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What is Office 365?

You may have heard about Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud service and wondered what it’s all about. It is basically a set of software and services that you can subscribe to, and instead of paying outright for a license you can now lease it monthly or yearly.

HostAway offers many different Office 365 licenses however the most popular are:

Exchange Online Plan 1 – Business email with none of the extras.

Business Essentials – Business email with online Office applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) plus 1TB of OneDrive space (Microsoft’s Dropbox equivalent), Skype for Business, Sharepoint Intranet and Microsoft Teams (chat program).

Business Premium – Business email with online AND offline Office applications, which you can install on up to 5 devices. All of the above extras are also included.

We can set you up with a domain, DNS hosting and Office 365 account and have your business email address up and running in no time! You can mix and match licenses if not everyone in your organisation requires the same services.

The business email service, referred to as Hosted Exchange, has a few pros and cons:

Pros:

  • You receive a 50GB mailbox which can be expanded to 100GB if necessary.
  • Sharing contacts and calendars between staff members and devices is made easier.

 

Cons:

  • Your data is hosted in Microsoft’s cloud, not in our data centre in Perth.
  • There is less transparency so if there are mail delivery problems we need to liaise with Microsoft, which can take longer to resolve.
  • More expensive for businesses who have many users.

 

If you’d like more information about Office 365 please check out our pricing here or give us a call.

How to protect yourself from ransomware

You might have read about recent ransomware attacks named WannaCry, WannaCrypt, WannaCryptor, or Wcry, which affected millions of users in more than 100,000 organisations, across 150 countries around the world – and counting. As one of the largest ransomware offensives in history, this attack highlights the critical need for businesses to protect themselves against future attacks.

The ransomware targeted computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. HostAway was not affected as we consistently apply updates and patches to all of our servers. We run anti-virus software on our mail servers to block harmful emails however there is always a delay between a new virus/malware being released and the updates to the anti-virus engine. Therefore we recommend customers protect their data by following this advice:

  • Back up your files. Preferably to an external system or hard drive so malware can’t spread to it. Back up often and test your backups.
  • Don’t open attachments from unknown or suspicious addresses. Look out for obvious misspellings and don’t click on links (hover over a link to see where it intends to take you).
  • Keep your computer up-to-date. Many people affected by the latest wave of ransomware would have been protected if they’d applied updates.
  • Use an anti-virus program. There are many to choose from, it’s often worth the expense.
  • Don’t pay ransoms. You might not get your data back and it can encourage the criminals.

 

Should you require assistance please contact us so we can recommend some of the professional IT consultancy companies we deal with on a daily basis.

Is Your Website Being Flagged As Insecure?

The latest Firefox and Chrome updates are labeling websites that contain forms but do not have a SSL certificate in use as not secure, i.e. HTTP instead of HTTPS.

These updates specifically deal with pages that include password fields, and in Chrome, credit card fields, and will put warnings in the address bar to explicitly indicate that the connection is not secure. This is part of a long term plan by Google to encourage website owners to deliver all of their content by HTTPS.

If you need an SSL certificate we can install one on your website for only $99/year, although you may need to tweak your website code to force the use of HTTPS. We also offer Extended Validation SSL certificates (green bar) and Wildcard SSLs for use on multiple sub-domains.

Free website builder now available!

The team at HostAway is proud to announce the launch of our new website builder. This tool will allow you to build and edit beautiful and responsive websites with ease, using existing templates and handy widgets to make design simple.

If you have a Linux hosting plan you are now able to click on the Website Builder link in the left hand menu of the Members Panel, or simply visit http://builder.hostaway.net.au to get started.

 

  • Sign up or Login.
  • Create a new site by choosing a theme, then click edit.
    • Don’t forget to give your website a proper name when saving it to your profile – this will be displayed at the page’s title to visitors.
  • Customise your site!
  • Add new sections to your page by clicking on the Blue Plus icon after every section (and select from a variety of section templates).
  • Customise and re-arrange sections on a page, using the tools on the right-hand portion of the screen.
  • Add an element to a section with the grey plus button, or click existing elements to bring up their edit menu.
  • Add additional pages to your site by clicking the top-left page field (you start at “/Home”)
  • Preview your site in different sizes (Computer, Tablet, Mobile) from the Preview menu.
  • Link the site to your HostAway Account by clicking ‘Link this site’ under the Publish menu, and authenticate using your HostAway account details (domain name & members panel password).
  • Once your site is linked, you can publish changes to your site by clicking ‘Update Live Site’ under the Publish menu – the publish process takes 3-4 minutes to complete.
  • You can add and manage multiple sites across multiple domains from your Web Builder account.

Please note that once you link this to a domain it will remove all of the old files and directories you had in there previously. If you need a backup restored just let us know.

We look forward to seeing the wonderful new websites our clients will be able to build using this new tool. If you need a more advanced website created or don’t have an eye for graphic design then please contact us so we can refer you to our talented network of local developers.

 

 

Click here to download a manual with more detailed instructions.

Why we only offer cPanel on virtual servers

We are often asked by web developers why our shared hosting system is not built on cPanel. If you aren’t familiar with it, cPanel is a hosting control panel that provides a nice interface (GUI) and many features for managing email, websites, databases and DNS records. HostAway runs its own control panel software (we call it the HostAway Members Panel).

This is because our shared hosting runs across multiple clusters of servers which are load-balanced to ensure uptime and reliability. If a server fails your website will continue to be served by one of the other servers in the cluster.

cPanel is (usually) installed on a single physical or virtual server with your website, database, email and DNS all stored on a single instance. If there is a problem with the server everything goes down whereas at HostAway we have separate load-balanced clusters for each service.  For example, a technical issue with our web servers will not affect your email hosting. Along with other unique features such as our 14 day rolling backups, DDoS protection and 24/7 monitoring, our shared hosting platform is a lot more robust than a standard cPanel installation.

Nevertheless, just because it doesn’t provide the flexibility, complexity and security that we require for our shared hosting customers, it doesn’t mean cPanel is necessarily a bad hosting platform. We offer cPanel as a virtual server to customers who want to manage their own website and email hosting environment. There are alternatives to cPanel like Plesk (yuck), Webmin (free!), Direct Admin (so-so) and numerous others however we prefer to install nginx and MySQL for single websites on virtual servers, to keep things slim and responsive. Just like any software, no matter what you choose to run you need to keep it updated!

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.