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Every Click is a Race: Win with SSDs

Your website should look good, be engaging, and have all the functions necessary for your business. It should work on all different browsers, and be responsive to mobile and desktop use. If it is not fast, however, then none of these positive characteristics will keep it from being a source of cost and frustration.

Consumers are incredibly impatient with web page load times. According to research from behavioral analytics platform Kissmetrics, 40 percent of online shoppers abandon a website after waiting three seconds for it to load. Perhaps even worse, a site which is perceived as not functioning may create an impression that the company is not maintaining it, or has even ceased operation.

Website performance is a product of many different factors, but one which you can influence by selecting a web host that uses quality hardware to run your site. Legacy hard disk drive (HDD) servers are gradually being replaced by solid state drive (SSD) servers industry-wide. As the change occurs, businesses running their websites on SSD hosting are on the right side of a critical split in website performance.

What is the difference?

HDDs are the original method of fixed digital data storage for personal computers and data center servers alike. They generally include magnetic or optical storage discs, which spin at thousands of rotations per minute, which data is written to and read from. The reading and writing is done by “heads” which move to operate on the relevant portion of each disc.

SSDs, by contrast, do not contain moving parts. TechTarget describes SSDs as “an array of semiconductor memory organized as a disk drive, using integrated circuits.” The technology is similar to a larger, more complex USB memory stick. They are faster than HDDs because the actions are performed entirely at the electronic level by the SSD’s embedded processor, which happens almost instantaneously. In contrast, an HDD must physically move the read-write head on a mechanical arm to the specific location of a certain disc to perform an action. Faster data retrieval leads to shorter web page load times.

Target page load time should actually be much lower than three seconds. Target page loading speeds have been explored in the KnownHost blog before, with the conclusion that an appropriate goal is a half-second from click to page-load completion.

Your Site’s Reputation

The most negative impact from a potential customer abandoning your website may be the snowball effect that it creates. A page that is abandoned before it loads not only loses any potential sales, it also generates none of the social media shares or referrals which are so crucial to the growth of any business.

The performance of a business’ website is one of the most important aspects of any brand. Allowing your business’ site to load slowly is the equivalent to hiring slow or unresponsive employees for your store or office. Customers will notice, and even those whose overall experiences are positive may be tempted to consider other options next time.

Not only does SSD storage help sites load faster, it also helps maintain brand image by reducing the chance of disruption caused by hardware failure, because SSD servers tend to last significantly longer than their HDD counterparts. Plus there are reduced energy consumption and cooling requirements making SSD storage more “green” to operate.

A service provider like KnownHost that leverages the most advanced technology, including SSD storage, helps protect your website’s performance, and by extension your brand. Further optimizing your site’s performance to bring page load times down to half of a second may not be easy, but it can have a major impact on online engagement, and ultimately business success.

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The Importance of Keeping WordPress Up to Date

WordPress is the world’s leading content management system (CMS), and powers roughly 25 percent of all the websites on the internet, from personal blogs to Forbes and the BBC. It’s popular because of the combination of simple functionality and complex capabilities. Its widespread use is enabled by plugins, widgets and themes created by a robust community of developers. These add-ons are easily integrated by WordPress users to customize their sites for their specific needs.

The strength of WordPress also gives rise to one of its main criticisms; that it is difficult to maintain functionality and security, because of all the parts that must be kept up to date. The criticism is not baseless, as the global wave of breaches and website hacks has touched the quarter of the internet powered by WordPress. It would be more accurate to say that WordPress must be maintained properly to preserve functionality and security, and the various parts can make that difficult for individual users to do. If WordPress and its add-ons are kept up to date, it is an incredibly powerful platform. If they are not regularly updated, vulnerabilities are discovered and exploited, particularly in plugins, but also in the WordPress core.

Why It’s Important

WordPress updates extend its capabilities, integrate new technologies, address performance issues and fix security vulnerabilities. In the event of critical vulnerabilities, a temporary patch is issued to close it, pending the next full update.

All elements of the platform need to be kept up to date to keep them working together properly, including the core, plugins, and also tools like PHP and MySQL/MariaDB. The more of these elements are running out of date versions, and the more out of date they are, the more likely and severe performance and security problems are likely to be. Research by website security firm Sucuri indicates that the majority of hacked WordPress installations (55 percent) are running out-of-date software.

Administrators of websites suffering a breach or loss of functionality generally intended to keep their WordPress instance completely up to date, but may have put off performing updates during a busy or inconvenient moment. Once the updating process is disrupted, catching up becomes increasingly critical, and potentially more difficult, as obsolete versions may stop working properly as other items are brought up to date.

What to Do

WordPress itself has been working on making things easier for site administrators, and introduced automatic background updates with WordPress version 3.7. This feature enables minor core updates such as maintenance and security releases by default.

More robust tools have been developed to automate updates, ensuring that updates will be completed as frequently as necessary without constant attention from website administrators and owners. Automating updates generally takes little or no more time than performing updates manually, so a small investment of labour will see returns very quickly, even beyond the assurance of continued performance stability and security. If there is a problem with an update, the troublesome element can be rolled back to the previous version, and updated again when the issue is resolved.

KnownHost offers an auto-updater tool with our managed WordPress hosting packages. These managed plans need not be expensive, and can make sure the WordPress core, its themes, its plugins, its scripting and database integrations are all running their most secure and stable version.

Taking advantage of these tools allows WordPress users to easily keep their websites running smoothly and securely, while spending their valuable time creating great content to engage with their audience.

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Explaining a DDoS Attack to Your Customers

How to Write an Email to Your Customers Explaining a DDoS Attack (and Why You Won’t Have to if You Choose a Host With DDoS Protection)

Unplanned outages cost the average data center $8851 per minute. That is an expensive minute. Given how huge that number already is, you don’t want the situation to become even more expensive because your customers don’t feel that they are in the loop. Acting quickly and getting out a careful, conscientious, and informative email to your customers can help you retain their business. In fact, it can even end up becoming a positive (although don’t count on it – as noted below).

 

Let’s look at the state of DDoS in 2017, the good news and the bad. Then we’ll talk about what to say to your customers if you do get hit with one.

 

2017: good news and bad news on DDoS

 

If you have fared well to this point dodging or mitigating distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, the climate is shifting rapidly, according to an ominous report released by financial consultancy Deloitte in January. The paper, the 2017 edition of “Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions,” noted that volume of a single DDoS event grew at an average rate of 30% from 2013 through 2015. However, the sort of tipping point for these assaults came in 2016, when two attacks surpassed 1 terabit per second (Tbps). Deloitte forecast that there would be more mega-attacks of that scope during 2017.

 

“Businesses of all sizes should acknowledge the growing DDoS threat and consider how best to handle attacks of these magnitudes,” Phil Everson of Deloitte UK told ComputerWorld.

 

Now, let’s look at today: was Deloitte correct? As it turns out, the attack last October on managed DNS provider Dyn is still the largest in history. That attack, brought about by the Mirai botnet (a massive DDoS tool made up of more than 100,000 Internet of Things devices), measured 1.2 Tbps at its peak. That is our good news: ginormous attacks have not become the standard and have not even been repeated individually to that same 2016 scale.

 

What’s the bad news? Analysis of the average size of distributed denial of service attacks during 2017 by various DDoS mitigation providers shows an increase of the average size. In other words, the headline-winning huge tidal waves of requests are not as much of a threat. However, what would be considered a typical attack is certainly continuing to get bigger this year.

 

4 tips to communicate with customers if a DDoS occurs

 

What can you do if your company experiences an attack? One of the trickiest aspects is communication. How should you talk to your customers if your site is being pummeled with thousands of garbage requests?

 

1.) Beware getting caught up in the “service recovery paradox.”

 

Before we talk about what to do, let’s talk about what not to do: try to exploit the situation and make the attack about your great response. It may sound cynical to even mention opportunism related to these events, but the service recovery paradox can lead organizations astray. This paradox describes a situation in which a company has a service outage, returns to service, and ends up with higher customer satisfaction than they had before the incident.

 

The evidence to back this idea? One important study came in 2006. “The art of service recovery: fact or fiction? [sic],” published in the Journal of Services Marketing, found that “effective post?recovery efforts may not only counteract bad service experiences, but may increase satisfaction beyond levels held before the service.”

 

While this idea may have some grounding, it is by no means accepted fact. Another study from 2008 that appeared in the Journal of Hospitality & Leisure Marketing looked at numerous different scenarios, finding that there was higher satisfaction after recovery in some situations; in the majority, customer satisfaction had not dropped significantly lower. The key takeaway from this study is the warning: while a strong recovery strategy can help you avoid a plummet in satisfaction, reported the researchers, it is not a sound plan to look at service recovery as a chance to boost your approval levels.

 

2.) Tailor your message

 

We will get into some of the pertinent details below; but as an overall issue, you don’t want to send out something that is so flat and sparse that it is devoid of pertinent information. In other words, you can’t just send out boilerplate text in these situations.

 

Doug Johnson of the American Bankers Association (ABA) noted that it is a good idea to include some description of the attack and what form it took (what kind of traffic was used, etc.). Also, you want to discuss what your company is doing to overcome the situation, how expensive the scenario will be, and any other impacts, said Johnson.

 

3.) Aim for the right balance

 

One key concern with cyberattacks is that you strike the appropriate balance between keeping your customers aware of the situation and not disclosing anything that could be used against you by the attackers. It is of course never worth it to give out any information that could be of particular value to the people who are trying to bring you offline – so be cautious.

 

You want to let your users know what is going on, though – after all, they rely on your services, and you want that relationship to continue. “[T]here’s great value in being able to ensure that your customers know what the nature of the attack is and how you’re responding to it and how they, themselves, can respond to it,” noted the ABA’s Johnson.

 

4.) Present information not ornamentation.

 

To get a sense of what type of information is key to include within a DDoS message, or any message related to breach or outage, we can look at the standard information technology services alert (ITS) alert from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. It is helpful to look at something so dry and bureaucratic as a public university academic procedure, since (as indicated above by the concern with opportunism) these steps should really be about information, not ornamentation.

 

The Nebraska ITS noted that a strong alert would feature three primary characteristics: they would be short, clear, and complete (not verbose, but fully stating present understanding and potential results). Nebraska’s system is actually not as dry and boring as I’ve suggested above – presenting the nitty-gritty you need to have within your notice in a catchy format, following the acronym ALERT (which can be used for planned downtime too, as noted below):

 

A – Note the APPLICATION and the issue. That’s the standard advice. In this case, what are the systems taken down? Mention the type of attack that is occurring – DDoS – and perhaps the type and volume of traffic.

L – Mention the LOCATION. Is the DDoS limited to certain applications? What is its scope?

E – Note the EVENT date and time. When did the DDoS start? (For planned downtime, you simply let them know when.)

R – When do you think that your system will RETURN to service?

T – Who is available to TALK with your customers? How can they get help?

 

The importance of prevention

 

As doctors are saying more and more, good health is fundamentally based on solid preventive strategies. It is true with cyberattack as well – and we can help. At KnownHost, all of our managed VPS hosting packages now include DDoS protection at no additional charge! See our VPS options.

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B2B vs. B2C Ecommerce

What should you do differently for B2B and B2C to improve online sales? Let’s look at how to target these two different branches of e-commerce.

 

Geraldine, a standup comedian, has been a professional joke-teller for 17 years. She credits her success, in part, to the audience – which has been fundamental in guiding her career at the level of the individual show. With so many hours of stage time logged in front of different groups of people, Geraldine now has a sharpened sense of how to tweak her approach for different viewers.

 

The story of Geraldine is fictitious, but it is a way to think about the extent to which your target market will define how you approach e-commerce. A special point of distinction is the categories of businesses and consumers since they are such different buyers. Who is your audience? What do they want or need? How can you drive response?

 

  • B2B will soon be twice the size of B2C
  • Ease-of-use especially critical for B2B
  • The individual buyer vs. the business unit
  • Small vs. bulk orders
  • Logic and features vs. emotion and benefits
  • Strong e-commerce backend to fuel your growth

 

B2B will soon be twice the size of B2C

 

When we think about our approach to e-commerce, it is easy to think from the natural perspective of the consumer. Considering online retail in that business-to-consumer or B2C model, we can forget about how massive the business-to-business or B2B e-commerce market is.

 

In fact, by 2020, B2B e-commerce revenue in the United States will be twice that of B2C e-commerce, according to a Forrester report (by Susan Wu, et al.). The analysis, published in 2015, noted that B2B accounted for $8 trillion of total retail revenue in 2014, which represented about half of the nation’s gross domestic product. Just a portion of that commerce takes place on the Internet. However, the amount of business-to-business online sales that are currently taking place suggests the trend toward this transaction model is increasing. The B2B market is transforming quickly as networking technology evolves and as more people in various roles are making online business purchases.  Given how many business leaders and organizations have adopted e-commerce as part of their buying process, Forrester suggests that B2B e-commerce will hit $1 trillion by 2020, which will make it twice the size of B2C e-commerce.

 

Given these findings from such a highly trusted source, you may find that serving business-to-business needs makes sense for you as an e-commerce strategy.

 

Ease-of-use especially critical for B2B

 

To understand the perspective of a B2B buyer vs. a B2C one, the former is often on the clock – buying the product or service as a task for their job. Generally, the person is also using money from a budget rather than their own personal account.

 

Because of the different context to the purchase, the business interaction is more functional and straightforward. When there are delays, the B2B purchaser will tend to have less patience, explained a report from Bryan Robinson on Business.com. They want to be able to get something off their to-do list efficiently and without any hassles.

 

Since the buyer journey in a B2B scenario is much more pragmatic and utilitarian, the conversion rate is significantly better – triple, actually. While 1 in 10 shoppers convert in a B2B setting, that figure is only 1 out of 33 for B2C.

 

“[T]he B2B shopping experience needs to be straightforward, intuitive, and quick,” noted Robinson.

 

To be clear, the focus on ease-of-use should not be seen, in any way, as specific to B2B. Simplicity is a huge point of focus for anyone buying through e-commerce systems – with fully three-quarters of consumers saying that the #1 key factor of design was its intuitive navigability, or the ways in which it helped facilitate their ability to access the site’s services.

 

The individual buyer vs. the business unit

 

When you go out to get a product for your home or other personal use, you simply find a product that meets your needs and place the order. The business-to-business needs will be different because the people doing the buying will be in a variety of roles, such as salespeople, brokers, or resellers. In your store, they will need to have an account that is aligned with typical needs for their role.

 

For instance, the account could be set up so that the buyer can select items they want to order, and those items then show up within a manager account that makes approvals. A staff member within finance will need an account that just gives them access to the invoices. Since there are numerous people involved in decision-making for B2B e-commerce, you want to make sure that your site is prepared to properly manage and service these types of accounts.

 

Small vs. bulk orders

 

The B2B order will have a higher average order value. Often a consumer will just be buying one product or service. Within the context of B2B, you more commonly see larger quantities of items purchased by a single buyer.  Why is this the case? Beyond the fact that businesses simply often have higher demand, using more products and services than an individual household, you will also often see volume discounts that businesses use to get their prices as low as possible. One of the most extreme examples of these volume discounts is when businesses get discounts on delivery for receiving entire truckloads of a given product.

 

As noted by EcommerceWiki, understanding this difference in order scope is critical to knowing how to approach B2C and B2B differently. A consumer is usually looking for a specific item. A business is more often geared toward being able to get a large amount of the item with discounts, built into an agreement with you.

 

Logic and features vs. emotion and benefits

 

As described above, the issue of utilitarian simplicity is especially critical for business-to-business settings (although important for all e-commerce). The decision can be more of a process with B2B and may benefit from you building different structural possibilities through which companies can control and manage the ordering process. Also, the nature of the relationship will require volume discounts more than a path to a single item if you want to excel at B2B sales.

 

Those are all differences between B2B and B2C settings. However, they don’t really describe how these two types of buyers are thinking differently. Understanding how these two groups are thinking differently (and tied to the notion of a functional, straightforward need described above), you will be better able to market to them.

 

In essence, B2B requires logic and features, while B2C requires emotion and benefits, explained Laura Lake in The Balance. What does that mean exactly?

 

For B2B, zero in on the features of the product when you want to sell it to a business. That means you are pushing aside emotion as a factor in the decision. To help move the buyer toward a purchase, you simply want to get a sense for what the buyer needs and how the company operates procedurally related to buying. You want to understand the role of the specific individual that is ordering from you as well.

For B2C, you want to change focus, switching from the features over to the benefits. Understand that emotion will play a stronger role in these interactions. Plus, it is more likely that the buyer will need more distribution channels. Consumers also will respond better, generally, to a shorter marketing message – whereas a business will have more patience with a longer statement that might help their decision-making process.

 

Strong e-commerce backend to fuel your growth

 

There are many aspects to consider when you are deciding to sell to consumers or businesses online.

 

Whether you focus on B2B or B2C sales with your e-commerce effort, though, you need to have a strong backend to fuel your growth. At KnownHost, we have fast servers, great support, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee. See our fully managed VPS plans.

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