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Endpoint Security For Magento eCommerce Stores

Endpoint Security For Magento eCommerce Stores

Endpoint Security For Magento eCommerce StoresWhen we talk about Magento security, the focus is often on securing the server and the eCommerce application itself. That makes sense because it is where most attacks are directed. Script injection, brute force, and remote code execution attacks are aimed squarely at the server. But there are other attack vectors to take into account, particularly endpoints.

eCommerce stores have a client-server architecture. The server is the application itself. Magento trusts authenticated clients, but these endpoints are not always trustworthy. A simple example of this problem is a logged-in mobile device. If an employee with an administrator account loses an insecure mobile device, whoever finds it may be able to access the store.

Endpoints can be used to circumvent even the best designed security strategies because they are trusted. In addition to ensuring that Magento is secure, everyone with admin permissions on a store or an SSH account on the server must follow endpoint security best practices.

Use two-factor authentication

Once a computing device — a laptop, perhaps — is stolen, it is best to assume that the thief has access to every password stored on it. Two-factor authentication, provided by an extension like Sentry, will stop an attacker who only has access to the password.

Secure endpoint devices

Modern devices and operating systems provide strong security and authentication systems. The MacBook I am writing this article on uses full-disk encryption and fingerprint authentication. Most mobile devices provide similar encryption and biometric authentication.

These security measures are only effective if they are used. Anyone with an admin account on a Magento store should take full advantage of their device’s built-in security.

Access your store over a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts information that moves between the endpoint device and a Magento store. This prevents a third-party from intercepting sensitive information with a man-in-the-middle attack.

A VPN is particularly important when site owners use insecure protocols such as FTP to transfer data to their server.

Remove unused accounts

Retailers often provide accounts for employees or freelancers so that they can work on the Magento store or its server. When the employee no longer needs access, the accounts should be deleted as soon as possible.

On a related note, if you do need to give access to a developer, designer, or other professional, create a new account for them. Don’t use the same account for more than one person. If everyone uses the same account, revoking access will be a huge headache.

Minimum necessary access

Give people the least access they need to get their work done. If they don’t need an administrator account, don’t provide one. If a developer doesn’t need access to your server’s root account, don’t let them have it. Magento includes powerful Access Control Lists so that store owners can specify which parts of a site an account can access. Familiarize yourself with how ACLs work and use them to restrict the access of account holders.

Endpoint security is too often neglected, but Magento store owners should be aware of the risks and what they can do to keep their store safe.

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The Official Cloud Migration Checklist

The Official Cloud Migration Checklist

The Official Cloud Migration ChecklistEarlier in this series on cloud migration, I compared migrating a website to moving to a new house. It may be stressful, but how stressful depends on how well prepared you are. This, the final article of the series, is a comprehensive cloud migration checklist. Follow this list, and you will have a stress-free cloud migration.

Cloud Migration Preparations

  • Verify that you have access to the following information.
    • SSH or FTP usernames and passwords for the site’s current hosting.
    • Hosting control panel usernames and passwords.
    • Usernames and passwords for services such as the CDN and analytics.
    • DNS service provider information: That may include a DNS registrar and a DNS hosting provider.
    • If you are migrating DNS hosting at the same time, you will need to take note of the new DNS host’s name servers.
  • Inform all stakeholders of the cloud migration plan in advance. Give them time to respond.

Pre-Migration Testing

  • Create a list of your site’s top-performing pages.
  • Run performance tests on the top-performing pages using a service such as Google’s Lighthouse or Pingdom Tools to establish a performance baseline.
  • Check for broken links (404 errors) and other crawl errors.

Cloud Migration Day

  • Create a suitable cloud instance on the target platform.
  • Install the relevant CMS or eCommerce store application on the cloud instance. The Hostdedi Cloud can automatically install your chosen application in a secure, optimized hosting environment.
  • Create a copy of your site’s files and database. You can use application-specific backup tools or create the copy manually over SSH / FTP.
  • Import the database and files into the new application.

The Hostdedi team is happy to handle the migration of the site’s files and database for free. Ask our support team about free cloud migration.

Post-Migration Testing

Tests should be run again after the site is copied but before DNS records are changed.

  • Verify that the top-performing pages and a random sample of other pages are reachable on the new cloud-hosted site.
  • Re-run performance tests.
  • Re-run crawl tests: look for 404 and other errors.

Edit DNS Records

  • If you are migrating your domain’s DNS hosting to the new cloud platform, log in to your domain registrar’s dashboard and add the cloud platform’s name servers.
  • Otherwise, log in to your DNS hosting provider’s control panel and edit the domain’s DNS records to match those supplied by the new cloud hosting provider.
  • Wait for the DNS records to propagate – this could take up to 24 hours, but will probably be faster.
  • You will now begin to receive traffic at your new cloud-hosted website!

After the domain records have propagated, re-run performance and crawl tests to make sure the site is working as expected. You should also carry out any necessary reconfiguration of your content distribution network and test embedded analytics tools like Google Analytics to ensure that they function as expected.

Post-Migration Cleanup

Once you are satisfied that the migration is a complete success, you can delete the old version of the site and close the legacy hosting account.

Congratulations on a successful cloud migration!

  Download our free guide to Cloud Migration here

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5 WordPress Plugins for Increasing Conversions

5 WordPress Plugins for Increasing Conversions

WordPress Plugins for Increasing ConversionsStaring down the WordPress plugins page, you find yourself asking which plugins are right for your site. You want more conversions, and you have a basic idea of what that entails, but you don’t know how that translates into what visitors should see on the page. Here are 5 WordPress plugins that can figure that out for you.

You’ve decided on a WordPress site, and for good reason. Over 25% of the top 10 million sites use WordPress because it’s easy to use, the interface is intuitive, and best of all, it’s open source. Now all you need is a way to increase conversions.

Set your site apart from the competition with WordPress plugins designed to increase conversions. All while still giving you the freedom to create, share, and realize the potential of your site. Here are five plugins we think fit the bill.

  Make WordPress even easier with Hostdedi. Learn More.

1. OptinMonster

OptimMonster homepage for optimizing WordPress conversionsOptinMonster is a highly recommended plugin for increasing WordPress conversions and a great tool for both beginner and intermediate WordPress developers.

It works by allowing you to serve visitors to your website with opt-in forms for joining an email subscriber list or to become part of a specific campaign.

Currently, the plugin is live on 276,000 websites, with a lot of conversion success stories – just Google it.

A great plugin if you’re looking for:

  • An easy to use form builder
  • Integration with other marketing services
  • Advanced page level targeting
  • Behavior personalization
  • Easy A/B testing
  • Detailed conversion analytics

2. WordPress Calls to Action

WordPress Calls to Action for ConversionsWe’re not huge fans of screens littered with ads for our own content. Like most visitors, we want more space dedicated to high-quality, easy-to-read content (and some white space). Which is why when it comes to calls to action, we like this conversion boosting plugin the most.

WordPress Calls to Action will help you to place conversion boosting CTAs in your text (not along the top or in an annoying pop-up box). You can design these CTAs to look and feel exactly like the rest of your site, so they won’t stand out and interfere with your otherwise perfected user experience. A great WordPress plugin and one we highly recommend.

A great plugin if you’re looking for:

  • Convincing CTAs throughout your site
  • CTAs that don’t interfere with the user experience
  • WordPress conversion boosting in an unobtrusive way

3. WordPress Local SEO

WordPress Local SEO helps with site SEO for Omnichannel businessesThere are A LOT of SEO plugins out there for boosting conversions. After all, increasing conversions sometimes means just attracting more people to your site through. Optimized organic search presence through improving SEO is one of the best ways to do that.

So instead of focusing on SEO in general, we’re recommending a plugin for boosting local SEO – something often left out of SEO considerations for small and medium businesses.

This is especially important if you’re a small, omnichannel business looking to make sales both online and instore. This plugin will help you to have a consistent presence across the web so locals can find you.

A great plugin if you:

  • Are an omnichannel store looking to make sales online and instore
  • Want local customers to find you
  • Understand the basics of SEO but need to take it a step further

4. TweetDis  

TweetDis is great for Social Media And WordPress Conversions IncreasesIf you’re in an industry where thought leadership can boost conversions (most industries), then adding a little quotable Twitter magic to your blog posts can go a long way.

It’s no secret that, while with some themes they are pretty, WordPress quotes have no pragmatic use – other than to make something stand out on the page.

TweetDis takes that lack of functionality and expands on it with shiny quotes that are also directly sharable to Twitter. All that’s left for you to do is create tweetable content.

A great plugin if you:

  • Have an active social presence
  • Create great, tweetable content snippets
  • Are in an industry where being a thought leader is key

5. Nello AB Testing

Nello AB Testing results give clear insightsA/B testing is a vital tool in every marketer’s toolbox, regardless of whether they’re working with a WordPress site or not. To finish up our list of 5 WordPress plugins for increasing conversions, we’re going with our favorite A/B testing plugin yet: Nello AB testing.

The reason we like this plugin is that it lets you test practically anything and do so easily. That includes headlines, widgets, post types, themes, menus, entire blog posts, and more.

A great plugin if:

  • You want to start AB testing site elements
  • You’re looking for an easy way to implement and track differences in tests

Optimize Your WordPress Site

It takes more than just plugins to fully optimize a WordPress website. Plugins will help you to increase conversions, but there are other steps to make it into the top 10 million websites on the internet. Another great method for optimizing conversions is to optimize page speed. Check out our guide on how to improve page speed (and so conversions) with simple optimizations anyone can make.

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Building A Cloud Migration Plan

Building A Cloud Migration Plan

Building A Cloud Migration PlanEvery cloud migration starts with a plan, and every plan starts with information gathering. A website is composed of many parts that work together. Migrating to the Hostdedi Cloud is easier than many cloud migrations because we handle the setup of the server, software stack, and application for you. That gets you a long way towards a successful migration, but it will go more smoothly if you have the necessary information at your fingertips.

Assess Your Site’s Resource Requirements

Cloud hosting is sold in resource tiers. It’s easy to move between tiers, but you should be aware of the resources your site consumes and choose a suitable cloud plan for the initial migration.

The Hostdedi Cloud indicates how many concurrent users each plan supports, so it’s easy to figure out which is appropriate for your site or store.

Gather the Relevant Information

Compile a list of services your site depends on and the associated authentication credentials.

You are likely to need the following information:

  • Login details of your current hosting provider’s control panel.
  • SSH or FTP passwords for the hosting account you intend to migrate from.
  • Login details for services you use on your site, such as Google Analytics.
  • The name of your domain registrar and login details for the registrar’s control panel. This is important if you are also migrating DNS hosting. You may need to change the authoritative domain name servers for the site’s domain.
  • If you use a third-party DNS hosting provider, you need the details of that account to change the DNS records to point to the destination cloud hosting.
  • If your site uses a third-party CDN to distribute static assets, you may need login credentials to make changes to the CDN configuration.

It is important to have these details ready before attempting a cloud migration. It would be unfortunate if the migration goes well, but DNS or CDN problems cause availability issues.

Install Backup Software on Your Application

The core of your site is composed of two main components: its files and its database. Once the application – WordPress, for example – has been installed on the cloud hosting account, the migration involves copying the files to the new cloud instance and the data to a database running on that instance.

Backup software is useful in two ways: it allows you to create a copy of the site in case something goes wrong, and the same files and data can be copied to the new cloud instance.

Most web applications provide plugins or extensions that can copy the data from the old installation to the new installation for you. If you would prefer to let us handle this part of the migration process, contact Hostdedi support for more information about our free migration service.

Pick A Day

Once you have gathered the necessary information, it’s time to choose a migration date. With proper planning, there will be little downtime, but it is better to choose a day that you don’t expect the site to be especially busy.

  Download our free guide to Cloud Migration here

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Cookies, WordPress, And The GDPR

Cookies, WordPress, And The GDPR

Cookies, WordPress, And The GDPRThe web was created to deliver documents to browsers. At first, there was no mechanism for maintaining state to keep track of information between requests. Without state, WooCommerce shopping carts, the WordPress admin interface, and other interactive web experiences couldn’t work.

The cookie was introduced so that the web could remember, but a web that can remember what is in your shopping cart can also remember who you are. Cookies are used by site owners to track us on their site and by advertising companies to track us across hundreds of sites.

With enough information, cookies — small files containing a unique code — can identify individuals and keep track of them as they move around the web. Because cookies are a form of personally identifiable information, they fall under the scope of the GDPR.

In this article, I’m going to focus on cookies, which are a specific technique for maintaining state and identifying users. It’s important to note that the GDPR applies to all technologies that play the same role, not just cookies. You can’t get around the GDPR by using the Web Cache API to store identifying information, for example.

The Old Cookie Regime

The GDPR is not the first EU regulation to deal with cookies. We have all seen the cookie warning banners that say something like: “By using this site you consent for cookies to be used”. By continuing to use the site, the visitor gave implicit consent to its cookies. The GDPR is much stricter and implied consent is no longer sufficient, as we’ll discuss.

Essential vs. Non-Essential Cookies

The GDPR doesn’t care about cookies per se. It cares about data that can be used to personally identify individuals. Some cookies aren’t used to identify shoppers: the session cookies used for shopping carts, for example. These “essential” cookies, do not need consent.

Consent

Consent is another word for permission. Under the GDPR, implied consent is not sufficient. Consent has to be active, unambiguous, specific, and modifiable.

For WordPress site owners, that means:

  • Visitors must actively opt-in. Sites that automatically tick opt-in boxes or as users to opt-out are not compliant.
  • Visitors must be able to opt-in or out to each cookie that you plan to store on their computer. For some sites that might be hundreds of cookies. In the first instance, it is acceptable to group cookies by category so that users can opt-out of “social media cookies,” or “analytics cookies,” but they must also be able to opt-in and out for individual cookies.
  • Consent must be modifiable. That means it should be easy for users to change their mind about consent.

Additionally, consent can’t be used as a condition for showing content. The GDPR specifically forbids denying access to content if consent is not given.

Cookies And WordPress

There are a number of plugins to help WordPress site owners manage cookie permissions, including:

These plugins — with a little coding in some cases — can display a consent banner and block the loading of cookies and scripts until after consent has been given.

Getting consent to use cookies is straightforward enough, but it can be a real headache to identify exactly which cookies a site is serving. Many sites include tracking scripts and embeds, which use their own cookies and may include more scripts which use still more cookies, and so on.

Cookiebot is a cloud service with a WordPress plugin that can scan websites to identify the cookies they serve and create a cookie listing that can be used to obtain consent.

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5 Methods For Optimizing eCommerce Conversions

5 Methods For Optimizing eCommerce Conversions

5 Methods For Optimizing eCommerce ConversionsWhen you opened your eCommerce store, where did you see yourself in five years? As a small and consistent merchant providing an excellent, personal service, or a global supplier of high-quality products?

For many merchants, the goal is sales growth. Achieving this is a mix of reputation, product, and service. Unfortunately, you can’t control any of these things 100%, but you can proactively keep them in check by paying attention to some of the main eCommerce issues buyer’s encounter. this may include:

  • Slow loading pages
  • Hard to find products
  • An unintuitive use experience (UX)
  • Unappealing products
  • Confusing Information

Before we take a look at how to keep these things in check, let’s see how your store’s conversion rate compares to the competition.

What Constitutes an eCommerce Success?

 

For the purposes of this article, eCommerce success can be measured by conversions. A conversion is when someone completes a goal you have set. For eCommerce stores (and the purposes of this article), this is typically a sale.

eCommerce conversion rates 2017 and 2018

Taking a look at historical data, eCommerce conversion rates have actually decreased in 2018. In Q4 2018, the average rate across all industries in the US was 2.96%. That means that 2.96% of visitors to the average eCommerce store would make a purchase. In Q2 2018, that number was 2.63%. A small, but significant drop.

One report by ComScore suggests that increased concerns regarding security, a lack of easily accessible information, inefficient UX, and hard to find products are some of the main reasons for this decline. Other sources suggest that a shift in the market has lead to this change.

Looking at conversion rates across industries, the difference is stark. Arts and Crafts, for instance, manages to a conversion rate nearing 4.0%, while the Baby and Child sector remains below 1.0%. Before deciding how much your store needs to improve, check the average conversion rate in your industry. If you feel your number is still too low, continue reading.

eCommerce conversion rates by industry in 2018

1. Increase Conversion Speed

Speed is king in the world of eCommerce. Multiple studies have confirmed slow loading eCommerce stores have lower conversion rates.

A 1-second page delay results in:

  • 16% less customer satisfaction
  • 11% fewer page views
  • 7% conversion decrease

What can you do to avoid this?

Check Your Hosting

Check the quality of your hosting providerThe first step is to check your hosting. If you’re an eCommerce store, you don’t want to opt for the cheapest provider. You should be looking for performance and support, not a low monthly fee.

There are two primary periods of concern you should prepare for: traffic spikes, and downtime

Traffic spikes can easily be managed in modern hosting with an auto scaling feature. True auto scaling allows for an automatic increase to site capacity when it’s required. This is perfect for sales events or when one of your products goes viral and saves you from having to upgrade your entire solution for an extended period of time.

Downtime can be more of a problem. Support is your solution. You’ll want a team that’s available 24/7/365 and with physical access to the data center your site is stored in. That means hosting with a provider that owns their own data center. This way, if something does happen to your eCommerce store, you’ll know that you’ll be back up and be converting potential buyers as soon as possible.

In addition to the points above, your hosting solution should be optimized for your application; especially if you’re running the caching heavy Magento. Check with your provider as to what is a good

Another good thing to check is your DNS provider. The difference between a good DNS provider and a bad one can be lots of conversions or none at all.

  Find out what questions you should be asking your hosting provider. Learn more

Remove Bloat

Once you’ve checked that your hosting provider is optimized for eCommerce, the next step is to see if your server is bogged down with bloat.

Begin by removing all unnecessary plugins and extensions from your CMS.

If you’re using Magento, go to System -> Magento Connect -> Magento Connect Manager. Scroll through the list of installed extensions and select the ones you no longer need. On the drop-down menu, select uninstall and then click Commit Changes.

If you’re using WooCommerce with WordPress, head to your admin panel, then Plugins -> Installed Plugins. From here you’ll be able to see all the plugins you currently have installed and remove those you don’t need.

We recommend committing these changes to a dev site before doing so with a production environment. This allows you to see how they will affect your site from a buyer’s perspective.

Basic Website Optimization

There are optimizations non-specific to eCommerce but that will help to increase speed and keep conversions up. These are simple website optimizations that anyone can do – regardless of whether they have any technical knowledge.

2. Plugins & Extensions

Plugins and extensions are a great way to increase conversion rateModern CMSs know that the functionality required for different sites is, well, different. One store may be perfectly happy using what’s available by default, while the next needs an extra something. With plugins and extensions, that something can easily be found and added.

There are a number of plugins and extensions perfect for boosting conversions. We highly recommend looking into tools to:

  • Run A/B tests
  • Manage opt-in forms
  • Promote your content on social
  • Optimize SEO
  • Deliver high-quality, non-invasive Calls to Action

Before installing a new plugin or extension, ask yourself: Will it boost conversions? If that answer to that question is yes or maybe, install away. If it’s no, find something else.

Turpentine

We’ve created our own Magento extension designed to increase load times in Magento. We’ve called it Turpentine and it works by improving the already efficient Varnish with noticeable improvements to the cache hit rate.

3. Optimize the Buyer’s Journey

As we looked at earlier, one of the main reasons for an industry-wide decline in conversion rate is hard to find products.

To combat this, you want to make it as easy as possible for a buyer to find what they are looking for. This means more than simply directing them to your sales page; it means placing them on a journey.

The buyer's Journey displayed as a funnel

The buyer’s journey as a sales funnel.

A traditional buyer’s journey consists of three main stages:

  • Awareness – Aware of a need for something new
  • Consideration – Analyzing the different options available to them
  • Decision – Final purchasing decision (a conversion)

These stages are often embodied as a funnel. This funnel mimics how the number of people decreases as they journey down the funnel. No store has a 100% conversion rate.

A buyer’s journey is often unique and forcing a myriad of different audiences down only a handful of funnels will mean fewer sales and lower retention. As a store owner, it is important for you to manage these stages in accordance with the data you collect from successes and wins.

Yet creating content that keeps visitors engaged can be a tricky process. Where do you start? Here are three methods that we’ve seen work incredibly well in the modern digitally-driven buyer’s journey.

Create Stand Out Content

Create content that does more than just duplicate what the competition is doing. Try to find what type of content your audience wants. Look beyond the data if you have to.

Create Longtail Content

Perform a long tail keyword analysis to see where you should be directing some of your content and SEO efforts. Short tails are great for sales pages, but optimizing for long tails is the best way to target your audience – especially if they’re niche.  

Nurture Leads With Personalized Outreach

Do more than just personalize the “To” field in emails. Reach out to your audience directly. Finding influencers and people who already do this effectively is a great shortcut. You can also optimize on-page content. Check out these WordPress AI and machine learning plugins for delivering personalized content at the right stage of the funnel.

4. Create a Story With Emotion

One of the most effective ways to optimize eCommerce conversions is to change the fundamental way in which you are selling your products. 

Buyers want an experience when they buy from you, not just a list of technical specifications (most of the time). This directly addressed one of the reasons for a decline in conversions: a lack of interest in products.

Hubspot has created a really useful article on how to use emotion to sell. They’ve gone with six different emotions (to start). Depending on your audience and the product you’re trying to sell, you appeal to a different emotion.

  • Greed
  • Fear
  • Altruism
  • Envy
  • Pride
  • Shame

For instance, if you’re working for a non-profit and trying to boost eCommerce conversions for a donations package, altruism is likely your best option (unless that donation package comes packed with chocolate). If you’re trying to increase conversions on the latest Mercedes though, you’re probably better off going to envy and a sense of keeping up with the Joneses.

All of this leads into our final method for optimizing eCommerce store conversions:

5. Test, Test, Test

Testing should be the bedrock of your conversion optimization strategy.

It’s unlikely you’re going to hit a jackpot every time. Even after years of working with the same audience and products, there are going to be times where your tests misfire or miss the mark. Trial and error let you refine your conversion strategy and improve.

There is always room for improvement, regardless of how well you’re already doing.

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Exploring Nashville During WordCamp US 2018

Exploring Nashville During WordCamp US 2018

Exploring Nashville During WordCamp US 2018With WordCamp US 2018 on the horizon, there couldn’t be more of a perfect time for deciding what to do when you’re in Nashville (besides WordCamp). We recently visited Nashville with exactly that purpose and put together a guide to exploring the city. 

So grab one of the city’s many rent-a-scooters or get your walking boots on, because we’re about to take you on a tour through some of the best sights and sounds Nashville has to offer during WordCamp US.

 

  To celebrate WordCamp US, we’re giving away the first month of WordPress hosting for half price! Learn more

Take a Picture With Nashville’s Angel Wings

WordCamp Us Stop 1 Angel Wings302 11th Ave S

The Nashville WhatLiftsYou Wings Mural is a staple of the Nashville street art scene. Created by Kelsey Montague, you’ll find both a 20-foot tall set of wings and a smaller pair next door.

While you’re in the area, you can also pick up some morning hydration from the juice bar around the corner.

 

See the Parthenon Before the Crowds

2500 West End Ave

A truly impressive 1-to-1 replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. At first, the Parthenon seems to stick out like a sore thumb. Once you learn its history though, you realize that it’s actually one of Nashville’s greatest architectural assets.

Built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, you’ll find the entrance to the Parthenon at its base (with a little gift shop). Exploring the inside is like taking a step back in time.

Just make sure your scooter doesn’t run out of battery here: the area is notorious for not having many lying around.

Walk Through the Grounds of Vanderbilt University

WordCamp US Vanderbilt University2201 West End Ave

One of the most beautiful university campuses in the US, Vanderbilt University is the perfect shortcut from the Parthenon and back into the city downtown proper.

We highly recommend taking it slow and ditching the scooter until you get to the other side. The campus is beautiful, with trees and street lamps reminiscent of a time from before.

Have Lunch at an Authentic Nashville Cafeteria

WordCamp US ArnoldsArnolds, 605 8th Avenue South

There’s nothing quite like grabbing a bite to eat at a local eatery, and we’ve got just the spot for you. Arnold’s serves up traditional home-cooked “Meat & 3”, and has been doing so for the past 30 years.

Open Monday – Friday from 10:30 am to 2:45 pm, it’s the perfect spot for lunch either the day before or after WordCamp US. Monday and Friday usually have Roast Beef as the main course, with several vegetable options for the “&3”.

Feel Nostalgic at Third Man Records

WordCamp US Third Man Records623 7th Ave S

Take a step back in time and visit some of your favorite artists at the Third Man Records store. A short scooter ride from Arnold’s, Third Man Records is a great way to wind down after filling up on home-cooked food.

The store features some great memorabilia and a real-life record listening booth at the back of the store. Keep your eyes open for what looks to be a fortune teller machine here too.

Get Some Work Done at Frothy Monkey

WordCamp US Frothy Monkey235 5th Ave N

By this point in the day, you’re probably about ready to sit down for a rest. Why not get some work done and enjoy an excellent cup of coffee at the same time?

Only a few blocks away, Frothy Monkey offers the perfect atmosphere for work, kicking back, and relaxing. Head to the back after you’ve gotten your coffee for some long tables to work in a group and a quiet atmosphere. We also recommend trying some of their bagels — if you’ve still got the room after Arnold’s.

Trek Music Studio Row

WordCamp Us Stop Music Studio Row401 Commerce St

Take a walk past the music studios of Nashville. From small to large, the city is packed with them. It is, after all, dubbed Music City.

You don’t have to dwell, but standing outside of the recording studios where greats such as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Elvis once recorded is a tough feeling to beat.

Experience the Nashville Live Music Scene

Take a walk down the main downtown area of Nashville and it’s hard to miss the live music. Starting in the morning and ending well into the night, every single bar and restaurant you pass will ring with the sounds of a live band or musician. Stop in, have a drink, and soak up the ambiance.

See You at WordCamp US!

Once you’ve finished your tour of Nashville, it’s time to get ready for WordCamp US! Swing by the Hostdedi booth for great deals on WordPress hosting and awesome, limited-edition swag. See you there!

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Hosting Your Podcast With WordPress

Hosting Your Podcast With WordPress

Hosting Your Podcast With WordPressIn the last few years, podcasts have evolved. Once a niche interest, the most popular podcasts are listened to by millions of people. Anyone with an internet connection, a microphone, and something to say can publish a podcast. Businesses use podcasts as part of their content marketing strategy. Popular podcasts attract a significant amount of advertising money, largely because their niche appeal allows for targeted advertising.

But once a podcast has been recorded, it needs to be hosted online. Unlike a blog post, a podcast can’t just be uploaded to a site — that’s a hosted audio file, not a podcast. Before taking a look at the role WordPress plays in podcast hosting, let’s discuss the various components that make up a podcast.

The anatomy of a podcast

Of course, the audio file is the most important part of a podcast. The audio file can be hosted on the same server as a WordPress site, but most podcasters choose to use external file hosting designed for that purpose. Podcast files are large and they can burn through a WordPress hosting account’s bandwidth.

Although a traditional website isn’t strictly necessary for a podcast, most podcasts have a site. It is used to promote the podcast, to display show notes, and a site is necessary if the podcast is to be discoverable by Google and other search engines.

Next is the RSS feed. Just like a blog, a podcast has an RSS feed. But unlike a blog, the feed is an essential part of a podcast. It is unusual for podcast listeners to visit a podcast’s website to listen, instead they use a podcast app’s search tools, which provide results from a podcast directory.

Podcasts are submitted to directories via the RSS feed. Without an RSS feed, there is no directory listing. The RSS feed is also used by podcast apps to list episodes, discover new episodes, and download the podcast’s file.

WordPress provides two of the important parts of a podcast: the website and the RSS feed — three if you also want to host the podcast audio files on a WordPress server.

WordPress and podcasts

The RSS feed for a podcast is a little different to the RSS feed used by a blog: it contains an “enclosure” for the audio file and additional information that isn’t part of the standard feed. Not so long ago, creating a podcast RSS feed was a bit of a pain, but today there are excellent WordPress plugins that will take care of it.

Seriously Simple Podcasting (SSP) is one of the most full-featured podcasting solutions available for WordPress. It makes it easy to create a podcast feed suitable for submission to podcast directories, including iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. It also includes a media player, should people want to listen via your WordPress site. The media files can be hosted on any third-party hosting platform or on the site itself. SSP has its own plugin ecosystem, which includes useful additions such as podcast analytics.

WordPress, combined with performance-optimized WordPress hosting and the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin, provides everything you need to publish your podcasts.

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How Web Hosts Cooperate to Curb Latency

How Web Hosts Cooperate to Curb Latency

Internet Exchanges How Web Hosts Cooperate to Curb Latency and Keep Your Users HappyAs the cause of lag, latency is public enemy #1 in eCommerce. Nothing is better at killing an online experience and driving users away from a site, possibly never to return. Most of us probably assume it’s an issue with bandwidth, but often the problem can be traced back to high latency.

Read on to learn more about what causes latency and how web hosts like Hostdedi use Internet Exchanges to reduce it.

 

What Is Latency?

Latency refers to how long data takes to travel between the device requesting the data and the device providing it. Usually, the distance between these two points requires the use of other devices along the way. Each additional device, or hop, has the potential to increase latency. Indirect routes have more hops and are therefore undesirable.  

How Does an Internet Exchange Work?

Local Network Service Providers (NSP, but also known as Internet Service Providers or ISP) typically have an inefficient infrastructure and do not reliably provide the most direct route. For example, a user in Detroit, MI attempts to contact a network in Ann Arbor, MI, but the NSP routes the traffic through Chicago, IL. This indirect path pushes traffic through multiple routers and hundreds more miles of fiber optic cable. Typically, each additional mile increases latency by about 9 microseconds due to the light in those cables having to travel farther.

Reputable web hosting companies are well aware of this problem, and even though they may be in competition with one another, their solution is cooperation. This cooperation is known in the industry as an Internet Exchange (IX) and provides a more direct path by eliminating the need for ISPs to carry local traffic.

By allowing companies to directly peer with one another and exchange traffic in a more direct path, there are less hops. This, in turn, generally means lower network latency.

At Hostdedi, we minimize latency for our clients by participating in the Detroit Internet Exchange (DET-IX).  

Cage Match: DET-IX Versus NSP

IX participants are connected in a shared network with other members, allowing them to communicate locally and bypass the NSP.  Using a tool like My traceroute (MTR), we can compare latency between DET-IX and NSP.

Here, we try reaching https://cloudflare.com through one of our NSPs.

Reaching Cloudflare through ISP

The IP addresses show traffic leaving our network in Southfield, MI and then traveling through Cleveland, OH before finally reaching https://cloudflare.com in Toronto. While a better route, this is still similar to the pathway described above, where a user Detroit, MI attempts to contact a network in Ann Arbor, MI.

Tromboning in internet exchanges

In the industry, the effect of indirect paths backtracking over their own route is often known as “tromboning” and it is universally viewed as unfavorable for latency.

These extra hops through the network add latency as the traffic passes through each router. As shown in the last entry in the Last column, the average response time of 10.4ms. This is good, but it can be improved.

Improving Internet Exchange Point Architecture

Here’s the same test, but using DET-IX to reach https://cloudflare.com.

Reaching Cloudflare through Internet exchange

Traffic again leaves our network in Southfield, but through DET-IX where Cloudflare is also participating. The path uses three less hops, avoids tromboning, and improves the average response time for 100 packets to 0.5 ms, nearly a 10ms reduction.

In eCommerce, faster is almost always better. Shoppers have nearly no patience for lag, the modern-day equivalent of long lines. Fast stores sell more than slow stores, and better page-load times elevate your ranking on Google search engine results pages (SERPs), driving more traffic to your site.

Good and Getting Better!

This shared network relies on Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to exchange routing and reachability information, and we use technology that both allow their use and accommodates future expansion. As DET-IX participation continues to grow, so does our ability to accept routes from new members.


Andrew Steen

Andrew has been working at Hostdedi for six years. He started out with the Data Center Operations department before making the leap to Network Operations. Andrew has eight Juniper Networks certifications, with the highest level achieved being JNCIP-DC.

 


 

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