Blog

Containerize all the things!

Chances are you’ve heard of Docker. It’s a great way to ship software in an environment that is ready to go – all dependencies, all settings, all packed in a nice container. Developers love containers, sysadmins like myself love containers, and you should love containers. So let’s get something out of the way: What is a container? Well, it’s like a virtual machine but instead of having it’s own OS, RAM, CPU, etc., it uses the host OS, RAM, CPU, and in some cases can even share libraries with other containers. Another thing to note is that container technology isn’t new. It’s been around since 2000 with FreeBSD Jails.

Docker is great in the sense that it can run on Linux, Windows, and Mac so that a developer can ship a container that has everything and it’ll work on any host OS (typically – depends on the software being shipped in the container). It has all of the dependencies needed to run.

So, what does this mean? It means that we’re officially announcing our support for adding Docker into our hosting infrastructure! Yes – we’re building out brand new infrastructure in which you will be able to run Docker containers. We highly recommend that you follow our social media channels as we will be providing more details including availability. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!

How Net Neutrality Affects You

We don’t like to get too political, but when it comes to the Internet, this is our business.

Right now in the United States, Net Neutrality is a hot topic again now that the FCC is trying to reverse the rules again. This is one of those issues that adversely affects us, you, and your website visitors. The way it stands now, traffic on the internet is equal – doesn’t matter where the traffic is from or who it is going to, it loads just the same. Here’s where the issue is – if these rules are indeed reversed, our business is threatened easily. For example, Customer browses to Site A which we host. It loads slowly for them. Annoyed by this, they find Site B which is hosted by a larger competitor to us. Site B, despite being nearly identical to Site A loads nearly instantly. The owner of Site B makes the sale while Site A slowly loses money. What’s the problem? Our larger competitors can easily pay off your Internet Service Provider (ISP – companies like Comcast, Spectrum, etc.) to make sure their network gets “VIP” treatment and will load fast for their customers. Since NodeSpace is a smaller company, we can’t pay off your ISP for the same treatment which means in return, our sites could potentially load slower or not at all. When this happens, smaller companies like us will lose business to the larger competitors and eventually disappear. We’ve signed a letter, alongside over 800 other small technology businesses, to the FCC chairman because we love what we do and we love our customers.

This is not right. We need your help to tell the FCC that this action is dangerous to small businesses and startups. Sign the petition. Make the call. Spread the word. We need you now more than ever. Help us Save The Internet.

Understanding and using Git

If you have downloaded free and open source software, you’ve probably heard of a site called GitHub. Maybe your CMS software is hosted there. But what is “Git” and why is it popular and why should you use it, even on small sites?

Understanding Git

What is Git? To put it simply, Git is a version control system. A version control system allows software developers to work on teams and work on code of a project together. Teams of all sizes use it, from single developers to teams of hundreds of thousands. The best thing about Git is that it is distributed. Every developer on the team has a copy of the different repositories. They make the changes local on their system and then push these up to the Git server and into the appropriate branch. Another great reason to use Git is that it is free and open source software. Since it’s open source, it has been ported into most IDEs (like Visual Studio) and is supported on every platform – Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Using Git

Git is installed on your computer or your development machine. From here, you checkout code from the repository, make a branch, and get to work. You do all your work in your branch. You then push your branch up to allow others to work on it as well. No matter if you’re cranking out PHP, JavaScript, C#, or even HTML, using Git can save you a lot of headache!

If you’re looking for a great Git tutorial to get you up and running, we highly suggest checking out this guide from Atlassian to get you started.

Why you should use version control on your website

Your website is a living application. You’re going to make changes to it, maybe you want to bring a developer on, maybe you even want historical records of your site. Git makes this all easy! Having different branches means you can work on different portions of your site and then merge them together when it’s all done.

Hosting your Git repo

Although Git is decentralized, it is centralized in a way. You need to connect to a Git server to store your code. A popular one is GitHub. It’s free and it allows you to create unlimited public repos (this means that anyone can access it, great for open source projects not so great for proprietary code). If you need private repos (like authorized team members can access the repo with their login), this is where GitHub will cost you. If you’re on a limited budget, or want to use a different service, we recommend GitLab. Xinsto, our parent company, uses GitLab for some of our internal software projects and it’s our favourite especially because you can have private repos for free.

Publishing your site with Git

This is where it gets cool – you can actually publish your site using a combination of shell scripting and Git (and yes, NodeSpace supports this with our Elite plan and on all dedicated and virtual servers!). There are various instructions on how to do this all over the internet. Due to this being advanced, our support team is unable to “officially” support it, however we will gladly help you!

cPanel or not?

When it comes to getting a dedicated or virtual server, we offer the option to add on cPanel which is a popular control panel. But should you get it? We get this question a lot so we thought we would share with our experiences with cPanel versus not using cPanel so you can make the right choice.

What are you hosting?

The first question to ask is, “What are you hosting?” If you’re a business and this server is going to be hosting your website and some online applications and you have a team knowledgeable with Linux (or Windows), you don’t need cPanel. This will allow you to have full control over the server and install any applications you’d like without major consequences. Now if you’re a web designer and you’re offering clients hosting, we definitely recommend having cPanel along with our managed hosting service. This allows you to focus on websites and we’ll handle your server.

Are you comfortable with Linux?

Here’s a big one – you need to be comfortable with Linux to manage your server. This means a lot of command line as there is no GUI (graphical user interface) on our Linux servers. If you’re not comfortable with working in a pure command line environment, then a cPanel environment would be right for you. Managing backups and even configuring a mail server and FTP server can be a bit difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Take it from the host…

We definitely recommend cPanel. It definitely makes management much easier. Coupling cPanel with our Managed service means that you get the full power of our support staff and you can focus on what you do best. Leave the servers to us!

Contact us today to see how we can help you!

Speeding up WordPress with these 3 plugins

WordPress is a wonderful platform for building a beautiful website or even a blog but sometimes with all that power comes a trade-off: it can eventually get bogged down! Super slow websites are not fun and it can definitely hurt your SEO as well as annoy your website visitors. Did you know that 90% of people will abandon a website if it fails to load in 3 seconds? This is why keeping your website fast and optimized is important! One of the problems that many WordPress sites encounter is that a lot of themes and plugins are built poorly. They add excessive JavaScript and CSS files that must be downloaded and it really slows your website down. However, there’s a great way to mitigate this using some plugins that really help!

1. WP Fastest Cache

This plugin we actually use here at NodeSpace. You would not believe how slowly our development site crawled before installing WP Fastest Cache. First, this plugin is the simplest of all the other plugins. You simply check which options you want such as pre-loading the cache, when the cache should be updated, minify HTML, minify CSS, minify JavaScript, enable browser caching, and Gzip. That’s all there is to it! The free version doesn’t show you statistics or allow you to optimize images, but from what we found in testing, it’ll definitely help speed up your site! Using the Test My Site tool from Think With Google, we were able to get our scores into the high 80’s regarding website speed on mobile and desktop!

2. W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache – just a small set of options

This is another plugin that we use on our corporate website, xinsto.com. Our corporate site is very heavy and speeding it up was a challenge which is why we were so happy when we gave W3 Total Cache a go, it made a major improvement. Unlike WP Fastest Cache, W3 Total Cache has a lot of options. This allows you to easily play with all the settings and find out what works best for your site. Likewise, when we got all the settings right, we saw a huge performance increase! It renders like static HTML, since, well, it’s static HTML when it gets served to the client! Speedy!

3. WP Super Cache

Feature rich WP Super Cache

If you’re running a WordPress site already and you’ve gone to the Add Plugins page, there’s a great chance you’ve seen WP Super Cache featured. It’s been there for quite some time and for good reason too! This is another plugin which we have used on our corporate website and have seen major performance increases with it meaning it can supercharge your website! This plugin is a little different in the sense that there are 3 ways in which it serves files, from fastest to slowest: Mod_Rewrite – It bypasses PHP and serves static HTML files to the client. It also is preferred because it reduces the load on the server too! PHP – This works as a hybrid mode of Mod_Rewrite and live dynamic file serving as it serves a static cache page, but it also allows dynamic processing on the fly. It’s still comparably fast as Mod_Rewrite, but it does use some resources. Legacy – This is the slowest, but most flexible when it comes to caching. This is used for logged in users, known users, and dynamic pages. The upside to WP Super Cache? It’s built by Automattic, the makers of WordPress.

Know of something else?

Do you know of another awesome way to speed up your WordPress site? Share it with us in the comments below or on Twitter @NodeSpace! We’d love to see what you do and we’ll even possibly feature your tricks in a future blog post!