New Terms & Conditions for 2017

Happy New Year.

This is just a quick Post to let everyone know that I have updated my T’s & C’s effective 1 Jan 2017.

The full T’s & C’s can be read at full at https://www.websitedesignmorayfield.com.au/terms-conditions/, but here is a Summary of the Main Changes:

  1. My hourly rate has increased from $44/hr to $55/hr. This is still way less than my competitors rates.
  2. Any changes to your websites will incur a minimum charge of $33. This has been introduced because some customers are requesting lots of minor changes one after the other. If changes are required, please have a think about it and include them all in the one request. This will make the process more time and cost effective.
  3. My Payment Terms are strictly 7 Days from the date shown on an Invoice. This has always been the case, but now there is an addition to my terms that expands on this. That being, “if payment of Invoices exceeds the 7 days, no further website development will be undertaken until payment is made, and any applicable services may be cancelled”. I have introduced this measure due to ongoing instances by some customers not paying their Invoices on time. I am generally expected to carry out the work requested straight away, and I therefore expect that Invoices are paid within the 7 days. I do not think that this is an unreasonable request. This is not directed at customers who have not paid Invoices for December. I realise that people are away on holidays. This is aimed at Invoices that were overdue throughout 2016.
RIOT - Radical Image Optimisation Tool

Image Optimisation

Image OptimisationWhen it comes to managing your own website, many people upload images at the largest size and highest resolution, which results is slower page loads and that creates a large website that becomes problematic to backup, and restore if necessary.

Backups become very large and can time-out, and restoring the website from a backup is a drama too.

So what should you be doing?

Image Resizing

First of all, you should resize all images, and I usually recommend making the longest side around 1024px.

Why 1024px and not 1000px or 1100px? Well that’s just me and a hangover from the early days.

1024 bytes = 1kb, 1024kb = 1MB and so on.

So you can use whatever size you like, but around that pixel number is fine.

That will make the image large enough to show details without being overly big.

Of course, you may well have a requirement for larger images, say those for a full width Slider, so you would resize them accordingly.

Image Optimisation

In addition to resizing your images, you also need to optimise them for web use.

I use Photoshop for this task, but many if not most people do not have access to Photoshop.

Optimising your images reduces their physical size.

So for example, you might have an image that is a couple of Megabytes in size, and optimising it will reduce it to several hundred kilobytes instead, without a visible reduction in quality.

There are many tools available, but I’ve just stumbled across a free tool called RIOT (Radical Image Optimisation Tool).

What is RIOT?

RIOT is short for Radical Image Optimisation Tool, and it is a free Image Optimiser that allows you to adjust compression parameters “visually” and allowing you to monitor the file size whilst doing it.

RIOT - Radical Image Optimisation ToolIt uses a side by side (dual view – shown to the left), or a single view interface that lets you compare the original with the optimised image in real time, and instantly see the resulting file size.

You can control the compression level, the number of colours, metadata and more, and you can select the image output file formats to .JPG, .GIF or .PNG.

RIOT can also be integrated as plug-in in programs like The GIMP, IrfanView and XnView.

 

 

Download RIOT

Shared Hosting vs a VPS

Shared Hosting vs a VPSIt’s been a tough couple of weeks for my customers on Shared Hosting, with Server issues and a percentage of downtime that I just wasn’t comfortable with. Not the ideal situation for a Website Owner. So this has prompted me to write this Blog Post.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that Budget Shared Hosting is really only for small websites, with an average amount of pages and images, and average traffic, and if you have a website that needs to be fast and reliable, then you really need to start thinking about a VPS (Virtual Private Server).

But first, a quick recap of what a Shared Hosting Server is.

By far and away the most common Hosting out there is Shared Hosting. What does that mean? Well it means that your website is on a Server with potentially hundreds of other websites. All of these websites are vying for the Server resources, predominantly Memory (RAM). And there are set limits on how much your website is allowed to use in terms of Bandwidth and to a lesser extent, Disk Space.

So what happens if you exceed these limits? Well basically your website is shut down, and as one of my customers is experiencing right now, you will see a message displayed that reads, “Resource Limit Exceeded”, and no one can see your website.

The other problem with Shared Hosting is that generally speaking, page load speeds are slower due to the number of websites on the Server and the lack of available Memory (RAM). The Hosting Market Space has become very competitive, and Vendors are keen to extract the most out of their investments. So rather than have more RAM available than is absolutely necessary, they will allocate just enough to do the job. This means that if something goes wrong with one or more websites on the Shared Server, it can start using more RAM than is ideal, and it can drag the whole Server down.

So how is a VPS different?

A VPS is your own Server. That is to say, only your website, or websites (yes, you can have multiple website on your VPS), is on that Server, and ALL the resources that you purchase with the VPS are at your website’s disposal. You are not at the mercy of any other website or the imposed resources limits. You can purchase and allocate as much RAM and assign as much bandwidth as you like. The side effect of this is that your page load speeds are significantly faster because you have plenty of these resources available.

A VPS is relatively expensive, are there any other options?

The short answer is yes. All of the preceding issues has prompted me to rethink what I offer customers.

The problem has been that Shared Hosting is attractive because it is so cheap. But the results can be frustrating for someone who really needs a reliable and fast website, but can’t afford a VPS.

So this led me to look into what was required to offer customers a place on my own VPS, with a long term view to setting up multiple VPSs to host customers websites on something that I have more control over and can purchase more RAM and Disk space as I add more customers websites. In this way I can offer a more affordable VPS solution.

Earlier this year I wrote another Blog post about the advantages of a VPS. You can read it here.

I won’t go into pricing here, but if you are interested, give me a call on (07) 5428-7905, or fill in the Contact Form below and we will be in touch.

 

Is it time to step up to a VPS in 2016?

VPSAt some stage in the hosting life cycle for Mission Critical websites, a time comes where a site owner can no longer accept the occasional ups and downs of a Shared Hosting platform. A fast, reliable and robust Hosting solution is required.

A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is the next step up from Shared Hosting and is the perfect answer to those who require dedicated resources, uptime guarantees, and more control without being affected by their hosting neighbours. While a VPS is also technically hosted on a shared platform, a portion of the server has resources that are assigned to only the one user, which means no fighting for this resource allocation. The user also has the ability to gain full control over the server and make use of it however they’d like.

Shared hosting, while it is the most popular due to it’s low cost, uses the same resources as their hosting neighbours. Websites hosted on a Shared Hosting platform are much more susceptible to their site going down as it pulls these resources in a “first come, first served” basis.

If your intention is to host multiple or even one website with reliability and speed, a VPS is a must for you. There is a higher guarantee that your website will run efficiently and handle high spikes of traffic than if it were to run on basic Shared Hosting Server.

If you would like to know more about our VPS Hosting Plans, please contact us on (07) 5428-7905 0r via email at info@spottydog.com.au

Millions of Joomla websites at risk due to bug

Joomla BugUh oh, this isn’t good.

It seems that for over two years there has been a SQL-injection vulnerability in the Joomla Platform (which is used in millions of websites) that will allow remote takeover hacks.

SQL-injection vulnerabilities allow end users to execute powerful commands on a website’s backend database by entering “special” text in search boxes or other input fields found on a website. The flaws, which are among the most commonly exploited website vulnerabilities, are the result of an insecure Web application failing to enforce the treatment of incoming data as plain text rather than executable code. Often, this makes it possible for hackers to download confidential files from the vulnerable server.

Joomla have now patched the platform, but if website owners do not install the update, they are still vulnerable.

It’s a good thing all of our websites are using the WordPress platform 🙂

You can read more about this issue at Joomla Bug.

News from Google – They will help with reinstating Search Rankings after a Hack Attack

Google will help after a Hack AttackYou may not be aware, but if your website gets hacked, it will affect your search rankings.

This is obvious when you think about it. Google’s main aim is to serve up the best results for the searcher’s query, and obviously, a hacked website is not the best result!!

Google has announced that they will endeavour to assist Webmasters with reinstating their Search Rankings after a hack attack through their revamped Reconsideration Request Process.

In a recent Google Blog Post, they say they have recorded a 180% increase in the number of websites that have been hacked this year, and there has been a 300% increase in the number of Reconsideration Requests they have received.

Google have realised the difficulties inherent in their previous Reconsideration Request process, and have made a few changes that they say will assist Webmasters getting the websites back up and running and restore their previous Search Positions.

Specifically, these three changes:

  1. Better communication
  2. Improved tools
  3. A continuous feedback loop

Google have also also said that the step up for victims of hacking is part of a wider support initiative designed to protect websites from being hacked in the first place.

Better Communication will be in the form of advice specifically tailored to your personal circumstances when responding to a Reconsideration Request. Google will also make more advice available to webmasters to help improve website security and quickly tackle hacking issues if the website is compromised.

Improved Tools will be in the form of better access to resources required to recover from a hack attack. These include the auto removal of hacked manual actions (still in beta testing). This manual action removal will take place when search engine spiders detect that hacked content has already been removed – however, the webmaster will still need to submit a reconsideration request.

A hacked website troubleshooter is also available, and will guides webmasters through the steps required to recover from the attack. The “Fetch as Google” tool can also be used by showing exactly how Google sees the site. This will make it easier for the Webmaster to detect hacked content, including injected content.

Feedback from website owners that have been hacked and who are going through the Reconsideration Request process will continue to mould Google’s practices.

 

Website Revamp

Our revamped websiteI’m pleased to announce our much anticipated Website Revamp.

I’ve spent the last two weeks designing, tweaking and generally re-doing everything to do with the website.

It features an awesome Home Page “Layered” Slider, animated thumbnails and images, Testimonials and elegant styling.

It is of course responsive, meaning that it will display on all different devices regardless of screen size.

Are the dot com & dot com.au TLD’s dead?

Is the dot com TLD dead?My personal opinion is no, .COM and .COM.AU TLD’s (Top Level Domains) are not dead by a long shot.

However, there are many prominent organistaions out there suggesting that they are going the way of the dinosaur and are dead and buried.

There are a whole raft of new TLD’s now available. For example, .SYDNEY, .MARKET, .DENTIST, .PROPERTY and the list goes on. As a consequence, there has been a concerted push by those selling these new TLD’s to encourage their take-up.

From where I sit, 30 years on from the introduction of the first domain using .COM, it has taken this long for consumers and businesses to get their heads around using and understanding other TLD’s like .NET and .ORG, never mind newer ones like .TV or .BIZ, which I have to say, not one of my customers have opted for.

Is there a benefit in using one of the new TLD’s?

Having said that, I can see the new TLD’s gradually becoming more prominent in the minds of those starting new businesses and looking to take advantage of a Domain Name that was previously unavailable. As an example, there may be a domain registered like www.mydomain.com, and it is therefore not available to a new business. But what if you could register www.mydomain.sydney? Now that would be attractive to a business that has the same name as someone else and is also based in Sydney, because it immediately shows where they are based, and there would be definite SEO advantages having that keyword in the Domain.

But for the meantime, I cannot see people moving away from the good old .COM or .COM.AU any time soon.

You may also be interested in reading Should I use Domain Name email instead of using my ISP assigned email address?

 

Websites are being Encrypted and held to Ransom

Encrypted Website Database - RansomThere is a new security threat for website owners to contend with.

Similar to Crypto-locker and other Ransomware, there is a new threat that will encrypt the core database files of a website.

Dubbed “RansomWeb” by Security firm High-Tech Bridge, database files are encrypted, and an email is sent to the admin demanding the payment of a Ransom to unencrypt the files. In one case, the Ransom demanded was US$50,000.

Stop your website from being encrypted and being subjected to a Ransom

Now even though this particular website was doing backups of the database, they were doing automated backups that remained on the Server. Unfortunately for them, their website was compromised months before the attack occurred, and consequently all their backups were compromised. This is why it is so important to download backups and keep them separate from the Server.

One of the things that we do here at Website Design by Spotty Dog Computer Services as part of our Monthly Maintenance and Backups Service is to download backups of your website to a local hard drive. We will keep up to 12 mths of backups so that in the event that something like this happens to your website, we can restore an uninfected and uncompromised backup.

Apart from downloading backups to a local hard drive, the best thing you can do is have a secure website. That means installing security plug-in’s that close security holes, and keeping WordPress and all Plug-in’s up to date as new releases are made available. This is of course part of our Monthly Maintenance Services too.

So if you have a WordPress based website, we can take steps to protect your website (and your sanity), but please do not wait until it is too late!!!

Just one of the many services we offer.

 

Should you be using Domain Name Email?

Domain Name Email

So let’s start off by defining what “Domain Name Email” is.

What I mean by this is using an email address that ends with your Domain Name.

For example, info@domain.com.au.

Over the years I have seen plenty of businesses (even though they own a Domain Name and have a website), that continue to use either their ISP Domain Name, or a Gmail or Hotmail email address.

It is my opinion that you are probably doing your self a disservice if you adopt this practice.

I believe that it is a bit unprofessional to do this, and could even impact on your potential customers perception of the business.

I read an article from New Zealand recently that stated, “Close to nine in ten (89%) of these consumers know what a domain name is and believe that it’s very important for businesses to use a company specific email address”.

So it would seem that I am not the only one with this opinion.

There really isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t use Domain Name Email. Most Hosting accounts offer a minimum of 5 email addresses, or in the case of our Website Hosting, you get up to 100 email addresses on the Basic Account, and even more with the Standard and Business Accounts.

The other advantage to using Domain Name Email is that you can setup a number of them to use for different aspects of your business.

For example, you could have an email address specifically for Accounts, Enquiries, Technical Support and so on. This allows you to very easily sort and separate email types making it easier to find and refer to emails.

If you like to use a 3rd party email service like Gmail because you can use Google Apps for Business, then fear not. You can still have Domain Name Email because Gmail can be setup use with your Domain Name.

This is what I do and all my emails are across all devices and they are all synced with access to your Contacts and all emails including “Sent” items and “Drafts”.

Get yourself a WordPress Test Website in 2 seconds!!

To put it simply, this is absolutely brilliant!!!

I regularly have a need to create a WordPress Test Website for either customer development reasons, or to test theories and/or plug-in’s, and I usually do it in a sub-folder on one of my existing websites.

This works fine, but there are implications.

For one, there is a drain on my Server’s resources, and I need to exclude the development website from backups. I also use up a spare SQL Database, and then there is the time involved in doing all these things.

And if you experiment on a Live Website and something goes wrong, there is the hassle of troubleshooting and fixing that up too. So it makes sense to use a WordPress Test Website.

But I just found a new FREE service by qSandbox (yes you read that right, a Free Service), where you can not only setup a Test Website for free, but it literally takes only two seconds to setup.

You just visit their website at http://qsandbox.com/app/, and create an account by filling in 3 fields on a Form that include your Website Name, your Email Address and your chosen Password, then click “Create Account and Setup Site”

Free WordPress Test Website

You can watch their informative video below:

The Free Account only includes one website with the following Features:

Basic Free Test Website Features

But for as little as $2/month, you can get a whole lot more including the ability to Import an existing Website and Upload and Edit Themes.

It is certainly worth checking out if you need a WordPress Test Website to test plug-in’s.

VPS? – What is a VPS?

VPS - Virtual Private ServerSo just what is a VPS?

VPS stands for “Virtual Private Server”, and as the name suggests, it is literally a Virtual Server or Virtual Web Host. In other words, it is a “Virtual Machine” on a Computer (a Server), provided by a Web Hosting Company. It is sometimes referred to as a Virtual Dedicated Server or VDS.

Most basic websites are hosted on a “Shared Server”. A Shared Server means that your website shares the Server with 100’s and possibly 1000’s of other websites. What this means is that when there are peak loads, or lots of traffic to these websites, it can affect your website causing it to slow down, or even prevent it from loading at all and “timing out”.

A VPS gives you a way of having your own “Dedicated Server” without actually needing the physical hardware. Strictly speaking, a VPS is a Dedicated Server in a Shared Server environment. ie, multiple VPS’s are located on the one big Server.

Confused yet? It can be a little difficult to get your head around.

Advantages of a VPS

The biggest advantage that I see with a VPS is that apart from the increased speed, you can host more than one website on the one Server. So in my case, I have six websites on a VPS, and because I have Administrative access to them all, I have greater control over what can be done without the need to rely on the Hosting Company. In addition, unlike Shared Hosting, no other websites/users on the Server (that hosts the VPS) can affect your websites because the VPS is isolated from them.

So, given the advantages of a VPS, I made the decision recently to move my websites (including this one) and Spotty Dog Computer Services to a VPS. It’s only just happened, so I’ll reserve my judgement for now on the cost vs speed and reliability, so stay tuned for updates.