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Why YOUR Site Needs Strong Passwords

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | December 30, 2013
Over at the WordFence blog, Mark Maunder explains why it’s important to enforce strong passwords on your website: f someone hacks your site and downloads the user database table they can crack your encrypted passwords at their leisure  We can fix that and here’s why that matters!
“Why do I care, my site has already been compromised?” you might say. The issue is that many users have the bad habit of using the same password across multiple websites and that’s why the hacker grabbed your password file and is throwing significant resources at brute-forcing it: So that they can gain access to the real treasure-trove of Gmail accounts, LinkedIn, Facebook, Hotmail, Quicken, Paypal, eBay and all the other valuable accounts out there that let them steal real money from real people who are members of your website.
This is why, even if you have brute force protection on your site, you should enforce strong passwords: To protect your customers other accounts on the Web in the worst-case-scenario of your site being compromised and your wp_users table being downloaded. Meanwhile you might be saying “What other users?  It’s just me here!”  Ok, so they only have to crack one password then — yours!  And if you use the same password elsewhere, or if you use an easily-recognized password pattern (e.g. hi-mom-gmail, hi-mom-twitter) then they’ll still be able to get into your other accounts. When RealBasics builds your website we make sure your user’s password are easy to remember but hard to crack.  And if you sign up for our maintenance plan one of the adjustments we can make is to make your passwords more secure.
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“I Might Have Just Deleted My Website” Sounds Better With a Recent Backup

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | November 19, 2013

Deleted all your website files? Do you have a backup plan for your website? Is it current and ongoing? Is your site backed up to your local machine, or the cloud, or somewhere that’s not on your server’s file system.

I mention this because if your backups are stored on your server file system then if you accidentally delete all the files your backups will be deleted as well!

If you’ve got a WordPress or Drupal website, or even an old-fashioned HTML site, and you’re not absolutely positive you’ve got safe, secure, and recent backup system get in touch.  I mean before you need it.

RealBasics.com consulting can do a review of your backup strategy and help make sure the system you have in place really will protect your online presence.

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SEO? Effective Blogging? Security? Updates? It’s Your Website – Let’s Make it Work Harder for You

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | November 18, 2013

Let us keep an eye on your website for you.

Unless you updated your website last decade year month week chances are it’s at least a little out of date.

Can you take advantage of the latest SEO best practices?  Are you making the best use of your blog?  Do you still have an old “contact us” form with no phone numbers or email address?  Do you stay on top of the latest web software updates?

Hey, when was the last time you did a full site backup?

And let’s not even mention the latest behind-the-scenes trends in integration Facebook and Google Plus are pressuring us to add on the backend!

I know.  I know!  I’m not one to talk.

But!

I am one to listen.  And watch.  And RealBasics.com can listen and watch for you.

You actually don’t have to be eternally vigilant about your website.  But you do need to pay attention.  Or… get someone to pay attention for you.

RealBasics would be delighted to do as much or as little assessment and maintenance as you feel comfortable with.

Give us a call or drop us a line and find out what we can offer.

(206) 390-8082
davidi@realbasics.com

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During Cold and Flu Season Your Site Works When You Can’t!

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | November 12, 2013

Does your website work for you even when you can't work?I wasn’t going to complain but I was actually pretty sick last week.  You know how it goes: first you think you’ve just got allergies and it turns out to be a cold, or (as in my case) you think you’re sore from moving furniture and it turns out to be stomach flu.  Yeah, that!  So I wasn’t going to mention it but!

I was at a business-group meeting this morning and this week a number of the regulars were out sick.  Does this make me a trend setter?  No, it just means it’s that time of year when colds and the flu just make the rounds.

Why am I bringing this all up?  Because at the meeting one of the other attendees mentioned visiting this website and looking at my portfolio.  She said she got a good impression of my work.  Which I have to say, is better than the impression she’d have gotten if she’d instead called while I was moaning and groaning with a 100 degree temperature!

Point being that  my website was still working for me even when I couldn’t!

Does your website work for you? Even when you can’t?

If not then let’s make it y0ur website!  Give me a call!  (206) 390-8082!

This week’s ideal client?  You or someone you know who has a merely mortal immune system during cold or flu season.

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But if you DO need someone to crawl under the hood to fix your site…

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | November 12, 2013

getting under the hood

Well here’s a nice, if anonymous testimonial!

HI David,

Thanks for info and update. Not everyday we get to support someone who has tech knowledge and insights. It is a warm welcomed change.

Sorry I was not able to resolve this for you as it is not a common issue ticket. But I am glad you figured it out! Great job!

Regards

Source: Support tech from well-known ecommerce plugin vendor

RealBasics.com does website development.  In ordinary computer parlance a “developer” writes programs but I generally go very far out of my way to avoid it — there are just too many great, widely-used and therefore widely tested programs, themes, plugins, and modules out there to make re-inventing the wheel (and unlike wheels, when you write software it must be tested, and debugged, and security-patched, and updated!)

And so, again, in order to provide clients with the biggest bounce per ounce for their hard-earned website-development dollars I strenuously avoid writing code.

This does not mean, however, that I’m unable to track down code in other developers’ HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, have-your-eyes-glazed-over-yet, or SQL code.

Last week I helped a client with a seemingly intractable problem with ecommerce on their WordPress-driven website.  They use a not-to-be-named but very popular plugin.  It’s well reviewed and indeed I like it quite a lot.  But every now and then something… just… doesn’t work for people.  It shows up most often when someone buys a downloadable file — a video, an ebook, or an image, say — and that someone expects (quite reasonably!) that after they pay for it with PayPal that the download would be… well… downloadable!

The vendor’s ordinarily quite-competent support staff wasn’t helpful at all.  Unless you consider “the problem you describe seems to be the problem you’re having” as helpful.  (See also: if you have ham you can have ham and eggs if you have eggs.)  The “solutions” offered around the web for this (obscure, remember, and difficult to reproduce) but amounted to superstition and blind luck.

Out came the detective hat.  And magnifying glasses.  And, eventually, hip-wader boots!

I finally noticed that in one critical dropdown the option “pending” appeared not once but twice.  Digging a little deeper it turned out that neither of the codes underlying those choices was the right one!

Digging much further I finally traced the problem to a) a hard-coded assumption by the vendors that they alone would ever use an option called “pending” and b) not one but two previously installed and deleted plugins that did exactly that.  And didn’t clean up after themselves.

A fix was possible: just manually later the database.  (Note: virtually all WordPress manuals say never hack the database.  Same with other best practices, plus common decency[1].)  So obviously I made (and confirmed) several backups, meticulously traced the code for dependencies, and made one tiny adjustment to the database.

Results?  Ta-da!  Obscure, commerce-stopping bug fixed, problem resolved, customers able to immediately download their purchases, clients satisfied.

Once again

[1]Unless you’re a trained database professional.  Which, as luck and much experience in a prior life, I happen to be.[2]

[2] Virtually all web style guides also advise against using footnotes in blog posts.

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Time to update when your website tells prospects your “tall oak” business is still a tiny acorn

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | October 22, 2013

 

Tiny acornA lot of people build their websites when their businesses are just getting off the ground.  That’s actually a good thing, right, because early on a search-engine link could have been the only real “proof” that the business  existed.

Your business might even have been in that position.  And chances are pretty good you, or maybe the owner, or even the original owner of the business built the website.

Chances are even better, though, that the business has grown or changed from those first days or weeks.  And if you’re lucky?  You’ve been too busy growing that business to keep your website up to date.

The result?  Your site is continues to tell prospects and clients that your business is smaller and maybe more limited than it really is.

If that sounds familiar — if you want your site to say what you’re doing now but just don’t have time to do it yourself — then you’re an ideal RealBasics.com client!   Give us a call.

RealBasics.com — (206) 390-8082.

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But if you ever DO need a complete ecommerce package and new theme installed on 12 hours notice…

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | October 12, 2013

Out Of Place (Stock Photo By Adam12) [ID: 701011] - stock.xchngThe other day I was in a routine morning meeting with a client who wanted to add ecommerce and a theme upgrade to their site.  Next month.  And their marketer mentions they’d told the entire mailing list to buy a new product on their website.  Tomorrow.  Not next month!

The client felt, correctly, that they couldn’t afford to burn every customer on their mailing list with false information. They asked if I could add ecommerce to their site by morning.  I said yes, I was familiar with the WordPress plugin they were intending to use for their store.  They said please go ahead.

A couple of hours later the commerce site was working well enough to show that… their old WordPress template was completely incompatible with the ecommerce plugin.  So after a quick consultation the client asked if I could also add the new theme software that we’d also planned to have ready for the roll-out… a month from now!

Well, fortunately I also am familiar with the new theme framework.  And since fixing the otherwise obsolete theme would have been just as time consuming I said yes.  They said please go ahead with that too!

And you know what?  I got it done!  Next morning their customers were able to come to their website and purchase their new product… with a much more powerful, more forward-looking theming system to boot!

Best of all?  This was a “crash” job, right?  A major, non-stop effort to finish what had been a one-month project in 12 hours!  And so in the morning of course there were some bugs, typos, and other minor issues to clean up.  All of which I was able to resolve in less than half an hour!

So!

It’s still going to take the client a month to refine the site, establish policies for further expanding their ecommerce product line, optimizing shipping, taxes, terms of service, and so on — it wasn’t just me who was caught off guard.  And I’ll continue to work with their designers and, yes, their marketer to refine their new website design, also in time for their “proper” rollout a month from now.

And I really, really, don’t recommend hiring me or anyone else to add a full ecommerce package and template over night.

But!

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that if it happened to you your web developer could make it work for you?

I’m not sure I’m really comfortable bragging about this.  And to be honest I’m a little shy about leaving this post up.  But you know what?  Even though it’s not the sort of thing I want to do every day, or for that matter ever again, I’m pretty darn proud that I was able to meet my client’s needs.  They’re happy.  And I’m happy too.  So I hope you’ll forgive my little end zone demonstration.

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Recommended Resource: Social Media Consultant Stacy Erikson

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | October 8, 2013

Organized Social Media

Get liked on Facebook

At Realbasics.com we believe your website should be the authoritative source for information about your business.  We also believe in using social media to spread that information and generate leads.

For that reason we advise clients to not just include social media links in their websites but to actively update their social media pages as well.

And so we like to refer our clients to Stacy Erickson at Organized Social Media.  She’s organized, smart, sociable (naturally!) and committed to helping clients stay up to date, focused, and relevant on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and so their clients can find them!

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Whatever Happened That Hugely Popular Company That Dropped Its Website In Favor of MySpace Five Years Ago?

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | September 17, 2013

“Why should I have my own website when there’s [insert social-media sitename here]?”

It’s a popular question that, over the years, has always had the same answer: because then someone else owns it!

Here’s the latest version of the story, this time from a podcast (#235) by Rooster Teeth, the very-successful online production company beginning at the 21 minute 53 second mark.  Fair warning, if you follow the link you may find the language in the podcast quite profane.  Here’s my rough transcript for the section, which begins at roughly the 21:53 minute mark and runs roughly to 24:11.

Well Matt, you’re the CEO for Rooster Teeth, been with the company since the very beginning, you know the value of having your own space on the internet, for the company.
I mean that’s like, the number one thing that we tell people
Yeah.

In all honesty and seriousness … that having your own home is very important online.

You can’t maintain with all the ups and downs and crazy machinations of the wonky internet world we’re in now unless you’ve got your own space
carved out. So I think going out and making your own website? Yes! Do it!

People don’t want to do it now cause they can go to Facebook, they can go make a YouTube channel or whatever.
Promote yourstuff on Reddit or on Twitter.
Yeah.
But you don’t own that!
Someone else owns that!

Well if we’d startd doing that kind of thing back when we first started Rooster Teeth those sites would have been Slashdot — we’d have tried to get
linked on slashdot every day…

Right, and FARK. And MySpace… we’d have had a site on MySpace.
Or Tripod.
Yeah.
Geocities? (laughs)

You know, a big inspiration for Rooster Teeth when we started out we looked at other people who were very successful at the time.
There was a group of guys [Broken Lizard, the producers of an underground hit called Supertroopers.]
So they sold a million copies of their DVD and home video, it made them a huge hit.
Everybody in college had that DVD.
We looked at them and the way that they were marketing themselves and watched what they were doing.

We did that with a lot of people [list] just trying to see what people were doing online.

While we were looking at that, Broken Lizard took their site and turned it off, and just sent everyone to their MySpace page!

Crazy!!!

Seemed like a smart idea probably for them at the time, but then MySpace evaporates essentially four of five years later or turns into a total music
site.
What is MySPace?
Music?
Yeah.
Is it?

And Napster’s for… just for naps. (laughs)

But hey, we really do believe in this — making your own website.

The transcript is mine

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Did you know you can update your site from your smartphone?

By David Innes, RealBasics.com | August 30, 2013

I am experimenting with the official WordPress iPhone app

You just sign in with your name, password, and URL to most of your site through a relatively intuitive iPhone interface.

The compose window even gives you little buttons for adding simple formatting like italics and bold, links and quotes, lists and more!

You can even add photos from your phone and post them to your site! I’m going to try it now.

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