Backups are for sissies, right?

Backups are something for another time, right? Unfortunately, this viewpoint will leave you in quite a difficult situation when ‘another time’ turns out to be the downtime (system or device failure, or a system compromise) you experience due to not having a backup system in place. Just how important are backups, and how easy are they to setup? Please read on.

Did you know most computer systems and mobile devices have free backup systems already in place? Is yours enabled yet?

In the case of your mobile device, this system might be iCloud backups or Google. Many individual apps have an option to backup to these kinds of cloud storage locations. Other locations include DropBox, Amazon S3 and a host of other online storage locations. Most of these offer free storage for a decent amount of data.

For your desktop or laptop, a backup system might be OSX Timemachine, or a number of other backup and restore options available pre-installed. Whatever the case, you want a system that is easy to use and basically runs in the background. Without such a setup, you’ll only get around to being concerned with backups when it’s too late.

What might be some examples for your desktop/laptop?

  • OSX Time machine backing up your Mac each hour to an external hard disk or network location. This is a no-brainer, and if you use OSX you should set this up now. However, it’s not really enough as none of your data is being stored “offsite”.
  • Google Drive/Dropbox/One Drive. The desktop client for these services seamlessly keeps your local files backed up to a secure network location. You can access the files from your mobile device and even from another computer if needed . See, for example how to sync Google Drive and keep an entire folder backed up continuously.
  • Dedicated online backup solutions such as: www.backblaze.com (there are plenty of others to choose from as well)

What about mobile devices, how can they be easily backed up?

Have you enabled the free iCloud backups available on your phone or tablet? What about Google backups on your Android phone, or One Drive backups from your Windows phone?  If you have these enabled and your phone is stolen or broken, restoring your phone or tablet to a new device is simple.

Imagine that! Buying a new phone and having no stress at all because you know your new phone will have all your old phone’s data and settings. This is not a dream, it’s happening now for people who have automated backups enabled.
While this post is just scratching the surface, you’ll find very clear directions from the software vendors on how to set this up. For example:

How to back up your devices using iCloud or iTunes

Back up or restore data on your device

How to back up a Windows Phone: backup and restore explained

A backup that is stored on your computer or device is not a backup. A proper backup must be stored in another location. These days cloud storage makes this easy.

What are you waiting for? Set aside some time asap to get these important and most likely free services setup today.

A word of warning

Don’t let this hold you back from settings up offsite backups, but you do need to make sure the credentials you use to sign in to your backup system/Google/iCloud/Microsoft accounts are secure and protected with 2 factor authentication. That way you are assured that only someone with your password and device can login and access your files. More on 2 factor authentication and password security in another blog post.

Finally

If you need any backup advice for your own business, we are equipped to provide you a custom solution to meet your needs. Contact us for more information.
Backups are definitely not for sissies, backups are for the wise. Setup automatic backups today!

If you have any questions let us know in the comments below.

Not another update

Apple store updateYou open up your phone/tablet/computer in the morning and notice the familiar “update available” notification. Should you just put off the update to another time? Or do you worry that if you update, it may create other issues for you? Read on for the important things you should consider.

The short answer is YES, you should update asap. However, more explanation is needed due to the myths about updates floating around.

Why are updates even released?

Most updates are going to address one of two things. 1. Add new features, or 2. Patch a security issue. While you may not be that excited about new features (oh no, something else to learn), security updates are something you should be interested in. Believe me, each day I see multiple websites and users having their accounts and data compromised due to not installing security updates. Please, install your app updates asap.

What about this notion that updates slow down your computer, phone etc?

While it’s true that some updates may introduce other issues (new problems), usually they have been tested prior to release and are likely to actually provide far more benefits to you (security especially) than the risks of not installing them. As a general rule, provided you keep up with updates, you should be less likely to encounter issues such as this. Again, it’s still much more risky not installing an update.

Further to this. Both app/program developers as well as the system software vendors like Apple, Microsoft, Google and many others will not continue to support all devices indefinitely. This means that in around 3 or 4 years your device will stop receiving updates. Until this happens, you should continue to update your device.

A balanced suggestion

As a suggestion if you are reluctant or worried about updates, especially system updates, why not just wait a few days (for system updates) to see if any major issues are reported. Even if they are, usually within 24hrs a replacement update would be pushed out.

.. and finally

Provided you have a backup system in place (subject for another blog post sometime) you need not be “scared” about updates, even system updates. If the worst does happen (and it hardly ever does) you’ll be able to roll back your computer/phone to a time before the update and then install it, or the next one again.

Do you SSL/HTTPS? You should. Find out why

First of all, what even is SSL/HTTPS?

You can read the nitty-gritty over on Wikipedia if you like, but basically SSL/HTTPS refers to a secure connection to a website. You will have seen it being used on many other websites. A (usually) green padlock icon next to the domain name you are visiting (lookup and see it on our site) indicates the website is using SSL/HTTPS and that your connection to the site is secure. It’s becoming more and more common on websites, even those without a login section.

yWhy should you ?

  1. Visitors are assured that they can browse your website with the traffic between their browser and your website being encrypted. ie no one can intercept the connection. This is especially important if your website is one that allows you to manage your website via a login.
  2. Google cares. SSL/HTTPS sites are used as a ranking mechanism by Google. Read the details here: HTTPS as a ranking signal This means that having a SSL/HTTPS website could mean you will be better ranked on Google. Do you need any more reasons not to go SSL/HTTPS?
  3. There are other reasons, but the 2 above are the ones you should care about the most.

How?z

It’s not as complicated as you may think. SSL/HTTPS can be enabled on most websites for free. These days SSL certificates can be obtained for free that are just as strong and secure as those that would have cost hundreds of dollars only a few years ago. If you host with us and you don’t have SSL/HTTPS enabled yet, please contact us and in most cases we will be able to make it happen for you.

If you have any other questions about SSL/HTTPS please let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them in the comments below.

 

Edit: an update from Google on this subject makes it even more important your website is using SSL/HTTPS asap.

Domain name renewal emails, legitimate or not

If you own a domain name, sooner or later you will receive domain renewal notices. Sometimes emails about retaining your spot on search engines will also be sent to you. How do you know if these are legitimate? Read on and we’ll try to explain. Please note, your domain name is a VERY important part of your online identity. You do not want to lose access to your domain name and website.

Here is an example of such an email (this is one I received not long after setting up this site):

Attention: Important Notice , DOMAIN SERVICE NOTICE
Domain Name: xyzulu.hosting

ATT: Brad Baker
xyzulu.hosting
Response Requested By
14 / May. – 2016

PART I: REVIEW NOTICE
Attn: Brad Baker
As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification for your business Domain name search engine registration. This letter is to inform you that it’s time to send in your registration.
Failure to complete your Domain name search engine registration by the expiration date may result in cancellation of this offer making it difficult for your customers to locate you on the web.
Privatization allows the consumer a choice when registering. Search engine registration includes domain name search engine submission. Do not discard, this notice is not an invoice it is a courtesy reminder to register your domain name search engine listing so your customers can locate you on the web.
This Notice for: xyzulu.hosting will expire at 11:59PM EST, 14 – May. – 2016 Act now!

Select Package:
http://{removed domain name}.com/?domain=xyzulu.hosting

Payment by Credit/Debit Card

Select the term using the link above by 14 – May. – 2016
http://xyzulu.hosting

So, how can you tell this is nothing more than an attempt to scam you out of money?

Here are a few “warning bells”:

  • The email is lacking a header/footer from a company you are familiar with and have dealt with before
  • The ‘from’ and ‘reply-to’ email address is not likely from an email account you have ever corresponded with
  • No reputable search engine charges you to list your domain ie Google, Bing, Yahoo etc
  • It’s unlikely your own domain registrar would send you just a single warning email regarding your domain name or hosting

You can take a few more steps to confirm that this is a scam email. Here are some:

  • When did you register your domain? Usually domains are renewed on an annual or 2 year basis. Can you find the original registration email?
  • Who do you usually pay to renew your domain names? Can you get in touch with them to verify things?
  • A reputable domain name registrar or host should not be sending you only a single email on the day your domain expires, you should have had plenty of dealings with them already (usually via email)
  • Read more on these kinds of scams here on the Australian Government Scamwatch site: https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/buying-or-selling/false-billing
  • Do you know your current domain name registrar and host? (You should, your domain name is a very valuable part of your online identity) Why not contact your domain name registrar if you cannot access your domain name control panel and ask them to assist you. If you are a customer of ours we’ll be more than willing to help and educate you in this regard. For XYZulu domain name and hosting customers our Customer Portal is here: https://my.xyzulu.hosting

If you are still not sure, now is a great time to get in touch with your domain name registrar or host to get access to and double-check your domain name is active and under your control. Once you have access to your domain name, check that your (registrant) email address is up to date. This is the email address renewal notices and reminders are likely to have been sent.

Don’t be caught by a scam like this. Take the time to gather the information you need to be able to access your domain name management panel and protect yourself from giving away your money or potentially having your domain name stolen in the process. While you’re doing this, be sure to also save your login passwords in a password manager. See more about this in our post: Overwhelmed with passwords?
domain names

If you have any other questions on this post, please let us know in the comments. If you are an existing customer who wants to protect their domain names, please contact us to discuss this. We can even help you transfer (for free) and manage all your domains with us, in one place, to make the likelihood of you being scammed even less. Contact us today to find out more specific details.

Overwhelmed with passwords?

Do you use the same password on more than one website? If so, this is the post for you.

While many people use a strong password for their internet banking for example, they reason that using the same weak passwords on other websites is not a big deal. However, just imagine the time you would waste if this password was stolen from a website you used it on. If this happened now, you would need to change your password on almost every site you use.

Not only that, potentially your personal information could also have been stolen and could be used by unscrupulous individuals to impersonate you, perhaps even attempting to borrow money in your name..a serious issue!

What is the solution?

You need a password manager. In fact I’d go so far as to say if you don’t use one you are making a big mistake. The one we recommend is LastPass, screenshots below:

How does a password manager work?

Using a password manager you can effectively use a unique password for each website you use. These unique passwords can be totally random and you won’t need to even remember them, the password manager will store them securely for you. What’s more LastPass will fill in the username and passwords for you when visiting a website you have a password stored for. This can be done on any device or computer you use.

Using LastPass is free, and to sync across multiple devices ( have access to your passwords from your computers and mobile devices ) only costs $1 a month.

It’s not a question of should you use a password manager, but rather a question of when. Take the time now to set one up. It will only take you a few minutes to secure your digital life and make managing your passwords easy. Doing this will make things easier, safer and faster for you in the end.

Please watch these videos: https://lastpass.com/support_screencasts.php and get LastPass installed asap.

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Please leave your questions and comments below.

Make WordPress Speed with a CDN

WordPress is a great piece of open source software that powers millions of websites. Not only is it simple to install, but adding and managing your own content is easy. Perhaps your own website runs WordPress already.

One of the easiest things to adjust with WordPress is to improve the page loading speed. Why should you care about this? Well for one, your Google ranking could be affected if your website loads slowly. Using a CDN can make a huge difference, perhaps as much as a 50% increase in site loading speed.

What is a CDN?

According to Wikipedia, a CDN or Content Distribution Network, is a global network of servers setup to serve your content in a high performance manner. It literally means that much of your website content, instead of being loaded each time from your server (which is usually located in a single location), will actually be loaded from a server or network very close to the website viewer. This is a good thing! This is something you should want for your own website.

How hard is it to setup?

It’s simple. Using a single plugin on WordPress, we can configure and implement a CDN in less than 30mins. While this is something you can probably configure yourself, you may need some help. Thankfully, this is something we can assist you with.

What about the costs?

It only costs a few cents per month! Even for a very busy website, just a few $$’s a month will be enough to run your own CDN. Using for example, Amazon Cloudfront (which is what we use on this website) you can see the costs listed here.

What if you don’t use WordPress

A CDN can still be setup just as easily for any website. We may cover more specifics in a future blog post.

 

Do you want to know more? Please let us know in the comments and we’ll be happy to answer your questions. Do you want us to help you setup a CDN for you? Contact us for more details.