Backups and Redundancy

What You Need to Know About Backups and Redundancy

Everyone knows the person who unconsciously hits ctrl + s every few minutes when working on a document. Or they have backups of backups with external hard drives seemingly in every location imaginable. This may sound like overkill, but the truth is, it’s hard to be too safe when it comes to your data. This is especially true if you run a business. If you’re currently paying for server space, whether it’s a VPS or dedicated server, you no doubt have valuable information sitting on it.

 

Whatever you do with your server space is up to your discretion. Each use case is different. Chances are you at least have files that make up your website on there. Associated databases with customer information, emails, or anything else related to allowing your business to operate are going to be on the server as well. If you’re keeping large amounts of data stored remotely, you’re probably working with a dedicated server. This is especially true if you’re running a mid to large sized operation that’s using your server space for more than a website.

 

Information Security is Everything

 

With business critical information being kept in a location that you personally do not control or own, it’s important to have a data safety plan in place to ensure that you don’t lose important information that could make or break your business. As far as what your hosting company offers, sure, free backups are available. This is a helpful complementary service that’s perfect for getting some peace of mind that you could restore your website in the event of some kind of incident. But, this generally shouldn’t be relied upon as your only backup solution. After all, does all of your business information live on that server or do you have a lot of it saved locally as well? Chances are your business critical information lives in multiple locations consisting of your server and a home machine.

 

It’s your responsibility and it is in your best interest to have your own backup plans in place in order to ensure you don’t suffer from any catastrophic losses should something disastrous occur that affects your server for any reason. Redundancy is the key to information security. Having multiple backups (and different kinds of backups, specifically) is a best practice that every business owner should adhere to in the event of a rare, but serious event occurring.

 

How costly can data loss be? How can you protect yourself from it? Here’s what you should know about backup redundancy and why being a little obsessive with your backups isn’t a bad thing.

 

The Costs of Data Loss

 

The concept of business continuity is something that if you’re just starting out with a website and maybe a small team, isn’t at the forefront of your concerns. But eventually, you may hope to have your own facility with a large staff and a more complex organization. As your business grows, if it’s not already at this point, you will accumulate even more data. Important emails, customer information, art assets, and pages of content are just some of the things you’ll need access to in order to run your business from day to day. What would happen if these things somehow got lost? Unfortunately, many businesses have experienced this for a variety of reasons, so we do have some idea how this situation plays out.

 

Studies have shown that data loss cumulatively costs businesses worldwide about 1.7 trillion dollars a year. Luckily,  U.S. based companies are considered one of the leaders in the world when it comes to data protection. But that doesn’t mean you should take these situations, no matter how rare, lightly. If something were to happen to your laptop, for example, and all you had was an incomplete cloud backup that doesn’t include your documents folder, would you be able to get back to work quickly? That’s why every repair technician asks that initial question of “do you have an external hard drive with a backup on it?” It’s the people who don’t that end up suffering far more than just the loss of a machine. This same mindset should apply to your business’ information in its entirety, no matter where it usually “lives.”

 

The Different Kinds of Backups

 

Backups vary in how they work. No matter the system you put in place, it’s recommended you have a cloud backup you can access at anytime, a local backup you keep at the office, and an offsite backup on physical media that you keep in a secure location should the other backups be rendered unusable at the minimum.

 

Running a “full” backup of course saves everything in a selected location. While these are the most complete backups, they can be time consuming and you run the risk of creating a situation where you have duplicate files.

 

A snapshot is a little different. It helps avoid the possibility of data corruption that could occur as new writes are made to data during the full backup process. It’s referred to as a snapshot because it’s a read-only copy of your data made at a specific moment. It’s not as taxing on your system and can be used in conjunction with full backups for extra protection. Keep in mind a snapshot is not technically a “backup” and you shouldn’t rely on them alone.

 

Incremental backups will only save changes made since the last incremental backup. It’s a relatively quick way to make sure your information is up to date and doesn’t requires as much space as a full backup.

 

A differential backup captures any changes that were made since the last full backup, which is slightly different from the way incremental backups work. You typically won’t perform both and it’s really up to your preferences which you opt for.

 

Readiness in the Face of Rare Events

 

You may get a sense of “worst case scenario” when reading through all of this information. After all, what are the chances of some natural disaster or fire knocking out the facility where all of your data is saved? Isn’t a cloud backup made at regular intervals really enough? Sure, chances are you won’t experience a situation like this. It would certainly make for the perfect storm of events. But don’t think of these backup guidelines as just something that acts as a contingency plan should you lose access to a server. It’s a good guideline for securing every aspect of your business. Now more than ever, we rely on compiling information. Do you really want to risk only having one backup that isn’t even on local media you’re in possession of? There’s nothing wrong with some redundancy in your backup efforts just so you can have peace of mind knowing you probably won’t lose anything, even in the most far fetched scenario.

 

Your hosting company offers as much as it can via customer service, but you’d do well to take it upon yourself to perform additional backups so that you have something locally to work off of should you need it.

 

Conclusion

 

Your business should partner with a hosting company that has the services and features you need in a server environment to help you meet your goals. KnownHost offers free backups, migrations, industry leading 99.9% uptime, complementary DDOS protection, and 24/7 fully managed support. Contact us today. Our team is here to help you find the best hosting solution for your business and assist you if you have any questions about your dedicated server.

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Why Your Hosting Could be Affecting Your SEO Efforts

Search engine optimization is one of the facets of digital marketing that provokes a love/hate response. It’s obvious that having an SEO plan is a necessity. After all, there is a lot of value in organic traffic. On average, just over half of the traffic coming to a site is via organic search. That means avenues like social, paid ads, email, referrals, etc. combined equal the traffic that Google or Bing bring to your site. While having more visitors is nice, what does that actually mean for your bottom line? Organic search traffic also brings in the most revenue across most industry sectors. While some visitors might just be researching or “window shopping” many are deliberately performing searches so they can make a purchase.

 

The frustration of an SEO campaign usually lies in how nebulous it can sometimes be. That’s because search companies, especially Google, are notoriously secretive about the factors that go into their ranking algorithms. That’s why tactics that used to work don’t necessarily work quite as well a few years down the line. This means reevaluating your tactics, dealing with the ups and downs of rankings or penalties, and investing more into a new strategy. The frustration lies in not being entirely confident that the action you’re taking is the best course. Luckily, the whole thing isn’t a shot in the dark. There are definite correlations marketing professionals have parsed in order to determine how to best get higher search results. It turns out, many factors go into your search rankings. And some pretty significant ones actually relate to your site’s hosting. That’s why if you’ve been trying to save money by staying on a shared hosting plan, you could actually be giving up on revenue that would more than pay for your, say, VPS instead.

 

Surprised that your hosting company might be affecting your SEO efforts? Let’s break down what is known about search algorithms and how hosting can play a substantial role.

 

Search Ranking Factors

 

We know some of the major factors that make up Google’s algorithm through both trial and error and some guidance from Google themselves. Content plays a big part. In fact, it’s become possibly the most heavily weighted piece of signaling of the value of a site. If your site’s content isn’t determined to be “of value” then your low rankings will reflect that. Now, how does an algorithm determine the value of content? It can’t just read it like a human being would.

 

Google relies on signals that people find value in the content. A big one is social sharing. The more social media interaction there is with your site, the higher the authority and value, therefore the higher the rank. Ultimately, Google looks to approximate a user’s experience with its algorithm. That means some technical attributes of a site will factor into the ranking formula as well. Some of those attributes have to do with how well your site performs. That includes things like page load time and site speed. This is where your host comes in.

 

How Your Host Plays a Part

 

You know the reason why someone would opt for a VPS over a shared hosting plan. It’s faster. No one likes to wait for a page to load, or worse, crash. But it’s not that simple. Not only do users value site speed and load times highly, but Google does as well. First, it’s important to make a critical point. Many things factor into site speed, not just your host. Upgrading your shared hosting to a VPS will certainly be beneficial, but it’s not a magic bullet. Developer decisions play a major role in site speed, too.

 

However, you want to give your site every advantage possible. Higher performing servers will give you speed and broadband boosts. This should ostensibly increase your page load times which would reflect positively on your ranking scores. Having a higher performing hosting solution gives you a bit more wiggle room when it comes to “heavy” coding, but best practices still dictate clean code when possible. Site uptime also plays a part in your SEO efforts. Don’t settle for anything less than 99.9% service level agreements. If a search engine crawler comes to index your site during a period that it’s in downtime, that could be detrimental to your ranking.

 

What You Can Do to Improve Rankings

 

By focusing on giving your visitors the best user experience possible, you’re also going to be bolstering your SEO efforts. What does that look like?

 

Invest in a hosting solution that will help you achieve your goal of keeping your page load times to under three seconds if possible and online consistently with industry leading uptime. Cut down on things that slow sites down like complicated JavaScript or PHP scripting. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, be careful with the amount of plugins you have loaded into the site. Each plugin can add a fraction of a second to your page load time. Enough plugins combined can add crucial seconds to your overall load time which can push you over the threshold of “acceptable” to both users and search engines.

 

Outside of the realm of hosting and site performance, you also want to make sure your information architecture is sound with proper URL formatting, high quality content, plenty of social media engagement, and a focus on keyword research.

 

Planning for the Future

 

“Future proofing” as a concept is a bit dubious. No one can predict how things will go. But, there are some best practices that probably won’t ever fall out of fashion.

 

Setting up your site with the right hosting solution right off the bat is always a good idea. Many business owners start on lower tiered hosting to save money only to find themselves in a situation where they need to migrate down the line. While migrations aren’t always a big deal, things can go wrong. Information could be lost. The technicalities of a site migration could hurt your SEO rankings. Anytime you move something from one place to another, there is the possibility of search penalties.

 

Starting right away on a VPS will save you time and headaches in the long run because you’ll be set up where you need to be from the beginning. You’ll have the performance you need to handle your site’s growth from its beginnings up to having hundreds of thousands of visitors.

 

A successful SEO campaign is all about setting up strong site architecture, including content, right off the bat and then building off of that over the years. What you don’t want to do is find yourself in a situation where you’re doing complete overhauls.

 

Conclusion

 

As you can see there is a lot riding on having a reliable hosting solution that consistently offers high performance. Every part of your digital operations is interconnected, even in some not so obvious ways. That’s why it’s important to partner with the best. At KnownHost, we know how important your website is to your business. If you’re looking for a hosting company with the experience to handle any kind of project all while providing top of the line customer service, contact us today. We’re happy to answer any questions and help you determine the best hosting solution for your business.

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Why is Shared Hosting Like Taking the Bus on the Information Superhighway?

Public transportation allows people who can’t afford cars to get where they need to be, and it means you can sit down and read rather than having to focus on the road. In other words, it’s cheap and easy. Those are positive aspects of a vehicle that is structured to fit many people. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a wise idea to put your business website on the bus.

 

What’s the “bus ride” for web hosting? The similarly cheap and easy solution is shared hosting. While shared hosting is the most affordable and accessible type of hosting, it suffers in the same way a trip on public transportation can: security and speed. Let’s look at those two issues in detail.

 

Sharing a Ride Makes You Vulnerable

 

Security is kind of a boring topic to many people, so it’s critical to know why this issue generally deserves greater attention. Even back in 2013, the National Cyber Security Alliance found that:

 

  • – 20% of small businesses get hacked or digitally assaulted every year; and
  • – Of firms that do get targeted, 3 in 5 are bankrupt half a year later.

 

Those statistics are disturbing certainly, but how relevant are they to your situation? Some small businesses are more likely to be attacked than others. Bear this in mind, though: attackers will sometimes go after certain industries, but the key factor in why companies get hacked is not related to industry or value; rather, it’s simply the presence of vulnerability.

 

“Most small business owners still don’t get security, don’t think it’s an issue, and are pretty defenseless,” explained Think Security First consultant Neal O’Farrell. Owners and managers of SMBs often think that a hacker would have to select their company out of tens of millions of others, he said, “not realizing that the attacks are automated and focused on discovering vulnerabilities.”

 

What are the biggest security concerns related to taking the “information superhighway bus” that is shared hosting? As the numerous visitors and internal users of sites share the resources of one server, it makes sense that would be an environment in which there would be greater security risks, both from outside the server and within it.  Think about it this way: the server itself is under greater threat based on the number of sites running on it.

 

“No matter how you try to institute security measures with a shared hosting environment,” noted Web Hosting Provider List, “the fact is that, it is plainly not possible to ensure a 100 percent airtight protection.”

 

The sites on a shared server are positioned on different domains and obviously have disparate login credentials, but they are using the same operating system as other users and typically even share an IP address. Sharing resources cuts the costs of these hosting plans, so they look attractive to startups, nonprofits, and others on shoestring budgets. However, the sharing of resources in this manner means a greater likelihood that your data or services will be compromised.  Major security issues with shared hosting include:

 

  • – An attacker can use reverse IP lookup to get a list of all the sites on a shared hosting server. This method is fast and simple, actually: you can find the information through free services (example tool), the Dig command on Linux (Dig –x <ip address> +short), a search engine (Search Query: ip: <IP Address>), or using a script to automate it.
  • – The behavior of other users that share your IP will impact your online reputation and the continuing strength of your domain. If another site sharing the IP gets blacklisted for spam, your site will get blocked as well.
  • – A hacker can enumerate the CMS installations on the shared server. This tactic is often used because CMS software like WordPress includes the name and version information in the HTML. A vulnerability scanner such as WPScan can be used to gather data on the site, including a list of its plugins, themes, TimThumbs, and usernames. “An example attack would be to bruteforce the admin account of WordPress using a list of commonly used passwords,” explained a report by c0d3inj3cT for the InfoSec Institute. If you don’t have a captcha set up on your admin login page, it could actually be compromised by WPScan using brute force.
  • – Using a shared server puts you at greater risk of malware attacks. Malicious script can be uploaded to other sites, which in turn means that your site can be quickly compromised. The malware may occur because one of the other sites is vulnerable. It provides a channel through which the intruder can steal data.
  • – Customers may have PHP, Perl or shell accounts that make it possible to hit the other sites on the server with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.
  • – Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks may target another site that shares your IP address. In this case, you are hit with a DDoS attack essentially as collateral damage of an effort to hit someone else.
  • -DDoS malware could be loaded onto the server, which could put the hacker in control of the entire server for launching attacks.

 

You Can’t Step on the Gas

 

Taking the bus of shared hosting isn’t just a security concern. It can also significantly slow down your site and dampen the growth of your business. When other riders on the bus have needs, the driver meets them. Just consider the stop-request cord: in this manner, every rider on the bus has a democratic ability to grind it to a halt. You see the same ability of individuals to slow down the ride on shared hosting – with resources handed out “first come, first serve” to all sites, which can lead to slow loading on your site when another site peaks.

 

Security is an issue on shared servers because, basically, there are too many accounts without enough isolated designation of resources; and the same is true of the slow speed that can occur in these environments.

 

Speed is one of the primary arguments many experts mention when they advocate for VPS over shared hosting. Speed and other benefits of the virtual private server are all related in some way to the isolation and pre-allocation of resources that VPS plans allow – versus the “first come, first serve” nature of shared hosting.

 

On a VPS, it doesn’t matter what another customer might be doing on the server; your speed is guaranteed. If you have two CPUs dedicated for your use, then those CPUs will always be there for you to use. The allotment of RAM for which you pay within a VPS are always set aside for you, no matter what other tasks might be running on the physical hardware.

 

Ajeet Khurana of The Balance noted that on shared hosting plans, the performance of a website will fluctuate throughout the day based on how much activity is shared by all the businesses using it. “This never happens on VPS services,” he said. “Your resources are dedicated to your… website.”

 

Getting into the Fast Lane with Managed VPS

 

Do you want to improve the security and speed of your website without having to worry about managing the server yourself? At KnownHost, we offer ultra-high VPS performance with unparalleled support by professionals. See our fully managed VPS plans.

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Proper Hosting: Why Your Business’ Reputation Depends On It

Few things are as frustrating when running a business as being dependent on externalities outside of your control. As much as you want to be able to do everything yourself, it’s impossible. There is always a need to have outside parties involved. Whether it’s software vendors, warehousing and distribution, or a hosting company, there will always be partnership with other businesses required. These partnerships can play a big role in making or breaking your business. Creating the best product or service in the world doesn’t matter much if you can’t deliver it to your customers or if they can’t reach you.

 

Of course, you do have some measure of control here. While you may not be able to have a say in how your partners operate, you do have a choice of what businesses to partner with. The challenge here is with so many businesses vying for your money, how do you choose a partner that will provide you with the best services at a reasonable price? It’s important to know what to look for while shopping around and comparing rates.

 

One of the most important businesses that you’re going to partner with is your hosting company. While at first glance you might think of your hosting company as “the website people,” there is much more at stake than simply having your website online. It really wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say your business’ reputation depends in large part on having a reliable host. If your initial reaction to that is skepticism, consider the typical habits of the modern consumer. Here are some statistics related to online activity that might surprise you. Adweek rounded up some stats that showed that 81% of shoppers conducted online research before making a purchase. 60% of shoppers begin by using their search engine of choice. The status of your hosting plays a key role in those figures and more. Let’s break it down.

 

SEO and Your Server

 

That 60% statistic is an interesting one because there are a lot of admittedly vague factors that go into search engine optimization efforts. Originally, way back in the wild west days of the young internet, search engines were relatively primitive in how they sorted the websites in their index. Essentially, the more links you had to your site and the more keywords present on the site, the higher you would rank. That was about it, which is why you had all sorts of ludicrous things like hiding keywords with invisible text all over the site. Needless to say, Google and others have come a long way with their algorithms since then and the criteria for ranking higher is much more complex.

 

What does that have to do with your hosting, though? Well, one of the factors that we know at least Google is looking at (and they are by far the biggest search engine, so this is reason enough) is site speed and page load times.

 

A lot goes into calculating speed metrics. Granted, big parts of it have to do with your coding choices, use of multimedia, and other architectural issues. However, your hosting solution plays a big part in this as well. After all, a VPS would handle heavy multimedia use more efficiently than a shared hosting plan due to the hardware and bandwidth available. Essentially, if your hosting solution can handle higher traffic loads and process code or plugins (if you’re using a CMS like WordPress) consistently, that will reflect in your page load times.

 

Remember, the further down you are on the search engine results pages, the less of a chance someone will click on the link to your site. A big part of your company’s success will rely on being on page one.

 

Customer Habits

 

We’ve established that 8 out of 10 customers will perform online research before making a purchase. They also tend to visit sites that are found on the first page. But, let’s go beyond search and to how customers engage with a site. While it’s true that Google puts some weight on page load times, your actual human customers put even more of an emphasis on it. While your own personal habits might differ, the research shows some interesting consumer behavior. 47% of costumers expect a page to load within 2 seconds and 40% will abandon the site and move on after 3 seconds. That’s not a lot of room for error.

 

Now you’re in a multi-layered situation where not only are you dealing with high bounce rates, but lower levels of conversion, lower search ranks due to relevancy metrics, and a diminished profile in your industry. And all of this is over 3 seconds. That’s why having the right hosting solution is so important so you can ensure your site performs at an acceptable level consistently. The VPS or dedicated server you choose to use will play such a critical part in your overall success.

 

Reliability

 

Beyond site speed, there is also the need for reliable uptime. Every second a site is offline represents money that you’re not making. Not only is it costing you active sales, but if you experience regular outages, you’ll see a decline in new visits. All it takes is someone trying to access your site one time and being greeted with an infinitely loading white screen before they give up and spend their money elsewhere, never to return. This one is pretty cut and dry. That’s why it’s so important to have a host that guarantees maximum uptime. KnownHost offers a 99.9% service level agreement which is an industry leading figure. Why settle for anything less when your business relies so heavily on a reliable website? Every host should be judged on site and uptime.

 

The Right Solution

 

It’s clear that your host plays a big part overall in the health of your business. So, what kind of server is right for you? Most sites would do fine with a VPS. It occupies a nice middle ground when it comes to resources. It’s definitely faster than a shared hosting plan, and you have the added benefit of not being surrounded by other websites on the server. Nothing is worse than having your site suffer because of the resource usage of another.

 

While most websites would do just fine with a VPS, on occasion a dedicated server makes more sense. Large ecommerce sites with thousands of SKUs, high traffic, and complicated architecture would benefit from the extra power provided by a dedicated server. If you’re already making a substantial amount of money from ecommerce, it’s worth making the investment into having a machine all to yourself to ensure you have the bandwidth necessary to not miss a beat.

 

Conclusion

 

Your hosting solution can have a significant effect on your business in both direct and indirect ways. That’s why when selecting a hosting company to partner with, it’s so important to know what it is they’re offering. With so many different hosts and packages out there, it can be overwhelming. That’s why we encourage you to contact the team at KnownHost today. We’ve provided our services to businesses of all types and sizes for years and bring the experience necessary to make sure you get all the support you need to have a successful online operation.

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