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15Apr/11Off

What is webmail and do I need it?

Webmail is a way to access your email account. It is totally web based and hence the name webmail. You do not need specialized software on your system to use webmail. In fact you don't need to work from a specific computer to access emails through webmail.

The very concept of webmail is to provide access to your email accounts from any computer anywhere in the world (as long as it has a net connection). Webmail provides a web based interface for you to manage your email accounts and you don't need to configure any software since everything is online!

Most web hosting companies allow you to access your email accounts using webmail. It is very simple to use, very similar to working on popular free email accounts such as Hotmail, Yahoo! or Gmail.

Webmail software

All your emails reside on the hard disk of the hosting server usually in a separate directory. Webmail software provide you an easy-to-use interface to read, write, delete and manage email messages. Webmail software is usually a suite of programs or scripts written in a server-side language that lets you gain access to an email account and perform routine tasks.

On Linux and Unix web servers, the webmail software scripts are usually written in Perl, Python or PHP and some of the popular ones are Horde, SquirrelMail, NeoMail and RoundCube. These webmail software can also be used on the Windows operating system as long as there is support for that server-side language. For instance, if PHP has been configured properly on a Windows server, any PHP based webmail software can be installed and run successfully.

How important is it for your web hosting service to provide webmail?

As I mentioned above, webmail allows you to administer your email accounts from any computer. And this makes webmail is a very important application to have on your web hosting package. Trust me, I say this from experience. There may come an occasion when you need to read and/or reply to important email messages and you don't have access to your system. Webmail comes to your rescue at times like these. You can simply log in at your email accounts from any computer (as long as it is connected to the Internet)
How do I access my emails with Webmail?

Your web hosting service should provide you the URL for webmail.

It would typically be http://www.your-domain-name.com/webmail.

When you load the webmail URL in a web browser (such as Internet Explorer or FireFox) will now be asked the user name and password of the email account. Enter these log-in details and on success, you will be granted access to your email account.

15Apr/11Off

Web Hosting Guide for Beginners

First and foremost, for non-IT savvy, it might be a little tough for them to comprehend the meaning of web hosting. I believe if you search it on any search engine, of course there will be answer and explanation for them. But, how far do you really understand? Honestly, when I first get to know this term few years back, I had problem understanding myself. Then, I found one simple explanation that might be easy for people to understand. So, today, if anyone were to ask me what is "web hosting", i'd explain as follows...

Imagine you are homeless and you want to rent a room or buy a house. In order to get a shelter for yourself, you need a room. So, you imagine yourself as the website and the room as the hosting that you need to place yourself in. That means your website need a web hosting. Then, that's the time you start finding yourself a web hosting provider. Here, web hosting provider would be the house owner who rents you the room. So, in order for your website to be available and browsed by Internet users, you need to make sure your website is hosted in a web server provided by a web hosting provider.

So, when you finally understand what web hosting is, next will be the time to find out more about the different types of web hosting available. You have shared hosting, dedicated hosting, reseller hosting, VPS hosting, and colocation hosting. You name it, the Internet has it! So many to remember and differentiate..so, let's get the ball rolling with...

Shared Hosting
Shared hosting means that a web server has its resources shared by many other websites. Or you can put it as, in a house, there are many tenants. Usually small or normal e-commerce businesses will choose this type of hosting. Websites with high traffic might not be able to choose this type of hosting due to insufficient webspace.

Dedicated Hosting
Dedicated hosting refers to hosting in which you rent a server from your web hosting provider and will be placed at your web hosting provider's datacentre. They will provide software installation and connection to Internet. This will indicates that the website owner has control over the server as they don't share it with other websites. In short, dedicated hosting is where only 1 user hosted on the server machine and have a full privilege over the server to manage it by themself. The server machine will be still belongs to the web hosting provider.

Colocation Hosting
Well, this hosting has the features which are almost the same as dedicated hosting EXCEPT that you provide your own server and web hosting provider just help you to plug it into their datacentre. You need to install own software and hardwares. Everything is DIY.

Reseller Hosting
Reseller Hosting is a hosting where the account owner has the priviledge to allocate the webspace and bandwidth access and resell them to his clients. This shows that reseller hosts act like a middleman and is usually not responsible for any software or hardware intallation. They only buy webspace and resell to clients.

VPS Hosting
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. It is almost the same as dedicated server. Hence, it's sometimes called Virtual Dedicated Server. Generally, it means that the account owner has the feeling as though his owns a dedicated server. In real sense, it's actually separating a physical server into several independent hosting spaces or VPS-es, each isolated from the other.This will allow you to create and manage multiple sites and domains and take full control of your VPS with root/administrator access which allows you to access the virtual hard disk, RAM and to reboot your private server independently from other VPS-es.

Domain Name
After we are done with the different types of hosting, there is something else which I want to touch on. It is none other than the "domain name". So, ever wonder what is domain name? Wow, sounds technical? Not really actually. Don't be scared. Last time, when I saw the words domain name, it freaked me out too. Now, when I got used to it, it's not that nerve-wracking after all. So, domain name is just the normal web address or url (Uniform Resource Locator) you type in the "address" area when you open a browser. Examples of domain name are "exabytes.com". You know? Just the normal web address. Well, since it's a web address, it's a unique name. Hence, there will be no other same domain name. In fact, domain name is actually corresponding with numeric IP address. So, every domain name will have its numeric IP address. For example, the IP address for exabytes.com is 72.18.131.206

When you see exabytes.com, ever wonder ".com" stands for what? It actually stands for commercial. Whenever you see .com, .org, .net or others which ends after the final dot or period (.) of a url, it is known as top-level domain. It actually tells you what kind of website it is, indirectly. And the commonly used domain name extension nowadays will be .org, .net, .com. However, there are a lot of new domain extension up for grab lately such as .aero, .info, .museum, and .name. Next in the list that I shall explain is, Country Level Domain Name. Examples of country level domain name is exabytes.com.my. It has ".my" as its country code top-level domain (ccTLD). .my here represents the country "Malaysia". Of course, different country will have different ccTLD. For example, .jp stands for Japan, .au for Australia, .ca for Canada.

There are more to learn in order to excel in web hosting industry. Hopefully this simple guide will help all those novice out there. There are other things you need to know as well. But, it will be in my next article.

13Apr/11Off

How to change web host? Step-By-Step Guide

Every webmaster cringes at the thought of moving hosts. Like moving your home it can be messy and sometimes problems arise. But if you follow these simple steps, your move will be less painful.

Backup Backup Backup

If you’ve been diligent with your backups, you’ve got a lot of insurance to fall back on yet always make the latest backup. If you haven’t, before you do anything else, do a backup now. Backup anything and everything you can and don’t forget your database if your site relies on it. Save at least 2 copies and store them separately. One for you to work with, and the other as an archive. Do not underestimate how easy it is to copy over these files as you make changes or simply mess it up.

If you’re moving to a host who has as different control panel, make a manual backup by downloading all your files because different control panels may not be able to restore the backups made by your old host. They also have different directory structures so your file trees will be in a mess. If you need to, make a small note file with notepad with memos for you to remember the old server configurations. This will help you as you make changes on your new host server and save the confusion moving back and forth between hosts. Remember to make the correct transfer type (ASCII or Binary) as you download. If your download is not right chances are you’ll have a tough time getting your site to work on the new host server.

If server logs are especially important, remember to backup those too. There is no good way of moving logs yet because different hosts may log statistics differently. So the best thing to do is to download it and use a log analyzer on your computer to make references to later on.

Gather Odds & Ends

1. A Good FTP program which you should have by now
2. Get your new host server’s DNS
3. It’s also helpful to have a script that tells you the server environments installed on your new host server for quick references.
4. Get the temporary URL on your new host so you can check your site before you make a DNS change.
5. If you have your host control the domain inform them not to change your DNS until you tell them to.
6. If you run scripts:
- Get a copy of the original installation guide and the script. Sometimes after moving the scripts just do not work right so you might need to install the script from scratch.
- Get a list of all the server paths such as Perl, Sendmail and home directory on your new server.
- If your script needs special server modules or programs ensure they are installed and where. Even though these might be covered before you ordered the account with the host but sometimes your host has removed it or haven’t installed it yet.

Inform Your Visitors

It is common and good practice to inform your visitors and customers of the server move. If you run a e-store, this helps assure your customers you have not fled with their money if there is any downtime. Also give an alternate email so you won’t lose emails in the transfer. You might also want to give periodic updates prior, during (if there is downtime) and after. If your site is large, doing this is helpful because your visitors can alert you whenever there is a part of the site not working.

Moving Day

Try to schedule the move at a time where there’s least traffic. Backup again just before you do the move so you’ll have the latest data. Start by first copying or creating your custom error pages onto the new host server. Put a small note in there about the move. You can always remove it later. Then upload the most visible parts of the site first i.e the main pages then move on to the less critical parts of the site. If you have a large site with many divisions you might want to split them across different days and instead move the least critical first. Just ensure you always do a backup before you do any moving. Use the temporary URL to check your site, visiting as many pages as you can.

Changing DNS

Once you’re satisfied, change your DNS over. This typically takes about 24-48 hours so you have time to make some minor changes if need be. You might want to also take this time to modify your old site’s error pages to inform your visitors of the move and give a new URL if there are URL changes. To help you determine if the DNS has resolved, make a small change on the new pages to differentiate between the old and the new.

Monitor

After you’ve moved and the DNS resolved, do not release the old account yet. Keep it as long as two weeks running concurrently. Go back and check the old servers for activity. Check your old email account and if you have a web based contact method on the old server check to see if any communication is left there. Once you’re comfortable all email and traffic is correctly directed to the new host server, you can cancel that account.

13Apr/11Off

Find a Good Hosting Company

How Find a Good Hosting Company.

It’s a real dilemma these days as by spending some amount any hosting company can prevail at all possible location of customer search like google, yahoo, forums, market places etc. thus wherever you go you find few hosting companies haunting you.

The other aspect relates to huge, throw away costs some of the hosting companies offer, thus customer without knowing how much space and bandwidth really he needs gets engaged with these hosting companies.

To find a good hosting company, you can always search in Yahoo, google and msn for a while. May be you need to go to about 2 to3 pages depth.

While searching prefer key words like quality, performance, etc. Also you may like to prefer to mention your location with every key word, if you are keen to find a hosting company in your region (which is always a bonus).

Omit key words like “low cost”, “Cheaper” etc as firstly these are not indication of good web hosting services and secondly the hosting service providers have normally littered the net with these.

When you start analyzing the hosting companies, you can keep following points with you which not only explain what to look for but also how to ascertain its effectiveness:

*Feature Offered. These could be:

Space and Bandwidth. First determine how much you need, do not fall prey to big offers just for nothing. Most of these are very simple tricks. Based on years of experience hosting companies know that an average customer does not use more than 100 Mb space and 300 MB bandwidth thus whatever bigger than that is offered is just an offer to attract customers.
Email and Database.The number of emails per account should only effect you as per your needs, do not get over influenced by ‘unlimited” when you know you do not need more than 10 in any case. Use of mysql will be important if you need a data base driven site or contents.
Other Features These could be free scripts for guest boot, chat and web development etc. Most hosting companies do have these in their hosting panels. These make things easier for you if you are to use these. So give a plus to hosting company for that.

What kind of support they are offering ie email only, ticketing system, phone support and a toll free phone.  Give an additional point for each service offered. You may need only one of few of these, but eventually it may be important to have a hosting service provider with more kind of mechanisms to be reached to.

Note the response time to your sales requests. Better host respond within 4 hours. Note that the auto responder is not to be rated as response, though that does indicate a bit effort.

Do they have physical office location. It may be a indication of serious business, this also ensures that you do not run into part timer. You can always ascertain it from the contact us page, by calling them, seeing if only a mobile number is given and not a land number etc. Its not that a part timer or the one who cannot afford an office location cannot be good in provision of services, yet generally the one with physical offices may mean a bit more settled ones. This may not be totally true in all cases

Price / Cost. Not always the ones who are cheaper are good and not always ones who are expensive offer high quality services. Better is to stay away from two extremes in cost. Mostly one can think and expect that the ones asking a bit higher prices should be able to afford management of things better.

Popularity
A web host might have the best feature offered, unbeatable customer support and reliability in place but without an effective marketing plan, it will go bust too. Let’s face it. If a web hosting provider does not have sufficient members and steady growth of new members, it’s very difficult to survive in this highly competitive industry.

Do not go for the more than 2 to 3 pages in search engines. The hosting company should be effective enough to appear in these pages.
Sponsored listing shows interest of company to promote themselves but not always an indication of good hosting company.
Read reviews and see top 10 list. Though in most cases these are the ones haunting the net with their money and not always quality.

Reliability Every web hosting service provider will have more than 99% listed on their site. But few have the courage to provide independent prove of their uptime.  A hosting company should always have a monitoring service and should be able to provide you a report of the same.

These were some very basic things I could think of, there could be many coming up in subsequent discussion.
Regards

 

13Apr/11Off

What’s the Difference Between Unix and Windows Web Hosting?

So you're finally ready to publish your finished website and you're searching through the myriad of web hosting plans and providers. You may have noticed that most hosting companies use Linux or Unix operating systems on their web servers. Microsoft Windows is less commonly offered as a choice.  So what's the difference?Most people are familiar with Microsoft Windows having used it at home, work, or at school.  It is very easy to use for novices and it doesn't require command-line knowledge. In Windows Home and advanced Server editions, you can simply point and click your way to a different folder using your mouse.  Unix and Linux are open-source - meaning that the operating system is free and the source code is well documented and easily distributed. There are no major differences between Unix and Linux.  Unix is much older and cannot run on x86-based personal computers (like the one you're using now). In contrast, Linux can run on both high-powered servers and x86-based computers.

Linux is available in many flavors, though most hosting companies use Red Hat Linux, or Mandrake Linux, which are proven workhorses able to handle hundreds of websites and millions of hits per day.  FreeBSD and OpenBSD are versions of Unix which are also available. While ease-of-use is very important for a home or work computer, it is generally not a big issue when working with a web server. After all, you are doing most of your website design offline on your own computer. Unless you have very advanced programming or operating system-specific modules, you will not notice the difference between Windows and Unix servers.

Both Linux/Unix and Windows can handle high traffic websites and add-ons such as chat rooms, email and website statistics with ease. The biggest differences are price and software compatibility. Because Windows must be purchased and licenses renewed continuously, Windows hosting plans are usually more expensive than Unix-based plans. Also Unix-based plans often come with free email, databases (MySQL), statistic, and community programs. While Windows plans come with Microsoft software (MS SQL, for example) that must be purchased by the hosting company.

Both Linux and Windows platforms can run popular programming languages such as php, perl, or java. If your website uses active server pages, then it will be less risky hosting it on a Windows server. Well it still may function on a Unix server, there may be small glitches that are not immediately apparent. Similarly, if you are using with Microsoft SQL databases, these databases will be supported by most Windows plans. However, Linux or Unix plans often include MySQL which would require that your databases be converted to this format in order to function properly. If you are currently using any Microsoft programming (especially active server pages) or third-party applications (MS SQL 2000), you may want to play it safe and choose a Windows hosting plan.

From the average web designer's standpoint, there isn't much difference between hosting on Linux/Unix or Windows web servers. However, before signing up for a hosting plan, ensure that all facets of your site's design, programming, databases and the like will work with that plan. If you are unsure, ask the company's sales or technical staff before you commit.