Bloggade 2013: the nuts and bolts of blogging and WordPress

Timico data centre

Have you ever wondered what goes on at a data centre, perhaps one that hosts your website or blog?

If that’s a question you’ve asked before, then here’s your chance to get the answer.

A tour of a state-of-the-art UK data centre in Newark is a central part of an event taking place on August 21 that will focus on the underlying technology that powers many WordPress blogs.

I’ve joined Matt Russell, CEO of WebHostingBuzz (the hosting service that sponsors and hosts my blogs) and Trefor Davies, co-founder and CTO of Timico (the owner of the data centre) to put together Bloggade 2013:

The focus of this first Bloggade is on the underlying technology that powers many WordPress blogs. You’ll experience a tour of Timico’s £5m Midlands datacentre that opened in 2012, and see at first hand the technology that powers the web including many WordPress blogs hosted with WebHostingBuzz at the datacentre.

We have round table discussions planned on WordPress hosting, hardware, search engine optimization and more, all addressing the topics from a non-technical perspective, but in the true round table spirit – anything and everything to do with WordPress is up for discussion.

Bring your questions, comments and experiences!

You’ll also get ideas and insights from experiences and blogging best practices in a panel discussion with Andrew Grill and I  – Andrew’s blog is also hosted by WebHostingBuzz – as well as from others there, all designed to help you get the most from the WordPress content management system, especially the new version 3.6.

Thanks to Timico, the half-day event is free to attend: the only condition is that you must have your own blog, whether it runs on WordPress or any other platform.

Sign up for Bloggade 2013

Sign up for your free ticket and join us for an afternoon in Newark – an historic town within easy reach of major towns and cities in the Midlands, East Anglia and the Northeast (and less than 90 minutes by fast train from London).

It’s a great opportunity to talk about the nuts and bolts of blogging and WordPress, see inside a modern data centre, and conclude things in a local pub.

What a pleasant way to spend a Wednesday afternoon! Hope to see you there on August 21.

Related posts:

WebHostingBuzz: A hosting partner worth getting to know

(l to r) WHB CEO Matt Russell and Neville Hobson at The B2B HuddleFor the past 18 months, WebHostingBuzz has hosted this blog and my other websites on a dedicated server physically located in one of its US datacentres.

A dedicated server is a server that is exclusive to one user: it’s not shared with anyone else. So I enjoy the benefits of high performance, security, stability and control from a server that has only my content on it, and no one else uses it.

It’s like having my own high-end desktop computer but in the cloud.

Compared to shared hosting – many users on the same server, each with its own partitioned space and its own set of issues to deal with – I find this an ideal solution.

If you read either of WebHostingBuzz’ blogs, the US one or the UK one, you’ll see that this US/UK company is steadily developing its overall service offering especially this side of the Atlantic.

Last month, WHB announced a new range of dedicated servers located in its new Tier 4 datacentre in the UK (near Nottingham, to be a bit more precise).

I like WHB’s confidence in its UK network:

[…] Based in the Midlands, our network is under 2ms from London and Manchester. Redundant private 10Gbps fibre links connect us to all the key London and Manchester POPs. Extensive private peering and connectivity with all major broadband providers mean our network literally flies! Don’t just take our word for it, try it out yourself.

Traceroute to: 78.25.201.25
Download test file: http://37.61.233.42/100MB.bin

To mark the availability of its new UK setup, WHB currently has some great hosting deals for dedicated servers at different configurations and pricing options.

WHB UK dedicated servers

If you’re thinking about switching hosting services, I think WHB is well worth your time considering and checking out.

And here’s possibly a clincher especially if you run WordPress sites at your current host – WHB will handle your migration. They did that for me when I moved and I can tell you I had none of the migraines that would undoubtedly have happened if I’d had to do that myself!

WebHostingBuzz is a good partner. And I’ve got to know CEO Matt Russell over the past year and a half – that’s him in the picture at the top with me at The B2B Huddle event at Oracle UK earlier this month, at which Matt led a discussion session. I’ve had only a few needs to connect with their tech support team. Very responsive, very quickly. Great experiences.

They’re all worth getting to know.

Given my relationship with WHB, you might see this as a “sponsor post.” I see it far more as my post (I wrote it, not WHB) about a great partner. You can read the foundation to this and decide how you see it.

How to secure your WordPress site against hacker attacks

WordPress under attackOne of the easiest content management systems to set up and use is WordPress, the largest self-hosted blogging platform in the world, powering more than 60 million websites worldwide.

That fact may be a key reason why WordPress is in the news right now as the subject of a large-scale attack from a huge number of computers from across the internet  – known as an automated botnet attack – attempting to take over servers that run WordPress.

Some are saying that this current attack is the precursor of a botnet of infected computers vastly stronger and more destructive than those of today. That’s because the servers have bandwidth connections that are typically tens, hundreds, or even thousands of times faster than botnets made of infected machines in homes and small businesses.

WordPress’ popularity comes at a price in a situation like this, as a perceived vulnerability in the platform’s ease of use is weak security by users.

That weak security typically means continuing to use the word ‘admin’ as a user name – this is the default administration account that’s created when you first install WordPress – along with a password that brute-force attempts to guess are likely to succeed, which is what’s happening with this attack.

If you’ve disabled the default ‘admin’ account in your WordPress installation – or, even better, you’ve deleted it – and have something else in its place as the main administrator of your WordPress dashboard, that will likely take you out of the immediate target area of the attackers.

And if you’ve set a strong password – at least eight characters and in a combination of upper- and lower-case letters along with numbers and extended characters – you’re in a good position to be passed by if or when a botnet comes calling at your WordPress front door.

Don’t be complacent, though – this attack serves as a great reminder that securing your WordPress blog or website so that no one can get into it unless they’re invited is something you do need to be sure about.

So what can you do to make your site secure enough right now to deter such attacks in the future?

First, make sure you have the latest WordPress version installed. As of today, that version is 3.5.1.

If you still have an administrative user called ‘admin,’ there are two steps to take:

  1. Create a new admin account with a different name and give it a strong password.
  2. Delete the ‘admin’ user account; during that procedure, you’ll be asked by WordPress which other account should you assign posts, pages, etc, created by ‘admin’ to. Choose the new admin account name you just created.

Next, enable two-step verification for each user in your WordPress account. The simplest such service for a WordPress user to install and implement is the open source Google Authenticator. If you have that enabled for your Google account, or other services such as Dropbox or Amazon S3, then you’ll be familiar with how it works.

WordPress login with Google AuthenticatorAnd you’re in luck for your self-hosted WordPress site as there’s an excellent plugin that sets it up for you – Google Authenticator plugin for WordPress.

Grab it now, either by downloading it from the WordPress plugin repository or installing it via the ‘add new plugin’ function in your WordPress dashboard.

You’ll need the free Google Authenticator app for your smartphone in order to use this security feature. There are versions for Android, Blackberry and iOS.

And if you then follow the excellent “How To Enable 2-Step Authentication On Your Self-Hosted WordPress.org Site” guide published last week by Techfleece, you’ll be up and running in no time with a WordPress site that will give you more peace of mind than you had before.

In my view, this is the bare minimum you should have set up in your self-hosted WordPress site that gives you a good level of security for your peace of mind. It would make it more difficult to hack into your site.

There’s a lot more you can do as well including steps to take to better secure the server on which your WordPress platform is installed. There’s a great tutorial on the WordPress Codex that can tell you more.

Don’t let spammers, hackers or botnets mess up your presence on the web. You can be secure.

This post was first published on the Official WebHostingBuzz Company Blog on April 16, 2013. Founded in 2002, WebHostingBuzz is a web hosting company based in Auburn, MA, USA and in the UK. It offers web hosting, reseller hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting services from data centres across the United States and in Europe. WebHostingBuzz is a sponsor of NevilleHobson.com.

If your WordPress site runs at WordPress.com – it’s hosted by that service, not on your own server – follow this guide to set up two-step authentication: Greater Security with Two Step Authentication.

See also:

Make your website actually work

When was the last time you checked your website to ensure that it’s effectively supporting your business goals?

In this age of social communication that’s rapidly evolving as tools and channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Vine become part of the mainstream experience for millions of consumers, is your digital presence up to scratch?

The focus of these questions is largely to do with mobile – although not exclusively – that reflects the trend away from desktop and laptop computers to smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

We’re now in the post-PC era, according to some, where access to and interaction with content of every type is on demand, anywhere, any time via the device you have to hand, so to speak.

And if you’re the kind of person who visits a store for product and price research and comparisons and then buys from Amazon or other online retailer via your mobile device – often while in that physical store – you’re not alone.

All this brings many important issues to the forefront of your thinking. Search engine optimization, lead generation and sales lead capture, site performance, content curation and marketing, website usability and engagement…and that’s just for starters.

There’s much to think about and future posts here will discuss many of those topics. Today, though, I’d like to address one that is a good place to begin – usability and engagement. Those two words speak to the question: How easy is it for people who land on your website via a mobile device to actually use your website?

Remember, the clear trend is towards mobile. Even though PCs and other fixed-location and portable devices still account for the vast majority of website traffic, more people are coming to your website via a mobile device, whether on the three-inch screen of an iPhone 4S or the ten-inch screen of a Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and everything in between.

kpcb-devicetrends-dec12

Mobile devices are ever more powerful with each new model, offering faster processor speeds and gorgeous graphics capabilities. Networks, wifi and cellular, are popping up everyone so you can be online wherever you are and whenever you want.

All of this translates into one key fact – when someone sees your website on their device screen, what happens at that point?

Do they get to what they want with a couple of swipes or taps? Or are they a bouncer, leaving your site in three seconds or less? If the latter, they’re gone and probably for good.

You can see where this is leading, right? Make sure your website is designed for mobile devices?

Absolutely, but not exclusively. You need to ensure that your website works for your visitors when they see your website on whatever device they are using, whether that’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop PC.

While discussion can get quite technical when you dive into topics like HTML5, not to mention the pragmatism of how much things will cost, there are three simple words you and I can easily understand.

Responsive web design.

In a nutshell, this is about enabling your content to be seen, consumed, shared and otherwise give value to those who come to see you online, no matter how they do it – with a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop PC.

Your website just works and works seamlessly on whatever device, delivering a consistent usability and user experience.

If you want to see what I mean, check out this imaginative video published by tech news website ReadWrite on their website relaunch last October. It’s the best video I’ve seen so far that lets you see exactly what ‘responsive web design’ means to the user.

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

Making sure your website is usable when seen on any device is not as complex as it may seem. And if you use a content management system such as WordPress, it gets even easier. Note, too, these broad web design trends.

Think about it. Delivering satisfied and engaged website users, on their terms using their preferred device, is today’s business aspiration.

This post was first published on the Official WebHostingBuzz Company Blog on March 8, 2013. Founded in 2002, WebHostingBuzz is a web hosting company based in Auburn, MA, USA and in the UK. It offers web hosting, reseller hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting services from data centres across the United States and in Europe. WebHostingBuzz is a sponsor of NevilleHobson.com.

Creating a Solid Foundation for Online Customer Engagement

AttentionI often get asked how to get started with social media. What is the best way, the best place, to talk to customers? How do you do that? Just start tweeting or posting to Facebook or LinkedIn?

These are natural questions, yet they shouldn’t be the first ones to come to mind, even if they seem the obvious ones.

There’s a far more important step to take before you start talking.

If you want to understand how your customers perceive you, your company or your brand, you have to do that on their terms, not yours. You need to be where they are, not trying to get them to come to a place that you prefer, eg, your business website.

While that can mean spending time on a Facebook page, creating a Twitter handle or uploading video to YouTube, you ought to take a more strategic look at what’s happening online before you make that jump.

Not only that, you need to know what they’re talking about.

That starts with listening not talking. Pay attention to all those online voices and discover what they’re saying about you and the things that are important to your business, whatever size it is. You need to know what the conversation is before you join it.

Think about that. Can you answer these three primary questions:

  1. Do you know how, where and when your customers discuss your brand online?
  2. With whom?
  3. And what they’re talking about in relation to topics you care about?

Do you really know?

There are simple steps you can easily follow that will not only give you valuable insight into how others see you and what they say about you online but also give you actionable insight and confidence on what your first steps should be.

You can take your first step today. That first step includes asking yourself what you are going to listen for.

For instance, are you listening to online discussions for reputation management or customer service reasons? Do you want to gather business intelligence and get feedback on your brand? Or are you looking to find conversations you can join so your organization can get exposure in front of new audiences?

And, you need to be clear in your focus:

  • You must have a clear objective.
  • Your objective should be measurable.
  • You must be able to answer the question: how does your use of social media help you achieve your objective? (what some would say “What’s the ROI?”).

With those foundational steps taken, you can now make a start:

  1. Listen and learn – know your customer’s world online with precision. No more guesswork.
  2. Focus on actionable insights – what exactly can inform your planning.
  3. Identify who drives share of conversation – who you should pay attention to: with whom you might engage.
  4. Expand your reach with a clear focus – think of new ways to add value and really engage with your customers and communities.

What’s important isn’t the tools and the channels. Social media is about people and new, simpler and more effective means of connecting with other people.

Above all else, listening is paramount. It’s what you do before you start or conduct any engagement activity online, from leaving simple comments on a blog or typing your update message in Twitter, to a deeper relationship-building exercise with a prominent influencer.

Listening lets you discover who’s saying what – useful knowledge in planning how to engage effectively, before you start to engage.

(Picture courtesy Stalin Raja, used under Creative Commons license.)

This post was first published on the Official WebHostingBuzz Company Blog on December 13, 2012. Founded in 2002, WebHostingBuzz is a web hosting company based in Auburn, MA, USA and in the UK. It offers web hosting, reseller hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting services from data centres across the United States and in Europe. WebHostingBuzz is a sponsor of NevilleHobson.com.

Sponsor profile: Web Hosting Buzz

Since the beginning of 2012, NevilleHobson.com has been sponsored by WebHostingBuzz. The arrangement I made with its UK-based CEO Matt Russell – his company hosts my web presence at no financial cost to me; in return, I talk about them now and again – means that all the content served to you from this website is hosted at one of WHB’s data centres in the US.

The benefits for you, the reader, are twofold:

  1. You get content served to you quickly and reliably as this site is hosted on a dedicated server.
  2. The site has WHB’s VIP Management service behind it where people who know what they’re doing will look after the physical infrastructure that enables the content to appear on your screen.

WebHostingBuzz has data centres in the US, in Dallas, Atlanta, New York and Phoenix; in Europe, in Amsterdam; the company opened a new data centre in the UK last month, in Nottingham.

If you’re considering a new web hosting service, whether in the US, UK or elsewhere, it’s worth taking a look at WebHostingBuzz. And they’re offering some keenly-priced hosting deals at the moment.

More information:

Thanks, WHB, looking forward to building our relationship to the next level.

whatareyouwaitingfor