The Top 5 Reasons to Build a Small Business Website with WordPress

In today’s marketplace, every business needs a website. It is the first place your customers go to discover your brand. It may host your online store or represent your brick-and-mortar establishment. The question is how to develop your website. You can commission a hand-built website, hire an onboard developer, or use one of the many quick-and-easy website builder platforms on the market.  For a small business, it can be tough to know which is the right route to a high-quality website that your team can maintain.

A small business needs a website that runs like a machine. You need easy updates to content like blog posts and service pages so your team can manage the website without a specialist. You also need your website to meet the necessary security and performance requirements to compete for SEO and SERP ranking. Why do engines and colleagues keep suggesting a WordPress website? Aside from sourcing around 1/3 of websites on the internet, WordPress offers a toolkit approach to website building that is uniquely useful to small business priorities.

Why do we recommend WordPress to small businesses in need of a new website? Here are our top five reasons to make small business WordPress website.

1) All the Tools You Need are Available

WordPress starts with a basic website framework that you can build onto with “plugins”. It is a module and toolkit system for building websites one feature-set at a time.

You can get a homepage up almost instantly on a properly configured server with many free themes that provide the basis “Home”, “About, “Contact”, “Blog” site map structure. From there, you can add modules for a web-store, security, store locator, booking calendar, or online menu and delivery tracking system. Customer accounts, security, and performance modules are considered essential but you can choose the package and pricing that works best for you.

Everything you need to build a WordPress website of business quality is available and affordable for the website in a plug-and-play experience. This makes it easy for small businesses to quickly construct the features they need for a modern and high-performing website that suits their business model.

2) Quick-Build Themes and Infinite Customization

WordPress makes it extremely easy to get started. If you need the basic structure of a beautifully branded, high-performance website, you can get one up in one or two days depending on your ready assets. With the right plugins, most small business models can put together a WordPress website that does everything you need it to for engaging leads, selling to customers, booking, and providing platform services for logged-in accounts.

The right theme and plugins can get you started very quickly – with easy slots in the design for your website colors and brand assets. At the same time, WordPress is also built by code and therefore extremely customizable. You can have a unique theme (your entire website structure and style) developed by a programmer, with an all-in-one approach or your own custom plugins as well. WordPress is as flexible as a hand-built website, but extremely easy to piece together quickly out of existing elements triest, tested, and 5-star rated on the market right now.

3) Vast Network of Users and Developers

WordPress is not an island. Your support network of users and developers is vast. If you have a common-use question or even an elusive error message, there are literally millions of other people using WordPress who may have the answer. If you want guidance on an existing plugin or to commission a unique feature, there is a developer with the right experience for the job. You can hire onboard WordPress experts, outsource to WordPress developer shops, hire WordPress specialized marketing, content, and community managers, and ask the greater community for tips.

You are never stranded when working with WordPress because of the vast network of other WordPress users and programmers found through the marketplace, job market, and community.

4) No-Code Website Management and Content Updates

WordPress has played a major role in the WYSIWYG movement to low-code and no-code platform management. “What You See is What You Get” or “whisywig” conversationally is an engine built to help you design web pages and edit your content without delving into HTML, Javascript, and other bracket-based coding languages.

Instead, you can use a visual interface that allows you to arrange page elements and enter content without knowing the difference between a and a. The WordPress WYSIWYG editor (Gutenberg Editor) is a drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy to build pages and templates from your existing brand assets. For a small business team, this is an incredible time and money saver because you can quickly produce regular content without the daily need for a web code specialist.

5) The Structure is Familiar and Easy for Customers

Last and never to be underestimated; customers are familiar with WordPress sites. Even with very unique themes, the basic structural elements are all there. Customers know they can find the big pages in the header and site map links in the footer. They understand how to navigate a WordPress blog and – whether they realize it or not – customers are familiar with the most-used eCommerce web store platforms.

This will make your site approachable and easy to use. It will feel natural and intuitive to navigate your WordPress website which reduces friction and improves your overall conversion funnel. With a pro to help you smoothly connect all the modules for a high-performance website experience, your customers will naturally flow from intake to conversion without the need for guidance because, without realizing it, they already know the way.

Small businesses make every decision based on a balance of efficiency, quality, and performance. WordPress meets that criteria by offering both easy-to-construct websites for any business model and ultimate customizability if you want to take more detailed control. For more information about WordPress websites for small businesses or to commission a professionally configured and branded website tailored to your business needs, contact us today.

How SEO Works and Why You Should Work It

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Such a simple phrase has completely taken over the business world of today. Trends in business are now trends in search engine algorithms. When Google updates its priorities, the entire world jumps to meet the new standards. Of course, this should come as no surprise in a world where a business missing from Google Maps might as well not exist. When customers look up their plans online before going out, a business without a web presence – one that cannot be found by search engines – is practically invisible. No matter how big your roadside sign may be.

So, just what is SEO? Why does it matter? Because SEO works when you work it. If you want that sweet internet “foot” traffic; if you want just-in-time blog answers and customers who find your brand right before they purchase or pick up the phone, SEO is the only way to achieve it.

Let’s dive into the details.

The Basics: SEO is How Search Engines Find Your Website

The simplest answer to “What is SEO” is that SEO is how search engines find your website – and how customers find you through the search engines. Your SEO is how well the phrases and words in your content match the purpose of your website. A simple and clear choice of words can make a bigger difference in your initial SEO efforts than weeks of website building.

For customers to find your website via a search engine, first the search engine has to connect what your page offers to what the customer wants. Search engine optimization is how businesses clearly indicate the value each page offers customers. This can mean a clear, descriptive page title, opening your content with a summary blurb, and clearly stating your points and tips on each page. SEO has reduced the number of really cleverly named web pages, but increased our ability to find and be found at the moment of need – or greatest curiosity.

Inbound vs Outbound: SEO is the Core of Inbound Marketing Strategy

You often hear about inbound marketing and SEO in the same breath, but what does that mean? Inbound and Outbound are two different types of marketing. Outbound marketing pushes information at the customer. Billboards, TV commercials, and even mailers are all outbound marketing. Inbound marketing is when the customer comes to you.

SEO makes that possible by providing your relevant pages when the customer makes a search. The customer asks the search engine for tips on repairing a sink drain. Your page just so happens to be titled “How to repair a sink drain in 5 easy steps” and this is exactly what the customer wants to see. They click and follow the link – inward – to your website. Inbound marketing is providing what customers need, when they need it, and letting the customers come to you.

As you can see, SEO is at the heart of inbound marketing in the digital age. We all appreciate businesses that cultivate an interesting and useful blog instead of investing their ad-spend in flashing web banners from the 90s and 00s.  SEO allows you to finely tune the content of each page so that customers can find the information or entertainment they seek when and where they want it most. This way, your brand can be that just-in-time expert – every time.

The Evolving Principles of SEO Strategy

  1. Getting the Attention of Web Crawlers
  2. Hacking the Backlinks
  3. Getting Ranks and Clicks
  4. Content Value and Reader Experience

Did you know that the core principles of SEO have been evolving for the last 20 years? In the 00s, SEO was all about manipulating web crawlers with keyword stuffing and backlink lists. Needless to say, Google has since blacklisted pretty much all of the original SEO tactics and put a new focus for the most-likely-to-succeed SEO strategies: Customer experience.

Today, trying to game the system on a technical level only works through proper website configuration and accessibility features. Beyond this, your best choice of SEO strategy that is likely to succeed through several algorithm updates is a focus on customer experience. Smoother and faster page loads, more interesting and relevant information, authority data sources, mobile performance, and integrated multimedia are now the name of the game.

Writing organically is more likely to hit your keyword targets than stuffing a specific word or phrase. Writing clearly and with easily-skimmed points is more likely to get readership and reduce bounce rate – which are also now calculated SEO elements.

SEO Copywriting vs SEO Marketing (SEM)

Often, there is some confusion about the difference between SEO – the overall strategy of search engine ranking – and SEO copywriting – the act of honing written words for keyword density and clear messages. They are both typically referred to as “SEO” but one is the total marketing strategy and one specifically relates to written content.

If you’d like to differentiate “SEM” or Search Engine Marketing is an alternate term for SEO strategy that is widely – if not universally – used. SEO copywriting is often used to differentiate the specific goal of writing content with the right keyword balance for your SEO strategic goals.

When Your SEO Strategy Becomes Your Brand Identity – or Vice Versa

Over time, you may even realize that your SEO strategy and your brand strategy have become one. This will happen as you hone your website content to Google’s standards. Becoming more transparent, transitioning from content fluff to expert-driven advice, and more clearly translating your brand’s marketing keywords as statements will actually frame your brand in the process. You may be refining your brand identity in the process of boosting your SEO, or you may find that your SEO simply must fall back on your existing brand identity in order to convey the organic and expert-driven style of writing that Google is continuing to require.

Working Your SEO Strategy for Digital Marketing Success

SEO works when you work it. The reason to work on your SEO strategy every week and month of the year is that Google (and other search engines) is the window to your digital audience. Without a presence on Google, customers simply won’t be able to find you. Without a high page ranking for your keywords, customers will see competitive brands before they have a chance to click your website.

For businesses who want to get ahead – and those who simply want to stay afloat – working your SEO strategy, honing your content, and improving your technical performance – is always a valuable effort.

Not sure where to start? The Provato Group can help you know more about what is SEO, and hone your SEO strategy from the opening words on your homepage to a custom website design that will load quickly improving your visibility in search engines, and the back-end mechanics of your website. We’ll help you build a powerful blog, compelling service pages, and even take your SEO off-site with videos, social media, and other forms of engaging inbound marketing techniques. Whether you need an SEO strategist or an expert SEO copywriter, The Provato Group has everything you need.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation on your business SEO status, results, and strategy for the future.

What database administrators need to know about Azure SQL

For database administrators, it’s important to find a system that’s feature-laden in a way that delivers optimal value to the end-users. That’s why the best solution for most organizations is to use Microsoft Azure SQL. It has a unique blend of features that allow for greater organizational effectiveness and efficiency.

Whether you’re building a new database or migrating a legacy database to a new program, Azure SQL is perfect for you.

The question is: why should your organization use Azure SQL? Let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages of using it by running through many of the program’s many features.

Implementation options

First, Azure SQL offers some versatile implementation options for getting started. The option you choose will depend on where you currently are in your Azure SQL experience. Depending on the level of sophistication you have with the product, your options may vary.

  • Looking to migrate your workloads onto Azure Virtual Machines (VM)? SQL server is the option for you.
  • With Azure SQL Managed Instance, you can update the applications you have as well as tap into hybrid flexibility.
  • You can also put the infrastructure needed in place to support your modern cloud applications by using Azure SQL Database.

No matter how you choose to implement Azure SQL, you’ll have a whole host of features at your disposal. Below is a brief summary of the features you can expect to benefit from using Azure SQL:

Security

Protecting your data is paramount for an organization with any kind of digital presence. Whether you need to safeguard proprietary data or personally identifiable information, having a secure database is critical for keeping your information’s integrity intact.

Azure SQL offers all the tools you’ll need for a comprehensive security posture. It has cryptographic verification. It also has real-time threat protection capabilities to help you navigate threats and assess your vulnerabilities as soon as possible. Azure SQL has security controls such as encryption and access management as well to keep the right people in and the wrong people out. Finally, Azure SQL’s compliance coverage will keep your security tools up to date.

Scalability

As your business grows, your database requirements may change as well. Azure SQL allows you to adapt and scale your database needs as the needs of your organization evolve. You’ll be able to scale your capabilities on a timeline that works for you and your team.

Serverless

Azure SQL’s fully managed service eschews hardware for a more flexible, serverless approach. Forget dedicating physical space you don’t have for computer storage. Azure SQL supports cloud applications.

High availability

A service can have all the capabilities in the world, but without reliability, it will fail to serve you. When it comes to your database, you’ll want to be sure you can access it the majority of the time without disruptions or outages. Azure SQL offers high availability with minimal chances of disruption.

Regularly recurring tasks such as patches, updates, and data backups are all automated by Azure. It also has remedies in place for spontaneous network outages or failures. If you use retry logic within your app, your database will experience minimal downtime.

The bottom line is that a database is only as good as its ability to keep you connected to your data. Azure SQL has plenty of ways to keep your data available no matter what external circumstances might occur.

Backup and recovery

For most organizations, their data is the lifeblood of their business. So what happens when disaster strikes and that data is compromised? Without the right protection in place, it can be catastrophic for your organization. Azure SQL databases rely on SQL Server engine technology to provide data backup and restoration services. These measures provide you with the safety and security of knowing a disaster won’t take you back to square one. Azure SQL’s redundancy offers regularly scheduled backups, ensuring you access your data after an incident occurs.

Automatic tuning

You’ll also want to optimize your database’s performance, and Azure SQL gives you the ability to do just that. With automatic tuning, you’ll always have the best performance available. Azure SQL has a highly adaptable performance posture, enabling you to get the most out of your database without having to manually adjust or monitor your performance settings.

Monitoring and analytics

One of the most time-consuming aspects of your IT operations can be manually monitoring the performance of your various systems. Azure SQL cuts down on this, providing you with a comprehensive portal that allows you to monitor and track performance across all of your Azure SQL databases and other virtual services.

You’ll also have access to a host of analytical tools. This type of data is critical to making sure your organization’s IT operations are operating with maximum efficiency. With a single page, Azure SQL gives you a holistic view of all of your SQL resources. This includes your Azure SQL databases, the server hosting them, as well as any SQL Managed Instances or your SQL Server on Azure VMs. 

On-Demand

Because Azure SQL offers such a versatile and comprehensive suite of services, it can often seem overwhelming having to sift through everything to find specific data. SQL On-Demand offers you more insight into your data with the ability to make tailored queries to get you the information you need when you need it.

Azure SQL is the database solution you need

Because of the features described above, it’s clear that Azure SQL offers a better database solution than any other option available. Azure SQL has solutions that can be customized and applied to a variety of organizational types and sizes, scaled up or down depending on what you need.

With this in mind, it only makes sense for your team to migrate its legacy database services to Azure SQL. The main challenge is determining how to navigate these migrations. While it may seem daunting at first, having the right partner in place to guide you through the process helps you overcome any obstacles, focusing on getting the most out of Azure SQL.

4 Best Practices for Recruiting and Hiring Remote Workers

The last few years have redefined what companies are willing to offer in terms of remote work arrangements. And for good reason – it’s growing in popularity among employees. According to Flex Jobs, one survey found that 97% of respondents favored either a fully remote or hybrid work model. Other research shows that 70% of companies are looking to move to at least a hybrid environment.

From both an employer and employee perspective, embracing remote work is both an optimal and beneficial move. The question for employers then becomes: “How do we improve our hiring process to better attract remote workers?”

Let’s take a closer look at some best practices you can use when recruiting and hiring remote workers. Keep these in mind and you’ll be sure to bolster your workforce with remote candidates who aren’t just highly skilled but also offer a fit for your corporate culture.

Pre-Interview: Distinguish Between Your Needs and Wants in a Candidate

While there are many aspects of hiring remote workers that differ from hiring someone for an in-person role, some elements remain the same. Prior to interviewing the candidate, build your checklist of skills, qualities, and experiences you’d like your ideal candidate to have. Sort these qualities into two lists: “must-have” and “nice to have.” The must-have list is all things your candidate needs to perform the job functions, while the nice-to-have list will be valuable but not necessary.

You’d do this with a more traditional candidate, but the fact that you’re hiring remote workers might influence what falls into each bucket. For example, in either scenario, you’d want someone who’s a strong communicator. That means something different for a remote worker who isn’t within view of the team daily. It’s more important for them to have a mastery of videoconferencing or other communication software like Zoom or Google Meet.

Emphasize Candidate Centricity During the Process

The concept of candidate centricity means you’re placing the emphasis on the candidate throughout the process, centering them as someone you’re actively recruiting. You’re certainly giving them opportunities to show they’re right for the role, but ultimately, centricity is about focusing on the benefits to them. You’ll communicate that you are trying to prove yourself to them.

For a remote candidate, this means creating the right experience for them. For one, you need to overcommunicate during the process. Keep them updated on where they stand. Failure to do so could result in them pursuing another opportunity.

If you have multiple interviews with a remote candidate, explain who they’ll be speaking with each time and why you’re doing more than one. With hiring remote workers, you won’t have the benefit of a face-to-face interview. Helping them understand why you want to have multiple rounds remotely will allow them to feel like they’re being recruited rather than vetted or qualified. You’re less likely to turn them off and frustrate them.

Focus on creating a seamless experience for your remote candidate. Provide them with a clear job description and salary range. At each step of the process, be transparent about where they stand and what the next steps look like. It’s often said that a company will never treat a better candidate than they do during the recruitment process. While this may not always be the case, they’re certainly evaluating how you’re treating them here. It’s best to make your remote candidates feel wanted.

Be Flexible and Interview Remotely

This one should go without saying, but you should obviously be prepared to interview your remote candidate remotely. Ask them if they are comfortable with a videoconference over a standard phone call. This allows you to observe more of their mannerisms and body language, which can be helpful in assessing a candidate. You’ll be able to better gauge how confident they are in their responses.

If they decline a video interview and opt for a phone call, don’t hold this against them.  Communicating remotely isn’t the same as doing so in the office, so you’ll want to be flexible with how comfortable employees are showing their home to an employer they haven’t agreed to join yet.

You’ll also want to be flexible in when you can interview them. If your remote candidate has a job, you may have to interview them in the early morning, late afternoon, or early evening. You can’t expect a candidate with a 9-5 to be able to meet whenever is most convenient for you. Show some leniency when scheduling and accommodate a time that works with their calendar.

Be Open About Your Expectations for the Role

Is the job 100% remote? Are you offering a remote position for now until an eventual return to the office? Will it be a hybrid role?

Your answer to this question may vary. But whatever your expectations for your remote candidate, you need to make them 100% crystal clear as early as possible. If it is a fully remote role, say that. If it is not, say that as well. While it is beneficial for your company to offer a fully remote position to attract top candidates who may be located outside your metropolitan area, you may not be ready to do so. Whatever your posture, the role should be well-defined for the candidate upfront.

If you don’t agree on where the candidate will be working in the short-term and long-term, it can lead to frustration and confusion later. The employee may feel as if they’re getting a job they didn’t sign up for. This can lead to the company losing out on a great employee due to a communication breakdown.

If the assumption is that the position is fully remote, state that during the screening process. If the remote candidate moves to the hiring stage, make sure to put in writing what their work arrangement will be.

The bottom line is that hiring remote workers is much like hiring someone who would sit in your office with a few important distinctions. By tailoring your staffing process to the remote worker’s unique situation, you’ll be able to identify the right people for your company and create a winning experience for the candidate that leads to more hires.

What is Marketing Automation? 15 Key Examples of Automated Marketing

Marketing automation is when computers and software make your marketing job easier and multiply your efforts to achieve greater results. You can automate many aspects of the marketing role, from social media posts to on-site customer service. Automation ranges from simple publishing schedules to FAQ-slinging chatbots. The right strategy is unique to every brand based on the style of your team and the needs of your campaign. However, the larger your customer audience, the more every brand will come to need marketing automation to provide that responsive and personal level of care that customers expect.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is when you program or automate a marketing task. This simple definition covers a vast stretch of automatable tasks. In fact, technology has progressed significantly since the first automated email campaign. Today, AI-assisted analytics and advanced chatbots are also part of the marketing automation definition – as these self-learning tools also mechanize marketing functions.

Marketing automation begins with scheduling. You can schedule blog posts, social media posts, and email newsletters. From there, responsive automated marketing is built on triggers like a search, wishlist add, or purchase to engage with customers and build a relationship with them using automated digital means.

So, what does marketing automation include? What techniques can you use to improve your results or build customer engagement automatically? We have five categories and fifteen key practices of marketing automation for your brand to explore.

Campaign Schedule Automation

You can automate your marketing tasks with a simple calendar. Schedule your content to launch at exactly the best times for digital reception – and ensure you never miss a single post.

1) Blog Post Scheduling

Blogs should be published one to four times a month on a consistent weekly schedule. Instead of making sure you’re at the computer at your exact post time each week, automate! A blog scheduler will push a blog from draft to published on your calendar, providing your customers with new content regularly. When combined with a great website design, your scheduled blog posts will help you build a relationship with your customers and a positive digital experience with your brand through the content you publish automatically.

2) Social Media Automation

Social media is a heavy burden for one person or even a small team. posting regular, entertaining, and well-timed messages can take all your time – unless you automate. Start by building a large pool of social media posts to share, then set them into a scheduler to launch once to three times daily during the busiest hours of each social media platform.

Email Marketing Automation

Email marketing is an essential part of marketing automation. The emails sent by your company should be responsive and personalized – something you can do by connecting your email automation software to your CRM.

3) Personalized Newsletters

Send your monthly newsletter email automatically and personalize it with CRM data. Address each customer by name in their emails and include add-on content calculated to be appealing based on their search and purchase history.

4) Onboarding

When a new customer joins your brand, you can use email automation marketing to onboard and build engagement. Send a sequence of thoughtfully timed introductory emails with tips and guides. Provide new user offers and invite them to build their profile, wishlist, and loyalty membership. The right onboarding sequence triggers for each customer individually and can build engaged brand loyalty right from the start.

5) Re-Engagement and Win-Back

When a customer hasn’t shopped for you in a while, you can set an automated engagement timer to send win-back emails. After a month, or a year,  marketing automation will detect an inert customer and reach out with personalized emails based on CRM data and a pre-written template. Personalized deals and appealing content could bring back past customers and begin to rebuild positive engagement.

6) Shopping Cart Rescue

Abandoned shopping carts are a common problem that email automation can solve. “Your items are waiting” and “Did you still want…” emails are very helpful for customers who were interrupted during a shopping session. However, you should also allow customers to check a box that says “I shop slowly” to custom-tailor your automated engagement pace.

On-Site Funnel Management

On-site automation is a unique element of automated marketing. On-site alters the website’s design in order to provide personalized, data-driven details to the customer experience. The right automated features can optimize your sales funnel, improve your conversion rate, and increase on-site engagement with the brand and content.

7) Personalized Upselling Content

Many brands build an upselling bar into page design – a list of products the customer might also want to buy. Custom upselling is far superior to static products because they are items the customer is more interested in and motivated by. Related items, items from their wishlist, and items similar to their history can all be automatically offered when each page loads.

8) Search/Purchase History Reminders

Reminders to buy again, especially perishable items, can be useful. Use a customer’s search history to automatically remind them of what they’ve bought in the past and invite them to buy it again.

9) Wishlist and Cart Updates

Automatically end updates when an item in a customer’s wishlist is on sale, or when an item in their cart is updated in the marketplace. This re-engages customers by using their own items and interests.

10) Lead Magnets and Gated Content

Lead magnets can be a type of automated marketing, especially when they are an automated part of lead conversion. The same is true of automatically gated (and automatically un-gated) content when users sign up to read an e-book or watch a webinar.

11) Customer Quizzes

Any type of online engagement involving a quiz, survey, or onboarding can become marketing automation if designed to run itself.

Omnichannel Automated Support

One major benefit of automated marketing is that customers gain a unified experience no matter which channel or platform they engage through. This is primarily done with modern support AI, often called a chatbot.

12) Universal Chatbot

The universal chatbot is a support employee who knows the FAQs by heart, never gets tired, has an infinitely cheery attitude, and can speak to thousands of customers at once over any chat or conversational platform. These powerful service AIs are now available to automate both on-site and off-site support.

Transactional Automation

Finally, there is the heavy automation side of automated marketing. Transactional automation are those essential interactions with a customer that are actually best done as an automated service. These typically involve email but may include mobile apps, SMS, or social media messages in the modern support environment.

13) Order Confirmations and Invoices

The marketing automation software sends a confirmation email each time a customer makes an order, is issued an invoice, or their account is changed.

14) Shipping and Delivery Updates

Automated updates on the location and status of customer orders, including the final delivery announcement.

15) Account Management

Confirmation when customers make changes to their account, and re-connection with a change of email or phone number.

Automated marketing is the unified software solution that modern marketing teams need to thrive. From simple calendars to on-demand personalization to advanced support AIs, marketing automation has come a long way and still holds incredible potential for future development. Contact us today to build your automated marketing strategy.

Bootstrap 101: What it is and how to use it

You may know a bootstrap as something located on the back of a shoe or boot. You may even know it from the common expression to “pull yourself up by the bootstrap!” It represents the idea of creating for and providing for yourself, making something out of nothing.

The idea of “bootstrapping” is about starting small and creating something much bigger with only your own efforts and little advantages.

Of course, this has an entirely different meaning in the digital realm. When it comes to computers and electronic devices, the term bootstrap refers to the ability to “boot” a program onto a device with the help of a smaller program. This facilitates the larger program being integrated typically in an operating system.

So, while a bootstrap is a tiny part of a boot used for lifting it up, from a computer perspective, Bootstrap is a much different entity. Let’s take a closer look at Bootstrap by defining what it is, its impact on the technology world, how you can use Bootstrap, and what its continued use means for the future.

What is Bootstrap?

Two Twitter developers named Jacob Thornton and Mark Otto developed Bootstrap while at the social media platform. They created it to make the tools used on Twitter perform more reliably while also cutting down on the time needed to maintain those tools. Initially, the tool itself was known as Twitter Blueprint while often being referred to as Twitter Bootstrap.

Here’s what it is: a software that provides a front-end development framework for creating websites and applications that support websites. It’s free to use and available for all, open-source. Bootstrap was manifested using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to support its functions. The apps it creates are mobile-focused.

Now that you understand what Bootstrap is, let’s dive into what it means to the technology world – and specifically, those looking to develop websites without unlimited financial resources to throw at the problem.

What Bootstrap means to the technology world

The main benefit of using Bootstrap is that it’s equally valuable to experienced developers and beginners. It facilitates easy website building and design without forcing the user to enter commands.

Bootstrap taps into sound design principles to give anyone engaging with it an optimal user experience. It has a responsive layout, which means that the website or app can look it gives the viewer based on the viewer’s specific orientation. Because it’s mobile-first software, it operates with the assumption that all users will be using a tablet or smartphone.

It’s this responsiveness that makes Bootstrap an effective tool. It makes this the perfect solution for organizations with staff that work primarily on mobile applications. They no longer must worry about changing dimensions on the device – Bootstrap adapts depending on the situation.

Along with its intuitive design, Bootstrap also offers plenty of valuable user interface components. It delivers an implementation framework that will leave users able to easily begin using it. It also offers source code, or the program can be compiled in advance, depending on the user’s needs.

One of the biggest advantages of Bootstrap is that along with being open source, it’s also free to use. Anyone who wants to use it can find it hosted on GitHub and can download it from the official Bootstrap website.

It’s clear why Bootstrap is such an invaluable tool for so many developers working in the mobile space. But what exactly can they use it for, and why should they use Bootstrap?

How and why you should use Bootstrap

The primary use of Bootstrap is simple: if you’re looking to develop a mobile-based application, it’s an inexpensive yet comprehensive option. Bootstrap’s functionality eliminates the need to write endless amounts of CSS code. This frees up your availability for other tasks.

There are multiple reasons why you should consider using Bootstrap. As noted above, its responsiveness is a major selling point. It comes with a prefilled grid, meaning you can load content directly into your containers.

It also comes with handy components that you can integrate into your website design. You can add navigation bars, dropdown menus, or thumbnail images. These aren’t the only components you can add, of course, but just a small sample of what’s possible.

Because of the responsive design, you’ll be able to add a wide variety of components that resize to fit your site. You won’t have to grapple with sizing the components yourself – Bootstrap takes care of that for you, again leaving you free to focus your mental energy elsewhere.

Bootstrap also has shockingly thorough and easy-to-grasp documentation. No matter what you need to do through the software, you’ll be able to find documentation to help guide you through the process. There’s nothing more frustrating than being stuck with software and having no idea how to implement it. Bootstrap’s documentation provides plenty of code samples, making complicated moves easy even for novices.

Because it runs using JavaScript, Bootstrap also provides multiple plugins from JQuery. They have an entire catalog of plugins you can insert into your site. They offer everything from pop ups to image carousels.

The bottom line is that Bootstrap is simple to use and compatible with most browsers. Using it for mobile application development is a slam dunk. But what’s the future of this tool?

The future of Bootstrap and determining if its right for your team

So, should you use Bootstrap? It’s certainly not without its drawbacks. It’s easy to use, but users will need to familiarize themselves with it and get used to its interface.

No matter what type of front-end web development you’re working on, Bootstrap likely offers the solutions and capabilities you’ll need. It has a versatile set of tools with plenty of educational resources within the program itself for anyone who needs to get acclimated.

Yes, it’s not perfect – no web development tool is – but the design flexibility it offers you is hard to beat. And as a free service, you certainly can’t beat the price.

How to Write Compelling Blog Posts that Your Audience Wants to Read

Writing a great professional blog is a balancing act. Without traffic, SEO and most of all, reader interest your blog will never be read and even your most passionate and expert writing will go unnoticed. This is the one thing that many aspiring writers struggle with, especially in the growing blog industry. You can write for your brand and you can write for your SEO rate, but can you write for the audience?

How do you write blog posts that people actually want to read? As a writer, you can create compelling and expert content. You can process facts into reports and explain the steps of a process. But how do you write article after article that compels readers to come read even months after publication? Much less ensure that content supports your business or brand’s conversion funnel goals. To do this, you need to balance the three elements that make a great blog.

The Triforce of Blogging:

  1. SEO Potential
    1. When it comes to great blogging, you have three driving goals. The first is to appear on search engine results. You can call this SEO or inbound marketing; they are the same. You are writing for the web crawler bots that report the structure and content of each website to Google.
  2. Reader Interest
    1. The second is to draw traffic based on user interest. Your potential readers and customers need to be looking for the keywords you optimize and – more than that – they need to care about what you’ve written and find your work valuable. Without reader interest, there is no traffic for your keywords and no readers for your great content.
  3. Personal Expertise
    1. Finally, you are trying to write on things you know and are interested in. Work your expertise into your writing and incorporate the expertise of others in your brand. Or learn something new and share your discovery with the audience. Convey your passion, enthusiasm, and knowledge depth in a topic and your readers will be along for the ride.

You will need to balance all three of these elements to write a great blog post. You can hone your SEO. You can become a great expert. But what about the readers? Let’s zoom in on reader interest.

Knowing Your Audience: How to Know What Readers Want

Writing an article that someone wants to read is about knowing your audience. There are two ways to do this: programmatically and intuitively. You should definitely try both.

First, let’s start with intuition. It will give you a framework for understanding your readers.

Who Are Your Readers?

Your blog readers will, ideally, be people interested in your brand. If you are blogging for a company, consider who your potential customers are. For example, a hardware store is writing for their local community, and especially those DIY handypersons who swing by for new drill bits regularly. A brand of baby food, however, would have an audience of almost 100% parents of very small children.

Are you an industry technician? A lifestyle guru? An interview host? Determine what your message is to identify who you’re writing for.

Create Reader Personas

Then imagine your readers. Visualize the kind of people who might read your blog. What can they gain from your content? What might they need from your brand? Think about the lives they live and why they would be interested. Make your readers into people in your mind and, when planning your blog, you will have a better idea of what your readers want to see.

Imagine the handy neighbor looking up what size drill bit they need for their deck. Imagine the mother of a fussy baby looking for answers online. These are your audience. What would they want to read?

Where is the Traffic?

The other side of the coin is to look at where people go en-masse. There are several online tools that will help you break down the keywords in any topic or industry, then see just how many people are searching for each thing. Some keywords, though they fit the SEO formula, are much less-searched than others.

You can break up your traffic analysis into search frequency and hit frequency. What do people search for most? What sites do they click on most? Determine this to build a picture of where the numeric interest lies in your industry and niche.

Combine the Two

Now take your data and your intuition and combine them. Ascribe the questions you saw top the charts to the people you know are behind search queries. Is your DIY customer also searching for bird feed with equal enthusiasm? Probably. Now you’re imagining someone building a deck to watch the backyard birds. 

Providing Value to Your Readers

If you did have a following of readers who were reading every new post, what are they getting out of it?

You will want to build a plan based on why your readers are looking for content and reading through blogs in the first place. Traffic doesn’t just happen. It’s not a number everyone gets for publishing. Each ping of traffic is a real human who is searching for and reading blogs for a reason. What value does your blog offer readers? Why are they reading to the end and, if they come back, what do they gain from reading your series?

It doesn’t have to be profound. Sell yoga classes, or pants? Share a lifestyle blog with a blend of smoothie recipes, yoga guides, and stress management tips. Now you are a source of advice for yoga participants. Repair appliances? Create a blog of appliance repair guides and before-you-call troubleshooting tips.

Map Your Content

Take everything you have learned and use it to build your content map. The trifecta of great topics are those with good SEO potential, high statistical traffic, and are topics you can write your best with expertise in your industry or the passion of an industry leader – or both. Your personal interest in the topic will determine how powerful it is, and the depth of information you can convey.

Consider blog series that explain an interesting set of facts or guides. Consider a series of interviews with team members or industry leaders. Blogs are often blended with a little ‘lifestyle’ as well – lighthearted pieces that pack an SEO punch.

So how do you write blog articles that your audience really wants to read? How do you choose topics that earn SERP and attract clicks, then write compelling content that readers come back to read again? It all comes down to understanding your audience and respecting the trifecta: SEO, reader interest, and personal expertise.

Why You Need Azure Cloud Governance

If you’ve migrated to a cloud computing environment, or have adopted one for the first time, you no doubt understand the sheer volume of strategic planning and work that goes into that process.

Once you’ve completed the migration, however, you’ll then want to have an organizational structure in place to ensure you manage your cloud computing appropriately. That’s where you’ll need cloud governance.

One of the most popular tools for cloud infrastructure is Microsoft Azure due to its many capabilities. To get the most out of it, you’ll need to have a cloud governance strategy in place.

Let’s take a closer look at defining what cloud governance is, the capabilities Azure provides you with to navigate it, and why you need it.

What is cloud governance?

When you participate in cloud computing, it means you may be using the cloud for your infrastructure, platform, and/or software needs. That means you’ll want to have a structured approach to managing how you use it.

Governance is that structure. It’s how your business manages and guides its operations – a set of rules that help you stay on track to achieve what you need to achieve. Cloud governance involves a series of rules to help you manage your cloud systems. It creates expectations and standards your users can follow to ensure consistency no matter who is using it.

What should those rules cover? Microsoft defines their “five disciplines of cloud governance,” including:

  • Cost management. This helps you understand how much you’re spending and how to manage those funds for your cloud needs. 
  • Security baseline. Every team has different needs to keep their cloud systems secure. With Azure Cloud, you can set standards that apply across the cloud and easily enforce them.
  • Identity baseline. Maintaining identity requirements across the cloud helps ensure that the right users have the right level of access.
  • Resource consistency. Azure Cloud also helps you configure and manage your resource usage.
  • Deployment acceleration. Ultimately, every development team wants to deploy as quickly as possible without sacrificing service or quality. Azure Cloud Governance supports that while maintaining their standards and requirements along the way.

Why do you need Azure Cloud Governance?

Microsoft Azure Cloud is one of the most comprehensive cloud computing solutions organizations can use. One reason for that is that it has Cloud Governance available as a built-in capability.

Microsoft enables you to set policies for your account that act as “guardrails” for anyone using it as an environment. It offers a full suite of functionalities that allow you to plan, govern, and manage your spending.

When your development team is working within Azure, it’s critical to establish guidelines for them. That ensures everyone is aligned and organized. These guardrails help everyone on your team understand how to work both independently and as a team. Waiting to establish this groundwork can lead to issues later on, as teams try to get acclimated to a set of rules and operational tempo.

According to Microsoft, there are four actions every team should take to establish governance after adopting a cloud framework, including:

  • Establishing a methodology. This is the first action to take – it helps your team develop a foundation for how they plan to govern the cloud, and also begins with a desired end state in mind.
  • Using governance as a benchmark. You can look at where your team is now and where you want to be, understanding how your cloud framework will help you accomplish your mission. This defines the vision you have for your cloud framework.
  • Identify your minimum viable product. To start out, you’ll want to define the “low hanging fruit.” These are the governance tools you can integrate with your team easily, without any major challenges. This is known as a “minimum viable product,” or MVP.
  • Look for opportunities to improve. Once you’ve adopted the cloud and leveled up to add governance, you can now examine how your governance rules are performing and  see where you need to adapt and improve.

What capabilities do you have in Azure Cloud Governance?

Azure Cloud Governance helps you set up the policies your development team will adhere to in their development environment. Here are the abilities you’ll have there:

  • Policy enforcement. Once you’ve set up your rules for governance, you’ll need a place to monitor compliance across Azure.
  • Creating environments.  Azure Blueprints allow you to create the environments you need, with customized tools and policies as well as different levels of access for administrators or users.
  • External rules compliance. Your internal organization may not be the only body with rules you need to follow. If there are external compliance rules you need your team members to adhere to, you can monitor compliance with those as well.
  • Budgetary monitoring. You can also review the amount of funds being spent across your team to ensure you’re staying on budget.

How to build an effective Azure Cloud Governance strategy

To get the most out of Azure Cloud Governance, you’ll want to build a strategy your team can reliably follow. Microsoft offers a detailed playbook on how to build your own organizational strategy. While they go in-depth into each specific step, below are the high-level steps they advocate for:

  • Consult the Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure. This will help you make business decisions that are best for your team and company.
  • Determine which members of your team need access to specific resources with Azure’s access control feature.
  • Use a “resource lock” to prevent any of your team members from inadvertently deleting any of your resources.
  • Engage in tagging to identify and define each of your Azure resources – this will help users understand why they exist and what they’re used for.
  • Use Azure Policy to monitor and define how your users make your individual resources.
  • Tap into the power of Azure Blueprints to govern across more than one Azure license.

Azure Cloud Governance is a powerful tool in helping your users align their work while extracting maximum value out of their Azure usage. Of course, cloud governance is best established alongside a trusted partner who understands how to use IT tools such as this.

The Provato Group Acquires the Substantial Assets of DeVore Technologies & Cleveland Web Works

The Provato Group, a professional B2B services firm that helps businesses overcome technology, marketing, and staffing challenges, has acquired the assets of DeVore Technologies and its sister company, Cleveland Web Works (CWW). DeVore Technologies is an experienced and award-winning provider of professional website design, application development, and hosting services.

The official announcement was made by Managing Director Jeff Zart at Provato’s corporate headquarters on January 11, 2022.  

“This acquisition aligns perfectly with our strategy to expand our Digital Marketing and Website Design capabilities, and DeVore’s long history of service in Northeast Ohio only adds to Provato’s already strong track record” said Zart.

This acquisition fits into The Provato Group’s strategy to extend their service offerings and round out their digital marketing capabilities. The move also positions Provato to expand the services they offer their existing clients and opens the doors for new opportunities for the clients migrating over via the acquisition.

On the subject, CWW President Craig Koteles, who will be joining the Provato team, had this to say:

We are excited to be able to offer our customers a new level of capability while still providing first-class performance and customer service.  When matched with a high level of competence and expertise, we’re a partner you’ll be glad you have on your side.”

If you have questions about this acquisition, please use the contact information below to reach out and connect.

Media Contacts:

Eric Crilow – Marketing Director

ecrilow@theprovatogroup.com

(440) 546-0768

Account Contacts:

Mike Oddo – Business Development

moddo@theprovatogroup.com

(440) 546-0768

John Oddo – Business Development

joddo@theprovatogroup.com

(440) 546-0768

Craig Koteles – Business Development

ckoteles@theprovatogroup.com

(440) 546-0768

The Best Practices in UI/UX for Developing Business Websites

What are the best practices for developing a business website? You might say high-speed performance or excellent cybersecurity. But at the heart of any website development is the UI/UX design. This is how code becomes a visual and interactive experience for your customers. A business website is an online venue, each page a room in a virtual shop that should unfold and flow just like a real-life venue experience -even for brands that are solely online.

Great UI/UX design for a business website encapsulates the feeling of being in a store, catered to by concierge chatbots and a market search tool taking the place of intuitively stocked shelves and product racks. Of course, great UI/UX design always starts with best practices. How do you create an immersive business website design? It all comes down to your User Interface and the User Experience you plan to create.

Start with the Basics

  • Header Nav, Sidebar, Footer
  • User, Hamburger Menu
  • Homepage, About, Shop, Blog, Contact
  • Divs and Content

Always start a website UI/UX design with the basics: Your audience knows what to expect from a website in your industry. They want your basic pages and features right where they expect to find them. For most websites, this starts with the header navigation bar, including “Home”, “About”, “Shop”, “Blog”, and “Contact” with plenty of room for flexibility based on your specific industry and market.

Use the symbols and page arrangement your audience already knows how to use. Include a user portrait for their account and a hamburger menu for extra options. From there, get ready to arrange your content using the usual boxes and rectangles of content that will together form your total page content on each website page. Every page type will have a template that follows the same layout using the essential elements.

Make Use of Templates and Wireframes

Next, mock up your website at every stage of development. Each time you imagine a different layout of content or arrangement of features – make a wireframe. A wireframe is a visual representation of a web page without working buttons or links. Together, a total wireframe can allow you to visually explore and craft your UI as if the website were explorable to create the user experience you desire.

For most web developments, wireframes are essential because they pull the technical and experiential elements of the design together.

Build a Brand Experience

With your wireframe ready, start to build your brand experience. Take the basic pieces and layer the elements of your brand into them.

The UI that Defines Your Brand

What colors, shapes, and fonts define your brand? Do you use big central content or busy pages with many content-sectors per page? Do you prefer uneven ratios or nice grid-aligned boxes? What small design elements are seen in every corner and button of the site, vs large elements that mark your website page by department and purpose

This is where UX really comes into play. What experience do you want on-site visitors and customers to have when they “walk” through each “room” of your online venue? Slide-out shopping carts, unique tools, and widgets are the crowing elements of a brand experience.

A Unique Flow through the Website

Envision how your customers will flow through the website, from search- and advertisement-based landing pages through the phases of research and purchase? Explore how your navigation bar plans will create a site-nav experience. Consider additional tools or integrated drop-downs to make the site flow more smoothly. Your brand experience can also shape the flow through the site based on your unique audience personalities and priorities.

Keep It Clean and Easy

Once you’ve woven your brand into the UI design to create your initial UX, keep it clean. Cut the clutter, value your whitespace, and make sure it will look good on mobile. A clean and easy website design is important to make each page and click meaningful and help your customers complete their tasks (and carts) when making use of your website.

Use Composition to Direct the Eye

Composition is one of the most powerful elements of website design. It is what makes a great photographer’s work stand out. How a doorway frames a scene and draws the eye to specific elements in the picture is how you should approach UI design. Where do you want the customer’s eyes to be drawn? In what order should they read the elements on your page? Is their next action clear?

You can create visually powerful web pages while gently guiding users through each click using artistic composition.

Visual Hierarchy

The visual hierarchy is the best-known application of composition in website design. The size of the text creates a hierarchy that forms content structures. your headers (H1, H2, H3) quickly tell skimming users which pieces of information are central or detailed. Visual hierarchy is also what makes a page full of text into a dynamic and interesting user experience when implemented correctly.

Color and Line Focusing

Make use of how color and lines draw the eye. People tend to scroll or look inward. Expect your users to read left-to-right and design your websites based on directing attention in that natural flow to complete an on-page task. You can also use artistic elements and background design to spotlight the most important content on each page.

Big Pushable Buttons

Lastly, let’s not underestimate the importance of “Big pushable buttons”. Remember the websites of the 90s where nearly all web buttons were tiny gray rectangles? Those days are long gone. Today, customers find it easiest to use your website when they can find the next button. “Go to Checkout”, “Book a Quote”, and “Submit” are all essential to make it easy to see and easy to click.

Heat mapping often reveals that customers try to click elements that aren’t buttons and can miss small buttons that do an essential function. Big clickable buttons avoid confusion and make necessary processes more enjoyable.

Widget and Floating Element Upgrades

Right now, web page design can be defined by the tools and floating elements you add to the basic design. However, these elements have special rules of their own.

On-Page Widgets and Tools Rule the Day

As performance speed becomes a key player in your SEO success, on-page widgets gain power. Small tools that continue to function on-page (even with a choppy internet connection) add value to both desktop and mobile web pages. Widgets and tools like calculators and interactive diagrams offer increased on-page performance and are a useful reason for customers to come back to certain web pages.

Know Your Floating Elements

  • Never obscure with a floating element
  • Leave margins and scroll-tracks in your design

Floating elements have been a hot trend for 5 years running, and floating chatbots have become an industry standard. But beware: the one best practice that must always be followed with floating elements of any kind is: never obscure page content. Always leave a large enough margin or scroll-track so that the floating element never blocks the central text or content.

You may have a pop or slide-out floating element that tucks away off-content. This is common with live chat windows that fold out from their floating icon. But be careful. Don’t obscure the first 2 words for every line of your content with a too-wide floating sidebar.

Web-Mobile Integration

Finally, be prepared for a perfect meeting of web and mobile website performance. Websites today are expected to be mobile-responsive with rearranging internal elements to provide for various screen sizes and orientations (landscape or portrait). When doing your UI/UX design for any business website, be sure to design its mobile counterpart at the exact same time. Most people will expect nearly-identical desktop and mobile browser performance.

Building a great business website is all about starting with the best practices of UI and building a great UX from there. Contact us for the UI/UX expertise that goes beyond best practices into unique and engaging user experiences.

How to Choose Between SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS

When you’re choosing what kind of software solutions to implement for your professional organization, it’s critical to understand exactly what you need and why you need it. Some companies have complex problems that require innovative and complicated solutions. Others have simpler missions, with smaller problem sets to tackle. 

When you’re looking to identify the right kind of IT solution for your business, you’ll want to understand the different options available to you. There are three terms you may hear that help address commonly held IT challenges, and those are: 

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) 
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

While these three concepts are somewhat related, each one represents a different kind of solution. Understanding what all three are and how they differ will help you select the right one for your organization. This is important, as the amount of budgeting dedicated to implementing and managing each one can vary wildly. 

Let’s take a closer look at defining SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS, and then determine how to choose the right one for your team. 

What Is SaaS? 

Software as a Service (SaaS) applications rely on an internet connection to deliver cloud computing services to organizations or individuals using them. You typically access these applications via an internet browser, meaning you do not have to install any software to use them. This makes implementing a SaaS solution much easier than the alternative, as there’s no need to worry about time-consuming installation processes. You connect your team to the internet and you are ready to go. 

SaaS tools provide its users with the ability to access a specific service via the cloud. Some examples of the types of SaaS applications are listed below: 

  • Communication. Tools like Slack offer instant messaging as well as videocalling for team members who want to connect. 
  • File storage. Dropbox is one example of a file storage software that operates on the cloud. 
  • Customer Relationship Management. No matter what you use CRM software for, applications such as Salesforce operate as SaaS applications.

What Is PaaS? 

Platform as a Service (PaaS) applications provide developers with a place to build their own applications. Much like SaaS, a PaaS solution usually relies on internet connections. The big difference is in what type of service the application offers once its users are connected to it.

SaaS applications give their users the ability to perform tasks or functions. PaaS applications allow their users to actually build other apps (many of which may be SaaS solutions). The vendor provides their own software as the infrastructure on which the developer constructs their app. 

It’s advantageous to software developers, as it empowers them with the tools they need to write code, create their app, and then monitor the app’s performance. But they can then avoid having to update the software that they’re using to build. Examples of PaaS solutions include Heroku or Google App Engine. 

What Is IaaS? 

Finally, there’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Like PaaS or SaaS, IaaS solutions operate in a cloud environment. IaaS allows you more control over your operating environment, however. 

IaaS solutions give you the ability to manage your data infrastructure virtually. The IaaS servers store your networks, operating systems, and data in a virtual environment without having the hassle of a physical, hardware-based location. 

IaaS applications also typically come with a dashboard that allows you to monitor the health and performance of your various resources. Examples of IaaS solutions include Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. 

The advantage of IaaS? You don’t have to rely on an outside provider for anything beyond hardware. Your entire infrastructure is managed on the cloud. The downside is if your IaaS service provider has security problems – it has the potential to impact your networks, applications, and anything within your organization’s IT infrastructure. 

SaaS, PaaS or IaaS: Which One to Choose?

While all three application types have similarities, it should be clear how they differ as well. SaaS applications are only at the software-level, while PaaS applications enable you to build various types of software. Meanwhile, IaaS solutions are where you’d house your platform and any software supporting it. 

The type of solution you’d want depends on the type of organization you operate. For example, let’s say you’re looking to build a monthly subscription service application and you need somewhere to build it. PaaS would be the way to go. 

If your business requires a single solution for a problem that could be solved by a piece of software, SaaS is a better choice. If you need collaboration software like Mural or LucidSpark to help your team work together better, you could simply purchase licenses for those applications rather than other solutions with more operations involved. SaaS solutions are often tied to a specific use case, with a single resource solving the problem. 

Finally, if you’re looking to establish a comprehensive cloud management solution to manage your entire company’s network, IaaS is the right option. This one is generally the most involved and offers you the most control over your operating environment. 

You may have needs that require some or all of the capabilities afforded by each type of application. Beyond just identifying the business issue you’re trying to address, you’ll also want to consider your budget and available resources. There are affordable options for all three different kinds of applications, but the level of service you need will likely increase the price. 

Ultimately, finding the right solution is directly tied to what your organization wants to deliver to your customers as a result of using the application. Once you’ve selected the right IT solution for you, it’s then crucial to implement it correctly in a way that fosters optimal adoption for your team.

If you need help navigating this, look no further than the Provato Group. With our years of experience and subject matter expertise helping organizations manage their IT resources and operations, we can help you choose the right IT solution and get your team up to speed quickly. 

The 10 Best Practices of Website Hosting

If you want an online presence, you’ll need to host a website. Whether you design the site yourself or hire a service that specializes in website design, you will still need website hosting to provide the internet-accessible server which holds all your live website files and pages. Managing that server, keeping its performance competitive, and preventing hackers from colonizing your server will, of course, take continuous monitoring and web hosting management.

To do this right, you’ll need some strong website hosting best practices. Fortunately, these are policies anyone can implement with the right tools and team on your side. Let’s dive into the best practices for keeping your website’s server safe, satisfactory, and lightning-fast.

1.) Choose a Trustworthy Website Hosting Provider

The first and most important decision you will make with website hosting is choosing the right host provider. A web host is a company with server banks that provides both virtual and physical server space to host your website. Unlike your local IP, each hosted server is automatically accessible to the internet and also offers a few helpful bonus services like SSL certificates and basic cybersecurity.

However, if your hosting provider is compromised, so too might every server they host. This makes it vital to choose a trustworthy and robust host as well as one with a nice list of extra server features.

2.) Backups and Tested Recovery Plans

Once you have your server established and your website files loaded onto it, begin making backups. Should anything happen to your website files, from malicious attacks to database errors, the right backup and recovery system can have you back online in minutes instead of lamenting all your lost work. The more frequently you update the website (or user interaction creates records) the more often you should take backups.

It’s also helpful to keep an archive of landmark backups (once a month/quarter/update cycle) just in case you need to roll back to a previous version. 

Always test your backup recovery system. The last thing you want is to rely on corrupted backups or a flawed implementation system when you need to restore from backup most.

3.) Firewalls and Antivirus/Antimalware

When it comes to website hosting, cybersecurity measures are no longer optional. While you can toy with your first WordPress installation without a firewall, never go live without a full stack of security measures including a (configured!) firewall, antivirus software, and antimalware programs. Closing unused ports and using the most secure settings for all of your web server programs and features should also be part of your cybersecurity measures. 

4.) Prepare Defenses Against Known Attack-Types

There are several important steps to take based on known methods of attack. Prepare your server for a DDOS attack, which is when a hacker sends so many queries to your server that it is overwhelmed and stops serving the website. Close all routes to an SQL injection attack, where a hacker uses text entry (like username or message features) to mess with your database tables. Make plans for how you might deal with a ransomware attack (wipe and load a backup), infiltrated accounts, and password cracking.

5.) Restrict Access and Authorization

Make sure only authorized logins can access your web server, and restrict which accounts can do what. Never give root access and avoid using it yourself after your website hosting server’s initial setup. Create restricted accounts for users and other admins. Make sure that new users on your site have an enjoyable but limited ability to make changes to the site or use admin access.

6.) Network Monitoring: Live and Algorithmic

Once your website hosting server is secured, set up network monitoring. Network monitoring was originally a detailed diagnostics tool able to see everything from your CPU temperature to network and software activity. It has since become the most accurate and fine-tuned way to detect hacker and malware activity, even well-hidden and lurking programs. How?

Network monitoring detects every change to your server and, with live and algorithmic oversight, can identify anything out of the ordinary. Did someone access your web server without an approved login? Likely a hacker. Is something eating your server resources without logging its presence? Probably hidden malware. Network monitoring can root out the sneakiest spyware and identify hackers in the act.

7.) Remove Unnecessary Applications & Features

The next step is to remove any potential security gaps in your web server software and website structural stack. Take out plugins or modules that you are not using. Uninstall programs that are not part of keeping your website secure and online. These programs will only create access points that hackers can manipulate. Because they are unused, they are also unlikely to be properly configured and many unused programs on a web server can still hook into your website while deactivated, providing unwanted backdoor access.

8.) Update Regularly – Including Optional Patches

Don’t miss an update. It’s important to keep your entire server and website stack up-to-date with the latest versions of the software, programs, and modules you use. And we don’t just mean major updates. Keep an eye out, especially, for optional security patches released by the teams who develop the software you use. These security patches are often responses to the latest discovered cybersecurity threats. They can close backdoors and security gaps and provide additional protection against recently cracked hacker tactics to best avoid hacks before they happen.

9.) Force Strong and Regularly Updated Passwords

Passwords: no doubt you’ve heard of how important a strong password can be. This is important not just for you as the website owner, but every person and account associated with your website – especially admin accounts. Strong passwords can’t be force-cracked with algorithms (in a reasonable amount of time and computing power) and regularly updating passwords prevents any stolen passwords (or common passwords stolen from another site) to compromise your web server.

Use cool widgets to help your users make strong passwords, then have passwords update at least once a year to prevent the circus of password theft from allowing access to your site through a user’s multi-site password use.

10.) Perform Regular “Mystery Shopper” and Penetration Tests

Finally, test, test, and test again. Regularly run multiple types of tests to make sure your website can handle heavy traffic, hacking attempts, and is not currently hacked. Penetration testing is when your IT team takes the role of a hacker and seeks ways to infiltrate the server that are not yet secured. Mystery shopper tests, for a website, involve accessing your site from an unaffiliated device to make a new account and explore the site as a new user would see it. Hackers often infiltrate websites to redirect users and show ads that are configured so admin-accounts never see the effects. A “mystery shopper” test can see what your users see, which can sometimes be quite revealing.

When your website hosting server is secure with a robust system of updates, monitoring, backups, and tests, you will be ready to move forward with other goals like SEO and performance analytics.