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Beyond Web Hosting: The Content Delivery Network

Written by Natalie Lehrer

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

1 colourful web hosting
Have you ever wondered how some of those more popular web sites manage to deliver their content to you so quickly and so reliably – no matter where the company is located and no matter where you happen to be connected? In many cases, the answer is not one gigantic server with huge Internet bandwidth. It’s more likely to be the use of a content delivery network (CDN). If your own web presence is starting to generate serious interest and traffic, especially from different parts of the world, it may be a solution that makes sense for you in order to supply your content to a growing number of fans or customers.

 

Like Web Hosting but Multiplied Up

A CDN works in a similar way to a single web hosting installation, but replicates your website data on multiple servers. These servers are distributed geographically to increase proximity with visitors to your website. Some CDNs focus on certain regions. Others claim worldwide coverage – the biggest CDNs can have thousands of servers, all automatically configured to serve the end-users that are the physically closest to them. Smaller distances mean fewer hops, less latency and faster overall transmission. Higher numbers of servers mean that end-users are less likely to see delays when trying to access a very popular site, because the load is shared out between the replicating hosts.

 

What do CDNs Do Best?

CDNs can work well with static web content, including text and images. However, their effect is often most noticeable in video transmission. When videos are streamed from a local CDN server to a user, latency can be minimized and good video replay quality can be achieved, with the stop/start or jitter that occurs when large numbers of remote users all access the same central server. Other benefits include resilience of content delivery in case part of the Internet experiences problems, and robustness against attacks such as denial of service. For example, if you think you’d like to be the new YouTube or Vimeo on the net, a CDN could be a useful or even essential part of your plan.

 

Smart Technology

Some CDNs are smarter still. Not only do they recognize which users should be served from which local node when they type in the domain name of the website in question, but they also intelligently compress and pre-load data. The compression techniques can be high-performance yet without loss (important for transferring many large data files). The pre-loading relies on a statistical analysis of which website content is the most popular or most frequently downloaded in a given sequence. The CDN node will send the next webpages in the sequence at the same time as the first webpage requested by the user. If the user then navigates to the next page in the sequence (which has a good probability of happening), the content is already present on the user’s computer and ‘flashes up’ immediately.

 

When Would You Start Using a CDN?

If you currently attract so many users to your site that performance and/or network bandwidth are becoming bottlenecks, CDNs may be worth investigating. They may be a less expensive yet more effective option compared to trying to beef up your central web hosting. A ‘CDN aggregator’ company may be able to help by modeling your traffic and your requirements, and identifying the best deal among the CDNs available. Such aggregators may even offer a dynamic ‘mix and match’ service, continually selecting the most favorable CDN for your requirements. This often assumes of course that you accept to sign up with the aggregator as the intermediary for providing this service.

 

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Author Bio: Natalie Lehrer is a senior contributor for CloudWedge. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys exploring all things cloud and is a music enthusiast. Follow Natalie’s daily posts on Twitter: @Cloudwedge, or on Facebook.

 

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ttdesign/343167590/in/photolist-wjPLA-7Be85n-rbCWW-aQf21D-7KjZjr-7zDWzv-6aw5Lh-8MDbrZ-5KpNhE-7XMuAD-6cGrgu-89Tw5Q-6nt5X1-5LVP4E-84s4zk-hQ5CiF-7BS33u-ELx7g-9zVHaR-7YQdNq-fqcg29-gRu2rU-ht66k-6HPouy-6z8pej-jkgYmp-7H54Kk-8ZVktv-6B3s58-8MtWqu-dbvTz6-fD4Ngx-8fPKrA-7WBuA2-89TsG5-4RDokh-cjL6F5-bccJFK-6whmkD-nqmnkC-7znbaU-5y9Lmn-8WgR9s-eVRB9u-3XBxv-dN9oWd-cnJHKG-7Rb4Yp-9mg1XN-cjKJeu

Social Media Is Important, If Done Properly

Written by Brandi Bennett

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Social media allows individuals to stay in contact with each other. That was the the original premise for its creation, also allowing folks to make new connections and friends across the vast open space that is the Internet. In recent years, however, social media has evolved into being utilized as a means of allowing organizations to promote their products to individuals, interact with their customers, and spark discussion and debate regarding the different products that are being offered.

social_media

 

The Benefits

This type of access, allowing brands and companies to interact with their customers in this manner is a great boon to organizations, providing them with information and insight into consumer preferences in ways that never would have been possible in the past while also allowing them to obtain personalized and direct responses and information from consumers regarding how their product performs, along with additional information about the desires of the market.

 

The Crux of the Matter

In spite of all of this positivity, there is one issue that is arising with increasing frequency: spam. Not spam in the traditional sense of the word, which relates to unsolicited email messages, but a new equivalent. I, personally, had avoided Twitter for years, but recent events prompted me to finally set up an account. I was almost immediately spammed with requests from companies to “follow” them. Companies that I had never heard of, whose requests were sometimes not even in English, but I’ve never heard of these companies and, to my chagrin, I hadn’t even filled out my interests yet!

These businesses mostly just wanted follows, though some asked me to “retweet” information on their business to get their name out there. These were clearly generic requests, sent out automatically. Now, some businesses may think that this is a good thing, that it’s an alright business practice, acceptable even, after all isn’t the whole point getting your name out there?

No. It’s not okay at all. Not only did I delete every single one of these, I also blocked those companies from contacting me. This is not the type of publicity for which businesses should aim.

 

The Nitty Gritty

Social media should be used by the business not necessarily to solicit, but to let their brand speak. It’s fine to send messages to those who have expressed an interest in your company via social media, but if you’re just randomly hoping to contact someone who might take the time to like or follow your organization, this is arguably spam. You want a user to want to talk about you in a positive manner. You want that individual to like your company or follow your company, expressing to their network that your business is worthwhile, but if you do nothing to engender that feeling, you’re shooting yourself in the virtual foot. Use social media strategically and your company has the potential to go far.

 

Image Source: LinkedIn. (2013). Social Media. Retrieved from http://blog.linkedin.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Social-Media-and-College-Admissions.jpg-1024×701.jpeg

Five Must-Have Google Chrome Extensions For 2014

Written by Jeremy Jensen

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

I’ve found that while computers have made our lives exponentially easier and more organized, sometimes the user can’t keep up with the technology, allowing mainstream tasks to become obsolete. For those of you who are unaware, a browser plug-in is a piece of software code that allows a program, or portion of a web page to do something it couldn’t by itself. One of the most common being Adobe Flash Player; without it, you wouldn’t be able to view videos embedded into web pages.

For these reasons we thought it’d be a good idea to share five plug-ins and browser extensions that may make your work flow and internet capabilities that much easier.

  1. Facebook Unseen- Block’s Facebook’s read receipts from being sent.

I actually really like this one. While Facebook has become an integral marketing tool, it has also become one of the largest time-sucks from a day of productivity. It’s hard not responding to a message from a friend or client when it’s indicated very clearly that the message has been received.

Sometimes we receive a message via mobile and don’t have the means to respond properly on the go. I find this is the perfect solution to still being able to read a message, while not offending someone while you wait to respond until later.

facebook_unseen

 

  1. Grammarly Lite- Rest assured your e-mails are making sense.

Spell checking is nothing revolutionary when it comes to most e-mail and comment boxes. However, when it comes to ensuring professional fluency in the messages you send out, grammatical mistakes often go unnoticed until the message is already in your sent box. The ways in which you’re covered include:

  • Prepositional errors

  • Inaccurate usage of pronouns

  • Irregular verb conjugations, etc.

Spell checking is also included in the set of features, which may come in handy for less developed messaging programs. Grammarly Lite works on all Social Media applications as well, so status updates, and messages will be on point.

 

  1. LastPass- Securely store your passwords and personal information

How many contact forms are you going to fill out before you entrust a third party to securely remember all of your Log-in information? With LastPass you won’t have to again!

Personally, I get overwhelmed with how many accounts I belong to, and how many new registration forms are requested on a monthly basis. Saving minutes here and there while logging in really amps up efficiency during the work day, and prevents remembering all of the various user-names and passwords we’re accountable for as individuals.

last_pass

 

  1. StayFocusd- Block out your online distractions

Here I sit, guilty as charged. As a writer I spend the majority of my work day pinned between my word processor, and a limitless expansion of digital distractions. My saving grace has been allowing StayFocusd to do what my discipline could not, and that’s block the pages and applications I knew were hindering my work flow.

Notable features include entire domain blocking, specific sub-domains, paths and in-page content (images, games, videos). You can even set a time limit if you want to browse for only a reasonable period of time. Many companies have put out comparable applications for considerable annual fees, StayFocusd is free!

 

  1. NiftySplit- Split Chrome into two windows

Not quite dual screen potential, but for anyone doing work on the go, having your browser split to surf through web pages more efficiently is a wonderful tool. How it works is you open your favorite website (The Homepage) and when you click on any link it then opens in the right hand side of the split screen interface.

Researchers, shoppers, and anyone just browsing web links will love not having to open a web page, click back and find their location in the link index again.

nifty_split

What are you favorite Chrome extensions? Let us know in the comments!

 

Image sources:

Facebook Unseen- http://img.brothersoft.com/screenshots/softimage/f/facebook_unseen_for_chrome-518325-13771402970.jpeg

LastPass- http://www.majorgeeks.com/index.php?ct=files&action=file&id=2566

NiftySplit- http://core5.staticworld.net/images/article/2013/09/niftysplit-100054314-large.jpg

Responsive Web Design: A Goal For 2014

Written by Jeremy Jensen

Monday, June 16th, 2014

responsive web design 01

If your business depends on its website to any extent, and you haven’t made the switch to a responsive design by now, you’re at risk for losing a lot of business in 2014. The primary reason being the massive shift happening in how people browse the internet nowadays. During a study conducted at the end of 2013, Smart Insights discovered that of all web browsing just over 25% was done either on a Smartphone or Tablet. Signifying a potential 25% loss in business due to the sub-optimal experience many visitors encountered on web-pages that did not adjust for their particular device.

What’s more notable is that by 2015, mobile browsing is expected to surpass desktop use, making it imperative your website will be ready for use across any screen as soon as possible.

 

Responsive Web Design (RWD) Defined

Although it has been around since May of 2010, RWD is still a fairly new strategy to the majority of business owners. Most simply put, Responsive Design is: a website design that will adjust flawlessly to fit on a desktop, smartphone and tablet browser. If you’ve ever pulled open a website on a mobile device only to see the desktop version you understand it can be difficult to zoom in, navigate and ultimately achieve what you had intended by opening the web page in the first place.

 

How It Works

responsive web design 02

RWD aims to make the browsing experience seamless from one device to the next; therefore, retaining visitors no matter how they choose to access your site.</>

As you can see in the image above, the web-page’s content has re-sized and adjusted to fit within the confines of available space. The principles of RWD use “media queries” to figure out the resolution of the device it’s being served on, coupled with flexible images and fluid grids to then size everything correctly to fit on the screen.

In the past web designers would develop a desktop site, and then an entirely different mobile version to try and accommodate for all the different emerging devices. In November of 2012, the popular website Mashable was accessed by more than 2,500 different devices, a number that helped them declare 2013 to be the Year of Responsive Web Design.

 

The Top 5 Reasons To Adopt RWD

Beyond universal accessibility, there are several other benefits to having a site that can exist under one URL, the first being:

1. Google Highly Recommends It

Much like anything Google recommends, marketers and web professionals are usually keen with interest. In 2012, Google deemed it a best practice for smart-phone optimized websites. Having one URL and the same HTML allows Google to easily crawl and index your website within its algorithms. Leading into our next benefit:
2. One SEO Campaign

In order to promote your website within the search engines, you’ve probably managed an SEO campaign to help your website rank. With a Responsive Design you no longer have to worry about ranking two individual sites (Web and Mobile). Instead all of your efforts can now be concentrated towards one page. All of the links, all of the content will now be working twice as hard to ensure your page gets seen no matter what device it’s searched on. Talk about a good deal!
3. Positive User Experience

Without the satisfaction of your visitors, all of this talk of technique and strategy would be utterly pointless. RWD’s main purpose is to allow the users of your web-page to browse however they feel most comfortable. For if a potential customer arrives onto your page while browsing on a mobile device and feels the need to leave seconds later, you may have just lost a potential sale.

Research on mobile website usability shows that websites that are responsive and mobile-ready significantly improve user experience and satisfaction. By 2015 50% of visitors will be on a mobile device, be ready!
4. Adapting For The Future

The combination of media queries paired with fluid grids will give your web design sustainability in a time of rapidly changing technological trends. Users may keep updating their devices, but no matter how the screen sizes keep changing your website will be able to adapt which is an excellent feeling knowing your investing in a long-term design.
5. Saving Time And Money

While RWD aims to serve the satisfaction of your visitors, the bottom line is you’re tired of having to keep up with all the marketing trends when ultimately you just want to run a business. Cutting out dual websites, dual SEO campaigns and constant website maintenance will prove to be incredibly valuable both to your bank account and time management. It’s time to get back to what’s really important, so where do you sign up?

 

Getting Started

Much like hiring a web-designer there is no fixed cost when it comes to implementing RWD. If you have a simple brochure website for your business, modifications may cost as little as a few hundred. Perhaps you want to start from scratch, most web hosting domains have templates with RWD built right in with no experience necessary.

We recommend reading the book Implementing Responsive Web Design, if you”re serious about being on the forefront of RWD and learning how to build these sites yourself. Otherwise, get in touch with your preferred web designer and see how you can go about optimizing your site today. You will not regret it!

 

Image Source #1: http://poweredwebdev.com/tag/responsive-web-design-2/Image Source #2: http://www.cascadingmedia.com/responsive-web-design

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