Category Archives: Blog

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!

Bandwidth Usage and Review

What bandwidth is and what bandwidth isn’t.

Run out of or getting close to your bandwidth limit for the month but Google Analytics doesn’t show much traffic or page views? This is possible for a couple reasons:

  • Google Analytics doesn’t track files like images being directly requested, and
  • bandwidth and traffic/page views are not the same.

Bandwidth is one of those confusing, misunderstood terms that we want to provide clarification about so you can better understand your hosting package. I think first explaining what bandwidth is not will help clarify what it is. Bandwidth is not:

  • page views
  • amount of traffic

Bandwidth is the amount of data, usually expressed in megabytes or gigabytes (MB or GB), sent by the server to the end users requesting your site. If you have a small file like an image, .5MB in size, and it’s requested directly 2000 times, you’ll have used 1,000MB (1GB) of bandwidth. If you have a large file like a PDF, 5MB in size, and it’s requested 2000 times, you’ll have used 10,000MB (10GB) of bandwidth.

“That’s great about individual files, but what about when someone loads my actual site?”

Great question! Same concept as above. If your site ends up being 3MB in size once all resources are sent/loaded and your site is requested 3,000 times, you’ll have used 9,000MB (9GB) of bandwidth. There are many things that can be done to help reduce bandwidth usage, such as compressing files before they are sent to the end user and forcing their browsers to cache various files. We’ll go into this more in another article about site caching.

“How can I view my actual bandwidth usage if Google Analytics isn’t tracking individual files?”

cPanel has a great tool called Awstats and is our preferred method of reviewing bandwidth. In your cPanel account, type Awstats in the top search bar and click the icon. Here you’ll see your various sites separated by SSL and non-SSL reports. If you have all your traffic routed to SSL (https), you’ll want to select that report. All this data comes directly from the server logs compared to third-party tools which don’t have access to the server logs and do their reporting differently.

The first thing you’ll want to look at is the Monthly history. This shows how much bandwidth you’ve used on a monthly basis. Next are the days of month, days of week, and even hours. The other two sections we use most often are the File type and Downloads. If there is an excessive amount of bandwidth being used, it’s usually obvious in these sections that there is a specific file, such as a popular video or image that’s going viral, or type of file, such as images in general, which can happen with a site that is image heavy.

In short, bandwidth is the amount of data, not page views, being transferred from the server. If you have any questions about lowering your bandwidth usage or interpreting Awstats information, please feel free to open a ticket so we can perform a review of your site.

Upcoming SSL Changes to Google Chrome

New labeling for http sites

Starting in July 2018, Google Chrome will be marking all http sites as “Not secure”, something you may have already seen on some sites. When you request a site with http rather than https, your connection is not secure and therefore vulnerable to malicious activity. Google is trying to move the web towards a secure (https) web by default and marking http sites as “Not secure” is part of that process. More information about the upcoming changes can be found in this Venture Beat post.

What does this mean for you?

In short, if your site doesn’t have an SSL, it will be marked as “Not secure”. Currently this is only happening for sites that contain password fields and/or take credit card information, but will soon apply to your site. This doesn’t have to happen though! We can help secure your site! We have a variety of SSL certificates but the CP SSL product is the best value. It will cover all domains and subdomains on your cPanel account.

If you’re using our WordPress Only product, you get free certificates included! If you don’t have one yet or aren’t sure if it’s enabled, just let us know and we’ll check!

Post SSL Installation

Once we install the SSL certificate, the site needs to be converted over to https. Meaning, all references of http will be changed over to https. Any image, script, whatever other links, need to be changed over. For WordPress sites (99.99% of what our customers use), we use the WordPress command line tool to make these changes. We’ve had great success with this method.

 

Please let us know if you have any questions or would like assistance getting your site set up with an SSL certificate!

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!