Michael PhillipsYou may have noticed that a lot of web hosts are not particularly active on social media. Many don’t even have public-facing community forums. We’ve always had a forum because we believe they’re indispensable when it comes to making information and knowledge available, and as a place where people can help each other.

As far as social media is concerned though, we didn’t hop on that train right away. DiscountASP.NET started 3 years before Facebook and Twitter opened to the public, and 8 years before Google+ decided to do their thing.

But when those things came along, most businesses didn’t immediately take advantage of them, and we were no different. Eventually though, we made our way to Twitter, then Facebook. But it was when Google+ came along that we started to take a more active role in social media.

There were a lot of benefits to using Google+ when it started (though now most of those benefits have disappeared as Google slowly dismantles Plus and takes it toward a communities-only kind of thing). But since we were putting a lot of time and energy into Plus when it started, it was only natural to put more time and energy into Twitter and Facebook as well.

So we put a lot of resources into all three, with the expectation that we would get a dialog going with our users and the world at large. We did Google+ Hangouts, published new articles often, responded to every social media interaction.

That’s what all the pundits and social media experts were telling us we should do. They assured us that, “If you build it they will come,” so we built it and nurtured it and painted it nice colors and put up decorative lights. It was a great and glorious thing.

But not really.

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What we learned after committing those resources to social media was that the people who use web hosting services don’t much care about what we have to say outside of issues that are directly related to what we do. They don’t want to hang out with us. Well, on social media, anyway. Our blogs still get a lot of traffic and our forums continue to be used. But Twitter, Facebook, Google+? Not so much.

There are certainly a lot of you on Twitter and Facebook – and yes, some of you are even still on Google+ – but you’re not so interested in chit chatting with your web host on there.

Now, I have to tell you, we are an interesting bunch, but I can’t blame you for not being our pals. For not wanting to hang out and talk about motorcycles or vinyl LPs or gardening. Interacting with a company can feel a little…weird. Or one-sided in a lot of cases. Plus, you’ve got work to do. And so do we.

So we’re okay with not being your Facebook friends. But we have seen that you do expect to be able to use social media to find out what’s happening when you see a problem. So we’ve shifted our social media focus to providing notices about upcoming maintenance and alerting you to problems as they’re happening.

And as far as that goes – well, here’s my social media calendar for DiscountASP.NET for two weeks in October:

social-media-scheduling

As you can see, it’s a lot of ground to cover. But you’ve let us know that’s what you want, so we’re happy to do it.

Those are just the scheduled things, the things we know are going to happen. The unscheduled activity is an entirely different kettle of gumbo, and it can be a bit frantic and crazy around here when something goes wrong and affects the entire network.

It’s crazy because we’re your favorite scrappy independent host, not a huge multinational conglomerate. Which means we don’t have a room full of people in front of computers here in the office, waiting patiently to answer your Facebook posts or Tweets. It’s usually just me and one or two members of the support staff, depending on what’s going on.

So if one of those big problems does happen, we’ll let you know on social media, but we’ll also usually point you to our forums (which are hosted outside or network) for more information, or to answer your questions.

That helps because we can give you updates and answer questions in one place, rather than three or six (or more). Imagine trying to answer every post on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and work the helpdesks and forums for two brands when hundreds of people are posting and emailing. There’s just no way we can keep up on all of the social media sites at those times.

So if you post on Facebook when there is a problem that affects a large part of the network but you don’t get a response right away, it doesn’t mean we’re unaware of the problem, and we certainly aren’t ignoring you. We’re probably just, you know, busy.

The outage threads in the forums have traditionally been locked, but a while back we opened them up so you can talk to us in there. So next time you feel like something may be going haywire, check for us in the forums: DiscountASP.NET, Everleap.

Luckily problems that affect everyone are very rare, so we’re not often in a place where we’re overwhelmed answering your queries. If it’s a localized problem, something affecting one server or part of a server, we’ll always do everything we can to respond to you wherever you happen to be posting.

When we saw the writing on the social media wall we didn’t just fold up our tents and go back to the way things used to be. We adapted, and we continue to adapt every day. And I hope we’re adapting in a way that’s working for you. If we’re not – well you know where to find us.

 

Microsoft Cutting off Power to LightSwitch

On October 25, 2016, in Announcements, by Takeshi Eto

Takeshi EtoVisual Studio LightSwitchIn July 2011, Microsoft launched an initiative to help accelerate building Line-of-Business applications with Visual Studio LightSwitch – a stand-alone product that integrated with Visual Studio 2010. The promise of LightSwitch was to provide experienced developers, those with little experience, and non-developer business stakeholders with a faster way to build business applications.

LightSwitch could be used to create Silverlight, HTML 5 or SharePoint applications for the web or for the desktop. In subsequent releases, instead of a stand-alone product, Microsoft included LightSwitch tooling with Visual Studio 2012 and beyond. Today, LightSwitch is available with the latest release of Visual Studio 2015.

However, with all the focus on ASP.NET 5 (now ASP.NET Core) over the past couple years, there has been very little discussion about LightSwitch. In fact the last post on the LightSwitch blog was made back in 2014.

That is, until Oct 14, 2016.

That’s when Microsoft announced that Visual Studio 2015 will be the last version of Visual Studio to include the LightSwitch tooling. Microsoft will continue to support existing LightSwitch apps with critical bug fixes and security updates in accordance to the Microsoft Product Support Lifecycle. (Mainstream support for Visual Studio 2015 ends October 13, 2020.)

I did not personally use LightSwitch, but some of our staff did, in order to create some tools for analyzing marketing data. In our use case, LightSwitch was useful for non-developer staff to create quick applications. While LightSwitch was not central to our system development efforts, I thought it useful in certain circumstances, and I could understand how a community of LightSwitch power-users could evolve around this tooling. Which would explain some of the passionate comments on the recent LightSwitch announcement.

With the deprecation of Silverlight, Expression, WebMatrix, and now LightSwitch, you can see Microsoft trying to shed itself of their older technologies, no doubt to focus on their new cross-platform tooling for cloud environments. If you are invested in any older Microsoft technologies, it is important to keep tabs on the Microsoft development team blogs, and you should take note of any long periods of silence. And although it will eat up resources, it’s best to invest in learning about and making transitions to newer modern development stacks and tools when you can.

At DiscountASP.NET, we try to provide you with a long runway. We can still support older technologies like Silverlight and sites developed with Expression, WebMatrix and LightSwitch. And you know we keep up to date with the latest technologies like ASP.NET Core hosting. We strive to provide a platform where you can confidently run your legacy apps while working on modernizing your development efforts.

 

Canceling? Tell us why.

On October 18, 2016, in Hosting Industry, Inside DiscountASP.NET, by Takeshi Eto

Takeshi EtoOur Windows hosting service is a subscription business. And as much as I hate to admit it, we do have customers cancel service. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true. All kidding aside, part of running any subscription service is dealing with churn.

At the end of the day, we want your online presence to be successful. We hope that our hosting solution can contribute to your success, but if it doesn’t work for you, we understand.  We certainly don’t want to hold anyone hostage in an undesirable or unworkable situation.

That’s why we make it easy to submit a cancellation request – right from your account Control Panel.

I’m sure you have experienced other subscription services that make it extremely difficult to cancel services. They force you to call during specific hours (never in your time zone), then go through a series of automated phone menus, punching in all sorts of information. When you finally get to speak to someone, you have to confirm or repeat information, provide answers to security questions and sometimes even justify your reasons for leaving! The whole process is painful, and the representative’s job is to convince you to keep your account active, not to help you cancel it.

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We don’t employ those Kind of tactics. Mainly because it’s just not cool, but also because the last thing we want to be – even if you’re on your way out – is annoying. We don’t want anyone to have a bad experience associated with DiscountASP.NET.

However, if you do ever cancel service with us, we have one “ask” – and that is to let us know why you canceled. We ask the question not to pry or invade your privacy, but for feedback in order to help improve our service.

If you sold your business or got a new web developer who prefers another host, let us know. If you just hated the service or Control Panel or the way some feature worked, tell us. We can take it! Maybe you just outgrew what we offer, or decided to change your technology stack. Let us know. That’s valuable information to us.

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We continuously review the reasons given when people cancel and the information is passed along to our product and operations teams, who use the feedback to help inform our product pipeline and customer support training. Getting feedback from you is really valuable and it helps us to prioritize what we work on or develop.

We realize that if you are leaving you may be thinking, “Hey, I’m leaving, why should I care about helping you?” Well, look at it this way: we are an independent hosting company. We aren’t just another brand name in a huge conglomerate, or a line item for an investment firm. It’s important that independent companies like DiscountASP.NET continue to thrive. It keeps the big conglomerates and the fly-by-night “hosts” honest. And it provides you with a more personal alternative to the giant corporate hosts when you want it.

That’s good for you as a consumer, having that choice, and it’s good for us, for obvious reasons. 😉

And while we’re on the subject, feel free to give us your feedback even if you have no intention of leaving! We love to hear it, and it helps for all the reasons we’ve talked about here.

 

Takeshi Etoprivacy shield frameworkAs you may or may not know, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) struck down the EU Safe Harbor framework back in October 2015. The Safe Harbor agreement was originally reached in 2000, and provided a framework to allow US-based companies to transfer EU citizens’ data to the USA if the company met EU standards for privacy protection.

Since 2010, DiscountASP.NET has maintained US-EU Safe Harbor certification, working with our privacy management solutions partner, TRUSTe. We chose to invest in attaining Safe Harbor status because we host customers from all over the world and we wanted to make sure that our EU customers are confident that we are following EU privacy standards. We believe it’s a differentiator and shows our commitment to protecting your privacy.

Naturally, we were very concerned when the Safe Harbor framework was ruled invalid. After the ruling came out we reached out to TRUSTe to get guidance, and they informed us that US and EU teams were negotiating a new privacy framework. It took a while, but in July 2016, the new framework was approved with a new name, Privacy Shield. On August 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce started accepting certifications under the new Privacy Shield framework.

We are currently working on (hopefully) the final stages of the Privacy Shield certification process. To this end, we will be updating our Privacy Policy soon to meet the new standards.

We hope that our efforts here demonstrate our commitment to privacy protection.

 

Joseph JunWe have successfully updated all of our Team Foundation Server 2015 servers to Update 3. Update 3 was mostly a series of a bug fixes but it was a cumulative update that let us introduce some features that were released through Update 2 — an update that we had not applied.

WORK ITEM DELETION

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The ability to delete work items through the web portal wasn’t available through the previous iterations of Team Foundation Server but the feature is now available in the on-premises version of Team Foundation Server 2015.

TEAM PROJECT CREATION/DELETION

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You can now create a new team project directly from the collection profile page and you won’t need to rely on Visual Studio/Team Explorer.

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While the capability of deleting a Team Project isn’t anything new, the ability to remove a project has been integrated directly into the web portal.

For a full summary of changes, please review the release notes for the following:

 

September Updates

On September 21, 2016, in Announcements, by Ray

Ray HuangHere’s a list of our Web Application Gallery updates for September:

  • Acquia Drupal 7.50.52.6330
  • BlogEngine.NET 3.3
  • DotNetNuke (DNN) 8.0.4.226 Platform
  • Gallery Server Pro 4.0.1
  • Joomla 3.6.2
  • mediaWiki 1.27.1
  • Moodle 3.1.2
  • nopCommerce 3.80
  • Orchard 1.10.1
  • osCommerce 2.3.4 NEW
  • phpMyAdmin 4.6.4
  • SilverStripe CMS 3.4.1
  • WordPress 4.6.1
 

Michael Phillips“Delete my WordPress blog? You can’t be serious!”

Well, yes I am. If you aren’t using it.

WordPress is the world’s most popular blog, CMS, framework, magic trick – however you classify it, it’s behind almost 20% of the world’s self-hosted websites, and that’s a lot of sites. More than 75 million, they say. So odds are you’ve installed WordPress at least once, if not half a dozen times, over the years.

But where, oh where are those WordPress installations?

We find a lot of them in /test directories, or in abandoned /blog directories. We find them there because they get compromised, and we’re called in to clean up the resulting mess. And that mess can go very deep, and spread out well beyond the WordPress directory.

volkswagenSince WordPress is so popular, it’s also the target of more compromises than any other third-party application that you can install. So what often happens is someone installs WordPress to try it or test it, and then they forget about it. But they don’t delete it. So there that old installation sits.

And the longer it sits without being updated, the more vulnerable it is to compromise by the bad guys. If you think they’ll never find it because you cleverly installed it in a random directory that you don’t link to from anywhere, think again. The bad guys have bots – lots and lots of bots – and spiders, and all they do, all day every day, is look for wp-admin pages to exploit.

squirrelIf you are actively using WordPress, that’s great, all you have to do is keep it up to date and your chances of being compromised are vastly reduced (they don’t go away, but they’re reduced). If you use WordPress but you’re not someone who logs in to the WordPress admin back end every day, you might consider setting up automatic updates.

Another thing you can do is delete the “admin” user that’s created when you first install WordPress. Give your everyday user admin permissions and delete that admin user. I know, it’s scary, but do it! That will make it harder for the bad guys to exploit you using a brute force attack on your admin password.

Active WordPress installations aside, the best thing you can do is look around for old, unused WordPress installations and get rid of them. And while you’re in there digging around, you might want to delete any other applications that you aren’t using. Look at it like a kind of year-round spring cleaning. It will make your domain more secure and potentially save you from a real headache down the road.

 

End of the line for WebMatrix

On August 24, 2016, in Announcements, by Takeshi Eto

Takeshi Etologo-webmatrix3aMicrosoft introduced WebMatrix as a free and lightweight IDE for web developers back in 2011. During the 2011 //BUILD conference, Microsoft introduced WebMatrix v2 beta. I remember that, because I was there too – on stage to announce our free WebMatrix v2 beta hosting sandbox.

I personally thought WebMatrix was a useful tool (when you didn’t have Visual Studio or didn’t want to install Visual Studio). Whenever I was on a computer or laptop that didn’t have Visual Studio and I needed to do some website work or show someone something on their laptop, I usually ended up installing WebMatrix.

But all good things must come to an end.

In early August, in the Microsoft IIS.NET WebMatrix forum, it was announced that there will be no more future development work on WebMatrix. So the last version is 3.0 and there will be no more updates and no more bug fixes. Since Microsoft introduced Visual Studio Code – a new free cross-platform IDE, they are pushing developers to transition to that tool now.

At DiscountASP.NET and Everleap, we support WebDeploy and will continue to host sites developed with WebMatrix, but for developers who rely on WebMatrix, you will need to make the transition to a new tool in the near future.

 
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