Canadian Web Hosting Blog and News
21Nov/110

Two Reasons Why Offline Networking are Important for You and your Business

This past September during Social Media Week in Vancouver, one of the most profound comments that I encountered came from Scott Dawson (@sdd), a local mortgage broker, who strives to meet someone from Twitter offline on a weekly basis (I'm not certain if he still does now) and a few weeks ago, his comment indirectly rang true when it came to offline connections. At a recent technology event, the advanced computing & technology divisions from Ingram Micro (@IngramMicroInc) discussed how Cisco and EMC technology can help lead clients with utilizing a converged infrastructure path to create a flexible, scalable IT infrastructure of a next generation data centre. There, I met an IT staff member from the University of British Columbia (@ubcnews) with whom we started discussing startups and technology.

He made me think about our connections within our community here. Once again, the community topic comes up. As a company, we spend our time helping our customers host and build websites that connect their own customers to the virtual world and all of our business and most of their business occur online. Oftentimes, we  seldom get to connect offline with people. Locally, there are many events to attend to make those offline connections and build or further relationships with your peers in your industry, prospective clients or other professionals within the area. The opportunities are everywhere.

It's good to leave the internet alone once in a while.

While there are many reasons why you should spend time offline with your own community, here are two main thoughts as to why building offline relationships are important:

1) Connecting with the Human Side
When you interact online with your customers or peers, a lot of time is spent over emails or perhaps, the phone or even texting. For those of us who love social media, that communication occurs over platforms such as Twitter and/or Facebook or many other platforms. While we can interact online and learn more about one another via those mediums, there’s nothing like shaking someone's hand and being able to view their body languages as we interact offline. As most of us know, communication happens visually rather than with vocal words. Online or even over video chat, it's almost impossible to have a sense of the physical energy between you and a person. For example, if you were making small talks and happened to make a joke, there wouldn't be anything like watching that person smile and laugh in front of you. It's important to take the time to make those offline connections and leave technology behind to feel human once in a while.

2) Having a Reason to Unplug
This point is straightforward and says it all. Especially in our world, we spend so much time online for various reasons including reading the news, listening to podcasts, watching all sorts of videos, interacting with friends, families and our customers, calling one another across the world for free, playing online games and the list goes on. In my case, I attend and organize many tweetups and rarely put my smart phone down; I'm also guilty of this situation. When unplugged, even though, you may miss a few things happening online, the action of being unplugged allows you to really take in your surroundings and pay close attention to the live conversations happening around you. If you're on your phone the entire time, you will miss something, in the physical world.

Closing Thoughts
Once in a while, we even have to remind ourselves to unplug as a team which is sometimes a challenge when you think of our webhosting world that goes on 365 days a year, 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. For that, we can feel reassured that thanks to our excellent support staff, we can allow one another to take those breaks offline and connect with one another whether it's over coffee or a team lunch. So think about turning off your electronic devices and leaving the internet alone once in a while and go get some fresh air, say, at English Bay, or if you are on Twitter, you could also ask @downtownvan; they're full of ideas.

We'll see you there.

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru

8Nov/110

Windows Hosting vs. Linux Hosting

One of the most confusing decisions for someone new to web hosting is to decide which platform their server should be on.  For the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on the main two - Linux and Windows.

As a starter, both Windows and Linux have passionate followers who will tell you that their product is unparalleled and much better than the competition. Both types of hosting have their positives and negatives, and from an end-user standpoint, you should always be focused on what your site or server requirements are rather than your “predetermined” choice for a platform.  More often than not, what you are trying to achieve will usually dictate what type of platform you use. For example, are you just hosting a blog, implementing a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, concerned about stability and uptime, have specific application requirements or have high uptime requirements?   Knowing this, the best thing you can do is talk over your requirements with your hosting company and have them break down what the best solution ought to be for your purposes.

Linux Hosting

There are several key advantages that typically drive customers to Linux.

1) Since it is open source, it can be modified or improved, and then distributed to the public.

2) Linux allows you to use other open-source technologies, such as database applications or scripting software. For example, one of the most popular database applications developers use is MySQL. When it comes to scripting applications, a lot of developers use PHP, to build dynamic websites or extract data from a MySQL database.  In addition, features like Clustering are built in to MySQL, whereas Microsoft’s MS SQL will cost you $1000’s of dollars for the same features.

3) Usually it’s “free.”  More often than not, the distribution (like CentOS) is developed in the community and offered for any user who wants it for free.  This can be a great incentive from a cost perspective especially if you are rolling out multiple servers.

4) The notion that Linux is stable and secure.

When looking at Linux hosting, an acronym that you are likely to encounter when it comes to Linux hosting is LAMP that is defined on Wikipedia as, “a solution stack of free, open source software, originally coined from the first letters of the principal components used to build viable general purpose web servers.”

L=Linux

A=Apache, the web server that sends the web pages to your visitors browser

M: MySQL, the database application

P: PHP, Python or Perl

Linux was created based on the GNU General Public License. As previously stated, Linux can be modified or improved. Anybody can access software based on the GNU General Public License. As a result, there are various distributions of Linux, including Red Hat, Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS or SUSE Linux to a name a few.

Today, Linux is a significant presence in the hosting industry and is becoming increasingly adopted by large entities and corporations. Corporations such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM are using this operating system and are working to create and deploy eco-systems built on these technologies.

Windows Hosting

If you want to stick with Windows, choose Windows hosting for building and publishing your website. For those of you who need to design dynamic websites, Microsoft offers two scripting languages:  Active Server Pages (ASP or ASP.net). Use ASP.NET to build and deploy dynamic web services, web applications, or websites.

Microsoft also has another solution called Microsoft.NET. You can use Microsoft.NET to not only create and host webpages, but to create advanced Web applications and XML services. Windows hosting also works with ColdFusion, another scripting language, created by Adobe Systems.

IIS (Internet Information Server) is the foundation for Windows hosting, while Microsoft Windows NT or Advanced Server is the operating system.  Windows Server Web Edition is designed specifically for Windows web hosting and web serving. IIS is what enables developers to create web pages with ASP or ASP.NET as well as other languages, such as Perl or ColdFusion. With a combination of IIS and ASP, developers can integrate COM objects and data access into their Web applications. They can also use ASP to manipulate MS Access and SQL Server.

With Windows Server 2008, Microsoft developed a single solution for both application developers and Internet service providers.  If you're looking to create an e-commerce website, you'll want to take advantage of Windows Server 2008 Web Edition's business solutions. These include security improvements, virtualization tools, and Web resources. These business tools are not only designed to improve reliability, but to help you save money and time. Other significant functions that Windows hosting supports include databases, Web statistics, email or Web mail, FTP accounts, and others.

Which Hosting Plan is Better?

Your choice of server platforms should be dictated by the use to which you intend to put it. The majority of web features run fine on both platforms including PHP, MySQL, POP3 etc.  However, if you intend to create your site using ASP, FrontPage, the .NET environment, Windows Streaming Media, Access, MS SQL, or any of the other Microsoft proprietary technologies, then you probably need to use a Windows host. On the other hand, Linux servers tend to use file extension like *.html *.pl, *.xml, *.shtml, *.php.  It is probably worth considering the fact that if you use server specific technologies and then change hosts, you'll have a much harder time than if you use technologies that can run on any system. Having it run generic technologies removes the need to focus on specifics and allows you to focus on the quality of service itself.

The reliability and stability of the different platforms have been the topic of many conversations.  Stating the obvious, the main reason that Windows is “seen” as being insecure is that it is the most widely used operating system for home PC's. People spend more time looking for flaws in the most common system. With Linux being the most common server type, it has a surprising number of successful hack attempts made on it. In the end, the security of both platforms comes down to the competency of the system administrators. If you are security minded then you'll make sure that the hosting company is reputable and highly skilled than to worry about the server they use.

Linux and Windows both allow customers to access the server. With both services, you can access your files through FTP (file transfer protocol).  Users typically access Windows using RDP where as Linux hosting differs in that it provides Telnet or SSH access. There are few Windows hosting services that offer this feature, but it's more common to see it with Linux hosting services. Telnet or SSH allows you to directly open a session while you're on the Web server. As a result, you can use Unix command lines to control and change your files while you're in this session.  However for the novice user, I would not recommend this as the preferred method for accessing your server.

Linux supports CGI (Common Gateway Interface). CGI enables Web servers to dynamically interact with users. A CGI script is a file that consists of a series of commands that the Unix shell executes. Other scripts you can access through CGI are Perl scripts. You'll likely find most Linux hosting services providing Perl scripting.

Customers choose Linux hosting over Windows hosting because they believe they have more options. Microsoft aims to change this way of thinking. Windows Server 2008 Web Edition enables businesses to virtualize various operating systems, including Linux and Fedora. As a result, data centres can quickly adapt to businesses' changing needs. Another solution Windows Server 2008 Web Edition offers is that businesses can successfully deploy applications without having to use a VPN (virtual private network). Other technology features Windows Server 2008 Web Edition offers are Windows Deployment Services, Power Shell, and Server Core. These are designed to give Windows hosting versatility and dependability.

Another criticism that Microsoft faces from customers is security bugs. As previously stated, customers choose Linux web hosting services because they're known for being secure. However, Microsoft has beefed up its security functions in Windows Server 2008 Web Edition. It has three features: Read-Only Domain Controller, Network Access Protection, and Federated Rights Management that are designed to protect your data and network. These are important tools to have when a Windows hosting company is experiencing intrusion or failure with user accounts, networks or data. Windows Server 2008 Web Edition will protect them.

If you're looking for customers to interact with on your website, you should consider Windows hosting. For example, you can easily deploy online chat services. These function much better on Windows hosting platforms than on Linux hosting platforms. Customers can easily access your databases, view, and purchase your products or services. Consider using Windows hosting if you have little or no webmaster experience. Linux hosting can be more challenging if you have little experience.

If you're looking to convert your website from Linux hosting to Windows hosting, the transition should be smooth. On the other hand, you can experience challenges if you're trying to convert your website from Windows hosting to Linux hosting. This is one thing you must take into consideration when choosing a hosting service.

Hopefully, reading this article has equipped you with knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of Linux hosting versus Windows hosting. Developers on both sides feel passionately that their product can solve your needs. They're working continuously to come up with more robust features.

In terms of performance, there's not a huge difference between the two servers. Linux reportedly performs faster because Windows (as usual) attempts to offer an 'all in one' package instead of the extendable Linux implementation. You'll generally not notice a difference but if performance is of utmost importance to you then maybe this will influence your decision.

Advantages of Windows Server Hosting
  • As .NET is a software framework by Microsoft, Windows server hosting supports it.
  • The ASP technology can be conveniently used with Windows hosting.
  • Windows server hosting lets you use the web development tools by Microsoft such as Visual Interdev and Microsoft FrontPage.
  • This hosting offers support for Visual Basic, Microsoft Access, and Microsoft SQL.
  • You can use Microsoft Office services in this type of hosting.
Advantages of Linux Server Hosting
  • Since Linux software are open source and come free of cost, you save a considerable amount of money that you would have otherwise spent in acquiring software.
  • Linux server hosting supports PHP, MySQL, and Perl.
  • This hosting offers support for mSQL, MySQL and PostgreSQL databases.
  • Linux hosting is considered more secure that Windows hosting.
  • Overall cost of Linux web hosting is less than Windows hosting.

Windows hosting wins over Linux hosting in terms of the advanced features it offers whereas Linux hosting offers a more cost-effective solution. It is easier to move a website hosted on the Linux server to the Windows server than doing it the other way. The choice of web hosting depends completely on what a website needs.

Matt McKinney

google.com/+canadianwebhosting

1Nov/110

Let’s Bring GiveCamp (@GiveCamp) to Canada!

I was tweeting with a fellow Vancouverite about an annual weekend-long volunteering event called Givecamp that occurs internationally over 15 cities. This year, the event occurred during October 21-23rd. You can follow the latest news and updates on Twitter at @GiveCamp.

What is GiveCamp?

Here's an overview of what this organization accomplishes: "GiveCamp is a weekend-long event where software developers, designers, and database administrators donate their time to create custom software for non-profit organizations. This custom software could be a new website for the nonprofit organization, a small data-collection application to keep track of members, or a application for the Red Cross that automatically emails a blood donor three months after they’ve donated blood to remind them that they are now eligible to donate again. The only limitation is that the project should be scoped to be able to be completed in a weekend."

Who should care about this event?
If you are a software developer, designer, database administrator, a project manager or even a social media consultant, you could donate some of your time for a cause that you believe in. Every event is run slightly differently, however, I was able to attend the closest one in the Pacific Northwest at the Seattle GiveCamp (@seattlegivecamp). The first night on Friday, as a volunteer, you had the chance to listen to 17 non profits go over their missions and their needs. For example, a lot of them needed website redesign, one wanted a social gaming app (one of the most rigorous project requiring the biggest team), others needed e-commerce tools added on, and some even needed some social media marketing support. The non profits ranged from health to food, from music to books and it went on. As unique as each individual is, there was a cause for everyone.

More on the agenda and event format
In the following two days, some volunteers taught some workshops throughout the day including: WordPress 101, Social Media 101 for Non Profits (which yours truly co-taught), SEO 101 for Non Profits, Using Microsoft Access Databases, and Salesforce.com/CRM for Non-Profits. In tandem, the software developers, designers, database administrators, and project managers worked in nearby conference rooms around the clock from Friday at 6 pm through Sunday at 4:30 pm when the project hand-off occured. It was a very long and fulfilling weekend to say the least.

Why should you care?
Around the office, we still talk about community very much, like during Social Media Week Vancouver or during Startup Day, and we feel that it's important to inform the rest of the community of other great events happening "close" by to home. While each of us continues to become busier and busier throughout our days and weeks, it's important to step back and think about non profits and the other organizations who are trying very hard to promote their own communities through sometimes, means that are more difficult than wanted.

Spotlight on Music for Life also known as "The African Childrens Choir."
Dawna, the Donor Relations Coordinator, was on sight and drove all the way down to Seattle from Langley to be part of this weekend. Her project workplan was to re-deploy her website using CMS and while we can all read the WIKI notes, the most amazing part is to view the before-design and most importantly, the amazing after-design work. I had the chance to chat with her about social media and it was very enjoyable to drop some Canucks commentary during my social media workshop with her. Her organization made a great effort to attend, and other volunteers like myself, cared very much to give back some of our time to the community at large. If you are interested in this local organization, you can follow them on Twitter at @acchoir or on Facebook at African Children's Choir.

As that recent conversation over Twitter came up, it would be great if Vancouver could also join this movement next year and be the first GiveCamp in Canada. Why not? On the other hand, which are your favorite non profits to follow and/or be involved with around here?

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru