Category Archives: From the Founder

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.

 

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!

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!

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.

Another Reason to Eat Locally-Sourced Foods

Linked below is quite a disturbing report covering how massive quinoa production has decimated portions of South America. We sometimes have quinoa in our house (I’m one of those who loves their little curls and flavor,) but not often. It won’t be difficult for us to eliminate this choice morsel from our diet, but I know many whole foodies who rely heavily on this amazing grain.

quinoa

Image from The Kitchn – http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-quinoa-63344

I suppose the question becomes, do those of us who eat a lot of quinoa care enough about people so many thousands of miles away to stop buying it?

Finding healthy, sustainable food continues to be a challenge, unless we follow a fairly strict rule: Eating locally. That unto itself causes a dilemma for people in areas which are not able to produce much food for itself.

What do we, as concerned citizens of the world, do?

I suppose, though, the question really is, “what do we, as concerned, compassionate, yet SPOILED citizens of the world do? Indeed, what are we willing to give up so others may simply survive? So our global environment may carry on, un-obliterated?”

Are you willing to give up quinoa? Soy? Coffee? Tea? Mass-produced beef?

I’m going to link two articles here: The second one, I’ve linked previously on Facebook, but it bears repeating. It is deeply disturbing, but so important.

The Unpalatable Truth About Quinoa

The Animal Lover’s Dilemma

I would love to hear any thoughts you may have about either article.

Internet Confessional & A New Love

Dear Internet –

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written; sorry about that. Life gets so busy from time to time, and I hope you’ll forgive me.

There’s this addiction I wrestle with: Peanut Butter. Specifically, sweetened peanut butter. Give me a jar of Peter Pan and a spoon, and I’ll probably stand there eating it until I throw up. I realize it’s horrible and full of things which are bad for me. Sometimes, I just don’t care – I know, that’s terrible. I’m working on it! Continue reading

Homestead Host Will Soon Be Black Chicken Host

Black Chicken Host is now almost one full year into operation! We have grown and added servers, services, and customers, and it’s been a lot of fun and hard work. Recently, it has become necessary to change our business name and domain, however, due to issues beyond our control. It’s been a crazy two weeks here, coming up with a new business name, logo, domain, website, et cetera, but it will be done soon.

Thus, I’d like to introduce you to Black Chicken Host! The only things that are changing are our name, domain, and website – we’re still the same people, same infrastructure, and same fantastic technical support you’ve come to know and love.

Our customers will be receiving individual emails in the coming days to let you know how the change will affect you personally, and whether there are changes we cannot make on your behalf.

The most important item is email addresses associated with @blackchickenhost.com will become @blackchickenhost.com. The prefix, (support, sales, payments, et cetera) will remain the same.

We have changed our Facebook and G+ pages, as well as our Twitter account. If you liked or followed us there, you don’t have to do it again on the new page, but the URL’s to access our feeds have changed:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blackchickenhost

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/103509524753344682494/103509524753344682494/posts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlackChicknHost (the full name, BlackChickenHost, was one letter too long, so we had to drop the “e.” Silliness.)

Due to the short time frame we’re working with, redirects and forwards will only work for a limited time (until December 7, 2012) once we have them in place. We hope our new website will be up and running within a day or two, and the new email addresses are currently working.

At this stage in our development, a rebranding is just a small bump in the road. We liked Black Chicken Host as a business name, but Black Chicken Host is going to be great, too.

Please pardon our dust in the coming days, and thanks, as always, for your support!

Scrumptious, Warming, Filling, Nutritious – Pumpkin Pie Porridge

Today at The Unlikely Homestead, it is about 40 degrees with a strong wind out of the North. It’s cloudy, thanks to the edges of Hurricane Sandy’s might, and most of the stunning autumn leaves have fallen from the trees, leaving the countryside bare and stark.

This is a difficult transitional time of year for me, going from the radiant beauty of fall to the dingy brown starkness of early winter. Once the snow falls (provided we get any this year,) it will improve things significantly, but for now… it’s dreary. Couple the weather with my best friend moving to England for 5 months this Friday, and we have a recipe for the blues. I’ve been sleeping a lot, and not doing much of anything.

Continue reading

Finding Meaningfulness in Work

Last week, I spoke with the lovely and talented Chaya of Pantry Paratus over Skype. While she was ostensibly interviewing me for a Pantry Paratus Radio podcast, it was more like a nice conversation with a good friend. We talked about everything from raw milk to website hosting to balancing homesteading with full-time work and all of life’s trials.

One of the not-too-secret secrets I have is that I hate computers. I really do.

It didn’t start out that way, of course. I found myself working in the Information Technology business in the early nineties almost by accident. I hired in as a part-time computer lab assistant at the University of Michigan, worked my way up the ranks, and before I knew it… I had A Career. Geekiness does run in my family; my dad is a computer geek, and his father was an engineer. I come by it honestly.

Continue reading