Category Archives: Web Hosting

Cheat-Sheet: What You Need to Know to Select a Web Host

Web Hosting

Web hosting may not be the most glamorous tech topic, but the wrong host can have a deeply negative impact. More people are having to make this decision as the cloud becomes more popular. Here’s what you need to know to focus your efforts.

  • Don’t Forget the Back End
  • Just How Fast is Cloud Growing?
  • What You Need to Know: 5-Point Guide

Don’t Forget the Back End

Typically when we think of the Web, we talk about the front end. That’s not just true of consumers but businesspeople as well. Unless we have a position that focuses on data centers and infrastructure, the Internet seems to be about design and user experience; the way the site is run and stored and backed up is much less tangible and seems to be a secondary concern.

Clearly that’s not the case. “It’s your digital identity’s lifeblood,” notes Zach Katkin of Inspired Mag. “[A] down host means a down site, means no business, means lost customers.”

It’s true. Effects of poor web hosting can be devastating, such as damage to your search prominence and potentially even blacklisting (if the company hosts enough illicit activity).

Since cloud hosting is becoming such a standard choice in business, it’s increasingly important for companies to closely examine the options in this competitive market. Let’s look at the growth of cloud and guidance for choosing a host.

Just How Fast is Cloud Growing?

Organizations are implementing more cloud solutions all the time, with a mind-bending 71% increase in cloud software adoption just in 2015 alone. (In fact, infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS, is now growing even faster than software-as-a-service, or SaaS).

What accounts for this somewhat absurd growth? Let’s look at the software side. Adoption of cloud apps in industries without a strong compliance focus grew 100% between 2014 and 2015, but the phenomenal growth rise was in the compliance-focused sectors – healthcare and finance – which saw an almost 200% increase.

Enterprises are also generally starting to pick up the pace, comments Bitglass CEO Nat Kausik. “Industries like education and communications are leading the move to cloud,” he says, “but the surprise is that large corporations, even in heavily regulated industries, are gaining confidence in using cloud apps.”

Part of the reason cloud is succeeding more among regulated companies, says Kausik, is that third-party security services now exist to provide an additional layer of protection. Sure, but the most important thing is that the cloud providers themselves have long records of meeting international standards and compliance mechanisms.

RELATED: At Superb Internet, we are audited and certified to meet the strictest security and compliance standards. Here are just a few of the standards and laws we meet: SSAE-16; ISO 27001 and ISO 9001; full-staff ITIL certification; and FISMA, HIPAA, and PCI. Learn more.

What You Need to Know: 5-Point Guide

As this piece is being written, a hosting company in the United Kingdom is scrambling to recover its reputation after a technical glitch deleted more than five dozen virtual private servers, knocking some sites offline for days. Any business action you take involves risk, but clearly you want to avoid a hosting horror story like that.

Here is a five-point guide to decide what company should host your website and apps:

#1 – Huge brands aren’t always the best choice.

Going with a brand name you recognize can end up being a huge disappointment, according to How To Start a Blog Online founder Muhammed Abdullahi. “Their servers often had issues and made my sites load slowly and go down too often,” he says. “Their customer care agents were often too lazy, clueless or too busy with other things to properly offer help when I needed it.”

#2 – Don’t scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Everyone wants to get the best value – as good of a service as we can get for the price. That obviously should not be the only factor when making a key decision, though. Some web hosts don’t have any credibility and can’t provide the quality of service a business needs.

#3 – Make sure the site has satisfied users.

A good company will have strongly positive responses from its customers, says Victor Ijidola of The Next Web. (Ours are here).

#4 – Check uptime guarantees.

Be aware of what an uptime guarantee is. Hosting services sometimes experience unscheduled downtime, and that means your business is thrown off-track. Ijidola recommends looking for companies that offer uptime of at least 99%. (However, that would effectively mean your website isn’t accessible almost four days a year, which is why we guarantee 100% uptime.)

#5 – Verify that the system is fast.

As we discussed above, the infrastructure or backend that supports your site and apps should not be a cause of grief, and that’s especially the case if you are pouring time into the design and user-friendliness.

“Having a lean and faster loading pages helped us improve our conversions and bounce rate,” says Tony Brown in The Next Web. “[T]hat evidently helped us rise above the search results as well.” (Notably, our use of enterprise-grade solid-state drives for our cloud, along with InfiniBand and distributed architecture, all accelerate your business.)

CDN – Basic Description and Setup Guide

If you have ever looked at the Google PageSpeed Insights tool or otherwise explored performance optimization, you know that there are many different ways to achieve faster delivery of your content: browser caching, script minification, image optimization, etc. Patrick Sexton, the author of the thorough Google Webmaster guidelines site Feedthebot.com, stresses that the content delivery network, a.k.a. CDN, is now fundamental to Internet success: “CDNs are becoming a defacto part of a webmaster’s toolkit, and even if you don’t get one now you will probably have to do so later.”

Sexton is of course not the only one who feels that way, and that’s reflected in a report on CDN trends, geographical analysis, and market predictions released by marketsandmarkets.com in March. The 196-page report, which details the in-depth findings of the research firm’s analysts, reveals how the CDN market will expand from a $3.7 billion industry in 2014 to a $12.2 billion industry in 2019. While the worldwide Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) is phenomenal at 27%, the APAC region is particularly stunning in this sector, with a 38% CAGR forecast over the next five years.

What are CDNs & How Do They Operate?

A content delivery network, also called a content distribution network, is a distributed deployment of servers located in various data centers in disparate geographical locations. The CDN structure is designed to deliver content to the visitors of a site rapidly and with high availability. You may notice that the CDN is a similar concept to the public cloud, and most content delivery networks are now cloud-based. CDNs serve a sizable percentage of Internet content, such as web objects (e.g., graphics), downloadable objects (e.g., media files), applications (e.g., transaction software), and streaming content.

A CDN often operates as a form of software as a service (SaaS), which is a type of cloud computing. Content, as one copy or multiple, can exist on different servers in locations thousands of miles away. A user in a particular location requests content from a CDN hostname, and the DNS points to the best possible server. Factors that make the server ideal are the following, although location is touted the most highly (since it has a huge effect on latency, in turn impacting user experience and search engine optimization):

  • Geographical Location
  • Resource Availability
  • Cost of Delivery.

Setting Up Your CDN

Here is a quick setup guide (in the form of questions) from Sexton (mentioned above). We of course all want everything to be as simple and fast as possible, but he recommends setting aside an initial two hours for ideal integration of your site with the network, noting that it is well worth the effort: “A properly set up CDN will always outperform.”

What files are you serving with the CDN?

Typically a CDN will serve your webpage assets, such as images, JavaScript, and CSS files. You want those files on the CDN so that your assets are as close as possible to each user. Often, the HTML goes through your web host, while the assets go through your CDN.

How do you get your files onto the CDN?

Sexton points out that with some content delivery networks, it is not easy to perform this step. With strong CDN companies, you just supply simple information such as the URL of your site and some other basic descriptive information. As CDN’s are becoming more prevalent, they are also becoming much easier to use. Much of the process should be automated, particularly if you have a content management system (CMS) on your site, such as WordPress or Joomla.

How should you designate your URLs?

Once you’re hooked up to the CDN, your files will have different URLs. Sexton uses the example of a CSS file that is currently called “yourwebsite.com/css/main.css.” Within a CDN, it might look something like this: “hyg375674355345scfd34/main.css.” That may seem shocking at first, but you don’t have to keep that name. Figure out a name that makes sense to you, such as “cdn.yourwebsite.com.” Use the CNAME tool so that the new location of your CSS file is “cdn.yourwebsite.com/main.css.”

Are your webpages calling the correct files?

This step can be challenging, but it’s simple with WordPress and other standard content management systems. You want the CMS to swap your files out with a caching tool, such as W3 Total Cache. Caching plug-ins are critical to page speed, and they also largely automate this step.

How do I test?

Typically a CDN will have a control panel that allows you to see how your files are being used. You can also go to a service such as webpagetest to check functionality in various regions.

Should you be concerned about search engine optimization (SEO)?

It’s reasonable to wonder whether adjusting the names of your files could damage your search engine rankings (even as the increased speed helps them). A high-quality content delivery network will account for that, such as Sexton’s example of a remote “robots.txt.”

Going Live

Although the above steps may sound somewhat complicated, it’s typically a matter of “set it and forget it” – as Sexton puts it, “The initial setup is the main task.” The Superb CDN will save your visitors substantial time, which translates to better engagement and higher conversion rates. Benefit from our 172 points of presence in 43 countries today: chat with an expert now.

By Kent Roberts

Image Credit: Success Creations

Content Amplification and Delivery Networks – Use the Force for Good, Not Evil

Everyone has gone content crazy, and those who manage, sell, and produce content are scrambling to keep pace with the business opportunity. As indicated by Kieran Flanagan of HubSpot, statistics for the search terms “content marketing” and “link building” paint a 20/20 picture: while link building is steadily descending, content marketing is shooting upward in 2014. Statistics show that 7 out of 10 B2B content marketers are creating more content today versus 12 months ago, while 6 out of 10 B2B marketers plan to increase their spending on content throughout the next year.

Caitlin Roberson of Skyword notes that many content marketers do not understand content strategy. In fact, a 2013 Forbes article notes that only 15% of content professionals are able to define the business value of their services in real numbers. Roberson argues that understanding and implementing amplification techniques can help to set your content apart from the competition. We will look at her ideas below.

Beyond the thoughts expressed by Roberson, content delivery networks (CDN) represent an amazing tool to amplify the effectiveness of your content (and obviously, like Roberson, I’m using a broader understanding of content amplification than connecting it with paid media). Just how powerful are CDN’s? Well, ask the Dark Side. A security study from Blue Coat Systems released in August (2014) found that most websites are “one-day wonders,” sprinting to the top of the charts like Mott the Hoople with “All the Young Dudes,” propelled by the power of web optimization apps and content delivery networks. As the title suggests, content amplification is the thunder hammer of Thor: use it for good, not evil.

Content Amplification Definition

As indicated above, content amplification is a buzzword, but different bloggers and thought leaders are using it in different ways. Some see it strictly in terms of connecting content marketing strategies with paid media, so that would be something like a Google +Post ad (and props to me for thinking of that example before realizing the slogan for that product is, “Amplify your content and create conversations across the web”).

Rather than looking at amplification in terms of one fairly specific application, Roberson sees it more broadly, agreeing with the following definitions:

  • The use of strategies that increase traffic rapidly and affordably (Convince & Convert).
  • Methods that create social traction and website traffic, giving you a better chance at conversion (Brandpoint).

In other words, from a broad perspective, we can think of content amplification in terms of search engine optimization, content delivery networks, whatever – anything that increases your reach.

Content Amplification Strategies

Here are four quick tips from Roberson, followed by a discussion of the Dark Side of amplification efforts.

  1. Search engine optimization is still a thing – Roberson typed into Google, “how to submit to,” and one of the suggestions that popped up, directly below “how to submit to your husband” (I’m not making that up, although I wish I were), was “how to submit to product hunt.” Unfamiliar with Product Hunt, she proceeded to download the app, a case in point that search analytics can help to amplify.
  2. Integration with sales – Roberson says to strive for “horizontal buy-in” of content from your salespeople. Get them involved. Get them to tell you stories. Profile them in the blog. Transcribe insightful interactions. Shoot out easily shareable emails with an @mention of any sales parties involved.
  3. Broaden your appeal – Your buyer personas may be too narrow. How do you get to other types of decision-makers? Consider working together with other marketing teams to access each other’s base. You might also want to start an additional site that blogs on a theme that appeals to your base but isn’t directly related.
  4. Get your halo effect on – Network throughout your company and externally. Create connections by finding subject matter experts (SMEs) in your ranks and elsewhere in the business world. Take individual customer experiences and turn them into educational content. Feature partners and experts.

Content Amplification – The Dark Side

Referencing the Blue Coat Systems study, Ellen Messmer of NetworkWorld described the Internet as “endless bubbles popping to the surface for only a day, then vanishing.” Sites that are here today and gone tomorrow present confusing potential security threats.

Security company Blue Coat looked at over 600 million hostnames over a period of three months. Amazingly, 71% of those sites were only active for 24 hours.

The report noted that the sites are effectively using content delivery networks to access traffic. CDN’s are fast and incredibly reliable, and that makes them popular with goodhearted and malicious parties alike. Unique subdomains are used to organize content for one particular request or session or user, after which it is dropped: “A by-product of these CDN architectures is the proliferation of One-Day Wonders.”

Blue Coat reported that of the 50 highest trafficked domains, one in five were fronts for malware. One of the .info sites was the home of a Trojan dialer, just a simple “surprise” site. It had over 1 million subdomains. Beyond content delivery networks, the other primary strategies used were riding on blogging sites such as Tumblr and running web optimization software.

Content Amplification – The Light Side

Don’t be a bad guy. Just create great content and spread it rapidly across the globe. The Superb Content Delivery Network (CDN) speeds up your site by distributing your content to 172 data centers in 43 nations. Chat with an expert now.

By Kent Roberts

Image Credit: Today.com

The Top 10 Reasons Why Your Website Should Be on the Cloud

Remember back in the day when website cloud hosting was some crazy, scary, futuristic concept that you couldn’t possibly imagine your website turning to? Yeah, well, those days are long since passed. Today, the cloud is a viable option for a website hosting solution. In fact, in many cases it’s much more than just viable – it’s ideal. Yes, you could go with shared hosting, virtual private server (VPS) hosting or dedicated hosting, but the cloud has a number of excellent advantages that makes it superior. What are they? So glad you asked.

Performance

When your site is up in the cloud it gets its very own server, meaning there is basically zero competition for resources. Compare this to shared hosting, in which your customers often suffer from performance issues that are caused by, well, sharing. Since there are multiple users on the same server, everyone has to fight for resources. This is particularly problematic if someone else sharing your server is a major resource hog. Websites with heavy traffic flow have more requests coming in, which means the system is under heavier strain, and there are fewer resources for everyone to share. The worst part about this is that it is not easily overcome (barring the implementation of sophisticated monitoring tools able to throttle for one customer when the load is heavy).

Continue reading The Top 10 Reasons Why Your Website Should Be on the Cloud

Xen vs. OpenVZ & Shoelaces vs. Velcro, Part 2

 

Xen Topology
Xen Topology (Photo credit: lindztrom)

At Superb Internet, we have virtual private servers (VPSs) as an alternative to dedicated or shared hosting. As you may be aware, the VPS solution lies between dedicated and shared. Essentially, it allows you a plot of server soil to call your own while not causing you to have to bear the upfront cost and maintenance expenses of an entire independent server.

In this article, we are looking at two potential platforms you can use to establish and run a VPS: Xen and OpenVZ. The comments of Scott Yang (HostingFu), VPS6.net (via HostingDiscussion.com), and Steven (The Linux Fix) all bolster our sense of the subject and provide a well-rounded picture. Note that our company works specifically with OpenVZ – and the reasoning for that is briefly provided at the conclusion of this three-part series.
Continue reading Xen vs. OpenVZ & Shoelaces vs. Velcro, Part 2

Xen vs. OpenVZ & Shoelaces vs. Velcro

OpenVZ

One of the types of hosting we offer is the virtualized private server, or VPS. This three-part series will look at how two different virtualization systems, OpenVZ and Xen, compare. Note that we use OpenVZ for a number of different reasons, which we will cover briefly in the conclusion to the series, but our general assessment will look at the two platforms from various angles.

We will draw primarily from discussion by Scott Yang of HostingFu, VPS6.net via HostingDiscussion.com, and Steven from The Linux Fix. Citing general advice sources will allow us to talk openly about the subject so you can determine what virtual environment makes the most sense for you.

Shoelaces and Velcro create a similar conundrum for business people, so I’ll also cover that debate. Shoelaces, as we all know, are a terrible idea. They are constantly coming untied. Tying your shoe involves making these two loops and twisting them around each other, whether they want to be twisted or not. It’s aggressive, forceful, and complicated – very similar to punk square dancing. Velcro, though, is seen by many key influencers as a more efficient and sophisticated way to tighten your shoes.
Continue reading Xen vs. OpenVZ & Shoelaces vs. Velcro