A Look Back At Hosting In 2015

As we enter 2016 and leave 2015 behind, I sat here reflecting on the history of JoeTech.com and what’s to come.

A Little History
When I first started this blog in 2006, I had a nine year old web development company and we provided hosting to our clients, but I wanted this to live away from my own servers while I figured out what I wanted it to be. I registered a domain name, found affordable hosting with Aplus.net and began an adventure. As time passed, the blog gained loyal readers and I enjoyed having an off-site dedicated server that I could add more project sites to and maintain as I wanted. In 2009, Aplus became Codero and the reliability and service only improved. From uptime to billing to real-time customer care, I watched Codero get better is my blog grew with it. In 2012, Codero’s new CEO Emil Sayegh was in Phoenix for their new data center and invited me to lunch where we discussed the past and present of Codero and hosting in general over Thai food. It was refreshing and memorable to have a CEO sit down one-on-one over lunch and ask how his company could be what a customer like me needs.

Codero in 2015
Codero was growing pretty steadily before, but 2015 looks to have been a pretty busy year for the company. In June, they announced their acquisition by a group of 32 telecom providers. This not only expands their market reach, but it opens the door to a new array of edge data centers, which should easily speed up that “time to first byte” for a lot of hosting clients. Continuing to focus on speed, the Codero Cloud went 100% SSD-powered just one month later. This is critical when you need to spin up a new instance and scale immediately. Of all the things happening with Codero in 2015, though, I really enjoyed the client stories. The one that stood out to me was the Midtown Comics success story. Although I don’t collect comics, I do collect sports cards which pose similar challenges in terms of cataloging and searching online. I love that they built their own system from the ground up and I recognize how important it is to get the technology stack right for such an endeavor.

What’s Next?
For Codero, it looks like there’s going to be continued focus on the growth of their cloud and the new edge data centers as well as how this will help clients succeed with big data and the Internet of Things, both of which I have heightened curiosity in. As the Codero Cloud evolves, I imagine I will evolve my hosting needs with it. Like Midtown Comics, I’m planning a lofty collectible catalog system build from the ground up and building it in their cloud seems like the only way to spend my 10th year with Codero.

Like Codero, Win Cool Stuff

By now, my regular readers know all about my love for my dedicated server host, Codero. I really never have any problems at all and my uptime is always 99.99%+ This month, they’ve given me more reason to love them. From November 1st through the end of 2011, Codero is giving away a lot of cool prizes and all you have to do to be entered to win is Like Codero on Facebook. I’m entered and I’m hoping to take home the iPad 2. Below is a list of all the prizes:

Win These Prizes

11.04.2011 Wii Video Game Console (sorry… Jan Warner already won this)
11.11.2011 Amazon $200 Gift Card
11.18.2011 PlayStation PS3
11.25.2011 Amazon $100 Gift Card
12.02.2011 Xbox with Kinect
12.09.2011 iTunes $100 Gift Card
12.16.2011 GameStop $100 Gift Card
12.23.2011 iPad2 (32GB)

That’s a lot of cool stuff. If you want more info about the contest and the rules, head to http://www.codero.com/specials/#win-prizes

What do you hope to win?

uCoz – A Website That Builds Websites

Although the following is a sponsored review, as always I strive to provide an honest opinion of the product reviewed.

One of the most complicated things to do for the first time is build a web site. Most people don’t even know what the HTML acronym stands for, much less how to turn hundreds or thousands of lines of HTML into a web site. And let’s be honest. Your first web site is usually hideous just like mine was. One way around this is to hire a website developer to create your site. An alternative for those without a huge web development budget is a site like the free website maker reviewed here.

Photo Gallery
(viewing a photo in my new site’s photo gallery)

How uCoz.com Works

The idea behind uCoz is pretty simple. They provide a web site that helps you create your own website online. From choosing a site name and design template to installing and configuring even the small details of what they call site modules, the whole process is done without the need for any real skill, an HTML book, Photoshop, or even a paid hosting account because uCoz hosts the site for free.

Site Control Panel
(one of the many configuration panels)

When you build a website, you’ll get a control panel, and this is where all the magic happens. From the control panel, you can change basic site settings, languages and wording, and add, edit, and remove pages as well as view stats on individual pages. Becoming familiar with how everything works in the control panel is the first order of business that you should attend to. This was pretty easy with help along the way, but there were a couple areas that took a little longer to comprehend. In general, most processes were easy to follow and accomplish, but there is a lot to play with.

The uCoz.com Web Top

The part that surprised me a little was the uCoz Web Top. The Web Top is a web interface that looks and acts remarkably like Windows. With everything from background configuration and even its own programs, the Web Top is your gateway to your websites. This is because they let you have more than just one free site. At first glance, the Web Top looked like a very over-done way of providing simple access to your multiple sites, but after playing, I realized that it offers a lot more than that. It has games, which I think is fun but counter-productive. More importantly, it has applications built right in. Beyond the simple Calculator and Task Manager are much more useful applications like the code development program and Pixlr, the image editor with lots of great features.

Pixlr Image Editor
(creating images is easy with the Pixlr image editor)

I develop complex websites all day long in PHP and the tools I use the most are Photoshop for design and Zend for code editing. The offering of similar tools from within the Web Top makes this a much more viable web development and hosting platform for those with a little more skill and creativity.

Features and Modules

After you’ve created a basic web site you can add and configure a number of site sections or modules such as forums, photo galleries, a guest book, online games, a blog, polls, classified ads, and files. Each module is pretty configurable and most of them include user interaction like being able to give a photo anywhere from one to five stars. The sites also allow for user registration so that users can log in to interact. Behind the scenes, as an admin, you can block users, set up groups and permissions, and the list really does go on.

One of the cooler features I came across was the use of content tokens. A simple token I used was for an image. I uploaded an image to use with content and the system generated a token $IMAGE1$ for displaying the image. I copied that token to the spot in content where I wanted the image to appear and it showed up there. A more useful example was the widget token that was created when I generated a Twitter widget. I then just used the token in the same way I had used the image token and the Twitter feed widget appeared in the site.

Conclusions

uCoz.com looks great, but hides some really cool features behind your user login. I had no idea about Web Top until I was already using it. Other than the occasional broken image in the interface, everything was very intuitive and I had a basic site with some fun features up pretty quickly. The only area I felt needed some attention is the selection of templates. There’s a few nice templates to choose from (and you can modify any of them or make your own), but the selection is pretty slim. The non-commercial limitation is the only thing that should scare away those looking for a site on a shoe-string budget, but for a personal site, I don’t know of a better free solution. If you need a personal site, this should be your first stop.