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5 Reasons Why Your Website Is Slow

snail race

According to Google, a website is deemed ‘admirable’ if the content can load in 1.5 seconds or less. This can be a struggle if your site is loaded with content, text, videos, and flash drives. A survey taken by Gomez.com says that nearly half of all web users expect a page to load in two seconds, any additional second could mean missed opportunities.

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Finding the Perfect Domain Name [Infographic]

Finding a domain can be stressful, we’ve created this flowchart to guide you through the process.

 

domain flowchart

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May the 4th be with You [Star Wars Infographic]

Happy Star Wars Day! To celebrate, a group of our employees has carefully watched the original trilogy and calculated the often mocked accuracy of Stormtroopers. Why do you think Stormtroopers are such terrible shots?

Star-Wars

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Securing Your Site Against Spammers

Spam
Have you noticed your site getting bogged down or notice your hitting resource limits and not sure why? While there could be many causes, our support teams do occasionally find that a site has been compromised by spammers. Often, hackers will infect your site and use your server to send spam.

Preventing your server from being hacked by spammers will help it to run smoother and will keep your clients happier. Spam uses your server’s resources and create a higher load. If your server sends enough you may find yourself on a blacklist.

How do you know if your site has become a tool for spammers? You may get a warning from your ISP or an abuse report from your host. You may also find your bandwidth spiking and reaching usage limits.

Here are some tips we have gathered to help you prevent your server from sending spam:

  • Make sure your site is secure, always use strong passwords and avoid malware.
  • Exercise caution with your contact forms. Make sure they are not vulnerable to malware injections or abuse.
  • Keep things up-to-date. Scripts, plugins, CMS tools all should be updated regularly. Additionally, any old or unused scripts should be removed. As a bonus this will help keep the backend clean and easy to work with.
  • If spam becomes a problem investigate using a monitoring service to identify the issue.

Nearly 75% of email is spam. By taking the proper steps, you can protect your server and avoid contributing to the deluge.

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Which CMS Should I Use? [Infographic]

More and more websites are being built using content management systems (CMS), but which one is right for you? We’ve put together this infographic to give you an overview of the big 3; WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.

CMS-Infographic

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Why Backups Are Important [Infographic]

We all know we should backup our personal computer files, especially pictures, but what about backing-up your website?

Infographic- WestHost- Backups

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Study Reveals Bing Delivers Five Times More Malware Sites Than Google

Search Engine Malware

A study by the AV-TEST Institute, a German antivirus security firm, revealed that despite the best efforts of search engine operators such as Google and Bing to prevent delivering malware sites, some infected websites are still able to avoid these search bots. The AV-TEST study showed that Bing supposedly returns five times more malware sites than Google.

The study also showed Google is the best when it comes to producing safe results, followed by Bing. However, Bing still has five times the chance of leading users to sites infected with trojans and similar malware.

During the 18 month study, AV-TEST investigated over 40 million websites delivered as search engine results. Google and Bing were able to provide a good 20 million websites, while Russian heavyweight search engine Yandex provided over 13 million websites.

Google is the most popular search website due to the sheer volume of search results it provides. It handles 2-3 billion search requests a day all over the world. This also means that Google delivers thousands of infected sites a day. However, the AV-TEST confirms that Google does a better job at filtering out malware compared to its competitors in the study. The study also showed that Yandex is 10 times more likely to bring malware sites in its results, compared to Google.

AV-TEST author Markus Selinger said,”Google achieved the best results in the study, followed by Bing. Attention must, however, be drawn to the fact that Bing delivered five times as many websites containing malware as Google during the study.” Of the 10.9 million searches, Google returned 272 malware infected sites, while Bing resulted in 1,285 infected websites.

This latest study is not published to scare people using the Internet. AV-TEST’s CTO Maik Morgenstern emphasized that, in general, search engines are fighting a good fight. He explained, “The number of websites with malicious content compared to the total number of malware is very low for all of the tested search engines, so all of them are putting a lot of effort into filtering malware.”

Bing’s Defense

According to Bing director Bill Hankes, “Bing is able to detect pages consisting of machine-generated spam, keyword stuffing, redirect spam or malware, allowing [it] to effectively remove such sites from results. Bing has developed several ranking signals to help weed out spam results and better understand the intent of the searcher.” He added that Bing is constantly innovating ways to detect the evolving malware versions and numerous spam techniques.

The goal of the study is not to put Bing and the other search engines in a bad light. Morgenstern clarified that, “All of the tested search engines are pretty safe. We primarily wanted to show that despite the good work of them, some attacks could still go through.”

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How To Deal With HeartBleed

Heartbleed Image

Over the past 48 hours, the HeartBleed bug has lived up to its name and made hearts across America beat faster.

The reason? HeartBleed is the name for a vulnerability that’s been found on certain versions of OpenSSL – a software that’s used by web servers world wide. Generally speaking, the software is used by websites and apps to encrypt the data they receive and send, in order to make it secure. The HeartBleed bug has found a way of getting access to some of this encrypted information.

The good news is, HeartBleed isn’t as heart-racing as it sounds. WestHost has double-checked its servers and they’re HeartBleed free. However, as with all security situations, there are a few things you can do for extra peace of mind.

If you’ve got WestHost web hosting or use Website Builder

It’ll take you less than a minute to beef-up your security. All you need to do is reset your WestHost passwords.

If you run your own server with WestHost

If you have used OpenSSL on your server, and in particular used it to create or install an SSL key, then you should update to the latest version of OpenSSL. You can do this in 5 easy steps.

Step 1

Have a look to see if your server is running an unpatched version of OpenSSL. To do this just log-in to your server and check which version you are using with this command.

openssl version -a

The following version is vulnerable…

OpenSSL 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f (inclusive)

While these versions are not…

OpenSSL 1.0.1g

OpenSSL 1.0.0 branch

OpenSSL 0.9.8 branch

CloudLinux OpenSSL 1.0.1e-16el6_5.7

Step 2

If you discover that you’re running a vulnerable version, you can update by following these commands…

CentOS

yum check-update

yum –y update openssl

Ubuntu

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade openssl

Debian

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade openssl

Fedora

sudo yum –y install openssl

Step 3

Now you need to make sure the update has gone to plan. To do this, check to build date of the OpenSSL. It should be after April 7 2014.

Step 4

Once you’ve updated, you’ll need to regenerate your secure keys and invalidate the ones you were using before. Finally, restart your system and carry on as normal.

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March Madness: Bracket Secrets from the WestHost Team

basketball

We already described the unique bracket filling website coded up by one of our programming geniuses. Today we thought we’d speak with several employees to learn their methods for bracket greatness.

We start with Cameron, the developer behind the bracket predictor. Here is what he says about his program and its success:

“My program basically analyzes web traffic to the various school websites and formulates a score based on that. Long story short, if one school is getting a lot more traffic than others, it will do better in the bracket. Unfortunately, it appears that the correlation between web traffic and basketball performance is not a strong one and my bracket is performing at about 50%.”

Reed, a longtime member of our technical support team was among the 0.02% of Americans with a perfect bracket after day one of the tournament. His method involved some research, specifically by searching on Google for other people’s informed brackets. Regarding this approach Reed said, “Not much of a story there, other than getting the first 18 games right.”

Our resident HR guru Brian found a lot of early success with his bracket. His research included a few minutes of talk radio, and then he used the seeds assigned to each team to fill things out. The final piece of his method? “I spend one hour of meditation in the closest college basketball gym, eating Lucky Charms and channeling my Irish roots.”

Lastly we spoke with Adam from our client services team. He takes advantage of the autofill option to get things started. He then goes through and makes changes based on all the latest research and statistics. He likes to wait until the last minute as to avoid over thinking it.

So what is your secret? Does your bracket still have some life in it or is it completely busted?

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Does Your WordPress Need a Tune-up?

Mechanic

If you have ever owned a car, you know that regular maintenance is required to keep things running smoothly. Much like your vehicle, your WordPress site also requires tweaking and adjustments to remain in top shape.

Keep Applications and Content Up to Date

Like taking your car in for an oil change, you need to keep your WordPress site up to date. In addition to your WordPress install, all plugins, applications, and content should be kept updated for optimum performance.

Beyond running updates on software, you should also clean up and remove any old files. These can leave your site vulnerable and decrease performance. If you’re performing regular maintenance you should know your account well enough to recognize any files that shouldn’t be there.

Review your Plugins

Much like having your tires rotated and balanced, you need to go through your WordPress plugins regularly. Take a look at each plugin to see if you can speed things up. If you can prevent plugins from making database queries or have them cache things this will speed up your site.

To further improve your site’s performance avoid having too many plugins and identify and remove any problematic plugins. If a specific plugin is hurting performance, consult the developer. Many developers appreciate this feedback and can work to improve their plugin.

Update Your php.ini File

Some people like to tune and “soup up” their cars. The same is true of WordPress. There are all sorts of plugins and tools available to help you get more out of your website. However, just like a car, you wouldn’t want to increase the power of something without preparing the rest of the vehicle.

If a plugin increases the memory needs of your WordPress site, you can open your php.ini folder in your public_html directory and change or create the line “memory_limit” so that it reads “memory_limit 64M” The default is 32M, changing it to 64M will generally be plenty.

Additional Resources

Our technical support team at WestHost has put together an excellent database of common questions, including those dealing with WordPress. This can be found at http://kb.westhost.com/.

What other tips do you have for keeping WordPress performing at its best?

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