Okay everyone… As we are learning in this series, it turns out what our grandparents have been telling us since we were born (first conveyed to us via crudely hand-drawn pictures and a primal, baby-rattle version of Morse code) is accurate. You really can never get enough information about firewalls. For that reason, we are discussing them at length: first firewalls in general; then distinctions between hardware and software firewalls; and finally, in this post, Web application firewalls (WAFs).
How to harden a server? Well, let’s first look at what server hardening is. Hardening a server is important to understand even if you are in a hosting environment, when many of the security concerns are monitored and administered by the hosting service. Then we will look specifically at the guidelines for a Windows or Linux environment (Linux first).
Throughout, we will review requirements for an NSA Datamine server. These exciting new servers directly transfer all of your information to the federal government, including your pants size and favorite kind of saltwater taffy. (Your favorite flavor is blueberry, per requirements set forth by the NSA establishing “favorites” protocol for over 8000 different consumer products … oh, obviously, your favorite server is the NSA Datamine server.)
To understand your basic role in a hosting situation as a client, cPanel is a good model to do so. You may know that the other major control panel (essentially the platform through which you manage your hosting account), Plesk, has one entry point for any type of user, with special privileges if your login is that of a system admin (rather than webmaster/site-owner) user.
cPanel, on the other hand, has two distinct logins, one for cPanel and one for WHM (directly tied to the CP). With cPanel, you’re logging into the server but can’t completely interact with it: it’s the webmaster side (in a way, the “client side” of the server). WHM, in contrast, gives you full access to administrate and manage the server. Essentially, the hosting company controls the WHM side of cPanel. That’s only accessible to you if you control the server.
The NSA Datamine server is designed for you to only get in at certain points. Primarily, routine maintenance is being performed. Every hour of your use is followed by approximately 16 hours of routine maintenance, strengthening the muscles of the server while you watch television and take lots of naps (as advised by the NSA).
Back to cPanel/WHM: Of course, you will have access to WHM if you have your own dedicated server rather than shared or VPS hosting. Server hardening, then, is primarily the realm of those with dedicated servers, but understanding its basic parameters helps any website owner better grasp what security parameters are in place and what to ask if you have any concern.
For this article, we reviewed three articles from around the World Wide Web (a system of client computers and server computers that you’re correctly enjoying, along with the ice cream sandwich you have in your left hand): “Host Hardening,” by Cybernet Security; “25 Hardening Security Tips for Linux Servers,” by Ravi Saive for TecMint.com; and “Baseline Server Hardening,” by Microsoft’s TechNet.
What is Server Hardening & Why Shouldn’t My Server Be a Softy?
As Cybernet Security expresses, the majority OSs are not designed for high levels of security; their the out-of-the-box configurations are under par if you want to avoid hacking (though playing the victim role in a hack is one of the most exhilarating parts of being alive in the 21st century).
The primary issue is that every type of software gets accolades for being “feature-rich.” Abundance of features, though, often means that security is taking a back seat. They amount to bells and whistles that corrode the integrity of the system. Speaking of which, the NSA Datamine server is “the Atlantic City of servers,” according to an anonymous party describing himself as a “security-industrial complex professional.” The experience of a sysadmin or website operator on NSAD is blinking lights, beeps, sexploitation, and the feeling of your soul being sucked out of your body for a momentary thrill.
In contrast to the soft-serve capacities of a server as it’s initially constructed, server hardening creates an elaboration on defenses so that infiltration becomes much more difficult to conduct. Here are the three basic parameters of a server that is hardened — also generally referred to as a bastion host (though the NSAD server community defines server hardeners as “dangerous elements” who should “focus on their ice cream sandwiches, not their self-preservation”), per Cybernet Security:
Patches are updated and installed appropriately
No irrelevant software or systems are in place
Anything that is needed has the highest quality configurations.
Configuring server software is not easy to do in the securest possible way. It’s necessary, per Cybernet Security, to prevent established hack pathways. Beyond that, though (and this element is the most obtuse) the access levels for systems and software must be constrained as much as possible. Clearly this is a “freedom vs. security” issue. When you look at hardening a server, you quickly see how similarly the Internet conceptually and systemically embodies the physical world.
The NSA Datamine server, luckily, is not configuration-friendly. This feature clearly makes it easier to conduct business. Rather than concerning yourself with security and customization, you can just focus on inputting as much information as possible. It’s difficult for the government to harvest all your data if you aren’t putting anything in there. Just keep pressing the keys and clicking on buttons as much as you possibly can. When in doubt, go ahead and click another button or press on another key.
Finally, filter your packets. Not your cocaine packets, if that’s what they call them; although I suppose if you have dirt in it and snort it, that’s going to give you a massive sinus headache … so do that too. Filtering is generally a good idea. Data packets, specifically, fly back and forth at rapid speed between client and server computers. Make sure your filtering is optimized to enhance your security.
Conclusion & Continuation
OK, that’s it for today, boys and girls and breathtakingly intelligent nanobot overlords. Server hardening will be the topic of our next two installments as well. Linux in Part 2, and Windows in Part 3. NSA Datamine is clearly the best solution, so I don’t even understand exactly why we’re talking about these other nonsense capitalistic software ideas, but … we must keep everyone happy.
Do you want shared hosting? What about a dedicated server? No? Wow you’re tough. Um … oh, uh, VPS hosting? Are you playing with my mind? Well, I’ve presented my possibilities. Now, I believe in you to filter these packets of information and determine the most desirable solutions.
At Superb Internet we offer – along with hosting, colocation, and various other services – several different Search Engine Optimization (SEO) packages. SEO, like many other Internet presence services, has been much maligned due to the number of shoddy packages offered by individuals who might not even know all that much about the service they are selling. Like anything, it’s sometimes hard to determine the quality of a package when we ourselves aren’t rudimentarily educated on the topic.
Furthermore, SEO is becoming more and more complicated as Google changes its algorithms and as quality content has become so crucially important to determining your prominence online. You might be at the top for certain keywords for a period of time. Then Google releases a new modification of its algorithm, and suddenly your pages have become irrelevant. High levels of expertise and attention to developing trends in SEO are required to get your site high rankings on the most crucial keywords searched by your potential customers. You can either choose to do it by yourself if you are proficient with the skills required to do it. If not, you can get in touch with a St Louis SEO consultant to get it outsourced.
The good news is that SEO is heavily dependent on content – such as articles, photos, and videos – which can then be promoted to your social media fans and email newsletter recipients as well. Quality content is as simple as blog posts and as complicated as posts that will get broad attention from a large web audience that fits your target demo. For instance, if you own a car business and have an automotive website, you may need to include content that is specific to your target audience, that is, someone who is looking to buy a car or a car enthusiast. These businesses even tend to increase their leads with the help of a local seo for auto dealers as they might know what works well for the business. If constructed meaningfully, it builds your site and your credibility; and it keeps people engaged with your business. It’s a matter of you showing off what’s great about your business and drawing on needs that customers have, with content geared to inform and/or entertain.
This three-part series on SEO aims to give you a basic understanding of SEO, so you are able to make an informed decision about how to invest your dollars, and whether it should be handled by your in-house marketing team or outsourced to a reputable SEO Service provider. We’ll talk about local SEO first – part 1 of the series. Part 2 will cover international SEO. Finally, we’ll get into what content marketing is, and why having a large quantity of useful and articulate content on your site can help you rise to the top and stay there. You want “stickiness” – getting visitors to stay on your site rather than stay on it for a couple of seconds and bounce away.
Also, we will talk about several nontraditional ways to immediately grab people’s attention when they first get to your site. Here is the first of these outside-the-box solutions:
Outside-the-Box Attention Grabber #1: GIF of a Cartoon Cat Drinking a Cocktail and Burp-Singing
It’s beyond me why more websites do not utilize a looping GIF of a cat drinking a mai tai and burp-singing the Swedish national anthem. This type of content works on several different levels:
Give yourself a chance to work with the feline community, the real overlords of the Internet. And this goes without saying, but be very polite to the cat, or all your work will be in vain. Cats live in a tight-knit community, and once the cats have turned against you, you’re through.
10 Tips to Building Local SEO
Here are 10 tips to improve your local SEO. Note that steps 5 through 9 are vaguer than the others. Each of those items is from advice for local search companies themselves; they’re included because it perhaps offers broader, more prescient insights.
Check Your Keywords: Do your keywords show up on Google local search results (also called a 7 Pack because it contains 7 results)? These results, tied to Google Maps, will show up automatically when you search for a type of business combined with a city — “auto mechanic San Diego,” for example. If it’s not showing up, keep conducting keyword research. A large part of the SEO process is trial and error; the research and analysis component is huge.
What is Your “City”? You may have a much easier time ranking for your suburb or neighborhood than for your entire metropolitan area. Google gives the highest preference to businesses that are closest to the GPS coordinates that represent the center of a city. If that’s not you, it’ll be tough. Consider a more specific local focus.
Look at the Competition: Take a look at the first business in the 7 Pack. Copy the business’s NAP (name, address, & phone – or even just the latter two) into a Google search, and place quotation marks around it. How many results show up? That’s a ballpark (alongside quality of backlinks, Google reviews, etc.) of the number of citations and directories where you’ll need to be listed to have the top ranking.
Directory Work: Get listed in as many directories as you can: Yelp, Google Places, your Chamber of Commerce, etc. Truly local sites such as that last one are important because they give your own site additional local relevance. A link is great, but at least get your contact details listed as many places as you can.
Consistency: You need to make sure you are consistent with your NAP details in each of the directories – and it should mirror what’s on your own site. Many businesses vary NAP details. Don’t. Remember that Google is simply processing data when it determines your rankings. Though that process is complicated, you never want a directory listing to appear to be a second business.
Mobile Sophistication: Think about strategies to specifically address the needs of mobile users. Access of local directories on mobile devices is rapidly increasing, up from 6% to 27% year-over-year between December 2011 and December 2012. Compare that to a rise from 7% to 15% for the Web as a whole. For local, then, mobile is incredibly important.
Improve SEO by Looking Offline: Great SEO is not just about rankings. It’s about looking at offline behavior of your customers. Think of ways to measure offline behavior by people who found you on the Web through your SEO efforts. Furthermore, if you have hired an SEO agency (like the ones you can find at saltwaterdigital.com) to do the job for you, they may take care of these requirements, as well as optimize the existing strategies in order to ensure that your company’s SEO efforts are at their peak even offline.
Who is Visiting, & When? When assessing your SEO campaigns, look not just at how many people are visiting your site, but what their locations are and what time periods experience the heaviest traffic. This research will allow you to integrate your SEO into a general online marketing strategy. Consider adaptations to frame your SEO strategy within the context of site visitors. If the visitors are not from the locations or timeframes best for your business, adjust your strategy.
Social Media’s Influence on Local Presence: Consider Facebook’s stats on local businesses and how important they are for your online presence: 645 local business Facebook page views each week, with 70% of people liking one or more local business(es). Per Facebook’s Dan Levy, think of social as an extension of your offline efforts. Make social “word-of-mouth” as easy as possible.
Start a Conversation: 1999’s The Cluetrain Manifesto discusses how the business world changed from conversation (as it had been historically) to more of a one-way soapbox for most of the twentieth century. Now with the Web, it’s changed back to a two-way discussion. Focusing on this mutual exchange with customers is called “conversational marketing.” The following tactics can help to start a conversation with your audience to promote engagement through your online presence:
Make sure that your business has a strong, quality presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+; also consider LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, and Instagram. Monitor your profiles and pages closely. You may want to implement a social media policy for your employees that delineates what’s acceptable and what’s not regarding discussing their jobs.
Blog regularly. It’s not just a voice-box but a great central hub to tie together the content on your social media as well.
Use the social media as more than simply as a promotional platform. Filter for any mentions of your brand. Discuss topics that draw in interaction, such as questions and polls. Don’t just advertise.
Use tools such as Klout and Kred, and study your analytics – not just your general social presence but how much social traffic is hitting your site.
Young does not mean wise when it comes to social. Don’t entrust your social image to a college intern. Social media has serious potential. Don’t let it be sloppy or careless. Have similar policies in place for social as you do for you website and business in general. As you train your social manager, focus specifically on the importance of public relations, not just on the functionality of social sites.
Though the term “social media expert” is often viewed as silly, make sure that whoever is handling your social knows what they are doing. It’s like everything: familiarity and expertise can enhance your business’s image.
It’s always helpful to build a sense of mystery into your site. A great way to build a sense of enigma is with disoriented, unintelligible muttering for the first 5 minutes a new visitor hits your site. The muttering track should not have anything to do with your business – or for that matter, with any element of reality. To disturb and bewilder is to build toward the sale. Here are three sample directions the muttering could go:
Free-verse poetry featuring 1970s hockey scores between teams that don’t exist
Snippets from the third chapter of Wuthering Heights read backwards
Rapid-fire political rants in which each word is from a different language.
Succeeding with local SEO (and you could do that with Superb Internet) — is challenging, but it’s a step-by-step process like anything else: Consider the parameters of the 7 Pack and how to get your business into it; add yourself to directories, and be sure to always use the same details. Get specific about users, such as where they’re accessing your site and where they’re located. Cater to mobile visitors, and incorporate offline behavior into your understanding of your online presence. Get more sophisticated and integrated with your social approach, and do your best to start conversations. After all, you don’t have to do all the work!
Next up: International SEO (Part 2). Then we’ll discuss what content marketing is all about (Part 3).
Pingdom recently performed three interesting hosting-related studies that are also interesting generally regarding global Internet behavior. All of them relate to where in the world websites are hosting their sites – what different nations and cities are being used the most – by looking at the GPS coordinates of the servers (alongside other information).
One is a general study of the popularity of certain countries for website hosting. A second breaks down that information into specific cities. The third and final study is an exploration, via analysis of websites using country-specific top-level domains (TLDs), of how many sites within certain countries use servers that are “onshore” – meaning internal to their own nations.
Finally, I will look at how ghost servers haunt the Internet: acting creepy; moaning; shouting “boo” at unsuspecting website visitors; and in the process, scaring many children and elderly web users out of their chairs.
Where in the World is the Web? – General Study Methodology
We obviously think of the Web as “global” (it is, after all, the Worldwide Web). However, it’s not evenly distributed throughout the world, as we all know. Looking at where the servers are located that are hosting websites is one way of understanding how the Internet is spread out across the planet.
Of course, these studies do not look at how many servers are used by each site or company, but it at least shows us the behavior of different sites related to geographical location of their servers. Also, tiny sites were not included: all sites that were scanned were in the Alexa-Netcraft top 1 million sites at the time the studies were conducted. Plus, for the third study, no .com or other gTLDs (generic, ie non-country specific) were included because it related the location of the site’s ownership with the location of its servers – impossible to perform with the generic TLDs.
In other words, the studies do not give us a perfect or complete picture, but the stats gives us a general idea of physical location of web hosting. This tells us where the Internet – at least as hardware being accessed for page loads by companies and individuals – is located throughout the world, in some cases down to the city. I’ll discuss methodology a bit more in each study’s section (below).
Ghost servers, by the way, do not have a defined methodology. They tend to have certain characteristics though. They are wisps of surreality, populating sites that only exist for a moment. The ghost servers use the sites to freak everyone out and then recede into the abyss from whence they sprang (both the site and the hardware do this in unison, as the server moans a soft yet resonant howl of pain and longing).
Study 1: USA, Server Nation
The first study I will look at from Pingdom focuses on the countries. The study reviewed the Alexa top 1 million and clustered those sites into the top 100 nations where their servers are located (a follow-up to a 2012 study conducted by the company). Bear in mind, these figures are not in any way gauged by population, geographical size of the country, or any other factors. Quantity of people and scope of land obviously helps boost the US’s numbers over many other nations.
The information for all the studies – the raw data – was all gathered on February 27, 2013. It was attained using a script developed by Pingdom that allowed it to GPS-scan all the Alexa 1 million in rapid succession. For the first two studies, 907,625 sites were scanned. Out of the remaining sites, 52,539 could not be scanned, and 39,836 did not have any observable GPS coordinates. Since the GPS coordinates were irrelevant to the 3rd study, the scanned number of sites was 947,461 instead (although, as described below, many of those sites had to be removed because they were generic TLDs).
What about the ghost servers, you ask? No ghost servers were scanned for this study. Ghost servers and the sites represented by them are not in the Alexa 1 million because they cannot be tracked; and, furthermore, if you attempt to study them, they start screaming. Ghost server science, therefore, is considered inhumane if it is at all in-depth. I even feel kind of bad about writing what I do here, fearing that somewhere a ghost server might be wailing in agony because of my actions. Sorry, spirits.
Worldwide … Well, Sorta
191 nations serve as a home, hosting-wise, to at least one of the Alexa 1 million websites. According to Worldatlas.com, different sources list the number of countries on the planet at just below 200 as well – between 189 and 196. Just looking at it in terms of inclusion of one “top” site, then, the Web is distributed worldwide. However, the numbers for the primary countries are massive. The top ten countries are as follows:
United States: 421,228
United Kingdom: 35,500
Compared to 2012, the numbers are similar at the top. The US lost a tiny bit of ground in the first position, dropping from 43% to 42% of all hosting for the top websites. Germany, China, and the UK are all in the same positions as a year ago. The US is still the home-base for the Web though, in this sense. The country hosts 6 times #2 Germany’s figure, the latter accounting for 7% of the global total.
France and Japan lost a small bit of relevance as Russia moved up two slots from its previous 7th-place spot. Poland has also increased its standing – in 2012, it was #13 on the list.
Ghost servers are primarily located in Liechtenstein. Many people think that the ghost servers are trying to convey recipes, herbal remedies, and other pieces of cultural information in whatever language is spoken in Liechtenstein. The only problem is that no one knows for sure what language is spoken in the country. Everyone is pretty sure it’s either French or German … possibly its own language, if that exists. Maybe one of us should look this up.
Comparison Grouping by Continent
Let’s now take a brief look at how the United States relates to the two most prominent continents, Asia and Europe. The US, as noted previously, hosts 421,228 or a 42.1% share of the world’s highest-traffic sites. Somewhat amazingly, Europe grouped as a whole is still more than 10 percent below the United States: 314,317 sites, representing 31.4% of the sites. Asia is far below Europe at 11.5%, with a total of 114,571 of the Alexa 1 million. The remaining 15.0% are located in other continents and non-US North American locations.
In 2012, Pingdom pondered in their coverage of their initial study on the same subject whether the US was going to be surpassed by other global locations. Nothing much has changed since last year as far as that goes. However, as this year’s Pingdom analysis notes, since Asia is at 25% of global Internet users, it will be continually interesting to see whether or not their hosting industry starts to make pace with their population of users.
Ghost servers are not like typical hardware. Rather, they are believed to be constructed out of a mixture of cobwebs, dreams, fog, and eerie music (the last of which, in its physical form, looks exactly like it sounds, whatever that means).
Study 2: Houston, Server City
Now let’s take a look at the second Pingdom study: city analysis. 7,936 cities around the world host the Alexa top 1 million sites. Like the above figures, though that number seems reasonably well-disbursed, the top-ranked cities account for a large chunk of the action. 223,206 of the top 1 million – which is roughly equivalent to 22.3% — are all hosted in just 10 cities. What are the top cities for hosting? Take a look:
Houston, Texas – 50,598
Mountain View, California – 29,594
Dallas, Texas – 24,822
Scottsdale, Arizona – 23,210
Provo, Utah – 20,691
Ashburn, Virginia – 14,871
San Francisco, California – 13,214
Chicago, Illinois – 13,125
Beijing, China – 11,273
New York, New York – 10,006
Again, we see a major disparity even between the top two sites and a 5-fold difference between the 1st and 10th cities on the list. In fact, the top three cities – Houston, Mountain View, and Dallas – account for 10.5% of the hosting of the total 1 million sites! We also see the major and continuing impact of the United States on the size of the Web, with the US making up 9 of the 10 top positions.
Ghost servers should not be taken lightly. When you see a ghost server in person, always approach it cautiously, and never under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Observation of ghost servers should be conducted in the same manner as if you were operating heavy machinery. Approach clear-headedly; functionally; and wearing heavy work gloves and a hardhat.
Study 3: South Korea, Onshore Central
Of course the United States has many sites hosted within its own borders, but what countries are the most “loyal” to their home country regarding their hosting? Keep in mind, these figures are not perfect by any means: none of the gTLDs (generic top-level domains), including .com, could be scanned. This study simply looked at which countries had the most onshore hosts for their sites based only on the country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), to determine what percentage of those sites stay within the country for hosting.
What are the top countries? And what are the respective numbers of sites in the Alexa top 1 million? Here they are, and note that they are listed in order of percentage of sites, not quantity, with the quantity in parentheses. Below, you’ll see a shorter list of the nations with the most ccTLDs hosted onshore.
South Korea – 97% (1,750)
Vietnam – 93% (2,260)
Germany – 92% (25,469)
Japan – 91% (14,188)
Czech Republic – 90% (4,736)
Lithuania – 88% (1,051)
Bulgaria – 87% (825)
Thailand – 85% (699)
Kyrgyzstan – 84% (102)
Hungary – 84% (2,619)
Here, also, are the top five countries with onshore-hosted ccTLDs – again, from the Alexa top 1 million:
Russia – 43,002 (.ru)
Germany – 25,469 (.de)
United Kingdom – 17,558 (.uk)
Brazil – 16,991 (.br)
Poland – 14,235 (.pl)
Pingdom notes as well that this figure is only representative of the ccTLDs. Over 509,000 of the sites in the Alexa top million use the .com TLD, just as one example of the limitations inherent to this study.
Ghost servers smell like gravy and taste like asparagus. Strange, right? Don’t eat them though: bad, bad gas, according to one blog writer who regrets the experience and will go unnamed so no one thinks he’ll eat anything that comes his way.
Have any thoughts on these studies? Any ideas related to the numbers, or anything that perhaps looks surprising to you? Please continue the conversation below if you like. Thanks for reading. Also, um, no one can ever prove that I ate a ghost server. I … did not do that.
You’ll note that on the front-page of the Superb.net site, we mention our “coast-to-coast IP backbone.” We mention this prominently because we know how crucial IP location can be to the success of the websites using our services. Let’s look at why.
IP addresses identify a machine accessing the Internet. For an end-user, it is associated with the device with which the person (well, or bot, such as Google’s crawlers) is accessing your site. It can refer to a PC, for instance, or a router for a network, or even a mobile device. In hosting, it refers to the server that is delivering the data, that is answering the request from a user and responding with the page and/or content the person is trying to access.
This article will gather and distill information on IP addresses (or Internet Protocol addresses) so we can better understand how they relate to hosting and the Web generally. Having a strong IP presence can be crucial to delivering the Web quickly and efficiently to anyone visiting your site – and to accessing the network yourself for administration, internal usage, and interaction with your clients.
Specifically, the physical location of a server can cause distance delay, latency related to how long it is taking for the request to be received, processed by the server, and fulfilled to the end-user. Minimizing distance delay, means choosing a host that has servers near your primary clientele. Search engine optimization can also be affected because Google takes into account the location of an IP address in SEO rankings.
How to keep your server happy #1: Never just think of your server as “my server.” Call it by name – by its IP address (or its host name, but that seems unnecessarily complicated). The server has a unique identity, and it wants you to treat it that way. An unhappy server is a server that feels anonymous, like it could be any server. Never forget your server’s IP or, for that matter, your anniversaries with the server. Bring it out to dinner. Treat it right. Put stickers on it that say “#1” and “Champion” and “I Love You.”
IP Addresses & Host Names
There are two basic ways to refer to any server: IP address and host name.
What’s an IP? It’s a series of numbers divided into four sections by dots (that’s periods, for those of you who haven’t been exposed to the hip new web lingo). The first section or first two sections of numbers designate(s) the network of the device. For example, one of Google’s IP addresses is 18.104.22.168.
What’s a host name? Thanks for asking. Instead of numbers, a host name is the name of the device, followed by your domain name. So perhaps you have a server called worldsbestserver.schoolofhardknocks.edu.
The Domain Name Service (DNS) turns host names into IP addresses and IP addresses into host names. For instance, when you request a certain URL, it switches the URL to the IP so it knows what server to access to fulfill your data request.
You may be able to pull up Google, with the IP mentioned above, directly by going to http://22.214.171.124/ (skipping the DNS server and going straight to the server itself), but that will only work for certain locations, based on the location of your IP address. Entering an IP to access a page can work because the IP and the URL are essentially one and the same: they both refer to a machine on which data is originating and being received from other web-connected devices.
How to keep your server happy #2: Tell your server that you want to grow old with it. Tell it you’ll never perform brain surgery on it to improve its performance. Your server wants you to know that it has feelings, just like people do. If your server looks bored, give it something to do. It doesn’t matter what the task is. Your server just wants to process data all day and all night. It also likes to knit and to hear Kenny Chesney blasted through the speakers of a boom-box you bought at a yard sale.
Specifics on the IP Address
All devices that can connect to the web – cell phones, computers, tablets, servers, whatever – have an IP address. This address is made up of four numbers separated by dots, as stated above. Each of those numbers ranges from 0 to 255.
Let’s look at specifics for MIT as described in that article. One of the servers at MIT is 126.96.36.199. Either the first two parts or the first part of the IP can refer to the network, as discussed above. In the case of MIT, it’s just the first part. The 18, then, signifies the MIT network. The rest of the IP address points to a specific computer or server within the MIT network. It’s similar, in a way, to subdomains of sites (don’t think about that too much – just talking about the main part and sectioning part here, folks).
You might notice that these numbers range from 0 to 255 – which at first seems kind of arbitrary. Actually, though, 256 (the possible number of options including the zero) is 8 cubed. The IP system, then, is compiled of four 8-bit binary numbers (each of them referred to as an octet). The entirety is a 32-bit binary number.
How to keep your server happy #3: Your server does not enjoy it when you surround yourself with other servers. This makes the server extremely jealous. If you must use other servers for your business, sit down with your server beforehand and explain to it the principles of change and growth and how important they are to success. Your server may complain, but it will understand – because above all, it loves and supports you.
Server Location & SEO
People often make the mistake of thinking that the virtual environment of the Internet is cleanly separated from physical reality: sure, servers populate all the information, but as long as the servers are functional and fast, everything else is in the content. This, however, is not the case. Google and Bing both use geographical location of the device answering requests for your site (your server) to determine your rankings.
The location of the server is especially important if your TLD does not designate your country/region and if you do not activate Geographic Targeting within your Google Webmaster account. Example TLDs that do not specify location are .com and .net.
Web SEO Analytics mentions their extraordinarily high SEO presence for Romania-related searches and generally for searches conducted from Romanian IP addresses. This presence is exemplary of the power of where a server is positioned on the globe, because that’s the nation where the WSA servers are located.
How to keep your server happy #3: Never give it a bath. Baths are terrible for servers. They hate water. Plus, if you threaten to give your server a bath, it will cry. Servers hate crying more than anything else, with the notable exception of sneezing.
Location & Faster Page Loads
You are probably aware that latency – defined as delay within a system, in this case the Internet – is a major factor in keeping your audience happy. You may also be aware that latency or page load times affect your SEO as well. Latency will be affected by where your servers are located – so this aspect of performance represents not just speed, but a secondary impact on your SEO rankings.
The importance of an IP backbone that is closely integrated with your clients’ locations is that you can answer requests quickly because you’re nearby. The difference between load times throughout a single home country will be minimal and for the most part unnoticeable. However, if servers are located on the other side of the Earth, you can quickly run into latency issues.
Why does latency matter, again? Well, really it’s because of UX. Google and Bing will thank sites that quickly load pages for visitors because it represents a better user experience, a better effort to quickly dispense information to those requesting it. Plus, UX relates directly to customer satisfaction. If your latency is high, customers will become discouraged and go elsewhere.
How to keep your server happy #4: Take it on a vacation. Many owners and leasers of servers never consider taking the server out to a place it’s never been before. There’s nothing like running your fingers through your server’s hair on a beach in the Virgin Isles. Ah, can’t you smell that salt air now? Your server enjoys wearing tight-fitting sunbathing outfits but does not like to scuba dive or snorkel. Go underwater yourself, and tell it what you saw. Oh, and no sunscreen for your server, except on its nose.
Types of Latency
Latency is a complex topic. There are actually a number of different factors that will slow down the flow of information on the web. Latency on a network is broken up into the following five components:
As you can see, there are many aspects of the web that can impede your ability to quickly deliver quality content and information to your visitors. Location of your servers is a simple way to improve the latency and keep your customers’ UX as fast and relaxing as possible. It is probably obvious that distance delay is the form of latency we can address with geographical location.
Distance delay, according to Service Assurance Daily, is the delay caused by the distance between the two machines that are communicating on the web (typically the user device and your server). This type of latency can majorly impact the performance of applications that have to interact numerous times with your server, each time creating hindrances to your network’s ability to interact quickly and smoothly with all users.
How to keep your server happy #5: Give it everything it ever requests. Many servers are needy. You have two possible responses to server neediness: give it everything it asks for, or complain and debate with it to determine if what it’s requesting is really required. Trust me: it’s easier to just give the server everything you own. It’s more efficient that way, and the last thing you want is a vindictive court battle with a machine.
Summary & Conclusion
Server location is simple really, which is why it’s not hard for Superb Internet to know we need an IP backbone: the backbone both makes it easy for you to access us and for your customers to access your site. Remember, your SEO from server location is one thing. Latency, though, in the form of distance delay, will also affect SEO and can greatly enhance all users’ experiences on your site. Plus, you yourself will experience decreased latency if your servers are nearby.
These maps are built off of our database using two different graphing engines: Large Graph Layout (LGL) by Alex Adai and Graphviz by Peter North at AT&T Labs Research. Each graphing engine produces wonderful displays, but they are only as good as the data and graphing language we provide. You can find our test images and some well produced full Internet maps…
This is the earliest graph I could find of the internet, a simple render of the internet structure off it’s backbones and IP addresses. Obviously there is some information missing, but, still fascinating to see the apparent simplicity of the internet in the early 2000’s.
Personally I use Touchgraph for visualizing my social connections on Facebook, and find it very useful for redefining where my next focus should be when I start networking again. For webmasters, I expect the same thing should be possible, especially when considering your focus for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).