17 Mar 2020

Operational Status Regarding COVID-19 Pandemic

CoronavirusIf my inbox is any sort of guide to whats going on for the rest of the world, over the last few days everyone has been getting swamped with emails from every company they’ve ever dealt with reaching out to explain how they’re dealing with COVID-19.   While we don’t want to contribute to the flood by doing the same to all of our clients, we do have a couple of bits of information that we wanted to get out there and share just to keep our clients informed:

  • All of our cloud / data-center partners have enacted their own business continuity and response plans they intend to utilize to ensure seamless operations, these include provisions for ensuring services remain fully operational at all locations while also protecting the health and safety of their own staff.   Thus far we have seen zero disruption of existing services as a result and do not currently anticipate any major disruptions.
  • Last Friday we disabled the automated suspension of hosting accounts with unpaid invoices.
    • No client who was in good standing with regards to their bills as of March 1st 2020, will have their hosting account shutoff for non-payment of their bill at-least thru the end of May.     (This date could be extended out further in the future depending on global developments. )
    • This “no questions asked” deferment of unpaid invoices only applies to hosting accounts themselves.  Other services such as domain renewals have additional complications (for instance, the registrars will not allow us to just let a renewal “slide for a couple months”), so if you have some other service coming up for renewal and find yourself in a difficult position, please reach out to our billing team via the client portal, they are empowered to assist and come up with a way to keep your site and services online.

That’s it from us.  We don’t anticipate any major disruptions of service, and we know things are going to be crazy for a bit for everyone, so we’re going to work with folks on the billing front when they need a little help.   Otherwise, stop worrying about your websites, we’ll keep the lights on, you go be safe and find some way to keep everyone sane and entertained in the house until it’s safe to go back outside.

31 Jan 2020

Protect Your Privacy With Our New VPN Service

black and white photograph of a padlock securing a gateHow your privacy is at risk

In today’s world we all find ourselves continuously connected: On the road, at work, or just relaxing at home, we find ourselves always ‘on’ in order to pay bills, shop, communicate with friends, or just to stream the latest entertainment.

But if you have any concerns regarding your security and privacy online, or how exposed your”digital footprint” may be, utilizing a VPN service for all your daily browsing needs may be a critical piece of maintaining your privacy.

While everyone knows about the dangers associated with unprotected browsing via unsecured Wifi networks, there are a number of other privacy and convenience endangering issues that users face on the internet today:

How a VPN helps protect your privacy.

In basic terms, when you connect to the VPN service, you are building a private, encrypted tunnel from your device to the VPN Service’s endpoint.  This endpoint could be in your local City, or halfway around the world, you get to decide, usually from a list of cities/locations that the provider offers.

Then, all of your browsing activity and traffic is routed out to the larger Internet via your chosen VPN endpoint.  Since the tunnel between you and the service is fully encrypted and only you and them have the keys, nobody in between can see what you are doing.  And once your traffic leaves their service, you will appear to be coming from that location.  The websites and services you communicate with will be unaware of your true IP address or geographical location.

Why choose our VPN service offering?

Our arrangement with SiteLock VPN allows us to offer an easy to use VPN service featuring:

  • Coverage for up to 5 devices simultaneously.
  • 1 Click Setup for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux
  • Tunnel endpoints in 40+ countries around the world, and you can freely switch between them as desired.
12 Jan 2020

Making Domain Registration Promos More Visible

In the interest of continued transparency and based on some customer feedback, we’ve made a couple enhancements to our Domain Registration section of our site as of late:letter tiles spelling out "sale"

  • Our Full Domain Pricing Page now shows the ‘normal’ non-promotional price, as well as any applicable promotional prices right next to it.
  • The Current Domain Pricing Promotions page does something similar for every domain on sale, but also includes the date each promotional price is scheduled to end.
  • Individual TLD detail pages (such as this one for .club) have been enhanced to show any normal pricing, promotional pricing, and promotion end dates in the “Pricing: General” tab as well.

As noted previously, domain promotional pricing is dictated solely at the discretion of the sponsoring registrar, and we have no control over which promotions are extended or for how long.  These changes are part of our mission to provide the most up to date and accurate information that we can, so that clients can make the most informed buying decisions.

04 Jan 2020

Minor Updates To Our Terms Of Service

a document being signedThe start of a New Year has everyone clamoring to update their Terms of Service.  Judging from my own inbox, it’s all the rage this time of year.  We decided we didn’t want to miss all the fun, so we dug our own terms out of the closet and gave them a once over, and, well, we decided to tweak a couple small things.

Now, don’t worry, we haven’t upended the world or anything.   We’ve made some slight formatting changes to the document to clean it up a bit, and we’ve made a few actual changes to the content, and in the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to put them all here in the open for everyone to see.

We updated the “Cancellation of Service” section to reflect the ability for clients to request their accounts be cancelled via the Client Portal.

We updated the “Late / Non-Payment” section do away with the “reconnect charge”.

Both of these were holdovers from the dark ages, before our new client portal and automation helped to make everyone’s lives simpler.   We haven’t needed clients to email in cancellation request 5 days before their next billing date in years, and we haven’t charged anyone a ‘reconnect fee’ for us turning their account back on from a billing suspension in an even longer time.  Basically nothing has change operationally… now the legalese now reflects reality.

Our “14 Day Money Back Guarantee” is now our “28 Day Money Back Guarantee”, and we clarified a couple additional points.

New clients now have twice as long to try things out and, if it turns out our hosting isn’t for them, they can get their hosting account refunded.  We also added clarification that the Money Back Guarantee only applies to hosting account fees, nothing else.

We added a section on Pre-Payments, Incentives, and Refunds.

This is a new one, and we’re not ready to fully announce the details just yet, but, the short version is, while we’re sticking firm to our mantra of No Long Term Contracts, we have also heard the call of our existing clients loud and clear that they’d be interested in maybe paying in advance and getting a little something in return for doing so.  These sections are basically to lay the groundwork for a couple of things in that arena.

19 Dec 2019

Time running out on 2019 Domain Registration deals

an hourglass sitting on a wooden tableAs of today there are quite a few domain registration promotions going on.   Between now and the end of year, all but two of these will be ending.

As of today, only .club and .global promotional pricing will survive into the new year.  All other promotions will be ending before the ball drops in Time Square.

We’re not normally the “hey, this deal is ending on <X> type”, since various TLDs go on sale all the time, but with so many promotions timed to end over the next 10 days or so, we figured it was worth pointing out just in case you’ve had your eye on a particular domain name idea as of late…

[Disclosure:  We fully expected more TLDs to go on promotion in 2020, and it’s possible that some of the existing current ones could be extended into 2020.  But as of today, all the registries except those two have ‘promo end’ dates before the end of the year, and no new ones have been announced as of yet. ]

Domain Name Registrations

Low Rates, Fast Service.

26 Nov 2019

All the Gritty Details of our new Server Platform

Disclaimer

This post has been a work in progress since mid January of 2019.  Sometimes these things take some time to hammer out, and sometimes, you’re still constantly improving and refining a thing, and keep telling yourself “I’ll just wait until the post is 100% accurate and complete, and then I’ll publish it”.  And eventually, sometimes you need to just acknowledge you’re trying to describe a moving target, and really just let things go and ship the post.

Overview

2019 has been a big year for us, and it all started with the rollout of a new ‘baseline server platform’ for the technology that powers our Shared Linux Hosting Servers.  Now, to be fair quite a bit of it isn’t exactly new technology, but rather, new to us.  One of the simple facts of running a stable hosting platform is, well, that key word.. “stable”.  We don’t get to play with the latest and greatest technological advances (at-least not on our production platforms), because above everything else, we need our platform to be stable, and frequently in tech, “new shiny” tends to mean the opposite of “stable”.  Often stability comes with usage, refinement, and generally, age of the technology in question.

But we’re geeks at heart, and we love to play with the new shiny.   New beta release of RHEL?  We’ll be there poking at the first chance we get, but when it comes to production systems, we tend to be a little gun shy of brand new releases. In fact, we generally won’t run a new OS anywhere in production until after the .1 , or sometimes .2 release comes out.  It’s just something we’ve learned over time is the best thing for everyone’s sanity.  But still, we keep tabs on all the latest shiny, and when it reaches the point that we’re comfortable rolling it out into production, we always enjoy doing so.

A Year of Enhancements

Man sitting at a retro looking computer command center

What our moms think we do

Earlier this year, as part of our big server migration, we established a new ‘baseline’ for how all of our shared linux web hosting servers are setup and run.  Included in that new baseline are a number of new (for us, in production) technologies, and we want to take a moment to acknowledge some of them and what they’re going to mean for everyone.

CloudLinux

We moved from CentOS over to CloudLinux as our basic underlying operating system.  I would best describe CloudLinux to someone as “CentOS, but with added features to improve the security, stability, and performance for web hosting”.

Some of the new CloudLinux features are strictly back-end, things to make our lives easier, like the KernelCare feature, which allows us to patch the running Linux Kernel for security vulnerabilities, in real time, without having to reboot the server.

Other CloudLinux features however, have a direct and easily recognizable benefit to our clients:

  • LVE Management and CageFS – Cloudlinux provides what they refer to as a “Lightweight Virtualization Environment”.  Basically, it allows us to track/limit the amount of CPU, RAM, and other server resources down to the user account level.  This means we can not only prevent a single user from monopolizing an entire server, or even crashing it, but it also allows us to expand the types of workloads we can safely allow clients to run under the ‘LVE wrapper’ of their account.  At the same time, CageFS allows each user to have their own ‘containerized file system’, similar to a chroot jail of old, but, securely.   The introduction of LVE and CageFS and the performance/safety they brought to the table cleared the way for a number of new features we were able to roll out in 2019:
  • PHP Selector and HardenedPHP – Cloudlinux not only provides a way, via the PHP Selector, for us to offer multiple versions of PHP for client use, but they also continue to back-port critical security fixes into some older versions of PHP that are no longer officially updated by the PHP community.  This has allowed us to continue to offer a secure version of PHP 5.6 past its official end of life date, for those clients who are not yet ready to jump onto the PHP7 bandwagon.
  • Python Selector – The Python selector, in combination with LVE, allows us to offer up (as of today) six different versions of Python for client use.  This allowed us to offer Python Hosting without having to choose a side in the great “Python2 versus Python3” debate that seems to consume everyone.  We offer both, and at this point would suggest Python3, but both are there for your use.

Apache Worker MPM, FPM-PHP, and LSAPI

So, the short version is that we got some really nice performance and security improvements in what amounts to the most basic and central service to our hosting platform, the act of actually serving up web pages.  This was such a big improvement that we did an entire blog post back in June just to talk about how awesome it is.  If you want the full story, by all means, go enjoy that one. 😉

The Path Forward From Here

Right now we have the basic tech stack of our hosting platform about where we want it to be in terms of features and capabilities, so I suspect things will be  a little more quiet in that area for a little while at least, but we’re always off tinkering with new ideas and new technology.  So as those technologies firm up, get baked a little firmer and start to turn into things we can build a business offering on top of, expect to see additional new and exciting features/options coming from us in the months ahead.

24 Nov 2019

Easiest Black Friday Savings Ever

Woman Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair Beside Coconut Drink

Relax, you got this

This year we’ve got your hookup for the easiest Black Friday Savings Ever!

New customers can save 20% off any new Domain Registration or SSL Certificate order placed between now and December 1st by using the promo code “BLACKFRIDAY” at checkout.

No parking lot fender benders, no jockeying for the last microwave on the shelf, just sweet sweet savings on domains and certificates.  And yes, this includes every Domain TLD, even the ones already on sale.

 

11 Nov 2019

Breach at Web.com: Why you might care and not even know it.

yellow warning tape that reads "crime scene do not cross"Just under two weeks ago, the folks at Web.com group announced they had an incident and that their systems had been compromised.  Reading through their release, they make the following assertions:

  • No credit card data was compromised as a result of this incident.
  • Contact details such as “name, address, phone numbers, email addresses and information about the services offered to a given account holder”

Now, while it appears they believe that customer passwords were not disclosed, they are having everyone reset their passwords as a precaution, just in case.

We’ve had a few clients reach out asking about this breach in particular, as they’ve received an email but are confused as they don’t remember having done business with ‘web.com’ in the past.

Web.com also owns the following other companies you may have had a relationship with in the past:

  • Register.com
  • Network Solutions

So, given the popularity of Network Solutions and Register.com as domain registration providers in the past, odds are you’ve received the email regarding an account under one of those two names instead of ‘web.com’.   Unfortunately, in a couple of conversations, we’ve discovered clients who had an old, no longer maintained email address connected to a domain registration with Network Solutions, and so they never received an email regarding the situation at all.

Our suggestion is that if you have an account with any Web.com group entity, including Network Solutions and Register.com, and have not already done so, to change any passwords you have there at once. 

And if you are still practicing poor password hygiene by using the same password for multiple services/accounts, we’d recommend changing your password at any site that used the same one as well.  If the actor who snagged the data from web.com does manage to decode passwords, someone will certainly begin trying to utilize those email/password combinations at other popular sites.

01 Nov 2019

A Farewell to Sitebuilder

RVSiteBuilder Screenshot

RVSiteBuilder Screenshot

Just under eleven years ago we rolled out RVSitebuilder as a new feature to our shared linux web hosting accounts.  At the time we had, of course, high hopes that clients would find it of value.

Over the years, folks have tinkered with it, we’ve seen at best estimate around 2% of all clients ‘poke at it’ to see what it could do for them, or perhaps just to get design inspiration?  But we’ve never actually seen much traction in the way of clients actually utilizing the functionally long term, but as it was a fairly cheap ‘addon’ that we had bundled in with our cPanel licenses via the cPanel licensing provider we use, we never really gave much thought to it beyond over the years from a ‘cost/value’ perspective.

But as regular readers may be aware, there was something of an upheaval with regards to cPanel licensing announced over the summer.

Not quite as widely known was that in the fallout of that pricing model change, one of the larger cPanel licensing vendors, well, they sold their entire operation.  Then, a little while later, the new owners basically announced that that were terminating some partnerships and a bunch of products you could previously license through them would no longer be available.

After a little bit of a scramble, we realized that, on top of the recent tripling of our per server licensing costs due to the cPanel increase, we could be facing a second round of increases for all of the ‘non-cPanel’ items we use alongside of cPanel on each server if the product was one being discontinued from our provider.

Short version?  The per-server cost of RvSiteBuilder would be tripling if we choose to keep it around.  After once again evaluating just how much usage it was getting, this week we’ve disabled it across all our servers, and are retiring the functionality.

We are currently evaluating some other, more modern site builder options for our client’s use, and hope to once again have a easy to use site builder option available in the future.

(c) 2019 Pure Energy Systems LLC - All rights reserved.

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