Making a good impression with your homepage design

I find that most web hosting companies don’t have an appealing front page. They think that showing pictures of their hard drives, a lady with a headset, and flashy design will be enough to get customers. However, to most these days, it’s not at all that impressive and can really turn off visitors because it’s what imaging every other service uses.

Your start page should be elegant, smooth, and appealing. It should give a brief of the services you offer, and the platforms you support. Specials should be noticed on the description of your plan, but be careful not to clutter it! Think of it as being something that will be seen on a big billboard, actually, think of the center area of your page as a billboard. If you do that, it becomes easier to design.

Think of the people that you’re wanting to host. Different designs appeal to different people. You want people to click on the different links on the page, not close out after a few seconds, keep that in mind. Keep it light, keep it simple, but not too simple that it doesn’t draw attention. Thinking outside of the box is always a good idea.

Pre-installed software: A good reason to keep an eye on trends

Fantastico is pretty out of date these days, equipped with software that people have stopped using since 2005. As a host, you have to keep up with the current trends to grab the attention of your customers, and you have to make sure your system will pick up the updates of each script when they get released.

But why? Well, for one thing, it’s very vulnerable to have just one user on your server running outdated software, another is that not all can do the procedure needed to update it themselves. More and more people are looking for hosts that have common software like WordPress installed because they want something out of the box, a phrase you hear in the Apple commercials.

We’re moving into a era where people use cloud computing, netbooks, and tablets as their main computer. People aren’t looking to learn FTP and HTML these days. Web hosting, especially the kind that is simple, will gain popularity in the next six months. This is a great opportunity not to only become the next GoDaddy, but the next MobileMe and Google Sites with everything built in and user friendly.

DDoS attack – They can happen to anyone

No matter how small or big a web hosting company is, there is going to always be some vulnerability. Let’s take MediaTemple for a large scale example. They cater to Sony, Adobe, and Starbucks Coffee, three of the most popular companies. They also provide four different packages that are widely used by the mentioned companies.

They are always working on their servers to make sure they are secure and work properly for their clients. They post daily updates on their blog and Twitter on downtime, issues, and other information that their paying customers should know about. They also always make sure that their control panels, forums, and help desk are up to speed and work smoothly.

However, last year things took a slight downturn for them. One of their hosted sites had been DDoS attacked which took down the whole grid cluster. Luckily, the whole idea of having the grid option is to keep your data in separate areas so in case something like that happened. However, they had to move people to different IPs and fix the problem. Things were going well, but then the same site got another strain of a DDoS attack which took down their servers again for the second time.

So while smaller web hosting companies may be at risk because of their size and their eagerness for accepting every customer that comes by, the same could very well happen to a popular company that knows what they’re doing. No hosting package is completely safe, backup options were created for a reason.

To share or not to share? The difference between shared and dedicated server hosting

Whenever you’re looking for a new hosting company, you always need to know what you’re planning to do beforehand. You also need to communicate with the provider you’re thinking of going with beforehand to make sure that your project will be stable for their equipment. For the most part, these people don’t want to deal with you if your scripts are hogging up bandwidth because it only makes their other customers angry and more money being spent from their pockets.

For example, I wanted to pursue a podcast that reached 10,000 subscribers every week and that was 20MB in size. The host I approached said that it wasn’t a good idea, so they pointed me to another. That’s better than me having to find a new one after one month anyway.

With media files, you always want to go dedicated because of the size. If you’re an artist, filmmaker, or photographer, you’re most likely wanting to showcase your work in the best quality. Photographs are usually 2 to 5MB in size and shared hosting might not always be set to take it via something like WordPress. Otherwise, you’d have to do it manually. The fix would be to edit your php.ini which is only available in a dedicated server setting. Applications, forums, and any other site that requires registration is more suited to this type of server.

Shared servers should be used for small blogs and single page resumes or showcases. They’re mostly limited in size for that reason. Having 100 forums with 1,000 active members each will overload the server. So it’s not exactly the best setup.

So basically, if you want space to grow your own community, a dedicated server is the best. If you’re looking to operate a one man band with a small blog that won’t have much, then sharing is the better option.

How to install APC Cache (Latest Version) In 10 Steps

If you’re unable to get xCache working, or are looking for other PHP caching solutions on your server to help reduce the load, APC cache is a great alternative. APC stands for Alternative PHP Cache and has been around for a long time, and now supports PHP 5.3 in its latest version we’re about to install.  APC is an open source cache alternative, and gets it’s updates from a handful of dedicated developers.

Simply follow along to get a good clean install of the latest APC version. All of these commands are run from SSH as the root or super user.

[sourcecode language=”bash”]
# cd /usr/src
# wget http://pecl.php.net/get/APC-3.1.3p1.tgz
# gzip -d APC-*
# tar -xf APC-*
# cd APC-*
# which php
# phpize
# ./configure –enable-apc –enable-apc-mmap –with-apxs –with-php-config=/usr/local/bin/php-config
# make
#make install
[/sourcecode]

Line 1. Changes you to the /usr/src directory. {optional}
Line 2. Gets the latest APC version
Line 3. Unpacks the version
Line 4. Unpacks the download
Line 5. Moves you to the APC folder
Line 6. Lets you know where PHP is, should be something like ‘/usr/local/bin/php’
Line 7. Creates configuration files
Line 8. Configures APC cache with the predefined options
Line 9. Makes the install files
Line 10. Installs APC to your system

Lastly we need to edit the php.ini file

[sourcecode language=”bash”]
# locate php.ini
# nano /location/of/php.ini
[/sourcecode]

Search for ‘extension_dir’ and below that place

[sourcecode language=”bash”]
extension=”apc.so”
apc.enabled=1
apc.shm_segments=1
apc.shm_size=128
apc.ttl=7200
apc.user_ttl=7200
apc.num_files_hint=1024
apc.mmap_file_mask=/tmp/apc.XXXXXX
apc.enable_cli=1
[/sourcecode]

Finally restart apache
[sourcecode language=”bash”]
# service httpd restart
[/sourcecode]

Alternative PHP Cache (APC) is now installed to your system. You can tweak the settings by editing the lines above in your php.ini file. (Don’t forget to restart every time). If you want to check if APC is working, simply create a php info page, and look for the section on APC. There is also an “apc.php” file inside your /usr/src/APC-* folder, you can move to a public location and view it from the internet for stats.