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CloudAccess.net India team members recently participated in forming the Joomla User Group in Ahmedabad, India. Personally, this was like a dream come true because I’ve been thinking about getting our local Joomla users under one roof for a long time now. We were proud to host the first Ahmedabad JUG meeting at our CloudAccess.net India office on July 27th where we planned the Joomla! Awareness and Outreach Seminar that was held on August 2nd at the School of Computer Studies at Ahmedabad University.

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Forming the Ahmedabad JUG

I first met Gunjan Patel, a software developer at redweb.dk, and realized that we shared a lot of common goals and enthusiasm about growing the Joomla community in Ahmedabad. We shared our previous JoomlaDay experiences, and we set a date to discuss how we could inject some life into our local community. This led to our the first JUG Meeting at our office where my fellow CloudAccess.net teamsters Larisa Patel, Dhaval Desai and Miraj Ranpura attended along with Gunjan, Mrunal, Akash and Deval.

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Technology is a funny thing. There is a perpetual push to create systems that are better, stronger and faster. This constant drive has led to innovations unimaginable just a few years ago, but being on the leading-edge leaves a lot of room for error. It’s a paradox really: in order to succeed you must experience failure. The web hosting industry certainly isn’t exempt from this catch 22. This blog explores the early days of our web hosting service, some of the failures we experienced on our journey, and how we achieved ultimate success by creating a unified web hosting platform.

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Our Web Hosting Startup Phase

Starting our web hosting company was great fun. We were a web development company at first and we had a strong client base that wanted to host websites with us. Building our first server, turning it on, and seeing it rock gave us a lot of satisfaction. In no time, we were off and running.

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We pride ourselves on having an extremely secure platform, but even the most secure hosting providers see hacked websites on a daily basis. Almost always, the goal of the hacker is to steal content, send spam, spread malware or conduct some type of phishing scam. Many times we’ll see a site administrator clean a site only for it to be hacked again a few days later, and then they come to us wanting to know why. We find that some additional steps that can secure a site and fend off attacks are often neglected. This blog explains why sites are hacked, steps for cleaning up a hacked site, and preventative measures that can be taken to secure the site moving forward.

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Why sites get hacked

Vulnerable Extensions

There are several reasons a site can be hacked, but the culprit we identify most often is an outdated extension. Updating extensions is critical because hackers can easily identify vulnerabilities in older versions, which are like a wide open back door to the site. If you’re using a Joomla site, it’s best practice to visit the Vulnerable Extensions List frequently. If you see an extension you’re using on this list, download and install the patches immediately. If no patches exist, disable the extension and find something to replace it.

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Any aspiring web developer is familiar with the overwhelming number of template choices available in the community. Whether it be for an ecommerce, school, or nonprofit site, it’s critical to find the proper look and feel to give your visitors the best possible first impression. This blog offers some things to consider while you begin your template hunt.

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Locate the right developer

Finding the perfect template is definitely going to involve some research. You'll want to make sure the template developer is reputable and has good reviews and ratings. You can start by browsing our list of recommended 3rd party template developers like Yootheme, RocketTheme, Gavickpro and more. We’ve already done some screening for you and we can vouch for the companies on our list. Another factor to consider while looking through template developers is to make sure there is some way to contact them. Check to see whether or not they have a call center or sort of support ticket system. This is very important just in case you ever find a bug or if you have a template-related issue. If you have a problem with the template you won’t want to be left in the dark and be forced to go through the search process again to find a new template.

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I’ve been a developer at CloudAccess.net for several years now, and you can usually find me developing custom extensions or in the back end of a site getting community-based extensions to work correctly. Our platform exists to help new Joomla and WordPress users develop their own websites, and a lot of new users have questions about the different types of extensions available. Therefore, to help new users, the purpose of this blog is to shine a little light on the difference between components, modules and plugins in Joomla (with a side note about WordPress plugins). I've also included a few tips on finding the right extension to suit your needs.

Components

A component is the largest and most extensive type of extension. Components add main functionality to a site, they are accessible on the front end through a menu item and usually appear in the center of the main content area on certain pages. Popular components include forms, shopping carts, content managers, image galleries, blogs, etc. Components work directly with the database for the site by moving information back and forth and each component has two interfaces: one for the administrator and one for the front end user. There are many components available through the Joomla Extensions Directory (JED) and many times a component will also come with modules and plugins that increase functionality. When looking through the JED, components are labeled with a “C”. The screenshot below is of the Hikashop listing in the JED, a popular shopping cart component. You can see that it is a component, but also comes with modules and plugins (indicated by the “M” and the “P”).

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Autodiscover allows users to easily configure their email client by automatically determining mail server specifications. Without Autodiscover, users have to manually configure their email client, which is tedious and leaves a lot of room for error. To enable Autodiscover, you’ll want to contact your DNS hosting provider, but if your domain is registered through us, we give you access to your DNS control panel where you can easily make these changes yourself.

To enable Autodiscover for CloudMail, our integrated email service provided free of charge for any domain name purchased through CloudAccess.net, you’ll need to create two DNS records - a CNAME record and an SRV record.

Adding a CNAME Record

First, add a CNAME (canonical name) record for the domain. The CNAME record functions as a shortcut. In fact, you can think of it as a shortcut to a file on your desktop. It’s an alias for the Address (A) record that maps an IP address to a target server, which is our CloudMail server in this case. To add the CNAME record, log into the CCP, click on the “Domains” tab below “Your products” and click on the “Manage” button for the domain name that you’d like to work with.

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Have you ever wondered what happens when you click on one of the shiny buttons in the Cloud Control Panel™(CCP)? I know what you’re thinking - you’re directed to a page where you can perform an action to help manage your application. But have you ever wanted to find out more about the technical processes behind the actions?

By clicking on that button you set in motion a series of interrelated events that send a ripple down our platform. The processes in our CCP allow you to perform complex actions very quickly. If done manually, they would take several hours each and three times the caffeine.

CCP features are primarily coded with an ensemble of markup and scripting languages to make application management easy. These languages provide the necessary zing so the user experience is functional and memorable. By nature, the markup languages lack the flexibility to be full blown system by themselves. Instead, they pass the heavier buck to the backend language utilizing Ajax, web development techniques that allow web applications to send and receive data.

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Imagine this horrible hypothetical situation: you’re deep in development mode making changes all over your site. You’re in the zone - nothing can stop you as you move about the options as fast as humanly possible. Your site is going to be a miracle, you’re a genius, ideas keep flowing through your head and you’re going to change the world. After making several changes, installing several extensions, posting multiple articles, you refresh the page to see the changes live only to cry out in pain and anger because your site suddenly looks something like this:

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Or this:

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The Cloud Control Panel, or the CCP, is an easy-to-use interface used to manage each website hosted with CloudAccess.net. We recently redesigned the entire CCP and this blog describes the process we went through and offers a little history of one of the most important pieces of our platform.

In the beginning, the CCP was actually a custom Joomla component we built and pre-installed in Joomla sites that were launched through our platform. It was completely separate from what we called the “Client Area” at the time.

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Last week we hit a big milestone as a hosting provider: the number of active hosted applications on our platform reached 20,000! Every once in a while we like to recognize accomplishments like these and to celebrate our clients because, although we’re not one of the giants in the industry just yet, each client helps us get there. Keep reading to find out who got free lifetime hosting for launching the 20,000th site!

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To be honest, we didn’t expect to reach this milestone just yet - we were projecting this to happen in July or August, but we launched WordPress as a fully integrated product throughout the entire platform in March, which helped us reach this goal a little quicker than anticipated. Active websites on our platform include demo trial sites, websites that have been launched through our CMS in the Classroom program, and clients who have upgraded to one of our hosting & support plans.

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