Author Archives: hannah

WordPress Cleanup Checklist

Whether you’re a seasoned blogger or just getting your site off the ground and going crazy with uploads and creating content, it’s always a good idea to keep your WordPress site storage in check. “But I have unlimited disk space!” That is probably not the case, unfortunately! A server is just someone else’s computer with a finite amount of disk space. “But I don’t have the time!” Let’s clean some things up together, it will be easier than you think!

Please note: Before removing anything from your website, it’s always a good idea to have a recent backup available in case something important is deleted.

Subscriber and Membership List Purge

Every subscriber is an entry in your site’s database which can (slowly) take up space. Subscriber lists are something that you will want to be careful about going through though; it’s probably best to do this manually. However, this will become less of a daunting task to do over time if you keep up with going through your subscriber lists. The key here, however, is prevention so you won’t have to spend so much time cleaning up spam users. A simple preventative of spam signups is making sure all submission forms have a CAPTCHA that spam bots can’t abuse.

Our recommendation: Google Captcha (reCAPTCHA)

Those Years Old Pending Spam Comments

Like we discussed with maintaining subscriber lists, the key to maintaining comments is prevention. If you do not have some sort of CAPTCHA, spam bots will use and abuse your comments section. Leaving pending spam comments unchecked can be a cleanup nightmare. If you want to clean this manually, it’s best to tackle this process after your site’s peak hours. This can be a resource-intensive process as it involves deleting entries from your site’s database. Having preventative measures in place will save you so much headache and time in the future.

Our recommendation: Akismet Anti-Spam and WP Optimize

Unused and Redundant Media Files

By default, WordPress creates 4 versions of an image when you upload it to your media library. WordPress will resize that image into a thumbnail, medium, large, and full-size version. That’s 4 times the disk space used! If you haven’t been blogging too long, going through media manually shouldn’t take too much time.

Our recommendation: Media Cleaner

Post Revisions and Drafts That Let’s Face It, You’re Never Going to Finish

Hiding in your database are all the saved post revisions that were created while you were working on content. That WP Optimize plugin we recommended above will remove such saved revisions, but you can also change how many revisions are saved per post. Adding WP_POST_REVISIONS in your wp-config.php file like so:

define( ‘WP_POST_REVISIONS’, 3 );

will set a limit of how many revisions per post WordPress will keep at a time. In this example, we’re telling WordPress to only keep 3 revisions at once per post. Uneasy about adding this to your wp-config.php? We can help!

Speaking of sneaky disk space users, let’s clean those abandoned drafts up too! Another alternative to just deleting those drafts if you can’t seem to let them go is copying them to a document and transferring them to an external location such as Google Drive or Dropbox.

Unused Themes and Plugins

This is something that we cannot stress enough and if we’ve worked on your site you probably have gotten a reminder from us! Deleting those unused themes you’ve tested and didn’t like and plugins you weren’t sure about is such a good idea for multiple reasons. Those plugins and themes still have all those site files and database entries that take up disk space. Deactivated or not, would-be hackers and bots can still exploit deactivated themes and plugins. It’s a double whammy if you’ve never updated them either. Keeping what you actually use trimmed down removes that much more points of vulnerable access and keeps your site that much safer.

We do realize the irony in suggesting all these plugins when we tell you to delete unnecessary plugins! Once you’re done with your site cleanup, make note of what plugins you’ve used for future reference and remove them! They can always be reinstalled at a later date for cleanup.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns or just want to chat!

How to Use Gmail (not G Suite) with Your Domain

The Evil of Email Forwarders

When an email forwarder is created, all email is forwarded to that address. Bills, invoices, Twitter notifications, those hilarious cat videos from Bob in the cubicle just over the way, and spam. Our IP addresses are then sometimes blocked by third-party providers, such as Google, ATT, Hotmail, and others, due to the volume of mail being sent from them or the spam that is being forwarded from your account(s).

While the spam may not have originated from your email account and is only being forwarded, email providers do not care. They only care about preventing spam from reaching their mail servers. This is why, if you prefer to use Gmail (or whichever third-party email provider you utilize) for all your mail, we always suggest setting up your domain email accounts as POP accounts rather than forward every message from your account.

POP accounts, by default, download the messages from the server. They can be configured to leave a copy on the server but I generally advise against that. IMAP accounts are a direct connection to the server in which you make changes (mark as read, delete, move to different folders) on the server itself. Mail does not get downloaded to the email client being used.

Benefits of using POP in Gmail

  • We never block Google’s IP addresses.
  • You can continue to use the amazing Gmail interface to read and respond to your emails.
    • You will even be able to respond as your domain-based email address rather than using your Gmail address.
  • Spam messages will no longer be forwarded from the server (but rather retrieved by Gmail) which will help lower the chances the server being blocked by Gmail for sending spam.
    • Even if you are using something other than Gmail, if you can set up the account as a POP account in that email (Yahoo!, Outlook, Hotmail, etc…), the same concept applies of less spam being sent from the server.

Potential Downsides

The only potential downside we can come up with is that Gmail checks periodically (about every hour or so) so you may need to wait for it to automatically pull your new messages. Alternatively, you can initiate a fetch-request by clicking the Refresh icon within Gmail, not your browser Refresh icon.

Let’s Set It Up!

  1. Log into your Gmail account.
  2. Click the settings icon (gear) in the top right and then click Settings.
  3. Click the Accounts and Import tab.
  4. In the Check mail from other accounts section, click Add a mail account.
  5. Enter your email address and click Next.
  6. Select the default option (POP3) and click Next.
  7. Change the Username to your full email address and enter the email account’s password.
  8. Change the POP Server to your server’s hostname, generally something like river.blackchickenhost.com. If you’re not sure what your server’s hostname is, please reach out to us!
  9. Select port 995 and check the box for Always use a secure connection (SSL) when retrieving mail.
  10. Click Add Account.

  11. Once your account has been added successfully, you can set up the email address so you can send mail from that account. Click Next.
  12. You can change the Name if you wish, this is what will be displayed when sending messages from this email address. Be sure to leave the Treat as an alias box checked.
  13. Use your server’s hostname for the SMTP Server, ensure you use your full email address for the Username, and enter your Password. Leave the Secured connection using TLS option selected and click Add Account.
  14. The email address you are adding to your Gmail account will receive a confirmation code to enter here.

You should now be able to send and receive your domain-based email through your Gmail account!

As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns or just want to chat!

Mindful WordPress Security Practices

Secure WordPress Practices

With WordPress, one of the easiest tasks to complete is to harden your site but it’s one of the most overlooked tasks! In this day in age with data breaches and hacks running rampant, it’s never too late to implement security practices on your website. While absolutely no site is 110%-without-a-doubt-no-way-in-hell-is-anyone-hacking-anything secure, there are many ways to minimize such risk. By not following any security practices or just “letting things go” you’re not only putting your site at risk, but you’re putting your audience at risk as well.

Quick Changes to Make Right Now

WordPress user practices

Please do not ever use the username of “admin” for your main administrative login. It is the WordPress default when creating a WordPress site, but it’s also the easiest to guess and easiest to start exploiting. Even if you use your email to log in to WordPress but still have your user created as “admin” you are still at a risk.

It’s always a great idea to periodically go through registered users and audit users that have any dashboard access whatsoever such as other Administrators, Editors, and Authors. That administrative user you made for a plugin support developer a few years ago that’s never been used again? You should delete that user ASAP. Multiple users with dashboard access are just more points of entry for bad guys.

Minimum password strength and password change schedule

Consider setting a schedule for yourself and additional users to change their login passwords. Your password that you haven’t updated since your site’s inception in 2013? Take a few seconds to change that today! We have a wonderful article on password security practices when creating new passwords. Try and put more thought into your passwords, and never use anything easy to guess like names and important dates.

If you care about your site at all, keep it up to date!

When Black Chicken Host receives a client request to install a new WordPress site, we always make sure to enable automatic core WordPress updates per our Terms of Service. Most likely if you’ve migrated to us you will need to enable automatic WordPress updates.

https://codex.wordpress.org/Configuring_Automatic_Background_Updates

Any theme or plugin developer worth their salt will test theme and plugin updates for compatibility with multiple versions of WordPress. While it is still an excellent practice to backup your site (you can ask us for help, we don’t mind!)  before doing major updates, unless your own website developer or “IT person” went to town with poorly coding your site, hit that update button!

…and just delete unused themes and plugins

The more themes and plugins, the more points of entry. Added bonus: reduces disk space!

Hide author usernames

Using your WordPress username as your “published” name on posts and pages is just handing people half of your login on a silver platter. But there’s a simple fix! Under your user profile, set a nickname for your user and change the “Display name publicly as” option:

“Advanced” Practices:

Change wp-login.php

One of the most common reasons we see for elevated server load/slow sites is IP addresses trying to brute force their way into your WordPress login landing pages. Since WordPress has a default www.yoursite.com/wp-login.php site landing page, this makes it easy for would be hackers and troublemakers to try and force their way into your WordPress dashboard. If your WordPress login landing page is a different URL that makes more “work” for the bad guys to try and locate and can help keep you safe!

We do not recommend editing your core WordPress files via FTP or File Manager to change your wp-login.php file or theme files. This can go wrong so quickly for so many reasons. There is however a myriad of plugins that quickly and safely change the default login landing page for your WordPress dashboard, just give a quick search! We’ve seen a few of our clients use WPS Hide Login.

Please note that if you do change the login for your site and later require our assistance with your site that involves logging into your site, please give us a heads up on what your login URL is. That will save us all some time and back and forth!

Use .htaccess to limit wp-login.php altogether

Via your site’s .htaccess file, we can deny all requests to your WordPress login page except for specified IP addresses. This is usually a last resort method as most folks do not have static IP addresses from their ISPs. So once your IP address changes, you will be locked out of your WordPress login page until your new IP address is added to your .htaccess file. If you would like assistance setting up this directive in your .htaccess, please contact us for assistance.

A Final Piece of Advice

Keep any computers and devices that access your WordPress site and email updated! If there are viruses to hack your email accounts, there are viruses to gain access to any site that requires a login. Make sure your computer has anti-virus setup and regularly updated, don’t slack on that! It’s an absolute nightmare trying to clean up an infected computer (we speak from experience).

When you don’t take your own computer and site security seriously, you aren’t taking your reader’s or customer’s security seriously. Data breaches aren’t just the huge ones you hear on the news, they can happen to any site no matter how small.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns or just want to chat!

Why *Everyone* Should Have Off-Server Backups

We have all heard the horror stories, and indeed, some of us have lived them ourselves – my hard drive failed, and I lost everything. Backups are so very important! However, there are many different kinds of backups, and which of those backups we use is something we all need to think about before catastrophe strikes.

There have been numerous events across many major hosting companies, ranging from “unexpected thermal events” (which is to say, fires) to hardware failures to natural disasters, all of which have resulted in some measure of data loss. You can protect yourself from these events 100% by taking a few simple steps.

The Backup Lowdown

Before we get into those specific steps, though, let’s talk about backup security in general. Black Chicken Host provides on-server backups as a courtesy service; per our Terms of Service, these backups are not guaranteed. While they are typically very robust and trouble-free, it is possible something might happen to them rendering them unusable.

The most important step in obtaining additional backup security is to have off-server backups. You can set this up either with a WordPress plugin, such as BackupBuddy or Updraft, or you can manually download cPanel backups to your home or office computer.

Pro tip! If you are utilizing a backup plugin we recommend downloading those backups immediately. Otherwise, your disk space allowance will quickly fill up which can render your site inaccessible.

Your Options

For our Standard Shared clients, we have our courtesy backup system which backs up your sites once a month and several times during the week. You can manually generate and download backups via your cPanel account access too! The Backup Wizard feature allows you to create a full backup of your entire account for download (site files, databases, and email) or you can pick and choose which part of your account you want to backup. We always recommend having a full download of everything, just in case!

For our WordPress Only clients, we have a rolling incremental backup available of your site taken every morning. We highly recommend utilizing a backup plugin to keep local backups saved to your computer. Again, you will want to make sure you have these backup plugins download to your computer or other remote location (Dropbox or Google Drive) to keep your disk space allowance in check.

For our VPS server clients, we offer the widest range of backup solutions. Like our Standard Shared clients, we have our courtesy backup system which backs up your sites once a month and several times during the week. You can also manually generate and download backups via your cPanel account access. If you have a dedicated WordPress Only server, we have a rolling incremental backup available of your site taken every morning. For all of our VPS server clients, we also offer a paid-for, off-server backup option called “Time Snap”; this takes weekly snapshots of all files on the server, and retains four rolling restore points. Rather than restoring a single site or account, this restores the server as a whole, which is great in the event the whole server becomes unusable. The cost of these server-level backups is 20% of the server cost.

A Solution for Everyone

Our BCH Managed WP Services also include backup plans! Backups are stored offsite at the Amazon S3 infrastructure and retained for 90 days before being rotated out. We can also download, restore, and even clone your site with a few clicks of a button. Plans include Weekly, Daily, 2x Daily, 4x Daily, and Hourly. Learn more here!

As always, please contact us if you have any additional questions or concerns about site backups or what options are best for you.

2019 Affiliate Referral Contest

It’s been a minute since we hosted our last Affiliate Referral Contest (in 2012 to be exact, yikes!) and we thought it was time for another one! We hope to hold these contests on a more frequent basis because who doesn’t like prizes??

Did you know Black Chicken Host has an affiliate program?

We are grateful to our affiliate partners for helping us spread the word about our services they are currently the only source of our “advertising”! Because we know you’re putting time and effort into promoting us, we want to reward you even more than the $5.00 bonus just for signing up and the 3% monthly commission for the lifetime of referred accounts. This commission is applied to your account as account credit which can be used to pay any of your invoices – domain orders and renewals, hosting packages, SSLs, anything!

Starting Saturday, February 2, 2019, we’ll be launching an affiliate contest!

The affiliate with the most sales during the three-week contest will win their choice of one of the following prizes:

  • One free domain registration
  • $30 Amazon gift card
  • $30 account credit
  • Free SSL certificate for one year ($29.99 value)

Feel free to promote your affiliate link however you want, there are no limitations! You can place a button on your website, write a review of our services, post to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, put a link in the footer of your newsletter, etc.

Of course, there are a few rules:

  • To qualify, referred sales must have completed payment in full within three days of the contest’s end date (contest ends Monday, 2/25/2019)
  • All product referrals will qualify as a sale – web hosting, domain registrations, SSL’s, et cetera all count toward your totals
  • Fraudulent orders will be cancelled & cannot count toward totals – we know you’d never intentionally refer a fraudulent party!

If you’re not signed up for affiliate rewards yet, there’s still time! If you would like to sign up for our Affiliate Program, you can do so via this link after logging into your Black Chicken Host Customer Portal. Note, you must be an active Black Chicken Host client with active services to qualify for our Affiliate Program.

Ready, set, go! Let’s keep growing our Black Chicken Host community!

 

GDPR: a breakdown and what we’re doing about it

What is GDPR?

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliance deadline of 5/25/2018 is swiftly approaching. If you’re not familiar with GDPR, it’s basically a new/updated set of privacy protection guidelines the EU is requiring for anyone that obtains, stores, or processes personal information about an EU resident. This includes name, email, city, favorite color, hair color, shoe size, type of car they drive, or even their height. Yes, all of this information is considered personal information. Additional information about GDPR can be found at these official resources:

https://www.eugdpr.org/ (the main site to find information regarding this regulation)

https://ico.org.uk/

https://www.cfte.education/gdpr/

How Does GDPR Affect Me?

If you collect any information about your visitors/users and think they might be EU or UK residents, please continue to follow along.

We will be starting to perform periodic checks of all sites for EU country references (and potentially other information) to identify if you have EU resident data saved in your database/site. If you do have EU resident data, it ultimately comes down to you as a site owner contacting them if you have any information at all. This includes email address, phone number, postal address, anything that could be used to contact them. Let them know specifically what information of theirs that you have and ask the EU resident what they would like you to do with their information. Or, you can simply choose to delete all associated data of EU and UK visitors. We actually recommend this if you have no further use of such data.

Through our research, bloggers and site owners should also plan to do the following:

  • Displaying a privacy notice anytime they collect personal information classified under GDPR,
  • Have a data processing and security policy, and
  • Have robust security anywhere data is processed.

The following should also be reviewed on your site(s) to make sure they comply with GDPR requirements:

  • Remove auto opt ins. Opt ins on newsletters need to have a “tickable” option, not something that is pre-ticked, or “assumed” to be accepted by the end user.
  • Do not use opt in freebies to get email addresses for one purpose then use them for another. If you gained email addresses this way you should go out to gain consent or you may be in breach of GDPR. You may use opt in freebies if you explicitly state what other purposes their contact information may be used for.
  • Discontinue sharing data with anyone else who wasn’t named at the point where data was provided, for example, a brand who asks for the email addresses of giveaway entrants.
  • Stop collecting data where not necessary, for example, contact forms and comments.
  • Do not share named brand PR contacts without explicit permission from end users.

Overall, it seems a privacy page and making sure mailing lists are compliant are the big tasks. There are a plethora of resources for bloggers and site owners regarding GDPR and getting your site ready. Just take to Google!

As most of you are using WordPress, we found that they are adding some tools to WordPress itself to help make things easier for website owners. They have already started adding some of these, but the rest should be out by the end of April or beginning of May. Information on this can be found at:

https://wordpress.org/news/2018/04/gdpr-compliance-tools-in-wordpress/

We will keep you apprised of any additional information/requirements we come across as the deadline approaches and as requirements develop. Again, this would only impact you and your site if you are storing personal information of EU residents.

We have been asked by several of our clients if we can just straight up block EU/UK resident IP addresses from accessing their site(s). Yes, there are a few ways we might go about that, however you would still either have to delete or notify EU/UK resident personal information from your site/databases. Just something to keep in mind! If you are interested in blocking the EU/UK from visiting your site(s), please open a support ticket so that we might discuss your options.

If you do not collect user data on your site, GDPR shouldn’t apply to you. If you do require GDPR compliance or just aren’t sure, please feel free to open a ticket with us (preferred method of communication) or send us a message through our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/blackchickenhost/ .

What Black Chicken Host Has Done

We’ve always been about your rights to privacy here at Black Chicken Host, and already had processes in place in our system to allow you to alter or remove any personal data from your account. To make sure we explicitly comply with these new GDPR requirements, we have made changes to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policies, which can be found on our website:

https://blackchickenhost.com/our-products/terms-of-service/

https://blackchickenhost.com/privacy-policy/

We did review our own system for EU residents and sent messages to get in contact about their rights under GDPR as our clients. If you are an EU resident with an incorrect Country selection or we otherwise somehow missed contacting you outside of this message, please contact us as soon as possible!

If any of this sounds alarming or daunting, please do not worry. We are always here to help to the best of our ability!