Choosing The Right Cloud Hosting Package Made Easy…

If you’re making your first expedition into hosting your own website, you’ve come to the right article for advice. We’re not going to make any assumptions here about what you already know, so you’ll get all the information you need to help make getting started as smooth as possible.

Look at features first, then the cost
This is a really important point. Cost is not a good indicator of what you’re going to get for your money.

Even though the features-to-price equation is generally true in terms of getting value, do be careful not to pay extra for features you’ll never use.
The most important features are:
Disk space – more is better. You need enough space for all the web pages (structure + program code + CSS + content (text, images and video)), plus space for extra things such as databases and email.
Bandwidth – more is better. Most hosting plans will have more than enough bandwidth to get you started off, and how much you actually need depends on how popular your site is going to become and the type of content you’re hosting. Bandwidth is the total amount of data uploaded and downloaded from your site per month by all the visitors, including yourself.
Support options – more is better. This is especially true when you’re just starting out, but it’s actually also true for every web hosting customer. Quality of the support is also a factor, and that’s something we’ll discuss in detail in just a moment.
Payment options – more is better. Good web hosts make it easy to pay your hosting bill, offering you a choice in how, when, and how much you pay for your services.

Choose a good web hosting service
Many people misunderstand the importance of size when choosing a web host. The vital thing to know is that you don’t necessarily want to go with the biggest and most popular hosting service. That’s a strange thing to say, so let’s take a moment to explain what it means.
Normally, popularity is a good thing, but web-hosting services are a special case where this is not necessarily true.
This is because the resources available for hosted sites on any one provider are finite. Quality of service can be expected to decrease when the number of customers gets large enough to exceed the resources available to support that number.

In the chart above, you can see how the popularity of a host (and the popularity of the sites it hosts) impacts negatively on the quality and performance that can be provided by the available resources.

Here is why it happens:
Competition for computing resources. Each server (or server cluster) has a limited amount of CPU, RAM and disk space available. Hosting companies always need to have purchase or lease more servers than they need in order to support the number of customers they have, and high quality servers are very expensive.
Competition for bandwidth. Websites receive traffic from human visitors, web crawling “robots” that index pages in search engines, and from internal activities. Every email, picture, video, piece of text content, and line of program code connected to any one site is eating into the bandwidth limit.
Competition for support resources. This may be the most crucial point of all. The quality and performance of site support must decrease if the hosting company is too popular.
In order to ensure you get adequate support, what you need to do is choose a hosting company that is large enough to provide the infrastructure you need, but still small enough to be able to dedicate personal attention to you and your needs.

A good example is Hosting Ireland, which is a very popular choice for business customers, but has not grown to the extent that it no longer provides personal support from its own staff. That means more personal support that is tailored to you, and gives your problems an appropriate amount of attention.
Many larger companies cut some of their support options, farm their support services out to third party services, and/or limit the amount of time any support worker can dedicate to resolving any one particular issue.

Choose the right hosting type
The lowest cost, value for money, website hosting option is shared hosting. This allocates the resources of a single server among many customers, keeping costs down and still providing adequate performance to meet the needs of smaller sites with lower bandwidth and performance needs.

The very best hosting option, which obviously also costs the most, is dedicated hosting, where the resources of a server are dedicated solely to one hosting customer.

In between these two extremes there is an option called a Virtual Private Server (VPS), which combines some of the cost savings of shared hosting with most of the advantages of dedicated hosting. There is still some competition for computing and bandwidth resources, but you are also more isolated from other customers on the same server and have full control and autonomy over the management of your server space.
Which one you should choose depends on the size of your business and the volume of traffic you expect to be handling. For most small to medium businesses, VPS or shared hosting should meet their needs comfortably, and a good web host should make it easy to upgrade if your needs expand to a higher level.

Linux or Windows?
Unless you need the features supported by a Windows server, most business and personal sites will be better off with a Linux server. This simplifies your hosting, costs less, and provides the most flexible range of options.

Regular hosting or WordPress hosting?
Some hosting customers decide they want to use a particular technology such as WordPress, and then buy a hosting package that limits their choice so that WordPress is the only thing they’re able to use. That can become a problem if you later find that you need to do other things with your site.
So while “WordPress hosting” may sound like something you might want, it really isn’t the best choice in the majority of cases.
Good hosting services make installing WordPress really easy, and you can always pay somebody to do that for you if you really need to.

Hosting Ireland provides a website control panel called CPanel, and one of the many features of CPanel is an installer system called Softaculous.
Using this installer, you can install WordPress very easily, but you’ll still have full server control through your CPanel to do other things like administrate email, create your own custom MySQL databases, and manage other site features more easily.
Getting up and running just takes six simple steps, as shown below:

As wonderful as WordPress is, it does have some limits on what it can do. If you have an ordinary hosting account, you can mix non-WordPress pages into your WordPress site, which you can’t do easily if your site only supports WordPress and nothing else.

Choosing a local hosting provider can be a smart move
If your business is based in Ireland, it makes sense to choose an Irish hosting service. You should also have an Irish domain name, to help you get more local site traffic from users in Ireland.
By choosing an Irish web host, you’ll have better access to tech support and possibly even the opportunity for one-on-one consultation in person. It also makes sense when the regular office hours of your hosting provider are matched closely to your own. That means no more waiting until 2am to make that call to sort out a billing issue.
If you choose to host your site with Hosting Ireland, you can get a discount on your domain name from 25 percent all the way up to 100 percent of the cost, which makes getting your Irish domain for your Irish site even easier and even more advantageous.

Get even more value from your chosen hosting option
Hosting packages are normally sold on the basis of a certain amount of disk space and bandwidth being allocated to you. The quotas are usually far more generous than you’d ever fill, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to worry about.
Performance matters, and anything you can do to lighten the load on your server will have a positive impact on performance. Here are a few simple things you can do to ensure your website always performs at its peak:
Optimise images and video for your site. If you use video and image content on your site, making sure it is as perfectly optimised as possible will make your pages load as quickly as possible and will save you bandwidth as well.
Invest in professional design. If you don’t have first class design skills and technical ability, it’s always smart to pay somebody who does to handle the design of your site. Just make sure they optimise your content, because some designers think looks are everything, when in fact performance is the more important factor.
Use Google servers to host your video content. You should avoid YouTube for video hosting because it adds other things to your videos that you may not want to show, but hosting your video on your Google Drive is a good way to avoid placing the bandwidth and storage load on your own server.

You’re ready to start hosting sites
If you follow the advice given above, you’ll avoid most of the problems people new to hosting find themselves encountering.
You will have chosen a host that’s large enough to provide adequate hosting resources but small enough to provide personal support, chosen the best options to save you money, given yourself the most freedom of control, and optimised your site for peak performance.

Securing Your Site and User Trust With SSL

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) has two important functions associated with site security and integrity:

• When your SSL certificate is digitally signed by a trusted third party certificate authority, it helps to verify that your site is identifying itself correctly

• SSL encrypts all communications between the user and your site, making it difficult for somebody to extract anything useful even if they are able to intercept the communication

Every site that is owned by a business, non-profit organization, or government agency should have an SSL certificate. The only exception is where your site does not collect or disseminate any sensitive information.

When you have an SSL certificate, users can connect to your site via the HTTPS protocol. The “S” in HTTPS stands for “secure”. Although we use the term “SSL”, which is the one most people are familiar with, the standard has actually been superseded by something called TLS (Transport Layer Security). But you don’t need to worry about this because TLS is going to be enabled by default on any modern web server.

Even though the technology is enabled by default, sites that have an SSL certificate still need to set the HTTPS version of their site as the default protocol for inbound connections. A 2014 survey by Moz showed that less than 18% of respondents were already using HTTPS, and as recently as 2015, it was found that less than 2% of the top 1,000,000 sites had HTTPS set as the default protocol.

As a user, you can ensure that HTTPS is used whenever possible regardless of a site’s default settings by installing the HTTPS Everywhere plug-in.

SEO advantages
Using SSL may give your site a boost in Google rankings. In August 2014, Google announced that it would take SSL into account as a ranking factor.

It also must be considered that HTTPS does slightly lower the speed of a site, so if your site is already slow (which it shouldn’t be – fix it!), you could see your rank actually slip as a result of adding HTTPS. It will really come down to the differential between the benefit from HTTPS and the benefit from having a fast site.

Google wants sites to use HTTPS because it makes it easier to verify the integrity of a site, but that doesn’t automatically mean you need to do it. Most sites will benefit from having HTTPS, but because SSL certificates aren’t free, you might choose not to have one if the cost can’t be justified.

Risk vs. reward: the privacy and security advantages of SSL
You have to think about the financial cost of purchasing and renewing your SSL certificate. If there’s nothing on your site that needs to be confidential, you may not need to go to the trouble.

But if your site collects personal information from the user, has password authenticated log-ins, or engages in any sort of e-Commerce, you absolutely must have SSL if you want to avoid problems and retain the full confidence and trust of your users.

How to get an SSL certificate
Buying an SSL certificate is not like a regular purchase, because there are a few tests and checks that have to be done before a certificate can be issued. This is for the protection of everyone, including you. Usually the easiest way is to get your Hosting company or SEO manager to obtain the certificate for you, because this will simplify the process greatly.

If you’d prefer to do it entirely on your own, your first step is to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) on your server. This is a block of encrypted text that looks similar to a PGP signature. What you need to type to generate the request depends on what server software your web host is running.

Most websites are hosted on Apache servers, and Apache uses a service called OpenSSL to generate a CSR. Here’s an example of how to generate a CSR for a company called Widgets-R-Us Inc, with domain widgets.com, based in Los Angeles:

openssl req -new -newkey rsa:2048 -nodes -out widgets_com.csr -keyout widgets_com.key -subj “C/=US/ST=California/L=Los Angeles/O=Widgets R Us Inc./CN=widgets.com”

The section that’s relevant about the company is the -subj section. This contains a string value with specific values, as follows:

• C is a 2 digit country code, for example: US, UK, IE, FR, DE, BE, and so on.
• ST is the state or province
• L is the city
• O is the organization name
• CN is the “common name”, which is a fully qualified domain name (FQDN).

There’s an optional value called OU that can appear between O and CN, but it is rarely used, and can cause problems. Currently (at the time of writing) the SSL certificate of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is affected, for example. OU stands for “organizational unit” and means a department within the organisation.

After generating the CSR, it would look something like:

—–BEGIN CERTIFICATE REQUEST—– MIIHVjCCBj6gAwIBAgIQVXENtd02KRwAAAAAUNuvdTANBgkqhkiG9w0BAQsFADCB ujELMAkGA1UEBhMCVVMxFjAUBgNVBAoTDUVudHJ1c3QsIEluYy4xKDAmBgNVBAsT H1NlZSB3d3cuZW50cnVzdC5uZXQvbGVnYWwtdGVybXMxOTA3BgNVBAsTMChjKSAy MDEyIEVudHJ1c3QsIEluYy4gLSBmb3IgYXV0aG9yaXplZCB1c2Ugb25seTEuMCwG A1UEAxMlRW50cnVzdCBDZXJ0aWZpY2F0aW9uIEF1dGhvcml0eSAtIEwxSzAeFw0x NzAzMDIyMjA5MzNaFw0xODAzMDIyMjM5MzFaMIGNMQswCQYDVQQGEwJBVTElMCMG
—–END CERTIFICATE REQUEST—–

In this case it is contained in the generated file “widgets_com.csr”. You need to open that file in a text editor, then cut and paste all the text (including the begin and end instructions) into the online form of the SSL certificate authority you are ordering from. Do not confuse the csr file with the key file.

Once the certificate authority has validated your domain and company, it will email you a copy of your SSL certificate, which you then need to install on your server.

Due to the complexity involved, most people prefer to have professional assistance rather than opting to do it themselves.

Do Cloud-Based Email Solutions Offer an Advantage?


Cloud services are all the rage at the moment, but it’s not necessarily true that every cloud has a silver lining. When choosing which services are right for your business, you need to consider all the pros and cons of the different options available. And while some services are being heavily hyped and marketed as the way forward, it must be remembered that all marketing has an agenda, and that agenda does not necessarily fit hand in hand with your own.

What is necessary is to strip away all the bias and hype, and look carefully at each factor which would affect your decision. Only in this way can an objective view be created. That’s the purpose of this article, and hopefully by the end of it we’ll have an answer to the title question.

1. Access and Storage
These two items need to be considered together at the same time because they’re linked too closely for it to be worth separating them. When your email communications are hosted traditionally, messages take up space on your web server until they’re downloaded or deleted.

Once messages are downloaded, they are only available from the place they are downloaded to, and any devices that are able to access that location. With a cloud-based solution, the messages are stored on a 3rd party server, and there’s no need for you to worry about how much space they are taking up unless you’re close to the limit offered by the provider.

Advantages:

• Messages won’t affect the performance, storage quota, or bandwidth quota of your website
• Messages won’t normally take up space on your own devices, except temporarily
• Cloud-based solutions often have great management and curation features
• May make it easier to share emails among work teams
• May (sometimes) protect against malicious payloads
• Can be accessed from anywhere that you can connect to the Internet

Disadvantages:

• Messages can only be viewed if you have a working Internet connection
• Many cloud-based services do not allow messages to be downloaded
• You can’t be certain whether deleted messages are really deleted
• Most free (and some paid) services discourage or disallow encryption
• Can be very difficult to obtain and preserve true anonymity with cloud-based services
• You may need to frequently delete messages if you have a storage limit
• International travel can be a problem, as some services may deny you access when you log in from another country.

2. Security
Depending on the nature of your business, this could be a major concern for you. It can be especially important for people dealing with matters related to national security, law enforcement, crime, health services, and financial services. Some of the key points were already mentioned in the previous section.

Advantages:

• No known privacy or security advantages. You are trusting a 3rd party with your confidential information, with absolutely no control over how that 3rd party might access or use that information. Even if you trust an organization to do the right thing, you may not know if you can trust each individual employee, because even the organization does not know if they can be trusted.

Disadvantages:

• No control over the storage, copying, and archiving of your messages
• Encryption may not be supported, and in some cases may be against the terms and conditions
• Messages are stored online, not locally, so if the provider is hacked, you could be compromised
• When messages are stored online, vulnerability from staff being socially engineered is increased
• Many services provide unwanted protections that may cause more problems than they solve
• Almost every cloud-based service states they will release your information to government officials if asked (not ordered by a court, just asked). There are a few exceptions to this. Most of them also say they will not inform you if they do hand over your information to government officials.

3. Preservation
In general, cloud-based services offer better preservation of your communications compared with traditional hosting where messages are downloaded to a local device.

Advantages:

• Messages are often stored indefinitely and may be automatically backed up to multiple locations.
• You are protected from data loss due to local device hardware malfunction

Disadvantages:

• No certainty that deleted messages will be deleted
• Losing your password may deny you access to your own account
• Service provider may decide to deny access to you at any time and for any reason

4. Management
With traditional hosting, you are free to define whatever email management policies you like. When you use cloud-based services, the provider may impose their own policies over the top of yours, or at least in addition to yours.

Advantages:

• May help reduce the amount of spam you receive
• May provide more advanced management options than your regular email software provides

Disadvantages:

• Messages may be incorrectly flagged as spam, often for ridiculous reasons
• Messages may be denied from certain senders just because of the IP address their host uses
• When messages are denied, you may not even be aware that it has happened

5. Support
In general, most cloud-based services do provide good support (though some provide almost no support). Ordinary hosting doesn’t usually provide great email support unless you have a problem of a technical nature. The quality of the support you receive depends entirely on what the service provider is prepared to offer, and the combined skills and experience of the support staff in dealing with technical problems.

Advantages:

• Some cloud-based email services have excellent support available
• Support is usually available 24/7

Disadvantages:

• Many services outsource their support (normally negative)
• Support staff may not have proper technical training and solutions may be prepared from scripts

Conclusions
While there are many positive aspects to cloud-based email services, there seems to be more negatives. The biggest problem is in the matter of security, because messages are stored online indefinitely, and normally in plain text (unencrypted), so if the provider is compromised, then so are you. There is also the possibility of employees of the provider to read the communications, either due to boredom or with criminal intent.

For these reasons, the majority of businesses would actually be better off not using cloud-based email services and sticking with traditional hosting for email services, downloading their communications to local devices, and following a sensible backup and security plan. The convenience of being able to access your communications from anywhere on any device is also a vulnerability.

Plus of course, any important internal communications should be properly encrypted (there is no good reason not to do this), and that’s not always possible with cloud-based services.

An Uncomfortable Question: Does the Cloud Provider Actually Matter?

By Julian Box
Source: cloudcomputing-news.net

Today, even the most ardent naysayers are coming out and proclaiming cloud as the only way to do computing. This is especially true in my own jurisdiction of Jersey in the Channel Islands.

With technology suppliers suddenly telling you to use cloud, does it really matter which one you use, who owns the service provider, and where it stores your data? The quick answer to all three questions is ‘yes’ – but let’s look at each one:

Is there a difference between cloud service providers?

This question is probably thought about the least. There are people and suppliers that believe only the large cloud providers can be trusted, but how true is that?

Take Amazon and Microsoft. They’re the largest cloud providers in the world today, having multiple data centres around the world with thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of customers. However, they have one big, often overlooked issue — they are lock-in clouds. Sure, they have some great technology, but once you start using it, you can’t get out.

Their technology is designed to be proprietary — you have to use them and only them. Whether you use Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon’s AWS, their tools, utilities and APIs only work in their clouds. If you want to move, it will cost you so much money that it becomes prohibitively expensive to leave.
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148% More ‘Child Sexual Abuse Material’ Uncovered by the Irish Internet Hotline

On 14th May 2015 ISPAI Hotline.ie Service launched its Annual Report covering January to December 2014 – an Analysis of Online Illegal Content – during a press event hosted in Dublin, at the Irish Architectural Archive.

In her opening addressed Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality emphasised that “Hotline.ie contributes to the empowerment of citizens by providing a means to report illegal material and in particular Child Sexual Abuse Material on the Internet and to have it dealt with appropriately in cooperation with the Gardaí.”

2014 was a very busy year for Hotline.ie as it dealt with the greatest number of reports received in one year since its establishment (1999), marking a massive jump of 97% above the average of the previous seven years.


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