Web and Hosting Tips
Written by Natalie Lehrer
Monday, August 25th, 2014
With your website up and running, you can welcome visitors from all over the web. And with several websites – or web applications – you can multiply that number of visitors further. But what if you wanted to give each visitor a seamless experience so that whichever website he or she accessed, it would be possible to transparently get services from the other websites, too? Sure, you can always provide handy links to open up new browser windows or embed information in pop-ups, but web hosting also allows you to make things much more seamless and slick. You can give your visitors the perception that they are getting everything they need from just one site.
How your visitors see your site can affect visitor loyalty, traffic and (if that’s your goal) website revenues. Suppose you run a travel information service on one web hosting platform, a hotel reservation service on another, and you’d also like to make up to date currency exchange information (which you don’t host) available to your visitors too. In fact, by using a standard networking protocol that other providers offer, you can also make your web site the center of the universe for your visitors and invisibly pull in all sorts of information that could be of interest to them. ‘One-stop shops’ like this are more convenient and encourage more visitors to return. So what sort of mechanism lets you do that?
SOAP: Simple But Effective
SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol to give its full, former name) is a standard protocol that lets web sites access information from external sources for their visitors without interrupting the ‘one site does it all’ experience. It’s not the only way to accomplish this, but it is one of the most simple. What’s more, it doesn’t depend on any particular web programming language or web hosting operating system, so it can hook up just about anything. SOAP just uses two universal resources to work: HTTP (which is how your website works anyway) and XML (eXtensible Markup Language), which is also available as a standard part of any mainstream web platform.
What SOAP Does
SOAP specifies how to set up communications with an HTTP header and an XML file so that an application in one server can call an application in another and ask for information. It also specifies how the other application then responds to the first with the requested information. Essentially the provider of the information makes instructions available about what information can be requested and how. These instructions are expressed in WSDL or Web Services Description Language (which is based on XML). The consumer of the information uses the instructions to create a calling application and sends it using SOAP to manage the interaction.
Back To Our Example
If you’re running the website with the travel info and the webserver with the hotel reservation system, then you can choose to have a SOAP provider application on your reservation system and a SOAP consumer application on the travel info website. A visitor reading your travel info could then click to get immediate hotel availability information and even a hotel reservation form without leaving the travel info site. To get auxiliary information on currency exchange rates for foreign destinations, you could use the WSDL instructions from a third-party site and create a second SOAP consumer application to get up to the minute currency conversion for your own visitors – again, without them leaving your travel info site.
Is It Complicated to Implement?
In absolute terms, no. Somebody who knows HTTP and who understands XML will likely find that SOAP and WSDL are simple enough to work with. Of course, you’ll want to design and test your web services applications properly to make quite sure they work consistently and reliably for all your visitors. But once they are in place, you can then also offer your slick hotel reservation web service to other webmasters so that you can boost your business even more!
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 Google Plus, Twitter @Cloudwedge, or on Facebook.
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/monsieurlui/316350341/in/photolist-tXnWe-fNfHbS-ifXF2F-ifXFjN-arujE9-cfFUX3-kLeAct-9kKrVe-5T9fu6-4xhrfT-fkv78c-aWa2ZT-3265bo-FLKc7-nxxMxP-eUAzmU-617kFE-7WvyGS-fV8bGm-e1ajoV
Written by Brandi Bennett
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Most businesses opt to use Twitter or Facebook as a means of communicating with their customers, or their potential customers; though there are those that are willing to utilize G+, they often do so as an afterthought, making it a nice place for many of us to hang out who don’t like dealing with advertisements in our news, information, and social escapades. Still, with Facebook starting to trail behind the others, as it increases the amount of advertisements and decreases in popularity, many users are starting to turn to G+ as the next big platform.
What Does This Mean For Businesses?
You may want to get on board with G+, and Google’s making that easier than ever for you to do now. All e-commerce business owners use some form of analytics in order to determine the best moves for their business, allowing them to find out where they want to take things from here, so to speak.
While this has been somewhat possible through social media as well, many business owners find that they don’t want to pay the additional fees needed in order to access this information, leaving them questioning as to whether or not they are doing things right on the social media platforms. Well, no more!
G+ now offers businesses the ability to access all of the analytic information that they need in order to determine the best methods of connecting with customers, identifying what is working and what is not, and, perhaps more importantly, works to increase the amount of control that small businesses have over their promotional activities. Offered as a part of the service now known as “Google My Business,” small business owners are able to manage many aspects of their online presence, including search results, maps, directions, reviews, and the analytical data offered to them through the use of G+.
Time To Make A Change?
Google’s always worked to try to provide users with all of the information that they could ever possibly need or want (and then some), but now it appears as though they are working to take care of not just individuals but businesses as well. With all this available readily at your fingertips, perhaps it’s time for you too to consider making a change; if not permanently, at least working to include G+ in your retinue of tools.
Written by Natalie Lehrer
Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
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.
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.
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
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.
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