Shared, VPS, Cloud or Dedicated – What’s Right For You?

published on May 28, 2014

Choosing the right type of web hosting can be a bit confusing especially if you are beginner. Most web users start off posting content on free platforms or blog sites that offer free space but with a few restrictions. This isn’t a bad starting point at all. However, once the web user gains a little bit more confidence and becomes a little bit more web savvy, the need for more control over how content is presented and delivered levels up. It is at this point that the web user starts considering self-hosting his content.

Web Hosting Options

There are many web hosting companies out there offering various types of web packages that will match the demands of your website. What are the basic things you need to look out for to figure out which plan best suits your needs? Let’s take a look at each one.

Shared Hosting

Shared web hosting, currently the most popular type of and most common form of web hosting service, is a web hosting option where many websites are hosted on the same server. This means that numerous clients’ websites are housed together to share the same resources (processor, memory, bandwidth, software), and the number of sites per server can be up into the thousands. You could say that it’s like a huge tray of pizza with different flavors cut up into as many little squares or triangles as possible.

PROS:

  • Cheaper, affordable rates
  • Ideal for small businesses, blogs, and personal websites. Clients pay for what they need and can upgrade as their business needs grow.
  • Web hosts handle the “tech stuff” like installation,updates, control panel management and administration, server maintenance, MySQL and PHP support,etc.

CONS

  • Clients typically have limits on disk space, monthly bandwidth, and other resources such as CPU, RAM, and i/o.
  • Problems with one site can affect other sites on the same server.
  • Upgrade to some system software can sometimes cause issues with your code or scripts if they are not compatible

(source: Webhostingtalk.com)

Virtual Private Server or VPS

VPS hosting is a type of web hosting that uses Virtual Private Servers. The easiest way to visualize how VPS work is to use the apartment analogy. Each virtual server, or “container”, on the machine is like an apartment suite. You can install any software you like or restart your own container without affecting the other containers on the machine, much like how you can renovate your own suite without affecting the others. A single computer can have several VPSs, each one with its own operating system (OS) that runs the hosting software for a particular user.
(source: Techtarget.com)

PROS:

  • Hardware and network infrastructures are maintained by the hosting provider.
  • VPS enables the user to install any kind of software that is capable of running on that operating system.
  • Less expensive than dedicated server plans.

CONS

  • VPS hosts don’t always offer unlimited bandwidth and storage
  • Costs more than Shared Hosting.
  • With unmanaged or self managed hosting, the customer is left to administer his own server instance.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud server hosting is a type of hosting in which hosting services are made available to customers on demand via the Internet. Rather than being provided by a single server or virtual server, cloud server hosting services are provided by multiple connected servers that comprise a cloud. Cloud server hosting is also sometimes referred to as cluster server hosting or server on-demand hosting.

Cloud server hosting offers the advantages of increased accessibility and reliability, seamless scalability and potential cost savings, as customers are freed from having to invest in on-premises servers and hardware, and they pay only for the resources they consume. On the other hand, security and lack of access and full control are potential concerns with cloud server hosting.
(source: Webopedia.com)

PROS:

  • You have access to resources you need as you grow.
  • You can increase your available resources immediately, when you need it.
  • You can get what you need when you need it and you only pay for what you use.

CONS

  • Possibility of serious security issues.
  • Perceived as unstable and unsafe.
  • Cloud web hosting services are very restrictive for people dealing with commerce especially on security matters where the data kept on the systems are maintained by a third party.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is an Internet hosting option in which an organization leases an entire server, which is often housed in a data center. The host not only provides the server equipment, but may also provide administration and other services. This is considered a more flexible arrangement for the client because unlike in shared server arrangements, it gives the organization total control over the server, its software and security systems. In some cases, a dedicated server can be less expensive.

Dedicated hosting is also known as a dedicated server or managed hosting service.

PROS:

  • A unique and dedicated IP address.
  • A greater degree of security that can be customized according to a client’s needs. Difficult to hack, making this ideal for companies with lots of customer information or large corporate accounts.
  • Custom firewall which can help in enforcing the access control policy.

CONS

  • Dedicated hosting is more costly.
  • Need to administer the server so prior knowledge (or outsourcing the job) is needed.
  • Diagnostics and problem resolution is more difficult

At the end of the day, it boils down to your website needs, how much you can afford, and how much time you want to spend on maintaining and managing the whole backend. Once you have defined these items, you can more or less decide which hosting option is best for you.


Late to the Game? It’s Time to Make Your Business Mobile Friendly

published on May 26, 2014

Go mobile! This is the warning cry of business gurus in the technology age. Making your business mobile friendly is great advice since more than half of American adults own smartphones, according to Pew Research Internet Project. But, like eating well and getting exercise, the advice is easier said than done. Deciding where to start and what aspects of the business to convert to mobile platforms can be daunting and can change your overall business structure. Consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program and consult your business plan before implementing mobile technology.

Mobile Website

The easiest and least invasive strategy is to optimize your existing website for mobile viewing. A beautifully designed website with high quality graphics and elaborate video may not translate well onto the smaller screen of a smartphone or tablet. With a third of people exclusively using mobile technology to go online, according to Scientific.net having a website that is not readily viewable can dilute your online presence. Depending on the hosting platform you are using, optimizing your site for mobile application can be as easy as adding a plugin. Some HTML platforms may require you use a Web designer to appropriately format large data components like video.

Mobile Marketing

If you are one of those people who does not like using Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, get over it. Social media marketing is word of mouth multiplied by a million. Social media marketing is one of the best ways to expand your brand reach. If you have not done so, create a Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest page, then post often. There are many good articles online that discuss the best use of social media, but the important part is to have and use the pages.

Mobile Productivity

Devices like the Samsung Galaxy or the iPad Air let an entrepreneur do business wherever he is. Your small business environment can be turned on its ear by using mobile productivity applications. Where you once sat in an office to do your work, you can get the same amount done while visiting new prospective customers. Google’s app store has hundreds of applications to increase mobile productivity. These applications range from buying postage stamps, to whole accounting suites. If you are trying to translate an existing brick and mortar business into something more productive, start small with apps that allow you to access your business’ financial information.

Mobile Store

If you want to make the big shift to mobile, place your whole product list online and create an e-commerce shopping cart. This is simpler than you may think. As long as you have a current inventory list, you can place this list online and integrate the point of sales system with the e-store. This will allow the virtual store to always be current without a lot of effort on your part. There are several great shopping cart managers that have monthly packages as low as $15 per month.


Best WordPress Plugins to Boost Your Business Site’s Performance

published on May 20, 2014

Most corporate websites are extensions of real-world businesses that want to create an online presence. In the real world, these companies most likely have real-time tools and metrics in place to determine how the business is doing at any given point. Reports and analysis are part and parcel of normal operations as is marketing campaigns and feedback. Does this apply to the company’s online presence?

The online address of a company serves as a virtual business card cum portfolio cum marketing tool which the company can use to expand their reach. It is not unusual for business owners to expect that the same measurables to be derived from their corporate website. The ability to track, measure, and analyze data extracted from online activities is one of the key things a business owner needs to be able to do to be able to asses the effectiveness of the corporate website.

Here are some of the best WordPress plugins and tools you can use to enhance the efficiency of as well as measure the viability your business website.

Site Security and Backup

iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security)

iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security) gives you over 30+ ways to secure and protect your WordPress site. On average, 30,000 new websites are hacked each day. WordPress sites can be an easy target for attacks because of plugin vulnerabilities, weak passwords and obsolete software. iThemes Security works to fix common holes, stop automated attacks and strengthen user credentials. This plugin hides common WordPress security vulnerabilities, preventing attackers from learning too much about your site and away from sensitive areas like your site’s login, admin, etc. iThemes Security works to protect it by blocking bad users and increasing the security of passwords and other vital information. This plugin monitors your site and reports changes to the filesystem and database that might indicate a compromise, works to detect bots and other attempts to search vulnerabilities, and makes regular backups of your WordPress database, allowing you to get back online quickly in the event of an attack.

WordPress Backup to Dropbox

WordPress Backup to Dropbox keeps your valuable WordPress website, its media and database backed up to Dropbox in minutes and on a regular basis. Simply choose a day, time and how often you wish your backup to be performed and just wait for your websites files and an SQL dump of its database to be dropped in your Dropbox account.

Wordfence Security

Wordfence Security is a free enterprise class security plugin that includes a firewall, anti-virus scanning, cellphone sign-in (two factor authentication), malicious URL scanning and live traffic including crawlers. Wordfence is the only WordPress security plugin that can verify and repair your core, theme and plugin files, even if you don’t have backups. Key features include: real-time blocking of known attackers, two factor authentication used by banks, government agencies and military world-wide for highest security authentication, includes a firewall to block common security threats like fake Googlebots, malicious scans from hackers and botnets, block entire malicious networks, etc.

Site Statistics and Analytics

Google Analyticator

Google Analyticator adds the necessary JavaScript code to enable Google Analytics logging on any WordPress blog. This eliminates the need to edit your template code to begin logging. Google Analyticator also includes several widgets for displaying Analytics data in the admin and on your blog. It supports Universal (analytics.js) and traditional analytics (ga.js), includes an admin dashboard widget that displays a graph of the last 30 days of visitors, a summary of site usage, the top pages, the top referrers, and the top searches, supports outbound link tracking of all links on the page, including links not managed by WordPress, and many other features to support Google Analytics on your site.

Google Analytics for WordPress

Google Analytics for WordPress plugin allows you to track your blog easily with lots of metadata, views per author & category, automatic tracking of outbound clicks and pageviews. This plugin uses the asynchronous Google Analytics tracking code, the fastest and most reliable tracking code Google Analytics offers. It features simple installation through integration with Google Analytics API where its as simple as authenticating and selecting the site you want to track. You can also easily connect your Google AdSense and Google Analytics accounts.

Site Content Management

Editorial Calendar

The Editorial Calendar plugin makes it possible to see all your posts and drag and drop them to manage your blog and gives you an overview of your blog and when each post will be published. You can drag and drop to move posts, edit posts right in the calendar, and manage your entire blog.

Zedity™ The Easiest Way To Create Your Content

Zedity™ is an innovative Editor to create your posts or pages amazingly easily, quickly and hassle-free with no technical skills required. It gives you total flexibility and unprecedented possibilities to create any desired design, as easily as if done on a piece of paper. Key features include: content in posts and pages that scale down accordingly to your responsive layout, additional content boxes (color box, document box, HTML5 box), audio and video embed capabilities, snap and alignment positioning, and so many other features.

WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache plugin creates static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog. Performance enhancement features include: Generating static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog, Minify HTML (decrease the size of page), Minify Css (decrease the size of CSS files), All cache files are deleted when a post or page is published, Enable/Disable cache option for mobile devices, Leverage browser caching which reduces page load times for repeat visitors, etc.

SEO

WordPress SEO by Yoast

WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, designed and developed by WordPress Consultant Joost De Valk, is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.


Need More Speed? Improve Your Site’s Loading Time Significantly With These Tools

published on May 13, 2014

Fast food. Fast cars. Fast download. Fast upload. We live in an instant gratification generation and everyone wants to get everything “Pronto!” – especially on the Internet. Here are some of the tools you can use to make sure your site is up to par as far as speed is concerned. Check these out.:

Page Speed Insights

High performance web sites lead to higher visitor engagement, retention and conversions. Analyze and optimize your website with PageSpeed tools to implement the web performance best practices. The PageSpeed family of tools is designed to help you optimize the performance of your website. PageSpeed Insights products will help you identify performance best practices that can be applied to your site, and PageSpeed optimization tools can help you automate the process.

Page Speed Insights measures the performance of a page for mobile devices and desktop devices. It fetches the url twice, once with a mobile user-agent, and once with a desktop-user agent. PageSpeed Insights measures how the page can improve its performance on:

  • time to above-the-fold load: Elapsed time from the moment a user requests a new page and to the moment the above-the-fold content is rendered by the browser.
  • time to full page load: Elapsed time from the moment a user requests a new page to the moment the page is fully rendered by the browser.

Pingdom Website Speed Test

Pingdom Website Speed Test is an easy-to-use tool to help you analyze the load speed of your website and learn how to make it faster. It lets you identify what about a web page is fast, slow, too big, what best practices you’re not following, to help you optimize the performance of the website. You can:

  • Examine all parts of a web page – View file sizes, load times, and other details about every single element of a web page (HTML, JavaScript and CSS files, images, etc.).
  • Automatically put together plenty of performance-related statistics for you based on the test result
  • See how your website conforms to performance best practices from Google Page Speed
  • Trace your performance history
  • Test from multiple locations

Picresizer – Online Picture Resizer

PicResize.com is one of the oldest and most popular image editing tools on the Internet. Easily crop, resize, and edit your images online for FREE using this online image processor.

WP Smush It

Smush.it uses optimization techniques specific to image format to remove unnecessary bytes from image files. It is a “lossless” tool, which means it optimizes the images without changing their look or visual quality. After Smush.it runs on a web page it reports how many bytes would be saved by optimizing the page’s images and provides a downloadable zip file with the minimized image files.

The smushed images on Smushit.com will only be available there temporarily so do not link to it. Instead, download the zip file containing the smushed images for your web page and replace your image files with those files.

TinyPNG – Compress PNG images while Preserving Transparency

TinyPNG uses smart lossy compression techniques to reduce the file size of your PNG files. By selectively decreasing the number of colors in the image, fewer bytes are required to store the data. Use TinyPNG to shrink images for your apps and sites. It will use less bandwidth and load faster.

jQuery Image Lazy Load WP

jQuery is a fast, small, and feature-rich JavaScript library. It makes things like HTML document traversal and manipulation, event handling, animation, and Ajax much simpler with an easy-to-use API that works across a multitude of browsers. This plugin allows you to delay loading of images in long web pages. Images outside of viewport wont be loaded before user scrolls to them.

P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)

This plugin creates a profile of your WordPress site’s plugins’ performance by measuring their impact on your site’s load time. Often times, WordPress sites load slowly because of poorly configured plugins or because there are so many of them. By using the P3 plugin, you can narrow down anything causing slowness on your site.


WordPress 3.9 – Jimmy Smith

published on May 12, 2014

If you haven’t updated your WordPress version yet, now would be the perfect time to do so. WordPress has just released WordPress 3.9 and as it has been tradition, this release was named after another music legend, jazz organist Jimmy Smith.

As was posted in a previous article, WP 3.9 includes many refinements that will improve the multimedia experience of both site owner and site visitors. Check out the features below:

WordPress 3.9 Key Features

Improved visual editing

The updated visual editor has improved speed, accessibility, and mobile support. You can paste into the visual editor from your word processor without wasting time to clean up messy styling.

Edit images easily

With quicker access to crop and rotation tools, it’s now much easier to edit your images while editing posts. You can also scale images directly in the editor to find just the right fit.

Drag and drop your images

Uploading your images is easier than ever. Just grab them from your desktop and drop them in the editor.

Gallery previews

Galleries display a beautiful grid of images right in the editor, just like they do in your published post.

Do more with audio and video

Images have galleries; They’ve added simple audio and video playlists, so you can showcase your music and clips.

Live widget and header previews

Add, edit, and rearrange your site’s widgets right in the theme customizer. Preview your changes live and only save them when you’re ready. The improved header image tool also lets you upload, crop, and manage headers while customizing your theme.

Stunning new theme browser

WordPress 3.9 comes with the beautiful new theme browser – Twenty Fourteen.

(source: WordPress.org News)

WordPress 3.9 is available for download or update in your WordPress dashboard.
ETA: WordPress 3.9.1 update is now available


Reduce Sales Team Failures By Using the Information You Have

published on May 6, 2014

In this age of big data, the lack of information is still a big cause of the failure of sales teams. According to the TAS Group, 67 percent of sales people don’t hit their quota. Even more shocking is that 23 percent of the companies surveyed didn’t know if their sales force hit their targets. Lack of information or a failure to pay attention to the right information spells doom for any sales force. If you recognize any of the following traits, it’s time to overhaul your sales processes and get your team back on top.

What Happens in Your Sales Process?

The thought that more leads equals more sales pervades some companies. Playing the numbers game, they keep generating leads for the sales people without knowing what is happening in the sales cycle with existing leads.

What mistakes are you making with your sales team? Are sales people spending too much time qualifying? How many contacts does it take them to get an appointment to speak with leads? Every sales person has their strengths and weaknesses. Identifying those and working on the weaknesses is more productive than throwing more leads at them. As their technique improves, they will have more successful conversions and will need fewer leads.

Hold Your Process to Performance Standards

Every step of your sales process should be assigned a weighted average based on its importance in the sales cycle, says Manage Your Leads. It’s not all about the percentage of closes. How much time should sales people spend on cold calls? What percentage of initial contacts result in more significant sales discussions? Establish a baseline for each step of the sales cycle and evaluate your process frequently. Make adjustments until you have the right balance in all steps for your company and products.

One way to be diligent about your sales cycle is by tracking it with tools that manage your overall sales pipeline with software like InsightSquared, which focuses on sales analytics. These tools follow leads from generation to close with metrics about each step. You’ll know where in the cycle each lead is and what is needed to move to the next step. For example, you’ll know if a sales person has prospects bunched up in a post-demo follow-up step but can’t get back to them in a timely way. Your sales managers will have a better idea when to step in and offer assistance instead of losing a deal due to delays.

Make Sales a Team Effort Again

There is so much emphasis placed on individual sales quotas and targets that people forget it is a team effort. Each sales person has access to all of the resources in the company to make the sale. If the focus is on making the sale instead of making one’s numbers, then everybody wins.

Sales managers should be prepared to step in at any stage of the sales cycle. They are not just the muscle to bring in to close. Consumers are good with the team approach if each person adds value. They don’t want to feel simply passed around to a different high-pressure sales person. “Let me get you connected with another person on our team who specializes in supply-chain management” is a way to engage your team and let the customer know you are trying to come up with the best solution for them.


Web Design Competitions You Need to Join

published on May 6, 2014

Competitions offer many tangible and intangible benefits if you are brave enough to enter them. The competitive arena gives you the opportunity to benchmark your skills set versus others and from there, develop an improvement path towards achieving excellence and mastery in your selected field. Joining competitions can be healthy and push you to try to go beyond what you normally can do.

Competitive activities can be powerful tools for boosting confidence, developing high-level technical competence and encouraging self-reliance. – World Skills UK.org

In the web design industry, there are numerous competitions that are worth participating in. It is worth mentioning though that, although winning is an important goal in any competition, there are also so many intangible benefits that can be had by simply participating in the competition process itself. These include personal benefits like discipline, perseverance, pushing creative boundaries, etc., and even professional benefits such as networking, recognition from peers, exposure, etc.

Having said all that, here are some of the noteworthy competitions in the web design industry that you need to try to participate in at least once in your lifetime.

AIGA design competitions

AIGA is a global community of design advocates and practitioners. AIGA advances design as a professional craft, strategic advantage and vital cultural force. As the largest community of design advocates, they bring together practitioners, enthusiasts and patrons to amplify the voice of design and create the vision for a collective future. They define global standards and ethical practices, guide design education, inspire designers and the public, enhance professional development, and make powerful tools and resources accessible to all. AIGA’s design competitions celebrate exemplary design and demonstrate the power of effective design.

Communication Arts Competitions

Communication Arts is the premier source of inspiration for graphic designers, art directors, design firms, corporate design departments, advertising agencies, interactive designers, illustrators and photographers—everyone involved in visual communication. Whether in print or online, CA’s editorials, feature articles and the annual competitions it sponsors provide new ideas and information, while promoting the highest professional standards for the field.

Communication Arts has six juried competitions that cover the entire field of visual communications. With winning entries published both in print and online, art and creative directors, graphic designers, Web designers, copywriters, photographers and illustrators find these competitions a priority for worldwide promotion and valuable resource for potential clients and colleagues.

HOW Design Competitions and Designer Contests

The design competitions from HOW Magazine give you your shot at huge exposure to potential clients. Whether you’re an in-house designer, go it alone as a freelancer, or just starting out as a student, competition is fierce in our industry. You are competing for work, clients, positions, and bragging rights. HOW Magazine has some of the best competitions in the industry to show off your work. Use the market reach of HOW Magazine to increase your exposure in print and online and get your work in front of potential clients and claim the bragging rights of an award winner. HOW magazine sponsors several high-profile graphic design competitions annually, and is affiliated with competitions sponsored by sister publications Print and I.D.

A’ Web Design Award Competition

A’ Web Design Award is the indicator of quality and perfection in web design and development, the award is recognized worldwide and takes the attention of design oriented companies, professionals and interest groups. Winning the A’ Award is a certificate of excellence for designers, an important milestone in your career. Having the A’ Award attracts the eyes of design oriented companies worldwide, winners will be able to find better and higher profile jobs & sales leads, and get a step ahead in their life.

The A’ Web Design award, is a multi-disciplinary design award category that focuses on the broader web design definition of web development. The Web Design category is open to submissions of websites, cloud based software, online applications, web pages, widgets and applets realized by companies and design studios worldwide.


Web and WordPress News Roundup for April 2014

published on April 28, 2014

Hello spring, farewell winter. Time to get out of the house, grab a comfy chair, watch the snow melt and catch up on the most interesting news on the web today. Here are some of the most interesting posts and articles buzzing right now in the big www.