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Redesigning Your Website for 2017   no comments

Posted at Dec 27, 2016 @ 10:21am Web hosting

website redesign 2017

Redesigning your website might be one of the most important business moves you make as 2016 gives way to 2017. A redesigned site can mean more visitors, more sales conversions and a positive impact on your bottom line. Of course, redesigning your website may also be one of the most time- and resource-intensive tasks you undertake this year. That’s why planning ahead is essential. Creating a detailed plan for your site redesign ensures that your efforts will be both time and cost effective, and it helps to ensure that your site truly meets your business needs too. Here are seven steps to take as you develop your website redesign plan.

 

1. Evaluate Your Current Site

Taking an honest look at your current website design is the very first thing you should do if you’re planning a redesign. Start by making a list of what works on your website. Then, make a list of everything that isn’t working. You’ll want to consider basics such as site color, visual layout and your company’s logo. You’ll also need to take website functionality when it comes to navigation, contact forms and e-commerce tools into account. Ask your staff for their opinions about the current site, and be sure to take a second look at any feedback you’ve received from website users too.

Part of evaluating your current site is looking at important metrics. Be sure that you’ve considered:

  • Overall site traffic
  • The bounce rate for visitors
  • Your site’s current search engine ranking
  • Your site’s performance ranking
  • How visitors spend their time on your site
  • The conversion rate from lead to customer for your site
  • The total monthly, quarterly and yearly sales generated by your site.

 

2. Create Goals for Your New Site

Once you’ve evaluated what does and doesn’t work on your existing site, you can start setting goals for your new site. Maybe you want to attract more consumers in your local area, or perhaps you need to redesign your site so that it accommodates visitors on tablets and smartphones. Create both aesthetic and use-related goals to direct the general redesign process.

In addition to creating these general goals, you should also create specific goals based upon current website metrics. For example, you might aim to increase traffic by 50 percent or to improve the search engine ranking of your site. Creating clear goals based on metrics will make measuring the success of your site redesign much easier.

 

3. Get to Know Your Audience

You might think that you know your website audience, but there’s no room for error when it comes to investing in a redesign. Work with your internal marketing team or hire an outside consultant to do research on your target demographic. Understanding who is likely to visit your site and what tools they hope to find on your site will be invaluable during the redesign process. Be sure that you’re also looking at the keywords that visitors are using to find your site so that you can target them during the redesign process.

 

4. Take Stock of the Competition

In addition to getting to know your audience, it’s essential that you get to know your online competition too. Start by reviewing the websites of any major, brick-and-mortar competitors. How are their sites organized? What are they doing to convert visitors into customers? What kinds of resources are they offering to visitors?

Once you’ve evaluated local or real-world competitors that you know about, conduct keyword-driven searches to identify online-only businesses that might be competing with yours. Evaluate these sites using the same criteria you used to evaluate other known competitors. As you evaluate your competition, jot down ideas of how your website can set your business apart from others.

 

5. Identify Your Content Strategy

A visually striking website is important, but a redesign is useless unless you also have a strong content strategy. Decide what types of photos, graphics and text you’ll use to attract visitors to your site and engage them once they’re there. Evaluate the current content of every page of your site, and determine how it can be improved or built upon. Think about the strength of your site’s current SEO strategy and what can be done to improve it.

If your website doesn’t currently feature a blog, now is a good time to consider adding one. Ensure the success of your blog by deciding:

  • How often you’ll create new posts
  • What type of information posts will include
  • Who will write your posts or how you’ll source them

 

6. Make the Big Design Decisions

Once you’ve determined your overall website goals and have decided what type of content you’ll include, you can start making aesthetic decisions. Consider the overall layout of your website, what colors it will use and whether your logo needs to be redesigned. Remember that making your website an extension of your branded image is essential.

Of course, you’ll need to make technical decisions as you make design decisions. These include the framework on which your site will be built and how you’ll meet mobile optimization needs. Be sure to go over site security concerns with your design partner too. Preventing hackers from accessing customer information is essential to building confidence with web visitors.

 

7. Create a Project Completion Timeline

Once you’ve made major redesign decisions, you should create a timeline for your website relaunch. Your chief priority here should be to minimize site downtime and ensure that visitors can still use your site during the redesign process. As your redesign progresses, be sure that you’re meeting your timeline goals. Doing so is essential to budget control and allows you to alert website users of coming changes in a timely fashion too.

As with most big business decisions, the success or failure of a website redesign depends largely on planning. Taking the time to plan now will ensure that you get what you want from your site redesign and that you’re able to stay on budget while doing so too. Make a thorough plan now so that you can kick back and enjoy the success of your new website when it launches.

 

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Written by David Maurer on December 27th, 2016

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cPanel Security 101   1 comment

Posted at Dec 20, 2016 @ 10:15am Web hosting

cPanel Security 101

cPanel provides convenient server access and a user-friendly interface for managing your website. However, like any online environment, it has several potential security problems. As a responsible webmaster, it’s up to you to recognize these vulnerabilities and take steps to close any loopholes hackers could use to access your server or site. Take charge and manage critical access points with these eight cPanel security tips.

 

Create Strong Passwords

From the main cPanel portal to individual email accounts, every login point needs a strong, secure password. Guidelines for length vary, and some sources suggest as many as 14 characters to ensure protection. Longer passwords allow for more complex combinations of numbers, symbols and upper- and lower-case letters. Use a different password for accessing cPanel, FTP, email management and other secure areas, making sure none of them contain obvious information such as phone numbers or birthdays.

If you have trouble coming up with enough different combinations, try an online password generator. A password manager is useful for keeping track of your login information for all of cPanel so that you don’t have to look up each password every time you sign on.

 

Install a Firewall

A firewall lets you access cPanel while keeping unauthorized users out. Think of it as a border patrol for your server, constantly checking to ensure only the right people get through. ConfigServer Security and Firewall (CSF) is a popular firewall application for cPanel designed to serve this purpose. It scans the system on a regular basis and checks authentication logs to keep your site safe from hackers at all times. CSF also provides feedback on how to make your server more secure overall. Since more is better when it comes to security, check these reports and make any necessary changes as soon as possible.

 

Be a “Brute”

Although a firewall can prevent hackers from gaining access to your site, it won’t stop them from trying to log in. Brute force protection is a feature of cPanel used to block IP addresses after multiple failed login attempts. Found in the Security Center section, this option is easy to enable and customize. Use the IP Deny Manager to manually input IP addresses known to be malicious so that they’re never allowed to log on.

You can customize the brute force option, known as cPHulk, by setting how many minutes the tool monitors for repeated logins, the maximum number of failed logins allowed and how long each IP ban stays in place.

 

Stop Anonymous FTP Access

With anonymous FTP, anyone can log in to your site via FTP with only a username and a generic password. This may be useful for sharing files with a large number of people, but it’s like an open door to hackers. When all users can gain access to your server through such a simple process, every file becomes subject to tampering.

Set your FTP preferences to allow only for SSL logins, and require a password to be entered each time. The setting can be found under FTP Server Configuration in cPanel.

 

Make SSH Secure

Secure shell (SSH) is a convenient way to access your site from a remote location. Unfortunately, it can also provide an entry point for hackers. Information sent through SSH is authenticated and encrypted to prevent outside manipulation, so malicious users can’t touch it unless they break through your security measures.

The default port of 22 is the most common setting for SSH access. Changing it to another available port and implementing a security key for logins minimizes the risk of being hacked. Switch the settings from SSH1 to SSH2 for additional protection.

 

Protect Against Hotlinking

Hotlinking is the practice of linking an image or file on one server directly to a page on a remote website. Some people do this in ignorance, assuming the easiest way to embed an image is to use the original link, but it’s generally considered a bad practice. Hotlinked files use bandwidth from your site every time someone accesses them, and this has the potential to overload your servers if too many requests are made.

The Security section of cPanel offers hotlinking protection. Simply enable the setting to prevent third parties from linking to your files. Add an extra layer of security by specifying certain file extensions you don’t want to be hotlinked.

 

Tweak Your Settings

While you’re taking care of the larger security issues in cPanel, make sure you don’t neglect less common settings. Open Tweak Settings under Server Configuration to access an entire list of other possible security measures. With this checklist, you can:

• Help prevent the sending of unauthorized emails, including spam
• Shut down potential email attacks
• Block malicious referrals or redirects from hijacking your site
• Stop the generation of proxy domains
• Require IP validation for cookies
• Set up an additional security token for cPanel access

Enabling these supplemental security settings helps address any remaining vulnerabilities and keep hackers at bay.

 

Stay Updated

Your web host should have automatic cPanel updates in place. If not, go to Update Preferences in the Server Configuration area and enable the setting yourself. Old versions of software, including cPanel, may contain security vulnerabilities hackers can use to access your server. Automatic updates ensure you’re always running the latest version of cPanel with any associated security patches and bug fixes. Go back and check once and a while to confirm updates are running as they should. If not, update manually and contact your web host to find out why the setting isn’t working.

Security is one area of website management where you should never cut corners to save time or effort. The smartest thing you can do is implement proper security measures for cPanel as soon as your hosting account is set up. Don’t wait until disaster strikes or assume the security promised by your web host is enough. Take proactive measures to keep hackers out and stay in control of your cPanel environment.

 

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Written by David Maurer on December 20th, 2016

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10 Essential WordPress Security Tips   no comments

Posted at Dec 6, 2016 @ 12:10pm Web hosting

wordpress security

Failing to protect your WordPress site from potential hackers could leave years of work vulnerable to attack. Malicious users know how to exploit vulnerabilities in unprotected sites, hijack files and plugins for their own use and sabotage functionality.

If you’re not doing all you can secure your site against attacks, it’s time to take action. Use these ten WordPress security tips as a starting point to lock out hackers and protect your web presence.

 

Obscure the Login Page

By default, WordPress users access their login pages via domain names followed by wp-login or wp-admin. Hackers know this and will immediately navigate to these pages when attempting to enter your site. Using a security plugin, you can change the URLs of login and user registration portals. Although this doesn’t prevent hackers from eventually finding these pages, it slows them down and may be frustrating enough to make them give up trying to access your site.

 

Choose Unique User Identification

Using “admin” as your administrator login name is like an open door for hackers. Your login should be distinct to your website and difficult to figure out. One way to ensure your login remains unique is to use the email associated with your WordPress installation instead of a username. Email addresses are harder to guess and offer better authentication for administrator logins.

 

Be a Password Juggler

There was a time when you could stick a few numbers on the end of your dog’s name and call it a reliable password, but in today’s volatile Internet landscape, you need much more than that. Use a password generator to create strong WordPress passwords, and change them on a regular basis. Good passwords include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols in various combinations. The more complex your passwords, the more secure your site will be.

 

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Many sites employ a two-step process to verify the identity of each user attempting to log in. Using the same method on your site means it will take a little longer for you to get to the dashboard, but it may prevent hackers from gaining access to your site. Two-factor authentication lets you choose a secret question or a special code to be after the initial password screen. Some methods use a one-time authentication message sent via text to ensure only authorized users can log in.

 

Install a Security “Watchdog”

Hackers need multiple attempts to get into your WordPress site, and plugins like WordFence alert you to this activity while locking down the site to prevent unauthorized access. Such security plugins act like gatekeepers, watching who tries to log in, sending alerts, checking for file changes and banning offending IP addresses. Reports of activity arrive in your inbox immediately and again in weekly summaries so that you can keep on top of any potential problems.

 

Control Other Accounts

Collaborative or corporate blogs require several user accounts, and this can pose a problem for security unless all users understand how to keep the site protected. Be selective when adding accounts, since every new login creates another potential point of vulnerability. Establish rules about password strength and how frequently passwords should be changed, and make sure each user has a distinct login name. Set individual user permissions at the lowest levels possible so that it’s difficult for hackers to do damage should additional accounts ever be compromised.

 

Use .htaccess to Hide Important Files

Editing the .htaccess file can change certain WordPress functions, including the level of security. With the right code, you can:

  • Disable directory listings to prevent unauthorized users from accessing file listings
  • Hide your wp-config file from malicious users
  • Set which IP addresses are granted administrative privleges
  • Block access to the PHP files for themes and plugins

Remember to back up the existing .htaccess file before making any changes.

 

Stay on Top of Updates

Themes, plugins and the WordPress core are updated regularly to fix known problems, including security issues. Before installing any plugin or theme, check the last time it was updated. Ensure the developers offer continued updates after installation, and stay away from pirated “free” versions of premium plugins.

Run updates as soon as you can to eliminate vulnerabilities. If you have trouble remembering to update or have a tendency to miss notifications, consider setting automatic updates to run on a routine basis.

 

Don’t Neglect “Spring Cleaning”

Make a habit of going through the plugins and themes stored on your WordPress site whenever you run updates. Delete anything you haven’t used in a while or have replaced with something more functional. You may be surprised how many plugins you’ve accumulated while building your site, and getting rid of unused ones eliminates vulnerabilities.

It’s also a good idea to clean up your database from time to time. Find a reliable database cleaning plugin and run it to remove old file versions and other outdated information. As a bonus, your site should load faster and run more smoothly without the extra files weighing it down.

 

Back Up as Often as Possible

No matter how careful you are, there’s always a chance an enterprising hacker could break through your site’s defenses. Creating site backups safeguards all the information on your site, giving you a way to restore everything should your security measures ever fail.

Some hosting companies provide scheduled backups as part of their services, but it’s a good idea to also have your own plan in place. Use a backup plugin or make manual backups on a regular basis, and store the files in a secure place so that you know they’ll always be there if you need them.

 

WordPress site security isn’t a “set it and forget it” measure. After putting initial protections in place, it’s essential to continue monitoring activity and running updates. Keep an eye out for new, stronger security tools, and implement the best combination of plugins and code changes to prevent the majority of attacks.

 

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Written by David Maurer on December 6th, 2016

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4 Ways to Make Your Website Faster   no comments

Posted at Nov 10, 2016 @ 10:51am Web hosting

faster website

Many online business owners make the mistake of overlooking the importance of having a fast website. When you want to get the most from your online presence, the loading speed of your content is one of the most important factors to your success. Your prospects have a lot of distractions fighting for their attention, and you must compete with their friends, family and other advertisers if you want to make any progress.

Web users don’t have much tolerance for slow websites, and most will navigate away if your content takes longer than a few seconds to appear on the screen. So every step that you take to increase your website’s performance will help you attract and retain customers, and you are about to learn how to get moving down the right path.

 

Content Delivery Network

One of the benefits of working online is that you can reach a worldwide audience, and doing so is one of the best ways to enhance your profitability. But when someone downloads your content or accesses your website, the speed at which the content loads will depend on that person’s location. For example, if your hosting server is located in New York, someone who lives in China will encounter delays when trying to access your website.

If your prospects are forced to wait too long, they will often opt to find a local business that can offer them efficient download speeds. You can overcome that problem by using a content delivery network, or CDN. When you have a CDN, your content is stored on several servers around the world. When someone accesses your website or tries to download a file, the CDN will send the files to them from the server that is closest to that person’s location.

 

Reduce Image Size

When crafting great content, including valuable and engaging information is not always enough when you need to attract readers and to keep their attention. When you want to keep your audience’s focus, including images is a great way to reach your desired outcome.

But having too many images on your website can impact the loading speed in a negative way, causing you to lose prospects. Although many people try to remove most of the images from their website, doing so is not your only option. You can try converting your images to a web format to reduce their size without harming their quality.

 

Check Your Scripts

You can find many scripts that will help you captivate and engage your audience, but using too many of them can decrease the loading speed of your website. If you want to speed it up, take a look at each plug-in to determine if you need it and how much it is impacting your site. Disable one script at a time to determine if the changes make a difference in the amount of time that it takes for your content to load. If one of your scripts is causing a lot of harm, consider removing it, but you can also check to see if the developer has released any updates.

 

Upgrade Your Hosting

If you have tried everything of which you can think to improve your loading speed, then you might want to take a look at your hosting provider. If you have a basic plan, then you might not have access to the amount of bandwidth and resources that you need to improve the speed with which your audience can access your content.

If your hosting plan is the source of the problem, then you might want to upgrade to a better provider. Although you likely wish to avoid spending more money than needed, the enhanced speed of an effective hosting plan is an investment that will pay for itself over time.

 

Those who don’t take steps to optimize their website’s loading speed are likely losing more customers than they realize, and you don’t want to repeat the same mistake. Putting in a little effort can go a long way when it comes to keeping your prospects engaged and focused on what you have to say. Optimizing your website is a good place to start when you want to make your content load with enhanced efficiency. But if that step does not help, then upgrading your hosting plan is sure to get the job done.

When your website loads quickly, your customers’ experience will not be interrupted, and they will be that much more likely to make a purchase as a result. The speed with which your content loads is also a reflection of you and your products. When you prevent delays, you are also showing your customers that you care about your reputation, and you will start to earn their respect.

 

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Written by David Maurer on November 10th, 2016

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Email Phishing: Is Your Inbox Safe?   no comments

Posted at Nov 8, 2016 @ 9:48am Web hosting

phishing

When responding to an email or clicking a link, most people don’t think twice. Sending emails has become so common that users rarely consider the danger of phishing and other fraudulent activity. But those who are unaware of the threat are at an even greater risk, and it will likely be too late for them to take action by the time that they notice the problem. The key to avoiding this trap is to educate yourself and to remain vigilant at all times. Although disregarding safety for convenience is becoming common, it’s a pitfall that can have a lasting impact on anyone’s future.

Phishing is the process of posing as another person or as a company to deceive people into giving their personal information away, and criminals have been known to use emails as a way to reach their goals. Knowing about the threat is not always enough when your task is to keep yourself and your bank account safe, and the attack can occur at any time.

A user will be checking their email as they would on any other day. Suddenly, the user spots an email from the bank that asks the user to log in to the account to confirm a recent transaction. But the email was not from the bank, and the user’s information is now in the hands of an identity thief. If you don’t want to encounter this situation, then the following information will help.

 

Don’t Share Sensitive Information Through Email

In a common phishing attack, a criminal will pretend to be someone whom you trust to steal sensitive data. The email could appear as though it had been sent by a friend, boss or business contact, and you might be asked for your account information or pin number. But no credible business will request sensitive data in an email, so the request should be your first red flag.

Rather than sending personal details in an email, pick up your phone and call the company or the individual who requested the information. Although this step might seem a little time-consuming, it can save you from a lot of trouble.

 

Manually Navigate to Web Addresses

Long before sending you a fraudulent email, experienced criminals will put in the effort to clone the website of a bank or business. They will then send an email posing as your bank or another trusted entity, and you will be encouraged to click a link that will take you to a malicious website.

Although the content, logo and other details might appear identical to the real thing, any information that you send will be exposed. Avoiding this type of attack is not difficult. Simply open a separate web browser and manually navigate to the website that you intend to visit.

 

Look for Spelling Errors

Keep in mind that phishing attacks can come from any location on the planet, so a lot of fake emails are sent by those who don’t speak English as their first language. When someone from another country sends a fraudulent email, the message will often contain obvious spelling errors. Some people dismiss the spelling errors that they find, but they will likely have their personal information stolen as a result. Customer service agents can make mistakes, but using caution is the best way to avoid becoming a victim.

Also, even criminals who speak English fluently can make mistakes when typing an email. If you notice anything that seems odd, call the company or person from whom the email appears to originate and ask for verification. If the email is not legitimate, report it as spam and block the domain.

 

Don’t Trust Attachments

Downloading and running email attachments is a good way to get a virus or to have other malicious software installed on your device. In the past, hackers would use screen savers and free games to infect their victims, but hackers can even use Word and Excel documents to inflict damage. After a computer is infected, the malicious code will sometimes automatically email itself to everyone in the victim’s address book. If you want to avoid this problem, never download an attachment that you were not expecting.

 

Having your identity stolen can destroy your credit score, and some people are forced to wait years before they can reverse the damage. Nobody should overlook the threat of phishing, and you can never eliminate the risk entirely. But you can significantly reduce the odds of having your personal information exposed by keeping safety at the front of your mind. Protecting yourself will require some time and effort, but safeguarding your information is always easier than trying to pick up the pieces after an incident occurs. Those who focus on security when communicating online will follow these tips, but they will also use common sense to detect the signs of suspicious activity.

 

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Written by David Maurer on November 8th, 2016

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8 Tips to Get Your Website Ready for the Holidays   1 comment

Posted at Nov 1, 2016 @ 10:10am Holidays,Web hosting

holiday-ready

As the holiday season draws near, it’s time to start thinking about updating your website to capitalize on the increased traffic that often accompanies this time of year. Satisfied customers and a successful holiday season will make any business owner smile, and your website can play a big role in making that happen. Taking extra time to prepare now is a good way to avoid technical problems and other issues during the holidays.

 

Optimize for Mobile Devices

Thanks to the growth of smartphones and other mobile digital devices, online shoppers don’t have to be chained to their computer desks to check off purchases from their holiday shopping lists. Developing a simple and functional theme specifically for your mobile users can increase your potential customer base. The easiest way to do this is to make use of responsive designs. With a responsive design, your website will modify itself automatically to create the optimal layout for the customer’s mobile device; these designs can accommodate both smartphones and tablets. Due to the smaller screen size typical of mobile devices you probably won’t be able to maintain the exact same design from your desktop version, but you can still use the same branding and color scheme.

 

Improve Your Website’s Loading Time

You may want a website with all the latest bells and whistles, but consider your website’s performance before you load it up with high-resolution graphics and elaborate scripts. Sluggish loading times on your website frustrate your customers and may encourage them to shop elsewhere. Before the holidays start, have your technical support team run tests on your website to see how fast each page loads for the average user. Changes to your design, such as reducing large images and eliminating complex coding scripts, can help your website perform better. You can also opt for a better hosting package for your website to see even more improvement in loading speeds.

 

Secure Customer Data

Shopping online is always risky; some websites don’t safeguard customers’ data properly, putting these individuals at risk for identity theft and other issues. Investing in robust security software is a good way to protect your customers’ important data. Your technical support staff should keep apprised of the latest developments in online security to help your customers stay safe. To help alleviate your customers’ concerns, you can include information on your website about the security protocols that you use and offer tips on how your customers can shop online safely.

 

Offer Friendly Customer Support

Browser problems, incorrect stock levels and missing orders are just some of the common customer issues your staff will need to work through. Having enough staff on hand is an essential ingredient to helping your website survive the holidays. If possible, offer a live chat support option to those who are currently browsing your website. Keep an eye on your social media profiles in case a customer tries to reach you through those networks. Some customers may prefer to use email to get in touch with you; using a ticket system to handle incoming customer emails is a good way to keep track of issues. Help your staff to cultivate a customer-centric attitude, and try to anticipate common problems so that you can develop solutions ahead of time.

 

Boost Your Search Engine Presence

Improving your search engine rankings before the holidays begin can help fuel your success during the holiday rush. There are many ways to help boost your search engine rankings, starting with updating older pages on your website; offering fresh information to your visitors is a good way to impress search engines and show that your website is active. Adding special features, such as a blog, can also help. If your blog content is particularly noteworthy, you can expect more traffic to head your way. Your blog content should offer something useful to readers, such as tips for using your products.

 

Prepare a Festive Look

A festive design for your website encourages your customers to start thinking about the holidays. You don’t need to spend excessive money on a festive look; changing some pictures and making some cosmetic changes, such as altering the font color, can help dress up your website. Your holiday look should also include banners displaying any specials you plan to run, including discount codes.

 

Brush Up Your Social Media Presence

Social media networks offer an excellent way to connect with individual customers, generate buzz about your products and direct traffic to your website. Don’t let your social media networks sit unused with only a link to your website; update them frequently and interact with your customers. Make sure your profile on each platform matches so that you have cohesive branding. As the holidays draw near, using social media to announce your specials will help you get more interest from potential customers.

 

Beef Up Your Website’s Server

If your website is unable to handle massive amounts of traffic at once, a crowd of shoppers on big sales days could lead to sluggish performance or an outright crash. Major server problems are not something to be taken lightly; investing in the right server infrastructure for your expected traffic is a good way to avoid these issues. Shared hosting can work for you if your business is small. If your customer base is larger, you might need a dedicated server to keep your website afloat during the holidays. Dedicated hosting costs more than shared hosting, but your site won’t be at the mercy of problems caused by other sites on the server.

 

Examining every aspect of your website before the holidays arrive can help you prepare a strategy to improve customer satisfaction and your own business success. A good website requires many things, including fast loading times, quality customer service and security. Working on these elements early can ensure that your website is ready long before your customers even start to think about tackling their holiday shopping lists with your business.

 

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Written by David Maurer on November 1st, 2016

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6 Ways to Secure and Protect Your Server   1 comment

Posted at Oct 27, 2016 @ 10:44am Web hosting

server-secure

If you have a server, it’s essential that it is protected. Whether the server exists to host files for a website or is networking computers for a business, it needs to be protected from malicious software and hackers. Malicious software can include a variety of types of harmful programs, including malware, viruses and rootkits.

Failing to secure a server can lead to lost or corrupted data, damage to devices connected to the network and unauthorized individuals getting access to sensitive data. There are a number of ways that you can protect your server, and they go beyond simply having a suite of protection software in place, although that is also key.

 

Anti-malware Software

Even if you’re renting server space from a third-party, you still need protection against malware. Large names in security make software that can protect servers from malware, and many are available as suites that allow you to get firewall, antivirus and antispam protection all in one package. You may also decide to select individual programs to provide protection for your server. The main thing is that you have a complete set of software that protects against intrusion and will scan files for viruses and the like.

 

Keep Your System Updated

One way that hackers get into many systems is by going through weak points that developers did not notice when creating a piece of software or an operating system. This is why both computers and mobile devices need regular updates. Along with offering new options, updates close off back doors and holes in the security of software.

Therefore, it’s important that all software hosted on a server is kept up to date. For hosting servers, that means even content management systems and the plug-ins the CMS uses must be kept current. Many operating systems and software suites can be set up to update automatically, but if you’re not comfortable with that, it’s important that you have some way of being notified when important changes are available.

 

Change Default Settings

There are a variety of default settings that come with programs and even operating systems. They include everything from preset usernames and passwords for admin access to default connection ports. Anything that is left as set up by the software manufacturer may be used as a way to gain easier access to a system.

If you can change, without causing problems for the system, addresses, folders, logins and port settings, you should do so. Even leaving the URL for admin access to a server or programs on the server can make it easier for hackers to get in. There are hacking tools that specifically scan websites and servers for default URLs and folders, so changing default login locations is important. On this same basis, it’s a good idea to make sure that directories are protected so that people cannot see their contents.

 

Use Robust Passwords and Keep Track of Permissions

Another important part of keeping a server secure is to ensure that passwords are robust and that people are only given access to areas that they need to do their job. Aside from malice, giving an intern administrative access to databases could lead to major problems through simple error.

Two key parts of keeping a server secure in relation to passwords are ensuring that simple passwords are not in use and that passwords are changed on a regular basis. There are a number of ways to tackle the issue of making sure passwords are complex enough, including using computer generated passwords or using passphrases. Computer generated passwords normally require certain characters, length and require a combination of upper and lower case letters; passphrases are combinations of words, and they tend to be easier to remember and more secure than passwords. There should also be a set time that passwords expire, which will require users on the network to change them on a regular basis.

Along with ensuring that people are only given access to parts of a server that they need to have, it’s important that permissions are updated when people leave a job or move to a different part of the company. This can be done with proper database management and doing occasional audits to ensure that access levels are appropriate.

 

Employ Brute Force Detection and Active Monitoring

Another important part of keeping a server secure is knowing what is happening with it at all times. Even the best anti-malware software cannot prevent all intrusions, and hackers are constantly figuring out new ways to circumvent security systems. Therefore, it’s important that activity on a server is always being monitored.

Things that normally indicate a problem include incredibly high data transfer or processing power use as well as multiple failed login attempts. Brute force hacking involves trying to login to a system over and over again with different login and password combinations. In addition to draining system resources, it can also eventually allow a hacker to find a combination that lets them into your system. Real-time monitoring can help detect these issues and alert the appropriate people, and it can also shut down brute force login attempts.

 

Encryption

There are a number of types of data that you should be encrypting when they are transferred through a server. Logins, personal information and database information need to be encrypted, and it’s important that the highest level of encryption that works with the system is used. Lower level and older types of encryption are easy for many hackers to break through, so while they’re better than nothing, they’re still not providing proper protection for your server’s data.

When hackers can break your server’s encryption, they may be able to gain access to a variety of sensitive information, which can include login details. As with everything else, encryption upgrades may need to be done periodically to ensure that you’re using the latest and most effective methods available.

 

For those of you who feel there’s just not enough time in your day to maintain your server’s security, or if you just prefer someone else does it for you, at TurnKey Internet we got your back. We offer Fully Managed solutions that include Server Hardening. We’ll take care of securing and protecting your server so you can focus on running your business. For more information, visit https://turnkeyinternet.net/managed/

 

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Written by David Maurer on October 27th, 2016

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Your Slow Website is Killing Your Business – Here’s Why   no comments

Posted at Oct 11, 2016 @ 9:12am Web hosting

slow-website

If you’ve ever waited for a slow website to load, you know how frustrating it is. It only takes a few seconds – if that – for you to start getting impatient and considering going to another site.

Visitors to your site feel the exact same way. People have grown increasingly accustomed to instant results, and most web users expect web pages to show up on their screen right after clicking or tapping. A slow website can directly, and negatively, impact your sales and ability to draw in new clients.

However, it’s not just sales that take a hit when your website is crawling. Slow load times can result in reduced search engine rankings and depressed conversion rates. Additionally, a slow website is often the sign of a design problem, which may mean that you’re using more bandwidth to do less.

 

 The Five Second Rule

According to a recent study, one-third of online shoppers will leave your site if it takes more than five seconds to load. Along with the fact that five seconds is a very short amount of time to work with, the study found that people are getting more impatient; a previous study showed that you had six seconds before people left.

If that weren’t bad enough, a study done by Google that specifically looked at mobile users found that these individuals are even more impatient. More than half of those involved in the study will leave a mobile website if it doesn’t load in three seconds.

What this means is that your website design needs to focus on speed instead of design elements. To ensure that people will go to your website – and stay – your site needs to be fast and streamlined.

 

 Load Time Affects Sales

If you’ve got your website loading under five seconds, you may get visitors to stick around, but it won’t necessarily net you a sale. The study that found many people will leave after five seconds also determined that a 2.4 second load time led to the highest conversion rates. This is backed up by data collected by Kissmetrics, which showed that a one second delay in website response time can lead to a seven percent conversion rate drop.

The collected data also showed that people who made purchases from a site but were unhappy with the site’s performance were less likely to buy from the site again. In other words, the bare minimum to get someone to stay may be five seconds, but if you want to make a sale, and keep making sales, your site may need to load even faster.

 

 Google Is Impatient Too

Load times don’t just affect whether or not a potential customer stays on your website. They may also play a part in determining if someone ever arrives at your site. This is because Google looks at user experience when calculating search engine rankings.

There are a number of factors that go into user experience, but load time is a significant one. Search engine ranking is very competitive since it determines where your site shows up in search results and if it shows up on the first page. With less than 80 percent of people clicking to the second page of search results, it’s essential that you’re doing everything you can to be on page one.

Google offers a website to check your site’s performance, and according to the search engine, a score of 85 or higher out of 100 means that your site is doing well. Anything below that likely spells trouble when it comes to your search engine rankings.

It’s also important to note that Google has started to give websites that are mobile friendly higher rankings when people do a search from a mobile device. If you have a desktop site that loads quickly but don’t create an equivalent mobile site, you could see a drop in your mobile search rankings.

 

 Slow Load Times Could Mean Back End Problems

There are a variety of reasons that your website may be running slowly or simply not loading as quickly as visitors would like. Many common reasons relate to design, such as running too many scripts or filling up the page with large media files.

These problems can be resolved easily by streamlining a website and cutting down on files and scripts that bog the loading process down. Doing this may help to improve the performance of your web server as well. If the media files on your site that are taking up enormous amounts of bandwidth are compressed or if you reduce the number that load on your site, you could see a lot of resources freed up.

However, slow load times, especially if you have optimized your website, may indicate that there’s a larger problem with your server or the network you’re running on. It could be that you need more bandwidth, system resources or to change your service provider.

 

While attractive and innovative website designs may be appealing, if you’re in the business of selling, your focus should be on a website that loads quickly and is easy to navigate. Shaving just a second off of the load time of your site and pages within it could mean a dramatic difference in conversion rates and sales, and it could also improve your search engine rankings.

 

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Written by David Maurer on October 11th, 2016

SSL: Protecting Your Website and Customers   1 comment

Posted at Sep 6, 2016 @ 8:47am Web hosting

SSLHero

SSL certificates are crucial for websites that offer anything for sale as they provide a level of privacy and security that is necessary to ensure that customers are comfortable shopping there. In fact, many people will simply leave their full shopping cart in your virtual aisle and refuse to purchase anything from your website if they realize that it does not have an SSL certificate.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is used to transmit private information online in a manner that keeps it private. Customers will know that any information that they provide you is being kept safe from prying eyes if https:// precedes your website address, and a lock icon is located to the left of it. Banks and other major financial institutions have used SSL certificates, which were initially developed by Netscape in 1994, for some time.

 

How Does It Work?

The data that is being sent is immediately encrypted, causing somebody attempting to hack into it to not be able to read it as all they will see is an undecipherable list of letters and numbers. The information will then arrive on the recipient’s end after being unencrypted into its original form so that it can be read and utilized as was originally intended.

Data being sent without the use of SSL certificates could either be hijacked by a hacker and then used for their usually nefarious purposes or it could even be altered en route to its destination without the sender or the recipient realizing that any changes had been made to it.

These digital certificates also ensure that the personal and private data is being sent to the secure site it’s supposed to go to and not being diverted to one that could be malicious.

 

It Works Both Ways

Any information that those running a website send to interested parties is also encrypted when using SSL certificates. These can include newsletters, promotional codes and vouchers as well as any information that you send during the purchasing process that you want to ensure is not intercepted and stolen or altered en route.

 

Indirect Benefits

Using SSL certificates is a wonderful way to increase your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). In 2014, Google announced that it will be giving rankings boosts to websites using this layer of protection. Although having this level of trust in your website is not going to impact the search engine results as much as the quality of your content, it will give you a leg up as far as search engine results go when competing against otherwise similar websites. Google may also increase its importance down the line.

 

Differences

Single certificates cover one domain name. Wildcard certificates are valid for one domain name and any subdomains underneath it. Multi-domain certificates are good for multiple domain names.

Domain validation certificates offer the most basic level of protection; they cover basic encryption and verify that the person whose name or email address is associated with the website has control over it. However, they do not verify exactly who this individual or company is or how much control he or she has over the website’s content or where information sent through it actually goes.

Organization validation certificates provide a more thorough validation process by checking on the applicant’s credentials and doing things like making sure the individual or company’s physical address matches up with the application and that they have a legal right to own and run that website. Businesses should at the very least use this certificate as domain validation certificates just do not provide the safety and trust that is usually necessary.

Extended validation certificates are the ones that offer the most security as a thorough examination is conducted before it is provided, assuring visitors that the individual or company being represented is accurate and that the entity possesses the rights necessary to operate that website. These certificates should be used by any websites that ask customers to provide especially sensitive information such as credit card numbers.

 

Which Certificate to Get?

Websites that garner a low level of traffic and do not ask visitors for information more personal than usernames and passwords can use domain validation certificates. A couple of the main benefits of going this route is that these certificates are more affordable and issued much more quickly.

However, if you are or will be receiving a decent amount of traffic or asking your visitors for any financial information or other sensitive date such as addresses, telephone numbers or social security numbers, you should at least get an organization validation certificate.

The extended validation certificates do provide the most protection and trust, but they are also the most expensive and take the longest to receive. Medium to large organizations tend to be the ones most apt to purchase these, but you should definitely consider it if you are or plan to be in one of those categories.

At TurnKey Internet we offer SSL certificates on all of our hosting plans as well as include a free SSL with every Reseller and SEO package. If you have any questions regarding which SSL solution is right for you or how to get started, feel free to email our support team (helpdesk@turnkeyinternet.net)

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Written by David Maurer on September 6th, 2016

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WordPress, Joomla, Drupal – Which CMS is best?   1 comment

Posted at Aug 11, 2016 @ 10:32am Web hosting

CMS

In the world of Content Management Systems (CMS) there are 3 major contenders: WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. If you are creating a new website, you may be asking yourself which one is best. All three have their own pros and cons, and all three are free to use, open-source software. Let’s take a brief look at each one to see which CMS is right for you.

 

WordPress

Created back in 2003 and currently running on more than 70 million websites, WordPress is by far the most popular CMS out there. It started out as just a simple blogging tool, but has evolved into a full, feature-rich, content management system. With it’s extremely easy to use interface, you can create a website in only a matter of minutes. Plus, with the endless amount of free themes and plugins available for WordPress, it’s easy to make your website look great. However, popularity does have it’s drawbacks. For instance, WordPress is one of the biggest targets for hackers. It is critical you keep it up-to-date to prevent attacks on your website. Regardless, with it’s intuitive design and countless number of free customizations, this easy to manage CMS demonstrates why it’s a popular choice.

 

Joomla

Considered the second most popular CMS out there, Joomla is also easy to use, but is a bit more complex and requires a higher skill level than WordPress. It has less free customizations when compared to WordPress, however when it comes to E-Commerce sites, Joomla excels and tends to be a favorite choice. It is also considered to have one of the strongest developer communities. Joomla is based on PHP and MySQL, giving more advanced developers the ability to create a powerful web application. With a minor amount of effort into learning Joomla’s terminology and structure, you can go on to create a fairly complex website. If you are looking for something still fairly easy, but with more flexibility than WordPress, Joomla might be the one for you.

 

Drupal

Drupal is ranked as the third most popular CMS in the world. It is regarded as the most complex, with the highest learning curve of the three. Drupal has a greater amount of free customizations and themes available when compared to Joomla, but less than WordPress. It is considered to be one of the most versatile and robust content management systems available today. When it comes to websites that contain a large amount of complex data with heavy visitor traffic, Drupal is an excellent choice due to the speed and strength from its advanced structure. However, all of this comes at the cost of needing more experience and expertise to truly utilize this powerful, developer friendly CMS. If you are looking for an enterprise-ready CMS that will scale with your growing business, look no further than Drupal.

 

Whether you are a beginner looking to start a blog, an expert developer creating a complex, versatile site, or somewhere in between, one of these three CMS applications will definitely get the job done. Best of all, they are free to use and support simple one-click installations. So if you are currently hosted on TurnKey Internet’s cloud platform, getting started couldn’t be any easier! The question then becomes not which one is best, but instead, which one is best for you.

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Written by David Maurer on August 11th, 2016

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