How to Use Your Smartphone to Shoot Professional Looking Videos for Your Website


Smartphone Camera

Ever seen those billboards or commercials that brag that the whole thing was shot on a smartphone? You may have thought “yeah right.” Funny thing is, it was probably true! More and more producers working on tight budgets have turned to smartphones to meet their production needs on the cheap. Here is how you, too, can create videos and show them on your website using nothing more than your smartphone and a little know-how.

Easier Than Ever

Many people see the task of adding video to their site as quite daunting. They believe that producing high-quality video requires expensive equipment, editing software, and in-depth technical knowledge. Just a few years ago you would have been right about that. But, with the rise of the smartphone, today everyone walks around with a powerful supercomputer and video camera in their pockets or purses all the time.

Of course, many people do not realize they can use it for anything other than deleting emails and sending texts. But, the great thing about using a smartphone to shoot video for your site is the ease of use. Unlike traditional cameras that require a deeper understanding of all of the various features in order to obtain sharp, clear videos, smartphones do most of that work for you. Still, some elements of a well-shot video will require a little thought and preparation.

Location

While the technology can do a lot to make shooting video simple, you still need an appropriate location. You also want to find an area with little to no clutter in the background. The difference between a well-shot video and one that looks amateurish often comes down to these little details, so pay attention to your surroundings before tapping “record.”

Limit What Your Smartphone Does While Filming

Few things could be more annoying than getting most of the way through a fantastic take, then having your phone vibrate or ring. To reduce the likelihood of this problem, simply put your phone in airplane mode or use a “Do Not Disturb” feature. Also, if you have a number of apps producing a lot of notifications, silence notifications for a while during filming.

Also, be aware of how much space you have on your phone. If you have dozens of photos and apps filling up all of the available storage area, you may not be able to record much video. Save this content to your computer or the cloud before you start recording.

A Few Basic Principles of Good Photography Can Make All the Difference

If you have ever shot photographs indoors, you may already be familiar with the phenomenon of camera shake. With still photographs, the lower light levels indoors require a longer exposure, and movements as slight as your own pulse can cause the image to blur. Using a tripod and lights or flashes can counteract this effect by holding the camera much more still and reducing the amount of time required for the exposure.

Video is much the same. Although the camera takes a series of images in rapid succession (rather than opening and closing a lens for a single exposure) the lighting and shake of the camera still impact the quality of the resulting images. You could end up with a bouncy image, blurring, or something so dark your audience cannot make out any details.

Instead, use a tripod to stabilize your shot. Use photography lighting or natural outdoor lighting rather than the harsh, overhead fluorescents found in most offices. Make sure that the light fills the shot and does not leave any strange shadows or unintended dark spots on either your subject or the background. Also, make sure the light is bright, but not overpowering. This may require a little experimentation to get it just right, so build a little time into your schedule to make sure the image looks the way you want.

Film Horizontally

Few things can foul a good smartphone video faster than holding the device the wrong way. You want to hold the phone horizontally, with the longest edges on the top and bottom. Otherwise, the video will be tall and skinny, and not conducive to a pleasant viewing experience on most screens.

Of course, there is always an exception. Some platforms that host video for mobile devices prefer vertical formats. Examples include Snapchat and Instagram. If in doubt, research best practices for the way you want to use your video before you shoot.

Editing

Once you have shot your video, you will probably need to do a little editing. Whether on your phone or on a computer, most good video editing programs work in a fairly similar manner. They will allow you to select the videos you want to edit, slice them at appropriate locations, splice, add title cards, and make other adjustments. While you can edit videos within a smartphone, computers make the job much easier and produce better final products.

While there are many software solutions for editing videos, one of the best is also free: YouTube’s video editor. This solution just makes sense if you plan to host the video on YouTube. However, you can also use it to edit videos that you subsequently post elsewhere.

Hosting

A final consideration for your videos will always be where you plan to host them. This may require a bit of thought and foresight. Videos tend to be large, resource-hogging files that can dramatically impact a website’s storage, bandwidth, and performance. Although some compression is possible, shrinking video file sizes without significantly compromising video quality, even this solution has limits.

The amount of video you intend to have on your site determines how much power your hosting account needs. If you use your website primarily for advertising, and you intend to have only a small handful of videos, you may find hosting those videos on YouTube or Vimeo, then embedding the content in your pages an adequate solution. Although this may split traffic between your site and the video hosting page, you will not run into issues like exceeding your hosting plan’s bandwidth or overtaxing server resources. For those who have either very small videos or who do not mind hosting them on a third-party site like YouTube, a Shared Hosting solution may be perfectly adequate.

Alternatively, if you plan to show multiple videos on your site, you may need a hosting product with more horsepower. For example, if you plan to have several pages of tutorials, frequently updated video interviews, a stream of original video content, or simply wish to host the videos directly on your site rather than using a third-party site like YouTube, you will need a more robust hosting product. Fortunately, InMotion Hosting makes upgrading easy. So, you can increase your site’s storage and power as you grow your content and fan base.

Time to Get Started

As you can see, it has never been easier to shoot your own videos and get them on the web. With smartphones, you can carry an entire video studio in your pocket. Just follow the steps above and you can have professional looking videos on your website in no time.

Alphabet Q2 2017: Enterprise Efforts Pay Off for Google Cloud


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Not long after Google Cloud senior vice president Diane Greene said that in the next five years it could overtake Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the top hyperscale cloud provider, Google appears to be making headway on this promise.

Alphabet reported its Q2 2017 earnings on Monday, and while analysts were tripped up on the rising costs on its advertising side and the massive anti-trust fine, Google’s cloud business continues to hum along as investments in talent and infrastructure pay off.

In Q2 2017, Alphabet reported revenues of $26 billion, an increase of 21 percent on the same period last year. Google Cloud revenues sit in the “other revenues” category, which reported over $3 billion in revenues, a rise of 42 percent from Q2 2016.

Google’s ongoing focus on attracting enterprise customers to its cloud is starting to have a material impact on its earnings, according to second quarter results. Its enterprise cloud customers include Nintendo, Home Depot, Coca-Cola, and Spotify. Google CEO Sundar Pichai told analysts on Monday that Google Cloud Platform has a “diverse set of use cases across sectors and industries and geographies and so, I would say the breadth of what we have seen, it’s really surprised me.”

“Google Cloud Platform, GCP, continues to experience impressive growth across products, sectors and geographies and increasingly with large enterprise customers in regulated sectors. To be more specific about our momentum with big customers, in Q2 the number of new deals we closed worth more than $0.5 million is three times what it was last year,” Pichai said.

Ruth Porat, CFO, Alphabet and Google, said, “It’s obviously not a financial forecast but it does display the traction we are having with cloud in the market and GCP remains one of the fastest growing businesses across Alphabet, G-suite continues to have strong growth.”

Pichai added later in the call that the combination of G Suite and GCP is an enticing part of the pitch for enterprise customers. As is its expanding international infrastructure footprint.

“Responding to the growth in existing and new customers around the world, we continue to invest in datacenters to provide them the fastest most reliable service. We opened new Google Cloud regions in Northern Virginia, Singapore, Sydney and London,” he said. “We also continue to build out our partnerships, in Q2 we announced an expansion of our partnership at SAP and a new partnership with Nutanix to integrate their products with GCP. So customers can run workloads in hybrid environments, On-Prem and in the Cloud using containers and Kubernetes.”

Infrastructure is of course not the only investment that Alphabet is making in its Google Cloud business. The company added 1,614 people in the quarter, with its total headcount reaching 75,606 in Q2.

“Consistent with prior quarters the vast majority of new hires were engineers and product managers. In terms of product areas the most sizeable headcount additions were once again made in cloud for both technical and sales roles consistent with the priority we place on this business,” said Porat. “In R&D you can see the impact of the headcount increases in our priority areas particularly Cloud and machine learning and marketing spend similarly reflects the strategic priority areas we’ve delineated particularly hardware and YouTube subscription.”

While Google still has a long way to go to catch up to Amazon Web Services (AWS) — and Microsoft for that matter — investing in talent and infrastructure across its “Other Bets” seems to be part of its plan for the foreseeable future.

Analysts will be watching how these “Other Bets” will amount to tangible long-term growth for the business, and in particular are going to want to see machine learning investments improve products across its portfolio.

Latest App Coding Trend Led by Docker Can Be a Hacker's Dream


(Bloomberg) — Every time you search for something on Google, hail an Uber or log into a bank account, your personal data likely flow behind the scenes through a series of separate, freestanding packages of software known as containers. Although invisible to the user, this method has become the dominant way to code apps today. Programmers like it because it allows them to change one feature without breaking their colleagues’ work, and it helps software run more efficiently, saving companies money.

But the process is also giving hackers lots of new ways to steal people’s information. Instead of a user’s data going directly to one place, they can jump between dozens of containers for a single action. Hackers only need to gain access to one. Because of the way most containers are designed, they’re black boxes on a network. Administrators may have no idea what’s happening inside of them.

Docker Downsides: Container Cons to Consider before Adopting Docker

This threat went largely unnoticed for a while as containers proliferated throughout the software industry. In 2014, it caught the attention of Sameer Bhalotra, the former senior cybersecurity director for President Barack Obama and an ex-Google employee. Bhalotra created StackRox to address new techniques that exploit container technology.

“Enterprises are flying blind,” said Bhalotra, speaking publicly about his startup for the first time. “They often have no idea if a container went down by a design—it was no longer needed as user activity decreased—or due to an IT configuration error or a human error or an attacker.”

StackRox is backed by a Silicon Valley A-list of chief security officers, including Uber Technologies Inc.’s Joe Sullivan, Facebook Inc.’s Alex Stamos and SAP SE’s Justin Somaini. StackRox is in the process of completing a new funding round, according to people familiar with the matter.

A quarter of all large companies now use containers, and corporate spending on the technology is projected to double over the next two years to $2 billion, according to 451 Research. Many companies rely on software from Docker Inc., a startup valued by investors at $1 billion. Jay Lyman, an analyst at the research firm, said there’s a “gold-rush mentality” to adopt the tool without a full appreciation of the risks. “Security is the No. 1 challenge,” he said.

Docker and StackRox have become close partners, but Bhalotra wasn’t the only one to notice an opportunity. Aqua Security Software Ltd., an Israeli firm that secures containers, has attracted funding from local cybersecurity billionaire Shlomo Kramer and Microsoft Ventures. San Francisco-based Twistlock has raised some $30 million from Dell Inc. and other investors.

Uber is a devotee of the container, as is Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which has said every service it offers today runs on the technology. Google uses more than 2 billion containers a week. But these tech giants have highly sophisticated security operations to deal with potential threats. Sullivan, the Uber security chief, said the company created its own software to detect container attacks. “Our security engineering team must be able to blend off-the-shelf security products with a great deal of custom work,” he said.

City National Bank first considered adopting containers last year, but none of its existing security systems could track them. “It’s hard to know if a new container that shows up is really supposed to be there,” said Gene Yoo, head of information security at City National. Then the Los Angeles bank found StackRox and Docker. It’s now moving “aggressively” to containers for its website and payment systems, which is reducing costs. Docker said its technology addresses key security threats that faced apps using earlier approaches without containers.

One feature of containers that hackers are actively exploiting is that they’re ephemeral, Bhalotra said. In attacks his company has studied, containers use a kind of suicide switch that controls when they are shut down, and hackers who get inside often install malicious software to flip those switches. The code allows them to erase all evidence showing they were there. “Enterprises with advanced IT infrastructures are moving to containers, but they aren’t sure how to address security,” Stamos, the Facebook security chief and StackRox backer, wrote in an e-mail.

Hackers are eager to take advantage, as StackRox found this spring when it began monitoring a major financial services firm. (Bhalotra asked Bloomberg not to identify certain details about the project to protect the company’s work.) StackRox said it detected more than 500 threats aimed at the finance firm’s container software during a single month.

Let’s Encrypt one year later


It’s been roughly a year since we debuted our Let’s Encrypt support and in suitably timely fashion, we’ve just surged past 1,500 active installations of Let’s Encrypt SSL across our hosting platforms.

Why SSL and HTTPS matter

You’ve probably seen us talking a lot about SSL and a common question we’re asked is simply why? As this Google post sums up, “One common misconception about HTTPS is that the only websites that need HTTPS are those that handle sensitive communications.”

As per the post linked above, SSL isn’t just about securing login forms, it also helps make for a better, safer web for everyone. Whether it’s protecting your site visitors whose aggregate browsing behaviour might be being analysed by attackers, or simply following the path that Google has laid out, SSL is for everyone.

Google’s carrot and stick

As gatekeepers of vast amounts of the web traffic your website wants, Google’s lead here is important to note. As far back as 2014, Google began to talk about the positive effect of SSL on search ranking. It’s rare for the search giant to talk about the specifics of their ranking algorithm, so it’s important to take note when they do. The message is clear: use SSL, rank better. Who doesn’t want more traffic?

On the flip side, Google is also penalising sites that don’t use SSL directly via their Chrome browser. The effort started in January this year for sites that require login details or credit card data, but in October this year, all non-HTTPS content will be flagged with a warning. This means that if you ignore SSL, and your site visitors use Chrome (hint: most of them do) the first thing they’ll see on your site is not your homepage but a big scary non-secure site warning from Google. The potential for lost eyeballs is huge.

Let’s Encrypt SSL on 34SP.com hosting

For all of these reasons, we’ve been banging the SSL drum loudly for a year. SSL through 34SP.com is free, simple to implement, and beneficial to all websites. All of our packages come with free SSL via Let’s Encrypt. Here’s how to enable it on each of our plans:

Professional Hosting: https://www.34sp.com/kb/141/how-to-install-a-lets-encrypt-ssl-certificate
WordPress Hosting: https://www.34sp.com/kb/141/how-to-install-a-lets-encrypt-ssl-certificate
Business Hosting: https://www.34sp.com/kb/141/how-to-install-a-lets-encrypt-ssl-certificate
Reseller Hosting: https://www.34sp.com/kb/87/how-to-install-an-ssl-certificate

New Chinese Internet Clampdown Hurts Business, U.S. Group Says


(Bloomberg) — China’s clampdown on the use of virtual private networks to circumvent the country’s internet controls risks disrupting businesses that depend on them for cloud services and data security.

Besides using virtual private networks to gain access to websites like Facebook and Google blocked by China’s regulators, companies use VPNs to ensure speed and efficiency as they migrate more services to the cloud, and to ensure that data moving across those networks is secure, said Jake Parker, vice president of the U.S.-China Business Council.

China is said to have told telecommunications carriers to block individuals’ access to VPNs — services that skirt censorship restrictions by routing web traffic abroad — by Feb. 1. The apparent acceleration of a crackdown comes as Beijing prepares to host the 19th Communist Party Congress, a sensitive time during which leadership reshuffles are expected and the government tightens its grip over media.

Some businesses worry that the crackdown, which for now is said to target mainly individual users, could expand and end up hurting their operations. More than a fifth of foreign businesses responding to a European Chamber of Commerce survey conducted this year complained that existing internet restrictions affected more than a 10th of their in-country revenue.

“Any kind of restriction on VPNs operating in the China market would be a disruptive influence on businesses operating here,” Parker said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Haidi Lun. His organization represents and assists about 200 American companies from Intel Corp. to Microsoft Corp. “What we’re seeing is a focus on stability moving up into the 19th congress, which is likely one of the reasons why restricting internet access is something that’s going on now.”

While VPNs are widely used by businesses and individuals to view banned websites, the technology operates in a legal gray area. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology pledged in January to step up enforcement against unauthorized VPNs, and warned corporations to confine such services to internal use. At least one popular network operator said recently it had run afoul of the authorities: GreenVPN notified users it would halt service from July 1 after “receiving a notice from regulatory departments.”

Companies operating on Chinese soil will still be able to employ leased lines to access the international web but must register their usage of such services for the record, people familiar with the matter have said. Yet quite apart from a wider crackdown on VPNs, foreign businesses have long complained about the damaging effects of unreliable internet access.

The business confidence survey published by the European Union Chamber of Commerce found that unstable connections, slow Internet speeds and restrictions on access have “seriously impacted” its members. About a quarter of respondents reported lower productivity, difficulties in exchanging data and documents with their headquarters, partners and customers, and the inability to properly search for information and engage in research, according to the survey.

In the 2017 survey, 22 percent of respondents estimate that the restrictions translated to economic impact of more than 10 percent of their annual revenue in China. In 2015, 16 percent of respondents felt so.

Many foreign firms now rely on VPNs to get through to common apps such as Google Docs that its employees in other countries use. In fact, they’ve been known to quicken connections to cloud-based software — such as those deployed by Salesforce.com Inc. — that aren’t expressly blocked in China, Parker said.

“For our companies, they used licensed VPN services to visit overseas websites. It is the only legal way in China,” said a spokeswoman for the European Chamber of Commerce in Beijing.

For all the inconvenience and added costs, there will still be avenues to circumvent China’s controls, according to consulting firm ECOVIS. And it remains unclear how the carriers will execute the directive to block personal VPN use.

“In the past, China has played a whack-a-mole game with these VPN services by restricting access to certain servers, but I don’t see how they could restrict them completely, given that they are not located in mainland China,” said Torsten Weller, a Beijing-based business development associate at ECOVIS who’s worked on domestic cybersecurity rules. “The restrictions might well intensify, but the only sure way to completely shut down VPN use would be a complete disconnect from the outside world.”

How Cloud and Automation Helps Evolve Legacy IT


User mobility, digital workloads, and new levels of virtualization are all changing the modern business. We’re creating new types of go-to-market strategies, business enablement methodologies, and allowing the user to be truly productive. The reality here is that the pace of technology isn’t slowing down. Are you keeping up? Are you using technology to create a truly agile business model?

It’s critical to see just how far we’ve come and where current spend is trending. Consider this, global spending on IaaS rose to almost US$16.5 billion in 2015, an increase of 32.8 percent from 2014, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2014 to 2019 forecast at 29.1 percent, according to Gartner’s latest forecast. Last year in particular was a defining year for cloud as private cloud begins to gave way to hybrid cloud, and nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017. These organizations are leveraging agile infrastructures to dynamically control resources and user experiences.

Related: Managing the Millennial Technologist: Letting Go of Legacy Practices

This allows them to let go of legacy IT and evolve into a next-generation ecosystem.

New levels of intelligence in the data center and business world are helping create a much more fluid organization and cloud ecosystem. Automation and orchestration tools tie into almost every aspect of the business and the underlying data center, bringing forward big benefits:

  • Better infrastructure management
  • Better business alignment
  • Implementation of a predictability method
  • New cost economics around resource control
  • Reduced deployment and operating risk because of fewer errors and less downtime

With all of this in mind – let’s pause here and focus on you. Do you have automation in your data center? What if you’re doing a lot of repetitive work more manually? In my experience, organizations fall into three broad categories when it comes to levels of automation and orchestration in their environments – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Where do you stand?

  • The Good. You don’t have to have a completely automated ecosystem to fall into this category. Those organizations which took the time to understand their business model and where IT fits in are the ones which can define their automation and orchestration use-cases the best. To that extent, companies which can see business process flow, where data interacts, and how to automate some of those processes can benefits from automation the most. These tools can include everything from BMC to Puppet and Chef. Or, at the data center level, Cisco can help with advanced policy orchestration and automation methodologies. When organizations find the legacy components within their business and apply automation – they’ll be able to focus on business innovation, rather than putting out fires. To get to a “good” automation state – study your business, find areas where automation can help (data center, business process, cloud, etc), and apply technologies which can help you evolve even further.
  • The Bad (or just OK). You’re almost there! Oftentimes, I’ll see automation and orchestration being deployed without actually tying it into the business process. For example, you need to identify business benefits when you enable data center automation solutions. This is where you can leverage metering, user monitoring, integration with business systems, and even chargeback modeling. If you simply provision and de-provision resources based on some IT metrics; you may not be getting the full benefits of automation. When you align business process and IT automation best practices – you’ll begin to see efficiency savings. Furthermore, you’ll be able to expand the vision of your business. Not only can you remove legacy components – automation can help you scale it into the cloud.
  • The Ugly. Organizations that have been around for a while; with very set processes are the ones that are usually a bit more challenging to automate. It’s always going to be a challenge to manually manage your core IT components. It’ll be even more challenging to tie it into the business. And, in an ever-growing digital world, your ability to compete in today’s market, heavily revolves around the capabilities of your technological environment. How well can you control your data center and cloud resources? Is infrastructure management in place? How quickly can IT respond to business demands? When these systems are isolated, standalone, or not properly managed you’re going to have some challenges. This kind of environment “works;” but might not be working efficiently. Fragmentation and infrastructure complexity are major concerns for many organizations today. This is the ugly part of running an environment that’s not entirely integrated and doesn’t have good controls.

If you’re here; don’t panic. Take a step back and evaluate your environment. Work with partners who can help create a smarter business and IT ecosystem which can work for you and enable your organization. Orchestration and automation can completely change the way you control IT and conduct business in today’s competitive market.

Legacy IT can be a serious anchor to business innovation. Automation and orchestration tools are specifically designed to allow a business to be more agile and respond to market demands. If this all sounds overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. IT partners who focus on the digital journey can help identify parts of your IT environment and your business which can benefits from automation and orchestration solutions. Most of all, they can help you shift your strategy into the cloud as well. Once you begin your automation journey, you’ll see the bigger IT picture. All of this will help you let go of legacy data center components (and practices) and shift into the digital space.

How to Use AI to Serve Your Customers Better


Among the early benefits of artificial intelligence systems, machine learning and natural language processing have the potential to transform customer service processes that are too often frustrating for customers and expensive for web hosts and service providers. A number of tools are currently available to enable companies to overhaul their interactions with customers contacting them for help by telephone or over the internet.

Customer service or sales calls often require that customers listen to menus of options and provide information–sometimes more than once–before a company representative even begins helping them. This experience can cause frustration, even when successful in the end.

Advanced automation services leveraging AI provide an alternative approach. For example, chat and messaging services like Facebook Messenger and Kik offer chatbots, which simulate human conversation through AI. More than 100,000 chatbots were created in their first year of availability on Messenger, according to VentureBeat. A survey by Oracle found that 80 percent of companies will be using chatbots by 2020, Business Insider reports.

Below are some of the options web hosts and service providers can use to enhance customer service experiences, without making massive investments in call centers and teams of expert representatives. Each option emphasizes its delivery of real-time analytics, easy-to-use data dashboards, and support for multiple languages.

Amazon

The Amazon Lex chatbot platform integration with Amazon Connect reached general availability at the end of June. This integration allows Lex chatbots, which use the same conversational technology as Amazon Alexa, to connect with customer databases and software applications to perform tasks. Lex passes issues it is unable to resolve to human representatives along with full customer information, and the system keeps interactions consistent to avoid errors.

IBM

Customer engagement is also one of the skills IBM has had Watson learn, to power Watson Virtual Agent. It includes pre-trained industry and domain knowledge, an engagement metrics dashboard, and deep analytics capabilities. Watson Virtual Agent is available for a free 30-day trial, and, like all of Big Blue’s products, it is supported by a huge community and library of docs.

Live!Zilla

Live!Zilla is a live help and support system that monitors website visitors in real time, based on open source software. It is sold as a perpetual license, rather than a subscription, and it protects privacy by running without cookies and with masked IP addresses. Live!Zilla integrates with any website and offers support for more than 30 languages.

Sales Syntax

Sales Syntax (formerly known as Crafty Syntax) was recently updated from a fairly basic live help software to include customer relationship management (CRM) tools such as referrer and page tracking. It allows for multiple operators, multiple departments and multiple websites. Its open source code is fully customizable, and it is offered with free, “unbranded” and “professional” versions.

Nanorep

Nanorep provides virtual assistant and chatbot solutions, collects and communicates customer information for live agents, and supplies real-time customer experience analytics. It uses patented natural language processing (NLP) technology boasts over 500 deployments. Nanorep touts the seamless transitions it provides customers with its smart channeling, and says it supports “almost any language.” It can also provide a 50 percent increase in customer satisfaction, according to the company, with a 45 percent reduction in contact center volume.

Twyla

Twyla is a mobile-focused AI chatbot provider. It works on a variety of channels, including Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, WeChat and Telegram, as well as over the web. Its AI learns from uploaded chat logs, and it can be configured to provide the best options, answers and conversational tone.

Pandorabots

Pandorabots, which has more than 225,000 registered developers, provides API access to SDKs, a hosting platform for text or voice chatbots, and Playground, a free development environment. Pandorabots both builds bots and provides support for companies building their own. Bots built with the platform have won the Loebner Prize for human-like AI.

Ada

Another recent startup is Ada, which claims chatbots can be set up in minutes without requiring a developer. The company offers robust AI that asks clarifying questions, and says it reduces support volume by 20 percent or more in one week. Ada can be deployed to popular platforms like Facebook Messenger and Slack, and offers a free 14-day trial.

Build-Your-Own Chatbots

Service providers considering AI for automated customer service can also build the functionality themselves. Build-your-own chatbot efforts can be supported by tools from Google, such as its chatbot analytics platform Chatbase, or bot-building software like ChatFlow. The maker of ChatFlow, Kitt.ai, was acquired by Chinese search giant Baidu in early July. Microsoft offers a Bot Framework for Node.js. ChatScript, an open-source tool written in C and C++, is another Loebner Prize winner. The engine is available on SourceForge, and has been evolving since 2009. Facebook offers a similar easy bot-making platform for Messenger, and several third-party companies offer bot-making templates for Facebook and other social media platforms.

Looking Ahead

While skeptics certainly remain, rapid advances in AI and NLP are constantly making customer service bots more effective. The market is still developing, with many companies currently operating beyond those mentioned above and many new entrants joining.

Companies providing AI customer service bots claim big reductions in time to resolution, agent workload and cost, as well as increases in customer satisfaction. Given the customer support demands on web hosting and service providers, and the recent maturation of AI and the chatbot market, those that have not yet deployed automated customer service to common touch-points should consider doing so.

Migrating Your Site is Easier Than You Think


As your WordPress site grows from a few visits a day to thousands of visits a month and more, the shared hosting account that provides its bandwidth, storage, and processing may be unable to keep up with the increased traffic. Either it will perform poorly for all visitors — slow page loads with frequent unresponsiveness. Or it will perform poorly during periods of peak traffic — it might stop working at all under especially heavy load. No one wants their site to collapse just when it’s at its most popular.

If a WordPress site’s hosting isn’t up to the job, there are two options. Upgrade to a more powerful hosting plan with the same hosting provider or move to a new hosting provider.

If you’re happy with your current host, upgrading is the simplest option, but if you aren’t happy, it’s time to consider making a move. Many bloggers and business site owners stick with their current hosting even when they aren’t happy with the support or the service they receive. They take the “better the devil you know” approach and assume moving to a new web hosting company is complicated. They also worry that it might hurt their SEO ranking or traffic.

In reality, moving to a new web hosting company is quite simple. First you find new hosting and migrate the site itself while the original site is still up and running. Then you change your domain records so that they point to the new site. Then you take the old site down and cancel your original hosting contract.

The only complications occur if you change the architecture of the site or the domain name as you make the change. Even that can be handled with a minimal impact, but I’ll stick to the simple case for this article.

Migrating The Site

Migrating a WordPress site is not difficult. A working WordPress site needs three things: web hosting, a WordPress installation (which is just a collection of files), and a database. Once you have a new web hosting account, you need to move the files into the root of your hosting account and import the site’s database.

If that sounds complicated, you might want to hire a WordPress professional to do it for you, but most decent web hosting companies will help you with the migration; many will do it for free.

If you want to make the move yourself, the best option is to use a plugin like All-In-One-Migration, which is capable of moving both the files and the database to your new hosting account.

All the plugin does is to copy the files to your new hosting account, export the database from the old site, and import it to the new WordPress installation. The same process can be done manually, but if you haven’t migrated a WordPress site before, I’d advise you to stick with one of the methods I’ve suggested.

Changing DNS Records

I’ve used the word “migrate,” but in reality the site has been copied. The new site works, but when users type the address into their browser or search for your site, they will end up on the old site.

To direct users to the new site, you need to change your domain name’s records so that it points to the IP of your new hosting account, rather than the old one.

There are two organizations involved in making a domain name work: the domain name registrar and the domain name host, although sometimes the same organization offers both services. The domain name registrar keeps the record of who owns the domain. The domain host manages the domain name servers that link your domain to an IP address.

When you change web hosting companies, you need to do one of the following:

  • Change the domain name servers that your domain registrar uses for your domain so they point to your new web hosting company’s DNS servers.
  • If you don’t want to use your web hosting companies name servers, change the DNS records for your domain with the DNS host you use.

In most cases, you’ll just want to visit your domain name registrar and use their interface to change the DNS server records so they point at your hosting company’s DNS servers. The domain name registrar or your web hosting company will be able to help you do this if you’re having trouble.

If you want to move your site without making any changes to its information architecture or the domain name, that’s about it. There will be no damage to your site’s search engine optimization, because from Google’s point of view, not much has changed. The content is the same, it’s accessible at the same URLs, and incoming links still work.

Don’t settle for a poor hosting experience. If you’re not happy with your hosting company, moving to a new provider is easier than you think.

About Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, https://blog.nexcess.net/.

Bitcoin Community Cheers as Miners Back New Scaling Framework


(Bloomberg) — Bitcoin backers celebrated as the community embraced a new mechanism to improve usage and allow it to scale, boosting confidence in the virtual currency and sending prices back near record highs.

The community, which had been split on how best to make the cryptocurrency more manageable, rallied behind a code upgrade known as SegWit2x, which aims to increase the network’s transaction capacity. That fueled a rally on Thursday in bitcoin’s price against the dollar, which had plummeted from a peak in June as concerns grew about its future.

What Service Providers Need to Know About Bitcoin

“We’re thrilled to get past this impasse,” said Andrew Lee, head of bitcoin-shopping startup purse.io, whose team celebrated with beers at their San Francisco office. The development opens “the doors to much-awaited innovations,” he said.

Bitcoin enthusiasts in New York and San Francisco, to Hong Kong and Tokyo, gathered in bars and offices to hold impromptu parties, while others took to Twitter and social media to cheer the move, as well as the price rally.

The impasse arose from a limit placed on the size of blocks underpinning the network in bitcoin’s early days, in order to prevent hacker attacks. As the virtual currency grew in popularity over the past nine years, transaction times and processing fees soared, curtailing the community’s ability to process payments with the same efficiency as services like Visa Inc. Miners and developers were locked in a heated debate for years on how best to upgrade the software, culminating in the recent clash.

More than 93 percent of miners who function as the backbone of the digital tokens network locked in support for BIP91, the first necessary step in implementing SegWit2x, according to Coin Dance, a website tracking adoption. Bitcoin’s miners are independent groups that verify and process bitcoin’s transactions by solving complex computational problems, in order to be rewarded by fees and creation of the digital currency.

SegWit2x is essentially a compromise between two main competing camps. One proposed a direct approach, seeking to increase the block size. The other, a group of developers known collectively as Core, pushed for a long-term solution by moving some data outside of the main network, a scheme called SegWit that had been resisted by miners because it also could diminish their influence. In the end, the miners agreed to adopt SegWit, but also increase the block size to 2 megabytes.

The upgrade isn’t final. The BIP91 lock-in has a grace period of about two days, during which miners will prepare to activate the software. It will then take about two weeks for SegWit to be fully adopted. Developers still warn about potential hacker attacks that could disrupt the process.

Then, three months from now, the community will face another challenge when some of the world’s biggest miners move to adopt the second phase of the proposal, the doubling of the blocksize. Still, many in the community agrees that the hard part is over, with prices seen stabilizing and strengthening.

“We do believe it will continue, now that we’ve gotten over this hump,” said Ryan Rabaglia, head trader at digital-trading company Octagon Strategy in Hong Kong.

Private Cloud Can Beat Public Cloud on Price: Report


Two out of five IT decision makers say their private clouds are operating at lower unit costs than public cloud, according to survey results released Thursday by VMware and 451 Research.

451 surveyed 150 IT decision makers on behalf of VMware in February 2017 for Can private cloud be cheaper than public cloud? According to the results, data protection is cited as a reason for private cloud use by 71 percent of users. Cost-efficiency motivates private cloud use for 54 percent, asset ownership does so for 43 percent, and integration with business processes motivates 42 percent.

Almost a quarter (24 percent) say they pay less than a 10 percent premium for operating a private cloud environment, in addition to the 41 percent finding private cloud cost lower than public cloud. More than half said cost-efficiency is drives private cloud use. Respondents also said they would migrate only 50 percent of their workloads to public cloud if its cost were half that of private cloud.

The factor considered most important in achieving cost savings with private cloud is capacity-planning tools (18 percent), followed closely by favorable software license terms and automation tools (17 percent each), and cost/budgetary management tools (15 percent). Another factor in price savings for public clouds is the ability of some companies to negotiate favorable terms with software or hardware vendors or data center providers, or to reuse existing licenses.

Using a “basket-of-goods” methodology, the Cloud Price Index shows a decrease of just 4 percent in cloud price between October 2015 and March 2017, according to the report.

“Cuts are typically levied on just a single service, usually virtual machines, while other costs such as bandwidth, storage and management stay the same,” write the report authors. “But an end user doesn’t consume virtual machines in isolation; an app consists of far more than just compute, and in public cloud, these items are charged separately. On a private cloud, storage, network and compute are intrinsically aggregated as part of the same platform, and the same investment.”

Data security and performance are the two top concerns with public cloud among respondents, with 39 percent expressing concern with managing costs.

The Cloud Price Index has previously indicated that the price advantage of public cloud may be overhyped.

VMware completed the sale of its vCloud Air business to OVH in May.