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

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.

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.

A whole lot of New Domain Names available

New Top Level Domain NamesOver the last couple of months, there have been a raft of new Top Level Domains (TLD’s) released. A Domain Name is the www address of your website. For example, the Domain Name for this website is www.websitedesignmorayfield.com.au. The choice of a Domain Name is a pretty important one, so having all these new TLD’s will give a lot of people the opportunity to get a Domain Name that better reflects their businesses or what the website is about. Most of the popular choices were snapped up years ago, but now the opportunity exists to have a variation of a traditional .com or .com.au. For example, you might have wanted to register www.joescatering.com.au, but it was unavailable. However, www.joes.catering may well be available. When most people are trying to come up with a Domain Name for their new website, they will immediately be thinking about a .com or a .com.au or possibly a .net.au etc. But the TLD landscape has changed a lot, and you now have some pretty interesting choices. Below is a list of just some of the newest TLD’s:
  • .associates
  • .bargains
  • .bike
  • .boutique
  • .build
  • .builders
  • .camera
  • .care
  • .catering
  • .cheap
  • .cleaning
  • .clothing
  • .club
  • .coffee
  • .company
  • .computer
  • .contractors
  • .construction
  • .cool
  • .cruises
  • .dance
  • .dental
  • .engineering
  • .equipment
  • .events
  • .fish
  • .florist
  • .gallery
  • .gift
  • .industries
  • .institute
  • .kitchen
  • .lease
  • .lighting
  • .management
  • .marketing
  • .menu
  • .parts
  • .photo
  • .photography
  • .pictures
  • .plumbing
  • .properties
  • .recipes
  • .rentals
  • .repair
  • .services
  • .sexy
  • .shoes
  • .solar
  • .supplies
  • .tattoo
  • .technology
  • .tools
  • .toys
  • .trade
  • .training

You can purchase your chosen Domain Names from Spotty Dog Computer Services

Google to give preference to Encrypted websites in search results

Secure SSL and Google Search resultsWell it’s been 5 minutes since Google moved the goal posts, so I guess it’s time for them to make another change. Can you tell I am being sarcastic?

Now it seems that in an effort to make the web a more secure place, Google will favour encrypted websites (those websites with an SSL Certificate and having the https prefix) over standard non-encrypted websites.

This will place an additional cost burden on website owners, but it may or may not be a bad thing depending on your point of view.

Encouraging website owners to do this will indeed make web surfing a safer past time, but unless your website is collecting data, I don’t see that it is a real necessity.

But on the other hand, it certainly won’t hurt.

SSL Certificates

I guess it is already having the desired effect.

The impending move to penalise a websites ranking because it is unencrypted has made me purchase an SSL Certificate and install it on this very website.

Those of you who are astute may have noticed that all the pages on this website are now prefixed with https instead of http. The ‘s’ after http denotes that it is a secure connection.

It was a relatively painful exercise in the end, but it did require the Host to install it and set it up on my behalf.

So get ready boys and girls. If you don’t want your search rankings to fall, you may need to consider purchasing an SSL Certificate!!!

FYI, there are several types of SSL Certificate available. They are the Standard SSL Certificate (from $33/yr), the Premium SSL Certificate (from $75/yr), and the Wildcard SSL Certificate (from $500/yr).

Click on the links above to see pricing and to purchase one.

All SSL Certificates are 128/256 Bit Encryption, and trusted by all Browsers.

There is also a fee of $88 to set it up if you cannot do it yourself.

*EDIT

For the time being, Google won’t be penalising sites heavily if they don’t enable HTTPS. The company describes it as “a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content”. But once webmasters have been given time to switch their sites over, the search firm warns that “we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

Google’s Latest Update and your Business

Google's new algorithm HummingbirdGoogle has just launched it’s new algorithm named “Hummingbird”.

If you didn’t already know, Google uses a secret algorithm to determine what should be displayed in a search query. The latest incarnation of this algorithm is called Hummingbird.

So what, I hear you say. Well if you are a business owner with a website, you should care because there is the potential that it will affect your search rankings and because of the way Google now deals with what it shows the searcher, it could also reduce traffic to your website.

This algorithm overhaul aims to limit the “fluff” that is sometimes present on a website purely for SEO, and filter that stuff out, so that the the searcher gets more relevant and useful search results.

The Hummingbird algorithm has moved away from traditional keyword analysis of the content, and now uses “conversational” techniques that are more in tune with what the searcher is looking for.

Google have found that user searches are becoming longer and very specific, so the new Hummingbird algorithm focuses on the searchers’ “intent” by trying to answer the searchers’ question.

How does the Hummingbird Update affect your Business Website?

This latest update will undoubtedly affect your current rankings.

It may be negative or positive, or in other words, your rankings may improve or get worse or a combination of both.

For those businesses that had poor rankings for generic non specific terms, you may well find that your rankings improve.

If you don’t want your rankings to suffer with this latest update, Businesses will need to rethink the content of their websites to come more into line on how people use the internet to search for goods and services.

Hummingbird places a higher emphasis on conversational techniques and natural language, and has been driving towards better support for longer search queries. Hummingbird takes this a step further by trying to provide answers to questions rather than finding matches for keywords.

This is because serving up results based on keywords does not always reflect what it is someone is searching for.

When formulating the content of your pages, you will need to consider what sort of questions will be asked by a searcher and incorporating the answers within your content.

What this means is that simply having content on a page for the sake of having content, does not have the same impact it once did.

Why Hummingbird may affect traffic to your website

One of the big changes that has come with the new update is the way Google displays information.

Search data may now be displayed to the right of the search results.

For example, if you type “Gravity” and then search, to the right of the search results you will see information from the IMDb website showing data from their website about the movie Gravity.

Now this may be great for the searcher, but what this means is that the searcher is now less likely to visit the IMDb website.

Other things that may be displayed in the Brave New World of Google Search are things like links to YouTube videos or a link to “Watch It Now” on Google Play, ie. Google’s own content.

Wherever possible, you will now find Google trying to direct people to their own content rather than your website.

So what can your Business do?

Well not a great deal.

About all you can do is try and concentrate on the content, framing it in a way that answers questions people may be searching for, ensuring at the same time that it uses natural language without looking spammy and without keyword stuffing.

Stick to the other principles of SEO by including relevant images, videos, headings, page titles and page url’s.

Top 5 WordPress Plug-in’s for your Business Website

Top 5 WordPress Plug-in's

 

There are almost an infinite number of Plug-in’s available for a WordPress based website.

However, there are some that I believe are a must have regardless of what type of Website or Blog you have.

The following Plug-in’s are the top five that I believe are essential and you should have installed:

    • Change the urls (web address) for the WordPress dashboard including login, admin, and more.
    • Rename the “admin” account. For example you could rename it admin2013.
    • Change the WordPress database table prefix. The default is wp_.  The plug-in will change it to a random set of letters.
    • Change wp-content path. You could change this to anything, for example site-content.
    • Ban bots and other hosts.
    • Prevent brute force attacks by banning hosts and users with too many invalid login attempts.
    • Enforce strong passwords for all accounts from Subscriber’s to Admin’s.
    • Detect and block numerous attacks to your filesystem and database.
  • BackupBuddy – This plug-in has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.  Imagine you have spent 100’s of hours and dollars developing your website, and the unthinkable happens.  Your website is hacked and your website is compromised, or even worse, the Web Hosts’ Server is hacked and everything is lost.  Now wouldn’t it be nice to be able to restore your website from a backup almost immediately?  Well that is just one of the things you can do with BackupBuddy.  BackupBuddy is a “Paid For” plug-in, but it’s worth every cent.  With BackupBuddy, you can:
    • Back up your entire WordPress installation. Your Widgets, Themes, Plug-in’s, Files, Images, PDF’s and SQL database – the entire website!  Just like you would backup your laptop or desktop computer, you should be doing regular backups of your website. With BackupBuddy you can schedule backups and have them sent off-site to Dropbox, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud, an FTP server, or your email. Or you can download them straight to your computer.
    • Restore your WordPress site fast. The restore function in BackupBuddy is very simple. Upload a file called importbuddy.php and your backup file, and it restores WordPress including your Themes, Widgets, Plug in’s, and everything else. You don’t even need to re-install WordPress first!
    • Individual File Restoration – Did you make a whole lot of changes to your theme and then decide that you wanted everything back like it was?  Now you can identify files to restore individually, instead of having to go through a complete site restore!  Easily browse your backup .zip file contents right from the dashboard and decide which files to restore.
    • Move your WordPress site to another Web Host easily.  Not happy with your current Web Host?  No problem.  Simply make a backup of your website, sign up to a new Web Host, upload the backup file and importbuddy.php script and run it.
  • WordPress SEO – WordPress SEO would have to be the most complete WordPress SEO plugin around. It does everything including a Google Snippet Preview and Page Analysis that helps you optimise your page content, image titles, meta descriptions and more, as well as creating XML sitemaps, and a heap of optimisation options in between.
  • Broken Link Checker – Over time, a website will accumulate quite a number of links within pages, both internal links and external links.  These links will occasionally break when the website they point to cease to exist for any number of reasons.  You would only know if this was the case if you happened to check the links periodically, or you are notified by a vigilant visitor to your website.  Broken Link Checker will notify you via the WordPress Dashboard and via Email if it detects any broken links.
  • Imagify – One of the biggest mistakes I see when people manage their own websites (and sometimes by so called professionals), is the use of images that haven’t been optimised for web use. Imagify takes the hard work out of optimising images by doing it as you upload them. Of course you should still resize images to an appropriate pixel count first, but with this plug-in, images will be optimised on the fly. If you already have images on your website, there is also a bulk optimisation feature. The free version of the plug-in offers 25MB of data per month at no cost. After that, a fee is applicable, or you can wait until the next months anniversary and pick up a further 25MB Free.

Do you want an online catalogue for your Business Website?

It is often quite beneficial to display your Business Product Catalogue online in a format that actually behaves like a Print Catalogue.

For a start, even if you have an eCommerce website, a Flipping Book Online Catalogue looks flash and will impress your visitors.

Secondly, it provides a way for your visitors to interact with your website in a fun way, whilst at the same time allowing them to see your Products or Specials or whatever it is you want to display.

Now this can be achieved two ways.  Either using a Flipping Book Plug-in, or my preferred method, using software on your computer to create the Online Catalogue, and uploading the files to your website.

Below is an example of a Specials Catalogue that I created for my Computer Repairs Business.

The latest version of the Flipping Book Software has integrated support for the HTML5 standard which means that your publications are readable on almost all devices, including iPhones and Android based Phones, to tablets like the iPad, and E-readers.

Watch the video below to learn more about the capabilities of Flipping Book software.

What your Business should look for in a website

There are several things you should be looking for when getting a website developed for your business.

Below is a list of the top seven considerations that I believe are the most important.

  • It should use a Responsive Theme.  This has been touched on in the content on our Home Page, but it’s worth reiterating it here because I think it’s the Number One consideration.  A Responsive Theme will adjust itself to display well and correctly as the screen size of the device used changes.  So in other words, if you view a website on a 24″ Desktop Monitor, and then a Laptop, and then a Tablet and then a Mobile Phone with a small screen, the website should adapt and be usable on all the different screen sizes and resolutions.  Images should scale themselves down as applicable, and the Navigation structure should adapt as well.  So why is this so important?  Well the use of mobile devices and tablets to access the Internet has skyrocketed in recent times, nowhere more so than in Australia where our population has embraced the use of mobile devices.
  • It should have Cross Browser compatibility.  Not everyone uses the same Internet Browser.  Some people prefer Internet Explorer, or Firefox, or Chrome, and if you are using a Mac or iPad, then it’s most likely to be Safari.  In each case however, your website needs to display correctly.  If your business website does not display as intended, and parts of it are not where they should be or missing, then that will present an unprofessional look for your business and possibly result in a lost sale.
  • It should contain quality and relevant content.  Again, this has been touched on in the content of our Home Page, and what I am referring to is SEO or Search Engine Optimisation.  You can have the best looking website in the world, but if the content on the pages is not well written and relevant to your business and you are not targeting key words related to your industry, then you may as well not bother.  Take the time to do some Key Word Research, do a Google Search for some keywords and then check out the competitions websites to see what they are doing to get those top rankings.  You can’t guarantee you will get the same results, but it sure is better than doing nothing.
  • It should be easy to navigate and find things.  There is nothing worse than visiting a website and finding multiple navigation structures.  Some things can be found in the top menu, other things in a side menu and yet further things in the footer.  Now having said that, there are some valid reasons for doing this.  For example, on this website you will find our “Website Terms of Use” and “Privacy Policy” in the Footer and not on the Main Menu.  This is because they are not the sort of thing most visitors would be looking for.  Everything else however, should be accessible from the Main Menu and you shouldn’t have to guess where to look.  You should also have some sort of Search capability.  I use two different types of Search, depending on whether there is eCommerce involved or not.  If eCommerce is involved, then a Predictive Search plug-in is useful.  A Predictive Search will display a list of results as you type, and is handy for visitors looking for a particular product.
  • It should look clean.  Now this one is a hard one to quantify as beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Colours that I would say are garish, have been insisted on when I have designed websites for some customers.  All I can say is that just as you wouldn’t normally paint the walls of your house bright pink, so should you NOT do the same on your website.  Your logo may well incorporate bright orange and yellow, but that doesn’t mean it should permeate through the pages of your website.  It may even detract from the message or products you are trying to highlight.
  • It should allow visitors to engage via Social Media.  Now this one is the thing that most Business Owners struggle with.  The number one thing that I hear when I mention this is, I don’t want anything to do with that S*#!@.  Let me tell you that I hear you.  The fact of the matter though is that more and more people are using Social Media to communicate, shop, find out information, share information, and it can affect your Search results if you do not have a Social Media presence.  As much as we might dislike it, it is now part of online life whether we like it or not.
  • Make sure you own the Website and Domain Name.  I can’t count how many people have come to me after having their website designed by another company, being dissatisfied, and then wanting to transfer the Management of the website to us.  But when you ask for the log-in details for Domain Name Management, FTP log-in credentials, Website Hosting Account log-in credentials, and they don’t have them and the web designer won’t provide them.  Worse still, they have registered the Domain Name and Hosting Account in their name instead of the Business Owner, and setup the website so the Business Owner does not have full Admin control of the website.  This makes it almost impossible to transfer to a different Domain Registrar and Hosting Provider, and at the very least a frustrating and time consuming exercise.  So the lesson here is, make sure you are the owner and point of contact for your Domain Name, Website Hosting and that you have full Admin control of your website.