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Archive for the ‘Web Hosting Reviews’ Category

Useful cPanel Features to Know About…

06 Nov

Hosting a website used to be hard work, but the invention of application based control panels changed all that. Today the most popular website hosting control panel is cPanel and, looking at its attributes, it’s not hard to see why. cPanel is:

• Easy to customise – cPanel has various themes that can be installed, or you can create your own themes and custom branding to give your cPanel a unique look.
• Effective – anything you need to do can be done with cPanel.
• Compatible – works with all web enabled GUI-based operating systems, and works on desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablets, and smartphones.
• Feature-packed – cPanel comes with a rich variety of pre-configured extras that will make it easier than ever to create your dream website.

It is the last of these attributes that we’ll focus on in this article. So many of the features in cPanel are immediately useful whether you are a seasoned website host or a complete novice.

1. Set up and manage email accounts
Even if you haven’t got a website yet, you can start making the most of your domain name right away by ensuring all your staff have professional email addresses. That’s the most basic step and probably the first thing every new website owner will take care of first.

You have access to all the email functions through the email section on cPanel. You’ll find all the various features are grouped into these collapsible sections, which makes it easy to control what you see on the screen. Some cPanel themes even allow you to drag and drop the sections to the order you want them to appear in.
Obviously before you can do anything else, you’ll need at least one email account to work with. You access this through the Email Accounts link. The default option allows you to add a new email account, as shown below:

It’s all very self-explanatory. Once you have at least one email account on your domain, it’s then possible to use the other email functions. The primary things you can do with email include:
• Routing – you’ll need this feature if you’re going with a non-standard configuration, such as if you are receiving or sending emails through a third party system.
• Filtering – you can create rules for how the server should respond to incoming messages based on the sender, subject, or other criteria. Filtering at the server level can be preferable in most cases, because it prevents unwanted messages being downloaded to your devices, saving you bandwidth.
• Authentication – DKIM is an authentication technology that attempts to automatically verify the sender of an incoming email message to help protect you from spam. SPF is used to authenticate your outgoing messages to help avoid spam messages being sent out through your domain. It’s recommended to leave these settings on, but they may block messages that don’t fit the rules.
• Encryption – You can create and use PGP keys to use with your emails.
• Forwarders – you can automatically forward incoming messages to another domain.
• Autoresponders – these are used for automatically replying to an incoming email. These should be used with some caution because there are times when automated responses are appropriate and times when they are not.

2. File Management
Most of the time it’s more efficient to use FTP for managing files on your server, but when you just need to do a quick fix, the built in file manager of cPanel is there for you. You will find this in the Files section. Everything works very similarly to a desktop file manager like Windows Explorer, Thunar, etc. There is a very small learning curve, but once you understand how it all works, it will be an additional string to your server management bow.

3. Image Management
If you’ve uploaded a batch of image files to the server, you can save some time on common image processing tasks by allowing cPanel to automate those tasks. You’ll find the image managing tools in the Files section under Images.

The tools available include:
• Thumbnailer – automatically generate thumbnail versions of all the images in a directory.
• Scaler – if you forgot to scale your images to be server friendly before uploading, this tool will allow you to do that.
• Converter – if you uploaded your images in the wrong format, use the converter to change them to the correct format.
There are other ways to perform these tasks, but being able to do it directly on the server can save you some time and effort.

4. Domain Management
This is one of the more advanced features, and you’re more likely to need to use it when you have multiple domains to manage through one account. As an example, you may have created a domain for your local business, widgets.co.ie for example, and another domain to cater for international audiences (this allows you to tailor your content specifically for Irish visitors on one domain, using local expressions that may not be well understood outside of Ireland).

You can make one of your domains a subdomain or add-on domain for the other. For example, widgets.co.ie might be an add-on domain of widgets.com, and while they each are independent, they can be managed from a single access point and can easily share resources.
It’s important to understand the difference between subdomains and add-on domains. A subdomain is really just a directory within a domain that can be used to help visitors go to the right location easily.
For example, mcdu.equicom.net is a subdomain of equicom.net, and can be accessed just as easily by typing equicom.net/mcdu – the important part is that it’s not a separate domain even though the content can be completely distinct from the main website content.
An add-on domain is very different. This does require purchasing an additional domain name, and allows you to host the content for more than one domain in the same server space.
Another type of domain hosting is a parked domain or alias, which is where you use more than one domain name to point to the same location. This also involves purchasing an additional domain, but unlike add-on domains and subdomains, you don’t create a separate directory for the content.

5. Database Management
Not every site needs a database, but if yours does you will find all the tools you need in cPanel. Creating a new database can be done with the MySQL Wizard, and then you can do all the database operations by accessing phpMyAdmin.

6. Security Management
Keeping your websites secure should always be a top priority, and cPanel certainly provides plenty of tools to help you do that. Using the cPanel security tools you can install an SSL certificate, block access from certain IP address ranges known to be malicious or undesirable, protect assets on your site from hotlinking and leeching, and set up SSH access.

7. Site Backup Management
In addition to the ordinary security procedures, which help keep your site safe from attack, it’s still the most sensible precaution to make regular backups just in case a problem does cause something on your site to break.

cPanel provides many tools to make it simple to back up and restore your site using either manual or automated processes. The learning curve here is a bit steeper than for most of the other tasks you might do in cPanel.
The first option is the simplest. From here you can download the most recent incremental backups made on your server, which is a simple archive file in tarball format (.tar.gz)which most modern archiving programs can unpack.
File Backups is away to restore individual files that have somehow changed in an undesired way. This saves some time because only the one file that needs restoring will be restored.
Using Cron Job Backups is not something most people will want to bother with. Cron is a Linux and Unix task scheduler.
DNS Zone Backups are just the same as Full Backups but on a multi-domain site you can specify that you only want one of your domains restored.
Using the Database Backups feature, you can backup and restore databases, but only if you have set your system to already backup databases separately to the rest of the site (which is not really necessary).
The effectiveness of Email Backups depends on how often you download your email messages and remove them from the server. Obviously messages that are not on the server when the backup occurs will not get backed up on the server.
SSL Certificate Backups are simply a backup of the SSL certificate for a domain, if one exists. This feature is a security tool to be used in case somebody gains access to your site and replaces the proper SSL certificate with a fake one.

8. Softaculous Software Installer
We saved the best for last. With Softaculous, you get access to many of the hottest titles in web application software. While it’s certainly possible to install each application individually without using Softaculous, you won’t normally want to do it that way because it would involve a lot of extra work and configuration.
When you use Softaculous, everything is configured automatically, tailored for your own website. Many site owners don’t realise it, but Softaculous contains such a wide range of software, there is pretty much everything you could ever need for any business purpose.

In fact, with Softaculous, you be able to eliminate a lot of your present software licensing costs, because you can replace the offline software you use in your office with online software you run from your web server.
Just to give you a small taste of what you can expect from Softaculous:
• All the big name CMS packages are present, including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and many more. Using a CMS is not strictly necessary, but if you do want to use one, it’s good to know that it is so easy to install directly onto your site this easily.
• There are powerful mainstream e-Commerce packages too, including PrestaShop, Magento, Zen Cart, BoxBilling, and more.
• You also have access to some less mainstream commerce packages that are perfect for specific niches. For example, boost a real estate website with the Open Real Estate package, keep track of hotel bookings with Booked, or run a tech support business with Vision Helpdesk.
• For bigger businesses there are enterprise level tools including ERP and Project Management solutions. Many of these have a clear focus on IT businesses, while others are more general in nature. Feng Office is probably the most general of the available options in project management. There are ERP tools for CRM (YetiForce, SugarCRM, Vtiger, etc), accounting (FrontAccounting, Akaunting, WebERP), HRM (OrangeHRM, Jorani), and collaboration (EGroupware, GroupOffice, Tine, etc).
• Educational organisations will also find software aimed mainly at their industry, including classics like Moodle, Chamilo, ATutor, TCExam, eLabFTW, and many others.
• There are also tools for hosting video collections, music, social media platforms, multiplayer games, and even personal cloud storage solutions (eg. OwnCloud, NextCloud, etc).
In total there are 25 categories with over 400 individual applications to choose from, and also the SitePad website builder for those who don’t have a preference for developing sites in HTML.
Concluding remarks
With all these built in features, and quite a few additional ones that aren’t covered above, you may expect cPanel to be hard to use, but in truth it is exceptionally easy. It’s built more for functionality than beauty, but everything just works.
While using cPanel is very easy, there is plenty of documentation to help, and for those who want to truly master the technology there is even a cPanel University where you can learn every detail and get the credentials to prove it.
Because cPanel is the most popular web hosting control panel by a very large margin, learning to use it is one of those skills that will always be a genuine asset.
Most importantly, cPanel empowers anyone (regardless of technical ability) to effectively manage a website easily.

 

How to Choose a Hosting Package

24 Apr

If you’re making your first expedition into hosting your own website, you’ve come to the right article for advice. We’re not going to make any assumptions here about what you already know, so you’ll get all the information you need to help make getting started as smooth as possible.
Look at features first, then the cost
This is a really important point. Cost is not a good indicator of what you’re going to get for your money.

Even though the features-to-price equation is generally true in terms of getting value, do be careful not to pay extra for features you’ll never use.

The most important features are:
Disk space – more is better. You need enough space for all the web pages (structure + program code + CSS + content (text, images and video)), plus space for extra things such as databases and email.
Bandwidth – more is better. Most hosting plans will have more than enough bandwidth to get you started off, and how much you actually need depends on how popular your site is going to become and the type of content you’re hosting. Bandwidth is the total amount of data uploaded and downloaded from your site per month by all the visitors, including yourself.
Support options – more is better. This is especially true when you’re just starting out, but it’s actually also true for every web hosting customer. Quality of the support is also a factor, and that’s something we’ll discuss in detail in just a moment.
Payment options – more is better. Good web hosts make it easy to pay your hosting bill, offering you a choice in how, when, and how much you pay for your services.

Choose a good web hosting service
Many people misunderstand the importance of size when choosing a web host. The vital thing to know is that you don’t necessarily want to go with the biggest and most popular hosting service. That’s a strange thing to say, so let’s take a moment to explain what it means.
Normally, popularity is a good thing, but web-hosting services are a special case where this is not necessarily true.
This is because the resources available for hosted sites on any one provider are finite. Quality of service can be expected to decrease when the number of customers gets large enough to exceed the resources available to support that number.

You can imagine how the popularity of a host (and the popularity of the sites it hosts) impacts negatively on the quality and performance that can be provided by the available resources.

Here is why it happens:
• Competition for computing resources. Each server (or server cluster) has a limited amount of CPU, RAM and disk space available. Hosting companies always need to have purchase or lease more servers than they need in order to support the number of customers they have, and high quality servers are very expensive.
• Competition for bandwidth. Websites receive traffic from human visitors, web crawling “robots” that index pages in search engines, and from internal activities. Every email, picture, video, piece of text content, and line of program code connected to any one site is eating into the bandwidth limit.
• Competition for support resources. This may be the most crucial point of all. The quality and performance of site support must decrease if the hosting company is too popular.

In order to ensure you get adequate support, what you need to do is choose a hosting company that is large enough to provide the infrastructure you need, but still small enough to be able to dedicate personal attention to you and your needs.
A good example is Hosting Ireland, which is a very popular choice for business customers, but has not grown to the extent that it no longer provides personal support from its own staff. That means more personal support that is tailored to you, and gives your problems an appropriate amount of attention.
Many larger companies cut some of their support options, farm their support services out to third party services, and/or limit the amount of time any support worker can dedicate to resolving any one particular issue.

Choose the right hosting type
The lowest cost hosting option is shared hosting. This allocates the resources of a single server among many customers, keeping costs down and still providing adequate performance to meet the needs of smaller sites with lower bandwidth and performance needs.
The very best hosting option, which obviously also costs the most, is dedicated hosting, where the resources of a server are dedicated solely to one hosting customer.
In between these two extremes there is an option called a Virtual Private Server (VPS), which combines some of the cost savings of shared hosting with most of the advantages of dedicated hosting. There is still some competition for computing and bandwidth resources, but you are also more isolated from other customers on the same server and have full control and autonomy over the management of your server space.
Which one you should choose depends on the size of your business and the volume of traffic you expect to be handling. For most small to medium businesses, VPS or shared hosting should meet their needs comfortably, and a good web host should make it easy to upgrade if your needs expand to a higher level.

Linux or Windows?
Unless you need the features supported by a Windows server, most business and personal sites will be better off with a Linux server. This simplifies your hosting, costs less, and provides the most flexible range of options.
Regular hosting or WordPress hosting?
Some hosting customers decide they want to use a particular technology such as WordPress, and then buy a hosting package that limits their choice so that WordPress is the only thing they’re able to use. That can become a problem if you later find that you need to do other things with your site.
So while “WordPress hosting” may sound like something you might want, it really isn’t the best choice in the majority of cases.
Good hosting services make installing WordPress really easy, and you can always pay somebody to do that for you if you really need to.

Hosting Ireland provides web hosting with a website control panel called CPanel, and one of the many features of CPanel is an installer system called Softaculous.
Using this installer, you can install WordPress very easily, but you’ll still have full server control through your CPanel to do other things like administrate email, create your own custom MySQL databases, and manage other site features more easily.

 

Why Hosting in Ireland is a Better Choice for Irish Business…

22 Jan

All around the world, right at this very moment, there are thousands of companies competing for the chance to host your website. Some of these companies are offering great deals, and some of them are offering deals that are not quite as good as they may seem.
It’s really important to understand that choosing a web host is not a choice that should be made lightly. Making the right choice is important from the outset, because wrong choices are often difficult and costly to correct.
One pointer we can give you that should definitely be part of your consideration is that if your business is based in Ireland, it will be genuinely to your advantage to choose an Irish hosting service for your website.

Advantages of hosting in Ireland
There are many advantages to hosting your website in Ireland if your business is based in Ireland. Here is just a short list of a few of those advantages:
Connect with your customers faster. Most Irish businesses do most of their business in Ireland with Irish customers. When your site is hosted in Ireland, clients connect to your website in the shortest number of hops. It may not be a large difference, but it does make a difference.
Better privacy. Irish law provides better privacy protection for individuals and corporations than many other countries, including the UK and the United States. When your Irish customers connect to your website entirely within Ireland, the communication has the full protection of Irish law.
Better accountability. If your web host is located in a distant land, there is not much you can do about it if you’re not happy with the service they’ve provided to you, or if they’ve misrepresented themselves. If your host is located in Ireland, however, you can just as easily take them to court as any other Irish corporation. You can hold Irish web hosts to the promises they make to you.
Local business hours. Irish web hosts are on the same clock you are. Not every Irish web host provides technical support in-house, however, so it’s important to make sure of this before you commit to any particular host.
Local location. If your data centre is located in Dubai, Darwin, or Dallas, you will normally have to take on faith any claims they make about infrastructure or personnel. If your data centre is located in Dublin, Derry, or Dooliehikle, however, you can simply drive there and see for yourself.
Local language. Irish web hosts speak your language, including understanding local idioms and colloquial phrases.
Simpler billing and taxation. The tax situation in Europe can be mind-boggling. When your business and your web host are both located in Ireland, something magical happens. All the complexity of taxation and billing is smoothed out, so it’s easy to understand and provides maximum benefit to you.
As you can see, there are many reasons why it can be an advantage to choose a web host based in Ireland for your Irish business.

Comparison of Irish vs American web hosts
Top US Hosts by Rank
1. GoDaddy
2. 1and1
3. HostGator
4. BlueHost

Top Irish Hosts by Rank
1. Hosting Ireland
2. Blacknight Solutions
3. MyHost
4. LetsHost

Being popular and being worthy of that popularity are two different things. A good web host is one that can provide value for money, where the selling price is an important component of that value, but not the only one.
Overall you can determine value from the combination of price, features, support, and annoyances. If your web host can deliver minimum annoyances while providing good features, excellent support, and an affordable price, then you could assume it is providing value. On the other hand if it lets you down in any of those areas, you could assume it is not providing value.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the top providers:

GoDaddy


GoDaddy appears to be all about volume. The low selling price brings customers in, and what usually has those same customers swearing through their teeth moments later is all the bundled deals they find themselves having to opt out of during the checkout process. That checkout process is also frustratingly complex.
All in all, GoDaddy is a service that should be fine for those who know what they’re doing, but most of those who know what they’re doing avoid this hosting service because there’s too much advertising getting in the way at every step.
Probably the most complained about issue regarding GoDaddy is the aggressive use of policy to make money from customers who slip up. Sure, it’s the customer’s responsibility to pay on time and to be aware of their obligations, but very few legitimate web hosts enforce policy as strictly as GoDaddy does.
The best thing that can be said for GoDaddy is that it’s a company that isn’t going anywhere. With over 43 million registered domains, GoDaddy is a living testament to the power of marketing.

Hosting Ireland

Here in Ireland, it’s hardly surprising that the number one website host for popularity is Hosting Ireland. The very reasonable price is the first thing to catch the eye, but by no means the only reason to stick around and investigate further.
What we find with this hosting provider is rock steady performance, stellar customer service, excellent technical support, and a flexible range of options that is not too complex.
Behind the scenes, there’s none of that custom interface nonsense, just all the most desirable features any decent web hosting provider should have available, including an unmolested version of cPanel.
cPanel, makes site management easy, with most functions reduced to simple point and click processes, with minimal input requirements and plenty of automation to assist you.
Through your cPanel interface you’ll also have access to Softaculous, which allows you to easily install applications according to the individual needs of your site. In total there are over 390 applications available to you at no extra cost.
Hosting Ireland also allows you to upgrade or downgrade your site easily as your needs evolve. This is great because you’ll only be paying for what you need, and you can start off with a low cost solution to help you get on your feet, then expand when you’re ready.
Hosting Ireland is thoroughly Irish, with data centres located in Dublin. Websites hosted with this provider will have an Irish IP address, and also will provide lightning fast connections for users visiting the site from Ireland.
Exhaustive searching failed to turn up any rants against this hosting provider, so it seems a fair bet that you’ll be in good hands with Hosting Ireland as your site host.

1&1

Over 3 million people call 1&1 home, and with websites starting from USD $0.99 per month, it’s not hard to see why the company has gained a high level of popularity. That popularity was in a steady decline since 2015 before suddenly nose-diving in 2017.
So what’s actually going on? It turns out that quite a number of people have been complaining about receiving unexpected charges after signing up for the ultra-cheap hosting plans. The issue is that people are given add-on packages they have no recollection of having requested.
It all comes down to a tiny opt-in box which is “helpfully” pre-selected for the user when they subscribe, but unfortunately it seems most users never even notice it. Then after the first 12 months at $0.99 per month, the price jumps to $7.99 per month.
In the past, it was easy for certain types of companies to get away with all kinds of things, but with the social media scene being what it is today, those days are long gone.
Apart from these issues over billing, most publicly posted complaints and negative user reviews have focused on customer support, which is rarely described in flattering terms.
Of the user reviews we tracked down, over 85% were describing the service as less than satisfactory, while only around 6.2% were positive.
For customers in Ireland it could be a problem to communicate with this provider, because according to user reviews, some services can only be cancelled by phone. There is only a US telephone number, and reportedly long holding times.

Blacknight Solutions

If you’re feeling nostalgic, the site design of Blacknight will take you right back to the early 90s. Enjoy.
The packages on offer are almost as good as those offered by Hosting Ireland, except the bandwidth offered by Blacknight is limited where Hosting Ireland has unlimited bandwidth, and the most expensive plan from Blacknight offers 10GB less disk space than the most expensive from Hosting Ireland.
It’s hardly fair to make the comparison entirely on price, however. There could be other factors that help Blacknight gain some ground. So let’s take a deeper look.
Hosting Ireland provides Softaculous as part of the cPanel suite that comes with every site hosting package from Hosting Ireland, and that gives you access to more than 390 of the most popular applications of interest to website owners.
Blacknight eschews these popular technologies, opting instead for white label solutions they call the “Blacknight Customer Control Panel” and “Blacknight Application Vault” which contains around 20 of the most popular applications.
That does matter if you’re an experienced hosting customer who is familiar with cPanel and needs any of the applications not included in the Blacknight Application Vault. Of course you can still use any applications that will work on your chosen server type, but any that aren’t in the Blacknight Application Vault will have to be manually installed and configured by you.
Customer support is very good with many options available for users. Overall the hosting service offered by Blacknight Solutions is reasonable value, but slightly below that offered by Hosting Ireland, mainly due to offering slightly less for around the same prices.

HostGator

Names don’t come much more American than “HostGator”, and this is one of the oldest surviving hands in the game. HostGator’s market share has been in decline since 2014, crashing from a peak of almost 3.3 million hosted domains to just under 2.5 million by the end of 2017.
Some of the mystery surrounding this slump may be cleared up if it’s understood that HostGator was bought up by the same company that bought GoDaddy and BlueHost, the standards of all three having noticeably slipped since before they were bought.
HostGator plans start from $3.95 per month. These are cPanel based hosting solutions, but the normal market that HostGator attracts is experienced site owners who don’t need a lot of help to get going.
If you’re just starting out, HostGator is probably not an ideal choice. Customer service was never especially strong at HostGator, but the latest user reviews reflect that the situation has taken a turn for the worse.

MyHost

One of the oldest of the surviving Irish hosting companies, it continues to be popular, though in some ways may feel a bit antiquated.
The very generic web design of the company’s own home page will be enough to put off many potential customers, but they’re actually not bad at all.
Where you may find fault is the higher pricing compared to most other Irish hosts (possibly seen as a perk of “seniority”), and that by now they’ll be hosting a lot of large, cumbersome, big business sites.
If you’re not sure why that would be a factor, actually there are two reasons. The first is simply that hosting too many sites, especially sites that have been around for more than a decade, is likely to have an impact on page loading times.
The second reason is that, as the American examples have shown, when hosts have too many clients, customer service is often the first casualty. Support staff in larger organizations often don’t have time to provide quality support, and priority is usually given to revenue collection.
MyHost uses Plesk instead of cPanel, and that’s OK, but would make it more difficult to migrate to another hosting service in the future if you needed to.
This Irish hosting provider is quite business-oriented, which is a good thing. The concern is that with this host you’re paying a bit more to get a bit less, and that’s just not good economics.

BlueHost

With good uptime, fast page loading, cheap prices, and plenty of integrated features, BlueHost offers customers quite a lot of bang for their buck (as the Americans would say).
On the subject of money, all is not as it may seem on the pricing front. BlueHost hooks customers with a low introductory price, but that price jumps up after the introductory period expires, and by a considerable amount.
Also on the negative side, many customer complaints searchable online are concerned with the quality of customer support, which is described in very colourful terms by some customers.
It can be a nightmare trying to migrate a BlueHost site built in WordPress to another hosting service, because of the custom interface used.
Migrating in the other direction can be even worse, since most website hosts offer free inbound site migration, while BlueHost currently charges a whopping US $149.99 to bring your site in from another hosting service.
BlueHost also emails former customers with marketing emails long after they have ceased to be customers, which some people may find to be annoying.

LetsHost

LetsHost is a solid contender with reasonably priced packages, though they’re a little less generous than they could be when it comes to allocating storage space.
Just like Hosting Ireland, this is a company that takes pride in being 100 percent Irish, with Irish servers, and Irish tech support. A check did show that in fact the IP address of LetsHost may indicate a UK location (78.137.164.43), whereas Hosting Ireland has a fully Irish IP (91.210.232.211).

This is definitely of some concern if you care about the claims a hosting service makes, and it’s also worth pointing out that under these conditions one of the advantages of Irish hosting could be lost when hosting with LetsHost.
That advantage is being protected by Irish law and European Union law, which is in full effect when your site is 100% hosted in Ireland and routes all traffic through Irish servers. With LetsHost having a UK presence, and routing traffic through Amsterdam and the US, you are not guaranteed the full protection of Irish and European Union laws.
Otherwise there is plenty about the service from LetsHost that looks good. Tech support is top notch according to searchable customer reviews, and the website plans are decent.
One minor quibble about the plans offered is the price jumps too sharply between the different plans, which means when you’re ready to upgrade from a “Starter” site to a “Business” site, your monthly bills would rise by more than 300 percent, while your storage space would only double.
Meanwhile somehow your tech support entitlements change from “full” to “priority”. Not sure what you think, but last time we checked the dictionary, “full” actually meant full, as in total access to tech support, not being stuck in a queue behind people with a Business level account.

What does all this tell us?
It’s clear that the most popular American hosting providers have become victims of their own popularity, in many cases seeming to be unable to provide adequate levels of tech support and customer service simply as a result of their immense size, and in some cases having policies that do not inspire confidence in their customers.
Irish web hosts have some key advantages, and one of the most obvious is their location close to home. Apart from that however, they’re smaller, which means more time to give you personal attention and there is much less strain on their server hardware, even when a service is popular.
Indeed customer reviews for American services and Irish services couldn’t be more different in their nature. The majority of reviews from users with regard to the most popular Irish services have solid praise for the customer service and tech support people receive, while the American reviews, well… not so much.
However if you want to ensure you get the full advantage that comes from choosing an Irish host, you do need to take some care to verify that a company really is as Irish as it claims to be.
There is no real economic advantage to choosing a foreign hosting service, because Irish hosting services are generally now so affordable. Yet there are so many advantages to choosing a truly Irish web hosting service it hardly makes sense to choose anything other than a genuine Irish hosting company to serve the needs of your Irish business.

 

Could One Of These eCommerce Hosting Options Be For You….?

01 Mar


Image Credit: CWCS (CC BY 2.0)
The first thing to be aware of when shopping around for eCommerce hosting services is that actually any hosting service can support eCommerce. What this means is that if you’re being given the option to pay a little more for specific eCommerce hosting instead of regular hosting, you need to look very carefully at what additional value or benefits are being provided to justify the extra cost.

Once you’re satisfied that it’s a genuinely good deal, you then need to consider whether it’s the best one to meet your needs. Sometimes the most popular services are not always the best, so it’s important to evaluate each and every one on their merits and not simply make the choice based on the fact that it’s a popular service.

With that in mind, we review three of the most widely used eCommerce hosting services in this article, and the results are shown below.

1. Shopify
This is the most popular eCommerce hosting services around, and is aimed at complete beginners to eCommerce.

Shopify has a lot of good points, such as:

• Simple to set up an online store
• Provides an integrated payment gateway and you can pay to add others
• Hosting is genuinely fast and reliable
• The basic service is PCI compliant
• Analytics are built into the system
• Customer support is typically good (can vary, depending on who you talk with)
• Large amount of documentation and resources available
• Everything you need in one place
• Does not charge for bandwidth
• Shared SSL certificate provided by default
• Abandoned cart recovery available – annoy your ‘almost’ customers to your heart’s content

The negatives may include:

• Need a verified credit card to sign up for a free trial
• High cost compared to regular hosting
• Charges transaction fees in addition to the subscription fee (may be waived)
• Uses “themes”, which limits you a bit if you prefer to design the site yourself
• Uses a custom markup language which should not be necessary
• Each product can only have 3 options to select from
• Difficult to migrate from Shopify to another service, due to the way it’s all set up
• Chargeback policy should be more transparent – too many are confused by it
• No adjudication or dispute handling system between merchants and buyers
• Difficult to integrate with other eCommerce options (eBay, Amazon, etc)
• Allegations of fund locking and store cancellations based on suspicion
• Consumers may not realise they have to actively cancel the free trial to avoid being charged
• Forces EU VAT compliance on digital goods (may not be negative, if you live in the EU or intend to travel there).

To get your transaction fees waived, you must use “Shopify Payments”, which is only available to customers with a verified US, Canadian, Australian or UK address. Tough luck if you were born in Mobile but you now live in Mombasa.

2. Volusion
When a service provides a lot of documentation, it’s usually a good sign. Except, when like Volusion, they provide way too much documentation. Aside from the fact that it would be very difficult to read all of it, the sheer volume is indicative to the new user that they will be in for a difficult time as they try to become familiar with the system.

Positives of Volusion include:

• Does not charge transaction fees
• Subscription fee is slightly lower than Shopify
• Very fast loading times
• Unique SSL certificate mandatory
• Simple and intuitive interface (does not equate to easy set-up, however)
• Excellent integrated inventory management
• ‘Volusion Payments’ seem not to be restricted by nationality
• Simpler chargeback management than Shopify (but maybe not always)

Negative points include:

• Charges for bandwidth
• No simple way to view bandwidth consumption
• Fewer apps compared to Shopify
• Fewer themes compared to Shopify
• Only some themes use responsive design
• Uses themes, which is limiting if you like to create your own design
• Created with ASP.Net, meaning they run it on Windows servers
• Added annual cost of SSL certificate
• Sometimes charge unexpected fees without notice or warning
• Google accused Volusion of link manipulation
• Requires some technical proficiency to get best results
• Very difficult to migrate to another service
• Stupid name

For the small business customer, there are too many negatives to justify the investment. Capped bandwith with no simple way to view bandwidth consumption is the biggest problem, but there’s also a number of other things, such as the extra coding and configuration you’ll be required to do before you can get up and running.

For big business, the absence of transaction fees, the ability to do everything on your own domain seamlessly, and the high speed network may be enough to offset these frustrations. If you can get past the stupid name, you’re doing a lot better than many others.

It may sound like this review is being rough on Volusion, but not nearly as rough as these guys are being, so you can make up your own mind about whether Volusion is a good investment of time and money for you.

3. BigCommerce
This system is just a baby in comparison to Volusion and Shopify, but they are big in every other way. Providing very similar services, but in what feels like a more personal way.

Pros of setting up your shop with Big Commerce:

• No transaction fees, period
• Integrated card processing gateway
• No bandwidth limits or capping
• Huge range of features from the outset, you don’t need to keep adding extras
• The friendliest, happiest user education system of all, through “BigCommerce University”
• The education provided is detailed, informative, and very on-point
• Fast (but not Shopify or Volusion fast)
• Everything works really well, you don’t need to be a technical expert to get a simple store working
• Abandoned cart notifications, so you can be a pest to customers who don’t complete their purchase
• Customer service is very professional and efficient – they care about retaining existing customers
• Plenty of support options
• Not locked in to templates. You can use the templates provided, modify them with plain HTML/CSS or build your own templates. This is not found at Shopify (where you have to learn a whole new markup language) or Volusion (where “customisation” is a foreign word not in their vocabulary).

Cons of setting up shop with BigCommerce:

• Inventory management is inferior to Volusion, roughly on par with Shopify
• Fewer add-ons available than with Shopify or Volusion
• Lowest cost is higher than lowest cost on Shopify or Volusion, but also is high value
• Difficult to migrate out from the platform to something else
• Takes a long time to learn every possible thing which is why there’s so much support
• Some customers have complained about volatile policy

The real plus with BigCommerce for developers and people with any sort of technical skills is that BigCommerce is the most open system with regard to allowing you to customise things to your heart’s content. By not locking you into templates or themes and allowing you to code directly in ordinary PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, it is the most flexible of the three systems reviewed here.

For the non-technical, there’s no problem at all, as everything will work very simply without you needing to learn any hocus pocus, but on the other hand if you do want to make adjustments, anybody you hire to do the job will be able to do it because it’s straightforward coding.

BigCommerce is also somewhat of a standout because they have the least number of people calling them crooks compared to the other two top services. Of course this doesn’t mean the other two services are crooks, it just means there are a lot of people saying that they are. You may find some reassurance in knowing that the eCommerce host you select hasn’t drawn a considerable amount of public hostility

The verdict
All things considered, it really depends what you’re looking for. As a beginner, and needing only a simple online store, Shopify may fill your needs easily.

Volusion does have some strengths, especially for big businesses who can absorb high operating costs, but that issue of charging high overage rates on bandwidth coupled with the fact that there’s no simple way to monitor the bandwidth consumption, makes it difficult to recommend Volusion for the small business operator.

Point-for-point, BigCommerce provides the best value for money to the merchant, and provides outstanding customer support and documentation. Ironically, BigCommerce seems to be the best choice for small businesses that are serious about committing to eCommerce and are willing to go beyond the basics

 

WordPress Hosting for Beginners Explained….

06 Sep

 

What is Web Hosting? Explained in 60 Seconds…

06 May

We really liked this, hosting kept simple!

 

How To Make a WordPress Website – 2015

15 Sep

 

Google’s New Algorithm Makes Mobile Site Responsive Key Feature for Web Hosting

10 Apr

Google has announced that as of April 21st, mobile-friendliness will be a part of the search engine giant’s algorithm for determining result page rankings. In response to the growing number of internet users conducting searches with mobile devices, Google intends to improve user experience by favoring sites that are optimally structured for viewing on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. According to the official Google WebMaster’s blog, websites will earn a mobile-friendly tag beneath their SERP listing if they don’t require the use of horizontal scrolling, rely on mobile-compatible software, don’t require use of the zoom function, and have easily clickable links.

To meet these criteria, existing websites must be specifically outfitted for mobile viewing. Websites of all sizes, from e-commerce, to small business, to blogging sites, should take this algorithmic change seriously, this change will directly impact a site’s ranking. Not only will Google be less favorable to sites that aren’t mobile friendly, user experience is hindered when sites aren’t compatible, hurting site traffic and ranking even further.

With Google’s new algorithm, the best way to quickly and efficiently make a site suitable for mobile use is through the mobile site builder packages or mobile responsive-design services from a web hosting provider, says Danny Johananoff, Founder and CEO of web hosting comparison site Pickuphost.com. This also means that website owners seeking out new hosting companies should place high priority upon those with mobile site builder packages or conversion services.

According to Johananoff, creating a mobile-friendly site through a hosting provider is advantageous because:

It’s cost-effective. Hosting providers that offer these services typically cost less than hiring a professional design team to complete the backend work necessary for mobile-responsiveness or mobile site creation.
It can be user-implemented. Depending on a website’s level of complexity, websites can be created for mobile use by site owners themselves through easy-to-use builder applications.
Users can leverage customizable design templates for expedited launching. For those interested in building a mobile website from scratch, services offered from hosting providers make creating a well-designed mobile site simple.
However, not all hosting providers currently offer mobile site builders or mobile responsive services, and those that do may not offer the extent of services needed to earn Google’s mobile-friendly distinction. As Johananoff notes, site owners will need to do their due diligence to find the hosting provider with the right offerings.

 

Safer Internet Day 2015 – Today!

10 Feb

 

DNS (Domain Name System) for Beginners

03 Dec