Cloud Security rules are good news for customers

Cloud security and data privacy have been in the news again. A new working party is being set up to make it easier for the customer to know what they’re getting in terms of security, and to make it clearer for the provider to know what they should be delivering.

It means it should be much easier for those working in the Cloud to know where their data is being held and what can and can’t be done with it.

Data privacy is one of the thorniest issues in the cloud. Much of it comes from unwarranted worries. If you ask any business why they’re not in the Cloud then chances are they’ll talk about security. It means a lot, particularly for a small business to hand over their data to someone else. They feel like they’re losing control. They worry about where their data is being stored, who’s looking after it and what might be done with it.

Whether these concerns are valid is, partly, beside the point. Cloud providers have had to do a lot of work to alleviate concerns and worries. But they’ve done it with varying degrees of success.

Now the Cloud Security Alliance has set up a working party to settle the issue of data privacy.

The Privacy Level Agreement Working Group will mean a basic set of guidelines that Cloud providers have to adhere to. The CSA has put forward its proposals to the European Parliament who are already in the process of setting up its own data privacy guidelines.

Why are they doing it? At the moment there are nearly 30 different ways to implement data privacy. The worry is that that makes it harder for global providers to sell in different countries. If they want to grow and expand into new regions then Cloud providers have to know what the rules and regulations are in every country.

The new frameworks would mean there would be a system for cloud customers to read and to measure how providers handle data privacy.

What does it mean for customers? It means that cloud providers would have to make it clear what they’re doing with your data, how they’re storing it and how they’re keeping it private.

At Intrahost it’s made clear where data is stored. Intrahost has both digital and physical security plans in place to look after data. As well as anti-virus software that makes sure no junk or spam gets through to your data there is physical security in place where the severs are held. In what’s called a server farm, there are physical servers that store the cloud servers or hosting solutions our customers choose. There is CCTV, key card access and protection in place in case of natural disasters.

Intrahost is open about its security measures and also with its privacy agreements with customers. But not every cloud provider is. An industry wide agreement which make it much easier for customers to know what they’re getting, and more importantly what it means for them. It’s designed to let the customer know how one providers offer differs from another.

Instead of being something to be worried about, the data privacy rules should give customers peace of mind. The significance of cloud computing for business has been evident over the last year as the industry has grown. Adding to peace of mind and regulating the industry will help customers realise the difference it can make to them, but also how it can ensure their information is safe.

What's happening in the Cloud?

From data to innovation, how the cloud is affecting hiring and firing as well as life on the farmyard, this latest round-up of Cloud news and trends suggests big developments are on the horizon. How do you store data? Is the Cloud making you braver? Read on for news on how business is changing and the next step for the Cloud Computing industry as its take-up becomes more mainstream and less on the fringe of everyday business. The Cloud and Innovation

The potential for innovation thanks to the Cloud will be explored as businesses gather for a technology conference in Dubai this autumn. The Gitex Technology Week plans to cut through the hype surrounding the adoption of Cloud Computing and examine the impact it has on business.

The conference, which will see leading figures in the industry rub shoulders with some of the biggest firms in the Middle East as well as exhibitors, may seem far off but the effect the technology is having on the working world is becoming increasingly clear. A new study from Bain & Company, The Five Faces of the Cloud, points to a 30% to 40% price advantage from using a public cloud to have a server onsite. In under a decade they predict cloud spending to increase from $30 billion to $150 billion. It will, they claim, represent around 10% of total enterprise technology spending by 2020.

To match this shift the report calls for some changes to the industry, including a more targeted approach for customers and a greater understanding of what they’re looking for. One of the biggest shifts they predict is IT leaders in business looking to replace core legacy systems, that impacts every corner of the company. The focus will move to profitability and a sea-change in behaviour and adoption.

Read more at www.bain.com

Is the Cloud boosting outsourcing?

Many firms, small, medium and otherwise, are looking for increasingly creative ways to help their business expand. Outsourcing is great news for entrepreneurs like web developers, copywriters and designers, as well as IT specialists.

The Cloud could well be the driving force the change. Over a third of businesses, 35%, said in terms of development, hosting and the maintenance of their technology solutions they’ll be looking to outsource. It’s seeing them focus their budgets on applications that help them work more flexibility, streamline their outgoings and help foster collaboration. Big providers like Google and Microsoft obviously benefit, but so do smaller niche operators.

The most attractive factors are the features, functionality and how quickly they can get it up and running. Food for thought for those looking to grow their client list and understand what they need to start selling.

How to make the most out of virtual storage

Say you have a Cloud Server. You use it to host websites and store data. The major selling point is flexibility and the ability to help you access information wherever you are, adopt a more cost-effective solution and not worry about traffic levels. Yet if the move to core legacy transformation is what is on the cards for business then it does leave a bit of a grey area in the middle. How easy is it to move everything, wholesale, into the Cloud?

If legacy is the way to go then you’re looking for a more heterogeneous system that’s still high performance, highly reactive and sits across different departments, specialisms and environment that lifts and supports a new infrastructure, how will the Cloud fit in? It doesn’t need to be separate. Virtual storage is set to become the key adoption tool. It allows you to put data in a central pool using several different servers. It’s a virtualised solution meaning you can be working from several different locations. HP is launching a product along these lines in September.

Intelligence and Big Data

While considering how a business opts to use data and the Cloud, more consideration is being given to Business Intelligence and Big Data. As more people understand the benefits of the Cloud, and its adoption becomes more of the norm and more mainstream, how it is used and how it integrates into existing business practice will become more of interest.

One analyst says that public and virtual cloud adoption will become more of an issue for Business Intelligence in the coming years.

Coinciding with this is the growth in Big Data: more and more information stemming from social media, the growth of the digital sector etc. This analyst argues that Big Data should be parked in the Cloud. If we’re reaching critical mass in terms of Big Data, and only a small percentage of it is useful and pertinent to our businesses, then the Cloud offer the ability to store it and segment it.

The Cloud heads to the country

When we think of IT solutions inevitably we often think of city slickers, fashionable office spaces and urbanites. We rarely think of a farmyard. Yet for many farmers they are turning to the Cloud to help them run their enterprises more effectively. Cloud Computing and Internet services is helping farmers keep track of their assets. They can manage livestock figures, crops, their incomings and outgoings much more simple.

More Cloud start-ups are starting to focus on agriculture and selling in the specific benefits of the technology for the industry. At the moment the trend is limited to America but with any luck it could spread to Britain’s green and pleasant lands in the next year.

 

 

 

Top five trends for Cloud Computing

Technology is all about staying ahead of the curve. The best way to do that is to be able to see what’s coming and how you can fit your strategy to adapt and grow with new innovations and developments.Cloud Computing is one of the biggest factors to have changed how we work, store our data and information online and connect with other people.

Whether we choose Cloud Servers or Dedicated Servers, opt for Hosted Exchange or simple Web Hosting more and more people are becoming switched on to the flexibility of the Cloud.

Yet we still need to stay ahead of the curve. Identifying trends and how we might be using the technology in the next ten years helps us to plan and invest now to make the most of developments.

1. The growth of a hybrid solution

The power of the Cloud comes from its flexibility. Expect more of a mix and match approach in the future. Customers will expect to be able to combine a private cloud server with a public server. They want a hybrid environment. It is about managing what you need and creating the solution that fits you. As Cloud Computing grows, and inevitably the Cloud term gets dropped and it just becomes computing, it will begin to define the service offered to clients, matching their needs. That will be the key that helps companies to grow as they begin to offer much more tailored solutions for clients and customers. Software as a Service means no need for infrastructure, merely defining the set-up you want and then designing it.

2. Industry set and led guidelines for security

Expect a bigger debate on how we manage data and how we share data. Security remains the major hurdle for cloud adoption. If there is to be greater understanding then they are forced to ask big questions, the most important being “what are you doing with our information?” Many cloud providers like Intrahost, focus on security, both virtual and physical, and are already addressing the issue and allaying fears. This is not happening across the board, though. Expect more industry set and led guidelines, defining what is best practice and making sure the standards to be adhered to. This will remove much of what is perceived as the risk factor. An open cloud community or offer for a company that doesn’t set down exactly how it is secure, how it protects information from virus, spam or from being stolen will be pushed out the of the industry. It will mean a safer Cloud community.

3. How are you using Big Data?

Linked in to that last point is the question of Big Data. The onus is not just on Cloud Providers but also the companies holding data. The consumer is worried about what will leak out. There is a growth in the idea about “digital showing” managing your online profile and helping customers expect more in terms of how data is stored. Increasingly this will be the focus of the service level agreements signed with providers and also the deal you sign with your own clients. That change will mean a shift in applications as well. If more people are using a hybrid solution, companies are opting for a flexible approach, they don’t necessarily want the same information to be available on both sides. Say, for example, you’re a health organisation. You have private information, stored in a private cloud. The public cloud, say, is for organising appointments but you don’t want people in public cloud to be able same access same information about you as they do in private cloud.

4. Less of a focus on cost, more on value

There is an understanding about the cost effective nature of cloud computing. But more and more that will become less of a concern. Remember when cost was all we talked about with mobiles. It’s less of a concern now. It is seen as a human right to own a mobile so cost becomes less important, or less of the focus. It’s the same with the Cloud, increasingly the discourse will move to measuring the value the cloud has, rather than how much money it saves. That will foster a changing practice, looking at how it is adopted and the impact on culture. The Cloud will become more creative.

5. More mobile access

Mobile has changed everything and more devices are on the market helping us work on the go and stay connected. As cloud take up increases expect more access and more growth in terms of where you can use it and how. Hosted Exchange has been important driver in this, a number of email aliases, linking up with mobile devices. The trend set to continue. Why? The genie is out of the bottle. We work on the go, work from tablets, laptops, collaboratively and independently. Expect the Cloud to match that and expand.

The top 20 Twitter feeds on The Cloud

If you like your cloud news in neat short, 140 character messages then look no further than Twitter. The micro-blogging site is fast becoming the no 1 resource for those looking to keep in touch with news sites and bloggers who can keep them up to date on their industry and any latest developments. It started as a site populated by tech addicts so it’s not surprising one of the most popular avenues and accounts are those that talk about technology updates, releases and developments.

If you want to keep up to date on news from the Cloud, here are the accounts we think you should follow.

@DellCloudSolutions Followers 14, 433 Bio: Headlines from the Dell blog featuring news, analysis and a forum for discussion Inevitably a little Dell focused but the account is updated regularly and shares non-Dell blogs. There are also regular requests to submit your own ideas for blogs posts which is a good profile raiser.

@BizCloudNews Followers 1,520 Bio: Keep up-to-date with the latest news on Cloud Computing, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, Virtualization, Content Delivery Networks and Unified Communications around the globe For those just looking for headlines and a straight news feed this account is ideal. It links straight to the Business Cloud news site. Simple, effective and no nonsense.

@MSCloud Followers 36,915 Bio: A source for cloud computing news and the latest on Microsoft cloud solutions like Windows Server Hyper-V, Windows Azure and Office 365. If you use Microsoft Cloud products, whether through a provider or independently then this feed helps keep you up to date on new developments and also troubleshooting. It shares news on other Microsoft products but don’t expect anything from any other source.

@Cloud_Comp_News Followers 3,951 Bio: Cloud computing news including Saas, Paas, infrastructure, virtualization and trends A straightforward no nonsense news feed that bridges the gap between London and Silicon Valley. More UK focused than many other feeds. It asks questions - and inevitably answers them themselves - as well as linking to news stories. Whitepapers are a good inclusion and offer a wider reading resource for trends and developments.

@Mashable Followers 2, 940, 314 Bio: The largest independent website talking about news, resources and technology updates. If you don’t follow Mashable you really should. Not Cloud specific, it’s much wider than that but it’s an engaging feed that offers a good overview of anything with a microchip in it. A great breaking technology news feed as well.

@TheCloudNetwork Followers 10, 557 Bio: Simply links to their other accounts and their news site cloudcomputingarchitect.com Combining press releases with news stories it’s a good feed if you want an overview of what’s new and how the big names in Cloud are doing.

@TheTechGang Followers 10,074 Bio: A group of freelance reporters reporting for the IT Resource Network Essentially a directory for news articles and stories from the Cloud industry from a wide variety of resources. If you want to know what more than one voice is saying and get a good overview of the industry it’s a useful feed. However, they tweet A LOT so be warned.

@CloudNewsDaily Followers 401 Bio: “News of the day in Cloud Computing” The feed links to a clean looking blog site with news from all the global industry, even if they’re based in Florida. The blogs themselves are more interesting than the feed, which appears perfunctory rather than engaging and interactive.

@MSServerCloud Followers 45,732 Bio: More news from Microsoft Microsoft has as many Twitter feed as it has products. You don’t need to follow this as well as @MSCloud as they generally retweet the same articles. The MSServer blog is more about sharing the expertise of the team, instead of just tweeting about products so it’s a good knowledge resource. They also run competitions. Everyone loves free stuff!

@WorkintheCloud Folowers 4,673 Bio: Tweeting in the Cloud No website link so it’s difficult to know ether it’s an independent site or a sales push – not a greewat one with no website. They share press releases as well as news stories. A little overexcited use of hashtags but a regular feed that updates every hour or so.

@timoreilly Followers 1, 579, 596 Bio: Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media Sometimes you don’t want a company or a bot you want a real human being. Tim o’Reilly is that human being. An overview of technology stories instead of just those covering the cloud but peerless in terms of sharing stories and adding a fresh perspective.

@CloudCommons Followers 631 Bio: Cloud news, trends, advice and resources A more community focused site that offers advice and videos instead of just news. They regularly ask followers for suggestions for their “tweetchats” meaning it’s more interactive than other feeds that regurgitate headlines. They do regularly video episodes of Cloud Views, good if you like your news in a film format, rather than just text.

@CNET Followers 238,682 Bio: tech product reviews, news, price comparisons CNET is probably your first port of call if you want an independent review of products – that or TechRadar. A price comparison site for tech heads with videos and podcasts it immerses itself in the technology world and doesn’t come up for air. Unashamedly geeky, exactly how it should be.

@ForbesTech Followers 568, 005 Bio: Tech news from the Forbes team Opinion, news, insight and well-respected bloggers. It isn’t all about the Cloud and it’s focus might be more on multi-nationals and big business than the one man band in many ways but still a must-visit for an overview and insight into the technology industry and the big players.

@Arstechnica Followers 376,119 Bio: news, review, analysis and expert advice. It can be difficult wading through the tech world. You know what you want and what you do but you aren’t sure of what happens outside your office. Ars Technica is the door that opens you into the wider world. News on new products sits alongside optinion pieces easily. They also retweet articles from other voices in the tech community.

@BBCClick Followers 2, 014, 541 Bio: The Twitter feed of the BBC’s tech show Again not just cloud focused but an overview of tech news from a trusted source. Click is one of the best tech shows around and it’s the BBC so, y'know, good.

@guardiantech Followers 1, 841484 Bio: News and comment from the Guardian technology team Does exactly what it says on the tin, really. News and comment from the technology reporters at the Guardian. Bish. Bash. Bosh.

@CloudExpo Followers 56, 314 Bio: The official Twitter feed on the Cloud Computing expo in Santa Clara, obviously. Yes it’s promotion, but what isn’t on Twitter? It links to blogs commenting on industry issues, tips and ideas as well as videos. You might not be heading to the Expo but it’s a good source for industry news. Also worth having a sneaky look at their follwoers list for others in the Cloud community.

@MaureenOGara Followers 2,033 Bio: Apparently the most read technology reporter for two decades. No. me neither Purely focused on Cloud Computing the rather inflated biog actually offers an insight into a Cloud news desk. As the News Desk Editor at Sys-Con Media the feed offers comment on breaking tech stories as well as new products. A good feed if you’re looking for international cloud stories in the mainstream and technology media. She also retweets a lot so you’re not just getting one voice.

@AdobeCreativeCloud Followers 51,852 Bio: A digital hub that is all about Adobe Creative 6 application. Perhaps a little specialist for some, and inevitably full of tips, tricks and techniques for Adobe users but also links to useful articles and websites as well as webinars to improve your practice.

And of course you have to follow @Intrahostltd because, well, why wouldn't you?

Can cloud hosting help the creative entrepreneur?

The explosion in the number of entrepreneurs and SMEs is changing the UK’s business landscape. But to grow, succeed and see their ideas come to fruition they need to rely on an infrastructure that suits their budgets, rather than draining their resources. Creative entrepreneur John Aitken talks to Hosted Technology expert Laura Brown about how the Cloud can help him launch his ideas. Do you ever feel like you have so many ideas they’re just going to spill out of you? For creative entrepreneurs, developing projects and initiatives they are passionate about are part and parcel of their working practice.

John Aitken confesses he has ideas coming out of his ears. He has several projects all in strategy and development stage that he aims to launch later this year. The online profile of each of the projects, one a social enterprise aiming to create a web community in the truest sense providing advice and support in what’s planned to cover a range of sectors from health, family and employment.

He turned to Intrahost to help support his projects. Each has its own distinct identity and website so he relies on Intrahost for web hosting and domain registration.

“Intrahost has been massively supportive in terms of migration, helping maintain the sites, connectivity”. He says.

One of the main issues, particularly in this sector, is the need for flexibility. For projects to get off the ground they can’t be hampered by huge outgoings, especially if the income hasn’t been secured yet. For John, Intrahost understands that flexibility. For example one of the projects John is working on deals with recruitment, particularly helping looking to get back into work. “My main goal,” he says, “is to develop a mobile solution. I want to be able to help individuals build their work life around their home life and create a better balance”.

It’s an initiative about flexibility that needs flexibility. Cloud Computing means he can find a scalable solution that sits hand in hand with the project throughout the strategy stage. The IT isn’t pulling him down and proving to be a hindrance rather than a help.

So what are creative entrepreneurs like John looking for from a Cloud provider?

“To be honest, it’s a scary option to be doing what feels like handing over your business to someone else. You don’t really know the provider and you have to trust them. This is the biggest thing for anybody. You’re signing up to a virtual space where you worry someone could nick everything off the server. Look at Natwest and the problems they have had with security and reliability. Even large corporates can get it wrong and down time is the last thing you want when you are relying on a third-party to fix it”.

Trust is a key issue for small business but there is also the bridge cloud computing offers for those limited by a lack of funds for investment. The truth is that many small businesses are finding it hard to secure finance. While a large company with deep pockets could see technology as a tool for growth, a SME might see the same potential but be unable to afford it.

A decent bandwidth connection is going to be vital for every one of John’s projects.

“I couldn’t afford to buy T1 cables and lay down £20k to get myself that kind of connection”.

So working with a Cloud provider like Intrahost means he can avail himself of the investment they have already made. That investment doesn’t just benefit John. A Cloud Server means that a variety of entrepreneurs or SMEs like him could all rent a bit of same server, defining their own space, memory and requirements and establishing it on Intrahost’s foundations.

“Security and reliability is important”, John says, “but it’s also about knowledge. Many are still in an old technology state. They don’t see themselves as being able to move to a cloud solution, especially if they have no IT knowledge. Say you’re a lady selling jewellery down the street; you’ll do better if you’re able to sell more stuff online. The cloud would make that easier but she might not know about it”.

So if the benefits of cloud computing for the entrepreneurial and SME sector are to be truly felt, the onus is on the providers to help educate and popularise it.

“It’s a massive step for anyone. Money and security are always going to be the two things that people will care most about. There will always be people who aren’t necessarily behind it but the opportunity is still there”.

At the moment John’s projects are still in the development stage. As he works towards a launch he’s still testing the viability of initiatives, including stress testing and doesn’t know yet how successful they might be. Intrahost offers him a managed solution along with a team he’s happy to trust.

“Currently they offer me a good model. It’s in line with my strategy and we have a good relationship. I’m hoping to move all of my work to their cloud hosting. The proof is in the pudding as we work up to the launch”.

 

Book Review: Convert! Designing Web Sites to Increase Traffic and Conversion

Convert - Designing Web Sites to Increase Traffic and ConversionI thought I would share my thoughts about this book that I have been reading lately. "Convert! Designing Web Sites to Increase Traffic and Conversion" by Ben Hunt. If you're into methods of increasing traffic to your website or improving conversions once the traffic is there, this is a must-read. If your website cannot be found, or your visitors leave your site before completing CTAs (Calls to Action), then your investment is a poor one.

Also, many websites do not have any kind of visitor tracking/analytics code setup, or the web server log files are not analysed. Worse still, sales or CTAs are not measured.

This book tells you what you need to do to gain traffic and increase conversions, and Ben is quite the expert. He provides clear guidance on how to research, design, structure, and expand your website. He talks about features versus benefits. This is always an interesting topic. Do you place your features or benefits most prominently? The general rule is, benefits, although as Ben testifies, there are exceptions.

Whether you already have a website or you are looking at redesigning, this book is worth a read. Amazon has a "Look Inside" preview of the book.

Incidentally, we'll be redesigning the Intrahost website soon. If there's anything you'd like to change about it, please let us know or comment below.

When is a Cloud Server better than a Dedicated Server?

When is a cloud server better than a dedicated server? The instinctive answer is "never!"

How could it be anything else? We are computer users, we are logical people and logically the answer is, "Never!"

Otherwise, why have dedicated servers the first place?

Well, after I published the article on the benefits of cloud servers I received an interesting email.

My article, basically, spoke of cloud servers as being a very cost-effective way of achieving much of the operational benefit of having your own dedicated server but without the attendant cost.

The implication was there that the cloud server, or VPS as it is also known as, is a compromise, albeit a very good one, between performance/features and monthly cost.

For the vast majority of server users that difference, that compromise, is almost unnoticeable, unlike the very big saving to their bank balance!

However, I was reminded by the email that there is a way in which a cloud server can be BETTER than a dedicated server!

Confused?

Well, the veracity of that statement, essentially, hangs upon how your hosting company sets up its Cloud Server/VDS/VPS.

At Intrahost, rather than individual physical servers hosting several virtual dedicated servers on their internal hard drives, the set-up is very different. Here, the physical servers are set-up in "clusters" and the data storage is not on individual hard drives in each server, but rather in a shared disk array (or storage area network - SAN).

Now, I don't want to become too technical here as the purpose of our blog is to help clients, newcomers and the just-plain-curious to better understand our hosting industry, not to blind them with science, technology or acronyms!

But essentially there is a double benefit to our "Intrahost method" here.

Firstly, as our physical servers are "clustered" it  means that if one physical server went down, other servers in the cluster would automatically begin acting as a physical host server for the virtual servers that were allocated to the, now, ex-server! But this resilience would be of no benefit if the data of the cloud servers was stored on the, now, inaccessible hard drives of the failed physical server.

This is where the second advantage of the Intrahost method kicks in. As the virtual servers themselves are stored on the SAN they are not affected by the loss of the defective physical server's hard drives and so the cloud servers and all their data will continue to be available to end users.

Furthermore, when it comes to replacing the faulty server it is a quicker and easier job as the hard drives don't have to be removed and so there is no interruption to the service received by the customers who were being served by the faulty server.

Now compare that to a dedicated server, with everything stored internally.

If the dedicated server goes down you are out of the game until engineers get it going again or, alternatively, allocate you another server, if the malfunction is catastrophic.

But if the dedicated server is down and, therefore, you cannot access your hard drive (and the data thereon) have you got a recent backup that you can install on a new dedicated server? Do you back up your dedicated server yourself or are you paying extra for a fully managed service?

So, basically, a cloud server can have a higher availability (aka uptime) than a dedicated server.

Therefore,  if your hosting company, like Intrahost,  is utilising clusters of hosts and a storage area network, a virtual server, far from being a compromise is, in fact, a superior, hardier beast in terms of availability than your stand-alone, expensive, thoroughbred dedicated server.

If your cloud server hosts your business website or data files do you really want to be gambling everything, literally, on the survival of just one server?

Consequently, if you have a cloud server with another hosting company maybe it is worth checking whether your server benefits from host clusters and a SAN or whether it is risking all on just one physical server. If not, you know who to call...

First Apple computer sold for £133,000 at a London auction

An original Apple-1 computer was sold at a London Auction yesterday for a staggering £133,250. The Apple-1 was released in July 1976, where only 200 were produced. The price tag back in 1976 was $666.66 (£422.14) which only included a motherboard. Customers of the Apple-1 needed to purchase their own: power supply transformer; keyboard and display unit.

In 1977, the Apple-2 included an integrated keyboard, sound and stored in a plastic case. The Apple-1 computer was developed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak he is one of the co-founders of the Apple corporation.

Want to keep informed with the latest news? Sign up to the Intrahost RSS feed.

How fast is your broadband?

As a hosting company we do everything we can to ensure that your experience with us, as a host for your website is as pleasurable as possible. We employ the services of expert UK-based staff, spend lots of money on our own, top-brand, web servers, that are then placed in state-of-the-art UK data centres. The aim, naturally, is to give visitors to your websites the best speed possible when serving your web pages to them. Of course, this is only one side of a coin. The experience your visitor gets when they visit your website is also governed by the speed of their broadband connection to the Internet. Ask most people here in the UK and they'll say they get 8Mbps connection speed. Unfortunately, that is the "headline" speed. What they get is "up to 8Mbps" speed. And that's the rub. Most do not realise they get far less than that speed and are often disappointed when their surfing of the Internet slows down to a crawl.

BT were taken to task of this type of broadband speed discrepancy only recently but they are far from alone in utilising this technique of drawing in customers. The Gadget ShowIt is of concern to hosting companies, like Intrahost, that this, often poor, broadband speed delivered to UK customers impacts on the perception of the speed of our own hosting service.

Broadband providers get away with, what to many disappointed customers, is a sleight of hand too easily in the UK but little is done about it. However, Channel 5's The Gadget Show highlighted the issue last year they are focusing on it once again this year.

They are asking people to join in the campaign by testing the connection of your home broadband and sending them the results. You can participate by going here.

It is in every customers' interests to participate so that we get a true picture of what we are receiving, in terms of broadband speed, for our money.

Who controls your website?

Last week Computer Weekly reported on a worrying state of affairs amongst UK SMEs and their lack of control over their web presence. Do any of these apply to your business?

  • More than half of SMEs cannot make their own changes to their website
  • Two-thirds lack the contact details of their hosting company
  • Two-thirds do not have the passwords for their hosting account
  • Nearly three-quarters have not registered all their domain names in the name of the business owner

Most UK businesses do not have the in-house skills to create and host their own website and so it is natural that they should outsource this process. However, it is becoming clear that many businesses have let their lack of understanding of the process interfere with their control over their web presence.

Problems that can arise from these situations:

  • Unable to make your own changes means that you may be paying up to £50 an hour for simple changes to the text on your website.
  • Understandably, many companies baulk at paying to amend a website and so it's site becomes increasingly out of date and irrelevant. It may even harm the business if it seems to be lacking in awareness of new developments in its market.
  • If you cannot contact the hosting company what do you do if you check the Internet and your website doesn't appear? "error www.yourpreciousdomain.com cannot be found". Remember, your customers are seeing that message too.
  • Even if you have some employees who are Internet savvy they cannot help your company website if do not have the username or password for the hosting account.
  • If a domain name is not registered in the owner's name then there is no proof that they own the domain. It means it (and your email of course) can be controlled by the person in whose name it was registered... perhaps a now, disgruntled, ex-employee, a former business partner or even an angry ex-spouse! Many businesses discover their domain name is registered to the web designer who created their first website, a practice that has thankfully become rarer in recent years.

That last point brings us to the problems that can arise where the inexperienced SME owner left the "web thingy" in the hands of the confident local web designer who offered the "complete service". He did the design, development, implementation, uploaded the pages, provides the hosting and maintains the domain name.

For many SMEs this type of services proves to be a godsend and enables them to get their enterprise online with the minimum of fuss and at a reasonable price. But does the phrase "all your eggs in one basket" ring a bell?

From the point of view of the SME, its online presence has a SPOF - a single point of failure - the web designer. What if he drops dead tomorrow? How long would it take to get control of your domain if it's in his name? What happens to your web site in the mean time. Will the website still be hosted if he is not there to maintain the server or pay the contract with his hosting supplier? The problems are easily imagineable.

The solution? Well both SME owners and managers have to seize back control of their websites. The complexity of this will vary from SME to SME and the circumstances surrounding their exisiting web set-up.

  • Contact the designer and have a friendly chat, determine the answer to the questions raised above e.g. in whose name the domain is registered; ask about backup and emergency plans in the case of his illness or holiday.
  • Get the web site username and passwords, and ensure the info can be found in an emergency.
  • Transfer your domain into the business owner's name - we at Intrahost are happy to help our customer's do this - which means if all else fails you can point the domain's DNS (Domain Name Servers) to a new hosting company and get your website back online in an emergency.
  • Get a backup of your website saved regularly so you can upload it to a new host (see above) if necessary.

The best way to enable an SME to make minor alterations to a website, where they lack the in-house coding skills, is to either have the website moved to a CMS (content management system), like Joomla! or to attach a blog to the site (using WordPress) - both of which allow the relatively unskilled to make regular changes to the content of a web site - and the changes be free of charge and timely.

Parallels releases Plesk Panel 9.5

Parallels has today launched Parallels Plesk Panel 9.5 This latest version of Plesk includes significant upgrades, such as support for most virtualization platforms, self-diagnostic tools and automated bug fixers, Google Services for Websites, PCI compliance,and free installation, migration and upgrade support. "Parallels Plesk Panel 9.5 is the most feature-rich and easiest control panel for shared hosting," claimed Jack Zubarev, President at Parallels, at the launch.

Parallels, founded in 1999, is a worldwide leader in virtualization and automation software. They have made Parallels Plesk Panel 9.5, the number one control panel for shared hosting in the world; it is also the first commercial control panel to offer Google Services for Websites which enables hosting companies to monetize the applications available through Google Services for Websites.

For dedicated and shared hosting companies, the new updates will have some appeal. The broad support for the leading virtualization platforms such as Parallels Virtuozzo Containers, Parallels Server Bare Metal, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESX, Citrix Xen and KVM hypervisors allows flexibility in offering diverse virtualised services.

The self-diagnostic and automated bug fixers allows small businesses to resolve problems quickly and efficiently while reducing the work load on hoster's help desk analysts.

The Plesk 9.5 PCI Compliance ensures security of transactions.

For more information about the Plesk 9.5 control panel for shared hosting, please visit Plesk 9.5 home page.

Here at Intrahost we offer the Plesk control panel as an option on our VDS and shared web hosting products.

Mac OS X 10.6.2 Snow Leopard now downloading

Apple Mac OS X 10.6.2 update is available today. According to Apple this 10.6.2 Update is recommended for all users running Mac OS X Snow Leopard and includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac, including fixes for:

  • an issue that might cause your system to logout unexpectedly
  • a graphics distortion in Safari Top Sites
  • Spotlight search results not showing Exchange contacts
  • a problem that prevented authenticating as an administrative user
  • issues when using NTFS and WebDAV file servers
  • the reliability of menu extras
  • an issue with the 4-finger swipe gesture
  • an issue that causes Mail to quit unexpectedly when setting up an Exchange server
  • Address Book becoming unresponsive when editing
  • a problem adding images to contacts in Address Book
  • an issue that prevented opening files downloaded from the Internet
  • Safari plug-in reliability
  • general reliability improvements for iWork, iLife, Aperture, Final Cut Studio, MobileMe, and iDisk
  • an issue that caused data to be deleted when using a guest account

For detailed information on this update, please visit this website: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3874. For information on the security content of this update, please visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222.

The 10.62 update to Snow Leopard can be downloaded via the Software Update within Mac OS X.

Is your WordPress blog food for worms?

Is your WordPress blog running on the latest version of the self-hosted blog software? If not your blog could quickly become food for worms - well, one worm in particular that is doing the rounds of out-of-date, unpatched WordPress blogs.

This worm exploits a security bug that allows evaluated code to be executed through the permalink structure, makes itself an admin user, then uses JavaScript to hide itself so you can't see it if you look at the users page - it also attempts to clean up after itself and finally inserts hidden spam and malware into your old posts.

The danger of a worm like this is that your website could be banned from Google for hosting malware or being used for spamming.

The cure is a simple one, thankfully, just make sure you are running the latest version of WordPress, 2.8.4

In fact, the security vulnerability was fixed in the previous release, so you can get away with running 2.8.3. But upgrading WordPress has been made simpler over the versions and now it really is a "one-click fix".

As a hosting company we promote this type of news as we believe this simple upgrading is part of being a good 'virtual' neighbour to other users on shared web servers. If you allow your blog to be breached by this worm and be banned from Google, then other customers who share your web server (and its IP address) could also find their websites removed from Google's index - guilt by association!

So please take a few seconds to check that your WordPress blog software is 2.8.3 or higher - and hope that your virtual neighbours are doing the same!

Free Windows 7 RTM 90 day trial

Microsoft are offering a 90 day free trial of the final version of Windows 7 Enterprise Edition. Microsoft state that the free trial is for IT professionals only, however, apart from a short form to complete before downloading, they make no effort to verify this is the case.

The free download will be available until March 31st, 2010 or until a certain number of copies have been downloaded.

After the 90 day trial is complete Windows 7 will shut down the PC after an hour's operation. Users will then have to buy Windows 7 and perform a clean install - for example one that requires a reinstallation of all applications.

Download the Microsoft Windows 7 RTM trial

World's oldest domain name sold

Symbolics.com, the world's first registered domain name had been sold by it's original owners to XF.com Investments. Computer manufacturer Symbolics registered the domain name in March 1985, some ten years before most people had even heard of the Internet.

Symbolics.com will reach its 25th anniversary on March 10th, 2010

No fee has been disclosed for the purchase.

Free identity verification service for Twitter users

Crederity  has announced the launch of an identity verification service for Twitter users in the US.

It tries to combat the problem of online identity theft by enabling Twitter users to prove their real-life identity.

Crederity validates the offline, real-world identity of the person who has created a Twitter account.

To learn more about Crederity's new service for Twitter users, please visit: http://www.crederity.com/twitter.html

Presently, the service is free for US and Indian residents.

Apple Snow Leopard to make early UK debut

Apple's latest version of  OS X, Snow Leopard, will ship in the UK this Friday, 28th August. The price is £25 with free shipping from the UK Apple Store. This is good news for Apple Mac users who are looking forward to finally getting true 64-bit performance from their Intel-based Macs. Finder, Safari, Mail, iCal and iChat are now 64-bit native but Grand Central Dispatch and Open CL will make the most difference to your Mac's performance.

For a detailed overview of the benefits of the Apple Snow Leopard upgrade please take a look at my preview.

Meanwhile, I'm off to order a big beautiful cat for my MacPro!

BT 20 Mbps broadband - really?

Recently BT Retail announced that it will boost its top tier broadband downstream rate from a theoretical headline speed of 8 Mbps to up to 20 Mbps. Upload speeds will also increase, theoretically, from up to 448 Kbps to up to 1 Mbps.

However, these faster broadband speeds will initially only be available through exchanges covering 40 per cent of the UK's homes and businesses. Even in six months time coverage will only increase to 55 per cent.

It will take almost two years for all exchanges to be upgraded, during which time businesses in those areas will be disadvantaged. Businesses outside the major urban areas are the ones with the longest wait.

Steve Weller, of uSwitch said in the Daily Telegraph in June: "There will still be a second class of Internet citizen who will not benefit from this move from BT."

Living in a small seaside town that was very late to get broadband at all I was curious as to our fate under this new initiative. I discovered two things, that living close to an telephone exchange my current maximum speed is the full 8Mbps and that there seems to be, currently, no date for me to enter the 21st century and 20Mbps.

Then I checked my parents phone line - they live in a populous suburb of Leeds, and discovered that their current maximum broadband speed is 6.5Mbps - which isn't bad - and, as expected, they have an upgrade date - of 28th February 2009. I was about to grumble when I noticed that their expected maximum speed after the 20Mbps upgrade was just 9Mbps - barely faster than I am getting under the 8Mbps regime in our east coast isolation!

So, by increasing the downstream theoretical maximum speed by 150% BT will actually increase my parents' broadband speed in Leeds by less than 39%.

Does this mean that the millions of people who currently enjoy broadband speeds of less than 2Mbps will max out at well under 3Mbps even when their exchange has a headline downstream speed of 20Mbps?

I can predict even more complaints about headline speeds being forthcoming next year if these results are in anyway representative of the experience of BT's subscribers.

ICANN closes down three US domain name registrars

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has revoked the accreditation of 3 domain name registrars for various offences. South American Domains, Simply Named and Tahoe Domains are all based in the US and host 296, 298 and 231 top level domains respectively.

Under ICANN rules, the domains controlled by the three domain name registrars will be available for transfer to reliable third-party domain name registrars such as ourselves, Intrahost Ltd.

As with all things in business, this serves as a warning to do some due diligence on firms with which you have dealings on the Internet.

Don't be fooled by size either, last month Network Solutions, one of the biggest names in domain names and hosting admitted its ecommerce servers had been hacked. Only last year EstDomains was shutdown, by ICANN revoking their accreditation, and 281,000 domain names had to find new registrars.