Tag Archives: CMS

How to Speed Up Your WordPress Server (Part 1) … Plus Some Jokes

English: WordPress Logo

Anyone in the mood for some speed? Not the kind you popped to pull all-nighters during college (remember the intervention? it was awkward): the kind that populates your site on all PCs and mobile devices in the tri-state area like lightning, without the electrocution part. At Superb, we host a heck ton (that’s how the kids say it, right?) of WordPress sites. Here below we will look at a few quick ways to speed up that server, courtesy of commentary at TekBrand and Pure Concepts.

Be aware, folks (space aliens, that doesn’t mean you), Superb Internet has something amazing in store for you and yours – 18 months of WP hosting for the price of 12. Hurrah! That’s like a baker’s dozen, but the baker goes completely crazy and throws in 6 extra (5 more than the standard 13 for a baker) doughnuts. “Kyle, take it easy,” says Jiminy, the bakery’s GM and financial wizard. “Doughnuts don’t grow on trees, except maybe an undiscovered tree in the Amazon. It’s right next to the tree with the cure for cancer. Grab me a paper towel, and go take a long walk in the hot sun.”

Speed Up Your WordPress Site, Now! (Or Tomorrow, or the Next Day …)

Here’s an interesting thought from Jason McCreary at Pure Concepts (note that his thoughts are excerpted from presentations he gave at WorldCamp Chicago & WorldCamp Louisville, neither of which involve actual camping, but both do exist in the world): WordPress is heavy, and so many websites run on the CMS that it is slowing down the entire Internet. Say what?! Let’s set an example for our children, our children’s children, and the free-spirited robots: let’s speed this sucker up. I’ll share a few of Jason’s thoughts first in Parts 1 & 2, then get into the TekBrand piece in Part 3.

  1. Generating a Faster Site – Optimizing your WordPress speed also involves some changes that would affect your site whether it’s on WordPress or not. The reason that’s important is because baby, WordPress doesn’t own you (unless you signed a really awful contract in a Tennessee motel room in 2009, as more than 16,000 Americans inexplicably did). When you move to another CMS, guess what? (Pause while you guess.) No, not quite: You will know how to make that site fast too. That’s what you said? My bad.
  2. Code Validity – Use this tool – the W3C Code Validation Tool –so that pages render correctly. Bad code will slow down your site or make it display incorrectly. A pox upon it.
  3. Permalinks – That’s my sausage brand. Original name: Chock Full o’ Preservatives. Note that WordPress uses permalinks to access each page of your site. You want your URLs to fit the WP structure well. In the new WP version, Jason mentions the site load time decreases only @ 1% between /%postname%/ and /%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/. Note that Jason advises to always consider SEO over speed, so do what you gotta do (plus, it’s closing time).
  4. Nix Plugins – Streamline the site. Is your site constipated with plugins? Well, then let’s give it a laxative. Jason recommends a regularly scheduled plugin audit to ensure everything is worth the decrease in speed – it’s all weight, after all. (We could also invent a piece of software that goes in and clears out all the debris, but that’s like having your shifty cousin organize your condo for a case of beer.)
  5. 404s & Settings > Discussion – Do you want any of these? Jason advises “No” to all three. Get rid of 404s (pages that have nothing on them except your nutty 404 page copy – oh, you silly duck!). Pingbacks and trackbacks can be an open door for spammers to abuse your site; plus, they use up bandwidth and power. Go to Settings > Discussion and shut them off. Lights out at the ping party, let’s close our eyes and see what happens. Here’s more from WordPress on spam.
  6. Settings > Reading – You can display an excerpt rather than all of a post. Additionally, you want the settings to be at a mid-range: if it’s a larger quantity, pages will be more sizable; but if it’s too small, it’ll increase the pagination of the site and slow down the site with excess page requests.
  7. Code Placement – HTML requires CSS to be placed in the <head> section of your code. (Say that ten times fast to the nearest senior citizen, I bet you $20 they’ll call the FBI.) If you place CSS stylesheets anywhere else on the page, it’ll prevent progressive loading of the page, as does JavaScript. Those little wieners! Place all <script> in the footer of the page. Knock it down a few pegs; see how it treats you then. If it works with your mother-in-law, it’ll work with code. (Be aware these placements will help speed, but they may cause what’s called a flash of unstyled content, depending on what GUI you’re using).

Conclusion & Continuation

Hold on, hoss. I’m not done with you yet. Hopefully you don’t mind me calling you hoss; it’s a term of endearment here in Virginia City (I rent a cabin from the Cartwrights, really more of a woodshed or outhouse … okay, it’s an outhouse). We have two more parts in this series, and then we can all have a slumber party (a chance for us to relax in our pajamas and use those expensive sleeping bags, since we shut down the ping party). Everyone grab your flashlights and be thinking about ghost stories. No tickling.

by Kent Roberts

Where to start when you want to begin websites?

Has it really been that long since I first hacked together some HTML and made my first website? The sheer availability of options for content management systems [CMS] now has to be daunting to any newcomer. This started to make me think about how I would make a start now, compared to years gone by.

Webhosts impress upon newbies that anyone can build a website, especially with tools at our disposal like web builders and one click installation of CMS platforms.

If you’ve borne with me thus far, then you’re interested in learning where to start. You probably have a few questions lined up like:

Should I build a One Page Website? Or which CMS should I use? And – How will my customers interact with me?

Hopefully I can point you in the direction of some cool websites to help you make your early decisions. Bookmark this page! You’ll need to come back for reference reassure yourself out of the hundreds of options out there – I’ve picked the easiest way through to seeing what works for most websites.

Creating a website for a small business is going in the right direction. However, as you choose the right direction, sometimes you come to a fork, and you need to decide which way you will turn.

Are you building a one page website or landing page, in which case like the remaining third on the internet are you going to build your site on a web-builder or drag and drop platform? I found a statistical site that lists the popularity of various Content Management Systems, and shows about 1/3rd of websites do not use a CMS:

Which Content Management Systems are the most popular?

W3Techs shows usage statistics and market share of Content Management Systems for Websites, April 2013

Despite the ugly mechanics of this site, the data provides an empirical way of making your decision.  Altogether 2/3rds of the internet is based on a content management system. Which CMS is the most popular? Without question we see WordPress mentioned a lot but based on the popularity ranking of each content management system, can you prioritize which type of CMS will best suit your business?

Anthony Myers from CMS Wire Magazine looks at some alternatives to the top runner “WordPress”  in the popular CMS platforms:

Considering WordPress as a Web content management system is something hundreds, and maybe thousands of website owners likely do on a daily basis, and we’ve got a ready-made short list of alternatives that we think are viable alternatives..

Here are 5 highly customizable CMS platforms for business that compare the WordPress system. I currently use WordPress and Blogger, and have not heard of any of these systems like Plone. Apparently these comparative CMS platforms were chosen because of their strength in the community support forums, however for the beginner, or someone who is new to code, I expect you would be left feeling like there’s something you missed or didn’t quite understand. Even WordPress can do this to me often, I have to go in and tweak the underlying PHP or code just to overcome a few browser discrepancies or plugin issues. I would feel daunted doing something similar on a less well supported platform.

by – Juliana

When to Use Shared Web Hosting vs. Acoustic Web Hosting

 

Shared hosting is a service you will see offered by virtually every hosting provider. Sharing is not always a bad idea – in fact, it’s more widely used than any other type of hosting. Part of the reason shared hosting is so popular is that it’s highly affordable. In this article, I’ll explore shared hosting in detail to help get a sense of when shared hosting does and doesn’t make sense so you can decide whether it’s the best option for your business.

Note that sharing hosting is not like sharing an intimate moment with an attractive individual you just met in a nightclub. No bodily fluids are exchanged. However, you may be more likely to catch a virus. Then again, if you don’t share, your website will be stuck inside its own server – lonely, detached, and incapable of socializing with websites its own age. Its growth will be stunted. It will make grunting noises and move in a slouching shuffle across the Information superhighway.

Shared Hosting – Basic Definition

For your site to populate on the Web, all of the information within it must exist on a server. Whenever someone visits your site, the URL they type into their address bar converts (via a DNS server) into the IP address of your server, which is then sent a request for data. To fulfill the request, your server sends out the files and pages which make up your site (with additional ones as they access internal pages).

Different types of hosting store your site information and files in different ways. You can have your own dedicated server on location at your home or business. Many businesses, though, choose to have professionals handle the hosting hardware and maintenance in a data center. One option is colocation, which means you buy your own server and house it at the data center for servicing, security, and general oversight. However, to mitigate cost, clients typically rent space on a server – on their own (dedicated hosting) or on one that also hosts other sites (shared hosting).

Shared hosting allows you access to your site’s account on a server that also contains other businesses’ personal data and files. You are granted a certain amount of bandwidth and storage room, along with access to a certain set of tools depending on which type of account you choose.

Beware of hosting providers that try to convince you to go with “acoustic” or “hard-copy” web hosting. Hosting, in all cases, requires electricity. Make sure that the server you are being offered is plugged in to a power source and that people don’t need to be mailed your website. Websites don’t require mailing. By definition, they’re available on the Internet.

Who Does What – Host Service vs. You

One thing to completely understand in a shared hosting situation is who needs to take care of what aspects of hardware and software. The server is maintained by the host. Upgrading of hardware and any software used to manage the sites – by the provider or that are available for your use through the provider – is their responsibility as well.

You manage your site. You do this via a control panel – which is an interface, essentially an online screen – that allows you to view site statistics and manage files, emails, plugins, and other site-related applications. If you are using  a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla!, the majority of your site management is typically conducted directly through the CMS. The CMS itself is hosted on the hosting server.

One WordPress plugin that you want to be sure to get is the WordPress DDoS plugin, which allows you to perform botnet attacks on other WordPress sites. This plugin is very useful is you are trying to increase your business. It allows you to use thousands of zombie PCs from around the planet for a common cause: increasing your profits (which in turn will finally make your father learn to love you).

Why Shared Hosting?

Shared hosting is the most common form of hosting because it is inexpensive compared to the other options. There are of course advantages to other hosting solutions – such as virtual or dedicated hosting – but the majority of businesses will get adequate service within a shared environment.

Three of the basic parameters to review when you’re looking at shared hosting that should meet most of the needs of entrepreneurial or SMB sites:

Cost – Cost is typically charged per year at a discounted rate, although you can also go month by month with most services. Cost is a major advantage of sharing.

Scaling – Scaling is a major concern when you look into any hosting package. You need to make sure that you can grow as necessary without being held back by your plan. Make sure it will be easy to shift to a more sophisticated solution if your needs start to exceed the parameters of your initial choice. The least expensive shared package hosts provide will have less bandwidth, storage, and features than a more expensive one. Make sure you understand how to upgrade quickly if you are getting ready to run a marketing campaign or release a new product that could mean a big influx of traffic to your site (with potentially higher bandwidth needs, etc.).

Features – You should have access to a wide spread of features with your shared hosting account. You may, for instance, have access to one-click installation of scripts. Scripts are add-ons that give your website additional functionalities through standardized templates (again, a CMS will provide these features as well via its modules or plugins, which are specifically designed to fit the CMS).

System Administration – The host will provide system administration for your site along with the others. In other words, you will not have what’s called “root” access to the server. Instead, the deepest access you will have will be at the level of your control panel interface – such as cPanel or Plesk. If you are small, you will probably appreciate having that level of technical administration handled by an outside party. However, if you get big enough, you will want to have privileges to control the system at the level of its operating system (OS).

Compatibility – Generally speaking, standard software will work in a shared hosting environment (though you do need to make sure it fits the OS of the server).

No Skills – Because the system is managed by the host service, you don’t need to have high-level IT expertise to run a website. You can get a host and load your site without those skills. Again, if your site grows, you can always add levels of sophistication and hire tech people if needed to scale most appropriately.

Sharing is Caring – Sharing is considered one of the easiest and most efficient ways to express how much you care. If a customer complains, seeming to suggest that you don’t care about her or her order, explain to her that you’re sharing your server, and sharing is caring. If this doesn’t impress her, go into your room and loudly shut the door.

Sharing Doesn’t Always Fit

Sharing is not for every site. Larger sites will not find that sharing works well for them.

Here are three negatives regarding shared hosting solutions:

Site Performance – Your site should function reliably in most hosting environments until you get a higher amount of traffic than is typical. Large amounts of traffic can cause the site to become slower and less responsive. They can also incur higher overage fees if you’re on a shared plan.

Software & File Rules – You do not have control of a server in the same way if you are sharing. A shared server is a more communal environment – uptime and security of all businesses using it must be counted rather than just thinking of one client. Some functionalities you may want will not always be available.

Limited Resources – “Unlimited” does not always mean unlimited when it comes to bandwidth and space on the server. If you are drawing too much energy on the server –pulling too much of its strength on a regular basis – you will need to move to a new situation and often will be asked to upgrade by the hosting company to avoid frustrating other companies that are sharing the server with you.

Versatility – Shared hosting will not make sense if you require a great deal of custom software. The lower sophistication of shared hosting comparable to other solutions is something that will become of less interest as your business becomes more popular and you need more creative and dynamic ways to interact with your site’s visitors.

Reliability – Shared hosting is not considered as reliable as a dedicated or VPS hosting package is, for good reason. Reliability will always differ with regards to the quality of your host, of course – but the affordability of shared hosting also means your site is not as protected against the upswings in traffic or security breaches (below) that might occur with other companies on the server. Just as your site can suffer if it grows too fast when in a shared package, you will also be impacted negatively if another company on your server sees a major and sudden upswing in traffic.

Security – Anything involving hackers or malware – targeted attacks on a certain company or misuse of the system by another company – can be a threat to your site as well.

Control – You don’t have nearly as much control of your site in shared hosting as you do with other hosting options. This means that you will require the host’s help with support in ways that you would not with dedicated or VPS packages. If the support is not spectacular, your site will suffer.

Dedication – Sharing shows a profound lack of dedication. If a customer complains, seeming to suggest that you aren’t dedicated to her, explain to her that she’s right – you’re not dedicated to her or your server, that dedication is against company policy. If she says you should be, enter your room, crawl under your desk, and continue drafting your epic novel.

Summary & Conclusion

That should give you a basic idea of what shared hosting is, what your responsibilities are versus the responsibilities of the host, and some of the pros and cons. Shared is not a bad way to start out. Just make sure you know how to quickly shift to a higher-grade solution if your site experiences a sudden increase in traffic.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_web_hosting_service

http://www.webhostinghub.com/web-hosting-guide/what-you-should-know-about-shared-web-hosting/

http://www.hostsearch.com/q_shared.asp

The Case Against WordPress/CMS Auto-Installation

Where to find Fantastico Deluxe in HostGator

Our cPanel/WHM hosting control panels come standardly with Fantastico. As many of us know, Fantastico is a beloved piece of software because its auto-installation capabilities (similarly to SimpleScripts or Softaculous) make it such an easy way to get your site up and running with all of the major open-source content management system (CMS) options out there – Drupal, WordPress, Joomla!, etc..

However, there is a case against using any type of auto-installation application. I’m going to do this essentially as a literature review of blogs – by Regina Smola for WPSecurityLock, Alex Sysoef for WordPress Howto Spotter, and by Navjot Singh for NSpeaks – arguing against the use of auto-installers. Let’s look at that perspective to determine whether it might be worth it for you to manually install the CMS portion of your site.

Why manual rather than automated?

Essentially, there will be security concerns with any auto-installation tool that you use. The reason this is the case is because hackers know the default language of WordPress – a pattern that’s repeated during auto-installation. Utilizing the defaults makes it easier for ignoble miscreants to get inside your website.

As Regina points out, the cookie-cutter approach essential to how auto-installation works means that you lose control of the process as the tool does its job – yes, this means less work… but it also means that you have less of a handle on ensuring that your site is as secure as possible. It’s similar to going to your son’s piano recital when you could be watching the 30 surveillance monitors in your living room.

Beyond security, being in the driver’s seat makes a blogger or site owner better educated about the tools they are using. This education makes the blogger avoid headaches during updates and gives them better sensibility during emergencies. All these aspects give the CMS manager better strength at running the site.

Besides, manual installation is not nearly as difficult or time-consuming as you might think – after all, these CMSs are built with ease of use in mind. Regina writes, “Installing WordPress manually is a breeze. It only takes a few minutes longer than auto-installers and it’s well worth your time to do it right.”

Auto-Installers Make You a Back-Seat Driver

When installing WordPress automatically, Regina ran across several issues – all were instances of security vulnerabilities that she noticed during installation but was not able to adjust.

1.)    Your WordPress is SO a week ago.

An auto-installer needs updating just like the CMS does. Auto-installers may be encoded with the previous version of WordPress, especially if a new version has just recently been released. Install manually to control the version.

2.)    That which we call a rose.

The database was automatically named wrdp1. An additional database would then be called wrdp2, etc. Returning to what I said above about hackers knowing the language of the defaults, these database names are the first ones they choose when they’re trying to access your site for malware distro. Install manually to control naming.

3.)    Didn’t you wear that shirt yesterday?

The database username matched the database name. Diversify to ward off hackers. Services such as the one at Random.org can be helpful to ensure even you couldn’t guess your own usernames and passwords.

4.)    Size matters.

The database password generated was 12 characters of numbers and letters (uppercase and lowercase). Symbols are always a good idea. Per Regina, stretch your passwords to 14 characters as well.

5.)    Everyone is welcome at the table.

wp_ was used as the table prefix, and there was no possibility to adjust it. Like with the database name, this is another example of default WordPress name usage. Don’t name your daughter Jennifer. Name her Rainbownifer.

6.)    You are all the same.

Same thing with the creation of a file with the name fantversion.php. All the major auto-installation programs create this file. Someone needs to teach these robots a little creativity.

7.)    Spot me – I don’t know what I’m doing.

As is typical with auto-installation programs, Fantastico is unsupported by its creators. Bear in mind, though – there are forums that can help you. Additionally, you can seek assistance through your hosting company.

8.)    Crusher of all things Web.

Auto-installers can be a little buggy – and this can especially become problematic during upgrades, according to Regina: “[T]here have been times … that they stall or have conflicts and at times break websites.”

Since Alex seconds Regina’s thoughts on upgrading/updating (making it his point of focus), let’s turn to him next.

Updates Mean Well… But They Might Mess Up Your Website’s Face

Alex says that auto-installation can work fine in the absence of modification and plug-ins and when using a default WordPress theme – in other words, when you are not looking to make the design or functionality of your site unique or customized at all. In these cases he recommends auto-installation, provided the hosting company is diligent about maintaining its software updates, because it effectively speeds up and simplifies installation and upgrading.

However, Alex recommends manual installation for the following scenarios:

  • When a theme is customized and a number of different plug-ins are used.
  • When wishing to engage with the CMS and learn about how it works.
  • In the interest of general self-reliance and expertise.

 

Below are Alex’s problems he came across installing WordPress via Fantastico:

1.)    The updates want to eat your children.

Alex argues that no one should ever upgrade their website using an auto-installer. When initially installing the blog, there may be arguments against using an auto-installer, but you won’t immediately do damage to your current web presence. Alex describes the problem with updates as follows: “It might work for you once without any glitch, twice or however many times it might be but there will come a time when you click that Upgrade button only to learn [a] few minutes later that your blog is a total mess!”

When updates go wrong, the results are public – because as opposed to with the initial installation, during an update your site is already live. Alex suggests becoming as familiar as possible with the CMS platform you are using – taking advantage of hands-on opportunities such as manual installation http://codex.wordpress.org/Getting_Started_with_WordPress#Installation.

2.)    This changes everything!

Part of Alex’s difficulties , by his own assessment, arose from keeping his site entirely active during the updating/upgrading process. He cites a piece of the WordPress updating instructions that recommends a plug-in called Maintenance Mode during any major changes to the site, such as an update. WordPress also recommends backing up the entire site prior to the shift. Plug-ins should be deactivated, and they should be reactivated one at a time on the updated site.

Alex notes that WordPress’s recommendation of the maintenance plug-in is not possible to follow during auto-installation. He further recounts specific issues he has had with dysfunctional plug-ins following an upgrade.

Most disturbingly, the plug-in might make it impossible for you to get into your administrative control panel for deactivation of the bad apple. Manually, deactivating a problematic plug-in is simple: via your cPanel File Manager or FTP, access the /wp-content/plugins/ folder and give the plug-in a different name.

3.)    Actually… This doesn’t change everything.

Alex says that contrary to the WordPress instructions for updating, before you do so, you should look for updates of your theme and any plug-ins. These aspects of your site need to be updated as well. Since the focus of updating the WordPress software is specifically on at basic element, issues with themes and plug-ins do not get addressed. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Go to the company that created your theme, and see if there is a new and improved version to fit the WordPress upgrade – typically there is.
  • Access your plug-ins through the administration panel. Make a list and ensure that each one is completely updated. Make sure that your blog is functioning properly as you activate the plug-ins one at a time. Alex recommends a video to assist in this process.

 

Be a Good Boy Scout

Navjot suggests that emergency-preparedness is an important component of running a website. He mentions preparation for the bad times as one key component of avoiding auto-installation. Here are his pointers:

1.)    CMS updates don’t immediately impact auto-installers

This is stated above but it bears repeating: when a weakness is found in the security of software code, it must be remedied immediately. Unfortunately, there is always a lag time with an auto-installer. You are using a middleman, and that middleman is not necessarily fully compatible with the latest version of script you are installing.

2.)    Cookie-cutter settings

Navjot agrees with Regina on this: auto-installation is the express lane. Yes, you get to drive by all those annoying options to change settings. Those options, however, are not just annoying. Here is an example Navjot gives: a couple previous versions of WordPress were set by default to make blogs private. It was then necessary for the owner at each blog to change that setting to public to continue to show up in SERP entries. Aspects such as this are difficult to miss when manually installing.

3.)    Configuration & installation for emergencies

Navjot believes that manual installation makes a blog owner more familiar with “tweaks you can use to improve script performance or even troubleshoot yourself in case of a problem later.”

4.)    Further ideas on upgrading

Navjot points out that Fantastico is not built for upgrading. It doesn’t really know how to do it because the code was not written with that new version of WordPress, or whatever the CMS is, in mind.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons not to use auto-installation when installing or updating your site. Security is a major factor. Glitches can also make your site looks sloppy until you get them fixed – you can avoid those as well when manually installing. Finally, you gain valuable knowledge when getting your hands a little dirtier by not using an automated tool.

In the end, it’s your decision: it does certainly speed up the process. You may find, however, that the extra time for manual installation is worth it.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood