SiteGround Blog

Stoked by Reasons To Be Creative

I spent last week in Brighton (UK), attending the Reasons To Be Creative conference, which SiteGround sponsored. Right from the beginning of the event I started hearing the word “stoked” (completely and intensely enthusiastic, exhilarated, or excited about something, according to the Urban Dictionary) unusually often. I heard it repeatedly used not only by John Davey (the great guy organizing the event), but also by many of the attendees. By the end of the event I already knew how it felt like to be stoked myself. Reasons To Be Creative is one of those rare opportunities to get truly inspired, that you just can’t miss, especially if you are working in the digital creativity space, and even if you are just a business-oriented person with no previous experience with Photoshop or any other Adobe product (as I am). Allowing yourself to be challenged, provoked and inspired is a key ingredient of life and we should be looking for opportunities to get that. Events like this tempt you to want more for yourself, to get better in what you do, and most of all, to unleash your creativity. Creativity is a result of a hard work You thought that creativity is a gift and comes easily to few chosen people only? Well there were many speakers on this event, who are globally recognized for their creative genius that were eager to challenge this notion and to present creativity as something that everyone can and should strive for. As Jon Howard (Exec Product Manager for BBC, @swingpants) pointed out creativity is more a result of hard work and drawing connecting lines between the dots of your experience and knowledge. Kate Moross who now makes the album covers for many cool labels, and James White whose illustrations led him to working with clients like Toyota, MTV and more, have a lot to say about the process and the hard work to get there. They wandered for a while, experimented with their work, before settling for the style that makes them unique and brings them the big clients. Creativity requires courage to be yourself When you add some courage to the hard work you are on the right track! Many people work jobs that give them financial stability and security, but don’t make them happy and don’t allow them to develop their true potential and creativity. If you feel you are selling your soul for hire, you may be inspired by Sara Blake, a graphics designer and artist from New York, who made amazing large scale murals for the Footlocker Nike House of Hoops Store in New York City. She urges you: “Don’t wait for someone to hire you to do work”. Many people feel that employers and customers put limitations to their creativity. And from my standpoint of a project manager working with designers, I would say: yes, in every commercial project there are business objectives, apart from the pure aesthetic pleasure. However, you should not be afraid of having your own distinctive style and ideas. People doing design are not just instruments in the hands of the business people. We do things together, each of us bringing our unique expertise. When the aimed business goal matches the designer’s unique style, the best results are achieved. Creativity is not afraid of criticism If you feel inspired to make the leap in the dark, unleashing yourself, you should be aware that criticism and disapproval are inevitable, but if you accept the good and the bad as sources of learning, you’ll most probably learn faster. James Victore, whose art is full of social causes and powerful messages, said “you have no friends, no enemies, just good teachers”. So if you think you carry that creativity bean inside you that needs to be uncovered, Reasons To Be Creative will challenge you to stop being an artist in disguise, hired by someone to do anything else but the work you really want to do. You can hear so many amazing, real-life stories of wonderful artists that there is no way you get out of this event without some courage to do the things you like. I hope you will also be as stoked as I was. You can see pictures from Reasons to be Creative in our Facebook album.

Stoked by Reasons To Be Creative

I spent last week in Brighton (UK), attending the Reasons To Be Creative conference, which SiteGround sponsored. Right from the beginning of the event I started hearing the word “stoked” (completely and intensely enthusiastic, exhilarated, or excited about something, according to the Urban Dictionary) unusually often. I heard it repeatedly used not only by John Davey (the great guy organizing the event), but also by many of the attendees. By the end of the event I already knew how it felt like to be stoked myself. Reasons To Be Creative is one of those rare opportunities to get truly inspired, that you just can’t miss, especially if you are working in the digital creativity space, and even if you are just a business-oriented person with no previous experience with Photoshop or any other Adobe product (as I am). Allowing yourself to be challenged, provoked and inspired is a key ingredient of life and we should be looking for opportunities to get that. Events like this tempt you to want more for yourself, to get better in what you do, and most of all, to unleash your creativity. Creativity is a result of a hard work You thought that creativity is a gift and comes easily to few chosen people only? Well there were many speakers on this event, who are globally recognized for their creative genius that were eager to challenge this notion and to present creativity as something that everyone can and should strive for. As Jon Howard (Exec Product Manager for BBC, @swingpants) pointed out creativity is more a result of hard work and drawing connecting lines between the dots of your experience and knowledge. Kate Moross who now makes the album covers for many cool labels, and James White whose illustrations led him to working with clients like Toyota, MTV and more, have a lot to say about the process and the hard work to get there. They wandered for a while, experimented with their work, before settling for the style that makes them unique and brings them the big clients. Creativity requires courage to be yourself When you add some courage to the hard work you are on the right track! Many people work jobs that give them financial stability and security, but don’t make them happy and don’t allow them to develop their true potential and creativity. If you feel you are selling your soul for hire, you may be inspired by Sara Blake, a graphics designer and artist from New York, who made amazing large scale murals for the Footlocker Nike House of Hoops Store in New York City. She urges you: “Don’t wait for someone to hire you to do work”. Many people feel that employers and customers put limitations to their creativity. And from my standpoint of a project manager working with designers, I would say: yes, in every commercial project there are business objectives, apart from the pure aesthetic pleasure. However, you should not be afraid of having your own distinctive style and ideas. People doing design are not just instruments in the hands of the business people. We do things together, each of us bringing our unique expertise. When the aimed business goal matches the designer’s unique style, the best results are achieved. Creativity is not afraid of criticism If you feel inspired to make the leap in the dark, unleashing yourself, you should be aware that criticism and disapproval are inevitable, but if you accept the good and the bad as sources of learning, you’ll most probably learn faster. James Victore, whose art is full of social causes and powerful messages, said “you have no friends, no enemies, just good teachers”. So if you think you carry that creativity bean inside you that needs to be uncovered, Reasons To Be Creative will challenge you to stop being an artist in disguise, hired by someone to do anything else but the work you really want to do. You can hear so many amazing, real-life stories of wonderful artists that there is no way you get out of this event without some courage to do the things you like. I hope you will also be as stoked as I was. You can see pictures from Reasons to be Creative in our Facebook album.

SiteGround Customers Protected Against Serious VirtueMart Vulnerability!

A serious vulnerability in the popular Joomla extension VirtueMart was discovered by the awesome people at Sucuri during one of their regular security audits. It allows regular users to gain Super Administrator privileges to a Joomla website with VirtueMart 2.6.8c and below installed on it. If a site with an older version of VirtueMart allows user registration (which is a default mode in VirtueMart) it can be hacked through this vulnerability. Our security team has acted immediately and we’ve added the necessary rules to our in-house application layer firewall in order to protect our customers. VirtueMart developers have been super fast too – a new version that fixes the bug is already released. Although we got you shielded, we strongly recommend that you upgrade VirtueMart to its latest version!

SiteGround Customers Protected Against Serious VirtueMart Vulnerability!

A serious vulnerability in the popular Joomla extension VirtueMart was discovered by the awesome people at Sucuri during one of their regular security audits. It allows regular users to gain Super Administrator privileges to a Joomla website with VirtueMart 2.6.8c and below installed on it. If a site with an older version of VirtueMart allows user registration (which is a default mode in VirtueMart) it can be hacked through this vulnerability. Our security team has acted immediately and we’ve added the necessary rules to our in-house application layer firewall in order to protect our customers. VirtueMart developers have been super fast too – a new version that fixes the bug is already released. Although we got you shielded, we strongly recommend that you upgrade VirtueMart to its latest version!

Upcoming Chicago Data Center Migration

Few months ago our data center partner SingleHop has successfully completed their newest and most advanced facility in Chicago. With all the innovations introduced on the spot, we were excited by the great opportunity it gives us to further improve our hosting service. To make this happen we will transfer to it all our US-based accounts during the next few months. The new location is above the best industry standards and will encompass the currently used one with: higher class network equipment that will result in better speed better organized space of SiteGround machines in private cabinets for higher security and better connectivity on-site 24/7 network operations center, which will make even the highest-end technicians, who were previously managing the machines remotely, available on the spot. This will speed up issue resolutions. The move to the new facility is one of our most exciting tech projects this quarter and has been carefully planned in details over the past few months. The first 35 dedicated servers have already been physically moved to the new location without any issues and are already successfully running from there. All customers that are now hosted in our US location will be personally notified with more information by email at least 5 days before their particular accounts will be moved. Some of the servers will be transferred over the wire, without physical move of the machines, while others will be switched off and moved physically to the new location. The majority of the transfers will be scheduled during the weekend nights, as this is the less active period for most of the websites. During the transfer there will be a constant status update in the user area of the all customers, whose accounts are on the move. We are looking forward to moving to this great new facility and we will keep you informed all the way!

SiteGround Reporting live from Affiliate Summit East

As any other marketing channel, affiliate marketing has its tips and tricks, and it takes know-how and experience to be good at it. That is why Missy Ward and Shawn Collins have undertaken the difficult task of helping affiliates and merchants share knowledge and find new business opportunities by organizing the Affiliate Summit conference that happens twice a year – on the East and on the West coast of the USA. The most recent Affiliate Summit just happened in New York, from August 10th to August 12th, and our team was quite excited to attend it. This year in New York, the learning focus was on how to maintain an affiliate website and get traffic to it. What is affiliate marketing?   For those of you who don’t know what affiliate marketing is – that’s when you (acting as an affiliate) refer third-party products on your website and get paid for driving them sales. It looks easy to do it – place a banner on your website with a unique affiliate link that the merchant will provide for you and when some of your visitors click and buy from the merchant, you will get a commission. Pretty straightforward, right? Yet, if you want to be serious about it and actually make money from it, you may have to learn a thing or two and that’s why going to an Affiliate summit is really useful. How to start and maintain an affiliate website? It seems the most natural way to get started with the affiliate marketing is by starting a blog. Thus just as naturally one of the hottest keywords out there was “WordPress”. David Vogelpohl (Marketing Clique) and Jeremy Palmer made a speech about the ultimate “toolkit” of plugins and optimizations needed to be a successful affiliate using WordPress. Adam Riemer on the other hand explained the ways to monetize your website going into specifics like where to place your ads and how to make more money out of them.  How to get traffic? All good, but if your site gets no visitors, there is no one you could send to buy the products you advertise. Rae Hoffman, Roger Montti, Scott Polk, and quite a few other experts will help you with that and show you how to do SEO and link building for more traffic. You will hear lots of advanced terms like “negative SEO” and “reverse content marketing”, which sound quite complicated, but all in all, it’s a lot about following Google’s best practices and building links to your website that are as natural as possible, meaning people have a good reason to link to you, other than being paid to do so. The best of these reasons is that you are someone worth quoting and linking to. Thus the ultimate advice of the experts that already make a 6-digit revenue from affiliate marketing is to start building a brand for yourself. If you listen to John Chow it looks kinda easy, but if you hear John Rampton and how he wrote 6 articles a day, you may want to think twice. Point is, affiliate marketing is a continuous work. Matthew Woodward, a British blogger with the authoritative website matthewwoodward.co.uk wrapped it up nicely by providing a more strategic view on the process and how all actions you need to take are related. Building trust with quality content and no-bullshit approach is his way to make visitors come over and over again and listen to your product recommendations. Our advice for SiteGround affiliates If you are serious about making money through affiliate marketing do not miss any opportunity to visit Affiliate Summits. There you will not only listen to people that are already successful, but you will be able to network and talk personally with them. Though affiliate marketing is largely an online activity, real face-to-face and personal relationships with the people that are the trend-setters in the community is the best shortcut to becoming successful on the affiliate market!

WordPress & Drupal Vulnerability? –  Keep calm and update!

Yesterday, a serious vulnerability in the PHP XML parser used by WordPress and Drupal was announced. After some great collaboration between the core developers of those applications, new versions that address the issue were released for both WordPress and Drupal. We, at SiteGround, are proactively addressing the issue too:  Our security team has been addressing the issue on the server level. We have discerned unwanted activity during last week and have applied certain firewall rules to mitigate it even before the exploited issue was announced. Once we became aware of the officially published details of the problem, we were able to refine our server level defense. Our team is on the guard and ready to add a future improvement if needed.  All WordPress users, who use our autoupdater will be updated to the newest version in 24 hours after the announcement was made All WordPress users, who do not use our autoupdater but are on a version 3.7 or higher will be automatically updated by the native WordPress update function too. Once the automatic updates are done, we will scan our servers for outdated WordPress versions and will contact by email their users to recommend update. We will also contact all Drupal users on our servers, whose applications are not updated and will strongly encourage them to go ahead and get the latest version.

Joomla! Kunena Vulnerability Fixed on all SiteGround Servers

Critical vulnerability in the famous Kunena forum component for Joomla! were announced three days ago and a new version of the component that addresses the issue was released. According to the official Kunena blog post all extension that are not updated to the latest version are vulnerable and the attackers may use XSS and SQL injection to gain full access to a Joomla! site. Immediately after the Kunena team tweeted about the issue SiteGround security team took rapid actions to protect all customers hosted on our servers. I have personally contacted the developers of the component and we worked together to write special rules for our web application firewall that will filter out all malicious requests that try to take advantage of this exploit. Even though we protected all of our customers, no matter which version of Kunena they use, we still advise all users to upgrade their Kunena component to the latest stable version 3.0.6 in which the issue is fixed.

SiteGround at OSCON 2014

You’ve probably heard that before, but here at SiteGround, we love Open Source. Our hosting platform is built on open source software, we host more than 150 different open source apps, and we sponsor various open source events and communities. Yet, this was our first time we sponsored OSCON – the biggest conference about everything open source, that happened in Portland last week. We shared our knowledge… The scope of the event and the amount of information that flew around was amazing. One could really see and meet the best of the best from all major IT companies (using or developing open source software) sending teams and speakers there. That is why we were very proud to have our Head of the Development Team – Mihail Irintchev talk about his currently favorite Phing – a tool that helps our development team streamline the app building process and minimize the code errors. And believe me, coming from the project management side of it, this phing is a good thing! One of the hottest topics at OSCON was the container-based server technology. Our Chief System Architect – Marian Marinov had a great BOF (birds of a feather session) where he and his quite knowledgeable audience discussed some poignant problems with the Linux containers, sharing ideas on how they resolved them. You probably wonder what does Marian know about Linux containers, as our current platform is not built on such? Well, it’s not that we’ve kept it a secret, just didn’t really had the chance to talk about it yet, but for the last 6 months Marian and his team have been working hard to develop a highly scalable and redundant hosting platform on Linux containers. It won’t be long before you hear more of that platform and how it will add value to our service. …and we had fun! And of course a serious conference like OSCON always comes with some serious party time. It started the first evening with an electrifying “Glow Run”, where we all had to run (some of us mostly walk) 5K in some of those glittering bracelets (and other accessories for those who wanted to go wild). Then we kept it going with a fun jenga game at our booth, awarding both the most skillful player who moved 26 pieces in 2 minutes without breaking the tower and the luckiest one who won the raffle for a Pebble watch. Finally, our team ended up OSCON with a great local craft beer at the impressive 27th Oregon Brew Fest. Technically, the Brew Fest wasn’t part of the OSCON, but the two events coincided so conveniently in Portland that we just couldn’t miss it. Mihail, a huge fan of craft beer and a huge fan of sharing a good drink with a good company, invited the most active members of his session’s audience for a beer at the Brew Fest to award them for their active participation and wonderful questions. Indeed, we love Open Source and we loved OSCON just as much! Now go ahead and see some of the great moments we had there.

WPtouch Security Vulnerability Fixed on SiteGround Servers

A serious vulnerability in one of the most popular WordPress plugins – WPtouch was announced yesterday. The exploit allows registered users to upload malicious PHP files to your website and use them to gain further access to it. The plugin that creates a mobile-friendly version of your website is widely used so our security team immediately took action to prevent our users from getting hacked through this exploit. We’ve acted in a manner that has been proven successful in the recent JetPack and TimThumb vulnerabilities – we used our application layer firewall to filter out all requests to our servers that try to utilize the exploit. Although, our customers are shielded against this vulnerability at a server level, we strongly recommend that you update your WPtouch plugin to it’s latest version where the security issue is properly fixed by the plugin developers.

Magento GO Transfer – Look No Further

If you are a Magento GO customer you have probably already heard of the upcoming shutdown of the service. We have had quite a few existing and prospective customers ask about the options they have if they are to continue using Magento by switching to Magento Community Edition, so we decided it would be a good idea to put it down in writing so that more people can consider the various opportunities. Why continue using Magento? Magento has emerged as the dominant platform for those interested in e-commerce. The opportunities it provides in terms of customization and optimization are nearly unlimited and it allows you to quickly build an effective and scalable business operation. With the discontinuing of the hosted solution Magento GO, those using it will find it easier to continue working on Magento Community Edition, the open-source and free edition of the software, than to move to a new platform which has different interfaces and features in the least. Since you are already familiar with running a Magento-based shop, you’ll be able to focus on rebuilding your store rather than learning how to use a completely new piece of software. Additionally, with Magento CE you will continue to enjoy direct integration with eBay, which is sometimes cumbersome on other shopping platforms and requires additional setup. Moreover, there is another serious benefit of switching from Magento GO to the open-source version of the core software. With the Community Edition you get access to Magento Connect – a marketplace where thousands of free and premium extensions and themes are offered. How to switch over to Magento CE? Moving to Magento CE starts by choosing a new hosting provider and platform. All in all, the choice you face is between going with a fully-managed (yet restrained) pricey solution and a cheap unreliable hosting plan with no Magento customization and/or expertise. At SiteGround we have opted for the middle ground with the aim of providing a really powerful, yet completely affordable service. Our server infrastructure, combined with the special setup and additional Magento caching software (also known as the SuperCacher), allows Magento to run reliably even on our shared hosting plans. After you have decided on the hosting provider, you have to get a fresh install of the software on your new hosting platform. Don’t worry – SiteGround will install Magento Community Edition for free and give you a completely unrestricted access, including FTP, database access, and a range of other useful goodies like email. That settled, you will then have the opportunity to export the important store data from the MagentGo platform and import it in the new Magento CE installation with your new host. You should be aware though, that the extent to which you will be able to migrate the exact look and feel of the shop, very much depends on the customizations you made and there are some cases in which full migration is not possible, no matter how much money you are ready to pay. Ready to move? Check out our Magento Hosting page to explore all features and get started! We are available 24/7 to answer your questions and navigate you through the migration process.

World Cup fever at SiteGround!

With the World Cup Finals approaching, the excitement in the SiteGround office grows enormously! A SiteGround soccer team was formed and it has already won few matches against other IT companies in the city. Our development department has organised internal betting, which turned people, who have never watched a soccer game before, into completely hooked-up fans. And now, at the final stages of this great competition, we decided to share the football fun with all of our customers too and we have organized a special game that can bring you some awesome SiteGround football prizes. The Game Rules The game rules are as simple as possible: starting today, to the final itself, we will post on our Facebook Page images with the flags of the countries that will play in all the matches during each round you need to comment under any of the images, guessing who will be the final winner from the related match (no exact results wanted, only the winner) only comments posted before the beginning of the match will be counted after the round is over, we will draw one winner per each match played from the people, who have guessed correctly the winning team The Prizes! One person per match will receive the full SiteGround World Cup soccer kit with your name on the back of the t-shirt! With our professional sports jersey you will be always the star on the field. After the final match is over, we will draw one more lucky winner from all of you who have guessed at least one match outcome who will win the big prize – a beautiful Nike Gold FuelBand fitness tracker! That’s it, pick up your favourite team and go to our Facebook page to support it to the final!

Two-factor authentication now available for your SiteGround account!

If you have gone through the anguish of having your personal information exposed to theft and abuse, you probably already realize that even the best password is not always enough to protect your data against unauthorized access. There are many ways how you can find yourself exposed: lost/stolen electronic devices, electronic fraud (phishing, scam, etc.), and hacking of popular service providers have all become widespread. Two-factor authentication has become the weapon of choice to add an extra layer of security and in recent months we have had several requests from customers to integrate it with our services. True to our commitment to the security of users’ data, we have now made available this option for all SiteGround customers. What is two-factor authentication? Two-factor login improves your account security by adding another password which is dynamically generated and changes every few minutes. In order to use it, you need a smartphone application where you will be finding the code you need to log in each time. Two-step login greatly improves the security of your account because it combines two unique factors: something only you know (your password) and something only you have access to (your smartphone). Even if one of those gets compromised (we hope not), having the second layer of security still protects your account from unauthorized access. How to enable two-factor login for your account? Two-factor authentication can be enabled from the ‘My Details’ section in your SiteGround User Area. The process to turn it on is explained in the User Area but if you need further guidance, please check out the Two-factor Authentication Tutorial we have created. Please remember, that once you enable two-factor login, you will need your smartphone every time you want to access your SiteGround account. Even if you share access with other people you can still use two-factor authentication by adding your SiteGround account on multiple devices. What if you lose your codes? It happens, we know. A lost or stolen phone or a sudden reset with all data lost. With two-factor login enabled, there is a small chance that you might lose access to your account. If something like that happens we have provided you with two backup options to turn off two-factor authentication: a verified phone number to send a disabling code to, and a pre-set backup code. Both are configured during the activation process. We hope you find two-factor authentication useful and convenient. In case you experience any difficulties setting it up or using it, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. As always, we are ready to listen to feedback from our customers and looking for ways to improve our services.

TimThumb Critical Vulnerability Fixed on SiteGround Servers

Another serious security issue was reported earlier today within one of the popular WordPress plugins for managing thumbnails – TimThumb. This plugin already has a history of causing security issues in the past with which we dealt with. The current vulnerability allows the attacker to gain unauthorised access to your hosting account and even execute shell commands on it. Needless to say, this is not something we can allow to happen. Our security team has reacted immediatelly after the vulnerability was disclosed. We have applied a patch in our in-house system to protect all our customers from getting hacked through TimThumb. Currently, if you’re hosted on SiteGround, you will be protected against hacking attempts that try to utilise this problem. However, we strongly recommend that you switch plugins or update TimThumb as soon as new version is released.

SiteGround SMS Notifications now Help you Sleep Better!

It is very stressful to receive a call while on a vacation by a customer, asking if you have any idea why his site is down. It is even more unpleasant to realize that the reason is something so simple, as a failed renewal, or something else, that you could have easily prevented, if you knew about it on time. To minimize the chance for such situations we have launched a brand new SMS notification system. We started sending messages about failed renewals and resource usage issues, at the beginning of the month. Since then, more than 420 people have taken actions preventing possible downtime after receiving such a message. The feedback is already awesome, with many grateful people coming to our life chat to say “thank you for saving the trouble!”. The notification system is switched on by default for all customers. However, in order to work, we need your valid mobile phone on file. So if you haven’t added it to your profile, we urge you to do so in my details section. If you have any comment about the system, or would like to see any specific improvement in it in the future, do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Our Affiliates’ Verdict: Quality Matters!

When we launched our new affiliate program almost 2 years ago we aimed to increase the number of people who recommend us by providing very competitive payout terms. However, we did not want to diminish the importance of our service quality and our goal was to keep it the number one reason for people to endorse us. The ever growing numbers of affiliate sales over the last 2 years showed that we were on the right track in attracting more affiliates, but we were not so sure about their motivation to join the program and recommend us. That, combined with our wish to gather more information about who our affiliates are, how they rate the different aspects of the program, and what we can do to make things better for them, made us conduct a survey among our affiliates and the results are summarized below. Who is our Affiliate? The survey answers revealed the profile of our affiliates is a mix representing the following groups: designer and web developer professionals, bloggers and affiliate marketers, as well as SiteGround clients happy to recommend our services. Half of our survey respondents belong to the designer and web developer communities, who trust SiteGround with their business and value our hosting even further to promote us as affiliates. Bloggers and affiliate marketers form more than a quarter of our affiliates, and the main characteristic of the remaining respondents is they prefer to recommend SiteGround to their personal network. Why join the SiteGround Affiliate program? Across the different professional groups and our clients the predominant factor to join the affiliate program was SiteGround’s service quality. It was determined as very important by an overwhelming 84% of the respondents. We couldn’t be happier about this result coming as recognition of our belief that the main motivation for recommending our services should be its quality. And while it is expected the designer and developer professionals will value service quality, as they recommend us to their customers and often need to work with us for ongoing projects, we were expecting that our hosting quality might not be the most important reason for more professional bloggers and affiliate marketers, who often rely on affiliate commissions as a primary income source. Yet, as a group they also have given the highest importance to service quality as a factor for becoming our affiliates.  The business incentive for making money from commissions is the second most important reason to become a SiteGround affiliate followed closely by the easiness to join the program. How Affiliates rate our program? Over 90% of the overall ratings for the affiliate program are spread between the very good and good responses. This positive evaluation is also validated by the clear preference to recommend SiteGround using the in-house affiliate program, instead of a third-party affiliate network. The features that received the highest results in the assessment of the program were: commission rates, payout policies, affiliate banners and program support. We do have some room for improvement on the affiliate newsletter, statistics and tracking, and affiliate PDFs with promo information. According to our affiliates special promotions work best to generate sales. They were ranked as the most efficient tool for recommending SiteGround, and almost 90% of the respondents would like to receive information in advance about upcoming promotions. Our own sales data backs up this result, as we have observed increased affiliate sales during special promotions periods like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and SiteGround Anniversary, compared to normal days. We are glad to see that a good percentage of our affiliates have taken advantage of the special promotions already, but we want to encourage even more members of the program to utilize this tool to maximize their results. What’s next? Along with the positive feedback about the affiliate program we identified areas that can be improved as well. Some of them included insufficient knowledge about the tools available in the affiliate area designated by the “I don’t know” answers given to the questions for evaluating the program features and tools. The answers in our survey also indicated a big interest for attendance of a webinar on tactics to increase affiliate sales. Holding a webinar about practical tips for generating more sales within our program seems like a natural next step that will help our affiliates turn their sales potential into earnings. Conclusion To sum up the survey results we can say the affiliate program is successful at getting across SiteGround’s message that our services are worth promoting because of the high quality, and thanks to our affiliate partners we have expanded our presence in the hosting services market. We are grateful to everybody who participated in the survey and shared their opinions about the program. Thank you for your input and helping us define the path forward.

Student Web Hosting – A look at Product Management at SiteGround

Sharing knowledge is one of the main moving forces at SiteGround and our technical tutorials, webinars, and resources are well-known to people building on Joomla, WordPress, and other platforms. Today, we would like to test sharing knowledge a different area – how we approach marketing and product management at the company. Six months have passed since the improved Student Hosting Program was introduced and this gives me a good opportunity to tell you about the process of launching new products that we apply. There is a structured approach that we usually follow that is as simple as answering a few questions: Is there an opportunity here? Who is our customer? What need/problem do they have? What is our solution to that problem? How do we reach them? How do we measure if our product is solving their problem? How do we improve from here? OK, probably not that simple, but you get the idea – breaking up a big project in smaller chunks makes it easier to get started and avoid forgetting important stuff. Every project and product is different and thus answering the questions may require different approach, but here are some examples from our experience on how we went about it: Identify the opportunity Be sure of one thing: the opportunities are out there. Maybe they are buried deep down in your client base and/or your analytics data, but finding and taking advantage of them is what can make or break your business. At SiteGround, there is a promotion for existing customers, which adds 1 month to the expiration date of the hosting account of the customer, for every successful person referred signs up for a discounted plan. We noticed that some people were making great use of this promotion – at that time some of our customers had already amassed free hosting for the next 10 years. Upon further investigation, it turned out those were professors from various institutions who needed professional web hosting for their students and found a great deal for their students through our referral program. This looked very promising, however, it was a rough diamond at best – a lot of work needed to be done, before we could take advantage of it. Who is your customer? When you have the opportunity at hand you have to start developing your product by thinking who is it that you are creating a product for. Use marketing personas to flesh them out if it will help with your planning. It is imperative that you define the problems you think they have that you will be solving with your product. But don’t stop there! Go out and validate your hypotheses! Find someone who (you think) fits the description of your customer or someone who really knows your customer and talk to them. Trade shows and conferences are a great place for this, but surveys, focus groups, and 1-on-1 phone and in-person interviews are also an excellent way to validate. Finding out that students and professors needed good hosting was not enough to come up with a project. So when we began to think about a special program catering to the university population, we sought to speak to people who were teaching students how to design and code websites and web applications at the various WordPress and Joomla events we attend. Over and over again, we were hearing the same thing – they felt their students were let down by suboptimal institutional solutions. They wanted something simple, reliable, and effective they could use in class. It sounded a lot like they needed SiteGround hosting. We just had to find a way to give it to them that would make both academic and business sense. Define your solution Once you know who your customer is and what their needs are, step forward and define your goals with regards to serving them. With the students’ program, we defined three main targets: To allow students to work with a full-featured hosting account, both in terms of cutting-edge technology used, as well as the level of service we provide to our regular customers To help them internalize the most widely used software in the industry – cPanel, Softaculous, Caching, CDN, etc. To let them focus on building an aptitude to serve them in an Internet that is (and will continue to be) heavily dominated by applications such as WordPress, Joomla, Magento, etc. Of course, there should also be a practical business objective present, even with subsidized programs like Student Web Hosting. In our case, it is expanding the brand recognition of SiteGround and allowing future professionals to make better informed decisions when they get to the point to be the decision maker. Lastly, goals (both technical and business) are important, because they set the metric system by which you’ll be measuring the success (or failure) of the product you have created. Reaching your target market It is common knowledge that no matter how good your product is, the market will not ‘pull’ it from your hands. You have to be proactive and find ways to bring the product you spent so much time building to the attention of its intended users. That’s easier said than done. There is the huge cost, associated with promotion and direct sales, both in terms of time and money. Even if we forget about it for a second, there are hundreds (maybe even thousands) different products fighting for a small place in the user’s mind. Luckily there are ways to ‘hack’ your way into the consumer’s mind. Think of the ‘channels’ and ‘meeting-places’ (yes, digital), your potential customers frequent, that you can leverage to your advantage. With the student program the webpages and SEO on them gave us a good basis to work with. These provide for around 10 hot leads on a weekly basis, coming from educators & organizations interested in joining the program. Word-of-mouth is another important contributor, now that we have a base of happy partners. Cold calling professors who we think would be a good fit is another path we are just starting to explore. Lastly, another great way to ‘growth hack’ the student program was by initiating partnerships with student-run and oriented organizations and publications. Some of the high-profile partnerships we have started in the last 6 months included: CG Student Awards, a leading competition for students of computer animation and graphics, allowed us to reach a global audience with the program and evaluate potential new markets to target ThePolitic, Yale’s 60-year-old political journal run by students, was a test to expand to a somewhat different demographic and see whether the program would gain traction with them Measuring impact Success & failure are defined by the goals you set in the planning phase. If you are not measuring by those goals, then they are not you real objectives. If your goal is straightforward – something like ‘make the most sales’ or ‘generate new leads’, then get counting. Try to segment where each sale is coming from (in terms of the ‘channels’ discussed in the previous section) and measure how well they are ‘converting’ – use a simple metric such as # sales/# visitors from a source (people usually call this ‘conversion rate’) or something more complex in accordance with your specifics. It gets more challenging when you have to put structure to ‘fuzzy’ goals. My advice is – get creative. Not in the ‘make up your own numbers’ kind of way, but really think in broad strokes about how you can put structure to finding out whether you hit your marks. With the Student Program we could have focused on the easily measurable – number of accounts created. And from the numbers we have seen in the last 6 months – close to 1500 signups and partnerships with over 20 different institutions – we could make the case that the program is a success. Champagne popped. However, we felt that looking solely at the numbers is not enough. If you go back and look at the goals mentioned above, you’ll see that they are all qualitative – therefore numbers alone would not have given us an answer whether we had achieved them. So we decided to go back to those who inspired the program – the educators (a group which has grown considerably since) - and ask them about their experience with the program. We were careful to ask questions which would not ‘lead’ the respondents into telling us what we wanted to hear – so most were very broad, the “what did you like/dislike about the program” type. Still, the answers that came back were really close to what we were hoping to hear. From the things professors had to say, it seemed that we managed to achieve all three objectives we set out with: Providing comprehensive hosting solution to students “Student Hosting is very helpful for my Harvard Extension courses because students can standardize on hosting from one source.” — Jen Kramer, Harvard Extension School “The support has been amazing. Truly! The best I’ve ever encountered.” — David Maier, Mt. Hood Community College Internalizing the most popular software One of the main strengths of the Student Hosting Program is how easy it makes things for me. I’ve always been timid to teach cPanel due to […] my inability to have students interact with it on their own machines. With SiteGround’s Student Hosting Program, this problem has been alleviated. Now, each of my students has his or her own private account, with its own cPanel. — Dave Winter, California State University Long Beach […]The student program is great! It allows us to teach our students real-world FTP and cPanel management strategies, and it allows them to work on their work at home, school, or on the road without carrying a flash drive. It’s been a huge help this semester. — Vincent Panico, Raritan Valley Community College Preparing future Joomla & WordPress stars! The program is a GREAT way to introduce the students to web hosting and WordPress. — David Maier, Mt. Hood Community College I have found this program to be invaluable in teaching a college WordPress course. […] Many of my students have two or more instances of WordPress running on their account, which makes it possible for them to really dive into the software. — Dave Winter, California State University Long Beach Moving forward Going through this whole process will leave you with good understanding of what works and what does not – both in terms of product specifics, as well as marketing channels. It will also give you ideas of new ‘vectors’ to explore, i.e. new customer segments, markets, etc. For the student program, we are considering ways to expand the program, loosely grouped in two broad categories. We can either follow a ‘vertical’ vector – looking down or up the educational chain to bring the product to another relevant demographic. An example in our case, would be expanding to include relevant students from alternative educational institutions, secondary schools, etc. who we deem a relevant demographic (i.e. students of web design and similar topics). Another way would be to expand ‘horizontally’, i.e. take the same program and bring it to the same target audience in a new ‘geographical’ location. For example, we are currently considering launching the program for the UK educational market. Final Remarks If I can choose just one thing to stay with you from this post, it would be the one that permeates all topics I have discussed – testing. Whatever ideas you get from your research, always test whether it makes sense for your product or business. This blogpost is a test. For a while, we have been considering diversifying the topics we cover on our company blog and this has been one of the directions we wanted to explore. And just like with the Student Hosting program, quantitative metrics would not be enough to decide whether should publish more posts of this type. So we would like to ask you to share your feedback with us in the comments section and help us figure out whether it adds value.

Hangout About the New Joomla and WordPress Toolkits – Full Record and Answers

As promised, we’re adding the full recording of the hangout we had on Tuesday on our new Joomla and WordPress toolkits. We’d like to thank all of you who joined us live! We have received some questions regarding the tool after the hangout ended, so we’re going to answer them in this blog post. Q: Heather Annf: If the sites are already established, how can I add them to the toolkit? A: If your site is hosted in the same account, but you do not see it in the list of installations, you need to press either the “Add Joomla” or “Add WordPress” buttons. Here’s a detailed tutorial on how to add sites to the WordPress and Joomla toolkits. If you continue experiencing issues with that, please contact our Support team via ticket. Q: Nikola Čulić: Is it all .htaccess commands or it is physical moving from place to place? A: We are doing an actual, physical move of the installation from one folder to another. It’s not based on .htaccess or any other redirection method. Q: Stéphan Herby: When we move an installation from a folder to another, all files from “destination” are removed first, correct ? A: No, we try to avoid data loss at any cost so we won’t allow you to move a site to a folder that have an installation set in. If you want to move your installation to a folder, make sure it’s completely empty. Q: Bill Schaef: My two areas of interest related to Joomla Admin….1. If I have a DEV and a PROD area set up, how do I push the changes from DEV to PROD? 2. How to back up everything in PROD prior to making a push A: In your case, we’d recommend that you use the SiteGround Staging tool and not this toolkit. Check out our hangout on that topic and the detailed tutorial we’ve created for our users.

Introducing the SiteGround WordPress & Joomla Admin Tools!

We’re happy to introduce to you the latest set of tool we developed to make your Joomla and WordPress experience better. Read more to find out what our tools can do for you and how they will help you manage your sites more easily. Regularly, we go through support tickets, chats and emails you’ve sent us and look for recurring questions. When we see certain inquiries coming up frequently, we start thinking what we can do to help you out on a more global scale and make your experience better. That is how we recently came up with a set of tools designed to help you with some of the most common requests we get from our Joomla and WordPress users. Here’s what our new set of tools can do for you in just 1 click: Reset your Joomla and WordPress Admin Passwords Password protect your admin panel Fix Website’s Permissions Change Primary Domain of your site Move your application from one folder to another Configure your application to work with an SSL through https:// Completely remove an application’s files + database. Until now, if you had to perform any of those procedures, you would have used many different tools like FTP, phpMyAdmin, etc. In addition to that, the chances that you misconfigure or even break your site completely trying to reconfigure it were quite substantial. This is why we’ve created a fast and most importantly safe way to manage your WordPress and Joomla webstites! In order to show you in details all the functionality SiteGround WordPress & Joomla Admin Tools have to offer, we’re organizing a Google Hangout on the topic! Join us on April 29, 2014 (Tuesday, 12 PM EST) to find out how the tool works and ask all the questions you have! In addition to that, we’ve created a detailed WordPress & Joomla Admin Tools Tutorial that you can follow if you prefer reading instead of watching us live!

Jetpack Critical Vulnerability Fixed on SiteGround Servers

Yesterday, on April 10th, a critical security flaw in the popular Jetpack plugin was made public in an official statement by the Jetpack developers. If the vulnerability was exploited, an attacker could publish new posts in any WordPress installation using Jetpack and possibly get even more access to that site. Although we did not detect any hacked sites through that exploit on our servers, that was a critical security hole and we took several actions to patch it. Adding a Rule to Our Firewall System Normally, some of the actions of the Jetpack plugin should be executable only through a finite number of IPs that are part of the Jetpack official network. The vulnerability allows other IPs to execute these actions too. That is why the first thing we did was to add an additional rule to our firewall that prevents non-Jetpack IPs to execute such actions. Updating the Jetpack Plugin of Our Users We have also updated most of the nearly 12 000 Jetpack plugins detected on our servers to the latest security version released by its developers and applicable for the version branch used. Email, informing about the issue and the update needed was also sent to all users whose Jetpack update was not under our control.

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