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checklist

The checklist every website owner should have

Downtime can cost your business money.  If you own a domain and have website or email hosting you should know where all your data is stored and how to access it. Whilst keeping track of your website details may seem like a tedious bore, in the event that you need them you’ll be glad you spent the time filling out our handy checklist.

Some instances where this will save you grief:

  • You wisely have your hosting with HostAway but your domain was registered years ago by that web developer, whats-his-name… I think he was someone from the Accounts Department’s cousin? Now your domain has expired and you don’t know how to renew it!
  • Your website was created by a web developer who wants to charge you ridiculous prices for monthly hosting. Without the login details you can’t move your website to HostAway. Oh no!
  • You’re having a new website created and your old web developer doesn’t want to hand over any of your login details to the new guy. Awkward!
  • You wish to leave HostAway (What! Are you crazy!?) but don’t have the heart to call their wonderful and helpful team to ask them for your login details. Hehe, just kidding, no-one has ever left us but if you want to be the first we’ll happily complete this form for you…and welcome you back with open arms when you realise the error of your ways 🙂

 

We’ve been helping people move their domain names, websites and email addresses to HostAway for over a decade and many customers could have saved themselves a heap of trouble and downtime if only they’d documented all their login details. Download our handy checklist now and contact us if you require any help completing it.

cms-update

Why you should update your website software

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
– John Donne

 

No website is an island (especially not if you want customers to find you!) so as the owner/editor you need to be aware that you can’t set up a website and then forget about it. Now that it’s on the Internet you need to keep it up to date. It may help to think of it like a bricks and mortar shop, which requires maintenance and occasional remodeling to remain attractive to customers.

Keeping your website up to date has important SEO implications, as relevant and recent content is a large part of search engine rankings. If your website hasn’t been updated in many years then it may no longer be visually appealing and more importantly it may not have been designed with mobile devices in mind (from where the majority of users now do their searching!).

device-usage

At HostAway we are more concerned with the code that makes up your website, particularly if your website runs on popular Content Management Systems like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or Magento.cms-market-share Due to their widespread use, these platforms are popular targets for hackers. Updates to the core software provide the following benefits:

 

Security

The number one reason to update, new exploits are constantly being discovered which are then patched by the software developers.

New Stuff

Want the latest features? Need to use a new plugin? You’ll need the latest version to be compatible (this is a double-edged sword, occasionally older plugins won’t work with newer core software so if things break, call us or restore from your back-up!).

Performance

Feel the need for speed? Improvements to load times and page performance are often a major driver for updates.

Whilst we’ve mentioned this in the past, we want to remind customers of the importance of updates due to some critical vulnerabilities that were recently exposed in Joomla, affecting versions 3.4.4 through 3.6.3. If you are running Joomla we strongly suggest updating this immediately or contact your web developer!

We understand that many of our customers don’t have the time to monitor and perform updates each week. Therefore we offer a maintenance service for $200/year where we take responsibility for keeping your website software (not content) up to date and ensuring your site remains free from malware. If you’d like more information on this service or have any questions about how to keep your own site up to date please don’t hesitate to contact us.

virtual-server

What is a Virtual Server (VPS) ?

A virtual private server (VPS) is a slice of a powerful computer which runs its own copy of an operating system (OS).

You can use it to host a website, run an email server, store files, pretty much anything you can do with a physical server.  To properly explain, let us briefly describe the common hosting choices:

  • Shared Hosting – the host company manages the OS and provides you with email, web & database space.
  • Dedicated Server Hosting – you have a physical server which you manage completely, hardware + software.
  • Virtual Server Hosting – the best of both the above options, you have dedicated resources, can choose your OS and application software but don’t have to worry about the hardware component.

 

The primary reasons for choosing a VPS are:

 

CONTROL

You can choose the OS and all the software to suit only your application meaning your server can be as streamlined as it needs to be. You can choose to install control panel software such as cPanel/WHM or you can use your root access to set everything up from the command line. Reboot, rebuild, backup and manage your VPS with HostAway’s advanced management portal.

PERFORMANCE

Having dedicated resources will make your website or application run faster than on a shared platform. In addition the activities of other customers will not impact your server as each customer is isolated and allocated resources from a set pool.

PRIVACY

You select the software and can encrypt or isolate your data as you please. With HostAway all your data is stored within Australia and you can choose to integrate multiple services into a hybrid or public cloud configuration (for more information on the cloud please refer to this article).

SCALABILITY

Using the HostAway Cloud Platform you can scale your resources up and down as required, on-demand and with minimal downtime. You can even choose to pay by the hour for the resources you use.

 

Not sure if you need a VPS? In many cases you can start with one of our shared hosting packages and we can assist in migrating you to a VPS when your website demands more resources.

vps-hourly-pricing2

Virtual Servers by the hour

For the past ten years HostAway have been offering virtual servers to our customers at monthly or yearly prices.

Recent upgrades now allow us to offer this as an hourly service!

To get an estimate of pricing please use our handy sliding calculator located here.

VPS-calculator

The hourly option allows users to auto-scale their virtual server so if they need more resources the hypervisor will automatically provision more RAM, CPU cores or disk space as required. This is a perfect option for users who have seasonal spikes or need to be able to automatically respond to peaks in demand.

We know many customers prefer to have a fixed monthly cost which is why we continue to offer discounted package prices. If you would like to discuss your options please don’t hesitate to contact us.

mobile-friendly

Is your website mobile friendly?

In April 2015 Google changed their page-ranking algorithm to provide a boost for mobile-friendly web pages. If you still haven’t updated your website…

DON'T PUT IT OFF ANY LONGER!

Although this change doesn’t affect your rankings for people searching from desktop or tablets, nowadays more people search from mobile devices than computers so it is paramount that your website is attractive to them.

Fortunately Google have provided many helpful tools and articles to bring your website up to scratch. Firstly we recommend testing your website with Google’s mobile-friendly tool:

 

Test Your Website

 

If you run a CMS such as WordPress or if you have a custom-built website Google have guides and checklists to help make your website mobile-friendly. Please visit their helpful page, speak to your web developer or call HostAway if you have any questions.

cold_aisle_containment_row_A_B

Data Centre Upgrades

At HostAway we manage our own data centre facility and one of our goals is to improve efficiency and redundancy wherever possible. To achieve this we have recently added internal doors and air baffles to provide a cold aisle containment system for our server racks.

cold_aisle_containment_row_A_BThis makes the area that needs to be cooled as small as possible whilst allowing all the hot air to be separated and drawn to our redundant air conditioning units. It also means that if an air conditioning unit fails the remaining units in the data centre will more easily be able to carry the load.

Another benefit of cold aisle containment is that it reduces hot spots by allowing air to flow through the entire rack, front to back instead of bottom to top. This change in airflow has been a large project initially requiring perforated rack doors, vented floor tiles and finally the baffles and doors. We will now focus on sealing the cold aisles as much as possible to remove any errant heat sources and “cold air leaks”.

cold_aisle_containment_rack seals Whilst improving cooling has been the most visible change we continue to focus on other key elements of the data centre – most importantly power and connectivity. Servicing of our UPS, battery arrays and generator is ongoing as per our maintenance schedule and we have increased our fibre capacity and redundancy. New security cameras have been installed whilst our internal and external monitoring is tested on a weekly basis. Finally, you may have noticed our sticky door mat when entering the data centre to reduce debris.

We look forward to running you through these changes next time you visit our facility!

cold_aisle_containment_row_C_D

domains

Choosing a domain name

If you have started up a new business, or have thought of a brilliant idea, you will want to get yourself an online presence. Perhaps the most important step of this process is to pick a domain name that will mark your place in the online world.

Below are a few tips to help when deciding on a new domain name.

What kind of domain do you want?
There are many types of domain names available, often referred to as a “gTLD”. “TLD” stands for “Top Level Domain” and refers to the letters which come after the last period in a domain, for example “.com” or “.net”. This also includes country-specific domains such as “.au” or “.jp”.
“gTLD” stands for “Generic Top Level Domain”. There are more than a thousand of these in existence (still increasing!), ranging from “.diamonds” to “.guru” and even “.sydney”.

Most businesses that are based in Australia would choose a “.com.au” or “.net.au” domain name and perhaps also secure the “.com” or “.net” counterpart. You will then have the option of redirecting or mirroring the domains if you set up hosting.

If it is a personal domain name, you may opt for a “.id.au” registration. This domain is restricted to individuals and is not for commercial purposes.

Am I eligible?
Different domains have different requirements in order to be registered. Australian domain names (ie. ending in .au) require an ABN or ACN for registration. The domain must also have a close and substantial relationship with the business it is intended to represent. The exception is “.id.au” whereby the registrant must be an Australian resident or citizen, and the domain must somewhat reflect the registrant’s name (e.g. full name or nickname). Additionally, “.org.au” domains require the organisation to meet certain non-profit or charity requirements.

Other gTLD’s may have other restrictions placed on them too – if you have an eye on a domain, please feel free to get in contact with us so that we can find out if you’re eligible for it.

Does anyone else have it?
When a domain is registered, it is secured by the registry and is then made unavailable for registration by other parties. You can check if a domain is already registered here:
Note that this merely checks if the domain unregistered. You will still need to meet any eligibility requirements if applicable, and it does not guarantee that we can secure the domain.

How long do you want it for?
Domains have a set registration period for which you can register them. .com and .net domains can be registered and renewed yearly, up to a maximum of 10 years at a time. .au domains can only be registered for two years, and it is not possible to register/renew for more years in advance. Keep this in mind when you register a domain as they are not refundable.

Other tips
– If you have decided on a domain name that you want, you may like to register different combinations or spellings of that same name. For example:
Your business name is “Awesome Fertilisers”, you could register:
awesomefertilisers.com.au and awesomefertilizers.com.au

– Numbers and dashes are OK, but don’t go overboard
Dashes or hyphens can be used in domain names, just as long as it doesn’t begin with one. Keep in mind that it is harder to verbally relay a domain with a dash in it, especially if it has multiple.

– Don’t let your domain expire!
When a domain name reaches expiry, we are unable to place an extension on it as they are automatically placed into an expired state by the registry. Generally, you will have about 30 days to renew the domain before it enters a redemption period, after which it will be available to register again by other parties. HostAway will endeavour to contact customers whose domains are expiring to try an avoid this, however if you keep an eye in your inbox you will receive renewal reminders so you don’t forget.

HostAway is able to register a number of different domains for you, from local, global or country specific extensions. Please let us know what you’re looking for and we’ll see if it’s available for you.

outlook_bug

Outlook 2016 POP bug can delete or duplicate your emails!

08/03/2016 – UPDATE – Microsoft have released a patch so please update your version of Outlook (see the MS KB link below for instructions).

Users of Outlook 2016 who have a POP account are finding their emails are being duplicated or in some cases being deleted.

At the time of this post Microsoft have not patched this bug and suggest either changing to IMAP or rolling back to an earlier version of Outlook 2016. Please find the Microsoft Knowledge Base article here: http://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3145116

This only appears to affect POP mail users who have “Leave a copy of messages on the server” selected. If you also have “Remove after X days” selected then your emails will be deleted, if you do not have this selected then your emails will be duplicated.

PHP 7 now available

This month PHP, the widely used website scripting language, released its first major update in the past ten years – PHP 7.

HostAway can now offer PHP 7 for customers wanting to take advantage of the long list of new features, the most notable of which are improved performance and reduced memory use. Below is a graph of the requests per second that each version of PHP is able to handle for a WordPress installation.

PHP 7 requests per second

Please note that PHP 7 will not be compatible with many older sites due to some features being deprecated, so please review the migration guides and feel free to call us to discuss whether the move is right for you.

Domain Name Phishing

HostAway has become aware of a widespread email blast that has recently occurred. Scammers have sent bulk emails to domain name owners trying to lure them into clicking on a link or responding with information. An example below:

Dear Sir/Madam,

The following domain names have been suspended for violation of the TUCOWS, INC. [or other registrar’s] Abuse Policy:

Domain Name: [redacted]
Registrar: TUCOWS, INC. [or other]
Registrant Name: [name taken from WHOIS records]

Multiple warnings were sent by TUCOWS, INC. [or other] Spam and Abuse Department to give you an opportunity to address the complaints we have received.

We did not receive a reply from you to these email warnings so we then attempted to contact you via telephone.

We had no choice but to suspend your domain name when you did not respond to our attempts to contact you.

Click here [link removed] and download a copy of complaints we have received.

Please contact us for additional information regarding this notification.

Sincerely,
TUCOWS, INC. [or other]
Spam and Abuse Department
Abuse Department Hotline: 480-158-7073

If someone were to click on the link it would download a file and the phone number is obviously not a local one nor is it valid.

This serves as a reminder to remain vigilant against phishing attempts and if you have any doubts as to the validity of an email you receive from HostAway – just call us!