In my last post, we continued our discussion about Shared and Dedicated IP addresses with a focus on business resources. We expanded on the initial post which introduced the technology and focused on the three core facets of Internet business required to stay relevant: stability, resource utilization, and reputation.
In this final post of the series, I’ll be touching on some of the specific business impacts of IP addresses and trying to debunk some old myths.
Let’s get to it!
Search Engine Optimization
Ahh.. the all-important and wildly undocumented topic of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There are few people out there who can tell you how SEO really works. Even so, you can always find people who swear by their years of experience, which, in truth, are incredibly valuable.
Let’s dive into the definitions first.
Search Engine Optimization is pretty self-explanatory. You’re trying to do whatever you can to ensure that when someone searches for a particular topic your site appears high on the returned results.
That’s because searching is how most people make their first interaction with knowledge on the Internet. A person will go to a website if they know about it. But if they’re looking for information on a topic, they’ll start with a web search.
The problem here is that most web search algorithms are coveted and not fully disclosed. Further, the Internet is ever-changing and search algorithms change very regularly. There is some dated information floating around and it’s important to arm yourself with facts.
Myth Number One
Changing your site’s IP negatively impacts your SEO. FALSE.
Research and disclosures from web search companies like Google and Yahoo have shown that the only characteristics which affect a web site’s ranking are characteristics of the site itself.
These rankings are wholly dependent on a site’s content, usability, reliability, performance, and cross-linking. This has nothing to do with IP addresses. Addresses can change as many times as you’d like, and it will never impact your SEO. That means a business owner can classify and reclassify a client and so long as the content and site are still in good quality, they won’t risk damage to their rankings.
Tips to Ensure Positive Effects
- Client Education: The first line of defense against myths is information. Read up on how SEO works and make sure you discuss that with your clients. A well-educated business owner is a dominant business owner.
- Continued Site Development: Keep in mind the focus points for SEO: site content, usability, and referencing. Then, when transitioning IPs, make sure these points continue to be advanced and developed. The only thing that brings you down in site rankings is when a site becomes stagnant. Don’t allow an IP transition take all your focus and cause you to accidentally neglect your site’s development.
- Vigilance: When faced with an outdated view it’s our responsibility to advocate for progressive thought. That means to spread the word! IPs don’t affect SEO. Arm yourself and your clients with this information. That way you can focus on what actually affects you and stay ahead of the game.
Email started as a novelty way back in the days of the “You’ve Got Mail!” greeting. In today’s business market, however, email is absolutely critical to survival. Really, an email outage can be just as devastating as a full website outage. But what do IP addresses have to do with email and what can we do to keep our reputation on the up-and-up?
Email reputation is, ultimately, the way the Internet sees your public email habits.
Tracking of these habits is not governed by some authorized organization but, instead, by individual service providers. Big names, like Google and Yahoo, decide who can and can’t send/receive mail over their service based on criteria like the amount of time someone clicks the “This Is Spam” button or even sending large file attachments. Business owners who run email services on their personal servers, like yourself (likely), often rely on a spam trap function or even manually blacklisting IPs that cause problems. Even Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can allow, deny, or restrict email at a local level
There are also organizations called Real-Time Blackhole Lists (RBLs) which have taken it upon themselves to help keep things like spam and spammers out of resources. Awesome! These groups are also not governed but have built a reputation of their own. They track and publish a list of IPs that are known spammers. A server then subscribes to the RBL feed and updates its local deny list. Easy.
Of course, where there’s one forthcoming group, there’s at least one which is not. Whereas a reputable RBLs will block individual IPs identified as spammers, a less reputable one will see spam from a single IP and deny that IP as well as large chunks of related IPs. This sometimes catches unknowing clients in the crossfire. Just be careful who’s reporting IPs as spammers.
Myth Number Two
Shared IPs get blacklisted: Kind of.
This statement is not true for all cases. Yes. There is a better chance that a shared IP can be blacklisted. But that’s due to the amount of email and number of emailers using that IP. There is no guarantee that any single IP will be blacklisted, Shared or Dedicated. Blacklisting is due to the email habits of the individuals using the IP.
With that, the goal is pretty clear: keep you and your clients’ practices clean to avoid any restriction on your mail.
Tips to Ensure Positive Effects
- Maintain regular updates and scan for Spamware/Malware: Most blacklisting happens due to spam being sent without you even noticing. The first line in defense is to ensure all your software stays up-to-date and that your server is scanned regularly. This includes root/administrator level scans as well as scans for issues with client CMS software, like WordPress, which are usually the cause for the issues. It would also help to have verbiage in your client contract to enforces regular updates and scans. No need for them to be caught off guard too.
- Investigate new clients for history with email issues: Just like the questions about DDoS I mentioned in my last post, you can easily have this conversation early in the relationship. There is nothing wrong with getting some history from your potential clients. A legitimate business owner will happily be forthcoming. And don’t prejudge them for being upfront! Having this information early in the relationship can help you prepare yourself. Things like coming up with a plan of engagement or mitigation can be reached mutually and help build a lasting relationship.
- Configure Dedicated IP clients to use their Dedicated IP as the email sending IP: This one is a bit controversial. In my last post, I touched on the topic of the server’s primary IP address. This IP acts as the catch-all for many services, email included. Now, it’s perfectly acceptable to receive and send all mail from the server’s primary IP. But a domain on a dedicated IP can be configured to send from its own IP address. This allows email service for a domain to be segregated from the other domains on your server. That means, your IP gets blacklisted, it doesn’t affect all email. In practice, it’s not difficult but it can be challenging to keep track of individuals. Changes happen all the time and updating this configuration is just one more checkbox that can be missed. Worse is, if this configuration is overlooked, it can cause an interruption in email service or even blacklisting. But it may be worth the trouble, especially if you have a client who is sensitive about their email or has a spotty email history.
- Configure email authentication settings: This one seems like a no-brainer, but can be overlooked. There are several email settings that help to keep your public facing email habits looking legitimate. Simple authentication settings like SPF records or DomainKeys (layers of identification based on your domain and IP address) help other email servers and services identify and authenticate your mail quickly. This is seen as a step toward thwarting spam, and that’s always a positive look from the internet. Again, these settings can be set up by any one of our Helpful Humans, who are just a ticket or phone call away.
Security and Performance
The last business impact is the idea of general security and server performance. These topics are generally hot-button topics, as well they should be. After all, server performance directly relates to your business’s reputation and security should always be respected. So how do IP addresses play into this?
Server security means keeping your clients’ data safe while server performance refers to utilizing server resources appropriately. And they both directly affect our business’s reputation and stability.
Myth Number Three
Too many IPs can cause resource exhaustion: FALSE.
The amount of resource utilization IPs consume on a server is tiny, like negligible. In fact, I’ve seen thousands of IPs on a single server with no adverse effect to server stability or resource consumption. Mind you, that is not a good idea. Once the IP initialization process completed (which took a while with so many IPs) the IPs all worked without issue and the server functioned with no problems.
Myth Number Four
Shared IPs are a security issue because they allow traffic for one domain to be inspected by another domain. FALSE.
If you remember from my previous posts, a single IP can host many domains. That’s true, but only until the traffic hits the server. Once traffic reaches the server, the service (like Apache or Nginx) handles separation. This means there could be an issue with traffic bleeding from one domain to another (or being intentionally inspected by another domain) but, if it happens, it’s a service misconfiguration, not because it’s a Shared IP.
Tips to Ensure Positive Effects
- Ensure proper service configuration: The first step should be common sense but, like a lot of the time, we overlook. It’s easy! We’re busy and get focused! But proper configuration of any service, especially one as important as website service, should be given adequate attention. Just ensuring your service is configured for best practices should be enough to flush out any hiccups. A little testing helps here too. This is easily something where your IT department or our Helpful Humans can help.
- Investigate complaints: Another no-brainer but, again, easily overlooked. When one of your clients brings attention to a potential issue, investigate promptly and thoroughly.
Not sure how? It’s easy.
- Get a first-hand account. No need for playing telephone.
- Be able to recreate the issue.
- Get it handled! Either yourself or with help from our support team.
Using this quick approach to the troubleshooting process can be the difference between an issue that is promptly addressed and an issue that drags out for days. In the end, most of these issues are just isolated incidents, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Keep Logs and Backups: Yet another easy one that’s easily missed. When your server is set up, logs are set up by default. Keeping some of this data is vital. If the unthinkable happens, sometimes the only way to get some resolution is with log data. Now, it’s not necessary to keep logs for years and years. A few weeks or a month is plenty. Just make sure they’re there. Backups are the same, except backups are not set up by default. Anyone who has experienced a data loss will tell you how important they are! In fact, back when I was writing software, I kept backups locally to the machine, off-site, and even on my person in my backpack. I could sneeze, and backups would fall out! Why? Easy. I’d been burned once, and it wasn’t going to happen again.
There are very few things more frustrating, enraging, and humbling than working for days and, in an instant, losing all that work. Should something happen, you’ll come back and thank me when you haven’t lost your work. In the case of something awful happening, backups will save your business’s reputation, stability, and resource utilization loads, not to mention your mental and possibly even physical health.