October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). Taking the time to learn about cybersecurity, and how you can protect yourself and your business should be of the utmost importance. It’s an especially important time as breaches and leaks continue to grow and are a major part of our online lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how large, small, or popular a company is, it seems like data breaches and hackers are becoming a part of our daily lives. But there are ways to mitigate security risks.
“With the increase of data being stored online and the recent large-scale compromises of personal information, it's more important than ever to focus on efforts to secure data. Cyber Security Awareness Month is a great way to get more people thinking about how they secure and protect the data they are entrusted with,” says Hostway's Director, Security Services, Peter Marsh.
NCSAM is presented by the Department of Homeland Security and promotes a variety of ways to decrease the likelihood of being hacked through increased awareness and cybersecurity. America isn’t the only country using October to buckle down on safety online. Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said, “[threats] can rob you of your money and identity and do serious harm to infrastructure, economy, and national security.” The desire to protect data and private information is felt worldwide.
“Staying ahead of hackers, DDoS attacks, internet hijacking, and other cyber-attacks may not be possible for everyone, but there are steps anyone can take to lessen your chances of being hit,” says Marsh.
Get Help and Enjoy Peace of Mind
Whether you’re concerned about your personal computer, company computer, or hundreds of thousands of pieces of data, having your data stored on a managed hybrid cloud will further secure your private personal information. Hostway's team offers managed backup, monitoring, firewalls, and storage to keep your data safe while you carry on with your life.
For more information on Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month, please visit https://www.dhs.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month.
To learn more about building a highly secure and scalable hyperscale public cloud solution, contact a Hostway cloud hosting expert at 1.866.680.7556 or chat with us today.
Choosing the software you'll use to support your brand is one of the most important decisions you'll make for your online business. The right e-commerce platform can set your company up for success for many years to come.
Selecting the best merchant software is no easy task. There are plenty of options available, each with its own unique capabilities, features and benefits. So how can you choose the optimal fit for your business both now and well into the future?
There are a few questions to answer along the way:
1) Does it have the capabilities your business needs?
Examine the features and tools included with each software. Depending upon the type of online business you are running, you may have unique functionality needs. Make a list of the capabilities you will need and compare this to each platform's features.
"Not only do you need features to help you drive conversion – stuff like suggested products, behavioral discounts and more – you need ease of use from a back-end management perspective," SparkPay pointed out.
Many merchants will offer trial periods so you have the opportunity to ensure that the platform has the tools your brand needs. Such a test drive can be the best way to pick a product.
2) Does it offer a beneficial end-user experience?
It's also critical to examine the solution from the point of view of the end user. Not only does the platform need to have specific tools for the business owner, but it must address the needs and pain points of the end user as well. An enjoyable end-user experience can not only help attract and retain customers, but it can also set your brand apart in the marketplace.
"If your store requires [customers] to jump through hoops to complete their purchase. odds are they'll head for the hills without spending a penny," SparkPay noted. "Your customers are the ones who'll use your shop, so make sure their experience is paramount."
3) What are the top platforms being used today?
It can also be helpful to see which platforms have the most users. For example, according to Datanyze, Magento has the most users among the Alexa top 1 million websites, with a 26 percent market share. WooCommerce, PrestaShop and Shopify are also leading solutions, each powering more than 2,000 of today's top sites.
4) What security protections does the platform offer?
In the current environment, security is more important than ever. With threats ever increasing, it is paramount to ensure that your customers' sensitive information will be continually protected. Therefore, it is essential to examine the protections that come along with the e-commerce platform.
SparkPay advised ensuring that security measures align with PCI guidelines for full industry compliance. This standard requires that brands have specific safeguards in place. Any breach can severely damage a brand's reputation. It is critical to have the right security in place.
5) Can the platform integrate with other solutions?
Administrators often focus on the initial rollout of the solution without examining how the platform might connect with their other systems. Practical Ecommerce contributor Armando Roggio pointed out that today's companies will need to unify their solutions to ensure they have the full breadth of capabilities they need. For example, the brand may want to integrate an email marketing solution within their website to better connect with its customers.
"Look for app stores, extensions and integrations for the e-commerce platforms you're considering," Roggio recommended.
6) What will it cost?
It's also important to factor cost into your considerations. This includes not only the price of the initial deployment, but the costs incurred throughout the company's lifecycle.
Roggio pointed out that there are free platforms available, as well as those that come with high price tags. Often, the price of the platform is equivalent with its capabilities – a more expensive solution will likely have more to offer. However, you must select the one that suits your needs as well as your budget.
"Half of today's users expect a page to load in two seconds or less."
7) How will the platform be hosted?
You must also decide what hosting environment is right for your brand. Roggio pointed out that a hosted solution – where the vendor takes care of the maintenance and upkeep of the platform – can be particularly beneficial for organizations that have limited technical resources.
In addition, having the proper support can also make a big difference when it comes to scalability and speed. Merchants often have to expand their hosting environment as their business grows or to account for seasonal spikes in traffic. A robust hosting provider can provide this flexibility.
With the proper computing resources in place, pages load faster. KISSmetrics noted that a speedy website can support increased conversions. Half of today's users expect a page to load in two seconds or less, and they will likely abandon the site in favor of a competitor if content doesn't load in under three seconds. The majority of shoppers – 79 percent – won't return to a site if they've had performance problems with it in the past.
For these reasons and more, it is essential to not only select a top e-commerce platform, but to also choose a hosting partner that can provide the support your brand needs. The best hosting vendors can provide the flexibility, scalability and customer support to ensure the success of your company throughout its lifecycle.
Right now, there are more than 858 million registered websites for users to visit, according to Tech Made Easy. This means you have a lot of competition to deal with when creating and building out your brand's online presence.
A website is an essential piece of the business puzzle, helping a brand connect with its customers and offer potential for the organization.
However, building a website that supports its brand is not as easy as one might think. Some important components and strategies are often overlooked when designers and decision-makers begin their website-building journey. This checklist will help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks:
1) Overall purpose and driving goals
Before thinking about theme or design, determine the overall purpose and goals of the website. Small Business Trends contributor Amanda Stillwagon noted that these include defining the type of site and what it will be used for – will the platform be used for e-commerce? Is it educational? Or will it offer some other type of service? Answering these questions will serve as the starting point for the entire process – these details will guide the decision-making processes for the entire initiative.
"Right now, there are more than 858 million registered websites, only 177 million of these are currently active."
2) Top priorities, in order of importance
Once the website's purpose and goals have been determined, it's time to prioritize. For example, if the website needs to be launched and accessible quickly, it might be best to begin with a basic site and add to it later. If the website's purpose is to provide data or educational information, what assets should be made available first? Stillwagon advised making a list of priorities to better drive the creation and launch process.
3) Register a domain name
The domain name will serve as the web address for the site. PressCoders pointed out that the company may want to include the business's name or certain keywords in the domain name to make it easier for clients to find. Overall, it's important to maintain a short and simple name that won't be difficult for users to remember.
"It doesn't matter what SEO value you get from the keywords, you need to think of people first, and search engines second," PressCoders recommended.
The name must be registered with a leading hosting provider like Hostway in order to ensure that it remains the property of the business. Many generic domain names can be quite popular and are therefore some of the first to be used. Registering a domain name can establish credibility for the brand as well as increase its visibility online.
4) Features and capabilities
It's also essential to think about the features and capabilities the website will need. These will largely be governed by the site's purpose and goals. For example, an e-commerce site will need a product catalog and shopping cart. An educational resource site may need considerable storage, a robust database and a blog. Selecting these features will help with the next step.
5) Platform software
There are more than a few solutions on the market that serve as the foundation of a website. These differ in their features and capabilities. For example, Magento is a leading e-commerce platform and offers just about everything a brand needs to open its own online store. WordPress, on the other hand, is more suited for blog-based sites. There are free tools as well as paid solutions, each providing different levels of design, support and user capabilities. It's important to do research in order to select a platform that will be able to address all of your needs.
Another key component of website building is attaining the proper support. Often, it makes more sense for a business to select a hosting provider that can handle the equipment, expense and upkeep to host the site. When registering a domain name, it can be helpful to also examine that provider's hosting capabilities.
Hosting also comes in different levels. Dedicated hosting, for example, differs from shared hosting, although both strategies come with their share of benefits. Working with an industry-leading hosting provider like Hostway can help decision-makers understand the difference and select the best environment for the company's needs.
With the domain name, platform and hosting resources in place, it's time to consider what content will live on the site. Again, this is primarily determined by the type of website and the industry the business operates within. Stillwagon noted that a website should include company branding and contact information. The website can also provide in-depth details about available products or services, and informative content such as that found on a blog. The possibilities here are nearly endless.
8) Continual improvements
It's critical to keep in mind that websites do not exist in a vacuum – they must be continually updated and improved to capture users' attention and provide true value for the brand.
While many users don't give a second thought to a company's domain name, consumers and businesses alike might not realize the impact an URL can carry. More than a web address, this moniker encompasses a brand.
Today, we'll take a look at domain names, including the process of registration, and what businesses should consider.
Choosing a domain name
Domain names come with an endless potential for variety – simply changing one letter or the attached suffix creates a brand new name and destination. When choosing a name, it is important to keep these considerations in mind:
Registering a domain name
When it comes time to register the domain name, your company will want to select an industry-leading hosting provider. Hostway's domain registration enables brands to control their nameserver information, manage multiple domains with our online control panel, provide protection with domain locking, and boost potential traffic with domain aliases.
To find out more, check out our Top 10 Reasons to Register Your Domain Name with Hostway, and be sure to contact us today.
Startups in every industry have their work cut out for them. In recent years, this community has had greater access to cost-effective technological solutions. Still, the vast majority of startups fail.
Tackling these pain points to better position your startup to succeed can hinge on managed hosting.
"Nine out of every 10 startups fail."
Managed hosting, in which a company leases dedicated IT equipment and resources, has become increasingly popular in recent years, a trend projected to continue. According to a January 2015 Markets and Markets report, the managed services market will likely experience considerable expansion through 2019 thanks to boosted adoption across a range of industries, including the startup sector.
"Organizations of all sizes are showing an increased interest in outsourcing their expensive in-house IT-related infrastructure to third party managed service providers to attain better efficiency from these resources as well as to use their costly IT personnel for more creative tasks, such as forming new policies and to smoothen out their current processes," the report stated.
Why do startups need managed hosting?
There are several advantages that startups can reap from managed hosting, including more cost-effective access to high-performance IT equipment. Because it is a leased service, a startup avoids the high cost of investing in on-premises top-notch servers and hardware components. Instead, the company can rent these from its service provider, reserving its limited capital for other purposes.
Managed hosting also offers savings when it comes to internal IT and overall maintenance. Many startups, limited by available resources, can't afford to have a team of IT workers to update equipment – some groups may have a single individual taking care of these responsibilities, or count on an employee to take on these tasks in addition to other duties. Outsourcing this to an expert team ensures hardware is properly maintained at all times. Not only does this save considerable time and money, but it also enables workers to focus on other mission-critical aspects of the company.
This style of hosting can also be a boon when it comes to security and compliance. The expert management it provides better ensures that critical, sensitive resources are maintained in a protected environment. In addition, some vendors like Hostway take extra steps to guarantee compliance with industry regulations like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.
Managed hosting is also inherently reliable, ensuring that the startup is never without access to its important applications or customer portals. In this way, the company can provide the best possible service to its clients while having the peace of mind that its critical infrastructure will always be available.
In addition, managed hosting offers scalable, secure resources that can grow alongside the business. Because equipment can be dedicated to a single client, the environment is more protected. Since managed hosting providers inherently operate at scale, resources are readily available for expansion. In this way, the managed hosting provider can support the organization's demands and requirements at every stage in its lifecycle.
Overall, managed hosting offers a range of advantages for startups, many of which directly address the top reasons for failure in the industry.
To find out more about managed hosting can be considerably beneficial for startups, contact Hostway today.
In today's marketplace, companies cannot afford to overlook their online presence, including the brand's website. Whenever new content is added or adjusted on this platform, it is critical to ensure that new features work appropriately and information is displayed as planned. One way to help guarantee the functionality of a webpage is with A/B testing.
What is A/B testing and how does it work?
According to testing software provider Optimizely, A/B testing involves performing trials on two versions of a page, including the control, or A, version, and the version that contains the changes, or the B version. These tests hinge on the measurement of live traffic to gauge how the different versions impact the website's conversion rate.
The process begins by determining a goal that the firm will try to reach through specific changes to its website. Via A/B testing, the company can see how even a small adjustment impacts the way customers interact with the site, including if a sales increase results from the change.
This is just one example of how A/B testing can be used on a website. Teams can test a whole host of variations with this strategy, including everything from subtle adjustments in wording, to large-scale design changes.
Why carry out A/B tests?
At this point, many business leaders may be asking themselves, "Why take part in this process?" Often, it is a simple matter of providing evidence backing proposed changes. If users react favorably to the difference, it is proof that it was a change for the better.
For instance, if an e-commerce company decides to adjust its shopping cart process, it would be in the business's best interest to A/B test the new checkout processes versus the old approach. Quicksprout contributor Neil Patel did just this on his website, where he ran trials of a two-step checkout process and compared it to a three-step process. While the information collected was the same in both cases, Patel broke down the fields differently, separating the checkout operation into three pages with the B version as opposed to two pages in the A version.
The result, which included 817 conversions, saw a 10 percent increase with the three-step process. This shows that although the change might be small and subtle, users did have a response to the variation.
When should A/B tests be carried out?
When building your own website, it is essential to test items like fonts, colors, locations of features and other elements to see which versions users prefer. This can help pinpoint the best options for attracting customers and raising conversion rates. With an existing website, it is important to test any changes made by the design team to gauge how the change impacts customers.
KISSmetrics suggested performing A/B tests on the following items:
Overall, A/B testing can offer a range of valuable insights, including support for the changes being made. By gaining a better picture of how variations impact end users, decision-makers can craft the best website possible for their brand.
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.
Many companies utilize a shared Web hosting plan to better offset costs and balance server capacity, especially if they don’t need a full server or lack the technological prowess to operate or maintain one independently.
What is shared hosting?
Shared hosting simply means that your website is being housed on one large server along with many other websites; each site is separated from one another but draws on the same system resources. A good example of this is WordPress, a blogging and publishing tool in which users can create their own websites and house them on the central WordPress server. In this way, even the least tech-savvy person can create as many different domains as he or she likes and get to blogging in a matter of minutes using a shared Web hosting plan.
While we’ve mentioned some of the benefits of using a shared Web hosting plan, there can also be challenges—specifically, central processing unit (CPU) usage.
So, what is the CPU?
The CPU essentially represents the brains of the computer that is the host server; it handles all of your pertinent information and executes your programs. So, in a shared Web hosting environment, multiple servers are usually housed on multiple CPUs, which can complicate things compared to housing on a single CPU.
When multiple requests are made of the CPU simultaneously, the hardware can get overloaded. The requests will be queued and handled in turn, and each request will receive a fraction of a second processing time before the next request is handled. By queuing them in this manner, each request can be handled more quickly; however, depending on certain things such as the size of the request or how much Web traffic is occurring, processing time can slow down, which can degrade performance.
Four Ways to Improve Your CPU
No matter the cause, when you’re sharing your Web server with a number of other sites, if one user’s request is especially heavy it can cause a domino effect. This forces the entire group of users under that shared plan to suffer a loss in performance.
Your managed hosting provider may tackle this issue in one of four ways:
Not sure where to start seeking a reliable Web host? Click here to read the six things to look for when shopping for one.
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.