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A Step-By-Step Guide To Moving Your Site To The Cloud

A Step-By-Step Guide To Moving Your Site To The Cloud

Guide To Moving Your Site To The CloudIf you have followed the advice outlined in the previous articles in this series on cloud migration, you are well-prepared to migrate your site to cloud hosting. The information you need has been gathered and is easily accessible. You have informed those who will be affected by the migration. You have chosen a cloud platform and selected an appropriate cloud instance. Now it’s time to put your cloud migration plan into action.

Preparing for the Migration

In the days before the site is to be migrated, it is a good idea to establish a performance and functionality baseline that can be used as a point of comparison after the migration.

Run performance tests on key pages. Google Lighthouse and Pingdom Tools provide comprehensive performance metrics.

Use a web crawling tool to check for broken links (404 errors) and other crawl issues on your site. You could use an application-specific tool such as WordPress’ Broken Link Checker or a specialist tool such as Screaming Frog. It’s a good idea to fix crawl and link issues before migrating so you can tell if the migration itself caused any problems.

Gather a list of redirects implemented on the current site via its .htaccess file or within the application itself. These may need to be checked after migration.

Stepping Through a Cloud Migration

The migration process may be slightly different, depending on the application that is being migrated, but the basic process looks like this:

  • Create an appropriate cloud hosting instance on the new platform.
  • Install the application on the cloud hosting account. You can choose to have the application installed as part of the set-up process on the Hostdedi Cloud.
  • Copy the site’s files and database from the current site to the application running on the cloud platform.
  • Edit DNS records so that they point to the IP address of the cloud platform.

Hostdedi Cloud instances capable of supporting up to 75 concurrent users can be deployed in minutes. Larger dedicated cloud instances will take up to three hours to deploy, so you may want to set-up your cloud instance in advance of migration day.

Test The New Site Before Changing DNS Records

You should ensure that the cloud migration is successful before changing DNS records or the site’s authoritative domain name servers. Carry out the same performance, crawl, and redirection testing as before. There should be no significant regressions.

You may notice worse performance on the new site during initial testing because its caches have not been warmed. This is nothing to worry about, and performance will improve as the caches are filled. On a live site, much of the data is served from caches or a CDN. The newly installed site is generating pages from scratch.

After Migration to the Cloud

Once the cloud migration is complete, you may have to wait up to 24 hours before visitors are reliably directed to the site running on the new platform.

DNS records take time to propagate through the global DNS system. It is likely to take less than 24 hours, but it is best to wait a few hours at least for propagation to complete before concluding that there is a problem.

Once DNS records have propagated, the new site is live. Over the next several days keep a close eye on performance, search traffic referrals, and other site metrics. Once you are confident that the cloud migration was successful, you are safe to delete the site from its original hosting platform and close your account with the provider.

In the next and final article, we summarize the information from this series into a handy cloud migration checklist that you can use to track migration planning, implementation, and testing.

  Download our free guide to Cloud Migration here 

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Introducing the Hostdedi Referral Partner

Introducing the Hostdedi Referral Partner

Hostdedi Referral Partner ProgramPartners have long been a staple in the Hostdedi ecosystem, and a crucial player in our mission to bring the promise of hosting technology to online businesses. But until recently, something was missing.

Today, we’re introducing a new partner level designed to bridge the space between our existing levels of Agency and Affiliate. We’re calling this the Referral Partner.

The Referral Partner level offers $200.00 for every cloud hosting referral and an initial deposit of $100.00 just for signing up.

Introducing the Referral Partner

Every year, we strive to provide a better hosting solution to as many online businesses as possible.

We realized that a middle-tier partner level was an important addition when multiple agencies and freelancers inquired about partnering at events but didn’t feel our current partner programs were the right fit for them.

We immediately set to work creating a competitive mid-level tier for those that felt left out. We settled on a program that featured a mix of value, features, and simplicity.

Spearheading the partner initiative was Jerry Eadeh, who stated that:

We analyzed various affiliate and partner programs belonging to many service providers similar to Hostdedi. We found many of the programs fell short of developing a simple program that didn’t include complex stipulations and exclusionary circumstances.

It was important to us to develop a competitive program that both rewards agencies for their referral activity and focuses on creating great relationships. We’re seeking agencies invested in building a collaborative partnership for us to align our efforts from support through to site maintenance and live launch deployment.”

A Renewed Commitment to Startup Agencies

Hosting is an essential foundation for any new website, but it’s often the last item to be discussed with a client.

The Referral Partner level comes with a renewed commitment to supporting startup agencies and freelancers looking to provide clients with a better hosting solution.

Joining the Hostdedi partner program means more than just earning a commision. We make conversations regarding hosting simple, with optimized environments, secure infrastructure, and 24/7/365 U.S. based support being only some of the benefits our partners and their clients enjoy.

How Can You Become a Referral Partner?

Becoming a Referral Partner is simple. You can contact our staff for more information about the Referral Partner program by email at [email protected].

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Building An Appointment Booking System With WordPress

Building An Appointment Booking System With WordPress

Building An Appointment Booking System With WordPressManaging appointments is one of the biggest overheads for service-oriented small businesses. Businesses that handle appointments manually often hire one or more employees to book appointments, schedule staff, make reminder calls, and a host of other administrative tasks that go along with scheduling a busy office.

The personal touch is important, but managing appointments the old-fashioned way is expensive and inefficient. It’s also prone to errors, with double-bookings and missed sessions a common occurrence for many businesses. Forward-looking businesses automate the appointment booking process, reducing costs and errors.

The ideal appointment booking service is almost entirely automated. A client decides to make an appointment and visits the business’s website. They’re presented with a calendar that includes available appointment slots. They choose the slot that is most appropriate for them, and perhaps enter payment details. The system adds the appointment to the professional’s calendar, sends a confirmation to the client, and also sends one or more reminders on the day of the appointment.

WordPress is capable of doing all of this, in addition to being an excellent content management system on which to build a small-business lead generation site.

The Ideal Appointment Booking System

There is a basic set a functionality that all customer-facing scheduling systems should provide.

  • An intuitive calendar interface that clients can use to choose an appointment date and time. It should be easy to use and not expect too much technical ability from clients.
  • Multiple calendars for managing appointments for several professionals and for different appointment types.
  • Automated reminders: it’s been shown that sending automated email or SMS reminders significantly reduces no-shows.
  • Integration with other calendaring services: professionals may prefer to use their mobile device’s native calendar or a cloud calendar such as Google Calendar.

Because WordPress is such a popular business content management system, there are many appointment scheduling plugins to choose from. We’ll have a look at two of the most popular: BirchPress Scheduler and Appointment Calendar.

BirchPress Scheduler is a premium appointment booking plugin that ticks all the boxes. It provides an easy-to-use customizable booking form that can be embedded in any WordPress post or page, and configurable email notifications and reminders. BirchPress can also be used to take credit card payments with PayPal or other payment gateways via WooCommerce integrations.

For newer businesses without the budget to pay for BirchPress, Appointment Calendar is a viable alternative with a free option that would suit most small businesses. Appointment Calendar provides a mobile-friendly booking calendar with email notifications. The premium version of the plugin adds many more features, including unlimited staff and services, Google Calendar sync, email reminders, and payment gateway integration.

Neither of the plugins we have looked at includes native SMS integration, but if you would like to send SMS notifications to clients, the WP Twilio Core plugin provides text messaging functionality via the popular Twilio platform.

WordPress, when combined with performance-optimized WordPress hosting and one of the scheduling plugins we have looked at, is a complete website solution for any appointment-based enterprise.

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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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