What the mailman dragged in

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So, yesterday my mailman brought me yet another one of those Domain Registry of Amer*** letters. These letters are seriously annoying.  Take a look (click below to see bigger image) :

If you didn’t already know, these letters are a notorious marketing ploy.  They try to convince you to renew your domain name with them by sending you an official-looking notice, by postal mail.  If you follow the directions, not only will you pay an arm and a leg for a year of registration, but you’ll also be transferring your domain registration to another company. I often get letters from customers, who ask me, “How did these scumbags get my snail mail address?”  It’s actually really easy.  And sort of scary, too.

Your domain name’s ownership information (it’s also called the “WHOIS information”) is available in a public database – which can be accessed by anyone.  See for yourself right here.

This is the same reason you usually started getting boatloads of spam to the email address associated with your domain.

Obviously this is bad.  Only for specific reasons would you want to share your info (and I’ll tell you about those in a couple of weeks).  But as a general rule, it’s better to hide your contact information from public view.

So how can you hide your contact information?

Until now, there hasn’t been a lot you can do about it.  But because so many of you have been asking for it, we’ve added a sweet new feature called Domain WHOIS Privacy.  It basically removes your information from the WHOIS database.  You still own your domain, but now you won’t have to deal with all the spam, fake mail, and telemarketing calls.  Of course you always have the option to turn privacy off at any time, but I don’t recommend it.

I’ve got all my personal names, and even some of my business names, protected with Domain WHOIS Privacy.  It works wonders and the spam you get decreases considerably.

So if you want to add it to your existing domain(s), it’s only $6/year (which is like one or two lattes from Starbucks, depending on how complicated of a person you are). And it’s well worth it.  Here are some instructions on turning privacy on.

To make it a no brainer, we’ve bundled domain privacy with new .com domain registrations. For a short time, you can register new .coms for just 4 bucks if you add domain privacy when you order them.

I hope you like this new feature, and that it’ll help you as much as it has helped me.

Yours,

Fathi Said, CEO
IX Web Hosting

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Important (New Domain Stuff)

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Here’s the details on the five-featured knock-out punch for your domains.  All five fall into the “you’ve been asking for it forever” category.

You would not believe the amount of emails I get from my customers asking about these features.  They’re finally here.  Let’s get right to it:  (Drum roll please…)

Number 1: Domain WHOIS Privacy

When you register a domain, you fill out your name, address, phone, email, etc., right?

I’m not sure if you know, but this information is PUBLIC.  It’s stored in the so called “WHOIS” database, and anyone, including bad guys (like spammers, identify thiefs (or phishers), and other online fraudsters go there to get the goods on domain owners like you and me.)

There’s actually a close-to-home story that I have of how one my colleagues almost got shafted because she didn’t have her domains protected.  I’ll tell you about it later this week.

The only way to solve it:  Domain WHOIS Privacy – it hides your information and tells the trolls that it’s off limits!

 Click here to protect the domains you already have registered.

To honor the release of this feature – for a very, very short time, we’ll offer new .com domain registrations for the crazy low price of $4, when you register them with Domain WHOIS Privacy.

 

Number 2: .ME and .NAME Domains

Have you ever wanted to grab a personal piece of web real estate for yourself, your children, or grandchildren?

We’re talking .name and .me domain names. Very cool. They’re the perfect way to put your unique, personal stamp on the internet, and get a really sweet email address. Over 14,000 domain names are registered every hour, so act fast if you want to secure your name.

See if yours are available here.

Number 3: Internationalized Domain Names.

Did you know that domain names can be registered in non-English language characters?

If you get traffic from other countries, your should snap up your domain in those languages and redirect the traffic to your site. Right away. Why? Because it will help your site rank higher in Google, and it’s likely that you’ll start getting more traffic.

It’s fast and easy, and now you can do it right in your control panel.

If you don’t know how to spell your domain in the language you’re looking for, simply visit http://translate.google.com. Plus, it’s easier to copy/paste than try to figure out how to make a ¨, Б, or 买 using your keyboard.

Number 4: Premium Domains

I’m sure you’ve run into this problem before.  You think of your perfect domain name.  Alas, it’s not available anymore.  Just like all of the other good domain names – all taken.  But really, a lot of them are for sale!  And with any luck, the name you really want is too.

They’re called “Premium” (or pre-registered) domain names, and they’re a great way to get the exact domain name you want.

But, like all good things, they’re not cheap.  They can get pretty pricey – but you get what you pay for. Premium domains are often a big source of immediate direct traffic, built-in SEO rankings, and a reservoir of pre-existing backlinks (and all that stuff is really good for ranking your site higher on search engines.)

Take a look here to see if there is one you like, or if your perfect name is actually available!

Number 5: Easy Domain Transfer

For years, both my customers and my customer service specialists have been beating me over the head with this little tidbit: It’s a pain in the neck to transfer domains into our system.

So finally, we created something new: An automated tool for domain transfers that lets you extricate your domains from the grip of your former registrar, and transfer them quickly and easily to your account, directly in your control panel.

You can do it fully automated, and it doesn’t require any phone calls to our team.  So transfer away!

That’s it for now. We’re all very excited about these enhancements. I hope you will be too.

Talk soon,

Fathi Said, CEO
IX Web Hosting

 

PS:  Pesky Disclaimers:  $4 .com domain registrations good for initial registration period only. WHOIS Domain Privacy Protection is available on .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, and .mobi top-level domains only.

PPS:  To get handy screenshots and instructions for all of our new features – check out the online hosting manual.

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The importance of maintaining your web applications

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Web application maintenance is vital to the health and security of not only your website, but your entire hosting account.  Not only does this directly impact your security but also your reputation on the Internet.  Failure to maintain web applications is one of the leading causes of hacked sites.  A hacked site sees a negative impact on their Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

What is a web application?

Generally, a web application is a type of application that is accessible over a network and usually uses a browser as the primary interface.  A more in-depth explanation can be found on Wikipedia, but that is beyond the intended scope of this post.  Web applications can come in many flavors and purposes.  Some are designed to help you manage and display content to your visitors.  Some are used as shopping carts to help you display and sell your products.  Others are designed to display content in a gallery format.  In the next section, I include a list of many of the popular web applications.

Why should I upgrade?

One reason new versions of applications are released is because new features are added.  That’s usually the first thought that comes to mine when you hear about a new version:  What was added?  Sometimes a new version is released and nothing obvious appears to have changed.  Chances are, that version was released to patch one or more security vulnerabilities.   Most applications include a change log file; reading it will explain what has changed from one version to the next.  To help illustrate the importance of these upgrades, I have compiled a list of some of the more common web applications and their corresponding advisory listings at the popular security site, Secunia:

You will notice that many of the advisories listed have been resolved by installing the current version.  While hosting account security hinges on many aspects of your account access, up-to-date software goes a long way towards keeping your account secure.  There are also several tutorials available to suggest configuration changes to make your applications more secure, here are two to get you started:

How do I maintain my site?

The very first thing to do is to backup your site.  It is imperative you back up your own site before every major change.  Do not depend on the hosting company’s regularly scheduled backups!  What would happen if the hosting company’s regularly scheduled backup occurs after you have made changes that did not have the desired effect – you would have nothing with which to revert.

Also, do not depend on plugins to handle your critical backups.  Consider for a moment:  All of my backups use a plugin inside my application.  After applying an update, access to my dashboard is broken.  I cannot restore from my backup without dashboard access.  This makes about as much sense as keeping the spare keys to your locker inside the locker.  Sure the spare keys are safe, but you’ll never open the locker to get your spares if you lose your main key.

To properly backup the site, you will want to download a copy of your web files using an FTP application and also export a SQL dump of the active database.  Both of these actions are outside the scope of this article, but check back in the coming weeks for more info.  Until then, Google is your friend!

Once you have a solid backup, log into the application’s dashboard and update each plugin individually before attempting the core application update.  This order is important as some plugins will need to be updated to be compatible with your application’s newest version.  This can be time consuming, but it is worth the effort of updating one module at a time.  If you succumb to the temptation to update them all at once and your testing shows some aspect of your site is broken, you will not know which plugin was the cause of the error.

When your testing is complete and all plugins are updated, then it is advisable to review your active plugins to ensure their compatibility with the core application’s update.  Personally, I would make a backup of this configuration now.  While not absolutely necessary, it will save you time if the core update breaks your site.  Now follow the update steps recommended by your core application.  Some have buttons to update within the dashboard, some require more intricate steps.

I like to take another full backup of the known good configuration after you have completed your updates of plugins and the core application.

Many web applications offer the ability to sign up for their newsletter.  This is a great way to keep yourself appraised of updates and will help you to continue maintaining your site.  Keep your web hosting account (as well as your visitors) safe!

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How to migrate a WordPress site

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Because of the increasing popularity of WordPress, the question of how to migrate an existing WordPress site is one we receive frequently.  Several of our customer relations specialists have assisted in fine tuning a general process, and we thought we would share this set of instructions in the hopes that it will save you some frustration in attempting this task on your own.

This post assumes you have basic knowledge of navigating both the WordPress Dashboard, and the IX Web Hosting control panel.

Utilities you will need:

  • Either a search-and-replace tool, or an advanced plain-text file editor with a search/replace function (Windows Grep or Notepad++ recommended)
  • A compression utility with .gzip compression option (7-Zip recommended)
  • A ftp-client and the ftp information for your account (FileZilla recommended, ftp info can be found/changed inside your IX Control Panel under FTP Manger)

Inside of your WordPress Dashboard (aka wp-admin)

  • If your Permalinks settings are something other than “Default”, take note of this setting and change it to “Default”
  • Take note of your Widgets settings and locations as sometimes these are reset when moving your installation
  • Take note of any custom menu buttons for the same reason
  • Finally, take note of the Blog location and Home location settings inside of the General settings section.  You will need these.

Using a ftp client (such as Filezilla)

  • Copy all of your WordPress site’s files to your computer
  • After the copy is complete, copy it again so you will have a second backup just in case.  You will be modifying at least one copy of this backup, so creating another is recommended in case anything goes wrong
    • This can be done before changing the settings in the WordPress Dashboard but occassionally a plugin will rewrite a file based upon your Permalinks settings.  Therefore, I typically suggest doing this after making the Permalinks change.

Inside phpMyAdmin – Export

  • Launch phpMyAdmin from your IX Control panel using the mysql database username chosen when your WordPress installation was created
    • If you do not know your database username, you may find it inside of your wp-config.php file
  • Once inside of phpMyAdmin, click on (or choose from a dropbox) the WordPress database name on the left side of the screen
    • Again, check your wp-config.php file if unsure what your database name is
  • You should now see, on the main section on the right side of the screen, a list of your database’s tables.  These usually start with the prefix “wp_” but another prefix also could have been specified during the WordPress installation.
  • Click on the Export tab at the top of the screen.
  • Without changing any options, click the Go button at the bottom of the screen.  This will start the database copy process and may either ask you to download a file ending in the extension “sql” or may even open this file in your browser automatically.  If your browser automatically opens this file, wait for the page to fully load, then save the file to your computer from your browser’s menus.
  • Just as with the files you downloaded via ftp, make a 2nd copy of this file just in case

Congratulations – 1/3 there

If you’ve made it this far, you have a truly FULL backup of your WordPress site.  If anything ever happens to your WordPress site, you can use these files to overwrite and restore it to today’s exact settings and content.

Prepare your database backup for migration

  • Your database backup “sql” file contains information specific to your old blog.  You need to search and replace that information to the new blog location.  To do this, you can either use a program such as Windows Grep, or open the file with a PLAIN-TEXT editor.  Notice the emphasis on PLAIN-TEXT… do NOT use office document editors as they may alter the contents of this file, or not load at all because of the sheer size of this file.  I recommend using Notepad++ or Dreamweaver if you have them… Notepad++ is free, lightweight, and easy to use, and Dreamweaver is a common favorite of developers (and a free trial is available if you don’t own your own copy).  Windows Grep will do this process much easier and faster, especially on older computers, since it doesn’t attempt to load the entire file into memory at one time.
  • Once you have either of these, look for a “Find and Replace” or just “Replace…” option in the menus.  You will need to search/replace both the Blog location and Home location you made note of earlier (these may be the same, if so, only one search/replace is necessary) and of course you are replacing with the new locations you intend to use.
    EXAMPLE: Search For: olddomain.com  Replace With:  newdomain.com
    • If either the new or old WordPress location involve a subfolder… be sure to type this in in the following format “mydomain.com/foldername”
    • As I hinted at in the description of this section, this file may be HUGE!  Depending on the speed and power of your computer, you may be waiting a while for it to open the file, and even longer still for it to replace everything.  If you have a really old or low performance computer, you may not be able to complete this part… but one of our customer relations specials can attempt to do so for you
  • Once the replacement is complete, save this file (as a new name if you’d like so can easily distinguish it from your backup copies)

Prepare your file backup for migration

  • Just as you searched and replaced your database backup, you should also search and replace every file in your file backups as well.  Don’t worry, you shouldn’t have to do this individually with each file – all three of the programs I recommended have a search and replace option for an entire directory at a time.
    • Find this option to search multiple files/directories and, just like above, search for your old WordPress location, and replace with your new WordPress location

Create a new database for the new location(s)

  • This will not be necessary if you intend on re-purposing the same database you were using before, but will be necessary if you are changing accounts, changing hosts, or keeping the previous WordPress location active
    • Click on MySQL Server inside your IX Control Panel and follow the steps to create a new database, a NEW user (for both security and performance reasons, do not re-use the same user), and a new password.
  • When creating your database, you will have the option to specify a description – I always recommend writing the name of the domain (or domain+folder), your chosen “name” for the blog, or another unique identifier so you can easily know what this database is used for
  • The password will need to contain, at minimum, one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, and one number
  • Make note of the following 4 things as you are going through this process… you will need them:
    • Database Host (mysql####.ixwebhosting.com for example)
    • Database Name
    • Database User
    • Database User Password

Update wp-config.php

  • This will not be necessary if you intend on re-purposing the same database you were using before, but will be necessary if you are changing accounts, changing hosts, or keeping the previous WordPress location active
    • Almost done with the modifications now… this one is easy.  Find the copy of the wp-config.php file you copied via ftp earlier and open it in your plain-text editor.  Now, find and update the Database Host, Name, User, and Password with the ones you noted earlier when you created your new empty database.  There are literally only four lines here and they’re at the top of the file so you won’t need any search/replace tool… just make sure that all 4 options retain the quotes that were surrounding them before you started.

Compress your modified database file

Unfortunately, while phpMyAdmin will generally export large database files, due to the load importing a large file can generate, phpMyAdmin has been limited to only import a file as large as 2MB.  This means that the file you just modified is probably too large for phpMyAdmin to accept.  The GOOD news is that phpMyAdmin will accept archived files.

  • Using the compression utility of your choice, create an archive out of the file you just finished modifying and choose GZIP as the format (again, 7-Zip is recommended here because it’s free and fairly easy to use)
    • Some versions of phpMyAdmin do accept ZIP (.zip) files, but all versions accept GZIP (.gz) files so of course I recommend you choose this format

Ready to migrate

Alright, in theory you now have a copy of WordPress ready for uploading to your new blog location.  Because you have a full backup of your database and files, you will not need to install WordPress first in this new location, and will simply put them into place.

  • Using your ftp-client, connect to the location of the new blog, and upload all of the WordPress files you copied down earlier (and the modified wp-config.php file of course)
  • Using phpMyAdmin, go through the same steps you did to Export, only this time choose the NEW User, and choose the Import tab.
    • If given an option to “continue on errors” on this import page, check this option
  • Click on the Browse button and find the GZIP file you created with your modified database backup, and click Go

Cross your fingers

Now your WordPress installation should be fully migrated, and is often mostly if not fully functional.  Try to browse to your new WordPress location and if it displays, click on a few links to make sure everything works properly.  If it does NOT work correctly, or doesn’t load… continue with these steps:

  • Log into your new location’s Dashboard
  • Check the General settings tab to make sure the Blog and Home locations are correct (if not, there may have been a mistake in your search/replace)
  • Check your Permalinks settings and make sure they are set to Default (for now)
  • If either of these were changed… try your blog again.  If still not working correctly, go back to your Dashboard again…
  • Set your theme back to the default WordPress theme
  • Disable (you shouldn’t need to uninstall) your plugins
  • After saving all of these changes… go test your blog again.  It will probably work but won’t look anything like you want.
  • Re-enable your theme
  • Re-enable your plugins one-by-one
  • Change your Permalinks back to the way you had them before

* If your WordPress site is STILL not working correctly… there may have been a problem with one of the steps above, or there could be factors outside of the norm (such as an oddly coded plugin, too low of PHP memory_limit, etc).  At this point, we can try to troubleshoot what the problem is, but depending on what the issue is… we unfortunately cannot guarantee success.  WordPress is a third-party application and has third-party plugins and themes.  As we are not developers, and are not the creators of either WordPress or your theme or plugins, we may not be able to fix the move… however we will be happy to take a look and try.  At the worst case scenario, we do have a development team who can offer you a quote to either fix, move from scratch, or remake your WordPress blog at it’s new location.

Thank you for reading this rather lengthy tutorial.  I sincerely hope it is of use to you, and of course if you find anything incorrect or that can be improved, please be sure to let me know.

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At IX, we take care of our customers. And dedicated support is one of the ways we prove to you again and again that we are here to help you every step of the way, regardless of your skill level. With IX dedicated support, you get a support technician personally assigned to assist you. You get their name, number, email, social media connections, and work schedule! It's just one more facet of our service which proves our deeply rooted belief that being a great hosting provider requires more than just cutting-edge technologies, but the best in support and service.