Category Archives: Blog

New Anti-Spam Offering from Black Chicken Host

Hello, friends and teammates –

We have some exciting news, which might just make your whole day:

Black Chicken Host now offers SpamFreeze, a robust anti-spam solution, for only $5 per month per domain!

Our new SpamFreeze product filters, tags, or blocks spam entirely; you’ll never have to see it in your inbox again. Additionally, it offers another layer of security for your home and office computers, as it will automatically strip out viruses from any incoming email (or, if the virus cannot be removed, it will block the email entirely.)

If you are being repeatedly hit by email from the same IP address, the SpamFreeze firewall will begin blocking those emails after 50 are received within a 30-minute timeframe.

We can configure your SpamFreeze to either pass through all virus-free email and tag it with a “SPAM” tag for easy filtering into a separate folder, or to outright block anything the firewall detects as spam. I recommend starting out with tagging in place, so you are able to ensure no legitimate email is being flagged by the system; our false-positive rates are very, very low, but we wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on important mail.

Once you’re confident everything works to your liking, it’s a very easy matter to change from tagging to outright blocking.

Powering SpamFreeze is a robust cluster of Barracuda devices; they will not become saturated or cause delays in your email. Barracuda is amongst the most trusted names in security worldwide.

For only $5/month, you may never have to deal with spam again!

Get in touch with us today if you’d like more information, or if you’d like to sign up.

Change in Our Terms of Service

The nature of technology is growth and change – what’s super-hot and super-fast one minute is obsolete and out-of-date the next. It’s a perpetual learning curve for people who want to stay on the latest and greatest hardware or software platforms, and a constant source of frustration for people who just want to write a blog without worrying about the tech.

As a web host, it is our duty to provide secure, stable, and user-friendly environments and features for our customers, so you can do what you do best – get your content out there!

Toward that end, we are adding the following verbiage to our Terms of Service, effective immediately:

“In order to maintain a secure and stable hosting environment, Black Chicken Host reserves the right to update without notification any code on our servers to its most current supported version, including, but not limited to:

  • Content Management Systems (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, et cetera)
  • Plugins
  • Themes
  • Scripts
  • All packages offered by the Softaculous installer”

We realize keeping your software up-to-date can be a time-consuming task, but it is so very important to the security of your account. Thus, we decided to take it upon ourselves to do it for our customers.

We have seen some nasty malware put into place due to out-of-date plugins (RevSider, Gravity Forms, et cetera) which have had effects ranging from having the server’s IP address black-listed at Google and ATT to destruction of account data.

Going forward, we will be finding all outdated software on our servers and updating everything to the most current version. In almost every case, this should be completely transparent to you and your readers. In very rare cases, updating a theme may cause your site’s appearance to change. In other rare cases, updating a plugin may cause it to not function correctly in conjunction with the other plugins on your site.

While we don’t ever want to interfere with your site’s functionality, it behooves us all to keep everything on its current, most secure version, and it is incumbent upon BCH to keep you all as safe as possible.

We’ll have another blog post soon about what kinds of security exploits can happen as a result of outdated plugins – it’s scary stuff! – but that’s all for now.

Please do let us know if you have questions or concerns!

Meet benny and get $10 in BCH credit

Hi Folks –

Today, I am extremely pleased to deliver some really exciting news – I’ve brought Benny Vasquez on as my business partner and Chief Technology Officer for Black Chicken Host!

Many of you have already interacted with Benny via support tickets, and have seen first-hand her fantastic customer service and systems administration skills.

Benny has been a large part of my development as a Linux systems administrator and web host since we met in June of 2008. She brings an amazing drive and technical expertise to BCH, and has already made significant improvements to our business. Her skill and determination are just what BCH needs.

Benny and I share a common vision – a commitment to you, our customers. We both know you’re very good at what you do, and that our role is to do the technical heavy lifting to make sure you can keep getting your content out there.

We have some great plans to move the company forward while maintaining that personalized customer support you’ve come to love: We thrive upon our close relationships with our customers.

I’ll still be as involved as ever as CEO, and we’ll share the support load evenly.

What does this mean for you? Product improvements! New blog content! Better service all around! Support coverage in the morning!

Thus, without further ado, please meet Benny Vasquez, BCH CTO, who has an opportunity for you to help us shape our future.

===========================

Communication using technology fascinates me. Here, in my living room in Michigan, I am preparing to tell you all about myself. With our phones, or tablets, or laptops, and the ever-increasing availability of free wifi, this blog post can be read anywhere in the world, and in an age when Twitter is a quicker way to find out if Netflix is down than calling Netflix, I believe that technology is key to connecting us to each other. Too, I believe that it will lead us to a better and deeper understanding of ourselves.

No children were harmed in the making of this image.

I found my interest in technology early. My dad was a natural tinkerer, so as soon as we could get a computer, we had three. Apple, Amiga, MS-DOS; I had early exposure to all of them! I learned to love computers through video games and word processors, and as I grew these tools became comfortable allies in research and communication.

Despite my early interest, computers themselves were never a field of study that I felt compelled to pursue. They never seemed independent of all of my options, because they were and continue to be necessary tools. Surprisingly, that level of comfort has not yet diminished my awe. I remain ever-impressed that answering a question about anything at all no longer involves reaching for an encyclopedia, and that waiting weeks for our written communication to arrive in the hands of another is no longer the norm. I keep maps in my car for nostalgic reasons, knowing that as long as I have a phone I won’t ever need them.

I promise, we're nearly there.

I promise, we’re nearly there.

Even with their ubiquitous nature the unfortunate truth is, if you have never learned how to use the tools, you are left at a disadvantage. That gap is exactly what Erin has worked so hard to close for those hosting with Black Chicken Host. She has spent 5 years helping people who are compelled to goals that require the use of unfamiliar tools, and I am amazed at her dedication to that idea.

I’m excited to keep building BCH to be the best choice for your webhosting needs, and to ensure that we provide the best and simplest tools to everyone else that wants them. My goals for this year are largely dependent on you: Our customers. Erin and I welcome feedback and questions, and would love to interact with all of our clients more in order to identify any gaps in our services, and to help in any way we can.

3 minutes for $10

To that end, Erin and I have put together a 7 question survey, and as a reward for helping us move the company forward, we’ve decided to give $10 of BCH credit to each existing customer that takes the survey in the first 30 days. The questions are quite simple, and should only take 2 – 3 minutes, but the information you’ll give us is invaluable.  Please take a moment and help get paid to help shape the future of BCH!

 

How to Unblock Your IP on a BCH Server

We have some pretty snazzy news to share with you; we’ve added the ability for you to unblock your own IP address from the firewall! 

Most of us have at one time or another entered an incorrect password one too many times, or have run afoul of ModSecurity triggers on our websites, which results in the server denying all traffic to and from our IP address.

Symptoms of a blocked IP:

* You cannot see anything on your site, and may receive a “request timed out” error
* You cannot check email if your domain is hosted on your server with us
* You are able to see blackchickenhost.com just fine
* The website http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ says it’s just you

I won’t go into all the technical details, but essentially, the server thinks you’re trying to do something mischievous (such as brute force attacking a password,) and has protected itself by blocking the IP. Our stringent security measures help to keep your data safe, but they do occasionally block a legitimate IP address.

Previously, if your IP had become blocked, you would have had to open a support request to get it unblocked. While we do our best to attend to all requests quickly, sometimes there is a delay and you of course want to get your work done. Thus, we’ve added the ability for you to unblock your own IP address without needing to contact us at all. This will only work for servers upon which you have an account, and only authorized Black Chicken Host customers can unblock IP’s.

There are a few steps in involved for security’s sake, which must be performed from the IP that is blocked in the firewall:

http://blackchickenhost.com/whmcs/index.php?m=csfmanager

Then, click “view details” next to the affected hosting account. On the following page, which may take a moment to load, click “Unblock IP” from the menu on the left. If the IP address you are writing from is blocked, it will automatically be detected by the software and the block will be lifted.

Or, you may enter a different IP address to unblock manually.

We are of course always happy to perform this task for you; this self-service option is for people who prefer to unblock themselves quickly.

There are advanced features available, too, such as proactively whitelisting an IP address for a certain period of time, and resellers are able to unblock their clients’ IP addresses, as well.

Please do let us know if you have any questions or concerns; we’ll be glad to help!

 

How to Make cPanel Work for You

Most of our customers never log into their cPanel account; they are completely happy to work within their WordPress Dashboards and never worry about what else might be available. This is, of course, completely fine; however, there are many things inside cPanel that might be beneficial for you to know about.

So! We’re writing this quick cPanel primer to help you learn about some handy features you can access therein.

What is cPanel?

cPanel is the user-level domain management control panel we use on our shared servers (and on many of our VPS and Dedicated servers, too.) It allows users to oversee and manage nearly every aspect of the domain, including backups, email and FTP accounts, bandwidth consumption, statistics graphs, subdomains, software installations and more – all within an easy-to-learn-and-use graphical interface.

How do I Access cPanel?

When you first signed up for your BCH account, you received a “Welcome” email that contained your cPanel URL, username, and password. If you don’t have the email anymore, we can easily re-send it to you.

The format of your cPanel URL will always be “https://” followed by your hostname (something like roost.blackchickenhost.com) and then “:2083” which is the port (to tell the server you want to access cPanel and not some other service.) An example would be:

https://roost.blackchickenhost.com:2083

If you can’t remember your server’s name, you can also use your domain name:

https://yourdomain.com:2083

The one caveat with using your domain is you’ll receive a security warning about the SSL certificate not matching the domain name. This is because the SSL is for our server’s hostname, not your domain – it is completely safe to proceed through the SSL warning here.

First steps inside cPanel

Once you’re in, what your cPanel looks like will depend upon which theme you have selected. Older accounts will have the x3 theme by default, while newer accounts will have Paper Lantern. You may change your theme by using the “Switch Theme” selector on the main page.

Despite cosmetic differences, the functionality remains the same. Most customers are interested in the following cPanel areas:

Backups

cPanel backups are outstanding – they are a full, exact snapshot of your entire account in one handy file. It will contain everything from databases to email to themes to widgets. If something goes wrong with your website which cannot be fixed or undone, reverting to the last cPanel backup will put everything back in place as it was at the time the backup was taken.

We strongly advise downloading a cPanel backup to your home computer from time to time, just in case of the unlikely event something catastrophic occurs within our datacenter.

Our courtesy cPanel backups are very robust, but they are a courtesy service only – they are not guaranteed.

You can access cPanel backups within cPanel under the Files area. If you click up Backup Wizard, you’ll see options to Backup or Restore.

Backup restorations are typically best left to us to perform, so I’m going to skip over that for now, and focus upon how to generate and download a cPanel backup.

Within the Wizard, please click on Backup, and then on Full Backup. On the next page, select Home Directory in the Backup Destination, and then enter your email address in the field below to receive a notification when the backup process has completed. Click “Generate Backup.” Depending upon how large your account is, the backup may take anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours.

When you receive the completion email, log back into cPanel, and this time, go into the Backups icon. In the Account Backups drop-down menu, select the date from the backup you took in the step above, and then click Download.

Voila! You now have an off-site copy of your entire cPanel account. It’s easy and worth the peace of mind.

Email

The next area we’d like to discuss is email. If you’d like to set up email accounts under your domain and are not using a third-party mail provider such as Google Apps, you can set up email accounts within cPanel.

Log into your cPanel account, and look in the Mail section. There are a lot of options here, and today we’ll just focus on a few: Email Accounts, Webmail, and Forwarders.

Email Accounts

This is where you will set up new email accounts, as well as editing or removing existing email accounts.

Creating a new email account is very easy. Let’s say I want to set up the address me@mydomain.com. Under Email Accounts, I would enter “me” without quotes in the first text box, and then make sure I have “mydomain.com” selected in the drop-down menu to the right.

Next, I select a strong password and enter it twice. Lastly, I choose how much disk space I would like to have the email account to be able to use. 250MB is the default, and you may enter any whole number in that field, or you may select “Unlimited.”

Click Create Account, and there we are – a new email account!

Changing Passwords

To change the password for an existing email account, we also go into the Email Account area. To the right of the email account, there will be a “Change Password” option. Click that, and enter the new password, then save it.

Once you change your password, do be sure to change the password inside all of your email clients (including on mobile devices!) lest your IP become blocked for too many failed login attempts on email.

Webmail

If you’re having troubles with your email client, or if you’re not on your own computer, webmail is a good alternative. You may access webmail by entering your hostname, followed by :2096 as in the following example:

https://hive.blackchickenhost.com:2096

Your username will be the full email address.

You may also access webmail from within cPanel under the Mail area, on the Webmail icon.

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be presented with three options: Squirrel Mail, RoundCube, and Horde. I recommend trying all three to see which you like best, as the formats are quite different.

Forwarders

You may also set up automatic forwarders within cPanel. There are two options for these:

1.) Forward an existing email account
2.) Forward an email account that does not exist

There are two important differences here. When forwarding email for an account that does exist in cPanel, incoming mail will be delivered to that email address and then also forwarded to the destination you set up. When forwarding email for an account that does not exist, it will only forward to the destination, and will not be delivered anywhere locally within cPanel.

To set up a new forwarder, simply log into cPanel, go into the Mail area, and click on the Forwarders icon. Click “Add Forwarder,” and then enter the first part of the email address. From the example above, “me” would go here. Then, select the correct domain from the drop-down address.

In the Destination area, keep the first radio button checked and then enter the destination email address in full – like me@gmail.com. Then, click Add Forwarder. Boom! Now all email will be forwarded to me@gmail.com.

Summary

That’s a lot of information to throw out at once, so we’ll wrap this installment up for now. In coming cPanel posts, we’ll tell you about:

Bandwidth graphs
Server-side stats
Subdomains
Addon Domains
Hotlink Protection
CloudFlare
Softaculous

In the meantime, please feel free to open a support ticket anytime you have questions or concerns about cPanel functionality, or any other aspect of your hosting experience.

 

 

What is Bandwidth?

From time to time, you may get an email from your server that says you’re approaching your bandwidth limit for the month – what is that?

In a nutshell, “bandwidth” is the volume of data being sent from your server out to the internet. Some elements, such as images, are larger and will consume more bandwidth. Text takes up very little bandwidth.

If you have an image that is 5MB in size, it will take 5MB of your bandwidth allocation every time someone loads that image on your site. Busy sites consume more bandwidth.

Why did I get the email?

We have our servers configured to send out emails to our customers when they are approaching their monthly bandwidth allocation. Most servers will send out emails at the 80%, 90%, 95%, and 99% marks, which typically gives ample time to plan for a bandwidth increase.

If you receive the 80% notice, and there are only a few days left in the calendar month, you likely will not need to add additional bandwidth. If you receive the 90% notice, and there is only a day or two left in the calendar month, you may be able to get away with that, too.

However, you should be aware that once you hit that bandwidth limit, your account will automatically be suspended. This is a fully automated process that will occur unless bandwidth is added or other arrangements are made in advance, regardless of the time of day or night the limit is reached. Your site will be offline, and the message “Bandwidth allocation exceeded” will be displayed to anyone trying to access the site.

Why do I have to pay for more bandwidth?

We pay for the bandwidth our customers use, and we include a reasonable amount of “free” bandwidth in your monthly hosting fee. Because we ourselves have to pay for the total amount of bandwidth used by our customers, we can only allow so much “free” bandwidth before we start losing money.

Our network carriers make money by charging us for the bandwidth we use. You can think of bandwidth like water utilities: The data is like water, the internet cables are like pipes: The pipes/cables are always there, and the water/data flows through them. The amount of data flowing is metered and charged for, just like water. The utility company/internet carrier charges for the volume used.

Because we’re a Mom and Pop shop, and not a big-box host like our competitors, we unfortunately pay a higher rate for bandwidth than they do.

How is bandwidth measured?

Bandwidth units are bits, bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, et cetera, just like disk space; however, they are not the same thing. Just as an ounce can be a unit of weight or volume, a gigabyte can be a unit of space or volume, depending upon its context.

Overall server bandwidth is measured by network equipment called switches. Network topography is likely something you’re not terribly interested in learning about, but to sum it up, a switch is a device that connects your server to the network, and it also directs traffic to destinations on a network. Your server is connected to the switch by a network cable that connects to a port on a switch. Each bit that comes through the port is measured and routed by the switch.

Your account’s bandwidth usage is measured by the server itself, through various scripts.

How do I know how much bandwidth I’ve used and how much I’m allowed?

You can always check on your bandwidth consumption versus allocation in your BCH Customer Portal. Click on “My Services” and then on the green arrow to the right of your shared hosting account package. The next page will show various statistics about your account, including bandwidth usage. It will look something like this:

Bandwidth usage: 112544MB / 500000MB (23%)

You may also log into your cPanel account and click the “Bandwidth” icon to get a graphical overview of your recent bandwidth utilization.

How can I decrease my bandwidth usage?

Many times, high bandwidth consumption is caused by large images being served from a site. Be sure to optimize your images for website usage – don’t use the giant original from your digital camera, and always resize images to the size at which they’ll be displayed. The built-in WordPress image “resizer” only changes the displayed size – it does not reduce the amount of data sent to the browser.

Here is an excellent image optimization article:

http://www.shopify.com/blog/7412852-10-must-know-image-optimization-tips

Google has a more technically-in-depth article here:

https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/performance/optimizing-content-efficiency/image-optimization?hl=en

There are a number of WordPress plugins that can go through and resize all of your images; however, some of these can cause high load on the server, while others can radically decrease Dashboard performance. Use caution and only select plugins with a hefty number of good reviews.

Reducing the number of images on your pages will help, too.

Another method to reduce your bandwidth consumption is to utilize a CDN (Content Distribution Network) solution, such as CloudFlare. CloudFlare has many advantages (discussed here,) among which is decreased bandwidth usage. This is because the CDN caches images and other content off your server, and send it to your readers from their nodes – not your server itself.

If you’d like us to help you learn how you might be able to lower your bandwidth utilization, just let us know in a support ticket – we’ll be happy to help!

Is A VPS Right for You?

We get many questions about when the “right time” is to upgrade to a VPS (Virtual Private Server.) There are many cases when a VPS may be better than a shared server, and when the time is right for you and your site is will vary from someone else’s.

Here, however, is a bit of a primer on things to consider when contemplating whether you want to stay on shared hosting or upgrade to a VPS.

One of the most important elements in this decision will be server resources. Our shared servers are very powerful machines with a lot of CPU and RAM; however, a lot of customers share those resources and they can impact your site’s performance. Having your own VPS (as we run and configure them here at BCH) means you won’t have “noisy neighbors” consuming resources you need – your resources are your own with a VPS.

Server resource over-utilization is one of the most common reasons people need to move to a VPS. If one site is extremely resource-heavy, it is unfair to the other customers on a shared server; one busy site can cause slowness or outright downtime for the other sites. In those situations, upgrading is seldom optional (unless we are able to help optimize the busy site to use fewer resources – something we’re always happy to work with!)

If you have tweaked and tweaked your site, removed a bunch of plugins, reduced the size and complexity of the page, implemented a caching plugin, et cetera, and your site is still causing load or other troubles upon your shared server, we will very likely ask you to upgrade to our Developer Class hosting or to a VPS.

Another important item which comes up frequently with our customers is email deliverability. Deliverability refers to whether email sent from your server is able to reach its destination without errors, being marked as spam, or outright rejected. On a shared server, everyone sends their mail from the main IP address. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of mail going to the third-party mail providers, such as gMail, AOL, and AT&T. Sometimes, the sheer volume of legitimate email causes the IP to become blocked for no other reason.

Most importantly, though: If any customer’s account on a shared server becomes compromised and begins relaying spam, that will adversely affect everyone on the server when the spammer gets the server’s IP blocked at AT&T, gMail, AOL, or Yahoo. 

With a VPS, the only email being sent from your IP address is yours; the only account you have to worry about being secure is your own.

The next element to consider is customizability. Within a shared server environment, there are only so many changes we can make to the server, because many people share it, and a change that works for you might break someone else’s site. If you have special needs for PHP, MySQL, or other server-side aspects, a VPS may be the best way to meet them, as we can tailor the VPS environment to suit your use case.

Traffic is another point to consider. If you’re expecting a huge increase in your traffic, it will almost assuredly be best to move to a VPS ahead of the time you’re expecting the surge. There are two main reasons for this:

1.) Protecting your site – If your site suddenly becomes very busy on a shared server, it may cause server instability and load, which adversely affect all other customers on that server. If the instability becomes unsustainable, we will have no choice but to temporarily suspend your account.

2.) Performance – As I’ve mentioned many times thus far in this post, a shared server environment means you are sharing resources – memory, CPU, disk, everything. The other sites on that server are consuming portions of those resources – portions you may really want (or even need) to handle your incoming visitors. Your own server means only you are using those resources.

Lastly, we have to discuss cost. A VPS server is going to be significantly more expensive than a shared hosting account, because it is for your use only – there are no other customers sharing the expense of maintaining the server.

Most of our VPS customers pay between $6 and $10 per day for their VPS’s. Many of them upgraded “temporarily” to make sure their expected traffic spike went smoothly – and never looked back to shared hosting. It’s very nice to have your own environment!

It is possible for customers to split a VPS between themselves; we call this our Semi-VPS package. Having a VPS “roommate” or two can really help defray the costs of the VPS while maintaining most of the same benefits.

Our VPS servers are charged by the day, so you only pay for the time you need. In 99% of all cases, upgrading and downgrading is free of charge.

Additional benefits of VPS hosting

  • Nightly, full-server-image backups, as well as individual cPanel backups
  • Solid State Drives
  • Easy up/downgrades to different VPS sizes
  • Core-managed and Self-Managed options available at a reduced cost (no cPanel)
  • 5 TB included outbound bandwidth (inbound is always free)
  • Real-time monitoring of your specific server
  • Additional off-server firewall for increased security available at no charge
  • RAID configurations available
  • Load-balanced VPS’s available
  • Virtual Dedicated Servers available

If you’re interested in learning more, please send us a support ticket, and we’ll be happy to help!

The Best Mail-Order Pantry Company

pantry paratus logo

There’s a coupon code in here! Keep reading for a fantastic discount.

One of the first customers to sign up with Black Chicken Host was Pantry Paratus. We had a wonderful phone conversation, got to know one another, discovered a lot of common ground, and started a really fantastic partnership.

Since that time, I’ve placed a bunch orders with them, for anything from the Haywire Klamper to spices to kitchen appliances, and I’ll continue to do so because they stock quality merchandise, and, like many of you, I feel good supporting people I know personally, who are running a sustainable, ecology-minded business. I was particularly impressed to learn about the Palouse family, who supplies many of their legumes and grains, and how devoted they are to sustainability and service (much like the Pantry Paratus owners themselves.)

wristbandIn addition to their merchandise, PP owners Wilson and Chaya provide an abundance of information in their blog and knowledgebase posts, too. They have a strong social conscience and a vast amount of compassion. You can feel good supporting this business, because they support many of the same causes you feel strongly about.

There is a plethora of recipes in the blog I have on my increasingly-lengthy “to try” list, including the wonderful truffles in the photo below:

truffles

Perhaps not coincidentally, the promotional code they’ve come up with for me to use in this post is directly related to the truffles: Their best-ever coupon for spices or baking ingredients – lucky you!

Here it is:   25% off AND Free Shipping on anything from the “Bulk Spices” or the “Baking Ingredients”  sections of their store. Just use the code “black-chicken” at checkout.

Seriously! That’s a mighty good deal.

Plus, how can you not love these sweet faces?

Chaya_Wilson_resized

I hope you’ll head over to the Pantry Paratus website and have a look around – go for the merchandise, and stay for the blog. You’ll get to know Chaya and Wilson, so you can be confident buying from them – meaningful and mindful consumption. Don’t forget to use your “black-chicken” coupon code for the fantastic discount.

While you’re there, you might be interested in:

Homesteading: 10 Reasons Why I Bother
Navigating a Food Allergy: A Safe Pantry
Sale & Clearance Items
Weekly Email
Their affiliate program (in which we do not participate; I’m writing this post because I love the company)

CloudFlare: What It is, What It is Not.

Black Chicken Host has partnered with CloudFlare CDN to bring you better load times and increased security at no cost to you.

CloudFlare Certified Partner

What CloudFlare is:

CloudFlare is a simple and free Content Delivery Network which places your website’s content closer to your readers all around the world. By caching your images and other static content geographically closer to your global readers, your website will load more quickly and consume fewer resources on the local server. The static portions are cached on the CloudFlare servers for a short period of time, typically less than 2 hours, after which time they check to see if your site has been updated. If there is new content, CloudFlare dumps their existing cache and starts fresh.

By automatically moving the static parts of your site closer to your visitors, the overall performance of your site improves significantly.

The overall effect is that CloudFlare will typically cut the load time for pages on your site by 50% which means higher engagement and happier visitors.

CloudFlare caches your content worldwide:

CloudFlare CDN Sites

Additionally, CloudFlare can save you money on bandwidth. On average, CloudFlare customers see a 60% decrease in bandwidth usage, and a 65% in total requests to their servers.

How does CloudFlare protect you from Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks?

Black Chicken Host already has impressive security metrics in place; utilizing CloudFlare’s service improves upon our already outstanding security. CloudFlare’s mitigations offer a broad range of protections against attacks such as DDoS, hacking, or spam submitted to a blog or comment form. What is powerful about the CloudFlare approach is that the system gets smarter the more sites that are part of the CloudFlare community. They analyze the traffic patterns of hundreds of millions of visitors in real time and adapt the security systems to ensure good traffic gets through and bad traffic is stopped.

In fact, CloudFlare was initially developed as a tool to increase website security – and its founders accidentally discovered it radically improved the load times of its customers. Now personally, I find that hilarious. And fantastic.

The CloudFlare servers filter out the bad guys before they even reach our servers or your website, blocking malicious traffic before it can do any harm. But how? Honestly? I have no earthly idea. It just… works. I suspect this graphic is slightly dumbed down:

CloudFlare - how it works?

That’s it in a nutshell – some magical thing happens inside that CloudFlare cloud, and it’s a black box for the rest of us. As long as it keeps working, I’m happy.

So, let’s sum this up:

  • Improved load times
  • Enhanced security
  • Less bot spam
  • Offline browsing potential
  • FOR FREE

Not bad, right?

CloudFlare: What it is not

The CloudFlare service is not an excuse to never update your software or not to use strong passwords. It’s an extension of our already superb security, but it is no replacement for common sense.

It is not a 100% guarantee of no down time, ever. However, should your server experience difficulties (high load, or even being offline for a short time,) CloudFlare can often keep your content flowing to your readers by utilizing their caching service.

It is not Google Analytics. CloudFlare offers statistics for your site, but they will vary from GA (they tend to report higher numbers, due to how they gather and parse the information.) They’re handy to track trends, but are not the best way to measure your audience (definitely use Google Analytics for that.)

Ok, I want CloudFlare! How do I get it?

For Black Chicken Host customers, enabling CloudFlare is as easy as pushing a button (provided you are using our nameservers.)  We are pleased to offer you the CloudFlare service for FREE. There is no commitment. Turning CloudFlare on and off takes two clicks of the mouse in your cPanel account, so feel free to try it out. If you’ve misplaced your cPanel login information from your Black Chicken Host welcome email, please just let us know via a support ticket.

How to Enable CloudFlare in cPanel

The one potential downside to using CloudFlare through Black Chicken Host (as opposed to signing up yourself and having to muck about with your DNS) is you must use www in your domain. Thus, if your WordPress site is set up using http://yourdomain.com right now, we’ll need to change that to http://www.yourdomain.com — this is an easy thing for us to help you with, and is only a matter of aesthetics.

Also, you must use Black Chicken Hosts’s nameservers. Nearly all of our customers already do, but it’s an important item to note.

CloudFlare also offers a paid-for “Pro” version, which of course offers more features and functions. You can read about that on their website. We offer the free version so you can take things for a test drive and see if you like it. If you do, the paid-for version might be something you’d like – it makes no nevermind to us, we receive no commission.

Here’s a short animated video which goes into far less detail than I have here… but it it gives a good overview:

Introduction to CloudFlare

Questions? Comments? Just let us know. If you’d like more information, or if you’d like assistance getting started with CloudFlare, you know we’re here and happy to help!

Best,

Erin D.