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What to Ask Your Hosting Provider

What to Ask Your Hosting Provider

What to Ask Your Hosting ProviderEach year, half a billion dollars is lost to slow websites after users abandon shopping carts and content pages. The reason? Insufficient hosting support, undefined expectations, and hosting provider marketing that doesn’t line up with reality.

It’s for this reason that it’s important to know what your hosting provider means when they refer to uptime, support, control, and performance.

This article covers the questions you should be asking your hosting provider, so you can make sure you get the best hosting solution for your business.


Contents

Disaster Recovery

Data Center Types

Website Migration

Traffic Spikes

Hosting Support

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Choosing a hosting provider is a tricky task

How to Choose a Hosting Provider

Choosing a hosting provider is a complex task, made more so by convoluted rhetoric and sales pitches designed to confuse. For first time buyers, the mountain of options available can sometimes seem insurmountable. Luckily, we’re here to help with a simple breakdown of the questions and answers surrounding web hosting.

First, it’s important for you to ask yourself the question: what do you want from web hosting? To do that, you need to identify the attributes of your business and its website. This includes:

  • How many people visit your website?
  • How important is uptime?
  • What hosting location is best?
  • The level of support do you need?
  • What level of risk are you comfortable with?
  • And more

Each website has a unique set of requirements designed around specifications set by you: the owner. When choosing web hosting, it’s important to set your expectations from the outset. If you will require increased capacity during sales events, make that clear. If you will likely need help during the migration process, let your sales rep know.

 Hostdedi offers free migrations as standard, complete with a dedicated migration team to assist.

We have broken this article into five sections, each covering an area of importance. For our full breakdown of web hosting questions and answers, download our eBook.

1. Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery should be one of the first things you ask. Even the most well-prepared and secured data center facility can experience a problem. Asking about disaster recovery will let you know what your provider will do about them.

54 percent of businesses experience extended downtime

54% of businesses experience a downtime event lasting eight hours or longer.

More than half of companies experience a downtime event that lasts for longer than eight hours. Several studies place a day of downtime as costing businesses around $20k. The events themselves may be unavoidable, but the amount of attributable downtime is.

A deeper look at the threats to a data center reveals three primary categories of risk.

 


ExternalFacilityData System
Natural disastersPowerCommunication networks
Supplier outagesWaterShared servers
Human-causedClimateViruses
Civil disruptionsFireData backup and storage
CommunicationSoftware applications
Security
Structure

In order to minimize the damage from any of the risks above, most hosting providers create what are known as disaster recovery plans. These proprietary strategies are a vital piece of the puzzle for maintaining uptime across all services. They cover how to reduce and remove downtime, how to get services back online as quickly as possible, and the expected scope of damage.

It’s important to understand and ask your data center about risk – especially if you host in an area prone to natural disasters. For a deeper dive into data center risk, check our expanded article on Data Center Risk and Recovery and see exactly what you should be asking your data center about.

2. Data Center Types

The second question you should be asking is what type of hosting infrastructure your provider is offering.

In modern hosting, opting for a provider doesn’t mean you will necessarily be using their data center. Several hosting providers don’t have their own facilities, instead opting to resell or collocate in third-party facilities.

This has created three primary categories of hosting.

  • Reseller
  • Colocation
  • Owned and Operated

Each of these has their own advantages and disadvantages. Owned and operated hosting providers tend to provide the best in terms of support and control, while reseller packages are often cheaper.

We took a deeper look at the strengths and weaknesses of the different data center types. Find out how Owned and Operated providers can be the most powerful and versatile for your website, and why Colocation shouldn’t necessarily be overlooked.

3. Website Migration

Monthly Visitors to a site after a good and bad migrationThe third question is a tricky one – and something often marketed as being free by most providers: migrations.

Website migrations are scary. If something goes wrong, there is a lot to lose: SEO rankings, accessibility, data, and performance can all take a hit. These almost always lead to a reduction in visitors; one which can last for months or years and result in a huge loss in revenue.

All the more reason to take a more active role in the migration process. Know what to expect and what your role will be. With some simple preparation, a good website migration is a relatively easy and stress-free experience.

Learn more about how to keep your website migration simple. Remember, all Hostdedi solutions come with a dedicated migrations team to assist with your move for free. We’ll help walk you through the entire process so you know nothing will go wrong.

4. Traffic Spikes

The fourth question you should be asking is about traffic spikes and the capacity of your solution.

Traffic spikes happen. Sometimes it’s a search engine crawler or bot, other times it’s because your website just got a lot more popular and whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it right. Preparing for traffic spikes is an important piece of the website success puzzle.

At Hostdedi, there are three primary ways to prepare for and manage a traffic spike:

  • Environment optimizations
  • Upgrades/ downgrades
  • Auto scaling

Below you’ll find a basic outline of how these different methods compare.


OptimizationsUpgradesAuto Scaling
Site Capacity Increase?
Instant?
Available on All Solutions?
Included in Cost?

We took an in-depth look at how to prepare for traffic spikes with the three methods above. Find out more about what you could be doing.

5. Hosting Support

The final question you should have regards one of the most important features of modern managed hosting: support.

Hosting support should be 24/7, including holidays, and you should have a good understanding of the support channels available to you. At a minimum, there should be a ticketing system and a phone number. Check with your provider to see which channels are available and when they are available.

For more information on hosting support and what you should be asking, see what we think the big questions you should have about hosting support are.

Web Hosting Questions and Answers

Wouldn’t it be great if all of these questions were explored in more detail in one place? And wouldn’t it be even better if that place contained more detailed questions for an even more in-depth understanding of the hosting solution you’re choosing?

You’re in luck, we’ve put together a detailed guide for you to explore all of the above and save onto your computer. Simply click the link below and you’ll be taken to the download page.

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Getting Feedback From Customers On Your WooCommerce Store

Getting Feedback From Customers On Your WooCommerce Store

Getting Feedback From Customers On Your WooCommerce StoreGetting feedback from customers on your WooCommerce store is important. Data, analytics, and split testing are some of the evidence-gathering tools you have at your disposal, but in order to create a complete picture, you should be asking customers what they think directly.

When your WooCommerce store goes live, there are a number of factors potential customers will consider; style, user experience, and interface are only a few. Some of these factors can be researched and managed before release, others require a process of trial, feedback, and improvement.

This article looks at the ways in which you can collect vital feedback on your WooCommerce store and how each of those channels has its own unique advantages.

 Try optimized WooCommerce hosting and get the most out of your store. Get Started.

Direct Vs. Indirect Feedback

Getting direct feedback on your WooCommerce store offers a complete pictureThere are two ways to gather customer experience feedback on your WooCommerce store: directly and indirectly. We often focus on indirect methods, particularly deductions based on measurements and observations. But direct methods — asking customers and paying attention to what they say — can help us to lock down the causes of poor performance faster.

When you observe that shoppers who arrive on a landing page have a higher than average chance of leaving the site immediately, it’s reasonable to develop a hypothesis about why that may be and carry out tests to see if changes to the page reduce the bounce rate. Perhaps you think that the copy on the page is confusing, so you make some changes and test to see what happens.

With enough hypotheses and tests, you will discover the key to reducing bounce rates, but it may take a long time to hit on the right explanation. It’s often quicker to ask a subset of shoppers. You don’t have to accept their answers as the absolute truth, but their input may help you formulate better hypotheses and design more effective tests.

Feedback Collection Channels

There are numerous channels through which you can collect feedback. Each of them offers its own advantages and disadvantages.

Surveys

WooCommerce survey feedback formSurveys are the most common strategy for eliciting user feedback. This method is great for reaching a large audience directly. WooCommerce retailers can take advantage of plugins such as WPForms to create on-site surveys or use a cloud service such as SurveyMonkey.

Creating surveys is easy, but getting customers to respond can be more of a challenge. You can simply ask customers to fill in a survey after they check out. However, it’s likely you will have better results if you offer a discount, voucher, or free gift in exchange for the shopper’s time.

The information you gather will be more useful and actionable if you ask a small number of specific questions. These results can be tested with an A/B test to see if they do actually improve conversion rate.

Call Customers

Another great way to gather customer feedback is to call them and ask questions directly. Calling customers is a great way to engage in high-quality, qualitative data collection and feedback.

However, most WooCommerce customers are not going to opt-in to a long phone discussion. This method can cause your customers to see you as a source of spam and it may stop them from making repeat purchases. Good use of discounts and vouchers can help to increase response rate, but it’s not guaranteed.

It’s important to be careful with who and how often you target customers in this way. One call will be ok for most people, but adding customers to a call list for repetitive questioning when they say they’re too busy, is a quick path to losing an otherwise loyal following.

Social Media

An active social media account that encourages conversations with customers can be a treasure trove of insights about customer experience and sentiment. You should pay attention to what users are saying in free-form conversations, but it is often more effective to give specific prompts — ask customers what they think.

Creating a Poll in twitter for valuable WooCommerce feedbackSocial media can be incredibly revealing due to its connection to your buyer’s journey. If you’ve set up your analytics tools correctly, you should be able to track how people are entering your sales funnel and then where they are departing.

In addition to this, social media users represent a particular segment of your market. Data gained from this channel is invaluable for defining this segment and targeting them more effectively.

Both Twitter and Facebook can embed short surveys in their feeds and promote them to particular demographics.

Support

Your support team interacts directly with customers. They handle shoppers’ complaints and questions every day. It’s likely that no employee in the company has a better understanding of the shortcomings of your WooCommerce store and the business it supports.

Have the support team take notes regarding the most common issues customers experience. Then come up with ways of reducing those issues and improving the customer experience.

Unlock the Promise of Your WooCommerce Store

eCommerce distances retailers from their customers, which is why we rely so heavily on data and analytics to make decisions. But customers can help you to understand your business — you just have to ask.


Blog Post SummaryLearn more about why you should choose WooCommerce as your eCommerce application of choice. If you’ve already gotten started, find out what the 8 WooCommerce plugins you should know about are.

Alternatively, why not see what Hostdedi WooCommerce Cloud hosting has to offer, and see why auto scaling is vital for eCommerce stores.


 

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Without A Custom Domain, Do You Really Own Your Website?

Without A Custom Domain, Do You Really Own Your Website?

Without A Custom Domain Do You Really Own Your WebsiteWhy did WordPress become so popular? Partly, it is because WordPress is easy to use and because its theme and plugin ecosystems are so large. But just as important are the values that fuel the project: freedom and control. Freedom to use WordPress as you see fit. Control over every aspect of your site.

That ethos of freedom and control was embraced by many other projects, including Magento, WooCommerce, and Craft CMS. If you build a site or store on Hostdedi web hosting with these applications, you have complete control.

There are alternatives to this model. SaaS publishing platforms are designed to hide the technical details of hosting and publishing. They provide a simple interface and an acceptable – if bland and uninspiring – design. But, unlike a WordPress site, this type of publishing platform does not exist to fulfill the needs of creatives and publishers. It exists to serve the needs of the business that owns the platform.

Custom Domains Are Not Optional For Publishers

Last year, a prominent SaaS publisher announced that it would no longer offer custom domains. This announcement came in the wake of others that “sunsetted” the features that attracted publishers to the platform in the first place.

Users with custom domains would be able to use them for the foreseeable future. New accounts would be served from the platform’s domain with the publication’s name demoted to the URL’s path component.

In your day-to-day experience as a publisher and writer it may not seem to matter much. However, a domain is hugely important for branding, for search engine optimization, and for control. Without a domain, you don’t own the name of your site. You can build a business and an audience around your content and have it taken away in an instant. That can’t happen with a properly registered domain.

  • A domain can be pointed anywhere. If you have control over your site’s domain, you can redirect to any server on the internet. You decide which company hosts the site, and you can change your mind. Without a domain, changing hosting providers means changing the name of your site.
  • Links move with the domain. Incoming links remain an important part of SEO. Incoming links persist when a site moves only if the site owner can control the domain and any redirects. A publication that builds a link profile on a platform that doesn’t offer custom domains cannot take those links with them when they leave.
  • The platform’s policies override the publisher’s needs. Without a custom domain, the cost of switching to a new platform or hosting provider is high. That cost may force publishers to stay with a platform as it changes in ways that don’t benefit the publisher.

It is hard to overestimate the importance of a custom domain to site owners. It isn’t an optional perk. It’s a necessity. For these reasons, many publishers and site owners who embraced SaaS publishing platforms are pulling out.

With WordPress and Craft CMS hosted on traditional web hosting or a platform like the Hostdedi Cloud, you will always have complete control over your site, your content, and the business you build on them.

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Why Hosting Support Is Important

Why Hosting Support Is Important

Why Hosting Support Is ImportantHosting support is probably the most important factor you overlooked when shopping around for a provider. The promises of unrivaled performance, top-of-the-line uptime, and incredible security probably made you think you wouldn’t need it.

We’re here to tell you that regardless of who you’re hosting with, it’s not if you need support, it’s when. Even the most secure web hosting provider encounters issues outside of their control. A good support team means that when those issues arise, you’ll be able to quickly and effectively negate their effects

This article takes a deeper look at what’s important with regards to a support team and how you can get the most out of them.  

web hosting support services are one of the first things you should ask about

Problems Will and Do Happen

Imagine this: you’re hosting with one of the best providers available. You researched for hours to find one that met and exceeded all of your criteria. They boast incredible uptime, talk about amazing page load speed, and they even provide auto scaling for when traffic spikes. Then one day you open your laptop to a refreshed page of… a 404 error. Your site isn’t there and you’re suddenly aware you’re losing money. Who do you call?

No, not the iconic 80’s team of paranormal experts, you need to get in touch with your hosting support team. You search their site frantically but find nothing. Money continues to disappear. Eventually, you stumble across a contact page in a small, dark corner of their website.

You call the number as fast as possible and… you’re told you’re at the back of the queue and will have to wait for an unknown period of time.

The example above is exactly why you should invest time in finding out about the hosting support your provider offers.

The risks to a data center are multiple and include a number of elements outside of the provider’s control. A good support team means that when these risks become a problem, you’ll be able to quickly and effectively negate their effects.

When Can You Contact Support?

You will need support for your hosting solutionAlmost all modern hosting providers offer 24/7 support, so the time of day shouldn’t be an issue. What can be an issue is the type of support you receive.

To get a good idea of how accessible and effective your support team will be, here are four areas you should be asking about.

  • The channels available for accessing support (phone, tickets, email, social, etc)
  • The support tier team members available
  • The support team’s knowledge level (including with your application)
  • The support team’s access to infrastructure

Response Time
Many hosting providers advertise a quick response time. Ask them to define what that number means. A 15-minute response time doesn’t usually mean the time it takes for them to solve or begin working on your request, but an initial response time.

How Can You Contact Support?

Multiple avenues for contacting your support team are important. Most hosting providers offer a ticketing system through an internal network. This is great for long-form queries and issues but isn’t always the fastest support option available.

 Reach out and see how Hostdedi Beyond Management means your website stays secure.

Other support channels can include:

  • A ticket system
  • A phone number
  • An email address
  • An online chat box
  • Social Media

Some issues have to be solved quicker than others. In these cases, phone support is best. Check to see if your hosting provider offers a 24/7 support line by phone and if you have access to that number.

 A web hosting knowledge library with how-tos and guides is a great way to judge your provider’s own knowledge level and allows you to have more control over your solution. 

Who Is Your Support Team?

Your support team should be knowledgeable and experiencedFinding more out about your hosting provider’s support team is a great way to predict client experience. The aim is to feel comfortable with the level and type of support provided.

Location: The first question you should be asking is where the support team is located. Is support outsourced to third-party companies in other parts of the world? Outsourced support often leads to lower quality service and adds an extra step to the line of communication. Opt for a hosting provider with in-house support for a better experience. This is best when combined with an owned and operated data center.

Experience: The level of experience and background knowledge between web hosting support teams varies considerably. Some providers only hire top-of-the-line support staff, others opt for cheaper options.

Application Support: If your hosting provider claims to provide support for the application you run (whether that is Magento, WordPress, WooCommerce, ExpressionEngine, Drupal, or something else), ask if they have any application-expert support staff. Not only will this help when you run into application issues, it also lends credibility to claims that their hosting solution is optimized for your application.

Support Tiers

Calling your support team isn’t something you should necessarily be doing a lot of, but if you are, then it’s good to know you’re going to be able to reach the right person. Ask about the support tiers available and how easy it is to move between them when required. At Hostdedi, there are three main support tiers:

  • Tier 1: Basic support
  • Tier 2: Advanced support that requires a deeper knowledge of applications and/or infrastructure
  • ESG: (Enterprise Support Group) For enterprise-level clients with more complex requirements

Different support tiers tend to focus on different types of issues. It’s often faster to go to a tier 1 support team for simple issues, and tier 2 for those more complex.

 


Blog Post SummaryFind out more about your hosting provider and infrastructure. See more information on the types of hosting available, then see what the risks are.

Don’t forget to see how the Hostdedi Cloud can take your hosting to the next level. We’ve created a hosting platform that’s faster, scalable, and more secure. Find out more.


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What Are the Data Center Types?

What Are the Data Center Types?

What Are the Data Center TypesHosting providers are not made equal. Classic server methods of hosting have now diverged into a mix of alternate data center types, each of which falls under the singular heading of ‘data center’.

This can make finding the right type of data center architecture for your business a tricky proposal – especially if you’re unsure what you’re looking for.

As a potential client, hosting infrastructure is something that affects every facet of your hosting experience, from support to performance, and beyond. This article provides an explanation as to the different types of hosting provider available, with the aim of helping you find the right fit for you and your business.

A quick overview of the data center types:


ResellerColocationOwned and Operated
Direct access to infrastructure
Root access to the server
Direct supportMaybe
Custom infrastructure
Real application optimizations

Type R: A Reseller Data Center

Resellers are hosting providers that don’t own or manage their data center facilities but re-sell those of another.

Reseller data centers offer cheaper plans but with less support like thisThis is great when it comes with added incentives such as development assistance or design and marketing consultation. Moreover, reseller solutions often provide some of the security and performance benefits of a larger data center for a fraction of the price.

Reseller hosting falls down when it comes to the level of support providers are able to provide. Resellers are not given direct root access to a server. This means they can’t handle support requests directly and instead have to follow a complex line of communication. This often leads to multiple voices trying to work on a single problem; including, but not limited to:

  • The site owner (you)
  • The reseller
  • The reseller’s support team
  • The data center’s support team
  • The data center’s infrastructure engineers

Support becomes especially problematic when you find that most agreements between resellers and infrastructure providers don’t cover the reseller’s client: you. In most cases, infrastructure providers are only contractually obligated to help the reseller, not the site owner.

If you host with a reseller, expect longer support times and a lower quality service with a lower price tag.

Type C: A Colocation Data Center

A hosting provider that colocates is one that doesn’t own their hosting facility but does have root access to the server.

Again, a benefit of opting for type C hosting is that most colocation facilities feature top-of-the-line redundancies and excellent facility features for keeping hosted infrastructure secure and reliable – all at a lower cost for you.

A colocation hosting provider is unlikely to have physical, hands-on access despite full root control of the server. Most of the time, trained remote engineers called smart hands provided by the colocation facility, execute support requests that involve physical changes.

A good way to judge how this may affect your hosting experience is to ask how close the colocation facility is to their base of operations and what level of access they have. If you are lucky, you’ll find that your provider is located next door to the colocation facility and have an agreement for direct, instant access. Unfortunately, this is rare and after setting up server racks, many colocation providers have no access.

If they don’t have access, similar support issues can arise.

What Are Smart Hands?

Many colocation providers offer something called ‘smart hands’. These are trained staff members able to provide onsite infrastructure support.

Smart hands can:

  • Provide technical support
  • Manage physical infrastructure issues
  • Reduce downtime
  • Proactively keep ahead of any potential issues in the data center

Ask your hosting provider as to whether they have proactive or reactive smart hands. Proactive smart hands should help stop hosting solution outages before an issue arises, while reactive smart hands will only step in after something becomes a problem.

“Smart hands are trained staff members able to provide onsite support for any issues that need fixing.”

Owned and Operated data center team members are right there

Type O: An Owned and Operated Data Center

“Owned and Operated hosting providers offer the best in terms of support and control.“

Owned and Operated hosting is where your hosting provider and data center facility are one and the same. This type offers the best in terms of support and control due to your hosting provider being a direct line to your hosting infrastructure.

This type of data center is also more flexible. They are often able to provide custom managed solutions due to onsite staff and team members having a deeper knowledge of the infrastructure available. This is perfect for larger businesses with specific requirements.

It is also more likely your hosting solution will be properly optimized for your application, as a result of your support team interacting with the hosting infrastructure daily. Checking what features are available and seeing reviews from other clients running the same application or CMS is a good way to judge the true performance of this type of data center.

Disaster Recovery

In the event of a disaster, peace of mind is knowing that your hosting provider or data center knows what to do. This isn’t always certain with reseller and colocation hosting.

If you host with a reseller or provider that colocates, and their infrastructure provider goes down, they have no control over getting that service back online. In many cases, this won’t only affect your solution, it will also affect their internal services; potentially rendering you unable to contact your hosting provider.

Owned and Operated providers can tell you exactly what is happening to your solution at any given time during a disaster and provide a basic outline of how they will manage recovery. Find out more about data center risk and recovery.

Other Data Center Types

Another classification system often used is data center tiers. The tier system is largely based on reliability, with tier one providers having the lowest uptime, and tier 4 providers the highest.

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What If WordPress’s New Gutenberg Editor Isn’t Right For You?

What If WordPress’s New Gutenberg Editor Isn’t Right For You?

What If WordPress New Gutenberg Editor Isnt Right For YouAt the beginning of 2017, Matt Mullenweg announced an ambitious project to replace the WordPress editor with a modern block-based editor. Named Gutenberg after the inventor of movable-type printing, the new editor was developed as a feature plugin and then released as the Gutenberg plugin. If all goes according to plan, Gutenberg will be merged into WordPress later this year with the release of WordPress 5.0.

Writing in Gutenberg is quite different to writing in the current WordPress editor. Headers, paragraphs, images, and other elements are contained within blocks. Each block has formatting and configuration options. And blocks can be moved around the page to create layouts.

The WordPress editor is in need of renovation. While usable, no one considers it an example of great user interface design. It is frustrating to new users who don’t understand its quirks. Shortcodes are awkward and unsuitable for a modern content management system. But the editor is used by millions of people every day, many of whom are not impressed with the planned changes.

Gutenberg has supporters, but there are bloggers, business owners, WordPress developers, and agencies that would rather use the current interface. They complain that the block-based system does not provide a good user experience, that it is difficult to write outside of WordPress and paste into the editor — a workflow used by many, and that Gutenberg is not ready for mainstream adoption.

Gutenberg is likely to be the default editor in the next major release of WordPress, but WordPress site owners who don’t enjoy working in Gutenberg can hold back the tide — at least temporarily.

The Classic Editor Plugin

The Classic Editor plugin brings back the original WordPress editor. It is intended to be used by sites that prefer the original editor or that need to use it for plugin compatibility, meta boxes, and other features that don’t work in Gutenberg.

If you are not enthusiastic about Gutenberg, the Classic Editor plugin will turn back time, but it may not be around forever. At best, it is a stopgap that will keep the classic editor alive for a few years.

ClassicPress

ClassicPress is a fork of WordPress 4.9.8. Its maintainer, Scott Bowler, is not a fan of Gutenberg and aims to keep ClassicPress as a Gutenberg-free alternative to WordPress.

A fork occurs when a developer copies open source software and creates a parallel project. Over time, the forked version and the original version evolve differently, even if the developer intends to keep them synchronized. Gutenberg is a key part of WordPress’s future development; users of ClassicPress won’t benefit from those changes.

ClassicPress currently has one developer, as compared to WordPress’s hundreds. In my opinion, forking WordPress is a quixotic protest that is unlikely to last long. I’d advise against moving any important production site in that direction.

Remaining On The 4.9.X Branch

If a site isn’t updated to WordPress 5.0 — or whichever version makes Gutenberg the default — it can continue to use the classic editor.

This is the easiest solution, but it is also the worst. The site would receive no security updates and no new features. It would eventually become incompatible with WordPress plugins and themes and would be unable to update to new versions. Declining to update over the long term is not a viable or safe option.

If you really don’t want to use Gutenberg, the Classic Editor plugin is the best solution. You will be able to keep your site up-to-date and have access to the editor you prefer for the foreseeable future.

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Headless WordPress: What Is It?

Headless WordPress: What Is It?

Headless WordPress- What Is ItIn the years WordPress has been around, we’ve seen it grow from a small community project into one of the largest CMS platforms available; currently powering over 30% of the web. In that time, multiple iterations have risen and fallen, and various developments continue to make waves in the WordPress community – even official ones (Gutenberg, anyone?).

Headless WordPress is one of those developments. A form of Headless CMS, headless WordPress allows for expanded creative freedom by allowing you to adopt an alternate front-end suited to your needs. 

This article will cover what headless WordPress is and some of the benefits and disadvantages of adopting this development style.

What Is Headless WordPress?

WordPress is made up of three parts.

  • A database
  • A layer of PHP code
  • A front-end

On standard WordPress sites, the layer of PHP code interacts with the database to create an admin interface, that content of which is then displayed through the front-end.  

To use WordPress as a headless content management system, you chop off (or bypass) the user-facing front-end and replace it with something else.

A diagram of Headless WordPress

This is possible because WordPress has a REST API that other applications can use to request posts, static files, and other content. In simple terms, the rest API allows for content to be converted into raw data for interpretation by alternate systems.

This means that a developer can build a JavaScript web application that runs in the browser, taking the content stored in WordPress’s database and displaying it in any way the developer sees fit.

But it doesn’t have to be a JavaScript web application: it might be a native mobile app, a desktop app, or any other piece of software that can request content over HTTP and display it to a user.

So it is possible to use WordPress as a headless content management system, but why would you want to?

The Benefits of Headless WordPress

WordPress, in its native form, is already incredibly flexible. However, there are several cases where WordPress doesn’t fit the requirements of a business. In these cases, adding headless capabilities adds to that flexibility in a way that can add value.

You may want to adopt a headless WordPress environment if you:

  • Want to develop in JavaScript or an alternate programming language
  • You’re building a SaaS environment
  • You have a smaller budget but want a customized user-facing website.

These are all great reasons for adopting headless WordPress. To really understand why, we need to look at each in a little more detail.

Develop in JavaScript

Develop with JavaScript on Headless WordPressYou can access the REST API in any language with a HTTP library. However, in practice, headless CMS’s are most often used with JavaScript.

JavaScript is, by some measures, the most popular programming language in the world. Millions of web developers know JavaScript inside out. The same is not true of PHP, the language WordPress is written in.

For this reason, headless WordPress gives front-end developers the powerful content management capabilities of WordPress, without asking them to create WordPress themes or code with WordPress’s API.

Build a PWA With WordPress (SaaS)

Progressive web applications have taken the web development world by storm in the past year. They use modern web technologies to provide web applications with some of the abilities of native applications.  As a result, WordPress renders its pages on the server, but there are advantages to rendering content in the browser.

A PWA can cache content from the API, rendering it instantly on page transitions; cached content works while the device is offline, and PWAs can use push notifications and other niceties typically reserved for native applications.

Build static sites With WordPress

Static websites are a popular alternative to client-rendered web apps. If content doesn’t change rapidly enough to justify dynamic page generation, a static site is a viable alternative. Tools like Gatsby and Next.js can pull content from backends and use them to create a static site. There is a Headless WordPress starter kit based on Next.js, but it is not for the faint of heart.

Use WordPress as the Backend for Anything

Although I’ve concentrated on JavaScript options, a headless WordPress installation can be used as the backend for any project that requires content management, from native applications to corporate intranets to IoT dashboards.

The Drawbacks Of Headless WordPress

A headless WordPress installation has many applications, but it isn’t for everyone. The WordPress front-end and WordPress themes are one of the reasons WordPress is so popular: themes make it possible to quickly get up-and-running with a fast and professional-looking site.

Building a separate front-end for WordPress is much more expensive than simply installing a WordPress theme. It’s really only an option for developers or businesses that are happy to hire a developer.

Headless WordPress is interesting, and it shows just how flexible WordPress has become, but it is likely that only a tiny portion of WordPress’s millions of users will have any need of a headless CMS.

 


Blog Post SummaryInterested in more WordPress?  Check out our guide to Gutenberg, where we cover how to get started with some of the new editor’s most powerful features.

Alternatively, are you looking to optimize WordPress for eCommerce? See if WooCommerce is the right choice before opting for headless WordPress.


 

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How to Manage a Sudden Spike in Website Traffic

How to Manage a Sudden Spike in Website Traffic

How to Manage a Sudden Spike in Website TrafficInstead of asking about bandwidth, ask how your hosting provider manages traffic spikes. Not only will this give you valuable insight into how your hosting solution may be treated in other areas, it also lets you know how to prepare for future growth.

The holiday shopping season is fast approaching. If you are an eCommerce seller, this means an increase in traffic and sales, and time to upgrade your hosting solution to match.

Yet traffic spikes don’t only occur during the shopping season. A number of events can cause a traffic spike: content going viral, a product being featured on TV, or perhaps a sudden surge in the popularity of what you’re selling. 

These events can be planned for by knowing what tools you have at your disposal and how effective they can be at improving user concurrency.

In preparation for the holiday seasons, we’ve put together three ways hosting providers tend to manage traffic spikes.

Don’t have time to read the specifics? See our summary below.


Optimizations     Upgrades     Auto Scaling      
Site Capacity Increase?
Instant?
Available on All Solutions?                   
Included in Cost?

Why Check Website Traffic?

Traffic spikes are managed differently by different hosting providers. Not all are prepared to accommodate sales and viral content events.

Some providers stop service after a certain cap has been reached; others continue to allow users to access your site but throttle speed. Only some providers offer the tools needed to maintain accessibility and performance. A good hosting provider accommodates traffic spikes in a number of ways, depending on the solution you have. We’ve identified three primary methods:

  • Environment optimization
  • Quick upgrades and downgrades
  • An auto scaling mechanism

Is Your Environment Optimized?

Environment optimizations are usually accessible from your control panel and do not come at an extra cost.

Hostdedi Cloud Accelerator performance with NGINX

The Hostdedi Cloud Accelerator is an example of an environment optimization. This feature is designed to take advantage of NGINX and enables higher user concurrency without having to upgrade or enable auto scaling. It is turned on by clicking a button in the Hostdedi Client Portal.

What Is Your Upgrade/Downgrade Policy?

As hosting technology has developed, so too have upgrade and downgrade procedures and policies. These vary depending on the type of solution you have.

  Get in touch with our hosting experts and find the best way to prepare for traffic spikes.

Cloud Solutions

Cloud solution upgrades and downgrades are fast and easy. Most of the time, cloud solutions can be upgraded through your Client Portal or admin panel with a few clicks and should scale instantly.

Classic Solutions

Upgrading and downgrading traditional hosting solutions requires a migration. This means going through data replication, client testing, a final database re-sync, and a domain repoint. This takes from 3 to 5 days, which includes time for scheduling, client testing, and common delays in communication.

If you intend to downgrade a classic solution, and you’ve paid for several months in advance, check how your hosting provider manages any amount you haven’t used.

Cluster Solutions

Upgrading a cluster solution is relatively easy and can be done by adding a node (web application server). This will, in most cases, take between 72 hours and 2 weeks.

Due to the nature of hosted clusters, upgrading and downgrading in short succession is not efficient or economical, it is usually much better to maintain a high-performance cluster for a longer period of time than just upgrading for a sales event. Consult your hosting provider on their recommended course of action.

Cloud Auto Scaling

Instead of upgrading your hosting solution entirely, auto scaling allows for your site to scale capacity only when it needs it. This allows for your solution to meet any traffic spikes you face while keeping costs down.

Auto scaling mechanisms vary by provider. Generally, the process involves the scaling of PHP threads: individual processes a server executes. Each user action on your site executes a certain number of PHP threads: the more you have access to, the more simultaneous actions can be performed.

PHP Threads and auto scaling

Use Your Hosting the Way It’s Meant to Be Used

You have a number of tools at your disposal for increasing the performance of your hosting solution. Find out exactly what your hosting solution includes by asking your provider the 5 questions you really should be asking.


Blog Post SummaryStill haven’t chosen a data center location yet? Find out how to choose a data center. Alternatively, see how the Hostdedi Southfield data center compares.

Want to know more about your data center? You can also see how to make your website migration as seamless as possible, or find out the real risks to the data center facility you host in.


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Update the Ultimate Member Plugin To Fix File Upload Vulnerability

Update the Ultimate Member Plugin To Fix File Upload Vulnerability

Update Ultimate Member Plugin To Fix File Upload VulnerabilityA critical vulnerability in the popular Ultimate Member plugin was discovered earlier this month. A patch was released to fix the problem on 9th August, but researchers report that bad actors are using the vulnerability to compromise WordPress sites using earlier versions of the plugin.

If you use Ultimate Member on your WordPress site, it should be updated to version 2.0.22 or newer as soon as possible. Failing to update could lead to your site being compromised.

Ultimate Member Vulnerability

Ultimate Member is a popular plugin with over 100,000 active installations. It adds membership-related features to WordPress sites, including user profiles, custom form fields, member directories, and more. Ultimate Member is one of the most widely used plugins for building community and membership sites with WordPress.

The vulnerability in Ultimate Member is classified as an Unauthenticated Arbitrary File Upload vulnerability. A flaw in the plugin allows a bad actor to upload arbitrary files to a WordPress site, including PHP files.

To remove the vulnerability, update Ultimate Member as soon as possible.

The Vulnerability Is Actively Exploited By Hackers

Researchers discovered that a large number of WordPress sites were being compromised with a PHP backdoor. Once the backdoor was installed, the attacker used their access to inject code that redirects site visitors to web pages under the attackers’ control.

The attackers probed WordPress sites for vulnerable versions of Ultimate Member and used the vulnerability to upload the backdoor. Additional code was then injected into various files on the WordPress site, including all files that contain <head> tags and all files with jquery in their name or content.

This is an unsophisticated approach, but it worked – several hundred WordPress sites are known to have been compromised in this way. Users were redirected to pages that presented a Captcha test and asked for permission to send browser notifications.

The Problems Of Disclosure

Many of the attacks happened after the patch to fix the vulnerability in Ultimate Member was released. This is a common pattern: fixing a vulnerability alerts bad actors to its existence. The likelihood of a vulnerable site being attacked increases once the patch is released. WordPress site owners who update promptly are protected; those who delay are not and their sites face increased risk.

In this case, the developers of Ultimate Member did exactly what they were supposed to. The presence of the vulnerability was unfortunate, but any complex software is likely to develop such problems at some point in its life. Of more importance is the fact that it was patched promptly when the vulnerability was discovered.

If you suspect that your site has already been compromised, Sucuri’s mitigation guide includes more information and instructions for removing the malicious code. If you need help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Hostdedi support team by opening a ticket in your Client Portal or by email.

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Data Center Risk Factors and Recovery

Data Center Risk Factors and Recovery

When something goes wrong in a data center, their disaster recovery plan kicks in. A good disaster recovery plan aims to reduce data center risk to zero by implementing a range of redundancies and protections. To do that, it’s important to first walk through the data center risk factors out there.

What’s the biggest risk to a data center? Many facilities imply that fire is the biggest concern and highlight their fire suppression systems. Yet fire isn’t the only risk to a data center.

Data centers prepare a huge number of redundancies and protections – no matter how likely it is they will be needed.

This article will cover the types of risks that data centers typically prepare for, with a detailed look at:

  • External risks: Natural disasters and supplier outages.
  • Facility risks: infrastructure and risks involving the facility itself.
  • Data system risks: Data management and architecture.

External Risks

External risks are those outside of a data center’s control. They include natural disasters, supplier outages, and human-caused events. 

Natural Disasters

Many disaster recovery plans start by covering natural disasters, largely due to their potential damage being highest. Luckily, many meteorological threats can be forecasted before they become a problem and knowledgeable staff can be put on standby. This can mitigate a lot of the potential damage.

Large-scale damage and downtime from earthquakes and floods can be prevented with water penetration protection, a fire suppression system, and power backups. For a more detailed list of protections put in place, reach out to your hosting provider.

What if I Host in a Natural Disaster-Prone Area?

We understand that sometimes hosting in an area with frequent natural disasters is unavoidable. How you choose a data center is influenced by a number of different factors including proximity, convenience, and risk.

Most data center facilities located in such an area incorporate special infrastructure features, including reinforced buildings and stringent design plans. A good example is the Hostdedi Miami facility, which is Category 5 rated and designed to withstand flood damage and winds of up to 185 mph.

We highly recommend asking your facility about the history of natural disasters in their area and how they have affected the data center in the past. This will give you a good idea of what to expect and prepare for in the future.

US risk map data center

As a rough guideline, the above map provides an overview of natural disaster frequency in the US. You can use this to identify susceptible areas.

Supplier Outages

Supplier outages occur when suppliers of either power, connectivity, or another important deliverable are unable to deliver. They are unavoidable but a suitably prepared data center can mitigate them entirely.

For example, downtime from a loss of connectivity or a downed power line is prevented by preparing multiple redundancies: additional power generators, multiple connections, and enough onsite fuel to last for several days.

It is important to have a backup pool of suppliers in the event one fails.

Facility Risks

There are seven main areas where you don’t want anything to go wrong in a data center facility: power, water, climate, structure, fire, communication, and security. These should all be incorporated in a disaster risk assessment.

Take a look below for a better idea of how and why each of these factors is important.

PowerDisasters will likely cause a power outage. No power means no data center (at least one that works). Multiple power source availability means that a data center (and so your website) will stay online through the worst.
WaterData centers are allergic to water. Even the smallest amount can cause a lot of damage. Water penetration protect can help to prevent the destruction of mission-critical infrastructure.

Conversely, losing a water supply for any cooling or fire suppression systems requires multiple, secure water sources.

ClimateA data center requires a precise climate. Not too hot, not too cold, and without too much humidity in the air. A high-quality and adaptable climate control system adds to reliability.
StructureThe data center’s building of operations itself. If poorly constructed, risk and exposure to the elements will be increased.
FireFire damages pretty much everything it comes into contact with (apart from a good steak). Keeping it away from a data center is a top priority. All data center facilities you host in should come with a fire suppression system.
Communication  A line to the outside is a big advantage for a data center in the middle of an emergency. Not only does it let you contact your provider, it also allows them to contact backup suppliers.
SecuritySecurity procedures should exist for during a disaster to avoid unauthorized access to any part of the facility.

 

Data System Risks

Data System risks are those that involve shared infrastructure. It is vital to pay attention to all single points of failure in the system’s architecture and see how those failures can be avoided.

Look at how the data center protects against contamination between servers and its effectiveness at blocking attacks. An understanding of how vulnerable a data center is involves understanding how easily targeted they are. Hostdedi facilities block over 3 million attacks per day.

Other areas to ask your hosting provider about include:

Data Communications Network

Ask specifically about the network’s architecture and what security procedures have been put in place.

Shared Servers

How do they interact with each other? How shielded is one account from others held on the same server? This is especially important with cloud technology and virtualized resources.

Data Backup

In the case that something bad does happen, what can be done to make sure your website doesn’t disappear? How often do backups take place, how long does it take to restore backups? What is the procedure for backup restoration?

Software Applications and Bugs

Unless your data center also creates the applications you’re going to run on your server, they don’t have a lot of control over this. However, they can tell you best practices, provide bug fixes, and generally stay up to date with how the application is being handled by other professionals.

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