3% of them were leaking search terms to 3rd party groups in one form or another.

And these are large, and large-profile websites we’re talking about here. For example, the report said that CNN is among them, and for networks we’re talking about giants like Google too. That end of it is probably less surprising, and who knows where the data goes from there when it’s the company behind the software itself that’s after your data. There is also the indication that there are more ways sites are acquiring and selling user data, but HTTP requests made that too muddy to determine exactly.

Policies Come Up Short

The last thing to say about this here is that privacy policies informing users of how data is collected / handled when they visit or search on the site aren’t anywhere near being entirely upfront about it. The estimate was that around only 13% of privacy policies made it clear that search terms could be collected and redistributed as data. Kats said. This makes it so that regular users are not in the know much at all with how their private data is handled based on the complicated wording usually found in privacy policies.

So what is the average person to do? The most straightforward piece of advice is to block 3rd-party trackers so that you are minimizing how much of your data is collected and then shared. You can set this up on Chrome, but some people already prefer browsers like Safari and Brave that have these tools built in. And then of course you have privacy-focused search engines such as DuckDuckGo or Brave Browser.

Smart Approaches to Website Retrofits

Not often that someone builds a house and then does absolutely nothing to improving their home over the course of the entire time they’re living there. Same thing can be said for a place of business, or the business itself. Nearly every business is in the digital space, and there’s thousands that are doing e-commerce explicitly. In these cases the website may well be the house and home for these business in that space, and the same should apply – your website as it is launched is very likely not a finished product. If you’re pleased with it that’s fine, but it is best to take a critical eye to it. And that’s true a week later or many years later.

It may have been enough to get the project going and begin attracting visitors or customers, but ideally this is only the beginning. Staying relevant often means websites must undergo ongoing re-evaluation and re-design. It may even be necessary to completely change things up if you are having issues with bringing in those visitors. Facilitating the ideal digital environment for any visitor browsing your website is what makes that happen best. Even minor changes can be integral in boosting popularity and traffic.

It has been a long time since we have touched on website design here in our blog, and of course as a leading Canadian web hosting provider taking the initiative to put our customers in the know as much as possible when it comes to their site is always going to be a priority. Not everyone is a webmaster who’ll be in their account’s CP panel often, but if you are and you have the wherewithal of how sites work and rank then you’ll want to know when it’s time to improve your website.

So that’s what we’re going to look at with this week’s entry.


We can start by saying that knowing your product or service is very beneficial. You then take that knowledge and ask yourself if your website’s functionality is delivering that information for customers in a manner that will be conducive to them a) finding what they need in the most straightforward manner, and b) continuing to move further through the site and interacting in it in a way that makes them take the actions you’d prefer them to take.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • How is the website’s loading time
  • Is navigating the website and locating ___ without prior knowledge of its structure suitably easy
  • Is the design of the website aesthetically pleasing
  • Does the site function as intended, and do you feel that the UI / UX is in line with that
  • Would adding to the website improve it
  • Does the whole of the website represent your vision for if. If not, why

Another idea is to have a friend or professional acquaintance also look over the website while asking them to perform a specific task. If it’s relatively easy for them to be successful with that task then your website is on the right path. You can ask that person the very same questions that we suggest that you ask yourself during personal evaluation.

Redesign Time?

We get that some people need to have greater expectations for their website, while others will do just fine with using a free website builder through their Canadian web hosting provider. For those that need more of a site and are more reliant on it for the profitability of their business, always being open to a functional redesign is the smart way to view your site.

If that’s you, here is a list of potential scenarios where you must take note and address the problem:

  • Website has a higher-than-average bounce rate
  • More than 3 seconds is needed for initial load time
  • New and fresh content is lacking
  • Mobile devices experience your website poorly (you need a mobile website)
  • Navigating the website’s content and functionality isn’t simple
  • Your website’s design doesn’t match the brand
  • The website has dead links

Tips & Tricks for Website Design

There are some universally-positive attributes for websites, and if you’re evaluating your website for quality for the first time then it can be very helpful to know what to be looking for.

It is best to establish a clean and simplistic design, and the fastest way to do that is eliminating clutter and modernizing the elements of your website. This way the appeal is both aesthetic and functional. It helps to also understand that scrolling is faster and easier than clicking, so it’s best to avoid tabs and overlapping graphical elements like carousels, accordions, and sliders.

You should also look into whether the font you are using for text on the website is good for readability. There is plenty of information online about research that indicates certain ones being better than others. In addition, having good contrast between your text color and background color is helpful, and of course the way the text is written is important too. Hire a web copywriter if this if analyzing this is beyond the scope of your abilities.

Next, understand that whitespace is your friend. It helps guide your visitor’s attention and showcase what is important. You should also try to have visual cues to direct visitors to your website’s right places and ensure there’s no reason why they would miss the key elements you’d like to present. Visual hierarchies are very helpful too. You can provide polls, infographics, or interactive graphical elements with a content-based value which can help you increase the interest and improve the readability of on-page information.

Importance of Your CRM system

A CRM is your customer relationship management system. They provide a way for online projects to store customer and visitor data, track interactions, and share this information with colleagues. CRMs also let online businesses manage their relationships with customers for the growth and expansion business owners will be looking for. So how you do choose the right CRM for your website if you are retrofitting the website?

The process should be something like this:

  • Clearly defining and identifying your goals to figure out what CRM’s functionality would serve your needs best
  • Trying demos of CRM services to get an idea of how it would suit your online business
  • Reviewing compatibility with your design and software on an ongoing basis
  • Determining how well implementation of any one CRM will work
  • Evaluating if your team would use it effectively or require additional training to use as needed