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More Solar Panels

We have installed 118 new solar panels onto the roof of our premises in an attempt to curb the continuing rise in electricity costs and reduce our carbon footprint. This will provide an additional 20kW of solar power to our existing 10kW system which was installed in May 2010. We now have 172 panels in total and look forward to sunny days ahead!

 

Solar panels
HostAway’s new solar panels

New Website Quotas!

We have upgraded the storage space included in our standard website hosting plans! If you have an existing website hosting plan you now have at least double the space AND double the bandwidth.

We understand that websites are becoming more complex which means that files and attachments are often larger. This is why we have expanded our storage servers (upgraded the hard drives) and increased the allowances in our plans without increasing the price.

If you already pay for additional web space please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can recalculate your requirements. If you are a Linux hosting customer you can view your web space quota within the HostAway Members Panel (feature coming soon for Windows hosting customers).

Access Files From Anywhere

Due to popular demand we have added another useful tool to the HostAway Members Panel. You can now easily install a free program onto your web space called AjaXplorer, a powerful file management system.

AjaXplorer allows you to easily share files or folders over the Internet as well as preview and edit most common file formats directly online. The software is easy to install via a simple interface on the HostAway Members Panel, under Website Management, much like the WordPress and Joomla auto-installers.

In addition to hosting your website, now you can use your HostAway web space to share files with clients and colleagues over the Internet (eg. www.yoursite.com/files) and manage user access to keep the data private.

ajaxplorer_screenshot

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the ranking of your website in the unpaid search results (also called organic or natural results) with engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. This is not to be confused with paying search engines for links, sponsored listings, banners or buttons to direct users to your website (sometimes referred to as Seach Engine Marketing or SEM). Paid programs, such as Google AdWords, generally operate on a pay-per-click (PPC) or per impression (page views) basis whereas SEO can cost nothing or a small fortune depending on how it is undertaken. Users tend to put more trust in unpaid links which is why SEO has become such an integral part of website design.

Please note: HostAway do not offer SEO services (this is the duty of your web developer or a third-party SEO expert) however we wanted to provide our customers with some basic information on the subject.

So how are search engine results determined? To begin with, search engines send out “robots” – crawlers, spiders or Googlebots to crawl over the Internet and index web page content. This data is processed by each search engine to calculate relevancy so when a user enters a search phrase it will deliver (what it has determined are) the most appropriate results. Each search engine has their own algorithms that they use to determine the relevance or importance of a site and most importantly these algorithms do change, which is why SEO is a continual process.

Although the algorithms differ slightly between search engines, the most important components are currently believed to be:

On your site:

  • Content – Is King. Must be indexable to robots; i.e. not all images or flash content.
  • Format – Don’t put important content inside images, flash animations or javascript.
  • Keywords – Keep them relevant, label images and links clearly.
  • Architecture – Use clear sitemaps to make it easy for search engines to crawl, fast servers (that’s where we come in) and search engine friendly URLs.

External to your site:

  • Links – Inbound to your site (called backlinks) from relevant, quality sites.
  • Social Media – Links, Likes, Shares, Mentions etc.

What NOT to do:

  • Keyword stuffing – In text, URLs, image descriptions, meta-tags, links…anywhere!
  • Cloaking – Hiding words from humans to try fool search engines.
  • Link spam – Posting links on random forums or other websites that are completely unrelated to your website.
  • Duplicate content – Whether it is duplicated within your website or on a separate domain it is frowned upon.

These components are believed to be the most important however the search engines seldom reveal how they rank sites, to avoid people abusing that knowledge. Search engines do release some information and experts run tests to fill in the blanks, however it is generally advised to build the website for the user, not the search engine. In the past meta-tag keyword stuffing and link-farming were used to boost rankings until the search engines cottoned on and punished sites that engaged in these practices. Some SEO providers may still use these undesirable methods, which are referred to as black hat SEO. On the other side of the coin is white hat SEO, which follows the guidelines of the search engines. Although black hat methods may produce a short term gain in page rankings it is better to have 10 quality back-links to your website than 1000 spammy low-value links. Black hat SEO can also result in your website being de-listed from search engines completely!

With an approximate 80% share of the search market Google is the primary target for most optimisation. Google provide a number of tools for webmasters to help make your website as search friendly as possible which can be found here – http://www.google.com.au/webmasters/.

In summary, provide great content with quality links, choose words and phrases used by people who search for your product and build legitimate links to your website (such as from a business Facebook or Twitter account). Don’t forget to keep links and content up-to-date. SEO is an ongoing process, you can’t work your way to the top of the rankings and expect to stay there if you don’t keep adding fresh and relevant content.

Want more info? A simple Google search with the right key words should help you find what you’re looking for!

Joomla 1.5 End of Life

If you run a website on Joomla you may be aware of the different versions of the software that are available (1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 2.5, 3.0). Joomla only supports the most recent versions of the software with patches and updates, for example the latest release of 2.5 at the time of writing this article is 2.5.8.

The Joomla release cycle includes Long Term Support (LTS) releases which are supported for 21 months (current LTS is 2.5) and Short Term Support (STS) releases that are supported for 7 months (current STS is 3.0).

Joomla 1.5 reached its end-of-life on 30 April 2012, and should be replaced with 2.5. If you are running Joomla 1.5 then we strongly recommend updating to the latest version of this release (1.5.26) and then migrating to Joomla 2.5.

We understand some users may not be inclined to migrate due to financial or time constraints, or for accessibility reasons. As Joomla 1.5 is no longer supported by the developers security updates are no longer available which makes the 1.5 release vulnerable to hacking. If you wish to add extensions to your existing site you may have difficulty as the Joomla extension developers are now only supporting releases 2.5 and 3.0.

If you stick with 1.5 your website will continue to work just as before however it will no longer be considered secure. If a hacker finds a weakness in Joomla 1.5, he or she will be able to exploit it, since the developers won’t provide any more security updates. But this might not happen and the system could remain stable for years.

HostAway’s Joomla version monitoring (which alerts you if the version you are running is outdated) now considers 1.5.26 to be outdated. We want you to be aware of the risks but ultimately you have to decide whether or not it’s more advantageous and cost-effective to migrate to 2.5 now, even if that entails additional expenses, than to stick with 1.5.

If you’re still keen on remaining with 1.5, then we suggest improving your website security as recommended by Joomla here.

WordPress & Joomla 1 Click Installation

WordPress and Joomla! are arguably the most popular Content Management Systems in use on the Internet today.

A growing number of HostAway customers are using this software so to make your lives easier we have programmed an automatic installation process into the HostAway Members Panel.

Simply login and under ‘Website Management’ you will see an option to auto-install WordPress or Joomla. Installing the software is then only one click away!

Once you have installed the software you will receive an email containing your login details and you can immediately begin editing your new website.

What is a domain name?

Whilst you may not wish to become a technical wizard (that’s what we’re here for) having a basic understanding of your requirements will assist you in making the right choices for your online services. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions:

What is a domain name?
A domain name is the unique name you use to identify and access websites or resources on the Internet. It is also how you describe the name that follows the @ sign in an email address. For example, hostaway.net.au is the domain name for this website, and support@hostaway.net.au is an email address which uses our domain name. By registering a domain name you can have your own customised email address like you@yourbusinessname.com.au and your own webpage at www.yourbusinessname.com.au. There are many domain name extensions available (such as .com, .com.au, .net, .org, .biz, for a larger list click here) so there are many chances to secure the domain name you want.

Registering a domain name is the first step to having an online presence however you will also require hosting if you wish to receive emails or make a website available using your domain name. Your email and website hosting relies on your domain name to function which is why it is important to always renew your domain name on time. In addition to our invoice and invoice reminder mailers, HostAway will always endeavour to contact clients prior to a domain expiry to ensure unwarranted downtime does not occur.

If you have received an invoice for domain name registration from HostAway you may notice your domain has a ‘dr-‘ in front of it. You can ignore this as it is merely something our billing software uses to differentiate domain registrations from hosting accounts.

Why is my domain registration for two years?
If you have a .au domain name (.com.au, .net.au, .org.au, .asn.au, .edu.au) the only registration period available is two years (biennial). For most other domain extensions (e.g. .com, .net, etc) a yearly renewal period is available in addition to longer options such as 5 or 10 years.

What is hosting?
In order to have your website visible and/or email functioning on the Internet you need a hosting package (in addition to the domain name registration mentioned above). As a hosting company we provide space on our servers to host websites of individuals, associations and business of all sizes. Varying billing periods are available for your hosting package. Choosing a hosting package will depend on how much disk space and bandwidth your site will use and/or how many email addresses will be used.

We have a number of different hosting packages available depending on your requirements. Review our packages here for more information or give us a call on 9249 3646. You can choose to have email hosting only, or web hosting only, but most people choose to combine the two. Our most popular package is the Professional Linux hosting which costs $137.50 per year. This allows 150MB of disk space plus 10 mailboxes.

In summary, and to make a poor analogy, registering a domain name is like registering a vehicle – you still need a car (your website) and a road (the hosting package) if you want to get anywhere.

What if I want more than one domain name?
We have two services for secondary domain names: Mirror hosting and Redirect hosting. Both services essentially perform the same function but have a slightly different outcome.

Mirror hosting: If someone types in your mirrored domain name then the internet browser will display the exact same website as the primary domain and the URL (address) will remain the same as what was typed. For example, our primary site is hostaway.NET.au. We have a Mirror for hostaway.COM.au which points to our primary domain. If you type in hostaway.COM.au it will display the normal website and the address bar will continue to display hostaway.COM.au.

Redirect hosting: If someone types in your redirected domain name then the internet browser will change the URL to the primary domain instead of keeping this hidden. A Redirect can also be used to divert a secondary domain name to a specific page on another website. For example, http://help.hostaway.net.au redirects to https://www.hostaway.net.au/support/remote-support/.

Mirror Hosting will also work for email, i.e. if someone sends an email to user@secondarydomain.com.au it will be delivered to the same mailbox for user@primarydomain.com.au. This can save you from needing to setup multiple email accounts on your computer.

How DNS Works

The Domain Name System, or DNS, is an essential part of how the Internet works and is effectively a naming system for any resources connected to the Internet or a private network. A common analogy is that it operates like a phone directory for the Internet, translating human-friendly hostnames (eg. www.hostaway.net.au) into IP addresses (eg. 203.30.44.22).

When you access a website or send an email your computer performs a DNS lookup, so that it knows which IP address to request information from or send information to. All HostAway hosting accounts include our DNS management tool, found within the HostAway members panel. To enable this tool your domain name needs to be delegated to our nameservers, which are:

ns1.hostaway.net.au
ns2.hostaway.net.au
ns3.hostaway.net.au

This means that HostAway is the authorative nameserver for your domain name, therefore any DNS lookups for your domain name will be sent our way. Our nameservers will then respond to these queries with the DNS settings that have been selected with the DNS management tool.

You don’t have to use HostAway’s nameservers to have a hosting account with us – we can provide you with the IP address for any of our particular servers which you can enter into external DNS records.

DNS is a hierarchial system which means if your domain name expires it will effectively stop DNS lookups, as the domain can no longer resolve to an IP address. This will cause your website and emails to stop working and is why it is very important to renew your domain name before the expiry date.

Due to the billions of DNS requests being processed at any given time, networks often cache the results of a DNS lookup. This is why DNS changes can take up to 48 hours to fully take effect. If you’ve just visted a website your web browser, computer, network and Internet Service Provider can cache the IP address of that website. If the site owner changed their IP address 5 minutes after your visit it might take as long as 48 hours before the outdated IP address is ‘forgotten’ and the new one is looked up. Sometimes you can force your browser or computer to clear their cache (shift + F5 does it on most web browsers) however the records could be cached further up the chain.

If you need to make DNS changes but are uncertain of what to do or what effect it will have please give us a call – it’s always a good idea to double check when editing DNS records.

For a visual explanation of how DNS works please enjoy the video below:

SMTP – Outgoing Mail

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is an Internet standard for sending email and is often referred to by email programs as the ‘outgoing mail server’.

When you setup an email account, whether on a desktop/laptop running Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird, or on your tablet/smartphone (walk-throughs can be found here), you will need to select your ‘outgoing mail server (SMTP)’. In most cases you have the option to use your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for outgoing mail however as an alternative you can use HostAway’s mail server. The benefit of using your ISP’s mail server is that you do not need to authenticate yourself, as you are already on their network. The downside is that if you move your device (eg. laptop, tablet or smartphone) onto another network you will not be able to send emails as you cannot authenticate yourself.

When you setup the account you will need to choose IMAP or POP which determines your account type for incoming mail. The next step is to select your outgoing mail server. If you are setting up a desktop PC that will only be connected to your home or office Internet connection then you can safely use your ISP’s outgoing mail server. You may need to contact your ISP to confirm the exact outgoing server to use but the most common combinations are:

ISP Name Outgoing Server
Telstra/Bigpond mail.bigpond.com
iiNet mail.iinet.net.au
Amnet mail.amnet.net.au
Dodo smtp.dodo.com.au

If you are setting up your mail account on a laptop, tablet or smartphone then you may wish to use mail.hostaway.net.au as the outgoing server. You will need to authenticate with your username (full email address) and password, so that you can use our mail server from whatever network you are connected to. Please note that some ISP’s block mail relaying through the default SMTP port of 25, so you may also need to change the outgoing server port (in advanced settings) to 587.

When you send emails through HostAway’s Webmail platforms you will always send via HostAway’s outgoing mail server. If you are setting up a mail account on an iPhone or iPad you can simply visit mail.hostaway.net.au in Safari and it will download the configuration automagically.

If you have any questions regarding your outgoing mail settings please don’t hesitate to contact us.

CMS Explained

A CMS (Content Management System) is software that allows users to edit their website through an administration page or ‘back-end’ without requiring any knowledge of programming. A CMS will normally include a WYSIWYG editor (What You See Is What You Get) which makes updating website text as simple as using Microsoft Word. These programs also allow non-technical users to add pictures, new pages or other content to a website.

The majority of CMSs require a database in which to store their variables, such as MySQL or MSSQL. When you use an online shopping cart the website will pull the store’s inventory from a database to display pricing, stock levels and other information.

The most widely-used CMSs are currently WordPress, Joomla and Drupal which are all free to download (open source) however there are hundreds of different platforms available. A good web developer/designer is invaluable to create a custom template and configure the website, but after the initial development it is easy for non-technical people to edit and add content as required.

Due to their popularity, open source CMSs are desirable targets for hackers which is why we recommend customers keep their software up to date. New versions are frequently released to deal with new threats or backdoors that hackers inevitably discover. HostAway has created an automated system to remind customers when their WordPress or Joomla sites can be updated, to minimise this risk.