Optimize Your VPS With These Tips

Liquid Web Storm VPS
As your business or website grows or changes, it is important to remember the key role your virtual private server plays in your success. Even if your VPS seems to be running smoothly, it is always a good time to take a closer look for potential ways to optimize its performance. Often the default settings for many applications, like Apache, aren’t appropriate for performance standards. In addition, there are a few simple tips you can follow to reduce load and improve site response times, including introducing caching, taking a closer look at performance metrics, and utilizing a content delivery network.

  1. Configure Apache Settings

    One of the first places you should check for ways to optimize your server is Apache. Apache can be one the biggest hogs of server resources if it is not configured correctly, especially on a VPS. There are various settings, such as KeepAlive, MaxClients, StartServers, and MaxRequestsPerChild, that can be tweaked to provide a better performing server. To learn how to change these settings for your server, consult our Apache Optimization knowledge base article for more details.

  2. Maintain An Updated MySQL Version

    Updating MySQL is a delicate process and requires a certain amount of technical knowledge. Our Heroic Support® team is available to help ensure the process is done correctly.

    The second application that should be checked when optimizing your VPS is MySQL.
    Maintaining an updated version of MySQL is vital to peak performance and security in for your VPS. Older versions, like MySQL 4.0 or MySQL 4.1, are end-of-life (EOL), and no longer receive security updates. MySQL versions 5.0 and 5.1 are also both EOL, and may negatively impact your site’s performance as well. The best options are MySQL versions 5.5 or 5.6. In comparisons of MySQL 5.1, 5.5, and 5.6, MySQL 5.6 is the clear winner in both read/write and read only workloads, and response times. Check out our Knowledge Base to learn how to check your MySQL version and make sure you’re using the latest version.

  3. MySQL Performance Comparisons

  4. Cache Your Content

    Another way to improve the performance of your VPS is to utilize caching. Caching to RAM speeds up processes and reduces latency through temporary storage of frequently-accessed data. Repeatedly requesting static files can be slow and expensive in terms of resources, but caching that data to RAM will speed things up. We recommend a few specific caching software, including Varnish (a proxy and cache that improves the performance of busy, dynamic websites), Memcached (a high-performance in-memory caching system primarily used to speed up sites that make heavy use of databases), Memcached with PHP, and Squid (a caching and forwarding web proxy). In addition, WordPress offers a few plugins that will provide “to memory” or “to disk” caching, including WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache, and WP Fastest Cache.

  5. Optimize Your Content

    An important part of your server’s performance is the content it is delivering. There are many useful and free online tools that can analyze your website for potential improvements. These tools, such as Google’s PageSpeed or WebPageTest.org, will provide you with speed and performance metrics as well as point out places in your site and on your server that can be optimized. These tools will grade your site on a variety of factors and clearly layout how you can improve both your back-end server settings and also front-end website configurations.

  6. BONUS TIP: Consider a CDN

    The further an end user’s browser is from your server, the longer it takes to deliver your content and the more likely your server could be bogged down by content requests. A content delivery network can shorten the space between website visitors and your server by storing static content on nodes around the world, allowing for faster content delivery and better performance by freeing up your server’s resources.

If you haven’t checked your VPS’s settings recently, then you might be putting up with a slower and less efficient server than necessary. Looking closely at how Apache, MySQL, and caching are configured can help improve the response time of your website and the overall experience for your end user. Implementing a CDN can further your optimization goals and deliver content even faster. If you need help implementing any of the above tips, our Heroic Support® team is available 24/7/365 to to answer any of your questions.

KB Weekly Wrap-Up 4-10-15

Knowledge Base Weekly Wrap-UpOur regular additions to our Knowledge Base keep it updated with relevant topics for our customers. In this edition of the KB Weekly Wrap-Up, we feature mlocate, automatic background updates for WordPress and WordPress core, the Xfce desktop environment, Pip, and VNC servers.

Don’t see what you need to know? Contact our Heroic Support® team and we’ll help! If you’d like to request a specific article for our Knowledge Base, let us know at support@liquidweb.com.

Big Data Could Have Saved Your Bracket!

Big Data Could Have Saved Your March Madness Bracket
With only a few games left in the March Madness tournament, fans across the country are waiting with bated breath to see which team comes out on top, and not just die-hard basketball fans. The tournament has become all-inclusive for both fanatic and casual fans alike. In fact, more than 40 million Americans will fill out more than 70 million brackets this year. This increase in fan base has also increased the amount of information people are clamouring for. Player statistics, team histories, injuries, and more are all desired by millions of fans as they strive for the perfect bracket. Data analysis has actually taken over the March Madness tournament as the game behind the games, as it were. The collection, organization and final analysis of all the statistics and information found in every play on the basketball court is the magic behind a winning bracket.

  1. Collection

    These days every movement of a basketball player can be turned into a data point. To begin with, historical data has a very important place in current and future NCAA games. Many years of raw data for each team in the tournament, including win-loss records, home vs. away statistics, and even play-by-play data, needs to be gathered for easy distribution. In addition, present-day games are providing even more data to collect, right down to the second-by-second movements and efficiencies of the players. Court-side video cameras are used to track player speed, shot trajectory, and dribbles and passes, all at 25 times per second.

  2. Organization & Storage

    Once all the data is collected, it needs to be stored somewhere. The hardware responsible for storing all this data includes servers utilizing database software with features such as high availability. The sheer amount of data collected for March Madness also requires databases equipped to process large datasets quickly and efficiently. Databases like Hadoop or Cassandra are capable of serving terabytes of data to millions of March Madness fans without causing frustration over latency or data loss. In addition, highly-available cloud servers make it easy to scale up and spin up more servers as the amount of data grows.

  3. Analysis

    Many fans choose the winners of their brackets through educated guesses based on team loyalty, gut feelings, or even mascots. For other fans though, data analysis is key. However, mere access to the above described terabytes of data doesn’t do anyone much good if the data isn’t usable. In order to create smarter and more accurate brackets, we first need to extract meaningful insights from incredibly large amounts of data. Bracket predicting services use data-driven algorithms to determine patterns and predict game results. Other sources allow fans to pick and choose the factors that matter most to them to finalize their brackets, ranging from player and team stats, game outcomes and locations, and league trends. This intensive number crunching in a relatively short amount of time for millions of people requires easily scalable and highly available servers.

The sheer amount of data supporting the annual tournament has heightened fan involvement and appreciation, but has also dangled the tantalizing prospect of a perfect bracket just out of reach. While the odds are slim (about 1 in 9.2 quintillion), it’s hard to resist studying the data and striving for that perfect bracket anyway.

How did your bracket do?

Top Six Best Practices For Data Backup

Data Backup Best Practices
Your data is of paramount importance. No matter whether you store sensitive customer data for your ecommerce business, or you simply have oodles of cat videos, no one wants to wake up one morning and discover that their data is gone. Due to the nature of ever-evolving online attacks, it’s impossible to guarantee that your data will never be hacked or corrupted. The only way to fully protect yourself is to regularly backup your data so you can fully recover in the event of a disaster. Follow these top six best practices from our Heroic Support™ team when choosing your ideal backup solution to guarantee data will be safe and fully recoverable.

  1. Use Remote Storage

    A key factor in your backup solution is remote storage. Backing up your data and storing it on the same disk as your original data can be an exercise in futility. Off-site, or at least off-server, backups will remain viable even if your main server is compromised, allowing you to fully recover your data.

  2. Take Backups Frequently and Regularly

    Prevent loss of your critical data by ensuring backups are taken frequently and on a regular schedule. Determining how often your data is updated can help you create a schedule of how frequently your backups need to be taken. Critical data that is updated constantly will need to be backed up more regularly – even hourly, whereas more static data may only need nightly or weekly backups.

  3. Consider Retention Span

    After determining the frequency you will back your data up, it’s also vital to consider how long you will retain each backup. Keeping every backup indefinitely isn’t feasible simply due to an often limited amount of space. Most backup solutions offer a series of retention schedules, such as keeping hourly and daily backups for a week, weekly backups for a month, and monthly backups for a few months or even years. This type of schedule allows for having multiple, recent backups in the instance a recovery is needed. Good business practices include retaining certain backups, such as monthly or bi-annual, for as long as possible, if not forever. In addition, we recommend researching your industry’s data retention standards and requirements. Certain industries, such as healthcare or finance, will have strict requirements for backup retention.

  4. Keep Backups Encrypted & Protected

    It’s not enough to simply backup your data in an off-site location. Encrypting your backup files is an important step in data security. Backup encryption during storage ensures that your data will be exactly what you expect in the event you need to recover it.

  5. Store Backups on RAID Arrays

    For extra redundancy, your backups should be stored on RAID arrays. Distributing your data across two or more drives in a RAID array allows for better performance, reliability and larger data sets in your backup solution. This can also help ensure your stored data will be protected from the failure of a single disk.

  6. Stack Your Backup Solutions

    Because backup solutions will differ in how they treat your data, it’s best to use multiple solutions. For example, Liquid Web’s Guardian and Storm® backup solutions take backups of your entire server and store them in a secure and remote location. Alternatively, cPanel backups (available for every cPanel user) only take copies of your cPanel account and can be stored either locally (which is not ideal) or remotely. cPanel backups can be especially useful for those users who have multiple accounts on one server but only need to restore one account. Due to the different benefits of both solutions, our Heroic Support™ team recommends backing up both full images of your server in addition to smaller snapshots of your cPanel accounts. Stacking your backup solutions in this manner will ensure you can be sure that your data will be recovered as quickly and efficiently as possible, no matter what kind of disaster hits.

There are many backup options to choose from depending on your server type and business needs, but these six best practices should help you choose the best solution for you. If you’re looking for additional assistance with setting up backups or choosing the best solution for you, our Heroic Support™ team is available 24-7-365 to answer any questions.

KB Weekly Wrap-Up 3-27-15

Knowledge Base Weekly Wrap Up 3-27-15Make sure you regularly check our Knowledge Base for help with any of your technical needs! Articles are posted daily that feature helpful how-to’s and explanations on the latest web hosting topics. This edition of our weekly wrap-up features the CVE-2015-0235 vulnerability, MariaDB, WordPress, glibc, and instructions on how to check the version of your Ubuntu and CentOS installs.

Don’t see what you need to know? Contact our Heroic Support® team and we’ll help! If you’d like to request a specific article for our Knowledge Base, let us know at support@liquidweb.com.

Top Three Things Liquid Web Loves About March Madness

NCAA March Madness 2015
It’s that time of year again: basketball season! It’s hard to escape the constant stream of chatter around the office water coolers about the upcoming March Madness tournament. At Liquid Web, we love March Madness for a few reasons, not the least of which is an appreciation for the sport itself. Further enforcing our love for March Madness, there are also numerous ways that the tournament relates back to the web hosting industry. March Madness makes us think of databases full of statistics, streams of traffic being expertly balanced, and gives us even more opportunities to collaborate with our fellow Heroes.

  1. Databases Full of Stats

    In the old days of March Madness tournaments, the sheer amount of information that needed to be sorted through to generate brackets created quite the barrier to entry. These days, highly available server clusters use giant MySQL databases to store March Madness results. This not only saves time and brain power for participants, but also opens up the brackets to be played nationwide. This technology allows anyone with the slightest inclination to form their own March Madness pool. Practically anyone can create a bracket, invite friends to join in, set their picks, and then sit back, letting the databases and servers do all the hard work. We love it when technology makes life (and basketball) easier.

  2. All About That Traffic

    During the few weeks that encapsulate March Madness, any website providing brackets or related data (particularly March Madness Live) sees an exponential increase in traffic. Visits to the March Madness site alone added up to over 220 million in 2012. Traffic has only been increasing since then, up 42% for the first three days of the tournament in 2014 compared to 2013. While increased traffic is a great problem to have, it does present a few issues for the servers that have to handle that load. This time of year, all across the nation, servers are being scaled up and load balancers are being configured to ready themselves for the upcoming traffic hit. Scalable and highly available infrastructure like that are exactly the kind of solutions our techs like to think about.

  3. Coworker Collaboration

    Of course, the best part about all this March Madness hullabaloo is the atmosphere that is fostered this time of year. Playful competition and rapport among Liquid Web techs is abundant in the break room and water cooler areas around the office. Liquid Web has always believed in creating and cultivating a friendly work environment; one that encourages employees to become friends and share knowledge. We believe techs that work together find themselves more readily equipped to help our customers. For that reason, March Madness is a celebrated time of year around our data centers.

March Madness is about more than basketball – there’s a whole treasure trove of technology and information supporting all the fun and games this time of year. At Liquid Web, we love nothing more than when popular culture merges with our favorite subject: web hosting. When you go to fill out your bracket this year, don’t forget to appreciate all the technology hiding behind your computer screen. Best of luck with your brackets!

What do YOU love about March Madness?

Choosing the Best CMS For You

One popular approach to building and managing websites among corporations and small businesses alike are content management systems (CMS), or software that provides tools for website authoring, collaboration and administration for users with little knowledge of programming languages. CMS’s can vary widely, but most provide the ability to quickly build websites, store content and other information in databases, and offer easy-to-use administration interfaces for less technical users. They provide a myriad of benefits over other methods of building websites, such as manually uploading files to a server or using a blogging platform (a simpler and more limited subset of CMS’s). CMS’s allow websites to feature dynamic content without the hassle of regularly updating files, offer customized design options, and provide a wider range of features (such as ecommerce or customer account areas).

Some of the most popular CMS options include WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. All of these options are open source software that are free to download and use. Due to their open source nature and large user communities, each CMS will likely be continually improved over time and comes with an vast set of add-ons, plugins, and extensions. While any of these CMS’s are excellent choices, each offers something different to the prospective site builder. To help you make the choice that is best for you and your needs, we’ve detailed the primary benefits of each option below.

WordPress

WordPress.org

  • Most Popular CMS & Largest Support Community
  • Most Available Plugins & Themes
  • Easiest-to-Use Interface
  • Ideal for Any Size Website
  • Somewhat Limited Development Options
  • Free to Download

WordPress.org is the most popular CMS in the market, and as such it comes with the largest developer and user community. This community of users provides an incredible level of support and the most extensive list of available plugins and themes. WordPress began as a blogging platform, but has transitioned into popular use as an easy-to-use and simple CMS. It still maintains a simple blogging platform, WordPress.com, as a separate entity for users who don’t want to find their own web host or worry about downloading the WordPress.org software. WordPress.com is much more limited with the types of website you can build, however, which explains why WordPress.org is the more popular option for businesses. Of the three CMS’s in this blog post, WordPress.org requires the least amount of technical know-how to operate. While setting up a website through WordPress is intuitive and easy, it still provides developers with the ability to add or edit back-end code to create customized looks.

It’s worth noting that WordPress does come with limitations. If a website grows too large too quickly, it can require significant server resources to maintain. In addition, while WordPress has a powerful and easy-to-use interface, editing of its core framework often takes skilled developers, and is not generally recommended. Edits made to the WordPress core could prevent you from updating your site with the latest WordPress upgrade, making your site more vulnerable to attacks. In the end, WordPress is ideal for websites or blogs of all sizes, and the many add-ons make it easy to expand a website’s functionality as it grows – to a point. Websites that expect to quickly grow in traffic or complexity might find the WordPress framework somewhat limiting. Despite that barrier, some of WordPress’ more notable clients include large corporations like UPS, CNN, and Spotify. WordPress is free to download and offers many premium add-ons available for a fee.

Check out our other WordPress-related blog posts to learn about getting started with WordPress, our most recommended WordPress security tips, and our top WordPress security plugins and ecommerce plugins.

Drupal

Drupal

  • Most Powerful & Flexible CMS
  • Thousands of Add-ons Available
  • Ideal for Complex Sites with Multiple Users, Community Platforms, Ecommerce, & Multiple Content Types
  • Basic Knowledge of Programming Languages Required
  • Free to Download

As one of the most technical CMS’s in the market, Drupal is a powerful tool for developing the most complex websites, such as those with multiple users, community platforms, enterprise sites, ecommerce sites, and more. This CMS is the most flexible option, however it can often require a high-level of programming knowledge to take advantage of its flexibility. Developers should have at least a basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP, and Javascript/JQuery in order to build and troubleshoot any site built with Drupal. The level of expertise needed to operate Drupal does come with benefits, however. Drupal can create more advanced websites and is perfect for websites that need to be flexible enough for: expanding site features in the future (such as ecommerce or a wiki), adding customized functionality, or handling complicated forms and workflows. In particular, users of Drupal have praised its flexible management, organization, and presentation of seeming unlimited content types. Examples of organizations that use Drupal include The White House, Turner Broadcasting, and The Weather Channel. Drupal is free to download and premium features are available to be purchased, but users that lack the technical know-how to build a Drupal site might find themselves paying for technical support.

Joomla

Joomla

  • Easier-to-Use Interface than Drupal
  • Offers More Power & Flexibility than WordPress
  • Thousands of Extensions Available
  • Ideal for Sites with Ecommerce or Built in Social Networking
  • Free to Download

Often discussed as the compromise between Drupal and WordPress, Joomla is easier to operate than Drupal, but offers more flexibility in site development than WordPress. Joomla websites can be quickly setup without significant support, but some technical know-how might be helpful. Despite Joomla’s relative ease-of-use, it is used to develop complex websites, such as those with ecommerce functionality or that require built in social networking. In fact, it was designed to perform as a community platform and features strong social networking features. It is extremely customizable and comes with a large selection of templates and styles, as well as a wide range of services and options that are available as off-the-shelf functionality. Business like Ikea, Citibank, and Harvard University utilized Joomla to build various parts of their online presence. Joomla is also free to download and provides a variety of premium features available for purchase.

Ghost

BONUS: Ghost

  • Simple Blogging Platform
  • Focuses on Publishing Content
  • Clean & Easy-to-Use Interface
  • Known for Its Split-Screen Editing
  • Free to Use

Ghost is a blogging platform that was created as a fork of WordPress, but has been recreated from scratch since its original creation. As mentioned above, blogging platforms are a subset of CMS’s, but are much more limited in their available features, designs, layout, and flexibility. While Ghost is not truly a CMS, we believe it deserves to be mentioned in this article because of its growing popularity. The main purpose behind Ghost was to create a beautifully designed, free, and open source platform that’s main focus is publishing content. Ghost uses node.js, which is both easier to scale and more consistent than the PHP that WordPress uses. It provides all the most important blogging features, such as SEO optimization, social sharing, and other essential features all available with the core install instead of via external plugins. One of the most lauded features is the split-screen editing, allowing users to see their content as it would be published while they are writing. It also provides an easy way to support multi-author blogs. While Ghost is not a CMS, it’s popularity as a blogging platform makes it ideal for many users who don’t need the complications of a traditional CMS.

Building a website means taking a lot of factors into consideration, including both current and future needs. Whether or not you need a lot flexibility and technical capability, need a fast and easy-to-use website capable of handling all of your data, or simply need an quick way to push out content, there will be a platform to suit your needs. All of these platforms can be utilized on our Shared, VPS, or Dedicated hosting. Our always available Heroic Support® team can help you figure out which platform best fits your needs.

KB Weekly Wrap-Up 3-6-15

Knowledge Base Weekly Wrap-Up 3-6-15Our ever-updating Knowledge Base often features helpful how-to’s and explanations for installing, running, and updating different programs and applications on your server. Featured in this edition of our KB Weekly Wrap-Up are Apache2 Modules, MySQL, MongoDB, and glibc (GNU libc).

Don’t see what you need to know? Contact our Heroic Support® team and we’ll help! If you’d like to request a specific article for our Knowledge Base, let us know at support@liquidweb.com.

Top 4 Ecommerce Plugins For WordPress

Over the holidays we shared a few ecommerce security and performance tips for our customers, but we’ve yet to delve into the process of actually setting up an ecommerce site. Many of our customers utilize WordPress for their websites, which is also a great option for ecommerce sites. WordPress offers small and medium-sized businesses the ability to grow their web presence and sales capacity quickly via one of the many available ecommerce plugins. Before deciding to build an ecommerce site, businesses will want to remember to think about the special security requirements, specifically protecting their customer’s data with PCI Compliance.

For those customers who have decided that WordPress is the ideal home for their ecommerce site, there are plenty of plugins available that can easily add product pages, a shopping cart, and a simple checkout process. However, choosing between the numerous options can be overwhelming. The following plugins are highly recommended by our Heroic Support® team and offer many features that can help enhance your ecommerce store.

Check out our other WordPress-related blog posts to learn about getting started with WordPress, our most recommendedWordPress security plugins, and our top WordPress security tips.

  1. WooCommerce
    WooCommerce WordPress Ecommerce Security PluginThe most popular plugin for WordPress ecommerce, WooCommerce is established, respected and reliable. The primary benefit of this plugin is the strong community of developers supporting both it and its many extensions and themes. With seamless dashboard integration with WordPress, this plugin is free, easy to use, and intuitive. Features include standard integration with PayPal, sales and reviews reports, multiple shipping options, inventory management, customer account areas, flexible couponing system, control over shipping/tax charges, and a plethora of premium add-ons available for a fee. WooCommerce is ideal for all shapes and sizes of ecommerce businesses, whether you deal in digital or physical products, have very little inventory or whole warehouses full, offer subscription products, or need to bundle your products.
  2. Shopp
    Shopp WordPress Ecommerce PluginThe Shopp ecommerce plugin often integrates with your existing WordPress themes. It offers many standard features needed for an ecommerce business, including integration with many payment gateways (such as PayPal and Google Checkout), order management, email notification, coupon codes, control over tax/shipping charges, related products, RSS feeds, and options for a grid or list view. This plugin is free to download, but additional support and features are available for purchase. Shopp is ideal for an ecommerce business that has a larger product inventory and is easily customizable for developers.
  3. Cart66
    Cart66 WordPress Ecommerce PluginCart66 stands out amongst the other available plugins because of its unique hosted checkout option. With Cart66’s hosted checkout option, your business doesn’t need to worry about hosting or protecting your customer’s data with PCI Compliance or SSL Certificates. Their checkout solution will match your theme and appear to be part of your site, but will actually be hosted on their secure cloud server. Cart66 also offers many of the standard ecommerce features, such as order management, promotions, control over tax/shipping charges, support for multiple currencies, customizable email reports, custom product management, and affiliate platform integration. Cart66 is also a great option for those looking to sell subscription-based products, and offers both free and professional versions with a number of different licensing options.
  4. Easy Digital Downloads
    Easy Digital Downloads WordPress Ecommerce LogoWhile other plugins offer the ability to sell digital downloads, Easy Digital Downloads lives up to its name and excels at it. The plugin is simple and meant for those businesses that only sell digital downloads, such as plugins, files, music, etc. The plugin also allows the sale of digital content through subscriptions. Seamlessly integrating within the WordPress dashboard makes it easy to use, and it can be customized by developers. Easy Digital Downloads is free, but extra extensions and themes are available to purchase. Other features include discount codes, user purchase history, and sales reports.

The ecommerce plugin you choose for your WordPress site should be based on your unique business needs. For additional resources, consult our other blog posts for information on the best WordPress security plugins to protect your site, as well as general WordPress security tips. While themes, plugins, and custom modifications are not covered with our fully managed Heroic Support®, our team will always provide Best Effort Support for installing and troubleshooting plugins for WordPress, 24/7/365. Our WordPress hosting solutions are available on our Shared hosting, Storm® VPS hosting, and Dedicated hosting plans.

KB Weekly Wrap-Up 2-20-15

Liquid Web Knowledge Base Weekly Wrap-UpHave you checked in lately with our Knowledge Base? We’re always adding helpful how-to’s and explanations for our customers. This week we’re featuring instructions on updating Bash, installing mlocate, MySQL/MariaDB, and Apache!

Don’t see what you need to know? Contact our Heroic Support® team and we’ll help! If you’d like to request a specific article for our Knowledge Base, let us know at support@liquidweb.com.