Up until now, SSL certificates – the key to turning your HTTP website into a secure HTTPS URL – were a small tax one would have to pay to secure their website and customer data. That is, until Let’s Encrypt entered the fray, and began offering free SSL certificates.
Before we address Let’s Encrypt and its impact on the internet, we should briefly explain the importance of having an SSL Certificate, to begin with. As most already realize, the internet is plagued with hackers, and cybercriminals are lurking around every corner. For websites that collect personal information, an SSL Certificate encrypts the personal information being sent to a server, making it unreadable to everything other than the server receiving the information.
In addition to the encryption of personal data, an SSL Certificate also provides authorization that the website is truly the website and server you want to access, not that of a cybercriminal trying to steal customer information. When a website is shown to have a valid SSL Certificate, it shows visitors that they are in a safe online shopping environment.
Traditional SSL certificate authentication relies on root certificates held by a few companies, meaning any and every HTTPS website ultimately counts on one privately-held company, accountable to investors, not customers. Your SSL certificate acts as the first of many authentication gates, eventually ending with authentication the root-level certificate.
Let’s Encrypt operates on a principal that the encryption at the root-level - the “last stop” in the authorization checklist for secure sites - is distributed among millions of users in pieces, rather than centralized in the hands of one or two entities. Let’s Encrypt not only makes securing your site easy and cost-effective but also takes a step further to ensure the internet is accessible and safe for all who wish to use it.
To that end, Hostway is proud to offer FREE SSL Certificates for all Managed Magento customers in partnership with Let’s Encrypt. It’s never been easier to save money, attract more customers, rank higher in Google search results, and make the internet a more secure place for everyone. Take advantage of Let’s Encrypt and keep your Magento eCommerce online store safe and out of the hands of hackers and cyber criminals.
For more information on SSL Certificates, and how they can benefit your website and search presence, take a peek at an overview of SSL Certifications.
The search shift from mostly desktop to mainly mobile is under way. Now, Google is adding fuel to the fire – and putting additional pressure on marketers – with two algorithm updates that mean significant SEO changes for mobile:
1. A mobile-friendly ranking signal
2. Easier access to mobile apps in search results
The search engine made an official announcement in the Webmaster Central blog last week, explaining these updates will give users more high-quality results.
If your website isn’t optimized for all platforms, you should make it priority for the first half of 2015. Google is giving webmasters a grace period that lasts through April 21 to update their pages and make them viewable on smartphones and tablets. If your content isn’t mobile friendly, Google will be less likely to show it to people searching for information on mobile devices.
This could be a problem for the majority of marketers. Earlier this year, a Google poll found 82 percent say they have a mobile-friendly site, but a separate study concluded this isn’t necessarily the case and only about 18 percent of sites actually use responsive design. This means the remaining 80 percent will need to develop solutions to ensure their sites provide experiences their visitors expect or they risk dropping off of page one into search obscurity.
At SMX West, Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed the upcoming roll out of a global mobile UX algorithm, and he hinted the impact will be huge. The algorithm will run page by page, in real time so any marketers who “miss the deadline” can redeem their sites with fast action.
Still, this new algorithm must serve as a wake-up call for 91 percent of business sites that are not mobile optimized. Illyes and the panelists shared exclusive insights on the upcoming mobile UX algorithm, and best practices for mobile SEO.
Bryson Meunier, SEO Director of Vivid Seats argued heavily for responsive, while other members of the panel argued for m.dot sites. The issue, according to m.dot advocates is that building a separate mobile site creates more room for error. In order for a site to earn benefits, it has to be done right.
On other issues:
What constitutes a “mobile” search experience?
Illyes: Any internet-enabled device users can carry, except a laptop computer, is a mobile device.
What’s the difference in assessing mobile (phone) sites and tablet sites?
Illyes: There is no specific different treatment for tablet experiences at this time.
What’s the impact of the mobile UX algo? As significant as Panda, or smaller – like SSL?
Illyes would not respond to this. He joked that this will have a “42 percent impact!” but gave no real insight. However, he subtly hinted at the weight of the algorithm, saying “April 21st will be an important day. Mark it.”
What if a developer team misses the deadline?
This algorithm will run frequently (Illyes suggested it will detect changes in real time). And it will operate page-by-page as opposed to site-wide. Panelists all encouraged marketers who don’t already have mobile (responsive) sites to pick their priority pages according to revenue and start optimizing from there.
What’s the best strategy to rank in mobile search?
Illyes: All we (at Google) want from you is for you to focus on your user.
The moral of the story: No company can afford to take its search visibility for granted. If there’s an SEO arms race, it’s not about acquiring the most links or using the most keywords anymore. It’s over who can provide users will the most valuable information in the best way.
One of the main benefits touted by many managed service providers is that their clients need not worry about maintaining their own hardware. For many businesses, this is an incredibly attractive offer: Having the vendor take care of upgrades and ensure network components work frees up considerable time for their internal IT team, allowing the clients' employees to focus on other mission-critical activities.
Have you ever wondered what best practices go into hardware maintenance on the service provider's side? As a decision-maker currently using managed services or looking to migrate there, it is worthwhile to understand how this maintenance is performed. So let's look at how service providers maintain the components that ensure your services are up and running.
A team of experts
First and foremost, it's important to note that managed service providers staff their workplace with IT experts, educated and knowledgeable to ensure hardware components are operating optimally. These staff members have been specially trained in best practices for maintaining hardware.
For smaller organizations without an in-house IT team, adopting managed services can prove much simpler. Hiring individuals with the specialized skills to maintain on-premises hardware can be a painstaking process, not to mention expensive. Instead of funneling capital into such an initiative, it is often much more cost-effective to leverage the services of a vendor with an expert team in place.
Ensuring the proper environment
When looking at the big picture, maintenance includes not only the actual servers and network switches, but the data center facility itself. The lack of a proper environment in which to operate could cause damage to these sensitive machines, making the maintenance of the data center just as important as that of the servers.
One of the biggest facility concerns is ensuring the proper temperature and airflow in a data center environment. Servers and other components create a considerable amount of heat, which, if not removed, could cause hardware to overheat and fail. These are the best practices vendors use for facility maintenance:
Deploying a preventative maintenance program
Electronic Environments also noted that preventative maintenance has become much more commonplace in today's data centers, especially as researchers have found that 90 to 95 percent of all unplanned outages come as a result of improperly managed hardware.
"Preventative data center maintenance is one of the key approaches to protecting a facility through detection of potential points of failure before the deficiency initiates a system-wide malfunction," Electronic Environments contributor Kim Otte wrote. "Neglecting to maintain equipment or implementing improper data center maintenance procedures are two of the biggest reasons why mission-critical equipment fails."
The majority of preventative maintenance focuses on the key components that are at high risk for failure, including batteries, capacitors and fans. When these items are maintained at regular intervals, there is a dramatically lower chance for malfunction.
Refreshing servers: Deciding when it's time for an upgrade
Managed service providers are also in charge of deciding when servers have become outdated and the facility is in need of new hardware. As this can be an expensive endeavor, it is beneficial to have a vendor with an expert team responsible for this decision.
This is just one of the benefits of using managed services. Instead of worrying about maintaining and managing the hardware yourself, utilize the services of an industry-leading service provider like Hostway.
This article has been updated with new data. It was originally published in June 2010.
Antivirus programs not only provide manageable security, but also have preferences that enable you to automatically or manually delete viruses on your computer. Say you’re browsing the internet and you download a video. When your antivirus software detects it as a threat, an alert will come your way with two options: delete or quarantine.
What is Quarantine?
When an antivirus program scans your computer, it moves infected files from their original location into quarantine so that they can no longer run. While a quarantined virus is harmless, it is still on your computer until you permanently delete it.
Updating Anti-Virus Settings
One benefit of having an antivirus software is that you can set preferences. For instance, you can request to receive an alert when a virus is detected so you have the convenient option to kill the virus right then and there. If you choose to quarantine a file and all your programs seem to run fine, go ahead and delete that virus!
Keep in mind that antivirus programs can occasionally flag files that look like virus carriers. If you haven’t set up preferences to automatically delete viruses, these false alarms can break an existing program or remove something of importance to your business. Be sure to update the program settings so that you have a choice in the matter.
What to do with Quarantined Files
If a program won’t run because a file is in quarantine, use your discretion before restoring it or adding it to exceptions. Read up about the suspected virus and see if it makes sense to permanently delete or restore the file. Usually, you can send that file to the support team behind your antivirus so they can check it out. If it is a false alarm, they can teach their antivirus program to recognize it.
Antivirus programs are a step in the right direction, but if your company does not have the in-house resources to manage a fast-paced cyber-attack, outsourcing security services is the next best thing. By placing security in the hands of a highly skilled team, you not only mitigate risk, but also gain access to specialized security professionals for fraction of the cost of hiring full-time staff.
Hostway provides this support for businesses of all sizes, offering peace of mind, a secure environment with 24/7 monitoring, and more.
Ready to battle-test your antivirus program? Contact our experts for a free risk assessment today.
It's that time of year again: Businesses and individuals alike are gathering their financial information to complete their federal and state taxes. Companies assess their bottom line and squeeze as much value as they can out of each of their assets.
Everyone loves a large refund check, and corporations use this money to invest back in their mission-critical initiatives. These dollars can sometimes mean the difference between starting out the financial year on the right foot, and having to work extra hard to ensure essential projects have monetary backing.
When it's time to file taxes, the best refunds and write-offs often come from surprising places. Case in point: your company's technology. From Internet connectivity to mobile devices, tech systems can represent a boon for your business's tax filings. In the spirit of the season, let's take a look at a few places where your enterprise can save money, and where it can create its own wealth.
Deductions gleaned from efficient office spaces
When one thinks of technology, we often conjure thoughts of electronics that fill a building, not the building itself. However, structures are often the backbone for technological infrastructure, and if your company has put in the effort to create an energy-efficient and economical brick-and-mortar space, tax season could be the time when this pays off.
Energy-efficient commercial buildings fall under section 179D of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, and businesses could qualify for $1.80 per square foot in deductions if their space meets the parameters. Eligible buildings must have been constructed or retrofitted after 2005, and the organization must submit to a third-party energy tax study. Subsystem deductions in this category include HVAC configurations, interior lighting and the building envelope, each of which provides a $0.60 deduction per square foot. When you consider the amount of space your enterprise might have, the building itself could be a deduction gold mine.
Saving where it counts: Mobile devices, software and Internet
These days, one would be hard-pressed to find a company that doesn't use the Internet, computers, business applications or other gadgets for some aspect of their business. TurboTax pointed out that these systems could play a major role in an enterprise's tax deductions.
"Your computer, cellphone, Internet service, software and even some cool tech gadgetry are possible tax deductions if you must use them to run your business," TurboTax noted.
Michael Carney, MWC Accounting owner and president, told TurboTax that when administrators and accountants take depreciation and percentage of time that devices are used for work into the equation, companies have a choice as to how they structure their deductions.
"You can depreciate them, spreading the deduction over the number of years the IRS considers to be the shelf-life for this item, or you can write the entire cost off for the year of purchase," Carney explained. "Your choice between the two depends on your projected income and other expenses going forward."
The main requirement, according to the IRS, is that tech items and systems qualify as "a usual, necessary, customary and reasonable expense for your type of work." As long as the gadgets, software and Internet connectivity utilized in your organization fit this bill, you could qualify for considerable deductions.
Community-specific tax deals
Sometimes, businesses can strike up deals with their community governments for tax breaks based on their contribution to the area. For example, last year five technology firms received tax incentive extensions due to their location and efforts in an emerging tech marketplace within San Francisco.
Twitter was among the organizations to benefit from the tax break, and the community utilized the incentives in the hopes of better supporting its technology industry. In order to qualify, the companies offered up volunteer hours, monetary support for local nonprofits and specialized purchase thresholds for other businesses in the area.
When it comes to tax season, it's all about knowing where to look to ensure your company gets all the deductions and refunds that it deserves.
In the first half of this series, we examined the rising use of mobile applications, as well as what companies and their development teams should consider when testing these programs for performance and functionality. Now, we'll take a look at the other side of the equation – mobile-optimized websites.
Although many users seem to favor mobile applications, retailers should not let their websites fall by the wayside. Especially in certain industries, many individuals still prefer to connect with brands via their web pages.
Recent research shows that while users spend more time on mobile apps, mobile websites produce more sales than their application cousins. Fifty-five percent of consumers made a purchase via a mobile website last December, according to eMarketer. This is in comparison to the 34 percent who completed a transaction on a mobile app. Moreover, 32 percent of American consumers regularly make purchases via mobile websites, according to statistics from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
"Apps may be where mobile users spend most of their time...but when it comes to spending money, mobile websites are where consumers funnel their funds," eMarketer stated.
Therefore, when enhancing or building your own website for your company, it is critical to consider mobile optimization. But how can organizations go about ensuring that their website is fit for use on a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device? Here are a few tips and best practices for mobile optimization:
Utilize similar brand elements, but simplify
In order to create a unified experience across your desktop website and the mobile-optimized version, designers should seek to leverage matching brand elements, suggested SocialMedia Examiner. These can include the brand's name, logo and color pallette.
However, the mobile website shouldn't be an exact copy of the regular site. Designers should aim to simplify elements, content and capabilities for mobile users, whose screen size is often limited.
"Given the restricted amount of screen space, it's important to figure out what key pieces of information your visitors will probably be looking for," SocialMedia Examiner noted. "It's also important to keep the steps involved in going from entry point to purchase as simple as possible."
Build a responsive mobile website
WPExplorer contributor Tom Ewer also emphasized ensuring that the mobile website is responsive so that it reacts appropriately to the size of any mobile device. For instance, a responsive site is displayed differently when viewed on a smartphone versus when accessed via a tablet or desktop computer. Components are automatically arranged according to the device's screen size and display capabilities. This projects an impage of a modern, technologically inclined business.
"Having a responsive design to your site simply means that it will be customized automatically, no matter what source your viewer is visiting from," Ewer wrote. "Pretty cool, right?"
Graphics and text: Choose wisely
Remember when we talked about simplifying the mobile website? The same principle should be applied not only to brand elements, but the text and graphics of the site as well. Ewer advised eliminating all but the important graphics, particularly those that are elaborate. The same goes for text content - users aren't likely to zoom and scroll to read text, so this information should be included judiciously. While a lack of bells and whistles may seem questionable, users will likely enjoy the site more without these needless additions.
"Forget about all the 'frills' that many sellers try to use to garner more attention to their products," Ewer wrote. "Give shoppers only what they need to make an informed purchase."
Today's mobile device users understand the impact that those devices have on their lives – not only in day-to-day tasks, but in the workplace as well. In the current enterprise environment, mobility is more important than ever, and this trend isn't going anywhere.
Just a few years ago, a number of experts predicted that mobile web apps would become the go-to functionality on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. However, recent research shows that mobile HTML5-based websites haven't taken off the way these individuals predicted, and that native applications are still king.
Mobile apps reign supreme
Guardian contributor Charles Arthur recently noted that while there were predictions that users would shift away from mobile-native apps toward Web applications accessible via their mobile browsers, this transition has not taken place.
A study from analytics firm Flurry underscores this, finding that users now leverage mobile websites even less than before. Typical web app use decreased from 31 minutes a day on average in mid-2013 to 22 minutes in 2014.
This is bad news for mobile HTML5 web apps, particularly since today's users are spending even more time on their devices – the average individual now spends approximately two hours and 42 minutes a day on his or her smartphone, up four minutes from last year. More than two hours of that time on mobile apps.
"[O]ne thing is clear – apps have won and the mobile browser is taking a back seat," Flurry noted, according to Arthur. "Now every company in the world including Google is adjusting to that reality."
The importance of mobile app testing: Top considerations
As organizations build their own websites and mobile apps, it is critical that they keep their competition in mind. According to statistics compiled by Statista, there are currently more than 2.5 billion applications available between Google Play and Apple's App Store. With this abundance of options, application creators cannot afford to have bugs or errors in their applications: Users will simply abandon these programs for something else. This makes testing an app's performance essential.
Experts recommend the following best practices for mobile app testing:
Tune in for the next part of this series, where we'll examine how to ensure your website is optimized for mobile.
Depending on your business’s needs, Remote Desktop Services (RDS) can help your employees work more effectively and productively than the system or strategy you currently have in place. If you’re considering investing in RDS to enhance your workforce, spend a little time learning the ins and outs of RDS usage by perusing our brief primer below:
What Is Remote Desktop Services?
RDS is a capability within Windows Server 2008 R2 and, recently, Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2. Installed on a Remote Desktop (RD) Session Host Server, the technology hosts Windows-based programs, applications or full desktops to enable remote access for users. To gain access, users can use the RD Connection Broker, which provides access to virtual desktops hosted on the RD Session Host Server.
All files, applications and desktops within RDS can be accessed from a number of client devices (smartphones and tablets), operating systems, and HTML5 browsers with Web access and a Remote Desktop Gateway, which allows users to connect to virtual desktops and/or remote application programs over the Internet. As such, the quality of the user experience is dependent on the amount of network bandwidth available. If the user does lose a connection, however, the RD Connection Broker can restore it and preserve the remote desktop’s current state.
Who Needs Remote Desktop Services?
Employees across the board can benefit from RDS:
Why Use Remote Desktop Services?
There are plenty of benefits to deploying a program on an RD Session Host Server. Here are just three:
And there are even more benefits of RDS with the newest version of Microsoft Windows 2012. A member of Microsoft’s RD team took to the company’s Remote Desktop Services blog in early October to elaborate: “RDS in Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 brought significant enhancements to the user experience, simplified RDS management and lowered the total cost of ownership. RDS in the next version of Windows Server builds on this strong foundation.”
According to the blog, enhancements to RDS in Windows Server 2012 include better support for OpenGL (1-4.4) and OpenCL (1.1), which will enable customers to centralize commonly used engineering and design applications such as Adobe Photoshop; simplify single server deployment for education and retail scenarios by integrating Windows Multipoint Server within Windows Server; and improve user productivity from personal devices.
Hostway is proud to offer the latest version of RDS client access license (CAL), Windows Server 2012 RDS CAL, which offers a number of benefits beyond what previous versions offered. Click here to learn more about how Hostway can help support your RDS endeavor.
These days, a rising number of users are engaging with companies primarily – and sometimes exclusively – via their mobile devices. Due to this shift, brands boost their focus on their mobile presence, and build a website that is specifically optimized for the mobile platform.
But what does this mean exactly? How can designers be sure they are creating the best possible mobile website? By considering the following design tips and strategies, website creators can help guarantee that their mobile initiative is not only successful, but geared especially for mobile users.
First things first
As mobile becomes a more critical aspect of a business's online presence, a growing sector of the design community is taking a "mobile first" approach to creating websites. According to online marketing and search engine optimization agency Distilled, this strategy involves creating the mobile version of the website first, and then building the desktop version from the mobile template.
"There's nothing you can put on a mobile page that can't be loaded on the desktop version," Distilled pointed out. This approach is especially helpful for responsive and dynamically served sites, where the content on the mobile version of the page should be identical to the content on the desktop page."
Many experts recommend creating complementary desktop and mobile website versions that integrate similar color schemes and brand messaging. This assures users that they've reached the correct brand's page. This concept is much easier to integrate when the mobile version is created first and the desktop website is built off of it.
Responsive, shiftable grid layouts
Designers should also consider how their website content will be displayed on different devices. Many smartphone models differ in their screen size, not to mention the much larger displays of tablets. Copley Broer, CEO of LandlordStation, a property management software development company, told CIO that to ensure that content is displayed appropriately, designers should leverage responsive frameworks.
"These frameworks are basically simple ways to lay out elements in a grid and then shift that grid based on different screen sizes, so that elements on a large monitor are spaced just as well as they would be on an iPad [or smartphone]," Broer said.
Performance can help a website stand out
As the amount of mobile-based Internet traffic increases, so too does the number of mobile websites and applications available to users. Currently, there are more than 4 million mobile-optimized websites, according to Adobe's Andrew Henderson. In this way, designers have their work cut out for them when it comes to ensuring that their page stands out.
One way to differentiate a website is through performance. Many users won't wait for more than a few seconds for a webpage to load before they abandon it in favor of something else. This makes performance critical – not only for the design processes, but for quality assurance as well. Before the mobile website is rolled out, QA teams should be sure to thoroughly test the page for load times and performance under extreme usage levels to be sure it functions as it should in any situation.
Additionally, Henderson recommends balancing design elements in a way that drives optimal performance of the website on the mobile platform.
"Mobile devices are very underpowered compared to traditional computers. so the performance impact of design elements is even more exacerbated on mobile devices," Henderson point out. "It is important to balance design directions with the realities of what can be executed well on mobile devices."
Keep it simple
Above all, mobile websites should leverage a simplified design that is clean and streamlined. Because the mobile platform offers capabilities that aren't possible on desktops, some designers tend to go overboard with graphics, video or other content. A more focused design will ensure that the website loads quickly on mobile devices, and that users are engaged right away. Furthermore, a busy or cluttered page only serves to distract from the brand message.
"Remember that you only have a few seconds to convey who you are as a company," noted Caxy Interactive founder and CEO Michael LaVista. "This is true for any website design, but is particularly important when you are designing for smaller devices."
Taking these tips and best practices into consideration can considerably help design teams create a mobile website that stands out from the crowd, and will help further their brand.
The holiday shopping season is just around the corner and there are a number of things retailers should do to prepare. One aspect many companies still need to address is the range of payment options customers will seek to utilize as they purchase gifts.
Although Google Wallet has been around for some time, its popularity is on the rise thanks to similar emerging technologies. One such system is Apple Pay, the new digital wallet feature included on Apple's recently released iOS 8. Tech Times contributor Nicole Arce noted that Google Wallet, an Android mobile payment system, was first on the market, but didn't see the mass utilization many were hoping for. This may change as Apple's new technology heralds an age of widespread consumer use of mobile payment systems.
"[C]onsidering Apple's influence and track record of changing consumer behavior, Apple Pay could finally make secure mobile payments more mainstream," Arce wrote.
With the holiday season quickly approaching, retailers need to be aware of these emerging technologies, how they work and what it will mean for their business. Let's take a look at two of the most popular systems today: Apple Pay and Google Wallet.
The basics: Google Wallet
According to Google, the company's mobile payment option is a secure way to pay for goods and services. It can also be used to send money to recipients both online and within brick-and-mortar stores. The system features Google Wallet Fraud Protection, encryption protection, and can be remotely disabled should the app or physical card linked with the account be lost or stolen. The program also includes a four-digit PIN used to unlock the application and send funds. Users can also benefit from the system's notifications, which alert both the sender and receiver when money is transmitted.
The basics: Apple Pay
Apple Pay is comparable to Google Wallet in that it allows for transactions online and in physical retail locations. Apple Pay also features a range of security measures to ensure protected financial transfers, including using the Find My iPhone app to suspend the program or completely wipe the device. However, as opposed to Google Wallet's PIN system, Apple Pay enables users to utilize the phone's Touch ID biometrics system, as opposed to just a passcode.
The technology behind digital wallets
Both Apple Pay and Google Wallet leverage near-field communication technology to function. This allows device owners to simply hold the NFC antenna their phone is equipped with near a retailers' contactless reader to make a purchase. Currently, a number of companies accept NFC payments, including restaurant chains like McDonald's and Subway, retail stores like Foot Locker and Macy's and drug stores like Walgreens. As this type of payment option becomes increasingly popular other businesses are very likely to begin to accept it as well. However, they will have to equip their websites and physical stores with the necessary hardware and e-commerce software solutions to allow for this type of payment.
The potential for a secure alternative
Tech CheatSheet contributor Nathanael Arnold noted that it will likely be worth merchants' time and effort to allow NFC payments of this kind, as they present a more secure alternative to debit and credit cards. Especially in the wake of the numerous security breaches that took place during last year's holiday season, consumers are exercising more caution than ever this year.
In fact, a survey from CreditCards.com found that 45 percent of the 865 respondents said they would "definitely or probably" not shop with retailers that have been the victims of data breaches. In addition, 16 percent said they "definitely would not return" to a hacked retailer.
As many breaches in the past involved the theft of payment card numbers via infiltrations of point-of-sales systems, NFC technologies could provide peace of mind for careful consumers. Arnold pointed out that despite some glitches with the rollout of the system – including Bank of America customers being double charged when using Apple Pay – the security potential could bring increased profits for retailers this holiday season.
"A few technical hiccups during the launch of new payment system[s] is to be expected, and they are fairly inconsequential compared to the peace of mind that Apple Pay's security features could offer to consumers who are worried about having their card data revealed by hackers this holiday shopping season," Arnold wrote.