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Monday, November 8, 2010

Top 5 Features to look for in Free Web Hosting


Looking for a free web host today is a lot different then it was just a few years back. Make sure to look at all of your choices and to compare the web hosting plans. Below are the top 5 features to look for when choosing the perfect free web host.

Unlimited Space & Bandwidth
In most cases you are getting a free web hosting account to avoid paying for hosting. The last thing you want to happen is for you to have a free page up for a few days and then be hit with an “out of space – please pay to upgrade”. Free web hosts usually place ads on your pages and make more money the more space and bandwidth you use. Thus, they shouldn’t have a problem with offering unlimited space & bandwidth for free (without using that to force you to upgrade).

Limited Non-Intrusive Ads
These days most free web hosts can get by from very limited ads either on the 404 pages or on the footers of your pages. You shouldn’t need to have your entire site covered by your hosts banner ads and pop-ups to get a decent hosting account. You should also stay away from hosts that have absolutely no ads. These hosts are obviously not generating any revenue and won’t be able to stay in business and pay for their expenses for long.

An Established Company
It’s become so easy to start a free web host that companies can easily seem great one day and then disappear the next. This is especially the case since the service being offered is “free” and requires very limited expertise to get started. Make sure your web host is well established and has been around offering free web hosting for a while. Several companies like, T35 Hosting, have been offering free web hosting services for over 12 years.

Uploading Your Site
The most important feature you will use from any free web host is the uploading feature. This is how you will upload your initial site and make any future changes. Make sure your host has several options to upload and edit your files like FTP and an online file manager (when you are away from home and don’t have an ftp application installed).

Reliable Support
The last thing you expect from your new web host is for things to break or not work, but unfortunately that is sometimes the case. When this happens, the only one there to help you is the host’s support team. Compare web hosts and make sure you use one that offers a comprehensive support system. Features to look for include a helpdesk, support forum, and a live chat. If the host has a forum make sure to visit it to see how active it is and how quickly requests are answered.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

eCommerce Web Hosting

One of the fastest growing sectors of the Internet is eCommerce. People are becoming accustomed to buying things from Internet store fronts and every year the volume and value of sales increases substantially. If you would like to open up your own eCommerce web site here are a few basics to get you started.

The first thing you need, obviously, is a product or service that you can sell. If you already have a brick and mortar store you can offer the same items for sale on a web site. The number of products that you sell is a big factor in the type of hosting package you need. If you have let’s say less than 20 items, you could set the whole thing up on a very small hosting account. Listing hundreds of products is a different story – you will probably need more disk space, more bandwidth, and more features such as databases and a secure connection for accepting payments.

Since the most important part of eCommerce is getting paid, let’s look at the various payment options available. There are two basic options – collecting payment information directly or hiring a third-party service to process credit cards.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)

If you are planning to get or already have a merchant account that enables you to process credit cards you need to have a web site with a secure connection. This provides a way to encrypt sensitive data so that it cannot be intercepted and read as it travels across the Internet. If you don’t have a secure connection (indicated by https at the start of a web address) forget about collecting credit card numbers – customers are too web savvy to post sensitive financial data on an unsecured web site.

In order to get a secure connection, you need to apply for an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. These are issued by companies such as Thawte which require you to supply verifiable information concerning your identity and location. Once you have the certificate it must be installed on your web site. For this you need to have a unique IP address – available at an extra cost from most web hosts. There may also be a fee to install the certificate.

Third Party Gateways

If all this sounds too complicated, you have the option of going with a third party service that handles financial transactions for you. To complete a sale, customers are usually redirected to the web site of the payment service where they provide their credit card details. Some of these services have setup fees and charge a commission on each sale, while others (like PayPal) are free to set up and simply take a percentage of each sale.

Shopping Carts

Shopping carts are scripts that can be installed in your hosting account. They can automate the whole eCommerce experience by organizing your products into categories, creating pages that describe categories as well as individual items, allow you to keep track of returning clients, suggest other items for the customer to buy before they check out, and allow them rate the products they have bought.

Shopping carts can provide a more satisfying shopping experience while providing a structure for your online business.  Many hosting packages include free shopping cart scripts such as Miva, Agora, osCommerce, and Zen. When choosing an eCommerce package, make sure it supports your preferred method of payment gateway. For example, if you already have a merchant account with your local bank, use that as your starting point for choosing a shopping cart which supports that particular payment method.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Using a WordPress Hosting Provider


Using a WordPress Hosting Provider

WordPress is an extremely popular platform for publishing on the Internet. It has been employed by large companies to report on global events and hobbyists to inform the family about the cat having babies. WordPress offers a range of benefits to casual and professional users alike, and there are many WordPress hosting companies that can help you get started right away.


Why WordPress?

The WordPress platform allows anyone to start blogging or publishing a website even without any significant background in web design. Most WordPress hosting providers offer a one-click installation of the necessary software so you can start creating and publishing content right away.

WordPress makes it easy to design and add content to your blog. There are thousands of free templates available to help create the look you want. This is one of the features that make WordPress so accessible to the general public. The layout and design elements are completely separate from the content, which means that once the design is set, any of the authors on the blog can start writing and not have to deal with all the design issues.

Finally, one of the best reasons to use WordPress is that it is open source software. To put it another way, it’s free. The software is open to the public to download and develop, and as the WordPress community continues to grow, more and more developments will keep appearing and new plug-ins and themes will become available. And it will all still be free.

WordPress Hosting Requirements

There are a couple ways to get a WordPress blog started. One is to register for a free online blog hosted by WordPress.com. This is completely free, but there are a couple of drawbacks to it. The first is that you will have fewer customization options because the blog must conform to their web hosting requirements, and the second is that the website address will not be your own. Instead it will be formatted as: “yourcompany.wordpress.com,” which can create a very unprofessional image. That’s not such a big deal for a personal blog, but it could really hurt a business.

Downloading and installing the software on your own WordPress hosting server, then, can offer you all the customization options you want and the ability to have it on your own domain. This option will, of course, incur some web hosting costs, but those are usually very affordable. When you start looking at your hosting options, though, there are some requirements that you should examine before settling on a company.

You need to make sure that the provider has enough bandwidth and storage space to accommodate your needs. You never know when your blog might hit it big, and the server will need to be able to cope with ever-increasing traffic. Be sure to look at the company’s history as well. What is their record when it comes to uptime vs. downtime? What do current and previous clients say about their service? Do they offer auto installation of upgrades and features? Finally, make sure that the provider has the proper software required for WordPress hosting – PHP, MySQL, and Apache server. When all these elements come together you can make your WordPress blog everything you want it to be.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

5 Steps to Start Using IPv6 (not IPv5)


we are less than 45 days from “doomsday.” The IANA only has about 3% of the resources required to sustain our current way of life. 6.8 billion people with only 4.3 billion addresses in existence. It’s the 2012 saga in 2011: The exhaustion of the Internet’s available IP version 4 (IPv4) addresses. What are we going to do?!

Luckily, a lot of people have been hard at work to mitigate the impending Internet crisis. IP version 6 (IPv6) is on the horizon and is already supported by most modern internet enabled devices. If you’re like me, the fact that we went from IPv4 to IPv6 might make you wonder, “What happened to IPv5?”

The powers that be didn’t decide to rid the number system of the number five because of its mixture of curves and right angles, and it wasn’t because they only wanted to use round numbers. IP version 5 (IPv5) was a work in progress and part of a family of experimental protocols by the name of ST (Internet Stream Protocol). ST and later ST-II were connection-oriented protocols that were intended to support the efficient delivery of data streams to applications that required guaranteed data throughput.

An ST packet looks very similar to its IPv4 sibling, and both use the first 8 bits to identify a version number. IPv4 uses those 8 bits to identify IPv4 packets, and ST used the same 8 bits to identify IPv5 packets. Since “version 5″ was spoken for, the next iteration in IP advancement became version 6.

If you’ve been around the SoftLayer blog for a while, you already know a fair bit about IPv6, but you’re probably wondering, “What’s next?” How do you actually start using IPv6 yourself?

1. Get a Block of IPv6 Addresses

Lucky for you, the SoftLayer platform is IPv6 ready, and we’re already issuing and routing IPv6 traffic. Obtaining a block of public IPs from us is as easy as logging into the portal, pulling up the hardware page of a server and ordering a /64 block of IPv6 IP’s for free ($10 if you want a portable subnet)!

For those of you that have ordered IPs from us in the past, IPv4 addresses are usually $0.50-$1.00 each. To get a /64 of public static IPv6 addresses, it’s a whopping $0.00 for the entire range. So just how many IPs is in a /64? 256? Try again. 512? Keep going. 1 Million? You’re still cold. Let’s try 18.4 quintillion. For those that understand scientific notation better, that is 1.84 x 1019. If you just want to see the number written in long form, it’s 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 IP addresses. That allocation should probably tide you over for a little while.

2. Make Sure Your Server is IPv6 Ready

Most current server operating systems are ready to take the IPv6 leap. This includes Windows 2003 SP1 and most Linux OSes with 2.6.x Linux kernels. We’ll focus on Windows and RedHat/CentOS here.

To ready your Windows 2003 server for IPv6, do this:

  1. In Control Panel, double-click Network Connections.
  2. Right-click any local area connection, and then click Properties.
  3. Click Install.
  4. In the “Select Network Component Type” dialog box, click Protocol, then Add.
  5. In the “Select Network Protocol” dialog box, click Microsoft TCP/IP version 6, then OK.
  6. Click Close to save changes to your network connection.

Once IPv6 is installed, IIS will automatically support IPv6 on your web server. If a website was running when you installed the IPv6 stack, you must restart the IIS service before the site begins to listen for IPv6 requests. Sites that you create after you enable IPv6 automatically listen for IPv6. Windows 2008 server should have IPv6 enabled by default.

When your Windows server is ready for IPv6, you will add IPv6 addresses to the server just as you’d add IPv4 addresses … The only difference is you will edit the properties to the Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6) network protocol.

To ready your RedHat/CentOS servers, do this:

  1. Using your favorite editor, edit /etc/sysconfig/network and enableNETWORKING_IPV6 by changing the “no” to a “yes.”

    Example:

    NETWORKING=yes
    HOSTNAME=ipv6test.yourdomain.com
    GATEWAY=10.13.40.1
    NETWORKING_IPV6=yes
  2. Next edit /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth1 to add IPv6 parameters.

    Add the following to end of the file:

    IPV6INIT=yes
    IPV6ADDR=YOURIPV6ADDRESS
    IPV6_DEFAULTGW=YOURGATEWAY

    Example:

    IPV6INIT=yes
    IPV6ADDR=2607:f0d0:2001:0000:0000:0000:0000:0010/64
    IPV6_DEFAULTGW=2607:f0d0:2001:0000:0000:0000:0000:0001
  3. Once you have successfully added your assigned IP addresses, you must restart networking with this command:
    [root@ipv6test /]# service network restart

Once you have completed these steps on your respective OS, you should be able to communicate over the IPv6 stack. To test, you can ping ipv6.google.com and see if it works.

3. Bind Your New IPv6 Address to Apache/IIS

Now that you have more IPv6 addresses for your server(s) than what’s available to the entire world in IPv4 space, you must bind them to IIS or Apache. This is done the similarly to the way you bind IPv4 addresses.

In IIS, all IPs that have been added to the system will now be available for use in the website properties. Within Apache, you will add a few directives to ensure your web servers is listening on the IPv6 stack … which brings us to a very important point when it comes to discussing IPv6. Due to the fact that it’s full of colons (:), you can’t just write out the IP as you would a 32-bit address.

IPv6 addresses must be specified in square brackets or the optional port number could not be determined. To enable Apache to listen to both stacks on separate sockets you will need to add a new “Listen” directive:

Listen [::]:80
Listen 0.0.0.0:80

And for your Virtual Hosts, the will look like this:


ServerAdmin webmaster@yourdomain.com
DocumentRoot /www/docs/ipv6test.yourdomain.com
ServerName ipv6test.yourdomain.com
ErrorLog logs/ipv6test.yourdomain.com-error_log
TransferLog logs/ipv6test.yourdomain.com-access_log

4. Add Addresses to DNS

The final step in getting up and running is to add your new IPv6 addresses to your DNS server. If you’re using a IPv6 enabled DNS server, you will simply insert an ‘AAAA’ resource record (aka quad-A record) for your host.

5. Test Your Server’s IPv6 Accessibility

While your DNS is propagating, you can still test your webserver to see if it responds to the IP you assigned by using square brackets in your browser: http://[2101:db8::a00:200f:fda7:00ea]

This test, of course, will only work if your computer is on a IPv6 network. If you are limited to IPv4, you will need sign up with a tunnel broker or switch to an ISP that offers IPv6 connectivity.

After about 24 hours, your server and new host should be ready to serve websites on the IPv6 stack.

Good luck!

 

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