Category Archives: Web Hosting

Fading Excitement over Microsoft’s New Web Browser

My excitement over Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, is rapidly disappearing as more and more details emerge.

My excitement over Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, is rapidly disappearing as more and more details emerge.

Originally billed as a replacement for Internet Explorer, Microsoft introduced some potential (and since removed) confusion when it announced that the browsing experience in Windows 10 would default to the new rendering engine and ‘auto-roll’ over to the IE engine when it detected legacy code. So basically, one browser with two hearts. Fortunately, the masses have convinced Microsoft to make a stand alone browser on the new engine, and leave IE alone to die in piece. Or have they?

I believe the driving factor behind a new browser is simply marketing. You see the IE team really has made drastic improvements to the browser over the last few versions. The problem is, no one cares.  IE’s image is tainted with the horrific days of IE 6,7 and 8, and no amount of work to make 9,10 and 11 ‘modern’ has been able to shed that negative reputation. So what is the answer to win back market share from competitors? A new browser.

Rather than going back to the drawing board and evaluating “today’s web,” Microsoft has taken the heart of IE, the Trident rendering engine, and rebranded it as “EdgeHTML.” Don’t get me wrong, there are improvements to the new browser, but I’d bet those improvements could have been packaged as IE 12.

Microsoft’s marketing for this new browser, Edge, is gimmicky and reminds me of “Web Slices” and “Accelerators” from IE8.  Don’t know what “Web Slices” and “Accelerators” are? That’s because they weren’t useful, and no one adopted them.  From microsoft.com:

Accelerators. Accelerators give people easy access to the online services they care about most from any page they visit. Meanwhile, developers gain an easy way to extend the reach of their online services. Accelerators also allow users to browse faster by eliminating most of the clicks required to access desired content and services.
Web Slices. With Web Slices, people can see the information they want to see most often without going away from the page they are on, and developers can mark parts of Web pages as Web Slices and enable users to easily monitor the information they most frequently browse to, all while they move about the Web. Web Slices appear in the Favorites bar, where people can identify updated sites when in bold. From there, they can see a rich Web Slice visualization of their content with easy access back to the source Web page.

The touted features front and center on Microsoft’s new web browser, Edge, are “Inking” and are you ready“Cortana.” Inking is the ability to take notes over the content of a webpage, but seriously, how often have you needed to do this? Then there’s Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, that on my Windows phone, I LOVE.  MS has a hit with Cortana, so in historic fashion, that hit is being crammed into every nook and cranny, whether it fits or not.

My limited tests with Cortana in Windows 10 have left me frustrated and annoyed.  I can only imagine the experience will be similar with Cortana in Edge. Get me to Google and let me find what I need-  that’s it – I don’t need her (Cortana) stepping in to undo years of conditioned habbit.

Still not convinced that Edge is merely IE12 in a different skin? I’ll leave you with this comic pointing out the announcement of the new Edge logo, and the side by side comparison.

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Google Tag Manager

TagManagerRecently I have been putting quite a bit of effort into rolling out Google Tag Manager for many of our client sites. It has been a rewarding process and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

First, what is Google Tag Manager?

One of the foundational building blocks of a website is the tag. It is a way that functionality can be added to the site in a fairly simple manner. The functionality can range from tracking activity and usage to adding features like chat to a site. Each one of these tags is generally pretty simple and easy to understand, but as the number and complexity of the tags increases the challenge of keeping track of them and making sure they are on the correct pages also grows. This is where Google Tag Manager comes in. It allows us to place a single tag called a container on the site and then add and remove tags to that container based on a variety of rules.

Once the container is in place tags can be added to the site without needing to touch the templates or source code, which greatly reduces the risk that something can go wrong when adding a tag. It also makes it much more simple to change or update a tag when needs change.

There is another benefit that I really appreciate: the ability to test tags before they are rolled out. This allows a set of tags to be tested on the site before they are rolled out to all users. This has been especially helpful when trying to troubleshoot complex tags.

This is just scratching the surface of what can be done with Tag Manager, but hopefully it is enough to give a glimpse into why I’m so excited about using it. If managing tags is something that you could use help with, get in touch with us, we would love to help you out.

Update Your WordPress (Because Security)

There are a number of reasons to keep WordPress up to date. The main one is security. Sure, it’s nice to have updated plugins and features, but that should come second. The most important features of updating your WordPress would primarily be security, with an added benefit of increased plugin features

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One of the most popular plugins to install is WordPress SEO by Yoast. This is a great plugin that is designed to provide WordPress sites with the ability to be fully optimized. The plugin also keeps the various SEO optimizations in a simple format. There are two main fields, SEO Title and Meta Description. The SEO Title is one of the main factors that go into search rankings, as it provides both a name and expectations for the content within. The Meta Description is the snippet of information that comes up in a search result, and is best used as a summary of the page with some level of a Call-to-Action.

The other two main features of the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin are the Snippet Preview and Focus Keyword. The Snippet Preview allows you to see an estimate of what the organic search result will be for the page you’re optimizing in WordPress. The Focus Keyword helps to ensure keyword consistency in the page; it is not a Meta Keyword field (which is not at all recommended for use).

All of these pieces compile to make a plugin that provides a good level of benefit for its users. I have seen a number of updates come through for the SEO plugin with updated features and fixes. While these are all well and good, there was one glaring issue recently, security.

We recommend you update your WordPress and plugins at a minimum of every month, if you can. In case you missed it, WPScan discoverd a security exploit in the WordPress SEO plugin for un-updated versions in early March. The un-updated versions of the plugin are vulnerable to Blind SQL Injections. In brief, this security issue could lead to an individual to attack and compromise the entire site. There is a new security fix (version 1.7.4) for the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. I recommend updating this plugin right away.

There are a number of plugins and other add-ons for WordPress that can make the platform easier to use, or expand its overall use. Make sure your WordPress site and plugins are up-to-date to avoid new security risks!

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Do What Works but Don’t Stop Wanting More

As an account manager of several web marketing clients, my goal is for them (and us) to be successful in growing their businesses. And we do that by aligning our strategy with their company goals, becoming partners who work together in this mutual aim.

Most of my customers want to sell more widgets or get more sales leads, and so we get them more website traffic so they can do just that. Who doesn’t like more customers, right?

If your company website leads or sales are growing, especially by having a content and search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, then continue to work your plan. That’s good business sense.

But let’s not stop at just continuing to do what works. There’s always more. It’s time to try new things.

stock-footage-new-ideas-hand-drawn-lettering-with-a-simple-stylized-bulb-symbol-whiteboard-animation-on-whiteWhen it comes to making money, one of my favorite things to do is to try new ideas. It’s fun to test them out and see if you can get a return on investment. Online marketing is no different: Find something that works and expand it. Then, find something else that works and expand it, too. Repeat the process.

Let’s assume you have an SEO and content strategy working for your business. Have you tested some paid digital advertising, yet? What about social media marketing; is that right for your business? And by social media marketing, I mean true strategy that drives results – not just playing on Facebook. How about email marketing to current customers – might you get them to spend more with your company with repeat orders?

There are so many avenues to explore when it comes to growing your business. If you haven’t gone down very far down those roads, there are likely goldmines to uncover.

What is the SSL Effect on SEO?

In August, Google announced that having a HTTPS site will help your site’s SEO. Further information revealed that this new SSL ranking signal would be slightly less significant compared to quality content. In response to this announcement, Raven Tools co-founder Jon Henshaw has encouraged internet marketers to test this switch before jumping into a fully HTTPS site.

Making the transition from HTTP to HTTPS is not as simple as adding an extra letter to the URL. It requires adding a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which is generally found on e-commerce sites or others that offer secure transaction pages. Switching a site to HTTPS has some heavy SEO obstacles.

Henshaw gives nine steps to follow in transitioning a WordPress site to HTTPS. Outside of the difficulty of obtaining private keys and certificates, there are a number of other obstacles to hurdle over in maintaining SEO. It’s important to first understand that HTTP sites and an HTTPS sites are considered to be different sites, not extensions of one another. Next is the need to redirect traffic from the old HTTP site to the new HTTPS site. Enter the wonderful process of de-indexing. The old HTTP pages will need to be removed, which luckily, Google will do once your new redirects are set up. This will take care of the regular HTTP, or non-secure, pages.

One last tip from Henshaw is that he doesn’t recommend switching to an HTTPS site if your site is performing well and bringing in a large volume of conversions. This secure site SEO factor is another best practice to be added to a lengthy list that online marketers need to address, or at the very least be aware of.

What does this mean for your site?

Don’t panic if your site is not entirely HTTPS. As with many other changes to SEO best practices, which change constantly, you won’t want to jump straight on the wagon. Take some time to evaluate the process involved in switching from a site in HTTP to HTTPS. Make sure any kinks are worked out of the process if you decide to switch. Have a plan of action (see above steps from Jon Henshaw). How intensive will it be for your site? If your website is new, you may want to go ahead and start the transition as this change would be easier to make, and you won’t have to make the change once your site is established in organic Google searches.

I agree with Henshaw when he makes a point about successful sites with high traffic and goal completions not needing to make an immediate switch. Though being proactive is not a bad thing:

  • Are you creating a new signup feature? Make sure it is secure.
  • Are all of your e-commerce transaction pages already HTTPS? If not, that’s a change you need to make.

How does SSL effect SEO?Security needs for your site are directly related to how much information you are collecting. If the main goal of your site is only to push content, you have much less of a need for security additions; however, if you are collecting a range of personal information or credit card info, you absolutely need secure pages.

Be sure to watch your website’s statistics in the coming months. Is there suddenly a sustained loss in organic traffic? Have you noticed a dip in overall site performance? If you are having these issues, it would be worth evaluating the switch to HTTPS.

Image Source URL: http://www.softsystemsolution.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/HTTPS-Secure-Socket-Layer.png

The TKG Data Center

Ahh, data centers. Fancy name, but do you know what they really are? Data centers make websites work, and TKG has its very own! In this blog post, I’d like to show you around our data center at TKG to give you an idea of what goes into bringing your website to life from behind the scenes. It’s more than just blinking lights and wires (really)!

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Pictured below is our backup natural gas generator. This generator will automatically kick on in the event of an extended power outage. It works alongside our battery-powered UPS to ensure 100% power uptime!

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Did you know that over 90 percent of the almost 500 websites that TKG hosts run off of two servers? Well, you do now! We utilize the latest virtual machine technologies to bring you improved uptime. Our host servers are configured for high availability, which translates to increased redundancy for your website! Here they are, in all their beauty.

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Fact: the internet IS just a series of pipes, and most places only have one pipe feeding their data needs. But, TKG has two pipes supplying our data center with cool refreshing bandwidth! Both of our pipes are fiber optic, which can be way faster than a traditional copper connection. We only use one of our pipes at a time, and we keep the other one ready in a failover state – just in case.

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The final stop on our data center tour brings us to the air conditioner. It’s pretty cool (pun intended). Running servers 24/7 gets really hot, so we have a dedicated HVAC unit to keep our data center nice and cold (with a low relative humidity).

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We hope you enjoyed our tour. Who has a question about the TKG Data Center? Ask in the comments!

Have You Considered Colocation?

Colocation ServerFirst, is it colocation, collocation, co-location?

Just spelling the word often poses a challenge! But, what is it?

Colocation is a server hosting option that might be a good fit for smaller businesses that don’t have their own IT infrastructure or want the headache of implementing and maintaining a server.

It allows you to essentially rent space in more robust environment that typically contains large amounts of bandwidth, redundant power, dedicated cooling, etc.

At TKG, we are fortunate enough to have our own data center within our walls. That’s pretty unique for a business our size in our industry. With our colocation services, you can provide your own server or we can even spec one out for you to meet your needs. Either way, you own your equipment.

You then rent the amount of rack space needed in our data center to fit your server(s). We provide the power and the required bandwidth for your needs.

An added benefit of TKG colocation services is that we also have a dedicated IT staff to facilitate set up and maintenance for you, if needed. Often customers looking for colocation not only don’t have the physical resources to support their server, they typically do not have the staffing resources either. This makes TKG a great fit to partner with these businesses to help out in that area.

Some uses of colocation are:

  • To support high-use/high-demand websites and related applications
  • Offsite backup of data to ensure protection
  • Hosting of software applications remotely

Do you think colocation might be a fit for you? If you are currently hosting your website on a PC under someone’s desk or back up all of your critical client and business files to a jump drive, a colocation solution might be a good fit for your business.

Let us know if we can answer any questions for you or if you want more information about colocation.

IT Disasters Happen: Better Have a Plan!

secure ITSometimes disasters happen…  It’s an unfortunate reality.  In the IT world the name of the game is reducing down time, and the best way to ensure that you reduce downtime during a disaster is to have a backup and disaster recovery plan. Here at TKG, we have a nerdy saying we like to throw around: “Secure data equals peace of mind.”

That’s why we are currently in the next phase of our (always evolving!) backup strategy to include a disaster recovery plan that ensures we can provide uptime even if our data center is wiped off the map! (We had a massive storm and tornado warning last week that made us a little fearful that might actually happen!)

This is great news for our clients, and a service that very few web hosts/data services providers can claim.

The best backup strategies include an offsite backup location to move data to, but sometimes it’s not enough to just move data offsite…  It’s important to plan for a disaster, and figure out a way to put your data back in “play” after one occurs.

With VMware as the backbone to our hosting environment we are going to be able to utilize our offsite backup server as another VMware host to ensure the best possible uptime for our clients in the event of a disaster.

Virtual machines give users unprecedented flexibility to backup and restore virtual machines. There are some really great software packages that allow users to backup virtual machines such as Vranger and Veeam.  I’m not going to recommend one of the other (I’ll leave the homework up to you), but it’s important to find a backup solution that fits the needs of your virtualization environment.

There’s no way around it.. Disasters suck (especially for IT people), but with good planning it is possible to ease the pain of a disaster. To learn more about what makes an ideal hosting environment, head over to the Data Services section of TKG.

An Introduction to Virtualization

Virtualization is a key component to many data centers around the world today, and why shouldn’t it be?  At TKG we rely on a world-class virtualization platform to house many of our critical hosting servers. Virtualization gives us the flexibility to allocate resources on-demand to different machines as needed, and it gives us a backup solution that will help decrease down time in the event of an emergency.

So, what is virtualization?

Think of it as multiple personalities for a computer.  There are many different operating systems out there, and each system has its own strong suite.   Linux is great for web hosting, Windows has Active Directory and Exchange, the Mac has… well the Mac actually doesn’t have the ability to be virtualized in a production environment!  Virtualization software allows users to run multiple operating systems on one computer or server.  You could have your Exchange server on Windows running right next to your Linux-based web hosting server on the same hardware!  Think of the savings (hardware, energy, etc)!

There are two major platforms for virtualization that come to mind when dealing with server virtualization: VMWare and Microsoft.

Each system has pros and cons, and I have had experience with both.  Personally, I prefer VMWare ESX over Microsoft Hypervisor simply because Hypervisor requires Windows Server to be installed on the server before being able to virtualize a system (full version of Windows = more overhead).  VMWare ESX is a light-weight operating system that you install on a server and control with a program that runs on your desktop PC.

VMware PlayerIf you’re new to virtualization or just want to see what it’s all about you can download a copy of VMWare Player.  VMWare Player is a FREE virtualization program that installs right on top of Windows (sorry, Mac users you have to purchase VMWare Fusion).  Player allows users to run Linux, Windows or any other OS you can throw at it right on top of your current system.

I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about virtualization, just put them in the comments!