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High performance infrastructure & compute resource provider announces participation in UCX Exchange to retask available compute resources.

Atlanta, GA — Total Server Solutions, a top-tier high performance infrastructure, cloud computing, and bare metal resource provider officially announced that it has joined UCX, the Universal Compute Xchange, and will be an active market-maker of bare metal and cloud resources on the exchange.

UCX is an on-demand spot exchange where resource providers such as Total Server Solutions can offer unused, or underutilized resources, within a real-time marketplace.  Potential customers, investors, or anyone who requires high performance infrastructure, bare metal, or cloud resources can bid on what they need as offered by an array of top-tier providers.  UCX vets all service providers to ensure they meet specific performance and business metrics.

Gary Simat, CEO at Total Server Solutions states “We are excited to offer some of our resources for trade within UCX as they come off contract.  This helps us realize a greater return on investment in infrastructure while allowing customers to get favorable rates on what they need.”

By bringing standardization to compute resources, UCX is working to transform the way that compute resources are allocated, used, and traded.  Their unique approach allows underutilized resources to be acquired at true market rates by customers.  In turn, this helps providers keep their resources fully utilized.

“We are delighted to add Total Server Solutions as our newest Member Provider on the exchange.  Gary and his team have been fantastic to partner with and we look forward to leveraging their global footprint of data center resources,” said UCX COO Tim Martin.

UCX leverages a state-of-the-art trading platform that it licenses from CME Group to create a central price discovery mechanism to trade digital assets.  Buyers bid on excess capacity offered by service providers, which compete for buyers’ business in real-time.

 

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When you set up a website, one of the most common add-ons you will need is an SSL security certificate. Let’s look at the top grade of this technology, EV SSL.

  • What’s the CA/B Forum?
  • What’s an EV SSL?
  • How is your identity checked by the CA?
  • EV requirements for a business applicant
  • Weighing results vs. investment

 

Are you curious about what it means when you get a green color indicator in your browser’s address field? Let’s look at the technology that triggers the credibility and security feature, the extended-validation SSL.

 

What’s the CA/B Forum?

The Certification Authority Browser Forum, or CA/B Forum, is an association of companies and organizations that work together to develop best practices for the use of security certificates.

 

SSL certificates, or secure sockets layer certificates, are the most commonly accepted and widely used form of security certificates; hence, they are the forum’s main point of focus. The technology allows automatic https protocol for certain pages of your site to enable e-commerce, logins, and other exchange of confidential information.

 

What’s the role of the forum? This association really is a sort of “central command” for Internet security, simply because of its powerful members, which fall under three categories:

  1. Certification authorities (CAs) – Symantec, Comodo, GlobalSign, etc.
  2. Browser developers – Mozilla, Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc.
  3. Standards developing organizations – American Institute of CPAs, American Bar Association, etc.

 

Essentially, each entity provides expertise and concerns, while the results mean that browsers and CAs are all meeting the same baseline requirements in the treatment of the https protocol (via the certificates).

 

The stated mission of the group is to share and promote security standards so that certificates are better understood. The primary difference between different certificates is their level of validation – the extent to which site ownership is verified to add credibility to online transactions (along with the encryption function). The three types are domain-validation (or a DV certificate), organization-validation (an OV certificate), and extended-validation (an EV certificate).

 

TSS

 

 

What’s an EV SSL?

  • According to the CA/B Forum, the two primary purposes of extended-validation certificates are to “identify the legal entity that controls a web site… and enable the encrypted communication of information over the Internet between the user of an Internet browser and a web site.”

 

By performing those two basic functions, the firm is able to accomplish secondary intentions as well. First, it enhances the credibility of the website owner – leading to fewer abandoned shopping carts and a lower bounce rate. Second, because of the technology’s standardization, the encryption component allows companies a shared framework with which to target malware, phishing, and other Internet ills.

  • Other ways that the truly thorough validation process of these “green-bar” extended-validation certificates is valuable are:
  • People aren’t able to easily use them in phishing attacks like they can with the cheaper domain-validated ones.
  • This protection for companies means they can give their customers assurance, safeguarding them, which both means you build more confidence and don’t let someone else take their payment.
  • They make it less complicated for police and related agencies to figure out the organizations behind online fraud.

 

How is your identity checked by the CA?

The certification authorities are the ones that actually put these standards into action, going through the validation procedure as designated by the CA/B Forum. Their objective is simply to determine that you are who you say you are. A certification authority is only able to grant the EV SSL to a private association, public-sector agency, for-profit company, or nonprofit that meets strict verification criteria.

 

The guidelines differ a bit based on type of organization. Let’s look at the ones that vet for-profit companies, since that is assumedly the most common type of applicant and is similar to the rules for other categories.

 

EV requirements for a business applicant

Referred to as “business entities” within the CA/B guidelines, here are the basic standards to allow companies to get EV SSLs:

  1. A company or division of a company qualifies for EV SSL ownership if it “is a legally recognized entity that filed certain forms with a Registration Agency in its jurisdiction, the Registration Agency issued or approved the entity’s charter, certificate, or license,” notes the CA/B Forum, “and the entity’s existence can be verified with that Registration Agency.”
  2. The company has to prove it is based in a specific physical location.
  3. The CA needs to confirm the identity of a person in an executive position (which the forum calls the “Principal Individual”) at the business.
  4. That person must sign a Subscriber Agreement with the CA.
  5. The CA is able to validate the doing-business-as (dba) name, if applicable.
  6. Neither the business nor the principal contact person are allowed to be based in a nation in which the certification authority is unable to legally sell the software.
  7. Finally, “[t]he entity and the identified Principal Individual associated with the entity [cannot be] listed on any government denial list or prohibited list (e.g., trade embargo) under the laws of the CA’s jurisdiction,” says the CA/B Forum.

 

How much “green” for the green bar? Results vs. investment

Are you looking for an SSL certificate to secure your transactions and earn the trust of your customers? In an official case study, WaterFilters.Net improved their conversion rate by 20% after adopting a GeoTrust® True BusinessID with Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificate. Get yours today.

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Every year, the cloud runs more applications for business. We talk a lot about the systems of cloud, but who are the important people behind this transition at your company?

 

  • Cloud continues to gain steam
  • Role #1 – CIOs, IT managers & IT staff
  • Role #2 – Sales & marketing leaders
  • Role #3 – Security professionals
  • Role #4 – Data scientists & specialists
  • Role #5 – Enterprise strategists
  • Role #6 – Procurement chiefs
  • Role #7 – HR directors
  • Role #8 – CEOs & other chief officers
  • Role #9 – Entire workforce
  • Cloud that meets your standards

 

cloud

 

The cloud continues to gain steam.

Many enterprises are still hesitating to move their core applications and databases to the cloud. However, we could be about to see that hesitation turn into action. Just look at the statistics from a poll of 1060 IT executives by RightScale:

 

Not just one cloud – The typical business is using an average of six clouds, three private and three public. (On the public side, 1.5 are live while the other 1.5 are test environments. On the private side, 1.7 run apps while 1.3 are used for testing.)

 

Cloud now doing more – Companies are committing more and more to the cloud each year. In 2016, nearly one in five enterprises (17 percent) have more than 1000 virtual machines in the public cloud, up from 13% in 2015.

 

In fact, another survey of similar scope found that an absurd percentage of companies’ spending on information technology will be allotted to cloud within 18 months: 80%.

 

Steven Norton of the Wall Street Journal notes that companies are ramping up their cloud spending this year even though their overall IT budgets are shrinking. “The increase reflects a new willingness among big companies, even those in particularly security-minded industries such as finance, to move beyond the corporate data center and run their software applications, data storage and processing in the public cloud,” he says.

 

What about affordability of cloud, as allowed by the resource efficiency inherent in its design? The federal government recently reviewed the costs it had experienced from adopting cloud computing. A total of two dozen agencies were assessed. Between nineteen of them, total savings on operations between 2011 and 2015 were $2.8 billion. That’s actually massive news because the American government has more extensive IT needs that any other entity (based on expenditures).

 

One big question is who will be the major players in the leap from in-house systems to cloud? Of course IT chiefs will be important in this shift, but there are many other people who are central in the emergence of this relatively new technological model:

 

Role #1 – CIOs, IT managers & IT staff

 Are you transitioning fully to the cloud? It’s still crucial to have people who are able to test and broker various options for the business.

 

Role #2 – Sales & marketing leaders

These departments may not initially seem critical to cloud. However, they are likely advocates because of speed and accessibility, comments Joe McKendrick of Forbes. “These people are… directly feeling the sting of the global economy, and want solutions that are quick and easy to learn,” he says. “Time to market is everything.”

 

Role #3 – Security professionals

You want to know what security mechanisms are in place for any type of cloud environment. Similarly, you want to know what laws demand compliance based on your industry and where you’re doing business (e.g. HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, EU rules).

 

Role #4 – Data scientists & specialists

We all know that data is powerful if you can understand it, but you first have to know that the information is uncorrupted. Plus, you want to know that you can integrate all your information (from the cloud, ERP, and other sources) without any problems. Beyond these more functional tasks, data pros can also help you build and deploy predictive analytics to better forecast your needs and the market.

 

Role #5 – Enterprise strategists

Consultants that help organize a business are critical to figuring out the overall needs for cloud, notes McKendrick. “They’re the ones able to work with the business, speak the language of business, as well as work with IT professionals,” he says.

 

Role #6 – Procurement chiefs

Since cloud is based strongly on vendor relationships, people on your staff who know about working with vendors have experience that will come in handy. Understanding of service-level agreements is another important knowledge area. These people should be familiar with all legal agreements and understand what constitutes breach. They are able to point to specific language that applies when anything goes wrong.

 

Role #7 – HR directors

If a company is to be able to build and maintain a strong cloud-based system, it’s crucial that human resources is able to recruit the strongest people to make it happen.

 

Role #8 – CEOs & other chief officers

Top leadership is pivotal to cloud projects meeting with success.

 

Role #9 – Entire workforce

Cloud tools are making it easier to perform tasks throughout companies, explains McKendrick. “Employees know what services they need to help them do their jobs and reach customers,” he says. “Cloud decisions — and acceptance — will succeed or fail on employees’ embrace of services.”

 

Cloud that meets your standards

With all eyes on cloud, you want to make sure that the services you adopt are expertly designed and lightning-fast. At Total Server Solutions, we engineered our cloud solution with SSD storage for the guaranteed levels of performance that you demand. Get started.

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WP-Tips-4

 

WordPress is the unquestioned leader when it comes to a Content Management System for creating a website. Let’s look into some of the tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of it in this multi-part series. 

Hello once again, WordPress fans and users. We’re here with our fourth and final installment of our tips and tricks for WordPress series of articles, and we’ve got another great set of pointers for you and your site. In case you missed it, you can check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for some additional help.

Let’s go!

Tip #16 – Let Your Visitors Know if You’re Currently Online in Periscope

For the unaware, Periscope is a live video streaming service that allows you to broadcast yourself instantaneously to your followers. In a nutshell, it’s like Twitter, but instead of text-based small updates, it’s live video streaming (perhaps this similarity is why Twitter purchased Periscope last year for the tidy sum of $86.6 million).

If you’re on Periscope, odds are good that some of your site’s visitors will be on there as well. And adding a simple way to let them know if you’re currently online and broadcasting on Periscope can be a huge help in increasing your viewership numbers. Thankfully, doing so is relatively easy. First, as could be expected after the aforementioned acquisition, you’ll need to download and install the official Twitter plugin for WordPress. Then, add the widget for Periscope on Air status, which will be available when the plugin is installed. You’ll be able to customize the size of the button, as well as the name of it, and it’s a simple an unobtrusive way to let your visitors know your Periscope status.

Tip #17 – Add In-Line Posts to Increase Traffic

Remember in Part 3 when we said content is king? It still is here in Part 4, and adding in-line links is a great way to increase traffic. In-line links are an elegant way of getting readers who are currently enjoying a piece of your content to check out other, related pieces. You can of course still do a regular HTML link in the body of your posts, as well as use a plugin that gives visitors a chance to see related posts at the bottom (the most popular of which is the “Yet Another Related Posts Plugin”, or YARPP for short).

It’s not a bad idea to do both of those, but you also might want to look into in-line post capabilities. This is a way to grab your visitor’s attention before he or she gets to the end of the article (many of which never even get there) to see a related post. After the first or second paragraph, an in-line post will call the reader’s attention to another related article that might be of their interest. In-line posts are great because the reader A) doesn’t have to make it to the end to see other content, and B) it stands out visually from a simple text hyperlink.

Check out the “Inline Related Posts” plugin – it comes with a couple different free themes for designing your in-line posts, and you can customize the color to match your site’s existing scheme.

Tip #18 – Make External Links “NoFollow” Links

This tip has to do with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and will get a bit technical, so stay with us – it could make a big difference in terms of traffic to your site!

A big factor in determining your site’s SEO score comes via links. It’s a good idea to link to your own internal sites as well as big external sites to help give you some authority. However, if the ratio of external links starts to heavily outweigh those of other sites linking back to yours, your authority will take a noticeable hit.

Thankfully, there’s a quick fix for it and it comes via the “Title and NoFollow For Links” plugin. By making a link a “NoFollow” link, your visitors can still click on them and go to the site in question, but it will no longer register for your SEO score, maintaining your authority. It’s easy to do once the plugin is installed, too – there will now be a simple checkbox when you add a link to make the link a NoFollow link.

Tip #19 – Add WhatsApp Share Capabilities

For many people, their first time hearing about the messaging app WhatsApp was when it was purchased by Facebook for a staggering $19 billion back in 2014. That price tag raised a lot of eyebrows, but the sheer amount of users of WhatsApp (just under a billion worldwide) was worth it to Facebook, which had no trouble affording the deal.
All of this just shows how popular WhatsApp is, so adding the ability for people on your site to share the page or content directly to the app can be a very smart idea. Just go and grab the “WhatsApp Share Button” plugin. It utilizes shortcode that you can add anywhere on the HTML of your site’s pages where you want the share button. It also comes with some tracking analytics so you can get a sense of just how many users are taking advantage of it.

 

fiber1

Tip #20 – Hide a Post from the Home Page

For a variety of reasons, you might not want one or more of your posts to appear on the home page. Sure, you can make them password protected or even completely private (so only admins can see them), but you may still want the page available – just not on the front page.

A quick install of the “WP Hide Post” plugin will take care of this. In addition to hiding the post from the front page, you can hide specific posts from category pages, tag pages, search results, and much more – lots of customization options here, and all can be done with simple checkboxes that will show up on the post edit screen once the plugin is installed.

Bonus Tip: Use Total Server Solutions

Check out Total Server Solutions and our hosting packages, which are affordable and easy to use. We’ll help take your WordPress site to the next level, and be with you each step of the way!

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WP-Tips-3

 

WordPress is the unquestioned leader when it comes to a Content Management System for creating a website. Let’s look into some of the tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of it in this multi-part series. 

Hello again! There might be many reasons why you’re here reading this, but we’re going to narrow it down to two of the most likely scenarios: 1) You’ve read either Part 1  or Part 2 and are looking for the next installment; or 2) You’ve found this via a Google or other search for “WordPress tips” (which we’ll get into more in our first tip down below) and are looking for ways to boost your current WordPress site.

However you’ve landed here, we thank you for stopping by! We’ve got five more great WordPress tips and tricks to make your site sing, so let’s jump right in.

Tip #11 – Boost Your SEO and Discoverability

Remember when we said we would get more into search up above? We sure hope so since it was only about 80 words ago, but still – here we are. Obviously, getting new visitors to your site is key, and one of the most effective, tried-and-true methods is Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Having better SEO scores on your site will lead to more new visitors coming to your pages by searching for terms and keywords that are relevant to your business.

And although there are options when it comes to SEO plugins for WordPress (as with most types of plugins), there is a clear leader – Yoast SEO.

Tip #12 – Incentivize Your Visitors

We know, we know – nobody is a big fan of pop-ups. But let’s address one truism first – if you’re making a website for your business or personal brand, you’re looking for potential customers and new potential revenue. It’s just a fact of life. As such, you’ll want to explore effective yet unobtrusive ways of inviting and incentivizing your site’s visitors to come back and eventually become a customer. Whether that’s with a discounted offer or an invitation to subscribe to a mailing list, you should consider reaching out at least once, and a lightbox message is a great way to do it. It’s not a pop-up in that it opens a new window or tab, but it’s a snazzily-animated box that appears within your website (no new URL). There are a few plugin options that make creating them a snap, and one of the best around is OptinMonster – they have the most options in terms of how you display your pop-up or lightbox message, and it’s fast and easy to work with. Granted, it isn’t free, but a few new customers might more than make up for the price you’d pay for this website addition.

 

TSSaisle1

 

Tip #13 – Readability

Readability is not just about how easy the text on your website is to read – it also has to do with the aesthetics and overall layout. Regarding the latter, there are a few tips you can do to improve your content’s visual readability, such as: make sentences a bit shorter; avoid using lengthy paragraphs and instead opt for one to three sentences each; make sure you have plenty of white space on the page by increasing the spacing between your lines; and stick to only a few easy-to-read, basic font options.

But what about the actual words themselves? Besides trying to avoid too many large words and byzantine sentences with lots of clauses, hyphens, and parentheses, there’s a few plugin options that can help. One is called the “FD Word Statistics Plugin” and is a huge help to improve your readability. It runs each of your page through three different readability tests – Fog, Flesch, and Kincaid. You can read more about them at the previous links, but FD Word Statistics will give you scores for all three. You obviously don’t want to “dumb” your copy down too far, but you also don’t want to lose potential customers by having dense walls of texts everywhere on your site.

Tip #14 – Embed your PDFs

Embedding image, audio, and video files to a WordPress site is extremely easy. But natively, WordPress does not come with the capability to embed PDF files. Depending on your site and your business, this can be a huge drawback. Thankfully, adding the capability to do so is a breeze.

All you have to do is download the PDF Viewer plugin. Then, once it’s installed, you’ll be able to embed PDFs by bringing up the “Add Media” uploader – the same way you would add images. Easy-peasy!

Tip #15 – Visual Navigation

Text is great (you’re reading through some pretty great text right now, as a matter of fact…), but the old adage of a picture saying a 1,000 words has merit. So instead of having your navigation menu be comprised of words like “Home”, “Contact’, or “Meet the Team”, why not use icons and images to convey the same thing? It’s more visually compelling, and you allow visitors to your site who might not know the language your site is written in to at least navigate around a bit.

The “Menu Icons” plugin allows you do to this – check it out and pick your favorite icons out of several different library, or theme, options.

Bonus Tip: Use Total Server Solutions

If you’ve been following along with these articles, you probably have a great looking WordPress site by now – all that’s left is picking the best hosting service where it can thrive! Total Server Solutions offers a fully optimized platform for WordPress – just give us a call or email us to get started today!

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WordPress is the unquestioned leader when it comes to a Content Management System for creating a website. Let’s look into some of the tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of it in this multi-part series. 

Hopefully, you got some usage out of our first installment in our WordPress Tips and Tricks series (which in case you missed it, can be found in full here. For such a widely used Content Management System (CMS) with such a populated and helpful community supplying great themes and plugins on a near constant basis, there’s no shortage of ways in which you can tweak your site to your liking.

Let’s continue with a few more tips that will allow you to get your WordPress website looking and functioning exactly how you want it.

Tip #6 – Display Your Posts in a Grid Format

As it started as a blogging platform, it makes sense that the more basic, default setting of displaying new articles and content is in the blogroll format. The most recent pieces of content are displayed at the top of the page, and users scroll down to browse older entries. There’s nothing wrong with that layout of course, but if you want to switch it up a bit (and make it look a lot more visually appealing), consider using a grid layout. As always, there’s a plugin for that (appropriately titled “Post Grid”), and you can customize it to your liking (how big the squares in the grid are, how many, etc.) with this helpful tutorial.

Tip #7 – Turn Visitors into Subscribers with Lightbox Style Pop-Up

We know, we know – nobody is a big fan of pop-ups. But let’s address one truism first – if you’re making a website for your business or personal brand, you’re looking for potential customers and new potential revenue. It’s just a fact of life. As such, you’ll want to explore effective yet unobtrusive ways of inviting and incentivizing your site’s visitors to come back and eventually become a customer. Whether that’s with a discounted offer or an invitation to subscribe to a mailing list, you should consider reaching out at least once, and a lightbox message is a great way to do it. It’s not a pop-up in that it opens a new window or tab, but it’s a snazzily-animated box that appears within your website (no new URL). There are a few plugin options that make creating them a snap, and one of the best around is OptinMonster – they have the most options in terms of how you display your pop-up or lightbox message, and it’s fast and easy to work with. Granted, it isn’t free, but a few new customers might more than make up for the price you’d pay for this website addition.

Tip #8 – Improve Your Site’s Readability

Readability is not just about how easy the text on your website is to read – it also has to do with the aesthetics and overall layout. Regarding the latter, there are a few tips you can do to improve your content’s visual readability, such as: make sentences a bit shorter; avoid using lengthy paragraphs and instead opt for one to three sentences each; make sure you have plenty of white space on the page by increasing the spacing between your lines; and stick to only a few easy-to-read, basic font options.

But what about the actual words themselves? Besides trying to avoid too many large words and byzantine sentences with lots of clauses, hyphens, and parentheses, there’s a few plugin options that can help. One is called the “FD Word Statistics Plugin” and is a huge help to improve your readability. It runs each of your page through three different readability tests – Fog, Flesch, and Kincaid. You can read more about them at the previous links, but FD Word Statistics will give you scores for all three. You obviously don’t want to “dumb” your copy down too far, but you also don’t want to lose potential customers by having dense walls of texts everywhere on your site.

Total Server Solutions

 

Tip #9 – Enable PDF Viewing

Embedding image, audio, and video files to a WordPress site is extremely easy. But natively, WordPress does not come with the capability to embed PDF files. Depending on your site and your business, this can be a huge drawback. Thankfully, adding the capability to do so is a breeze.

All you have to do is download the PDF Viewer plugin. Then, once it’s installed, you’ll be able to embed PDFs by bringing up the “Add Media” uploader – the same way you would add images. Easy-peasy!

Tip #10 – Use Icons for Menu Navigation

Text is great (you’re reading through some pretty great text right now, as a matter of fact…), but the old adage of a picture saying a 1,000 words has merit. So instead of having your navigation menu be comprised of words like “Home”, “Contact’, or “Meet the Team”, why not use icons and images to convey the same thing? It’s more visually compelling, and you allow visitors to your site who might not know the language your site is written in to at least navigate around a bit.

The “Menu Icons” plugin allows you do to this – check it out and pick your favorite icons out of several different library, or theme, options.

Bonus Tip: Use Total Server Solutions

If you’ve been following along with these articles, you probably have a great looking WordPress site by now – all that’s left is picking the best hosting service where it can thrive! Check out the cloud platform from Total Server Solutions and find out how you can get the performance your site needs.

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WordPress is the unquestioned leader when it comes to a Content Management System for creating a website. Let’s look into some of the tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of it in this multi-part series. 

The topic of Content Management System (CMS) is something that every business owner (or anyone who operates a website) should be paying close attention to. If you need a refresher, here are a couple articles to read up on. This one ranks three of the top CMS options (WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal), and this article goes into detail about why WordPress is by far and away the most popular CMS option.

So, if you’re like the webmasters of the approximately 25% of all websites in existence, you’re using WordPress. That’s great! But how do you take your site from a glorified blog to a shining example of web mastery? We’re compiling a list of helpful tips and tricks to help you on your way.

 

Tip #1 – Adding Voice Search Capabilities

That’s right! WordPress gives you the option of giving your website’s visitors the option of searching for content with their voice and microphone. All you have to do is go here to download the official plugin, and you’re on your way. Please note, however, that the plugin is only functional with the Google Chrome browser, but it does work with both the desktop and mobile versions of Chrome. Also, it’s worth mentioning that there have been many reports/reviews of it being a bit buggy – something to be aware of.

 

Tip #2 – Let Visitors and/or Subscribers Post Content

This is obviously up to each individual site owner (social media and giving everyone a voice has revolutionized our daily lives, but the results aren’t always pretty), but if you want to allow more than just comments on your site, here are several plug-ins which allow you to do just that. You can allow any user to submit a blog/style content (the complexity of which is up to you), or limit it to just a certain subset.

 

Tip #3 – Add Snazzy Before/After Slider to Your Photos

We absolutely love this feature, and depending on your business (carpentry, real estate, cleaning services, etc.), it can really make your site stand out from the competition. Using this nifty plugin called TwentyTwenty, you can add the ability to have images come with a slider. You can use this for before and after purposes (showing off a new kitchen remodel, for example), or to even have a pixelated version that visitors will have to manually slide over to reveal (perhaps if you’re showing a still from a movie but you don’t want to give away any spoilers). You can grab it at the link above.
 

 

Tip #4 – Customize Image Formatting

Staying in the realm of fancying up images, older versions of WordPress (3.9 and previous versions, to be precise) allowed you to customize the margins and borders with ease. That functionality was removed in versions after 3.9, but this plug-in (aptly titled “Advanced Image Styles”) brings them back in a snap. Pick custom borders with colors (as well as setting adjustable widths) as well as the margins. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a bit of extra functionality that will go a long way toward making your visual content more unique and more closely matched with your overall aesthetic.

 

Tip #5 – Apply SSL for More Security and Better Google Rankings

SSL (which stands for Secure Socket Layer) is defined as:

“The standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral.”

Without going into too much more technical detail, it should be seen as a necessary step to increase the security of both your data and that on your site, as well as those who visit your site. While WordPress is huge and secures millions of websites around the world, they are not impervious to breaches and attacks – back in 2014, it was found that over 160,000 WordPress sites were being unwittingly used in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. While the pingback issue that left them susceptible has since been fixed, it is still worth noting.

Using the Domain Mapping plugin from wpmudev will not only allow you to quickly apply SSL, it can also force the use of secure http (https) among a host of other beefed up security options. And web security is one of those things it’s hard to have too much of.

 

Bonus Tip: Use Total Server Solutions

Our cloud infrastructure is such that your website is fully optimized for WordPress from day one. Give us a call or email us to get started today!

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There’s a veritable cornucopia of options when it comes to selecting a Content Management System for your website…so why is WordPress the clear cut leader?

Wordpress-logo

 

In our last entry, we examined the most popular Content Management System (CMS) options available. If you need a detailed refresher on what a CMS is and what it does for you, click the previous link. Otherwise, let’s focus on a single quote from that last piece:

“…nearly half of all websites use some form of CMS. Of that approximate 43.3%, nearly two-thirds (58.9%) are WordPress sites – which for all you math ninjas out there, works out to over a quarter of all websites in existence use WordPress. That’s a pretty good market share.”

WordPress isn’t the first CMS, so it doesn’t owe its huge market share due to being first on the scene. It isn’t the easiest to master, nor is it the hardest…so why then does it enjoy such a commanding lead? Let’s examine why.

 

It’s cost effective.

One of the biggest objections those new to WordPress first raise is the initial surprise that it’s a free platform – we’ll call it “inverted sticker shock”. We’ve been so conditioned to think that if something is free, it’s either a sub-par product or there’s some hidden catch.

That perception holds true many times, but couldn’t be further from the truth regarding WordPress. It benefits greatly from a huge team of staffed developers as well as volunteers worldwide (of which we’ll get into more later) that are constantly improving the system.

For the grand total of zero dollars, you get a full-fledged, ever evolving CMS that has the benefits of the largest web development community in the world. Sounds like a pretty good deal to us!

 

It’s flexible.

Thanks in no small part to the aforementioned community, you have a lot of options when it comes to designing your site in WordPress. And we mean A LOT. Let’s start with themes.

WordPress themes act essentially as “skins” for your site. It’s a complete package that adjusts many visual aspects of your layout – the colors used for headers, where the navigations links are placed and what color/font is used, etc. A quick glance at the themes section over at the official WordPress site should give you an idea as to how many options are out there, and you can always create your own as well.

Plug-ins are more of the nuts and bolts that can give your site additional functionality (and again, looking at the official site, there’s a lot of these too). Want to add a Facebook like or Google+ +1 button to your site pages? There are plug-ins for that. There are new plug-ins and themes constantly added, so you can customize your site to your exact liking.

 

It’s capable of creating a wide variety of sites.

A big misconception web developers run into when they tell their clients they are using WordPress is the thoguht that it’s only for blogs. Although that’s indeed how the CMS started out, it’s grown far beyond a simple blog creator. Just take a look at this list compiling 40 of the biggest sites using WordPress – there are some true heavy hitters in there, including Fortune, BestBuy, The New Yorker, and lots more.

Not only are these some of the biggest brands in the world, but they cover a wide variety of site types as well – e-commerce, editorial, music, and yes, blogs. There really isn’t a type of website that WordPress isn’t capable of creating.

 

It’s SEO friendly.

The power of search should never be overlooked, and WordPress is, according to them, “…optimized for search engines right out of the box.” There are definite benefits the basic template of WordPress offers, but to get serious about search engine optimization, you’ll probably want to get some additional help via plug-ins. There are definitely quite a bit to choose from, but according to the pros at Search Engine Land, there are two leaders that are worth checking out:

“There are two SEO plugins that distinguish themselves from the rest: All In One SEO Pack and WordPress SEO by Yoast. The former is slightly more popular, while the latter is slightly better rated. Keep in mind that you may also need additional plugins for tasks tangential to SEO, such as one that allows you to implement your analytics tracking code across the website.”

 

It’s got a phenomenal community.

We mentioned the community earlier, and it really is one of the best. Not only are there the plug-ins and themes created by members and shared for free use, but there’s also a great support channel at WordPress.org in the forms of a robust and lively discussion forum, as well as an official Codex that “the online manual for WordPress and a living repository for WordPress information and documentation.”

If you run into trouble or have a question, check the Codex first. If you don’t see what you need there, try the forums. Odds are great that if you’re polite and explain your situation clearly, you’ll get the help you need.

 

It’s responsive.

Most all CMS solutions are these days, but it’s worth mentioning. Using a responsive design for your website ensures that it will load quickly and look correctly on all devices – phones, tablets, and computers. And with mobile web traffic outpacing desktop traffic and showing no signs of slowing down, it’s more important than ever.

Here at Total Server Solutions, we ensure that your website is fully optimized for WordPress, as well as just about any other CMS you choose. Contact us today to learn more.

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For the fourth year running Total Server Solutions has partnered with TechCrunch to help connect entrepreneurs, startups, and investors in Atlanta.

TC

 

Atlanta, GA —  Total Server Solutions, an industry leader in high performance infrastructure and managed services today announced that it is sponsoring the upcoming TechCrunch Meet Up & Pitch Off in Atlanta.  The event is set for the evening of February 25, 2016.  This meetup is the fourth time that Total Server Solutions has partnered with TechCrunch to bring together the startup community in Atlanta for an evening of networking, socializing, and knowledge sharing.

As with past meetups, this year promises to provide a great venue for entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, investors, and startups in which to meet, share ideas, and make lasting connections.  During this meet up & pitch off, participants will compete by pitching their ideas to a panel of venture capitalists and TechCrunch editorial staff.  Participants will have 60 seconds in which to explain why their idea is awesome.  The winners of the pitch off will have an opportunity to attend the flagship TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York City in May.

Total Server Solutions is committed to helping startups and entrepreneurs succeed.  As a young, growing company, Total Server Solutions understands what it takes for a vision to be made real.  By providing resources, services, and high performance infrastructure from enterprise to startup companies, Total Server Solutions brings their years of knowledge and experience to bear to help customers solve complex problems on the path to growth.

Gary Simat, CEO at Total Server Solutions states that “This is the fourth year that we have partnered with TechCrunch.  We believe in the entrepreneurial spirit here in Atlanta and we want to do everything we can to help startups succeed.”

This event will be held at Prive lounge on February 25, 2016.  Doors open at 6:00pm and competition starts at 7:00pm with the winners announced at 8:15pm.  After that, the venue will be given over to networking.  Stop by and visit the Total Server Solutions team to learn how their commitment to providing the finest global infrastructure can help your ideas grow.

More information about this event can be found here:

http://techcrunch.com/event-info/meetup-pitch-off-atlanta-2016/

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A Content Management System (CMS) is a one-stop-shop for building fantastic websites, and has seen a dramatic rise in popularity over the past dozen years. Let’s examine the most popular options.

If you wanted to build a website in the mid-90s, you had to know how to write HTML – there was simply no way around it. Granted, websites were much simpler back in the Internet’s infancy (as a bit of a bonus, check out these hilariously awful 90s-tastic web designs), but there weren’t too many shortcuts to making a functioning website.

Thankfully, both the overall aesthetics and the ease at which they can be created have improved dramatically over the past 15 years. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest factors in this sea change has been the rise of the Content Management System, or CMS.

A CMS can be essentially viewed as an application that gives users a much easier interface to build, publish, and maintain content (a website) through a central portal. Instead of having to code individual lines of HTML (HyperText Markup Language for you young whippersnappers out there) for elements of a web design, CMS allows users a much more intuitive interface. Want an image on your page? Just upload it! No managing attributes and figuring out all the <img> and other tags. Now, websites aren’t only for the super-HTML savvy – anyone who can create a decent Word document can get a site up and running with a CMS.

Which option is right for you? Let’s take a look at some of the leading contenders.

CMS-Ranked

WordPress

The undisputed king – and it’s really not even close. According to W3 Techs, a leading web technology surveyor, nearly half of all websites use some form of CMS. Of that approximate 43.3%, nearly two-thirds (58.9%) are WordPress sites – which for all you math ninjas out there, works out to over a quarter of all websites in existence use WordPress. That’s a pretty good market share.

Released all the way back on May 27, 2003, WordPress started as a blogging-style system, but has since expanded its capabilities into full-fledged CMS. To create a simple website is free, and there is a rich and vibrant developer community that also releases free “themes” (design templates) for download and installation. Some of the biggest brands in the world (the NFL, Best Buy, and TechCrunch to name a few) have WordPress sites.

Joomla

To put in perspective how much of a grip WordPress has as the king of CMS, the second place platform – Joomla – accounts for just 5.6% of CMS sites compared to the near 60% of WordPress.

Some of that has to do with the head start WordPress had, as Joomla wasn’t released to the public until August 17, 2005. Another element has to do with the fact that it’s a little more user-intensive than WordPress. If making a nice WordPress site was creating a Word document (using our above analogy), using Joomla is a bit more like a PowerPoint presentation with lots of drop-shadowed text, cool effects for slide transitions, and maybe even embedded video. Again, not rocket science and not a lot of programming involved, but a bit more difficult than WordPress.

The flipside of that is that many users find the customization options in Joomla to be far superior and more exhaustive than WordPress. Some of the biggest entities trusting Joomla for their websites are The Hill, Linux, and the Guggenheim Museum.

Drupal

Moving on down the list in popularity, Drupal is on the medal podium of the CMS Olympics in third place with approximately 4.9% of CMS sites using it. It’s actually one of the older CMS platforms in existence, tracing its origins back to 2001. Why then, if Drupal has had the most time to latch on, is it languishing in a distant third?

Many believe it’s due to the even more intensive and less user-friendly interface than Joomla. While Drupal offers more customization than either WordPress or Joomla, it’s definitely the most difficult of the three to master. But if you have even a scant amount of development/programming experience, you’ll likely feel right at home with Drupal. Although the most recent Version 8 is said to be much more intuitive than versions past, it still is very developer-centric.

Some of the largest Drupal sites in the world include The Independent, Box, and Entertainment Weekly.

There are loads more CMS choices out there outside of these top three – Magento, Blogger, TYPO3, Shopify, and Wix are some of the more well-known. Depending on your level of expertise, you’ll want to spend a little time researching and reading reviews to see what the best fit is for you (as well as checking out some of the sites made by these various CMS platforms to see what’s possible).

Another thing you’ll want to look into is finding a hosting partner that can optimize your site based on your CMS of choice – like Total Server Solutions.