Category Archives: Blog

A Sad Farewell

Dear BCH Family –

It is with such mixed emotions that I write you today with very big news.

While I’ve been largely absent from the support side of things for over a year now, I’ve never stopped working on BCH at large: This company has been my passion, my obsession, since the day I founded it in 2011.

Over these last six years, I have so enjoyed supporting and getting to know most of you, forming partnerships that have resulted in many mutual successes and even friendships which extend outside a professional relationship. However, I have also not had a single day off since 2011, and that has taken its toll. From literally the moment I wake up until the moment I fall asleep for a few hours, BCH is always on my mind. I know how much you all depend upon us, and that is something I do not take lightly.

After much soul-searching, careful consideration, and discussion, I am turning Black Chicken Host over to two of my best and most trusted friends, Adam and Hannah Fortman. Some of you will know Adam as “Roy” from support, and a bunch of you have also worked with Hannah some time ago when she was doing support work for us. Adam is taking over immediately, and Hannah will join the team in late November.

I trust no one more than these two to take care of you and BCH.

I met Adam years ago when he began to work for me at my “real” job, and he quickly became one of my most valued team members, excelling swiftly and proficiently up the ladder. While I had a small hand in molding and shaping him into something amazing, he just inherently brought a whole boatload of awesome to the table.

A year or so after that, Hannah began taking an interest in hosting, and BCH provided her with the experience to get her feet wet in this particular pond. She was hired in at the same company where Adam and I worked and did exceptionally well herself: She is already in a management position within the support organization. Prior to that, she worked on a managed WordPress product, and bring a lot of expertise in that area.

The time has come for them to move on from that company, as I recently did, which affords them the opportunity to take on the full responsibility for BCH.

Both Adam and Hannah understand that, for many of you, your website is not just a hobby – it’s your passion, your livelihood, your income: They take their responsibilities very seriously.

This is not a sale – it’s not about money for me. I am giving them Black Chicken Host, free and clear, because I know they will be a perfect fit – they’ll do an even better job than I did, because Adam’s technical expertise vastly surpasses mine, and Hannah will be able to devote her full attention to customer support, business development, and more. They will inject so much new energy and passion!

You deserve nothing less than the best web hosting experience, and these two, along with our other dedicated support admins like Melissa and Caroline, will provide it.

I will be assisting Adam and Hannah for a long time after the transition – I’m not jumping ship and leaving everything behind. I want to make sure BCH continues to provide the best customer service in the industry paired with superlative server performance. There’s a lot to learn, and I will be very happy to mentor them in this new endeavor for as long as needed.

BCH will get better and better over time, and I am very excited to see what these two create.

They’re incredibly excited about BCH’s future, as am I! Please feel free to welcome them, or to send along any questions or concerns you may have at any time. Adam will be sending out a message to introduce himself shortly.

I’ll be here behind the scenes – if anyone wants to reach me, please ask for me in a support ticket.

Parting is bittersweet, of course; I will miss you all, but I am also looking forward to some much-needed rest as I move out to San Diego to pursue perfect weather and motorcycle riding conditions.

I wish you all the best! It has been my honor and pleasure to serve you.

Sincerely,

Erin D.
Founder and (former!) CEO

Big Changes Afoot!

Hello, Black Chicken Host Family!

Holy cow, folks – we’ve been working on some supercool things behind the scenes, and we’ve been gradually rolling them out over the past two months. Now that we’ve gotten everything running smoothly, I’m ready to tell everyone what we’ve been up to, and what our customers’ new options are.

Moving Away from cPanel

People on our newsletter list, or who have recently been working with our intrepid support administrator, Melissa, have probably heard we are urging our customers to move away from cPanel entirely. This likely comes as a surprise to hear from a web hosting company, as cPanel is one of the biggest control panels out there, and moving away from it is a pretty big deal.

While we are not eliminating cPanel servers entirely, we have found a much better alternative that is not only faster, but also less expensive. We really recommend moving to this new, non-cPanel solution for anyone using WordPress.

With the launch of our WordPress-Only package (just $5.99 per month per WordPress install,) we have brought Black Chicken Host customers onto the leading edge of web hosting technology.  We have seen sites’ load time decrease radically with this product (up to 50% in some cases,) and our WP-Only customers are really happy with the performance they’re receiving.

The only drawback to the WordPress-Only product is there are no email addresses available with it: Customers on that service must host email elsewhere, and we’re strongly recommending G Suite (we use it ourselves.) We have a separate post about Why G Suite  is Better Than Hosting Email on Your Web Server – feel free to check that out to see why we’ve become such advocates for the service.

See for yourself!

To demonstrate how amazing this product is, we put together a really, really bad website – on purpose. We threw the most terrible plugins on there, and plenty of them, to see if we could bog the server down – and we couldn’t! You can see that site and read why we made it so bad here: https://wp.blackchicken.host.

In a Nutshell: Focusing on What Our Customers Want

Moving away from the “jack-of-all-trades” cPanel product allows us to focus upon what 99.95% of our customers really want – a fast WordPress hosting experience, like those offered by some of our competitors. We really, really found a great solution – send an email to our support team if you’d like more information!

Changing Datacenter Providers

This is another major change for Black Chicken Host. Since our inception, we have run our servers out of the same company’s facilities – a hosting provider who used to be absolutely wonderful. However, they have experienced many changes these past two years, and we can no longer rely upon them for their previous excellence. This has adversely impacted some of our customers on occasion, and we can’t have that. Thus, we are moving to a better, faster, more modern provider – DigitalOcean – for all of our servers, both cPanel and non-cPanel.

As we retire our existing servers, we’re getting in touch with our customers to arrange the free migration process. We hope to have moved completely away from our current datacenter by the end of June.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have any questions or concerns about your hosting experience with us, or if you’d like to sign up for service, just let us know! Our contact form will get you in touch with our support team.

 

The Great and Terrible cPanel

cPanel – We Love It and We Hate It.

cPanel. It’s the biggest, best-known web host control panel out there. We’ve used it since our inception, and it has in many ways made our lives as web hosts easier. However, it comes with so many bells and whistles, and it gets its hooks into so many things, the convenience comes at the expense of a significantly slower server and websites. It just tries to do too much, and everything slows down as a result.

We searched high and low, looking for something better, and we have finally found it by joining DigitalOcean hardware with a proprietary hosting system. It’s incredible, you guys. So fast. So smooth! Effortlessly perfect.

It’s so good, we would like to discontinue cPanel servers as much as we possibly can – you and your readers want a lightning-fast website, and we can make it happen for you.

The Future of the Internet

The way of the future is compartmentalized services – no more jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none nonsense: Let the companies who do email really well do email; let web hosts host websites; let DNS servers host DNS and nothing more. This keeps things really fast, really simple, and just generally better.

We’ll soon publish more posts about our big changes, and why we’re moving in our new direction – stay tuned!

Why We’re Recommending G Suite

The Truth About Web Hosts and Email

I’ll get right to the point: Hosting email is the bane of the web host’s existence. Providing email services on a server that is also hosting web pages introduces a lot of complexities into server administration, and, as web hosts, our focus is on the website portion of the hosting experience. Email accounts are an extra courtesy service we provide because some people really want it.

The downsides to hosting email on a web server are many, but we’ll focus on the aspects most important to our customers:

  • Our IP’s are sometimes blocked by third-party providers, such as Google, ATT, Hotmail, and others, due to the volume of mail being sent from them.
  • If your web server goes down, your email goes down with it.
  • You can get blocked in the firewall for too many failed email login attempts.
  • Hosting email on a server slows it down, plain and simple – and your website is slower as a result.

We Will Continue Offering Email Accounts with cPanel Services

While we are not discontinuing cPanel (and therefore email accounts associated with web hosting accounts) entirely, we are strongly urging people to move away from cPanel. You can read about why that is in another post, The Great and Terrible cPanel.

99.95% of our customers use WordPress – that’s where we want to focus our attention and resources. Moving to servers without email accounts is the way of the future – the really really fast, smooth future.

Why G Suite is Amazing

If customers choose not to have email with their hosting package, what’s the best option? We very strongly encourage people to use G Suite (formerly Google Apps) for email, rather than their hosting server.

First, there are many customers on each of our shared servers, and, as a result, a lot of email is sent from it. Many third-party providers see the volume of email coming from the IP and block it for the volume of mail being sent.

The advantages of G Suite are:

  • Google’s IP’s are never blocked by any third parties – your email will always be delivered reliably
  • Incoming spam is filtered using Google’s excellent, robust spam detection system
  • Email is displayed within Google’s excellent gMail interface, or you may use an email client (we recommend Thunderbird over Outlook)
  • You can reply from your domain-baSed email address
  • Your email will function, even if our server is offline – your email is wholly separate from your hosting.

The disadvantages are:

  • This is not a free service; it costs $5 per month per email address
  • That’s it!

To sum up – Google does mail really, really well: Far better than any web host out there, ourselves included. You’ll have a better email experience using their services, and a better web hosting experience moving to a non-cPanel server.

If you have any questions, or if you’d like to move to a non-cPanel service, drop our support team a line, and stay tuned here – more information coming soon!

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.