8 Best Video Plugins for WordPress

Until the launch of WordPress 4.4, plugins were an essential requirement if you wanted to embed videos from sites like YouTube and Vimeo to your website. Today, you don’t need a plugin to fulfil this basic function, you can simply copy and paste the video’s embed code directly into your text editor. However, using that method will only give you limited options. Faced with the prospect of their plugins becoming obsolete after WP 4.4, developers have since begun to add many features to keep their plugins useful.

To show you what these plugins are capable of, this post will look and eight of the best WordPress video plugins around to help you choose the ideal tool for creating a great user experience for your own website.

1. Envira Gallery Lite

Envira Gallery Lite

Envira Gallery Lite is a WordPress gallery plugin that has both video and still image capabilities and is built with real consideration for the needs of a webmaster.

The plugin enables users to curate video galleries from sources such as YouTube, business video hosting site, Wistia, and even videos hosted on your own site. These videos can be then displayed in the attractive galleries or watched in full-screen lightboxes.

Galleries can be created using the built-in templates and put on your website simply by dragging into your preferred widget area. In addition, they can also be displayed on posts and pages by the use of a shortcode, giving you genuine flexibility on where you can put them on your website.

With the webmaster in mind, Envira Gallery also makes sure it helps your site with SEO. It’s maximised for optimum speed and has metadata and deep-linking features. As you would expect from a great video plugin, it is also fully responsive so that the videos will play perfectly no matter what screen size your visitors are using.

Cost: The Lite version is free. There are also four premium versions with prices starting at $19.

2. YouTube Showcase

youtube-showcase

Simple to use, the YouTube Showcase plugin creates ‘video pages’ custom post types that display each video on a separate page. At the same time, it automatically creates a thumbnail gallery page of all your videos and a produces a high definition, Video Grid Gallery which shows thumbnails in a four-column, responsive layout so that users get an overview of all the videos available.  It also has featured videos and recent videos widgets which can be placed in the sidebar.

Video pages are created simply by pasting in the last 11 digits of a YouTube video’s URL (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlvaSEWBK_w) into the plugin.

To give some flexibility over presentation, the plugin also lets users choose the dimensions of the videos’ thumbnails so you can display them with either 4:3 or 16:9 ratios. All videos are responsive when shown, so can be watched on any device.

For ease of use, the plugin provides a setup assistant which will create all the video pages for you.

Cost: Free and pro versions are available. Pro starts at $49.99.

 3. YouTube Simple Gallery

YouTube Simple Gallery

The YouTube Simple Gallery gives users a combination of the features of the previous two plugins. It creates custom post types in order to add and categorise videos and provides users with the ability to embed galleries directly into posts and pages simply by using a shortcode.

For better viewing experiences, it enables users to view videos in a lightbox and for better presentation, you can customise the dimensions of both the video and its thumbnail.

Simple, effective and free.

4. WordPress Video Gallery

WordPress Video Gallery

The WordPress Video Gallery is packed with useful features and can display a wide range of video files including high definition video such as FLV, H.264, MP4, MOV and some types of live streaming. This enables you to include videos from YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, Daily Motion and other sites.

It also enables you to build in social networking comments from the gallery page and has a social bookmarking option. Users are also able to manage multiple playlists and alter the width, height, skin, theme, aspect ratio and volume of the videos. With seven additional widgets to use, you can also display recent videos, popular videos, featured videos and more.

Visitors to your site can create playlists, add videos to watch later and even see their viewing history.

Cost: Free

5. YourChannel

YourChannel

The YourChannel plugin is designed to let you show your YouTube channel content directly on your website, so in order for this plugin to work, you will need a YouTube username or channel ID so that your channel and website can connect.

Once set up, the plugin not only shows your uploaded videos, it also displays your banner image, profile picture and YouTube username, together with your playlists. Though you do have options whether to display all these features or not.

As you would expect, the videos are responsive and can be viewed in a lightbox. There are seven styles of video thumbnail available.

Cost: Free

6. uTubeVideo Gallery

uTubeVideo Gallery

If you want to display multiple YouTube galleries on your WordPress site, then uTubeVideo Gallery might be the ideal solution.

This plugin enables you to put galleries on any post or page of your website and automatically fetches and caches thumbnails to help your site load more quickly. One of its better features is that it automatically hides those pesky YouTube annotations to give your visitors a better viewing experience.

It also allows you to change thumbnail size, reorder your videos and add YouTube playlists to your galleries. Like other plugins, you can customise the size of the player and in addition, you can also set the resolution of videos to 480p, 720p, or 1080p.

Cost: Free

7. Workbox Video from Vimeo & YouTube Plugin

Workbox Video

The Workbox Video from Vimeo & YouTube Plugin enables users to easily create a video gallery on any web page simply by pasting the video’s URL and then adding the plugin generated shortcode to any page or post. In addition, you can completely customise the playing order of your videos in your gallery.

The plugin works with videos from Vimeo, Wistia and YouTube, so should be sufficient for most people’s needs.

Cost: Free

8. Ultimate Video Gallery

Ultimate Video Gallery

The Ultimate Video Gallery plugin, like many of the others we have looked at, enables you to add videos to your site simply by pasting the video URL. It plays both YouTube and FLV videos and gives a range of options, including customisable video and thumbnail sizes and the ability to show video titles, descriptions and even subtitles. It also enables YouTube videos to be played on mobile devices – though it doesn’t state if this playback is responsive or not.

Cost: Free

Conclusion

If you want to have galleries of videos on your website instead of just a single video, then you will still need a plugin to achieve this. Hopefully, the range of plugins that we have shown you will cover most of the features you need for your website.

If you are displaying videos on your WordPress website, make sure that you have the hosting resources (bandwidth, RAM, CPU and storage) needed so that your website can load them quickly and play them without disruption to your visitors enjoyment.

If you are a WordPress user and are looking for first-class dedicated WordPress hosting, take a look at our WordPress hosting page.

Posted in Web Hosting | Tagged | Leave a comment

Why Managed Hosting is Beneficial for eCommerce Business

Why Managed Hosting is Beneficial for eCommerce Business

Managed hosting is service that can be provided by your web host if you run your eCommerce website on their dedicated servers, VPS or cloud networks. Whilst no two managed hosting services are exactly identical, generally, it means that your service provider will administer your hardware, operating systems and system software.

This usually involves your web host setting up and configuring hardware, installing and configuring software, undertaking system maintenance, monitoring, updates and patching, and offering 24/7 customer and technical support.

In addition, services such as backups, load balancing, disaster recovery, vulnerability scans, intrusion detection, DDoS (distributed denial of service) prevention and mitigation can also be included or purchased as additional services.

Overview of managed services

Here is a more detailed outline of the services provided:

  1. Server setup: this includes the installation of the control panel (e.g. cPanel or Plesk) and operating system (e.g. Linux or Windows).
  2. Performance monitoring: this includes monitoring of the server, databases and network.
  3. Security scanning: using tools like the powerful MTvScan, your system will be monitored for viruses and other malware.
  4. Application support: your host will manage the installation of supported applications and their updates.
  5. Patching: to protect your system from security holes, your web host will install OS and application patches, updates and bug fixes.
  6. Troubleshooting: if you call customer support with a server problem or if monitoring identifies any issues, the technical support team will take responsibility for putting it right.
  7. Hardware maintenance: all maintenance and upgrading of hardware is taken care of by the web host.
  8. Backups: your host will offer you the ability to backup and securely store your data so that, in the event of a disaster, recovery can be achieved much quicker.

Different types of managed hosting

Generally speaking, there are two types of managed hosting that you can choose from: fully managed and partially managed. However, users need to be wary when looking at different packages as some hosts offer a wider range of services than others.

With fully managed hosting, your host is responsible for the complete administration of the server, including technical maintenance and performance. With partially managed hosting, you will still be required to undertake some of the management of the server yourself. The option you choose depends up whether you have the time, expertise and need to partially manage your server yourself, or whether it would be more convenient for you to leave it to the experts.

There are also different types of server management services, depending on the type of hosting you have chosen. Whilst dedicated servers, VPS and cloud hosting all have similarities in how they are managed, they also have their own specific requirements. For example, VPS and cloud hosting both operate in virtual environments whereas dedicated servers do not. These differences may affect what is included in your managed package.

How managed hosting is beneficial for ecommerce business

Now that we have a better understanding of what managed hosting is, let’s take a closer look at how it benefits eCommerce businesses.

Preventative management

One of the biggest benefits of managed hosting is that it helps prevent problems occurring. Software compatibility checks, security scans and performance monitoring all help the service provider detect and deal with small problems before they develop into serious issues. This is very helpful for e-commerce sites that often have specific site requirements and a lack of in-house technical expertise.

Site loading speed

Slow loading speeds affect search engine ranking and turn customers away. It is estimated that every extra second that your pages take to load will cost you 7% of turnover!  Whilst some of the loading sluggishness can be due to the configuration of your website, it can also be due to server speed. However, with managed hosting your server is monitored to detect performance issues, thus ensuring your site loads quickly no matter how much traffic you are experiencing.

Availability

When your eCommerce site is offline, you lose business. Managed hosting, especially on packages where high-availability is guaranteed by SLA, helps ensure your website stays online at least 99.95% of the time.

Security 

There are all sorts of security threats faced by eCommerce sites and the visitors who use them: hacking, DDoS, infection, ransomware, data theft – the list goes on. A managed hosting service, however, takes care of much of the security for you: preventing intrusion, blocking viruses and securing your data so that you can continue to offer your services and products in a safe and secure way.

Reducing costs

Undertaking the management of your own servers would require you to have the in-house expertise needed to do the job to the same standard that your web host can. For most eCommerce companies, this would mean the employment of additional staff that would, in most cases, be more expensive than the managed service. Even if you already had IT staff employed, they could be put to more productive use if much of the admin work was passed over to your service provider.

In addition, a managed service can reduce costs by helping to prevent loss from performance and security problems and by removing the need for maintenance and upgrades.

Conclusion

Managed hosting makes sense for many eCommerce businesses, especially those that do not have the in-house expertise to manage their own servers. It enables you to outsource the more technical aspects of running your online store whilst improving your site’s performance and security.

If you have an online store and are looking for first-class eCommerce hosting, check out our range of shared, VPS, dedicated server and cloud based eCommerce solutions – including our fully managed options.  Alternatively, give us a call to discuss your hosting requirements on 0800 862 0890.

Posted in Web Hosting | Tagged | Leave a comment

5 Data Management Lessons from LinkedIn Achievement

Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn saw the dovetailing of the world’s fifth most valuable company with the fourth biggest social network. As a result, we knew that big things would be in the pipeline. From a data management perspective there certainly has been some major activity and here are five lessons, from that acquisition, that every company can benefit from.

1. The importance of data as a service (DaaS)

With over 450 million users, the data that LinkedIn has at its fingertips is a highly valuable commodity, especially to marketing, sales and recruitment personnel. In order to make it of even more value to their customers, their aim is to make LinkedIn profile data available on demand in Office 365 and on other platforms such as Dynamics CRM.

The lesson here is quite simple, all businesses can benefit from having seamless, real-time access to licenced or public data as it enables them to improve their own data quality and augment their customer profiles. What Microsoft is doing will remove the time-consuming Extract, Transform and Load Process, which affects the speed and accuracy of any update, and replace it with real-time Data as a Service access – this is something all data vendors should try to emulate.

2. How cloud-based, master data management will benefit businesses

One of the problems facing Microsoft as it tries to monetize LinkedIn data is that it relies on users to update their own profiles. With only a quarter of users visiting the site each month and only a fraction of those updating their profiles, this means that the much of the data it holds might not be accurate. This, in turn, makes the data less valuable to potential customers, especially to B2B organisations that require continuously updated customer profiles.

The lesson we can learn from Microsoft here is that, to succeed, reliable data measures need to be put in place to maintain and improve data quality. This is best achieved through the use of cloud-based master data management (MDM) applications that link all critical data to one file and thus provide a unified view of customer profiles.

3. The value of relationship data and graph-based technology

Once upon a time, businesses were happy just to collect very basic information: name, contact details, job title and company. Today with an increasing lean towards customer engagement, businesses are becoming much more interested in discovering relationships and require data that shows a person’s affiliations, affinities and peer relationships. Why else do you think LinkedIn asks you what causes you care about or asks you how you know someone when you request to connect?

In order to make all this relationship data manageable and understandable for end users, Microsoft and LinkedIn use graph technology to capture, manage, and maintain data. This can be achieved at a limitless scale and highlight the deepest of connections between people and entities.

For businesses that require the same 360-degree understanding of their customers, suppliers or products the lesson here is to invest in the graph technologies and other NoSQL databases which are now available for use.

4. Harness the power of machine learning and analytics

Microsoft and LinkedIn have begun to harness the power of machine learning and analytics to get insight into their combined graph data. This can be achieved by giving their machine learning and predictive analysis applications access to their combined graphs. One way this can be put into use is that Microsoft’s Cortana, the Windows 10 personal assistant, can learn which are the best people on LinkedIn to recommend as connections.

Machine learning and analytics can provide enormous benefits to business in all kinds of ways, especially for those investing in IoT technology. Examples of how it can benefit include understanding how customers interact with products in order to make manufacturing improvements, understanding customers’ behaviour and desires in order to offer the most appropriate products to buy, and helping automate processes and actions by learning how customers have behaved in the past.

5. The need for data-driven applications

Working together, Microsoft and LinkedIn are raising the bar in data management. Using the scalability of cloud technology they can now offer data-driven apps and services which are personalised, contextual and goal-focused. These include LinkedIn’s text based, filtered search which identifies both demographic and company orientated profile information; providing users with personalised recommendations about which positions they may wish to apply for; and analyses of users’ job change data in order to identify patterns in hiring and promotion across different companies and their departments.

Other companies can also benefit by adopting data-driven applications that use a combination of cloud, MDM, DaaS, graph, machine learning and analytics technologies.

Conclusion

LinkedIn’s acquisition by Microsoft has led to some innovative developments in data management, both in the ways in which technology is used to gather, analyse and disseminate data and in the application of that data for users. It is clear to see from this that there are lessons that can be learnt from Microsoft and LinkedIn about how data management can be of benefit to all businesses.

For those businesses just beginning the journey, perhaps the most important lesson to take on board is that all of these benefits rely on the use of cloud computing – without the capacity of the cloud to undertake big data analysis, many of LinkedIn’s advancements could not have happened.

If you are considering moving your applications to the cloud, check out our VMware and Hyper-V cloud hosting packages.

Posted in Web Hosting | Tagged | Leave a comment

How to Win Over Linux Encoder Ransomware?

Ransomware is everywhere these days. No longer confined to computers, its attacking people’s phones and, via Android, is even holding smart TVs to ransom. And it’s also been attacking Linux servers. In this article, we’ll explain what ransomware is, how it infects Linux servers and what you can do to eradicate the Linux Encoder Ransomware infection and protect yourself from further infection in the future.

What is Ransomware?

In simple terms, ransomware is malicious software that prevents you accessing your device until you have paid a ransom. The most common way it does this is by encrypting the files on your computer. Once you have paid the ransom, usually in Bit Coins, you receive a key which will remove the encryption for you and restore your computer.

Ransomware is a growing problem. It no longer just attacks personal computers but now also encrypts servers belonging to large organisations. A recent attack on a hospital in Los Angeles encrypted their entire network, including patient records, and forced them to pay over $17,000 in ransom fees.

Ransomware continues to be developed and become ever more sophisticated. It is particularly good at hiding itself from antivirus software, so can frequently infect devices without detection. What has made it more of a menace in recent years is that the software is now available for sale on the dark web and is being used by larger numbers of criminals who are eager to get in on the gold rush.

Originally limited to Windows OS, ransomware has now crossed over to Mac, Android and Linux, meaning it has the ability to affect the most common mobile OS and the Linux servers on which the majority of the world’s systems and websites are run.

What is Linux Encoder ransomware?

Linux Encoder is a Trojan that installs crypto-ransomware on your Linux server via a security hole in the Magento e-commerce platforms. The software is remotely activated and, once installed, encrypts and renames all the files on your server. It then adds a file to each of your directories called ‘README_FOR_DECRYPT.txt’ (see image below) which gives you instructions on how to pay the ransom and unscramble your files.

<a title=”By Arthur2968 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons” href=”https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ARansomMessage.png”><img width=”512″ alt=”RansomMessage” src=”https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/75/RansomMessage.png/512px-RansomMessage.png”/></a>

Despite its name, Linux Encoder, is not a problem with Linux based servers, per se. As the security hole is in the Magento software, Linux servers which do not have Magento installed are not at risk.

The impact of ransomware on Linux servers

The process that Linux Encoder uses to encrypt is as follows. Firstly, the malware encrypts all of the files in the home directories as well as any directories related to website administration. After this, the software works its way through the entire file system, beginning with the directory from where it was launched and then moving to the root directory (“/”). From here, it only encrypts files with specified extensions and only if a directory name starts with one of the strings indicated by cybercriminals.

Once the files are encrypted you will have no administration access to your website and because your files are encrypted, your website or system will be offline.

Whilst not all cases are reported, of those that were, the economic cost to businesses caused by this kind of infection was in the region of $18m over the last twelve months – and this was just in the USA.

Defeating the threat

Luckily, the Linux Encoder is can be eradicated, so there is no need to pay the ransom. An error in the way the Trojan operates means that the encryption key you are supposed to pay the ransom for is actually generated on your server; and the information you need to generate the key can be retrieved by looking at the file’s time-stamp.

Whilst eradicating the Trojan and restoring the files is a fairly easy task for encryption professionals, for most people it would be a technically challenging process. Thankfully, the antivirus company, Bitdefender, has created a free script to obtain the Linux.Encoder key.

Once you have downloaded the script, here are the instructions to use it.

  1. Boot your ransomed server, download the script and run it as root. (If you are unable to boot, download the script and decompress the file to a Linux live USB stick. Mount the encrypted partition using the shell command: mount /dev/[encrypted_partition]
  2. Generate a list of encrypted files with the following command: /mnt# sort_files.sh encrypted_partition > sorted_list
  3. Issue a head command to get the first file: /mnt# head -1 sorted_list
  4. Run the decryption utility to get the encryption seed: /mnt# python decrypter.py -f [first_file]
  5. Decrypt all the other infected files using the displayed seed: /mnt# python /tmp/new/decrypter.py -s [time-stamp.] -l sorted_list

Security measures to avoid ransomware infection

The vast majority of Magento users were protected from ever getting infected by the Linux Encoder Trojan because six months before the ransomware emerged, the Magento developers had already spotted the vulnerability and produced a patch that would remove the security hole entirely. If you are still using an outdated version of Magento, you should update to the latest version now to avoid any chance of the ransomware infecting your server.

Luckily, there are few other ransomware threats that aim directly at Linux OS, instead, it is usually vulnerabilities in the software which is run on them where security holes are to be found. To avoid infection, you should aim to do the following:

  • Always keep your software up to date. This includes plugins and themes.
  • Make sure that you use strong passwords to prevent brute force attacks.
  • Use a vulnerability scanner, like MTvScan, to make sure that your server is monitored for threats and use a firewall.
  • Always make sure that you have a complete backup of your files, software and database. If you are infected, you may need to rebuild your site from scratch and a backup will make this a relatively easy and pain free process.

Conclusion

From reading this article, you should now understand what ransomware is and, specifically, what the Linux Encoder Trojan is and how it infects your Linux server. You should also be aware of how to eradicate the Trojan from your system and what to do in future to protect your Linux server from further ransomware infection.

If you are looking for Linux hosting that comes with a range of security features take a look at our range of Linux Server packages. In addition, see how our flexible and secure backup service can help you put your disaster recovery plans into place.

 

Posted in Network and Security, Web Hosting | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What Are The Differences Between Cloud and Virtualization?

The IT world is well known for its use of jargon and the terms ‘cloud’ and ‘virtualization’ are clear examples of where people get confused about meaning, often thinking that the two words mean the same thing. In reality, whilst the technologies are similar, they have significant differences which need to be understood before making business decisions on which one to opt for. To help, we’ve put together a guide to give you a clearer understanding.

How cloud computing is different from virtualization

Virtualization is the process of creating multiple virtual environments on a single server. It does this by using virtualization software, known as a virtual machine monitor (VMM) which separatess compute environments from the physical hardware – this makes it possible to run several operating systems on one computer at the same time. In other words, virtualization allows you to have several virtual servers for every physical server you buy.

The confusion with cloud comes from the fact that cloud computing uses virtualization. In a cloud data centre, the large numbers of servers are virtually partitioned, but it is not the virtualization that makes the cloud. Instead, we should think of cloud as the delivery of shared computing resources, software or data as a service (SaaS) via the Internet.  Cloud computing, therefore, allows businesses online access to complex applications and enormous compting resources as well as providing elasticity, scalability and  automated management on a pay-per- use basis.

What are the benefits of Cloud & Virtualization?

Virtualization benefits

One of the biggest advantages of virtualization is that you can significantly reduce capital expenditure because you can run multiple virtual servers on fewer physical servers.

This also enables you to use your servers more efficiently by making better use of available resources and capacity. As a result,  you’ll need less power consumption to carry out your tasks and can lower your energy costs as well.

In addition, as each virtual machine is capable of running its own operating system, you are able to run more more applications simultaneously; in essence, giving you the power to do much more with less – this is particularly true with running large relational databases, virtual local area networks and storage area networks.

Another advantage is that virtualization can also be applied to storage hardware, enabling you to create a unified storage repository that is accessible to everyone on the network, regardless of where on the premises they are based. This can help employees collaborate much easier and make data storage more secure.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits from an operational perspective is that virtualization can lead to higher availability. As maintenance can be undertaken on one virtual server without disrupting the others, there is less need for downtime. So, for example, if you run different applications on separate virtual servers, you can upgrade one application whilst keeping the others running as normal.

Finally, for those who may have concerns about privacy on virtualized machines, you can rest assured that you can replicate the same privacy levels in a virtual environment as you can in a physical one.

Cloud benefits

One of the biggest attractions of cloud computing is cost efficiency. Locating your system in the cloud means that you do not need to invest heavily in creating your own data centre, so there is a much reduced initial expenditure than with traditional technology. This includes the cost of premises, hardware and HR. In addition, cloud computing reduces licensing fees, storage costs and expenses associated with software updates.

Scalability is another advantage. You can instantly scale up computing resources to meet demand and benefit from only paying for the services you use. This can be very helpful for businesses that have seasonal peaks or for those with occasional spikes, providing them with a flexibility that cannot be achieved using dedicated servers.

Both backup and recovery are also much easier to perform in the cloud. Backups can be automated and continuous and because of scalability, storage size isn’t an issue. With recovery, if a server error is detected, the virtual machines on which your operations run are easily migrated between clustered servers ensuring that your system and mission critical applications stay operational. This is obviously far superior to the disaster recovery methods needed with traditional servers.

The final advantage of cloud computing is that it enables easy deployment. An entire system can be fully operational within minutes – which can help give businesses a competitive edge in fast moving markets. For those who have traditional data centres, cloud’s speedy deployment means it offers a much faster, effective and cost efficient disaster recovery model than having to maintain a redundant centre on a different site.

Cloud or virtualization, which is best for you?

There is no definitive answer to this question. Different organisations have their own needs and have to take into consideration their current set up and the financial implications involved.

The decision is also complicated by the range of options on offer. For example, with cloud computing, you can choose to have a private cloud,  be hosted on a public cloud or even create a hybrid of the two. Virtualization options go from buying a single virtual private server on a hosted plan to buying multiple physical servers on which to create an even wider range of virtualized machines.

Overall, virtualization is a viable option for companies that already have the in-house expertise and capacity to maintain and manage their own system. It is particularly useful for those companies who run bespoke or legacy software that might have compatibility problems with the operating systems and software used on cloud networks. It is also a useful model for those organisations that store highly sensitive data which they do not wish to be stored in the cloud.

Cloud, on the other hand, offers smaller companies the ability to compete on a much more level playing field with larger organisations by providing them with enterprise class resources that would normally be beyond their financial limits. It offers freedom from capital investment in IT, removes the need to undertake day to day management of the software and hardware, reduces software costs and offers, as yet, unparalleded scalability and availability.

Conclusion

From reading this article you should now have a clearer understanding about:

  • what virtualization and cloud computing are
  • how they are different
  • how both can provide benefits to businesses
  • what you need to consider when choosing between the two.

If you are considering using cloud computing, and would like to know more about our services, visit our cloud hosting page.

 

 

Posted in Web Hosting | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Public or Private Cloud for Apps: which solution is more secure?

From a security perspective, both public and private cloud networks offer organisations a level of protection that in-house servers cannot achieve. This comes, primarily, from having all your applications and data stored remotely in the cloud so that nothing is kept on individual machines. As a result, the threat of employees stealing or losing data is reduced and, if a device gets hacked, the potential for damage is significantly lessened.

The other advantage of the cloud is that it gives organisations greater management control over their security. Data can easily be backed up and encrypted and strict access management policies can be put in place to prevent unauthorised users accessing sensitive information.

However, whilst both types of cloud offer improved security, many organisations are still unsure whether to opt for a public or a private cloud. In the rest of the article, we’ll look at some of the main considerations companies need to make when deciding which cloud option to choose.

  1. Security requirements

Essentially, private clouds are more secure than public clouds, providing increased control over the data management system. Your data is securely stored, encrypted and monitored behind a firewall in a system that, unlike the public cloud, is not shared on a multi-tenancy basis with other users.

This makes it the ideal solution for organisations which have to comply with legal obligations regarding data protection and privacy. If your organisation collects and stores sensitive personal information then the private cloud offers the most secure solution for your needs.

Whilst safeguarding personal information is an important consideration, it’s not the only one. Your business may store other data which you may prefer stored in a private cloud: legal documents, patent ideas, business development plans, etc. You should carefully consider your security requirements before making a decision on which is the best type of cloud for your organisation.

  1. Support

Migrating to the cloud is not always straightforward as some of the applications you use may not work as well, or at all, in a cloud environment. You may need support in terms of finding new software or updating existing software to make it compatible with the new system. You may also need support when configuring your cloud network.

Many organisations choose to only move part of their system into the cloud and others prefer to use a hybrid cloud (a combination of both private and public). With both these options, you will be creating a system with a significantly more complex architecture. You may need support here to ensure that all the elements of your new system can work together effectively and that data remains secure.

  1. Performance

The big advantage of the public cloud is its ability to offer unparalleled performance and scalability. If you need increased CPU, bandwidth, RAM or storage it can be accessed immediately by giving you access to other servers on the provider’s network.

If you opt for a private cloud, it means you have chosen not to access the publicly available servers that offer this capability. You will still have the ability to increase capacity within your own private cloud, but this will be on a smaller scale.

One of the advantages of the hybrid cloud is that it gives both the security of the private cloud and the capacity of the public. If you opt only for the private cloud, you will need to consider your capacity requirements carefully before deciding upon the package you want.

  1. Availability

The advent of public clouds has made anytime, anywhere computing a reality. Underpinning that availability is the fact that public cloud providers can pretty much guarantee 99% and above uptime. They have failover servers, redundant off-grid energy supplies and multiple mirrored servers in different locations to ensure a swift recovery should disaster strike. And to make sure it rarely does, they have the most advanced monitoring systems in place to make sure that their servers are running optimally.

All this is available to hosted private cloud users too. However, there is a slight difference with the monitoring. As a private cloud can be set up and configured differently to a public cloud, it may need to be monitored independently – which can result in extra charges.

For self-hosted private clouds, guaranteeing availability can mean a significant capital investment in IT.

  1. Location of the data centre

If you are an organisation that collects and stores the personal information of EU citizens, then the location of your cloud host’s data centre (and backup data centres) has recently become an important issue.  Until October 2015, the Safe Harbour Agreement ensured that EU personal data stored on US servers would be kept secure. However, as the US government now insists it has a right to access that data for national security purposes, the European Court of Justice has ruled that the Safe Harbour Agreement is no longer valid.

As a result, any organisation which stores EU citizens’ personal data on US servers is no longer deemed to be adequately ensuring that data’s safety – a requirement of the Data Protection Act. This includes UK businesses which use web hosts or cloud services that store or backup their data on US based servers.

  1. Monitoring activity

As public cloud hosting involves users sharing the resources of the cloud’s data centre, the management and monitoring of the system is undertaken by the hosting company. This is especially important to make sure that resources are allocated in a way that allows users to scale up if there is a peak and to protect against errors which could lead to downtime. Cloud vendors will also monitor the security of the system by using intrusion detection and prevention software to secure against hackers.

Individual organisations should continue to monitor their own operations so that they can assess how well their individual apps are operating and make operational decisions. It is also important that they monitor their own systems for security purposes.

You will find that cloud vendors will offer monitoring services for both private and public cloud users, allowing them to keep track of a wide range of activities and to send regular reports and, if needed, alerts.  There are also many monitoring and security apps available which organisations can use to monitor their cloud-based systems in-house.

Conclusion

Cloud-based systems offer high-level security to their users. However, for those companies which require high-level security for compliance with the Data Protection Act and for other legal obligations, private clouds provide the safest solution.

By opting for a private cloud, organisations can lose some of the flexibility and scalability that public clouds have to offer – and the financial efficiencies they bring. The ultimate solution is a hybrid cloud, which enables both increased security and scalability; however, this will require careful migration planning to ensure that the separate elements of the new system are fully integrated.

Before choosing a cloud hosting vendor, organisations should carefully evaluate how secure their applications would be on the different packages available. Some vendors provide much more robust security than others.

If you are considering migrating all or part of your system to the cloud, take a look at our highly secure cloud hosting packages. All our data centres are located within the UK.

Posted in Web Hosting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Grab a Backup Bargain for World Backup Day

World Backup Day

If you haven’t heard of World Backup Day before, it’s a global event that takes place on 31st March with the goal of getting everyone to pledge to backup their data on that day.

At WHUK, we think this is something well worth supporting and so, to encourage you to join in, this post will explain why you need to backup your data more than ever. And, to give you even more of an incentive, we’re also offering customers two fantastic backup deals, which we’ll tell you about at the end of the article.

Backing up your data is a little like doing exercise and keeping fit; everyone knows you need to do it regularly but many of us don’t.  We forget, can’t be bothered or put it to the bottom of our to-do list. After all, data loss only happens to others – right?

Well, no!

If you think you aren’t at risk, then think again. Here are just a few reasons why you need to reconsider the importance of backing up your data.

Malware is on the rise

Leading antivirus company, Sophos, tell us that last year there were over 300 million new malware threats created, all of them designed to infect computers, websites and other devices. With so many viruses and Trojans about, it’s not surprising that 1 in 10 computers are infected every month and that over 30,000 websites become infected every day – all resulting in corrupted software and irretrievably lost data.

And it’s not just websites and computers that are at risk; tablets, phones, flash drives, memory cards and other storage devices are all vulnerable – many becoming infected by unknowing employees and customers.

Whilst we rely heavily on antivirus software to protect us, the software developers need to find the malware before they can deal with it. By the time they have found it, it’s already doing damage to someone’s data. You also have to ask how long these companies can continue to cope with the sheer volume of new malware they are faced with. At 300 million a year, that’s 822,000 new pieces of malware a day that need to be controlled.

By having a clean backup, you’re assured that your data isn’t lost. This way, disaster recovery is quick and inexpensive.

Who’d hack me?

Who’d hack me?
Many business owners tend to think of hackers as either rebellious teenagers, out to do a spot of online vandalism, or as a modern Raffles, a cat burglar seeking out the most valuable data they can find. This misconception leaves them overconfident that their organisation is of little interest to hackers.

That’s not quite how it works.

In reality, hacking is very much a sophisticated business using automated computing to process millions of websites on the lookout for vulnerabilities. The hackers have exceptional skills and highly advanced software at their disposal. Once they find out your system has vulnerabilities, their software will make repeated, high-speed attempts to find a way in. Only after the software has got through will they begin to take a personal interest and start looking at what they can do with your data.

In this sense, hackers are much more opportunistic, like a burglar on the lookout for an open window, which is why small businesses are even more at risk than big businesses. Last year, 66% of all attacks were on SME’s and the number of attacks is set to rise by nearly 40% in 2016.

Should you be unfortunate enough to get hacked, it’s naïve to think a hacker will simply want to steal your data – once they have access to it, they can wipe everything and take your entire system down. Having an up to date backup is the best form of insurance you could have in these circumstances.

Human error

Human error
One of the major reasons why businesses lose data is that people make mistakes. We carelessly lose hundreds of thousands of laptops, phones and other devices every year.  As far back as 2008, 12,000 laptops a week were being left in US airports. For smaller enterprises that store most of their information on a single laptop, the loss of that machine can be devastating: invoices, on-going work, contact lists, emails, bank account details, security logins, project schedules… all of it critical business data that, if not backed up, is permanently lost.

Human error is also the cause of accidental deletion and device damage.

There are 25,200,000 search results on Google for the term ‘spill water on computer’ and a staggering 85 million results for the term ‘phone down the toilet’  – which just goes to show how thoughtless we are with the devices we store data on.

On top of this, of course, is the fact that machines don’t last forever. Hard drives and other storage devices fail and break.

Regularly backing up guarantees that if your device bites the dust, your data is recoverable and your business survives.

Take the World Backup Day pledge

We hope that the information provided here has reminded you just how crucial it is to backup your data and that we’ve encouraged you to join in World Backup Day on 31st March. You can find out more about World Backup Day by watching the video below.

Need even more persuading? Here are our offers

To make backing up your data easier, we’ve put together a couple of offers which you might be able to benefit from.

Firstly, if you purchase one of our VPS, Cloud or Dedicated server packages on World Backup Day, 31st March, you’ll also receive 25GB of FREE backup storage for 12 months. If you don’t need a new package but are still interested in a backup facility, we’ll give you 25% off any backup purchased on 29th, 30th, 31st March.

Posted in WHUK Updates | Leave a comment

The Future of Cloud Computing: 7 Predictions

Cloud Computing Future Predictions

Over the last few years, there has been an incredible shift towards cloud computing. 78% of UK businesses already have some of their IT services in the cloud and 63% have plans to move their entire operations to cloud computing before the end of the decade.

It’s not surprising, considering the existing benefits cloud technology brings. But these benefits are really just the tip of the iceberg; everything in the IT sphere moves at a pace and new developments are happening all the time. So, if the cloud hasn’t tempted you yet, our seven predictions of what is around the corner might just make you reconsider.

What are the current benefits of the cloud?

One of the biggest attractions of the cloud is its scalability. By being able to access as much performance power as is needed to run your operations and then to be able to scale back at less busy times, massively improves capacity, cost-effectiveness and efficiency for any company. This is especially so for smaller companies who take advantage of the cloud to compete more equally with larger rivals.

Being able to tap into an entire network of servers to utilize their CPU, RAM, bandwidth and storage does more than just allow businesses to cope with traffic peaks – it gives them the resources to analyse Big Data and run a multitude of powerful applications. As a result, they have better IT performance and improved operations, helping them to be more competitive in the marketplace.

Add to this the increase in security (all data is stored safely on the net), easy disaster recovery and the savings made from not needing to invest in hardware, software and maintenance or pay for staffing or energy costs, and  you can easily see the attraction that the cloud has.

But how will the cloud transform in the future?

  1. More application availability in the Cloud

The cloud has become a bandwagon and everyone is jumping on it – and this is true of developers. In the next few years, we will see an explosion of new app technology for the cloud just as we saw a proliferation in apps for mobile phones and tablets. The majority of new software being produced is created for use in the cloud and updates for existing software are increasingly cloud compatible – MS Outlook being a prime example. According to IBM’s “Global Technology Outlook” an estimated 48 million apps will be available on the cloud by the end of 2016 – making migration easier and more attractive.

  1. Growth and credibility in the market

The cloud market is expected to grow significantly throughout the rest of the decade. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index cloud apps will account for 90% of total global mobile data traffic by 2019 and mobile cloud traffic will have grown eleven-fold from 2014 to 2019 – that’s a compound annual growth rate of 60%.

According to Goldman Sachs, the cloud infrastructure and platform market will grow at an annual compound rate of almost 20% from 2015 to 2018, more than doubling its size from $21B to $43B. In addition, global investment on enterprise applications will increase by 7.5% to reach more than $200B in 2019 with cloud migration being the primary driver of new app sales.

As the market expands, it is likely that there will be far more open and credible competition to the global giants who dominate the cloud market. Currently, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Google have over half the market to themselves, however, it is envisaged that competition among an increasing number of smaller, more innovative companies will lead to a wider range of services and better standards being available to cloud users.

  1. Hybrid cloud adoption

Another area which will also see expansion is in the use of a hybrid cloud. A hybrid cloud is an integrated IT service that employs both a private and public cloud; each performing exclusive operations. Frequently, the private cloud is used for the more secure operations, such as handling personal data, whilst the public cloud is used for operations which need scalability, such as handling web traffic or Big Data analysis. According to the 2016 ‘State of the Cloud’ report, 82% of businesses have a hybrid cloud strategy.

  1. Innovation perspectives

The pace of innovation in  cloud software development is rapid. Where software updates on on-premises systems were occasional, in the cloud they are much more frequent, with each update giving new functionality, increased speed or better security. One of the big drivers for innovation is when software users allow developers to monitor how they use the program. This enables them to analyse the data and develop software innovations that enterprises want.

Another innovative feature is that cloud software can be created in a way that lets users choose which features they want to install or not. By enabling companies to customise the software’s configurations and add-ons they can ensure it performs optimally on their system.

For users of the cloud, innovation is most likely to come from their new found ability to analyse big data. This will help them get a better understanding of their customers, products and their market, helping them to create new and better products and services much more quickly.

  1. Mass and intelligent mobile connectivity

With the enormous power and capacity of the cloud, mass and intelligent mobile connectivity is something any company can have access to. As a result, companies can produce products which serve huge numbers of people in intelligent ways. Think Just Eat, Tinder, Spotify, Uber.

What the cloud is especially good at, is giving smaller companies the potential to bring these apps to the market themselves. Without the scalability of the cloud, start-up app developers would need to invest heavily in IT resources before launch, which could be extremely risky for a new company with an unproven product. The other alternative would be to sell their innovation. The fact that the cloud makes access to mass and intelligent connectivity cost effective will no doubt lead to the development of far more applications in the future than we have seen at present.       

  1. The challenge of the “Internet of Everything”

The internet of everything, according to Cisco, is “bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – turning information into actions that create new capabilities.”

The disparate elements of the Internet of Everything are already here. The Internet of Things (IoT), smart devices that collect and exchange data, has already begun to permeate our daily lives (intelligent access control in workplaces, smart meters for gas and electricity, etc.). We also have, in the cloud, the capacity to process this data. The challenge, therefore, is in developing applications that can analyse the data and in creating a network that can allow all the different devices communicate effectively.

One example of how the Internet of Everything could work is the UK’s smart motorways. These use a system called MIDAS (Motorway Incident Detection and Automatic Signalling) to track traffic flow and average speeds and set variable message signs and speed limits. This is mainly done using sensors, with little human intervention. The data collected is also shared with satnav companies to warn drivers of potential problems on their journeys.

The market possibilities for companies which utilise the Internet of Everything are enormous but only cloud computing can give them the capacity needed to make it successful.

  1. Cloud computing or fog networking?

As the Internet of Things develops, the amount of data gathered is going to increase exponentially. As a result, innovation is already taking place to look at the most effective ways to handle such enormous amounts of information.

The way forward is ‘fogging’ or fog networking, where the storage and processing of data, rather than being undertaken solely in the cloud, is shared between the cloud and the smart device. Doing this reduces the amount of data that needs to be transferred to the cloud, thus improving efficiency, reducing latency and helping with security and data compliance.

For fogging to work effectively, there will obviously have to be innovations in the smart technology used in the IoT; devices will not just have to gather and send information, but they will also need to be able to store and process it too. In addition, there may need to be alternative ways of transferring data between devices to ensure the IoT is fast enough to be usable.

Conclusion

From reading this article you should have a better understanding of how the cloud continues to develop and how those who have migrated to it will benefit from it in the future. You will also understand why so many businesses are adopting it, considering the potential benefits it can offer.

If you are considering moving your business operations to the cloud, take a look at our cloud hosting packages.

Posted in Web Hosting | 1 Comment

Should You Choose a New or Used Domain?

Should You Choose a New or Used Domain?

Posted in Infographics | Leave a comment

9 Tips to Make Secure Purchases on the Internet

As technology has advanced, our shopping habits have changed. We have become a world of internet shoppers – even when in bricks and mortar stores. Whilst these advances bring benefits for both the retailer and customer, they also open new doors for cyber criminals who are out to steal your personal and banking details and clean out your bank account.

It has never been more important to stay safe when shopping online and so we’ve put together nine very useful tips to help you make secure purchases on the internet, whether on the laptop at home or on the phone whilst you are out.

  1. Always use familiar websites

One of the big advantages of the internet is its ability to let you search for the best deals. Type in a product and you can often find page after page of different shops selling the item, all at different prices. The trouble is, anyone can create an online store and put on details of products at bargain prices.

Whilst the shop could be legitimate, there’s also the possibility it is a scam. When you fill in your credit card details and shipping address these could be going straight to a cyber criminal who wants to try and access your bank account. Alternatively, they can take your money and you’ll never see the products.

If you are not familiar with the website, ask your friends or search for customer reviews about the site. If these come up blank, it’s a good idea to stick to websites that you know and trust.

  1. Make sure you use a website that encrypts your details

When you shop online, it is possible that your name, address and credit card details can be intercepted and stolen as you pay for your goods.  To prevent this occurring, websites use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to encrypt the information you send. Unfortunately, not all websites use SSL and purchasing from those who do not leaves your details vulnerable.

However, there is an easy way to make sure that the site you are using does have SSL encryption installed. Firstly, its web address will begin with https instead of http and secondly, most browsers will show a padlock icon in the address bar. You can see this with our address below.

If the site you are purchasing from does not have https or the padlock icon, you should think carefully about the risks involved in your transaction before proceeding.

  1. How to find if the company and website are genuine

As anyone can set up a website, it is always advisable to check that an unknown company is genuine before you purchase from them. Companies that sell online should provide you with relevant company information including contact addresses and telephone numbers. Searching for these online can often provide details that will confirm whether the company actually exists or not.

For UK limited companies, the solution is easier. They should provide their company name and registration number on their website. You can check this is a real limited company by visiting the Get Company Information page of the gov.uk website. All you have to do is type in the registered name or registration number. If the company exists, it will be listed.

An alternative method is to find out information about the company which owns the website. You can do this online by visiting who.is and typing the domain name (e.g. webhosting.uk.com) in the search bar. When you do, the ownership details will be provided for you.

If the business details provided on the website are different to those on the who.is results then it may be a scam website – especially if you have a website purporting to be a UK business but which has a registrant based in another country.

  1. Keep checking your card statements

As you will have seen in the news from the hacking scandals at Talk Talk and Ashley Madison, credit and bank card details can get stolen not just from you but from any company who you have shared them with. When card details are stolen, many of them are offered for sale on the ‘dark web’ where they can then be bought by criminals and used at a later date.

You may not know that your details have been stolen until someone starts taking money from your account. If you don’t check your account regularly, then it is possible that by the time you check your balance, your credit limit could have been used up or your bank account emptied.

When you do check, you should look carefully at all the transactions. Criminals are clever, they may steal regular small amounts so as not to raise suspicion or use your card to make payments for goods that appear as legitimate transactions on your statement. If you spot anything that looks fraudulent, contact your bank or credit card company immediately.

  1. Don’t take website security seals on face value

Many leading web security companies, such as Norton or McAfree, provide sites they have verified as secure with a security seal; a kind of badge or logo which they can put on their website to show that they can be trusted.

Unfortunately, these images can be copied or fake ones invented. Just because a website has a security seal does not guarantee that it has been approved by the company who issues the seal.

Legitimate seals should be clickable and take you to the issuer’s website where you should be able to verify that the website you have come from has been deemed secure. However, scammers are even able to create fake verification sites. To check a security seal of a website you want to purchase from, you should visit the security company’s website directly from a search engine, not from a link on the seal itself.

  1. How to create strong passwords

Hackers use increasingly sophisticated methods to find out users’ passwords, so it is essential that you make it as difficult as possible for them to get access to your account. The best way to do is to create a passphrase rather than a password.

You can create a passphrase by putting four or five unrelated words together and replacing some of the letters and with capitals, numbers and symbols, for example, take ‘pillow umbrella tea shoe’ and create:  P1ll0w+umbr£ll@+TEA=sho£.

Alternatively, take a memorable phrase and modify it, for example, take “To be or not to be, that is the question” and create: 2Bor-2BthtISthe? Or turn ‘Daleks say exterminate’ to: D@lXs@yXtrmn8

These solutions provide highly complex passphrases which are difficult to crack but can be easy to remember.

  1. Always consider security when shopping with your mobile

Mobile technology has advanced so much that we can now use our phones to pay for items in a shop. Linking your phone to your payment method offers lots of advantages: customers can track purchases, find out about deals and use discount codes for stores in their immediate vicinity.

However, this same technology gives rise to privacy issues. You can be tracked physically as you wander around a location and the places you have shopped at can be recorded. From a security point of view,  you also need to be aware that any purchasing you do with your mobile phone takes place via a Wi-Fi connection and if this isn’t secure, your details can be intercepted and stolen.

The other major risk is that losing your phone or having your phone stolen means that someone can use it to pay for goods just by waving it in front of a payment device. If you use mobile payment technology, make sure you keep your phone somewhere it can’t be easily stolen and use a password lock to prevent it being used if it is lost or stolen.

  1. Make sure you use a safety device for online banking

Many banks issue customers with a security device to improve the safety of online banking. These are portable electronic devices, often looking like a small calculator, which are able to generate a unique, one-time use, security code, used to login and make transactions on your online bank account.

These devices make it near impossible for someone to login to your bank account as they will need the code the device creates to do so. As the device works without having to be connected to the internet itself, there is no way the code can be intercepted.

If your bank offers you the option to use one of these devices, you should take up the offer. It makes logging in a little more complicated but the security benefits are worth it.

  1. Why you should not use public Wi-Fi for shopping

Public Wi-Fi is a great way to access the internet when you are out and about without having to rely on your phone network to download data. However, there are risks to security when using open public Wi-Fi: cyber criminals target these networks looking to intercept data and steal passwords, login details and credit card information. If you intend to make a purchase on your phone or other device whilst you’re out shopping, you should disconnect your Wi-Fi and make the transaction using your phone network. It may be slower than the Wi-Fi but it will be far more secure.

Conclusion

From reading this article, you should now have a much better idea of why you need to be more vigilant when shopping and banking online, whether in the home or using mobile devices whilst out and about. By following our nine tips, you will find that your online shopping experience will be far more secure.

If you run an online business and want to improve safety for your customers, take a look at our highly secure managed dedicated server packages and cloud hosting packages. We also offer a range of SSL options.

Posted in Web Hosting | Leave a comment