29 Aug 2019

The Best Domain Registrars of 2019

Regardless of the type of website you have, you’re going to need a domain name. Big, small, personal, or blog, a domain name will ensure that your website visitors can actually access and view your site. Domain names can be purchased through something called a domain registrar. You can also transfer existing domain names from one registrar to another (similar to web hosting migration).

As with most companies selling similar products to each other, there’s quite a lot of competition. Choosing the best domain registrar might seem like a daunting task. That’s why I’ve spent the time to research the best domain registrars of 2019.

We’ll take a look at each domain registrar individually. Some may be better than others dependent on budget, your own needs, your website, etc. Domain registrars also offer additional features and extras like domain privacy, so we’ll take a look at that too.

 

What Is A Domain Registrar

 

 

 

 

 

Domain registrars are companies where you can purchase a domain name. Domain name registrars are accredited by ICANN, so if you have any doubt about your chosen domain registrar, you can check with them. As I’ve mentioned above, a domain name allows you to see a website on the internet.

Domain names should be easy to remember and represent what your website is about. For example, we are ukwebhostreview.com – we are a web host review company based in the U.K. and produce content on other relevant material.

When you purchase a domain name you’ll have to enter in your personal information. This information is then stored on a central database known as registry. Domain registrars require permission from ICANN to sell domains.

 

Choosing The Best Domain Registrar

There are a multitude of domain name registrars available. Some will be able to sell all TLDs available whereas other may only be able to sell country-specific domain extensions. This is fine if this is what you’re looking for, but it’s best to be aware of what each one offers.

As you’ll see with the best domain registrars outlined below, each registrar offers something different. Domain registrars tend to offer other services like free add-ons, additional services, web hosting etc.

I’ve personally spent a lot of time researching this area. I’ve compiled a list of criteria that’s essential when considering the best domain registrar to choose. Keep your eyes peeled for the following:

  • Pricing & Renewal: When you register a domain name you’ll need to pay for it (in most cases). Many domain registrars offer a very low price for the first year, hiking up their renewal prices. If you only want to register a domain for a short period of time, you may as well take advantage of these introductory offers. However, be aware that some domain registrars require you to sign up to a minimum period.
  • Domain Transfers: It’s entirely possible to move a domain name from one registrar to another. However, you won’t be able to do this for the first 60 days after you’ve registered your domain. Many domain registrars don’t charge for domain transfers, but you’ll need to check this before registering
  • Add-ons & Extras: If you’re looking for additional services, most domain registrars offer this. You may not feel like you need these services but it’s worth considering for the future. Add-ons include domain privacy, email hosting, domain parking etc. As I’ll say time and time again, domain privacy is well worth it.

1 | BlueHost (Best Domain Name Registrar of 2019)

 

Established in 2003
Owned by Endurance International Group

BlueHost are one of the largest hosting companies out there. They’re my personal #2 choice in web hosting as well as domain names. Not many people realise that they are a WordPress official hosting partner, so if you’re thinking of starting a blog or website, it’s worth checking them out.

If you are looking for web hosting, ukwebhostreview readers are being offered hosting from just £2.25 per month. This includes a free domain name, SSL certificate and unlimited storage and bandwidth. Compiling your web hosting and domain name in one place often makes things easier and more manageable.

For customers just wanting a domain name, most domain registrations cost around £10 per year. BlueHost have a 24/7 customer support system as well as live chat for any issues you may encounter.

 

Visit BlueHost.com

2 | Domain.com

 

Established in 2000
Owned by Endurance International Group

Domain.com specialises in domain names and web hosting. They’ve been around for a long time so are a trusted brand as a domain registrar. You can register a top level domain (TLD) with them as well as country code domains.

When you land on domain.com you can easily use their search tool to find your domain name. If you have a domain name in mind, simply enter it into the search box to see the results. Their tool will show you whether a domain name is available or not, as well as suggested ideas and featured domains.

I mentioned earlier that most domain registrars will offer handy extras as well as the ability to purchase domain names. Domain.com has a choice of features including:

  • Domain privacy ($8.99 per year)
  • Bulk registration
  • Transfers
  • DNS management

If you’re struggling with anything, they have customer support via live chat, or you can email them. If you’re not looking for web hosting, domain.com offers great value domain names and I highly recommend them.

 

Visit Domain.com

 

3 | GoDaddy

 

Established in 1997
Owned by GoDaddy Group Inc

GoDaddy is one of the longest standing domain registrars. With almost 80 million domain names that they manage, their customer base has reached near 20 million users. They offer domain registration as well as web hosting and other web services such as web development, website builder, etc.

As far as web hosts go, GoDaddy offer extremely competitive prices for domain registration. If you’re happy to keep your domain name for at least 2 years, GoDaddy sell .co.uk TLDs for just 99p per year. The domain search tool is very simple to use; just type in you desired domain name and they will tell you whether it’s available or not (as well as some suggested domain names).

If you’re looking for decent domain management tools, GoDaddy can provide you with this. Whether you’re looking to transfer your domain or amend the settings, their tools are really easy to use. Not only that, they offer 24/7 support as well as live chat should you encounter any issues.

 

Visit GoDaddy.com

 

4 | HostGator

 

Established in 2002
Owned by Endurance International Group (EIG)

Similar to GoDaddy, HostGator have been around for some time and have made a name for themselves. They offer domain registration as well as web hosting. Their domain names come with a wide range of TLDs as well as domain registration and simple domain management tools that are user-friendly.

When you’re ready to search for your desired domain name, their domain search tool makes things very easy. Enter your domain name and see if it’s available. If not, there’s plenty of options as well as suggestions to gain some inspiration. If you want to transfer a domain, the process is beginner-friendly and there’s plenty of documentation to help you on your way.

HostGator, unfortunately, doesn’t include a free domain name when you sign up to web hosting. But, their domain names are competitively priced, averaging around £7-£10 for a .com TLD. Domain privacy will set you back $1.25/mo (Billed Annually @ $14.95). I do recommend purchasing domain privacy with any domain name that you register.

 

Visit HostGator.com

 

5 | Name.com

 

Established in 2003
Owned by Right side Group

Name.com have been steadily gaining traction and introducing new customers since 2003. Similar to many domain registrars, they also provide web hosting services, SSL certificates, website builder, email hosting services, and more. They have a wide range of TLDs on offer as well as some helpful domain features.

If it’s web hosting you’re after, all of Name.com’s shared hosting plans include a free domain name. Prices start from $4.99 per month and also include a free SSL certificate. This should be enough to set you up with your first website if that’s what you’re looking for. If you’ve never used a domain registrar before, Name.com have live chat support as well as phone support and a knowledge base.

Their domain name search tool is simple and quick to use. Once you’ve entered your domain name into the search box, it will tell you if your domain is available. However, I have noticed that if a domain is already taken (but the owner is open to selling it), the domain will display as available but at a premium price (one of these I found at $34,000)!

 

Visit Name.com

 

6 | NameCheap

 

Established in 2000
Owned by NameCheap

NameCheap is a top domain name registrar. They’ve been in the industry for 19 years, offering domain registration, domain transfers, SSL certificates, and web hosting. Their web hosting spans across shared hosting, WordPress hosting, reseller hosting, VPS hosting, and even email hosting.

NameCheap’s domain add-on services match those in the market. They are one of the few domain registrars that include domain privacy with all of their domain names, free of charge. This is definitely something which sets them apart from their competitors. Their domain search tools is easy to use, offering suggestions for when your domain isn’t available.

If you’re struggling with anything or not sure how to transfer your domain, their live chat service is really good. I’ve personally used their phone support and I have to admit they were really helpful. They knew their stuff and they were really friendly. If you don’t want to seek customer support directly, their knowledge base has plenty of information and guides.

 

Visit NameCheap.com

 

7 | 1&1 (IONOS)

 

Established in 1988
Owned by United Internet

1&1 (IONOS) are probably one of the oldest domain registrars out there. They offer incredibly affordable domain names, starting from 99p per year. If you need to contact 1&1, U.K. customers will find this much easier than most of their competitors. Customer support is available via live chat, telephone, email and even social media.

Some of the features they include are domain transfer, eCommerce site builder, web hosting, website builder, WordPress hosting, email hosting, and lots more. You can probably get all the tools you need to create your own website in one place with 1&1 and a reasonable price. They may not be the most powerful web host or domain registrar, but they’re definitely cheap.

At the moment, 1&1 are offering domain names for free for the first year. After this, it will cost you £10 per year. But this is a really good offer to take advantage of! Web hosting is only £1 per month for the first year and includes a free domain name for life. If you’re looking to start a new website, 1&1 are a great place to start.

 

Visit Ionos.co.uk

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28 Aug 2019

5 Amazing Free Stock Photo Sites in 2019 (Inc Pros & Cons)

I am completely baffled why websites still produce and use cheesy stock photos with no real meaning behind them. When you can get high quality free stock photos, why would you choose the cheap alternative. I’ve compiled a list of the most amazing free stock photo sites to prove to you that it’s entirely possible.

 

What Makes a Good Stock Photo

Before diving into the best stock photo sites, it’s worth knowing what makes a good stock photo. If you’re looking to print photos, you’ll need images with a resolution of at least 640 x 480 pixels. However, given it’s 2019, you’ll probably want higher (and most places offer this).

Photos should be well-focused and sharp. If you download a photo and zoom in and notice any noise, it’s probably not a decent image. As I’ve mentioned above, stock photo’s shouldn’t be cheesy and awkward. They’re meant to be used as representative images, and more often than not we don’t see this (even with premium websites).

Experienced photographers tend to have a good eye for detail. This is often represented in their work, capturing real-life without it looking cliche. Of course, it’s entirely up to you what you choose to use, but I don’t want to lead you down the wrong path.

 

1 | Unsplash

 

As featured above, it’s easy to see that Unsplash offer beautiful photos that are free to use. Their photos are actually donated by real and professional photographers. Although you may not find as many images on Unsplash as other sites, the quality makes up for this tenfold.

When you first visit Unsplash, the easiest way to search for a photo is by using their search tool. Simply enter in what you’re looking for and the results which show the most relevant images. If you don’t specifically know what you’re after, you can use their collections tool which categorises images by groups. If you sign up for an account you can create your own collections.

Unsplash has an iOS app which is really useful if you want to search for awesome stock photos on the go. What’s more, you don’t have to credit the photographer if you use any of their photos, but you can if you want to. I’d always recommend crediting the photographer as it’s a courteous thing to do.

High quality
Easy search tool
iOS app available

 

Visit Unsplash.com

 

2 | Pixabay

 

Pixabay has a wide selection of free images as well as vector graphics, illustrations, and videos. If you’re after landscape or nature photography, they have some very high quality photos available. I strongly recommend checking out their Editor’s Choice section for some inspiration.

When you’ve searched through their library and found an image you like, you can choose the resolution. Depending on the type of project you’re working on, you may need a high resolution. You’ll be asked to complete a Captcha then your file is ready to download. If you don’t want to keep completing Captchas, you can sign up to Pixabay with a free account.

Pixabay does contain some not safe for work (NSFW) images but you can avoid these quite easily. Simply check the Enable SafeSearch option before looking for content. This is a feature that I find quite interesting as I hadn’t really thought about this before discovering it on their site.

Large library of images
Illustrations and vector graphics
Quality not as good as others

 

Visit Pixabay.com

 

3 | Pikwizard

 

Pikwizard have thousands of stock photos available amongst multiple categories. After going through their images I can confirm the quality is very high, especially considering the content is free. Thankfully Pikwizard aren’t into cheesy poses as they present more natural photos. If it’s people you’re after, you’ll find plenty of choice on their site.

If you find an image you like but want to make some alterations, you can use the online photo editor. Many of the tools and features are premium so you’ll need to pay for them if you want to use them. However, none of them seem to cost more than a couple of quid.

My main gripe with Pikwizard is their licencing as they have two different licenses which are free and CCo. CCo means the copyright has been waived whereas free means the copyright is retained by the photographer. Free images can be used because the photographer has agreed for them to be used without payment. Similar to Unsplash, there’s no need to credit the photographer but it’s always nice to do so.

Plenty of natural poses
Online photo editor
Licensing applies to some photos

 

Visit Pikwizard.com

 

4 | Gratisography

 

Gratisography might not have as much content as other free stock photo sites, but they certainly offer something different. Professional photographer Ryan McGuire provides surreal photos with a certain sense of quirkiness. This site is a great choice if you’re looking for something unusual and are sick of the cliches.

New photos are added each week to ensure content remains consistent and fresh. If you want to be notified when new photos or updates are applied you can sign up to his newsletter or follow his twitter account.

When you download photos from Gratisography there’s no need to credit Ryan McGuire. Again, and I’ll keep saying this, it’s nice if you do and I’m sure he would appreciate it!

Unusual photos
Fresh content each week
Small selection

 

Visit Gratisography.com

 

5 | Negative Space

 

Negative Space invites anyone with a camera to contribute. It’s a great place for amateurs to get started and a place to show off photographer’s work. Supporting each other is at the forefront of what they do, allowing people to share their creativity and for it to be used in multiple places.

If you want to subscribe to their newsletter, you’ll get updates on when new content is added. New images seem to pop up fairly quickly, unlike Gratisography which is a bit slower because it’s a one man band. If you visit the site and don’t find what you’re looking for, it’s well worth revisiting as chances are new images will have appeared.

Negative Space is one of the few photography sites that’s actually based in the U.K. This gives people more opportunity to find British scenery including landscapes, cityscapes and more. The website is helpfully categorised, such as, abstract, travel, technology etc.

Invites amateur photographers to submit work
U.K. based
Copyright protection applies to some content

 

Visit Negativespace.co

 

Pros & Cons of Stock Photography

As with most things, there are pros and cons to using stock photography. Stock photography is available for anyone to use; some sites allow you to download images for free whereas others will charge a premium. We’ve had a look at 5 amazing free stock photo sites to get you started. Paul Suggett from The Balance Careers sums stock photography up quite nicely:

Stock photography is like clothing you buy off the rack at a popular department store. No matter how beautiful it looks, you won’t be the only person wearing that design.

Some websites like Negative Space invite photographers from any background to submit their work. This is a great option for those who want to share their work and those that want to support amateurs. Other sites like Gratisography are run by the photographers themselves and don’t request that you have to credit them. The majority of stock sites hire photographers to submit stock photography to be licensed. This is then sold on to anyone who buys them.

Perfect for mock-ups and presentations
Cheaper than a professional photo shoot
Available to download instantly
Wide range of resolutions
Ideal for those with a limited budget

Not original work
Likely to be used by multiple people and sites
Lacks brand identity
Can be cliche and awkward

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28 Aug 2019

7 Best Unlimited Cloud Storage Solutions

Rather than trying to predict the amount of storage you are going to need in the future, why not go for an unlimited cloud storage provider? That way there are no upper limit restrictions. You never know what you might need to back up in the future, and with so many massive files being created from videos to games, more space is always better. 

Although there are a few great unlimited file storage providers out there, as always – they differ on how they structure their business. Some offer a monthly or annual fee and others will charge you for how much space you use. 

There is a difference between a cloud backup provider and a cloud storage provider. I’ll quickly outline each type of storage below so that you have an idea of the difference. 

What is the difference between Backup, Storage and Sync?

With the increasing demand for cloud storage and the fact that they are becoming more affordable, the services are becoming more specialized. Often providers will offer a few of these services, however, it’s a great idea to get informed. Here are the three types of cloud storage that you should know about:

  1. Cloud Sync
  2. Cloud Backup
  3. Cloud Storage

What is Cloud Sync?

When you synchronize your device with a cloud storage provider, the files that you choose to sync are backed up on the cloud. We’d always advise having multiple copies of your files, especially ones of high value that you cannot replace. 

What is Cloud Backup?

Unlike Cloud Sync, cloud backup doesn’t require you to select the folder/s that you want to store. Cloud backup is normally automatic and it backs up your entire device. Think of cloud backup like the good old fashioned CD or DVD that you use to make a backup of your data.

What is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage is a highly available data storage service. These services can be accessed by web developers via an API (application program interfaces).

Who is Cloud Storage For?

Cloud storage is a brilliant solution for anyone wanting to keep their data in a secure, accessible place. Great for both businesses and individuals alike, plus they are really easy to use (in most cases).

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of the top 7 UNLIMITED cloud file storage providers. For example – if they offer a FREE TRIAL, ease of use and price are all considerations. You’ll need to be uploading and downloading a lot with your cloud storage provider, so the speed of transfer is also something to check out. 

On the subject of file transfer – block-level transfer is a great feature, as it will allow you to only upload the parts of files that you have changed – saving time. These are our top six considerations when selecting the top unlimited file storage solution providers:

  1. User Experience
  2. Ease of Use
  3. Free Trial Offered
  4. Pricing 
  5. Speed of Transfer
  6. Block-level transfer

Ok, so let’s dive in and find out more about these “Unlimited” cloud storage providers so that you can pick the best one to fit your needs…

Here are our Top 7 Unlimited Cloud Storage Providers

#1 | Dropbox For Business (30-Day FREE Trial)

Dropbox is probably the most popular and widely known cloud storage provider out there. Founded in 2007, Dropbox has shot to the top of the cloud storage provider list. The negative publicity due to the breach in 2012 seems to have done them good. They have tightened up security and become the most popular out there. Not necessarily the “best” on all fronts, but they do offer a brilliant UNLIMITED option for businesses. 

Both their Advanced and Enterprise services offer completely UNLIMITED file storage on the cloud. The pricing is not too bad either – You can get the “Advanced Plan” for just $20 per month. Enterprise is one of those – “get in touch for more information deals”, designed for people who need to tailor their service, large businesses.  You can get a 30-day free trial of the Dropbox for Business service.

Both of the unlimited plans from Dropbox offer smart sync. They also offer block-level transfer for enhanced speed. The initial upload speeds are pretty decent when compared to some other cloud hosting providers. They also offer an easy to use the app.

Dropbox Business allows you to select the servers that you want to use. For example you can store your data in European servers or on a server in a country of your choice.

Click Here To Visit Dropbox

Pros
  • Smart Sync
  • Blok-level transfer
  • Decent transfer speeds
  • App provided
  • 256-bit AES encryption at rest
  • 128-bit in-transit encryption
  • Two-factor authentication
Cons
  • No Zero-knowledge
  • Limited reporting features

#2 | Box (14-Day FREE Trial)

Box storage states that 70% of the fastest-growing fortune 500) businesses use their storage service. They offer a 14-day free trial and focus on providing cloud storage that is optimized for the business user. 

Box offers three levels of service that offer the Unlimited Cloud Storage – Business, Business Plus, and Enterprise. Like Dropbox, they don’t provide much info on the Enterprise edition, you need to contact them to discuss your requirements. You can add unlimited users onto your account, but know that you’ll need to pay for each user, and there is a minimum user count of 3. The Business plan from Box is $15 per additional user and the Business Plus is $25 per month for additional users. 

On the flip side, Box doesn’t have block-level file transfers, so you won’t see an increase in upload speed for file uploads. They also limit your file upload to 5GB, which is a bit restrictive. However, they offer a neat “Selective Sync” feature. You can then manage what files you want to sync which saves time and space. 

One great thing about Box is that you simply install their software and a sync folder will automatically be created. Saving files to this folder means that they will automatically be backed up on the cloud. Their mobile app and desktop client are both user friendly and the UX is clean and easy to use. Security is great with Box – they offer AES 256-bit encryption and in transit protection.

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Intuitive desktop and mobile client
  • Good Security
  • 24/7 support
  • AES 256-bit encryption
Cons
  • No block-level sync
  • Files uploaded restricted to 5GB

#3 | OpenDrive (5GB FREE)

OpenDrive are one of the only providers that we’ve seen that Unlimited Storage on a personal plan. What’s more, you can add up to four users on the personal plan, which is just $9.95 per month. If you sign up to their annual service you get two months free. 

The Business Plan from OpenDrive is $29.95 per month and is white label – so you can add your business branding. They offer account manager to help you, should you need it. They also offer a reseller plan so that you can effectively make your File storage service and sell it which is just $59.95 – quite an attractive proposition! The only downside to this is that you get charged for every user that you add onto your reseller account. 

One downside to OpenDrive is that their upload and download speeds are quite slow. Their web and mobile clients are OK – nothing outstanding. OpenDrive is certainly not the easiest or initiative cloud storage web / mobile app out there. 

The security offered by OpenDrive is not too shabby – you get encrypted with AES-256 when the files are at rest and 128-bit AES while data is in transit. You can also select managed or private encryption for optimal control. However, they don’t offer two-factor authentication, which puts you at risk for a password breach.

Pros
  • Cost effective
  • Unlimited Personal Plan
  • Personal account manager
  • Reseller/ white label services
Cons
  • No two-factor authentication
  • Slow transfer speeds
  • Clumsy UX

#4 | LiveDrive (14-Day FREE Trial)

LiveDrive is a UK based cloud file storage provider. They offer Automatic Online Backup that is geared toward the individual/ personal user who wants to back-up their PC. They offer a 14 day unrestricted trial on the personal or business account. You can however, access your files from anywhere, which is great. They offer free apps for you to instantly access your files. As a backup service, they offer things like “Simple Restore” so that you can restore your PC to a previous version. 

They offer some good security features, for example, TLS encryption for files in transit and they are an ISO 27001 certified center. They do offer encryption via obfuscation; however, don’t disclose the actual encryption method. A good option if you want to back-up your files on UK soil. Also, they don’t restrict the size of the file that you upload or download.

There are two levels of Business service – Business Express that offers 2TB and 3 users, for $50 per month. Business Standard offers 10TB and 10+ users for $160 per month. The service is not really UNLIMITED despite them saying that it is, but you can add on additional space if an when required.

Pros
  • 14 day free trial (no credit card required)
  • Collaboration tools
  • Mobile apps
  • No file size limits.
Cons
  • Only UK based servers

#5 | AWS (5GB FREE)

AWS is Amazon’s cloud storage service. It can be scaled up to whatever you need to in effect you have access to unlimited storage space. You can store your data on AWS for cost $0.004 per gigabyte per month. They operate a Pay-as-you-go service model and they also offer volume discounts if you need to store a tonne of data on the AWS cloud. They have some handy calculators to figure out how much space you are using. You can use as much as you want, and that is why we have put it on the list, it is unlimited, however Pay-as-you-go.

With AWS you can get access to a Free Tier – that gives you 750 hours and 5GB of storage. You can then upgrade as and when you are ready. Amazon also has 60 other tools that you can access on the free tier.  Security wise AWS has TLS for in transit files and customer controlled encryption on their servers, additionally they offer AWS Multi-Factor Authentication.

Pros
  • Free tier
  • Pay only for what you use
Cons
  • Complicated setup

#6 | Rackspace Cloud Files (No FREE Option)

Rackspace Cloud Files is a large cloud infrastructure service (with have over 200 data centres, with locations all over the world) and for that reason they can easily store unlimited files. You do however need to download and integrate third party software like Storage Made Easy. So Rackspace Cloud Files don’t offer the full package – which could be complex for people who aren’t so tech savvy. 

Files can be uploaded via the Rackspace cloud manager which is easy to use and fast. They do however charge per  GB. Up to 1TB, it is $0.10 then the price goes down by one cent to $0.09 up to 49TB – you also need to pay for bandwidth. The good thing is you are only paying for what you use, but these types of payments can easily rack up (pardon the pun).

Security from Rackspace Cloud Files isn’t the best. They don’t encrypt the data at rest however they do protect data in transit with SSL. To access your files on the Rackspace cloud manager you’ll need an authorized API key, which  offers some security.

Pros
  • You can create your own cloud
  • Fast upload and download
  • Pay for what you use
Cons
  • Complicated to use
  • Not secure

#7 | Backblaze B2 (10GB FREE)

With Backblaze B2 you get 10GB for free – which is a great bonus. After you use this space up then you get a gigabyte for $0.005 per month. They also offer you 1GB download for free, but after this you’ll pay $0.004 per 10,000 downloads – certainly a pretty cheap option. They don’t have international servers like other hosting providers and store all of your files in their Californian servers. This can make transfer speeds slow and put you under the jurisdiction of US data laws. 

 Although Backblaze B2 is cheap, they don’t offer much in the way of security – no encryption or any real infrastructure.

Pros
  • Dirt Cheap
  • Scalable storage
Cons
  • Slow transfer speeds
  • Not an actual cloud storage provider

All in All

The best thing about ALL of the file storage solutions outlined above is the fact that they are all UNLIMITED. It all depends on what you need, if you are looking for a secure cloud storage provider, then don’t go for Backblaze or Rackspace as they don’t offer encryption or much in the way of security protocols. If you security is top on your list then:

Check out our article on Secure Cloud File Storage Providers

If you are looking for an unlimited cloud file storage provider that has a flat-fee then Dropbox or OpenDrive are great options. I hope that this list helps you find the best unlimited storage provider to suit your needs.

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28 Aug 2019

Setup Free Email Hosting Account in Minutes

When it comes to getting a FREE email address you need to consider what you’ll be using it for – Business or Personal email. If you are looking for a business email address, then you’ll want it to be professional to help your business image and make you stand out. 

Personal email addresses are easy to get, we’ll go into them. But many people are unaware that you can actually get professional email addresses for free in a few different ways. So in this article we’ll go into free business and free personal email addresses, how to set them up and the benefits of using each different option.

What is the Best FREE Business Email?

I personally love using cPanel on my server, then I can generate as many mailboxes and email addresses as I like. The only thing I am restricted on is the amount of space my emails take up. If you have unlimited cloud hosting then you can make email addresses until your heart is content. 

Be aware that some website hosts allow you to have unlimited email addresses while others restrict you on how many email addresses you can create. So check that out with your host (if you already have one). If you are choosing a new one, then you can check out how many email addresses you are allowed on each package. Generally speaking shared hosting will offer one or more email addresses for free, website builders will charge for email addresses and dedicated servers with cPanel will allow you to make as many emails as you like. 

I actually created a comprehensive guide to using cPanel that you can access here. It also has a whole section on creating email addresses included. It’s a lot simpler than you might think. 

If you don’t want to go down the cPanel and Webmail option – Webmail is the software you can use to access your emails free of charge with your hosting provider. Then let’s go over some other options. 

1. Zoho/ Webmail 

When you have your business email address created with your host or cPanel, then you need a way to read and reply to emails easily. For this you’ll need to install software. Webmail and Zoho are free options for you to use to read and send emails.

2. Bluehost, HostGator (or Other Hosting Providers)

Both of these hosts offer a free business email and software when you open your domain/ hosting account. This is a great place to start if you don’t want to have to mess around with things like cPanel or software. 

3. 100% FREE email providers

Email providers that are 100% free are great – but you’ll not get the professional domain name extension. What do I mean by that? Basically if you want name@yoursite.com, where you replace the “name” for your own name and “yoursite.com” for your business website address, then you can’t do that with a 100% free email providers. If you are happy with using the email providers domain name extension (for example @gmail.com or @yahoo.com) and just want a free email address for personal use then you can use Gmail or a similar provider.

Reasons to Choose a Professional Business Email Address 

For a start you can get your business email address up and running in minutes once you know how. So it is super easy to do. Secondly, using a custom domain name for your email address just looks so much more professional. 

A Custom Email Address is Free Advertising 

Thirdly, your domain name will be doing some advertising for you – when you send an email out, people might want to go over and check out everything that your business does. This is great for brand awareness.

People respond more favourably to a business email when they are buying goods and services. Plus they can go over and check you out by cutting and pasting your custom domain name.  Your professional email address does the work that a business card can do (especially if you put professional email footer at the end of your emails). 

Related: Get a FREE Domain Name

Generic FREE Email Addresses Can Hurt a Business

Using a free email address like yourname@gmail.com or yourname@yahoo.com is a NO-NO for business.  A business email builds trust as it has to come from someone at that company, while a generic FREE email address could come from anyone.  Here are 5 reasons to create a professional custom email address:

  1. To build trust
  2. Safety
  3. Professional persona
  4. Essential for B2B Businesses
  5. Build brand Awareness

How to Create a Custom Email Address

If you already have a business website, then you can get an email address (or several) to match it. I’ll go over several ways to approach this below.

Can You Get a Free Email Address With a Website Builder?

YES! Even website builders like Wix offer custom email addresses to match your domain name. The only thing is you’ll need to be on their premium plan to get a professional email address. Other hosts like 1&1 IONOS and Godaddy now have website builders that you can use to create your website in minutes, and some packages come with free email addresses. 

You can get a FREE email address and domain name with 1&1 IONOS when you buy their website hosting that starts at $1 per month.

How to Choose Your Domain Name

If you don’t already have your own domain name – you don’t need one to get a free personal email address – you just require a domain name for a business email address. Your domain name should represent your business. Normally the name of your business with a .com extension has been the standard practice. However you can now get domain extensions like .coach or .academy  that may fit your business better.

Check out our 21 Domain Name Generators

How to Choose a FREE Email Provider

When you are looking for a FREE email address, there are several things you should think about. Firstly, if you are using an email address from your host, then check that they can set everything up for you, like Bluehost and HostGator do. Unless you are confident that you can do this manually, for example – if you are a tech wizz kid. 

Checkout our Bluehost vs HostGator Review

In either case you want to choose an email service provider that has decent customer support. You don’t necessarily need this for a personal email address, but it is certainly a major consideration for your business email address. Your business email will be essential for your business to succeed in the online space. So it’s great to know that you can get support if and when it’s needed. 

Here are some other considerations when selecting your new FREE email provider:

1. Uptime Guarantee  

If you are thinking about using a basic generic free email address then the major providers like Yahoo and Gmail already have this in the bag. They just about never experience downtime. However, if you are using your own domain name, then you want to make sure that the host that you are using has a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Consider the situation whereby your email hosting goes offline and you can’t receive emails. This means you could lose out on potential business. 

2. Spam Filters

Let’s face it – everybody hates spam. So make sure that your email provider offers decent spam filters. In our cPanal guide we discussed how to set up spam filters in your cPanel account. If you aren’t using cPanel then make sure that you provider has spam filters. Some providers like Gmail come with in-built spam filters. 

3. Security

You don’t want someone to access your email addresses, so make sure that the provider you use has security measures in place like malware detection and two-factor authentication.  Bear in mind that email providers like Gmail reserve the right to take a peek into your mail.

4. Ease of Use

There are two considerations here – how easy is it to compose, send and reply to emails? And how easy is it to set your email up? The setup with providers like Gmail and Yahoo is extremely simple. Some hosts will allow you to set up your professional custom email address in a few minutes. 

5. Storage Space / Archives

Most FREE email providers have a limit on the amount of data you can store in your mailbox. For instance the Gmail quota is 15GB. This gets filled up quickly if you have many images and videos in our email account. The emails that are stored in “archive” also take up space and should be deleted periodically. 

6. Advanced Features 

You can integrate your email with your CRM, for instance Hubspot or any other CRM. The reason I mentioned Hubspot is that they offer a FREE CRM tool to manage your customers. You can even use their calendar booking system on your website or via email and sync everything up. 

7. Customer Experience

It can pay to have a look at what other customers are saying about your new free email provider before signing up. That way you can establish any flaws without putting yourself out. To do this – type in your email provider name and reviews into Google to find out what people are saying. 

8. Additional Emails

How easy is it to add on new email accounts? If you are expanding your business you might want to add on new business users. Bear in mind that while some hosts and email providers will allow you to add unlimited people, this might come at an additional cost. 

Google for instance is a great FREE email provider; however when you start to add on custom domain names, the price can quickly mount up – even if you just have a few email addresses. 

Professional Email Formats

When setting up your business email address, consider your employees, including, if you plan on taking on employees in the future. Choose an email format that works for you. For example:

james@domainname.com

james.walker@ domainname.com

james.w@ domainname.com

james@ domainname.com

w.james@domainname.com

You get the gist – decide on a format and then use it for all of your employees. 

FREE Professional Email Account Setup – A Step-By-Step Guide

There are many ways to approach FREE business email setup. In this guide I’ll go through a few of the most straight forward options. If you already have a domain name you can use Zoho to set up your email address in minutes. 

If you don’t already have a domain name, you can get one and some cheap hosting – plus a fee email address from Bluehost, 1&1 IONOS  or HostGator. But first, let’s take a look at setting your account up on Zoho. 

Create Your Professional Email Address With Zoho

If you already own your domain name, you can set up your email address up with Zoho in minutes.  You might want to set up your email address up as a subdomain, if so discuss this with your system administrator or simply set up a subdomain in cPanel. If you want to go ahead and create a straight forward business email, then it’s easy with Zoho. 

Zoho also have CRM software, ad free email, accounting apps and some nice analytic tools. I’d say that this setup might not be great for complete beginners as you need to switch between your domain registrar/ host and Zoho. But if you’re cool with that, it’s fairly straight forward. Let’s get started setting up your professional account with Zoho.

Step 1 – Visit Zoho.com and create an account.

Step 2 – Select “Sign up with a Domain you already own.” 

Step 3 – Fill in your details and tap “Sign Up” 

Step 4 – Two-Factor Authentication code will be sent to your phone – fill this in on the site

Step 5 – Go to the Domain DNS Manager in Zoho. Choose your domain’s DNS host from dropdown

Step 6 – Login using your username and password domain registrar 

Step 7 – Go to “My Accounts” > “Domains” > “Manage DNS.”

Step 8 – Copy the Zoho code thath will begin with “zb*******” 

Step 9 – Paste code in “Host” field. Enter “zmverify.zoho.com” under “Points to” field in DNS records and hit “Save” to finish.

Step 10 – Verify your domain name by selecting “Proceed to CNAME Verification.” Then hit “Verify Now” 

Step 11 – Select “Create Account” 

Step 12 – Login to your domain name provider and go to the “DNS Manager”

Step 13 – Choose MX Record in DNS Manager (over on your domain host). In the “Host” field, enter “@” and in the “Points To” field, paste “mx.zoho.com.”

Step 14 – Select the “Priority” field and type “10” then hit “Save.

Step 15 – Add new MX Record by entering “@” in the “Host” field and pointing it to “mx2.zoho.com” set priority to “20” and then hit “Save.”

Step 16 – Add a 3rd  MX Record. Set the “Host” field to “@” and point it to “mx3.zoho.com” then set the priority to “50” and click “Save.”

Step 17 – Delete any other MX records as you only need the 3 I’ve outlined above.

Step 18 – A pop-up should appear that reads – “Configure Email Delivery” and should say that MX Records are pointed to Zoho servers. 

CONGRATUATIONS – Your email should now be configured. You should now be able to send and receive emails in Zoho.

If you get stuck at any point, then check your domain name hosts tutorials on managing DNS or email setup – because sometimes the MX records can be a bit different. Failing that give your host a quick call to make sure everything is set up correctly. 

Create Your Professional Email Address with Bluehost

If you have hosting with Bluehost, you get your email address free of charge. It’s really easy to set up, even for the complete novice. Here’s a quick guide:

Step 1 – Visit Bluehost.com and create an account or login (if you already have an account go to step 3).

Step 2 – Choose “Web Hosting” and select a plan and set it up

Step 3 – Log in to  Bluehost and go to your cPanel account and login.

Step 4 – Select “Email Accounts” under “Mail.” 

Step 5 – Enter in an email address and password. 

Step 6 – Tap “Create Account” 

As you can see, setting up email addresses this way is SUPER EASY. So you can go ahead and create a few if you require them. Remember to set the email quota if you are creating accounts for others. 

Bluehost also have some security settings that can help you manage spam. 

Create Your Professional Email Address with HostGator

If you have hosting with HostGator, you get your email address free of charge. It’s really easy to set up, even for the complete novice. Here’s a quick guide. 

Step 1 – Visit HostGator.com and select “Web Hosting.” (if you already have an account go to step 3).

Step 2 – After you have created your account check your email for ServerName

Step 3 – Paste this URL in your browser: https://ServerName:2083. Replace “ServerName” in the URL with the ServerName you received in your email.

Step 4 – Login to cPanel with your username and password to enter cPanel.

Step 5 – Select “Mail.” And then “Email Accounts.”

Step 6 – Enter your new email address name and strong password. 

Step 7 – Hit “Create Account.”

Sending and Receiving Emails

Zoho has their own software to send and receive emails, but hosts like Bluehost and HostGator use cPanel and then you install Webmail. Most hosting providers now use cPanel so you should be able to create your email account by accessing cPanel. If you are using cPanel then Webmail is the usual suspect for sending and receiving. 

If you have successfully created your email address, you’ll want to test it. You can normally access your webmail by going to yoursite.com/webmail (where yoursite.com is replaced for your own domain name).  You then put in your email and password (that you set up above). 

You can normally access your emails a number of ways. Another way is to login to your cPanel and then go to the mail section and selecting “view inbox”. 

What are the Best Free Personal Email Hosting Providers?

Do you want to get a quick and easy personal email address? Here are some of the best FREE email address providers:

#1 | Yahoo Mail

Yahoo mail is a brilliant solution if you want a tonne of storage space for FREE. Their email storage limit is a massive 1TB for all users. Founded over two decades ago, in 1997, and Yahoo continues to thrive. They currently have 225 million active users. They have some great features like spam filters, SSL encryption and search tools.

When you create your Yahoo account you’ll automatically have a login for Flickr and Tumblr as they are part of the same company. Yahoo is the best option for a free personal email address, as they give you so much space, features and security – all totally free.

#2 | Gmail

Gmail can be used for both personal and business email addresses. It is really user friendly and simple to set up – for that reason Gmail is a very popular email solution.  Gmail is intuitive and has some great folder structuring that allows you to organise your mail and also filter out spam and promotions. You get 15GB storage space for free when you sign up to Gmail. 

I personally love the Gmail user interface and would have put it top of my list if Yahoo didn’t offer such a jaw dropping storage quota for free.

Business Gmail – You’ll need to buy your domain name from a domain name registrar, and also buy G-Suite. 

Personal Gmail – Simply fill in your details and you’ll be up and running in minutes.

#3 | Outlook.com

It’s really quick and easy to set up an @outlook.com email address. Go to Outlook.com and follow the steps and you’ll be up and running in minutes. Outlook is a feature rich email solution that comes bundled with Microsoft Office 365. You can also set up a free account directly from their site. 

Outlook is a great solution for businesses as you can download the software to your computer and manage your emails there. It is really easy to use, even though it does look a little bit dated now. They automatically sort high-priority and low-priority mail with their “Clutter” feature, which is great for people who get a high volume of emails. You can also manage all of your emails into folders. 

#4 | iCloud Mail

If you use any Apple device you’ll need to set up an Apple ID. People say that you’ll already have an iCloud account with your Apple ID. However, this is not strictly true, because you can use your own business or personal email address with another provider as your Apple ID.  This will get you into iCloud, but not get you a free email address. 

If you have an Apple Iphone then iCloud is a great choice as you can check your email easily from your device. iCloud has a built in spam filter and also uses two-factor authentication, which is great to avoid the possibility of anyone logging into your email. 

iCloud is specifically designed for people who own an iPhone, iPad, iWatch or iPod touch. However you can also set it up on your Windows PC (provided you own an Apple device). If you are using a Windows PC then you’ll need to follow these steps:

Step 1 – Visit iCloud and download iCloud for Windows

Step 2 – Use your Apple ID from one of your Apple devices to login. 

Step 3 – You’ll then be asked to select the services you want. For example if you want to turn on iCloud Drive to store files on the cloud.

#5 | GMX Mail

GMX is another email provider that is great on storage space as they offer a UNLIMITED storage. Surprisingly, this lesser known mail service has been around just as long as Yahoo – since 1997. They offer an intuitive mobile app that you can use on both iPhone and Android. 

Like Yahoo and Google, GMX mail offers a lot of other features that you might like. For example they have virus protection and a spam filter. You can also use their version of the Google Calendar called “GMX Organizer.”

#6 | Yandex Mail

Yandex is part of a massive co-corporation based in Russia. They offer all sorts of digital products like mobile apps, a search engine and eCommerce. Their mail solution “Yandex Mail” has some cute e-card and template features to make your email stand out. They offer just 10GB of storage. Additionally they have some great features to optimize your inbox – for example mail sorting, highlighting emails that come from real people and virus/ spam protection.

All in All

There you go – a tonne of options to get your free email up and running in minutes. Businesses need to have a professional email address, whereas if you are just looking for a personal address, you can use one of the 6 totally free and easy accounts I’ve mentioned above. Looking for a free business address? Check if your host offers a free email address for your business and get started with cPanel.

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27 Aug 2019

9 Website Monitoring Services: Up-time, Downtime & Performance

Considering website monitoring to ensure that your website is performing as you would like? Awesome! You’ve come to the right place.

You can use website monitoring to check out your websites uptime, speed and functions. Website monitoring tools are invaluable for website owners or webmasters who want to know the facts about how well their website is performing. They’ll help you to see where your site might be falling short so that you can improve the overall functionality of your website and the experience of end users.

Not all website monitoring services are made equally. Some offer FREE services, some have a comprehensive list of features and a dashboard for you to overview performance, some check your website every minute, while others check every 30 minutes. There is also the method that they contact you, some offer SMS credits so that you can be alerted directly to your mobile if anything goes wrong, while others rely on good old-fashioned email to send alerts. 

Getting to the root of what is going wrong with your website has never been easier. Website monitors will even alert you, normally within minutes, if your site goes down. Meaning you won’t need to keep checking or worse still, lose sales if your website goes offline. 

What is a Monitor? (In relation to website monitoring services)

When you’re searching for a “website monitoring service” you’ll come into some jargon. For instance the extensive use of the word “monitor”. The term monitor, in this instance refers to a website, web app, and server or FTP server. Some website monitoring service use the term “checks” or tracking but they mean the same thing.

There are both basic monitors and more advanced monitors. The easiest way to think about it is that a monitor is like a website. The amount of monitors you can use equates to the amount of websites you can track.

In this article we’ll share some neat website monitoring tools that you can use straight away on your site. Best of all, you can access some of these tools completely FREE of charge!

#1 | Uptime Robot (FREE)

Uptime Robot has over 600,000+ customers worldwide and offers a completely FREE service. Uptime Robot is one of the largest and best website monitors out there. With the free plan you can monitor up to 50 websites for free. They check your site every 5 minutes and alert you if anything has gone awry. You also get 2 months of logs so that you can check the report and see how your site has been performing. They provide a nice UX that allows you to monitor your website via a pleasing dashboard. 

Launched back in 2010, Uptime Robot was created as a FREE tool – then in 2015 they created their Pro plan that currently costs $48 per month, which allows the monitoring of 1000 websites. Their paid option is also 5x faster, they check your website every 1 minute with the paid option and also send out an SMS alert – which is really handy when you are out and about. The paid option also allows you to access to additional server locations. Because your website may appear differently in other parts of the world. 

Click Here To Visit Uptime Robot

Pros
  • 100% FREE option
  • Monitor 50 websites for FREE
  • 2 Month log with the free plan
  • Paid plan allows you to monitor a decent 1000 websites
  • Cost effective paid offering
Cons
  • Free plan monitors every 5 minutes, you need to upgrade to get 1-minute monitors

#2| Freshping

Freshping (previously known as Insping) offers a really great deal that is forever FREE. They give you 50 monitors, 1-minute interval tracking in 10 global locations – All that completely free of charge! I like Freshping’s business model, where they only want you to pay as your business grows. 

They also offer a 21-day free trial on their premium plans. When you upgrade you get to give it a test drive for free without inputting your credit card, which is a nice touch. They offer 60 checks (monitors) for their cheapest package called “Blossom”. 

Pros
  • Up to 10 users can use the free account
  • 1 min interval (Even oon free)
  • Reporting & graphs
  • Flexibility to add more monitors as you grow
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • You need to pay annually

#3 | Montastic.com (FREE)

The free option is quite basic but it does the job of alerting you to any downtime. They don’t have a dashboard, like the other providers, instead Monastic just sends out alerts. You get to monitor just 3 sites with the free option and they’ll be checked every 30 minutes. Personally I feel that is a bit long – as you can get FREE monitoring every 5 minutes with Uptime robot and Freshping monitor your site at 1-minute intervals on their forever free plan.

They offer a nice keyword feature that might help you with SEO. A very simple service with no bells or whistles, but it does the job of alerting you when your site is down and checking keywords. If you upgrade you’ll get a faster 5-minute interval monitoring service and up to 500 monitors for $49, or less if you want. A great service for someone who isn’t interested in anything but getting alerts to know when their site goes down. They also let you know when your site goes back up again.  

Pros
  • Simple and straight to the point
  • 100% free plan offered
  • Check your keywords which is good for SEO
Cons
  • Just 3 monitors on the free plan
  • 30 minute monitoring, which are quite long intervals
  • No dashboard

#4 | Monitis (15-Day FREE Trial)

Monitis (previously Monitor.us) is a website monitoring service owned by the company TeamViewer. They offer a nice fully functional 15-day trial without supplying your credit card. Monitis has some great features, for instance – you can get instant alerts via email, SMS, twitter or phone the minute they find something wrong. Plus, you can sign up and access everything within 3 minutes. 

The plan that you select is entirely customizable and cloud-based – so there is no need to download anything to get started. Montis is user friendly and straight forward, I just wish they had a 100% free option.

You can monitor website uptime to track up-time, response time, and performance from multiple international locations. The predictive features that Monitis offer are really great, you can easily detect bottlenecks before they arise. Everything is completely customizable and in one easy to use dashboard.

Pros
  • Feature-rich
  • Cloud based
  • Available in both English and German
  • You can customize the package to fit your needs
  • 1 minute monitoring
Cons
  • Expensive
  • No 100% free option

#5 | Site24x7.com

Site24x7 offers a full suite of website monitoring tools, including real user feedback. They don’t offer a completely free package, but you can easily start a 30 day free trial and test drive their website monitoring features. Their website and tools are available in wide variety of languages such as Chinese, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Spanish, and Swedish.

With their starter package you can monitor 10 websites for $9 and get up to 50 SMS credits so that you can be notified the minute there is anything wrong with your site. What’s great is that you can monitor your site from over 90+ locations and they also offer logs and multi-user accounts, even with their lowest price package. For larger companies, Site24x7 offers an Enterprise bundle, but you need to get in touch with them to sort out your individual requirements. 

Pros
  • Real User Feedback
  • Customisable
  • Feature rich
  • Instant Alerts
  • Download reports
  • Mobile access
  • Multi-language selection
Cons
  • No free trial

#6 | Pingdom.com

With Pingdom.com you can monitor 10 sites at 1-minute intervals for $12.95. They also have some professional services that would be suitable for a larger organisation. Multiple users can use the account, which is great for larger co-corporations. You get the feeling that Pingdom means business – they are designed for the more serious business user. 

With Pingdom.com you don’t get a free-trial or access to a free account, which is a bit of a bummer. But you can sign up for a free demo to check it out.  They have servers all over the world, from which they can monitor your websites uptime and performance. One great thing about Pingdom is that they offer real user feedback (rather than just feedback from bots) and they work to help you assess any flaws or issues on your website.

Pros
  • Unlimited Logs
  • 1-minute monitoring
  • Mutli-user access
  • Worldwide servers
  • Real user feedback
Cons
  • Expensive
  • No free option

#7 | StatusCake (FREE)

StatusCake offer a completely FREE service, where you get 10 monitors and limited features. You get email alerts, but if you want SMS alerts then you’ll need to upgrade to one of their paid options. What is really good about StatusCake is that they offer a free trial on both of their premium packages. 

You can upgrade for $15 and for that you’ll get 100 monitors and access to a wide range of premium features like SSL monitoring, server monitoring, virus scanning and reporting. To access their full range of services – which includes multi-user login and white label services, you’ll need a business account. 

Pros
  • White Label services
  • FREE trial
  • 100% free account 
  • Feature rich 
  • Virus scanning
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Limited features on basic plan – you’ll need to upgrade to business to access them

#8 | Uptrends.com 

Uptrends offer a customizable package where you can add and remove features. You can add on monitors, decrease monitoring intervals, access advanced dashboards and even view transactions on your service. Their basic plan gets you 10 monitors and 60 SMS credits for $14.95. 

When a website monitoring provider offers SMS notifications, I feel that they are quite professional. That way you can find out quickly if there is an issue with your site. Uptrends also offer phone support and advanced dashboards.

Pros
  • SMS alerts
  • Real user monitoring
  • Customizable
  • Advanced dashboard
  • Multi-user login
  • Advanced Dashboards
  • Phone support
  • Feature rich
Cons
  • Expensive
  • No 100% free option

#9 | Host-Tracker.com (30 Day Free Trial)

HostTracker is a feature rich website monitoring service. You can monitor all aspects of your site for instance find out if your site (or IP) has been blacklisted and be alerted when your SSL certificate is going to expire. You can use HostTracker for server tracking or more straight forward site tracking.  They have servers in 60 global locations for you to check your site from. 

HostTrakcer offer a 30 day free trial and also a completely FREE service, they also send out SMS alerts. For $5 per month you can monitor 5 sites with a 10-minute interval. They offer just about every tracking tool you could imagine, so they are great for the more advanced user who wants to check every aspect of their sites performance, including database performance, content checking, error diagnostics and much more. 

Pros
  • Flexible
  • Free service
  • Free trial
  • Feature rich
Cons

All in All

As you can see no two website monitoring services are the same. They all vary on the features, pricing, monitors and tracking intervals. So what website monitoring service is best for you? Why not get started with our favourite and completely free service Uptime Robot. If you like the sound of any of the other providers, take advantage of the free trial and find out what service is best for your needs. 

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26 Aug 2019

10 Most Secure Cloud Storage Options

With the ever increasing number of digital files being created, it’s becoming more and more important to store them safely. Back in 2013 the number of files kept on cloud storage was 1,073,741,824 Gigabytes of data – quintillion bytes – now, that is a lot of data! That was six years ago, so I’m not sure if there is even a word in the dictionary for the number of files currently stored in cloud storage. 

The biggest cloud hosting service by amount of users is a tie between Dropbox and iCloud. However, more recently Dropbox has taken the lead with 500 million users. They both offer free storage when you sign up. iCloud is owned by the mega-giant corporation – Apple, and Dropbox is owned by… well – Dropbox. Despite being the largest cloud hosting providers they are not top on our list for security for several reasons.

When choosing a suitable cloud storage provider there are five things you should keep in mind:

  • Security
  • Collaboration Features
  • Usability
  • Price
  • Space

Can Cyber-Thieves Hack Cloud Storage?

In short – YES! That is why we are focusing on the most secure cloud hosting providers. 

The majority of hacks on cloud storage are done through privacy breaches due to weak passwords. Therefore, it’s important that you choose and store your password safely to make sure that your files are safe. Probably the most famous hack into a cloud hosting provider was that of the celebrity breach of iCloud in 2014

What can we learn from this celebrity hack? There are a few things, firstly making sure to always enable two-step verification with your cloud hosting provider. Also make sure that you always enable email notifications, so that you’ll be alerted the second that anyone accesses your cloud storage account. 

There are other safety concerns with cloud storage that you should be aware of. Cloud storage providers use encryption to protect your files. However hackers can gain access to encryption keys with special software, so it pays to make sure that your cloud storage provider uses the most secure level of encryption (known as zero-knowledge). 

You also need to make sure that you trust the cloud storage provider that you choose. To be sure that your files are completely safe and won’t be deleted due to a server outage or natural disaster, it’s a good idea to back your files up in at least 2 separate locations. Another super-secure method of storing your data on the cloud is with a Zero-knowledge service. 

What is Zero-Knowledge in The Cloud?

Security is the biggest risk when it comes to picking a cloud storage provider. For that reason zero-knowledge cloud services are a great option. Zero-knowledge cloud services are also known as private encryption cloud services. In essence what it means is that you are the only one with access to your data.

PRO TIP: Although Zero-knowledge or private encryption is the most secure method – it does mean that if you lose your username and password, your data is lost forever.  

Should I go for Private Encryption?

It’s a good idea to look for cloud storage providers that offer private encryption (or simply select one from our Top 10 list below to save yourself time). That means that they won’t store your password on their server. This is particularly useful as cyber criminals can access passwords that are located on your cloud storage provider’s server. 

Additionally private encryption means that nobody, not a single person, literally not one person can get access to your files other than you – not even the government. That is because the files they receive will be encrypted – even if they do get a warrant to access your cloud storage space. For this reason, you must find a cloud storage provider that offers good encryption.

Pros and cons of Zero-Knowledge Cloud Storage

Although Zero-knowledge cloud storage is brilliant, it’s not for everyone. If you are the type of person who cannot keep a password safe and always hit the “forgot password” link, then avoid this type of cloud storage. Here are three pros and three cons of Zero-knowledge cloud storage:

Pros

  • Nobody can find out your password, not even your cloud storage provider
  • Even if a government agency tries to access your files, everything will be encrypted, so not readable
  • Your Cloud storage provider cannot hand out your password as they don’t even have it

Cons

  • If you lose your password, you are locked out of your data forever.
  • Can be slower than less-secure providers
  • Secure storage can mean that you cannot effectively preview files due to the strong encryption

Without further ado, let’s dive into our top 10 SECURE cloud storage options…

#1 | Sync.com

Sync.com is based in Toronto, Canada. This is great if you want to take advantage of Canada’s privacy laws (which are less strict than those in the US). 

You get 5GB free storage for signing up. Price wise, their Personal Pro 2TB plan is just $8 per month if you opt for their annual plan. If you go for the 500GB personal plan, then you can get access for just $4.08 per month, which is really good deal for what you are getting. 

Sync.com offers zero-knowledge encryption and the TLS protocol for optimal protection. These are particularly good for stopping people intercepting your files. They also offer AES 256-bit encryption to protect data when on their servers. Sync.com are not only the most secure cloud storage providers, they also offer the best value for money out of all 10 providers listed.

Sync.com Security

Sync.com has some next-gen security features that make it top of our list. For example, their collaboration tools are tight – they allow you to password protect the links that you share with friends, family or colleagues. This feature is available to both free and paid members, which is great as often cloud storage providers make these features exclusive to their premium plans. 

Interception during transit, and password breaches are the most common methods of cyber-attack. Therefore the fact that you can select “enhanced privacy” and add zero-knowledge encryption to a collaboration link (eg. If you are sending a file or folder with someone), is a great feature.

Pros

✔ FREE Zero-knowledge encryption

AES 256-bit encryption 

✔ TLS protocol 

✔ Located in Canada so you can keep your files away from NSA

✔ 5GB FREE account

✔ Secure Collaboration tools

✔ Cost-effective plans

✔ Amazing domain investment & management tools

Cons

✘ Slower transfer speeds

✘ You need a pro account to set download limits and expiry dates when sharing files

#2 | pCloud

Released in 2013, pCloud offers a decent 10GB of storage space for FREE. That is double most other cloud hosting providers (but not the best). Although the company was founded in Bulgaria, pCloud is based in Switzerland. If you refer friends to pCloud you’ll get an additional 1GB completely FREE. 

Pricing starts at just $3.99 per month for 500GB and their Premium 2TB plan is $8, which is super cheap – putting pCloud on a par with sync.com price-wise. In saying that, you’ll need to sign up for an annual subscription to take advantage of these low prices. 

If you want to add zero-knowledge, you can, but it will cost you an extra $3.99 per month. Like Sync.com pCloud has some great security features like deploying the TLS protocol and AES 256-bit encryption.

pCloud have an extra feature called “pCloud Drive” that lets you view your files without downloading them – which is pretty handy if your PC is low on space or you are out somewhere. 

pCloud is a great cloud storage facility for photos, videos and music as they use block-level sync. This speeds up the larger uploads. If you upgrade to one of their paid plans you can secure collaboration links with expiry dates and passwords.

Pros

✔ AES 256-bit encryption

✔ TLS protocol

✔ 10GB on the FREE plan

✔ Great for large uploads

✔ Send secure collaboration links

✔ pCloud Drive file preview feature

Cons

✘ They have the zero-knowledge feature but you have to pay extra for it

#3 | Tresorit

Tresorit is based in Switzerland and pride themselves on their enhanced security. They also have offices in Hungary and their servers are in both Ireland and the Netherlands. However they are pretty expensive (to say the least) compared to other cloud storage providers. The lowest cost premium plan is $10.42 per month and that gets you just 200GB of storage, which is pretty steep when you consider that you can get 2TB for less with pCloud and Sync.com. Their FREE service is called a “Basic Account” which gets you meagre 3GB of storage space.

 When you compare that to the previous providers I’ve mentioned (like pCloud and Sync.com), that is over double the price for less than half the amount of storage space. Tresorit is one of the most secure cloud storage providers, but it comes with a hefty price tag. 

When syncing your folders you need to create “tresors” which is the German word for vault. This makes the process quite complicated. 

Tresorit Security

The main security feature that Tresorit deploys is high level zero-knowledge cloud storage. They do also use AES 256-bit encryption and the TLS protocol. We like the two-factor authentication as that offers an additional layer of protection to avoid breaches like the celebrity breach we discussed above. 

Pros

✔ Zero-knowledge encryption

✔ Secure file sharing 

✔ Two-factor authentication

Decent upload and download speeds

Cons

 ✘ Very Expensive

 ✘ No collaboration/ productivity apps

 ✘ Complicated to use

#4 | Mega (The Privacy Company)

“Mega” is an Auckland-based cloud storage company. They have above average security protocols to keep data safe, Mega use end-to-encryption. Their FREE plan offers a massive 15GB of storage space. They also provide an extra 35GB for a limited period of time. The 35GB limited time free space isn’t particularly safe. That is because Mega will automatically delete your files when your free disc space runs out (if you’ve not upgraded).

The cheapest plan from Mega gets you just 200GB of storage for $5.69. The best value premium account offers a decent 1TB of storage for $11.38 per month.

Mega Security

The security that you get from Mega is pretty thorough. They have at-rest and in-transit encryption, which will ensure that your data is always kept safe. The two-factor authentication is a nice touch, as it provides that extra layer of security and protection from hackers.

Pros

✔ Massive 15GB FREE (+ extra limited time 35GB)

✔ TLS Protocol

✔ Sync any folder

Nice Collaboration tools

Cons

✘ Just AES 128-bit encryption

✘ Limited (free) 35GB gets deleted when it expires

#5 | OneDrive

US based OneDrive is a cloud storage company owned by Microsoft, with their servers being based in the US. They offer 5GB for free when you create an account. For just $1.99 a month you can get 50GB of storage space. Upgrading to Office 365 Personal is great value for money as you get a whopping 1TB for just $6.99, which is one of the best deals yet, especially when you factor in the other Microsoft apps you’ll be getting with Office 365. 

OneDrive Security

In the past, OneDrive has had some privacy issues that have since been resolved. The security features with OneDrive are now pretty top notch. The only thing they are lacking is zero-knowledge encryption. They do however offer two-factor authentication and AES 256-bit encryption.

Pros

✔ AES 256-bit encryption

✔ TLS protocol

✔ Great Collaboration tools

✔ Fast sync

Cons

 ✘ No zero-knowledge encryption

#6 | Google Drive

Launched in 2012, Google Drive is Google’s answer to cloud storage. Google is headquartered in California in the US. Google Drive announced that they had smashed the billion user mark in 2018. Google Drive offers 15GB of FREE storage, which is pretty much the best you can get for free. What’s more, their lowest tier plan starts at just $1.67 for 100GB. 

The pricing with Google Drive is pretty great for people who are just starting out and don’t need a whole load of space. You can get 200GB for $3 or just jump to the spacious 2TB plan for $9.99 per month. Probably the best option is to sign up for a year and get two months free (just $99.99). Google offer great value for money, with twice as much space as Dropbox is offering for the same price. 

Google Drive Security

Google offers just AES 128-bit encryption, but does offer TLS protocol, which is great for data in transit.

Pros

✔ Auto update feature

✔ TLS protocol

✔ 15GB Free storage

✔ Cost effective pricing plans

Cons

✘ Just AES 128-bit encryption

✘ Your content is scanned 

✘ No block-level copying

#7 | Koofr

Koofr is a cloud storage company based in Slovenia. They offer several packages, most suited for the light-weight user. They also offer additional features like a Chrome bookmarking extension and the ability to connect to other cloud storage accounts. One good thing with Koofr is that you can preview your files without downloading, which is ideal for those with not much available space on their device. 

When it comes to pricing Koofr offers 2GB for free, which is quite a tiny offering. Their lowest package gets you 10GB of storage for just $0.57 per month. They have a good range of packages that will allow you to scale up as and when you need it, with their top 1TB plan coming in at $11.38. 

Koofr Security

Koofr deploy two-factor authentication, which is brilliant for added security. You have the option to turn two-factor on and off with Koofr. They also use TLS encryption for files in transit. Koofr also split your data up over three different locations to keep your data safe. They also offer the ability to protect shared files.

Pros

✔ TLS protocol 

✔ Two-factor authentication

✔ Good speed

✔ Easy to use

✔ AES 256-bit encryption

✔ Data isn’t scanned

Cons

✘ Limited sync features

✘ No zero-knowledge encryption

✘ No block-level file copying

#8 | Egnyte Connect

Like Dropbox, Egnyte Connect decrypts your data and stores your username and password. They don’t have a free option, but do offer a 15-day free trial. One good thing about Egnyte is that they allow up to 3 devices (or users) on their business plan. You get 1TB for $10 per month. They also have plans for up to 100 or more users, so a great solution for teams.  

Egnyte Connect Security

Physically speaking the Egnyte Connect server centre is secure as they have guard patrols and 24/7 security staff. If you upgrade to any of their business plans you can get two-factor authentication. Egnyte also offer comprehensive mobile security features.

Pros

✔ AES 256-bit Encryption

✔ Two-factor authentication

✔ Mobile Security features

✔ Block level sync

✔ No 100% free plan

Cons

✘ Two-factor authentication only on business plans

✘ No Zero-knowledge encryption

#9 | iCloud

iCloud Drive is Apple’s cloud storage solution that comes pre-installed with Apple devices. You get 5GB of free storage with iCloud. Most Apple products come with a big-fat-price-tag, but not iCloud, you can get 50GB for just $0.99 per month. The 2TB plan is competitively priced at $9.99 per month. 

When using an apple device, you’ll get automatic syncing. The privacy is pretty tight with Apple as they only log your usage data with consent, and they vow not to sell your data to advertisers. Unlike Google, who scan your Google Drive to find out what advertise to show you.

iCloud Security

Despite being hacked, iCloud has since strengthened its security. They now have two-factor authentication and 128-bit AES encryption.

Pros

✔ Great for Apple users

✔ 5GB FREE

✔ Cost effective

✔ Two-factor authentication

Cons

✘ Slow

✘ Not great for windows users

✘ Not a zero-knowledge provider

#10 | Dropbox

Dropbox is the largest cloud storage solution with servers in the US. The reason that Dropbox is so popular is because of their easy to use interface, ease of sharing and syncing. Although they are the biggest they don’t have top-notch security and privacy, that’s why they are last in the list. They do deploy a lot of great features. However the fact that their privacy policy states they can delete or change your data is a bit worrying. Dropbox also lacks zero-knowledge encryption.

Dropbox Security

Despite having a stormy past in the area of security Dropbox have tightened their security measures since then. Dropbox offer AES 256-bit encryption, two-factor authentication as well as at-rest and in-transit encryption.

Pros

✔ AES 256-bit at-rest

✔ TLS protocol 

✔ Fast sync

✔ Password protect shared links

✔ Easy to use UX

Cons

✘ Files are decrypted at data-centre

✘ They reserve the right to delete, download or change your content

✘ No zero-knowledge encryption

In Conclusion

It’s becoming increasingly important to keep your data safe online. There are many cyber criminals that can get their hands on inexpensive software to hack your accounts. Making sure that you choose a cloud storage server that is secure is extremely important. Look out for solutions that use Zero-knowledge encryption (provided you can remember your username and password) TLS protocols, AES 256-bit encryption and good value for money.

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19 Aug 2019

13 Best Free Cloud Storage Choices in 2019

Storing digital files safely on the cloud is an on-going concern for content creators or just people who love to shoot family video or photos. It’s also great to share files with friends, colleagues, and family all over the world. For this reason, file storage can be a viable option. There are often limits to the amount of space you get on free storage providers. 

As this is article is focused on the “FREE-ness” of file storage providers, I’ll list the providers from the most amount of FREE storage to the least. At the end, I’ll list my hacks to getting unlimited free space for your file storage. The exception to this rule is when a company has trixy clauses, for example, you can only upload a certain size of a file, despite being allowed to upload unlimited data or if the company deletes your data after a specific timeframe. 

Size is one thing, but what else should you look out for? Other things to consider when selecting a FREE file storage provider would be the ease of file sharing, collaboration tools, the speed of uploading and downloading and also the success of the company. Security is another issue that we covered in another article.  We’ll discuss:

Storage – the amount of space they offer for free

AlexaRank – How popular they are on the web #1 being highest. 

Pros & Cons – I’ll outline some of the pros and cons of the storage provider

Lastly, I’ll share a few secret hacks to getting file storage completely free. Ok – without further ado, let’s dive in and find out what the 15 Best FREE File Storage Providers are:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

#1 | Google Drive (15GB)

Alexa Rank – #1 (for Google)

Google needs no introduction – the largest search engine in the world that also provides free email and office software like Google Docs. You’ll get access to your Google Drive account as part of the bundle. Make an email address, and you’ve got Google Drive as part of the deal. The major downside of using Google Drive is the privacy (READ: You get no privacy with Google Drive), but they do give you a tonne of tools and space for FREE. 

If you want more storage space on your Google Drive account you can get a massive 2TB plan for $9.99 per month. They also offer humungous plans like 30TB for $300/month – which would keep most people going for most of their life. 

Pros

✔ You get a suite of software to use for FREE like GoogleSheets and GoogleDocs

✔ Easy to set up

✔ Easy to use

✔ Auto update feature

✔ TLS protocol

✔ 15GB Free storage

✔ Cost effective pricing plans

Cons

✘ You need a Google Account to use the service

✘ ZERO PRIVACY, Google openly states they look through your files to market products to you

✘ Linked to all of your Google accounts.

#2 | OneDrive (15GB)

 AlexaRank #11

OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to cloud file storage. You get 15GB for free – which is the largest amount of storage offered for free by any cloud storage provider. Other than Mega, who give you an extra limited time 35GB that has some catches, more about that below. 

Microsoft has merged OneDrive with their Microsoft Office 365 offering. When you upgrade to Microsoft Office 365 you’ll get their whole suite of Office software products as part of the deal for $7 per month. With this package they provide 1TB of storage which is pretty decent.

Pros

✔ 15GB is a decent amount of storage space for FREE

✔ You get the suite of Microsoft Office software as part of the deal

✔ AES 256-bit encryption

✔ TLS protocol

✔ Great Collaboration tools

✔ Fast sync

Cons

✘ Files are not private (Microsoft can look at your files)

✘ If you login from another location (or a different IP address) you might get locked out of our account as they check your IP address

#3 | Mega (15GB FREE + Limited 35GB)

Alexa Rank # 870 

Compared to the top two FREE storage solutions Mega is quite far down in the Alexa ranking. However, they do offer up to 50GB storage space for free (with a catch). It’s best to think that Mega offers 15GB of storage, as the other 35GB of data that you might upload will be deleted if you don’t upgrade to a premium plan in time. One thing to note about Mega is that the original owner was prosecuted for piracy in the past. Also their top shareholder was marked for extradition from China, so it might pay to keep an eye on what the owners are doing. 

Data protection is one of the key USPs of Mega. They were featured in our secure storage options for this very reason. If you want to upgrade and get more storage their premium plan, the cheapest plan from Mega gets you just 200GB of storage for $5.69, which isn’t great. The best value premium account offers a decent 1TB of storage for $11.38 per month. However, this is quite a bit more expensive than Google Drive. Mega is more tight on privacy and security, so it depends on what is most important to you. 

Pros

✔ Secure

✔ TLS Protocol

✔ Sync any folder

✔ Nice Collaboration tools

Cons

 ✘ Can be Slow

 ✘ Bandwidth limitations

#4 | 4Shared (15GB + quite a few bizarre catches)

Alexa Rank 452

4Shared is based in the Kieve, Ukraine was launched in 2005 and is owned by New IT Solutions Ltd. Now one of the largest file hosting companies (probably because they rely heavily on their resellers) with over 11 million users and 317 terabytes of files transferred daily. 4Shared is higher in the Alexa rankings than Mega (meaning they are more popular) and also offer 15GB file storage for FREE. A big drawback is the fact that you can only download 3GB of data per day. So it’d take you 5 days to download all of your stored content. 

You can sign up for an account with 4Shared in seconds with Facebook, Google, and Twitter. They have a clean and easy to use interface, which is a plus. When you upgrade you get just 100GB of storage for $10 per month, which is a bit steep, considering you can get 1-2TB from other providers for the same price. 

If you pay annually you can save $3.50, but you have to pay for the whole year in advance.  One really odd thing is that you need to pay via one of their Resellers. Some of their resellers accept Bitcoin which is nice, but their payment options are rather bizarre to say the least.

Pros

✔ Clean interface

✔ Easy to signup

✔ 15GB FREE storage space

✔ Mobile app

Cons

✘ Lots of adverts, including adult content

✘ Limited download capabilities

✘ You cannot pay directly, you need to go through one of their resellers

#5 | MediaFire (10GB FREE)

Alexa Rank 164

If we weren’t focused on the amount of space that you get for FREE, then I’d order this list very differently. MediaFire comes third (so far, in the Alexa rankings) but it’s definitely not my favourite file storage provider. 

Mediafire often does an amazing deal where you get 50% off their premium offering, so that’s something to look out for. The normal price is $10 per month for 1TB of storage space.  You can get up to 100TB of storage space for $100, which is a whole load of space. 

With the FREE option there are lots of ads, which are quite off-putting. Their user interface is also not the best

Pros

✔ 10GB FREE storage space

✔ Frequent 50% discount sales

Cons

✘ Expensive

✘ Lots of Ads

Slow, clumsy user interface

#6 | Box (10 GB FREE)

Alexa Rank 446

The 10GB that you get free from Box is decent, however when you are looking to get more space, the upgrade price is extortionate – $10 per month for 100GB is wild. In saying that, Box is a good provider for businesses as you can add extra users on. This could also be a good option for a family to use. When you upgrade to their Business account you get unlimited storage and you can add as many users as you like. 

Pros

✔ Unlimited additional users can be added

✔ 10GB FREE storage space

✔ SSL and at-rest encryption

✔ Two-factor authentication

✔ Premium package has unlimited storage

Cons

Extortionate

✘ Download speeds are slow

✘ Hard to share files

# 7 | DepositFiles (10GB + a catch or two)

Alexa Rank 4,062 

DepositFiles has servers in 9 countries, which is great for uploading and downloading. They also offer 10GB for free. With DepositFiles there are a few catches. One is that you’ll have to endure advertisements on your FREE account. Their site and user interface is also a bit dated and not very intuitive. You can upgrade to the gold membership which gets you faster upload and download speeds and you can pay with credit card or Bitcoin. DepositFiles pricing is a bit steep  at $12 per month, and with this you don’t get extra file storage.

One thing that is great about DepositFiles is the fact that you can send a link with password protection – even on the free plan. I also like the fact that they store your files for free for an unlimited time. 

Pros

✔ Link password protection

✔ Free App

✔ Files are stored for an unlimited time

Cons

✘ Max file upload 10GB

✘ Largest stored file – 2GB

✘ Expensive

#8 | Sabercat Host (5GB FREE)

SaberCats host is based in Houston, US. SaberCats Host offers 5GB of free storage space and unlimited bandwidth. They also have fast uploads and downloads, which is brilliant. Their UX is clean and easy-to-use and works well on both mobile devises. . Sharing files is easy with SaberCats Host. One thing that is great about SaberCats Host is that you can use their site without making an account. This feature is really great for collaboration and sharing. 

You can pay with Paypal and all of the regular credit card options. There is no need to subscribe with SaberCats Host – which is a breath of fresh air, as all of the subscription payments add up. You can sign up for just 7 days to a year.

Pros

✔ Fast upload and download speeds

✔ 5GB free storage space

✔ Use without creating an account

✔ No subscriptions

Cons

✘ Advertising on free account

✘ You can only

#9 | iCloud (5GB)

Alexa Rank 333

Owned by Apple, iCloud comes bundled with Apple devices. You’d think they’d offer more storage space for free, being such a big company, but no. Apple takes control of your data, and can do with it what they please – so not necessarily the best option for sensitive file storage. Most Apple products come with a big-fat-price-tag, but not iCloud, you can get 50GB for just $0.99 per month. The 2TB plan is competitively priced at $9.99 per month.

Pros

✔ Automatically syncs to Apple devices

✔ Larger packages are inexpensive

✔ Two-factor authentication

✔ Great for Apple Device users

Cons

✘ You need an Apple ID to use iCloud

✘ Lacking privacy

✘ Slow

#10 | DropBox (2GB FREE)

Alexa Rank 87

DropBox is the biggest cloud storage provider out there, probably due to their massive marketing budget. However, they only offer a tiny 2GB for FREE. You can upgrade to their premium plan for $10 per month, which will get you 1TB of storage space, pretty good. To use DropBox you must create an account – which is a bit of a pain for sharing files. The file sharing and syncing is great with Dropbox.

Pros

✔ Fast sync

✔ Password protect shared links

✔ Easy to use UX

✔ Easy file sharing

Cons

✘ Not easy for beginner

✘ Small free storage option

✘ Lacks privacy

#11 | WeTransfer (2GB FREE with a catch)

Alexa Rank 444

WeTransfer is a quick and easy way to share files – however you don’t get access to a dashboard or members area with the free option. You can simply send files over the internet. This service is really handy if you need to quickly send large files to a friend or colleague. If you upgrade to their premium plan, the cheapest option is $12 per month for just 100GB. A downside to this provider is that you don’t get a chance to test drive your account to see if you like it before upgrading.

Pros

✔ Easy to use

✔ Upload and send multiple files

✔ Great for sending large files

Cons

✘ No password protect on free option

✘ No dashboard on free option

✘ Links that you send expire

✘ Expensive

#12 | Uploaded.net (2GB FREE)

Alexa Rank 607

Uploaded.net is a cloud storage company based in Germany. They offer just 2GB of FREE storage which is miniscule. When you upgrade they give you a faster user experience- however their plans are quite complicated. Uploaded.net is doesn’t have the easiest UX to use. The pricing is around $111 for premium for 2 years, but you need to pay for the storage space separately. You need to pay monthly for the storage from $6 for 100GB to $9 for 1TB.

Pros

✔ No expiration date for files

✔ Well known file storage provider

✔ Nice affiliate program

Cons

✘ Expensive

✘ Complex UX

✘ Slow upload and download speeds

#13 | SendSpace (300MB + a catch or two)

Alexa Rank 2,310

SendSpace is more of a file sending rather than a file storage company. You can store files with them, but they’ll be deleted after 30 days as standard.  In the free version you will be shown ads and have a slow download speed. If you want to upgrade you can get just 100MB of storage space for $9 per month, which is super pricey.

Pros

✔ Unlimited storage

Cons

✘ Files removed after 30 days

A Few Other Semi-FREE Options

I was going to review a few more, but in all honesty I just about lost the will to live. Hightail, Zippyshare, and Egnyte all have “somewhat free” options. From 300MB to a 15-day free trial, but I’ll leave you to have a look at them if you feel so inclined. They don’t really offer much in the way of a free service and when you upgrade they are quite pricey. Apart from Egnyte who are the ones offering 15-day free trial, they give you 1TB for $10 per month, which is pretty nice. I’d like to cut to the chase and give you a few sneaky secret storage hacks before you go. 

My Secret Hack to FREE Large File Storage

If you are looking to store lots of video files, this can take up a lot of space and be costly. Why not upload your videos to Youtube and keep the link “private”. Think outside the box and see where you can upload large files in a social media account for future use. Another idea is to create a private group on Facebook and keep your files in there – that way you can keep unlimited photos, documents, and videos. The only catch with Facebook is they compile your images – which means you can’t store them in high definition. Oh and the small fact that Facebook loves to spy on people, so not for sensitive documents. A solution to the compiling affecting image resolution would be to join a creative social media company like Vero Social or YouPic.

Got lots of Photos you need to store, share and present? Check out our list of “Best Websites for Photographers”.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for FREE file storage, there are many options – especially if you think out of the box. Make sure that the company you choose don’t delete files after a given date as Sendspace and Zippyshare do. You could also get an external hard-drive and keep a copy of your files on there, old fashioned, but it still works as another backup source. 

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14 Aug 2019

Step-by-Step cPanel Beginners Guide | Create, Login & Manage

What is cPanel?

cPanel is a tool that allows you to manage your entire web hosting account. cPanel is secure, updated regularity and easy  to use – making it the perfect choice for people or web masters managing one or multiple websites. 

cPanel is the most popular award-winning Linux web hosting control panel, often offered for free by many website hosts. In saying that, some hosts charge monthly for cPanel, so it pays to shop around. 

cPanel has been around for two decades and is an extremely useful tool for website administration.There is some confusion as to what the difference is between WordPress and cPanel is, as well as why you should use cPanel in the first place. In this article we’ll discuss everything to do with cPanel, how to use it, who should use it, and it’s many applications.

cPanel user statistics are pretty impressive – they have over 3 million customers and support 889,970 live websites around the world. cPanel is the fifth most used Content management system in the UK. WordPress is still number one with 62% of UK websites running on WordPress and just 4.65% using cPanel as a CMS. 

 cPanel is a lot more than a CMS. You can administer your whole server direct from your web browser through their easy to use interface or API. This includes setting up email addresses, configuring domain names as well was managing content. 

This article is meant as a complete beginners guide to using cPanel in 2019, so I’ll keep it super simple and easy to follow even for the complete cPanel or technical novice. I’ll start off with the basics so that you have a foundation to work from. So if you already know a bit about cPanel you can fast forward to the more technical aspects.

What’s the Difference between cPanel, FTP and WordPress?

cPanel – is your server control panel. Use cPanel to set up domains, sub-domains, emails, user permissions, upload large files and databases for your website. 

WordPress – is a content management system (CMS) similar to Drupal or Joomla. 

FTP – allows you to upload files to your website. However, you can also do this directly from cPanel.

cPanel – A brief history

cPanel and Web Host Manager (WHM) are both owned by the same company and are based in Houston, Texas. The first version of cPanel was released in 1996 and was initially created as the control panel for a web hosting company called “Speed Hosting” – now defunct. cPanel was acquired by Oakley capital in 2018. Oakley capital also own Plesk and SolusVM.

What is Web Host Manager (WHM)?

WHM is the master account, under which you can access cPanel accounts for each of your websites. You should see a list of websites (if you own a few domain names). From here you can manage your cPanel accounts. 

What Can You Do With cPanel?

Before you jump in to use cPanel, it’s important to decide if the tool is for you. If you are managing multiple websites, cPanel is extremely useful. Here is a brief list of what you can do with cPanel:-

  • Point domain names to your website hosting
  • Create professional email addresses for your website.
  • Make website backups
  • Upload content to your website
  • Manage your usage and bandwidth
  • Install applications to your server
  • Manage security settings easily 
  • Manage databases and add new databases
  • And much more…

Although cPanel is comprehensive, they have done a great job of making the graphical user interface (GUI) easy to use. You don’t need to use all of the features to benefit from cPanel and their easy –to-use interface allows you to get as advanced as you like, once you are comfortable with the features. 

How Do I Find My cPanel?

It’s really easy to locate your cPanel. All you have to do is add “/cPanel” to your domain name, for example “mysite.com/cpanel”. Once you are there you’ll need to input your username and password, simple as that.

Alternatively you can find your cPanel account inside your hosting provider dashboard. Depending on what web hosting provider you are using, the dashboard may differ.  For example, on Bluehost you’ll find your cPanel by clicking on the word “Advanced”. If you cannot locate your cPanel via your dashboard on your hosting account then reach out to their customer support team. 

How Do I Log in to cPanel?

After you have located your cPanel account, bookmark the login page for future use. You should see the following login screen. You’ll need to set up a secure username and password to login to your cPanel, so keep these details safe to make it simple to login in the future. 

PRO TIP: Make sure to use a secure password as password breaches are possible if you use a weak password. Meaning people could easily access and hack your websites with a weak password.

Want to be a cPanel Pro?

If you want to dive in deep and get pro at cPanel, you can do this for free by visiting the cPanel Tutorials page. Here you’ll find all sorts of information on branding your cPanel (if you are setting up a hosting company or want to make your cPanel look professional). You can also learn how to set up mailing lists, forwarders, manage SSH keys and much more.

Finding Your Way Around cPanel

Great, you’ve logged into cPanel, what now? 

You should see a dashboard similar to the one below.

You’re dashboard might not look like ours but its ease enough to change the look and feel of your cPanel dashboard. 

cPanel Styling

If you want to change the look and feel of your cPanel, you can do so by selecting “PREFERENCES” and then “Change Style”. You’ll normally find this at the bottom of your screen, however this varies depending on the current theme of your cPanel dashboard. 

You should find a list of theme types, again this can vary depending on your host. We’re using the Paper Lantern theme. You can check what theme that you are using down the right hand side. 

If you scroll down to the very bottom of your dashboard you should find the “Change Style” icon.

Once in there you can choose from: Basic, dark, light and retro (we’re using “Basic”)

Reorganizing your cPanel’s Dashboard/ Homepage

Your cPanel dashboard can be customized by re-organising sections, to allow you to have the most used functions at the top. It’s as simple as hovering over the section header – for example the  “FILES” section and then dragging them to re-order the sections. 

What are cPanel Functions and How Do I use them?

cPanel calls each action that you want to perform via their user interface a “function”. “Change style” is an example of a function and “domains” is another example of a function (accessible via the cPanel dashboard). Inside each of the functions you can manage various aspects of your website. 

You can easily access functions on the dashboard by searching in the white search bar which reads “Find functions quickly by typing here”. Begin typing and cPanel will populate your screen with the corresponding function.

cPanel Navigation Bar

At the very top of the dashboard page you’ll see the navigation bar. The far left is the cPanel logo and a simple search to search the entire management system. To the right of the search you’ll see a white silhouette and the name of the specific account (we’ve covered this for privacy reasons). 

If you hover over the arrow to the right of your username then there is a user preferences tab where you can reset your password, change security, change language, change style, update contact information and reset page settings. There is also a notifications bell that lets you know about cPanel updates, and finally – a link to logout. 

Updating Your Password

Make sure to keep your password safe, changing it periodically is a good idea for security. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to change your password and keep it safe.  

1. Hover over the arrow to the right of your username

2. Select “Password & Security”

3. Enter your old password in the top box that says “Old Password”.

4. Click the “password generator” to automatically generate a new strong password

Or

5. a) Input a strong password of your choice

6. Press the blue button at the bottom of the page that says “Change your password now” to save your new password.

7. Keep your new password safe by following the “Protect Your Password” tips at the bottom of the page.

Update Your Contact Information 

Make sure to keep your contact information current. cPanel uses this information to keep you up to date with your configuration. You mustn’t use an email address on the domain name that you are managing as a contact email, because if your domain name goes down you’ll not be able to find out.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to update your contact information.   

1. Hover over the arrow to the right of your username

2. Select “Contact Information”

3. Add in a few email addresses that you can be contacted on

4. Contact Preferences (Recommended: select all of the checkboxes)

The check boxes at the bottom of the page are selected so that you get information about any suspicious activity on your account, SSL certification expiry, when your account reaches bandwidth etc… So it is a good idea to have all of these selected so that you’ll get alerted if there are any changes to your account. 

5. Once you have updated your email address then make sure to hit the blue “save” button at the bottom of the page.

Navigating the cPanel Side Bar 

On the far left of your screen (just under the cPanel logo) you’ll find some icons. These vary depending on your web host provider. On mine I have “home” that takes you back to the main dashboard and “user manager”.

Depending on what your host offers, you may have more icons with additional features like “statistics” (where you’ll be able to overview the bandwidth and usage). I don’t have this feature on this particular domain. 

The cPanel “user manager” icon that appears just under the “home” icon in my account allows the management of additional users on your account. Simple – right?! You can check what rights the users have, for instance – do they have FTP access or email accounts? You can add, edit and delete user preferences in this area. 

How to Add a New User in cPanel 

Why would you want to add a new user to your cPanel account? New users can be added for anyone else who wants to manage your websites. This may be a business partner, web developer, colleague or anyone else you want to be able to access your cPanel. 

1. You can access your user manager from the icon on the left of the screen, under the logo (or by going to the preferences section on your dashboard). Once selected you should see the following screen:

Here you can see I have two users – “veganhealth” and “veganhealth_logs”. I am currently logged in as veganhealth. You will see all of your registered users here. 

2. Next to the account you can see three icons – an envelope, a vehicle and a server box.

a).The Envelope –The envelope tells you if the user has an email registered. Grey means there is no email registered; blue indicates that they do have an email registered.

b).The Vehicle – The vehicle lets you know if the user has an FTP account. Grey means they don’t have an FTP account; blue indicates that they do have an FTP account.

c).The Server Box – The server box icon lets you know if the user can access the web discs. 

3. If you are the administrator of the account you can change their password, delete user.

How to Add Users to Your cPanel Account 

1. Tap blue “Add user” button (top right). You should now see the following screen:-

2. Fill in the new user details on the form, including their name, username and email. Account notifications and password reset confirmations to this email address you provide.

3. Create a secure password for your new user

The Services Section 

4. In the services section you can set preferences that will be shown next to your new user as the icons I outlined above. Email, FTP and Web Disc space.

5. Email: Toggle to enable and disable the users email address

6. Email: Allocate the amount of email resources that they have as the allocated “quota”.

7. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol: FTP access gives the user permission to upload files to your server. 

8. FTP: You can enable or disable FTP access. 

9. FTP: Allocate what directory (folder on your server) that the user can access. Like the email setting you can allocate the amount of space they can use on your server.

10. Web Disk: So long as you allocate the correct folder to the user, they can only alter files in that area. However, to be sure, save the Web Disk space for admin users that you trust. 

11. Web Disk: You’ll see that you can select Read-Write or Read-Only. Read-Write allows the user to delete and write over files. Read only is for users that you want to be able to read the files but not over write them.

12. Save User: To save the new user click the blue “Create” button, alternatively you can cancel or decide to go ahead and create another user account.

Managing Your Domain Names in cPanel 

To manage your domain names you need to go to the “DOMAINS” section on the main dashboard. You can simply begin to type Domains and be taken directly to the domain name function section of your cPanel dashboard.

Adding/ Modifying Domain Names 

To add a new domain name to your cPanel account you’ll want to select “Addon Domains” as seen above. Just click the green “plus” sign. You should then be taken to the screen below:

Adding/ Modifying Domain Names 

To add a new domain name to your cPanel account you’ll want to select “Addon Domains” as seen above. Just click the green “plus” sign. You should then be taken to the screen below:

To find out more about this feature you can review the cPanel documentation here.

1a) Type in the domain name that you own in the top field, omit the http://www. And just put “yourdomain.com” – substituting “yourdomain.com” for your actual domain name and extension.

1b) After you have added in your “New Domain Name” the subdomain field will automatically populate with the domain name when you click on it.

1c) The domain root will automatically fill in

1d) Tap “Add Domain” to save your add on domain.

Modifying Domain Names

2a) If you scroll down on the addon domain screen you should see the modify domain name screen (shown below)

If you have already set up subdomains you can manage them on this page

3. Fill in the “Subdomain” field with the subdomain you want to add to your site 

4. Click the blue “create” button to save.

Subdomain Redirection

Once your subdomain is set up you’ll want to decide where it is pointed. 

To do this you can follow these steps:

1. Scroll down to the “Modify Subdomains” section (at the bottom of the subdomains page)

2. Hit “redirection” next to the subdomain you want to point.

3. Add in the url of the page that you want your subdomain to point to

4. Press the blue “save” button (alternatively you can disable the redirection that you’ve set)

Why Create a Subdomain? 

You might want to expand on a certain area of your site, for example a blog or a recipe section. A subdomain gives you more flexibility to add on whole new sections and features to your website.

Create Custom Email Accounts 

You can create professional looking email addresses for your domain directly from your cPanel. To do this simply go back to dashboard and follow these steps.

1. Search for “email accounts” on your cPanel dashboard

2. Click “email accounts” and you’ll be taken to the following screen:

3. To create a new email address hit the blue “create” button – neatly circled in red above.

4. Select your website from the dropdown shown in silver – make sure you have added your domain name to cPanel. If not then add it as shown above.

5. Then you’ll want to enter the email address for your website, for example “info” or “hello” 

6. Create a secure password for your new email address. You can do that with the “generate” button next to the password field

7. Set Mailbox Quota, that will be the amount of data in email format that can be stored in this mailbox. Set a reasonable limit depending on the amount of space you have on your server.

8. Click on the blue “Create” to set up your  new email address

How do I use my New Email Address? 

Good question! Once you have set up your new professional email address you need to be able to access software to send and receive emails. You can do this with either:

1. Email Client – eg. Gmail or Outlook

2. Webmail

Let’s roll with Webmail to start with. Here is a step by step guide to setting up Webmail to use your email address. 

1. Select “Check Email” on your email accounts page – next to the email account you are trying to access. I was offered two options as seen below:-

1. I then selected “Roundcube” which is an open source software that is completely free

2. I can now send and receive emails this way, super easy!

Accessing Your Webmail 

Whenever you want to go in and send and receive emails you can simply go back to the “check email” tab next to your email address and check your mail.

You can also access your webmail by adding the suffix /webmail to your domain name in the URL navigation bar. You then need to enter the email address and password that you set in your cPanel. 

PRO TIP: Webmail is great when you are setting up multiple email addresses as they can be set up free and easily shared with team members. 

Email Forwarding 

You might want to manage all of your emails from a central email address. If so, you’ll want to set up an email forwarder. 

1. Back on the dashboard, search for “Forwarders” and you’ll find it in the EMAIL section

You can choose to forward a single email address or all email addresses for a domain.

The blue “Add Forwarder” button allows you to add a forwarder for a single email address. The blue “Add Domain Forwarder” allows you to add an email forwarder for all emails on that domain.

Let’s focus on the first “Add forwarder button”.

Step 1 – Click the first blue “Add Forwarder” button and you should see this screen

Step 2 – Add the user part of the email address, for example “your.name” or “hello” (eg. If you wanted to forward your email Michael@yoursite.com you’d simply input Michael into the “address to forward” field.

Step 3 – The domain section is a dropdown of all available domain names on your cPanel account. Tap the arrow to the right and select the domain name of the email address that you want to forward. (eg. Using our previous example Michael @yoursite.com – you’d select yoursite.com from the dropdown)

PROTIP: You’ll only see domain names that you own and are on this current instance of cPanel in the dropdown field.

Step 4 – Choose the destination by selecting “forward to email address” and inputting the email address that you want your “address to forward” (email on  your domain) to forward to.

Step 5 – Make sure to tap the blue “Add Forwarder” button at the bottom to action your email forwarding.

How to Set Up Spam Filters 

This part is important, as you won’t want your email address filled with pointless spam emails. Software like Gmail puts spam in a folder, however with your Webmail account you need to set up these filters. 

Step 1 – On your cPanel Dashboard select “Spam Filters” from the EMAIL section. You should now see the following screen:

Normally the spam filter is enabled as standard. However, it’s a good idea to check this and also select what preferences suit you. As you can see my spam filter (Apache SpamAssassin) is enabled.

Step 2 – You can also choose to Automatically Delete New Spam.  However, that means that you might miss out on an email that was marked as spam by mistake. Instead I’d suggest putting your spam emails in a spam folder so that  you can double check it when you want. 

Step 3 – Select the toggle – “Move New Spam to a Separate Folder (Spam Box)” – and the slider will go blue. You can empty your spam folder

Step 4 – Empty your spam box periodically to free up disc space by selecting “Configure Spam Box Settings” and then emptying the spam box folder by clicking on the “Empty the Spam box older for “youremail 

Using the cPanel File Manager 

Use your file manager to upload files, backing up your website and FTP management.  The “File Manager” is a really handy tool for managing all of the files on your site. You can do this directly from the file manager section of cPanel, without needing to use an FTP tool, which is great as FTP tools are a bit daunting for the beginner. 

1.  Search for “File Manager” on your dashboard – select this option and you should see the following screen:

PROTIP: Be very careful, and double check everything when you are in the File Manager section. 

Navigating the File Manger

The left pane shows your root folder, which is the main folder on your website. You can click on the plus sign next to the folders to expand the section and see the subfolders inside the file.

The middle pane shows the files that you have double clicked on. 

2. To Create New Folder follow the following steps:

Step 1 – Click on the “+ Folder”  icon seen below:

Step 2 – Give your new folder a name and decide where the folder will be created – the destination of the folder

Step 3 – Save your new folder by tapping the  “Create New Folder” button.

Using File Manager to Upload Files

Step 1 – Select the folder that you’d like to add your new file to

Step2 – Tap on the “Upload” icon as seen in the screen shot below:

Step 3 – Select the file that you want to upload from your computer. 

Managing FTP Accounts 

In the “FILES” section on your main cPanel dashboard you’ll find both a link to your FTP accounts and FTP connections. You’ll find your main (root) FTP account details at the bottom of the page under “Special FTP Accounts”.

If you select the action “Configure FTP client” then the section should expand and let you know more details about your FTP account. Depending on your host, you might be able to access your root FTP account with the same details as your cPanel account.

Creating a New FTP Account

Creating a new FTP account for people to access a specific area of your server is good practice.  To create a new FTP account follow these steps:

Step 1 – Search for FTP accounts on the dashboard. When you click through you should see the following screen:

Step 2 – Create the username and password for the new FTP account. 

Step 3 – Select the domain name from the dropdown

Step 4 – IMPORTANT – make sure you select a folder that will be the highest level of access for that particular FTP account. You don’t want to leave the field blank as that’ll give the user full access to the main or root FTP account. 

Step 5 – Decide on the maximum amount of space that user will have, you can select unlimited or decide on a quota.. 

Step 6 – Tap the blue button “Create FTP Account”, to create the new FTP account.

PROTIP: You will find the FTP accounts listed on the same page at the bottom. You can search for FTP accounts if you have a lot of them and manage the permissions on the same page.

Create & Manage Databases 

You can create and manage databases associated with your website directly from cPanel. Firstly lets look at creating a database:

Creating a Database

Websites that use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress,  will always require a database to run them. 

You can use either MySQL or Postgre SQL databases with your cPanel account. 

Step 1 – Search for MySQL and then choose “MySQL Database Wizard” from the “DATABASES” section of your cPanel dashboard.

Step 2 – Type in a name for your database.

Step 3 – You’ll then be taken to a page titled “Create database users”, create a username and secure password

Step 4 Select option “ALL PRIVILEGES” to assign privileges to that user. 

To see it, go back to the main page of cPanel and click on “MySQL Databases”.

PRO TIP: You can go in and view/ edit your databases by searching for MySQL Databases on your cPanel dashboard.

Manage Databases & Users

To manage your databases go to the MySQL database section on your dashboard and scroll down to view “Current Databases”.

You can rename or delete a database directly from this section of the page

If you scroll down you can manage users under the “Current Users” heading. Here you can change the user’s password, rename or delete the users.

Software & Installation 

Depending on your hosting package, you might be able to install apps with one click using the “Softaculous Apps Installer” under the SOFTWARE section in your cPanel dashboard.  If you have access to the “Softaculous Apps Installer” then you’ll be able to install apps like WordPress with one click. 

Website Backups with cPanel 

Loosing your website and content can be costly and devastating. Ensuring that you’ve properly backed up your website will keep your website and content safe in the event that your site gets hacked, corrupted or the server dies. Here is a guide on how to create website backups with cPanel:

Step 1 – Search for “Backup Wizard” on your cPanel dashboard. You’ll find it under “FILES”. Then you should see the following page:

FTP client” then the section should expand and let you know more details about your FTP account. Depending on your host, you might be able to access your root FTP account with the same details as your cPanel account.

Creating a New FTP Account

Creating a new FTP account for people to access a specific area of your server is good practice.  To create a new FTP account follow these steps:

Step 1 – Search for FTP accounts on the dashboard. When you click through you should see the following screen:

Step 2 – You can begin a full or partial backup by clicking the blue “backup” button. 

PROTIP: Keep your website backup on a different server or external drive. 

Step 3 – Wait for the backup to complete and then download it. 

Manage Disk Usage 

You normally get allocated a certain amount of disc space to upload files to your server. If you have a great host, you might even have unlimited space. 

PRO TIP: Check your disc space at least once a month to see where you’re using the most  space and free it up by deleting un-necessary files. 

Check the right hand “STATISTICS” section on your dashboard to view your used disc space. 

All in All 

cPanel is really easy to use, even for the complete beginner, mainly thanks to the fact that more advanced options are not shown immediately. The user interface is extremely simple to use and navigate, especially when following the steps in this guide. I hope that you found this guide to cPanel useful.

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01 Aug 2019

What is an SSL Certificate & Why Do You Need One in 2019?

What is an SSL Certificate?

Do you remember Netscape? If you’ve been around the tech space since the 90’s, then you might remember Google’s humble predecessor – Netscape, the creator of the original SSL Protocol. 

Netscape released the first SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates in 1995. As the name suggests, SSL certificates are used to make internet transactions more secure. Without this extra security layer the internet is like an unprotected safe that anyone can access. Cyber security is essential for keeping online transactions safe and to protect your data against threats. 

When people talk about SSL certificates in 2019 they are normally referring to Transport Layer Security (TLS), the protocol that is now used to keep us safe online.

How do SSL Certificates Work?

An SSL certificate is a code that is used to encrypt the data traveling from a server to a browser. The server sends the key and if accepted the data that is sent is protected by encryption. Basically that means that all of the digits sent over a secure (SSL) connection are jumbled in a way that only a computer can understand. Making the data transfer hard, if not impossible to make sense of. 

Initially his type of security was only used with logins and shopping carts, before being adopted more widely as people became aware of cyber threats and the requirement for data sent over the web to be secure.

What is the Difference between TLS and SSL?

TLS has evolved by building on the initial SSL specifications developed by Netscape. Both security methods use encryption and appear as the prefix “HTTPS” when seen in a URL.

 The two parts of a TLS are as follows:-

1. TLS Handshake Layer – Performed once in a session selects encryption method (cipher) to use.

2. TLS record layer – Gathers and encrypts data prior to sending through encrypted tunnel.

TLS replaced the SSL protocol back in 1999 to make it free and available for everyone to use. Prior to this Netscape owned the SSL protocol. However, most people still refer to TLS as SSL.

SSL certificates have come a long way since their release in 1995. We are now on TLS v1.2 and the SSL protocol is being phased out. SSL certificates still work in most browsers, but they will be deprecated and replaced with TLS in the near future.

What is HTTP/ HTTPs?

Http means HyperText Transfer Protocol and is the mechanics behind sending information over the internet. “Http” appears as the suffix before a domain name (http://www.sitename.com). When there is an “s” at the end of http, for example https://www.sitename.com then the data is being sent over a secure (encrypted) tunnel. The “s” stands for secure.

An increasing amount of websites are choosing to encrypt their whole website. While previously an SSL certificate was only used to keep specific data secure. There are many reasons for companies to make this choice, not least the fact that people are becoming more aware of cybercrime and demanding website owners to use secure connections. Also there has been some whispers of Google favouring secure sites, making using an SSL certificate a good idea for search engine optimization (SEO).

Pro’s and Con’s of using an SSL/ TLS Certificates:

Pros

  • Protect sensitive data such as credit card details and emails
  • Keep data, whether verbal or written from being intercepted by intruders
  • Stop unwanted adverts from being injected onto websites
  • Increased trust from customers
  • Required for PCI Compliance
  • Prevents a warning that states the site is not secure, which could make customers turn away.
  • Prevents Formjacking 

 

A good SSL certificate will also provide authentication so that imposters cannot “formjack” your website. Formjacking is when a hacker creates a form that looks like it is on your site to gather payment or sensitive data. Instead of the money going to you, the hacker intercepts the transaction with their own payment form that takes payment or details.

Https is great for SEO

Google has now confirmed the correlation between HTTPS and a higher ranking on their search engines. This relationship was backed up by a study carried out by Brian Dean of Backlinko.com. In the study 1 million Google searches were analysed by Eric Van Buskirk to find out what factors meant that sites would appear on the first page of Google. Having an SSL certificate was found to help boost rankings.

Cons of SSL Certificates

Now that it is so easy to install free SSL certificates with many hosting providers, we need to decide if there are any disadvantages to installing a SSL certificate on your own website. Realistically there are not many, however there are a few very minor downsides to installing an SSL certificate on your site as follows: 

  • Cost – it is now easier than ever to get a free SSL certificate, however the gold standard EV certificates do come at a cost.
  • Performance – Due to the extra authentication step required, SSL certificates can make websites take a bit longer to load.
  • Some older browsers don’t support SSL certificates (See below)

Types of SSL Certificate

There are several types of SSL certificate to choose from. Depending on your website requirements, you’ll want to select the appropriate SSL certificate. An SSL certificate is issued by a third party security company and as well as having an added “s” in the browser bar a secure site will show a padlock next to the domain name.

Some certificates are cheap and issued immediately, whereas others like EV take 3-5 days to be activated. SSL certificates come in either 128-, 256-, or 2048-bit encryption. The rule when choosing an SSL certificate is select the highest level of encryption that you can afford. 

There are three main types of SSL as follows:

1. Domain Validation (DV)

2. Organization Validation (OV)

3. Extended Validation (EV)

4. SAN/UC certs

5. Wildcard Certificates

Domain Validation (DV) – Basic

DV is an affordable SSL certificate designed for info/ non-ecommerce and test sites. DV is the cheapest of SSL certificates and is issued immediately in most cases. DV SSL certificates are normally cheap or free thanks to the Let’s Encrypt program.

Organization Validation (OV) – Good 

OV is used by eCommerce stores and is issued in around about 24hrs. OV SSL certificates come with 128-, 256-, or 2048-bit encryption. As the name suggests OV is used to validate business details and is a more trusted solution when compared to DV.

Extended Validation (EV) – Premium

EV SSL certificates are used for eCommerce sites, sensitive data and increased customer trust. This is the gold standard of online trust used by banks and massive websites like Twitter. EV offers 2048-bit encryption and a green bar to reassure customers that the website is safe and their data is protected.

SAN/UC certs

SAN/UC certs are used by people who have several domains that they want to secure. These multi-domain SSL certificates save time and money. They can be used on as many domains as your provider allows.

Wildcard Certificates

Wildcard Certificates are extremely easy to deploy and perfect if you have several subdomains on your site. Wildcard Certificates come in both DV and OV, however unfortunately there are no EV wildcards.

Where do I buy an SSL Certificate?

SSL certificates are issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) and can normally be purchased through your hosting provider. Some hosting providers offer a free SSL certificate tool called Let’s Encrypt. Let’s Encrypt was launched in 2014 to provide free DV SSL certificates.

In the future all legitimate sites will be protected at least by the basic DV SSL certificate.  Let’s Encrypt made some great headway in the free SSL certificate for all websites arena and is continuing to do so. Now a newer initiative, launched in 2016 is leading the way. The new project is called Encryption Everywhere and was developed by Symantec, the leading digital security company.  

What is an SSL Certificate Authority?

SSL certificates are issued digitally by a certificate authority or certification authority (CA). A CA is a trusted third party that issues certificates for a specific purpose, normally to secure connections over the World Wide Web. The most popular SSL certificate provider with 39.7% of the market share is IdenTrust, closely followed by Comodo who own 34.9% of the market share. You can normally get an SSL certificate from your hosting provider.

What SSL Certificates are not good for…

Although SSL certificates are great they can’t protect against all Identity breaches. Identity breaches are a huge issue for both businesses and consumers and 63% of breaches are due to a weak password. SSL certificates won’t protect users from weak passwords, so always ensure that you use secure passwords on your account and take measures to help your website members do so. The average cost of identity breach is a massive $3.7M.

Another instance where an SSL certificate won’t provide you with security is when the data reaches your server. To protect the data on your server you’ll need server side protection. Some servers come with built in server side encryption. If you are storing sensitive data on your server then look for a server with server side encryption that meets the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256).

Some Browsers Don’t Support SSL Certificates

It is important to note that some older browsers don’t support SSL certificates. This means you’re your website cannot be accessed on these older browsers. Below I have outlined some of these out dated browsers

Unsupported browsers include: 

  • Google Chrome (older than version 6)
  • Internet (older than version 7)
  • Firefox (older than version 2.0)
  • Safari (older than version 2.1)
  • All Internet Explorer versions on Windows XP

 

Unsupported mobile browsers include:

  • Safari browsers ( iOS version older than 4.0)
  • Android browsers ( older than 3.0 (Honeycomb)
  • Windows Phone browsers ( version older than 7)

Is an SSL Certificate Free?

The great news is YES, you can get a free SSL certificate within minutes. Several domain and hosting providers offer free SSL certificates

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11 Jun 2019

How to Choose a Web Design Service in 2019

Starting a website is both exciting and quite daunting in an age when there is so much to choose from. Realistically you have a few choices – use a website builder, use a content management tool like WordPress or make a website from scratch.

Each option has it’s pros and cons. However, what is true in all cases is the fact that your online image can make or break your business.

Selecting the best website and design service

Selecting a website and design service that suits your own business requirements is a must (if you decide to go down that route). When it comes to choosing a website design and development firm, you’ll need to decide whether you want a full stack end-to-end digital agency, or a focused design and development team. Also your budget will make a BIG difference in who you can choose.

There are thousands of web design companies to choose from if you decide to go down the bespoke website build route. They can either start from scratch or use a CMS like WordPress and build your website inside that framework. With WordPress you have the choice of creating a new theme, or if you’re not a fan of reinventing the wheel, you can easily choose a professional theme from somewhere like Themeforest.

PRO TIP: If you are going to have your web designer create your website on your behalf then consult with them before putting any money down on themes or frameworks.

When looking around for a UK based web design company all of the top 10 lists had US companies on them (instead of UK ones) which is frustrating as some of the companies (like Hibu) look great but don’t serve companies outside the USA. I’ve made sure to list some of the best website design and marketing companies inside the UK.

What Qualifies THE BEST Website & Design Service?

The best website and design service needs to be measured on a few criteria. Certainly their portfolio and key (famous) clients are important, however we feel that there are a few things you need to look out for. Before diving into our top 10 UK web design services, let’s go over the criteria.

1. Look Out For Awards

Web design companies must first and foremost have great design abilities and have won some awards. The top web awards include:

. Horizon Interactive Awards
. The Webby Awards
. The Interactive Media Awards

There are also a wealth of National Awards that are too many to mention.

2. A Key Focus on Innovation

Every year there are giant leaps forward in technology and the online space. Most recently the vast numbers of people using smartphones to view websites has altered web design and development.  Therefore your website design company must be keeping up with the latest trends.  An innovative technology company is continually disrupting and innovating.

Make sure that your chosen web design service offers responsive website design – meaning a website design that works well on mobile phones.  Web design and development companies need to keep ahead of the latest trends and changes to ensure that their clients websites are kept up to date.

3. Wide Portfolio of Work

A web design company normally works in a wide range of industries. However, there are some industry specific companies that might have more insight in your particular industry.  In general, we are looking for companies that serve a broad range of niches. A web design company is more likely to be able to meet the demands of your project if they have a strong and versatile portfolio of work.

4. Wide Range of Digital Services

In 2019 a web design company is expected to do more than simply web design. The best companies are offering full stack digital development in all areas of marketing, design and brand positioning.

5. Satisfied Customers

The best web design companies need to prove that their customers are happy with the service. Web design companies should have top tier clientele from well-known brands, a wide range of great feedback and some long standing accounts.

6. Expansion

Company growth and expansion is a key indicator of success. How many offices do they have? How many staff do they employ? Additionally the best web design and development companies need to be growing in revenue.

When looking for the best web design companies in the industry these are a few things to take into consideration.

Innovify UK

BEST FOR – Back end systems development / end to end project management

Innovify “Innovate. disrupt. transform” is a web design company with offices in nine locations all around the world, from London to Dubai. Founded in Sept 2011 in London, UK – Innovify have a wealth of experience in all aspects of digital project development.  The most well-known clients of Innovify are Nokia, BBC and HSBC to name but a few of their famous customers. They offer end-to-end digital project management to bring any idea to life.

Innovify tick all of the boxes of our 6 key factors the make the best web design and development companies. They have a large team, a key focus on innovation, some impressive clients and an expansive portfolio of work.

  • Average Project Cost: $25,000
  • Team size: 50 – 249
Pros

✔ London, UK based

✔ All areas of digital product development covered from websites to apps

✔ Award-winning agile and scrum teams

✔ Growth hacking solutions

✔ No project too big or too small

✔ Reasonable pricing

✔ Clear workflow

✔ Award-winning app development

Cons

✘ Need to call to get an indication of price

FatMedia

BEST FOR – Social media marketing web design

FatMedia is a UK award winning digital marketing company with an inhouse team of 100+ experts. They were founded in 2005, so if you’re looking for an experienced yet innovative web provider in the UK then Fat Media are a contender. Based in Lancaster, UK – FatMedia work with both national and international clients and are known as a full stack digital marketing agency. As well as winning a tone of awards such as the BigChip 2013 award winner, they are accredited by Bing and Google.

Fat Media provide the full gamut of online digital services from PR and digital marketing to hosting and Branding. They also have some great customer testimonials on their website. Key client accounts include Warburtons and Yotel.

  • Team size – 100+
Pros

✔ Award winning agency

✔ Full stack digital agency, get all of your digital marketing done in one place

Cons

 ✘ Site is a little bit slow

B-Reel

BEST FOR – High-end digital projects

Founded way back in 1999 by Anders Wahlquist in Sweden, B-Reel is an impressive award winning digital product and strategy lab. They are the force behind the award winning Google Earth Studio. B-reel has 5 offices in total in Stockholm, NYC, London, LA and Barcelona.B-reel is keeping ahead of trends by shaping a modern approach to brand strategy. They have some impressive long term partners such as H&M Nike and Netflix. B-reel are the people to go to for high-end digital technology projects and their revenue is said to be $46.4 million.

  • Team size – 150+

Codecomputerlove.com

BEST FOR – World class digital experience creation

Code or Codecomputerlove.com is an impressive and expanding Digital Agency founded in 1999. Their UK offices are in Manchester however they are owned by MediaCom in the USA. Way more than a simple web design company Code works on all aspects of digital business development from strategic planning to branding. Their key focus is on building “brilliant digital products”. They create “future proof” digital products in a wide range of areas including Agile team management and leadership and high-quality software engineering.

  • Team size – 51-200
Pros

✔ Award winning

✔ Innovative and expanding team

Cons

 ✘ Not for small businesses

Critical Mass

BEST FOR – Long establishment marketing agency

Critical Mass was founded in 1996 and now has an anual revenue of £500million per year. Although their headquarters are in Calgary, Canada they also have offices around the world including London, UK. Criticalmass.com is a multi-award winning digital agency who has served massive companies such as Apple, BMW and McDonalds.

  • Team size – 950+
Pros

✔ Multi-award winning

✔ Innovative and expanding team

Cons

✘ Not for small businesses

CSI Media

BEST FOR BEING – Family run digital agency

CSI Media is a web design and development company based in Cheshire, UK. They have served some big clients such as Dell and Citroen. Founded in 1998 by a father, son and friend team – CSI Media has expanded into a team of 32.They also offer some digital marketing services, design and app development.

CSI Media began by creating travel websites and now specialize in hospitality and leisure projects for small to medium sized companies.

  • Average project cost $10,000
  • Team size – 32
Pros

✔ Small tight knit family team

✔ Experienced team of professionals

✔ Best for – cost effective website design

Kingslun

BEST FOR – Smaller website specific projects

Kingslun is a Website design agency founded in 2018 in Leicester, UK. They have a key focus more on the website side of digital technologies. Kingslun is a newer web design company that offers website design services with a lean toward the design rather than the features. They also offer a few other services like PPC and SEO to get people over to your place on the web.

  • Average project cost $1,000
  • Team size – 2-9
Pros

✔ Online chat

✔ Small projects catered for

Cons

✘ Don’t offer marketing or complex back end app development

Together

BEST FOR – Tech start ups

Together is a London based web design agency founded in 2018. Together works with companies on their online brand placement as well as offering key services like copywriting and web design. They have a key focus on the mobile user experience and will work with you to create a UX strategy, imperative in the current online marketplace. Together has worked with relatively few large brands but Hewlett Packard Enterprise stands out as a key account. Their key focus as a company is web design with minor focus in other areas like UX design and branding.

  • Average project cost $10,000
  • Team size – 2-9
Pros

✔ Offer complementary services like copywriting

✔ Web design specialists

Cons

✘ Haven’t worked with many massive brands

Bird Marketing Limited

Bird Marketing Limited is a London based digital agency founded in 2010. They offer three services – PPC, SEO and website design.  They have a focus on return on investment (ROI), so you’d be sure to get a nice website from them.

  • Average project cost $10,000
  • Team size – 10-49
Pros

✔ Established for 9 years

✔ ROI is a key focus

✔ Extensive knowledge in key areas

Cons

✘ No focus on innovation

✘ No marketing services offered

Tech ICS

Tech ICS unique selling point is innovation – which is perfect for a web design and development company. They also offer branding and digital marketing as well as videography services.

  • Average project cost – Price match offered, start at $200
  • Team size – 10-49
Pros

✔ Cheap prices

Cons

✘ Work outsourced to Bangladesh

What About Using a Website Builder Instead?

It is really easy to get started in the online space with a web builder. A lot of them are more sophisticated and anyone can use them to build a website, even directly from your mobile phone.  Let’s ook at the Pros and Cons of a Website Builder…

Pros

✔ Great for the beginner

✔ No coding required

✔ Cheap

✔ Quick

✔ Themes provided

✔ Update website from mobile phone

Cons

✘ Not very scalable

✘ Not as much control

✘ Design restrictions

✘ Feature restrictions

In Summary

There are far too many web design companies to choose from. A lot of them are full stack marketing companies that serve huge organisations. The smaller companies tend to lack scope and experience, so it might be an idea, if you’re looking to keep costs down to go for a website builder or a one-click installation on a web host until you find your feet in the digital world.

There are some companies that can create your online brand and presence for under $500 however, that is fairly rare. A more comprehensive full-stack company that can create your whole marketing plan is certainly favourable.

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