Google Chrome to warn that websites are ‘not secure’

What is happening?

As of January 2017, new versions of the Google Chrome browser will start warning that certain pages on websites are ‘not secure’.

Initially this will only apply to sites that do not use SSL on login and credit card entry pages.

You can see the effects of browsing a site with SSL enabled by noticing the ‘green padlock’ icon to the left of the web address in your browser. This is typically used by banks and other organisations to protect you from being snooped on whilst carrying out confidential transactions.

Google will eventually mark all pages on websites as ‘insecure’ (not just login and financial pages) unless they are served as SSL pages.

It seems inevitable that other browsers will follow suit.

Impact

Does this matter? Your website will be no less secure because of this change. It will start highlighting the fact that you don’t use SSL to your customers though. People may start to think that there may be a problem with your website even if you do use the secure services of Paypal or Amazon.

It may even damage your brand when it comes to simple brochure-ware sites that don’t sell anything directly.

Take action

A provider of free SSL certificates has now come forward. This will address the problem effectively for most websites. See our brief article on the free certificates provided by Lets Encrypt.

Some hosting organisations will provide certificates at a premium rate from other providers. They may suit your needs better, but in general we believe that most small businesses will be more than happy with the free product.

Naturally we do not charge to install one of these certificates for our customers.

Posted in Domains, Hosting, Security

Free SSL Certificates

At long last we can offer free SSL certificates because of the sterling work of Let’s Encrypt . SSL certificates are what you need to keep the data that’s transferred between the user’s web browser and the website that you’re visiting. It’s the thing that gives you the green padlock in your browser. Banks and other financial organisations use them, but now anyone can have one for free to keep their data safe.

Up until now they were very expensive and had to be renewed every year.

Please get in touch if you would like a certificate for your website.

Posted in Encryption, Security

Website Hosting – what it entails

Getting a website

Here’s a little guide to ‘everything’ you need to do to get a website up and running. To some extent this will be an overview, as some aspects are quite a large topic in themselves, but it will cover every topic that you need to be aware of.

It’s intended to be a checklist for you to use when you’re trying to get your site set up. It is aimed at beginners to the website publishing business, and is not a comprehensive guide to every aspect of web hosting.

First, we will covers the ‘things’ that you need, followed by what you need to ‘do’ with these things, and then finally a few other considerations to bear in mind.

Needless to say – Moorlands Hosting can help you with all of this. Please read on and email us with any questions or queries.

Things you need

You need a Website! And by this I mean a collection of web-pages, or other content.

You need an Internet connected computer or ‘server’ to ‘host’ the website. This is usually based in a secure data centre, but could be a computer in your spare room.

You need a Domain Name. This is the ‘www.mysite.com’ bit that you type into your browser, to go to the site that you are interested in.

Finally, you need a DNS server. This is a computer that converts your domain name (see above) into the machine address (IP address) of your website’s server. It’s a bit like a telephone directory that converts a name into a number.

Activities

Domain

If you haven’t got a domain yet, then you need to register one. This is relatively cheap to do and usually costs less than £20 for a couple of years. You will need to renew it typically every year or two. Don’t forget to renew it, or you might lose it or have to pay a penalty fee. You will need to setup an account with a registrar and do it yourself, or get someone to do it for you. Some registrars will try to sell you all sorts of addons. You usually don’t need any of them.

Moorlands Hosting can do this for you. All domains are registered in the customer’s name. We will also monitor domain expiry dates in order to ensure that the domains remain active.

Website Hosting

Next you need to setup a hosting contract with a hosting provider. There are a huge number of providers and costs vary from free to eye watering sums for advanced configurations. Most people have fairly basic needs that can be purchased economically by most providers.

Depending on your skills and inclination, you need to select a hosting plan based on the needs of the website and whether you’re going to do everything yourself, get a family member to do it or pay someone to do everything for you. If you are a novice as far as the Internet is concerned, you should take advice regarding what you need in the way of hosting.

Depending on how your website is constructed, you may need to choose between a Unix based server and a Windows based one. Again, you may need to take advice about this.

There are monthly plans and annual plans available. You need to take a view about the ‘bells and whistles’ that may be offered. Beware of ‘free’ things, as service levels may be lower in order to compensate. Beware of anything that is sold as ‘unlimited’. If you use unlimited amounts of the ‘unlimited’ resources, you almost certainly will fall foul of an acceptable use policy.

Most websites have modest needs for disk space and bandwidth. Disk space is necessary to store your website on the server, and bandwidth is a measure of the amount of data in the form of web pages that are transferred across the Internet when someone views your website.

Moorlands Hosting has a series of plans that are suited to all needs, whether it’s a simple static site, or a CMS. If you site becomes successful, then it is an easy matter to bolt on some extra bandwidth when you need it. Don’t pay for more than you need.

DNS

Now that you have a hosting server, you need to configure the DNS to make sure that your domain name points at the server. You hosting provider will provide you with the details.

Moorlands Hosting has access to reliable DNS hosting within our network, which is provided free of charge to our customers. Alternatively, if the registrar’s DNS is used we can configure that for you too.

Design/Build

You now need to either design and build your website, or get someone else to do it for you. There a huge number of free and paid for tools to help you do this yourself. It can take some time to make a site look nice. don’t underestimate the amount of time it will take.

Don’t think that getting someone else to do it will necessarily make it better of quicker to develop. It is quite difficult to explain to someone else how you want the site to look, and what features you need.

The initial phase should be to get the look and feel sorted out. There are shortcuts that you can take. It is possible to find free or paid for web templates that you can customise for your own use. Although customising can sometimes take longer than developing from scratch.

Once you are happy with the layout, you can work on the content itself.

Moorlands Hosting can help with the design of your site; whether it’s a complete design, or a few tweaks to an existing design.

Publish

Finally, you need to ‘publish’ the site. This usually simply means using an FTP tool to transfer the files to your server, using the login details provided by your hosting provider.

Your website is live. Congratulations!!

Other things to consider

CMS

If editing HTML files and uploading them via FTP isn’t your thing, then you might like to consider a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress or Joomla. There are other CMSs available.

A CMS will allow you to ‘log in’ to your website and make the changes to the site directly. These systems also typically have a lot of ‘plugins’ available that allow you to easily add extra functionality such as embedding YouTube video, Twitter feeds, forcing external links to open in another window etc etc. There are a huge number of plugins available of varying quality and compatability. A lot are free; others you have to pay for.

There are tools available to allow you to customise the ‘theme’ of your CMS to change how it looks, or you can download free or paid for themes and use them on your site.

Using a CMS will use more server resources than a ‘static’ HTML site, but it might better suit your way of working.

Commerce

If you want to sell stuff, then you will need an e-commerce site. In other words, your website needs to be capable of advertising your goods or services, and processing purchases and all that goes with that.

This makes things quite complicated. E-commerce systems are complicated to set-up and maintain. You need to be wary of security issues and system performance. You will normally need a more powerful server to run an online shop.

If you just want to sell a few items, it is fairly simple to integrate with PayPal or Ebay.

There are some fairly sophisticated e-commerce systems that are available for free. But you almost certainly will have to customise and configure them (or get someone to do it for you).

Updates

If you use a CMS, you will need to update the software from time to time. This is quite easy to do. Some providers will put your blog / website in a shared environment, and take care of that for you. The downside is that you are at their mercy when it comes to when or even if the updates are applied.

At Moorlands Hosting, all the CMSs we setup are stand alone to give you flexibility, but we will help you with updates if necessary, free of charge.

Copyright

Make sure that you own the copyright to all your content, or have the permission of the owner. If you are found to be in breach and a complaint is made, it is possible that the hosting company will simply take your site down.

Email

You probably need email to be configured for use with your domain. This is sometime bundled with your domain registration, and it is a simple matter to forward all emails to your new domain to an existing personal email account.

It looks so much better to advertise your email address as sales@myshop.com than billy007@hotmail.co.uk!

Do check whether email is virus scanned for you.

Backup

Things go wrong. It’s true, they do. Who is responsible for backing up your website’s data. You, your IT savvy friend, the hosting provider?

Ask about backups and how restores are carried out. If you have a CMS, you’ll need a backup of the files in the CMS and the corresponmding database that drives it.

How often are backups preformed, and at what time of day are they made?

Open Standards v. Clever tools

There are many tools and environments for creating websites. Some are free and others you have to pay for. If you use fancy propietary tools, you website might look nice and flashy, but will you become dependent on that tool, and have to continually pay for upgrades.

If you stick to Open Standards and Open Source where possible, you will have much more flexibility, and upfront costs are likely to be much lower.

Advertising your site – SEO

Once you have your website up and running, how will people find it? You may need to consider an advertising campaign eg. Google Adwords, or even old-fashioned paper media.

There are things that you can do to your website for free to make it more likely to be found by prospective customers.

Website transfers

If you already have a website and you want (or have) to change hosting providers, it can be a dunting task if you are not familiar with the terminology of Registrars and DNS. It can take a matter of days to change host, but a good host will handle this for you and take steps to minimise any downtime.

Posted in Backup, CMS, Commerce, Design, DNS, Domains, Email, Hosting, Publish, SEO, Transfers

TrueCrypt – Encryption

Encryption

Most computer users need to use encryption from time to time. Encryption is the process of converting a computer file from one that is readable to one that is ‘scrambled’ and can only then be read after it has been decrypted by entering a private password.

If file that you are concerned about can be discovered accidentally or otherwise by another person or agency, encryption will prevent them from accessing your personal information.

An excellent tool to help with file encryption is TrueCrypt. If you vist their website you will find a wealth of ‘howto’ information, along with a lot of background information on encryption.

UPDATE – Truecrypt has been discontinued, but is still available. Some alternatives are available.

A major ‘plus’ for this software is that it is Free and Open Source. It is also Multi-platform, meaning that you can use it on Mac, Windows and Linux.

One of its more interesting features is its ability to have two passwords for each encrypted file or disk. Using different passwords will decrypt a different hidden file or disk (if you wish). This allows  you to give up some apparently secret files if you are compelled to divulge them, whilst keeping the real ones hidden.

Be warned that if you forget the password, your data is gone. It is beyond modern technology to decrypt such hidden data, if the recommended guidelines for setting them up are followed.

Posted in Advice, Encryption, Security

Computer Backup Tips

Computer backups are important. If you value your time and your data, you really should be doing something about it. It’s easy to get complacent, especially if ‘bad stuff’ never seems to happen to you. But I’m afraid I have some news for you – one day bad stuff is going to happen. Are you ready for it, and do you know how to prepare for it?

What kind of things can happen? Here are a few scenarios:

  • You accidentally delete a file that you really wanted to keep.
  • You somehow corrupt or overwrite a file with garbage or at least the wrong information, and then ‘save’ it.
  • Your hard drive fails.
  • You accidentally format your hard drive when upgrading your system.
  • Someone steals your computer.
  • Your house burns down.
  • A bad guy forces you to hand over your password to your encrypted personal information.

I could go on, but I’m sure that you get the idea! Of course we’re just talking about your own PC here. It gets more complicated if we’re talking about a remote website in a datacentre, or what about at home with multiple computers (one for each member of the family). Read more ›

Posted in Advice, Backups, Security
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