Website Security Check

superhero padlockWhen it comes to your website’s security you can never be too careful. No matter how big or small your website is or the amount of traffic you get every month, you are still prone to attacks from hackers. Smaller websites can be targeted by hackers to be used in larger attacks on bigger websites, and in some cases hackers can aim to steal personal data.

Having a password is just one piece of a larger security system you should have surrounding your website. We’re going to look at some of the basic steps you can take to significantly improve the security on your site.

Upgrade Your Password

Simple passwords just don’t cut it anymore. Even passwords that are a mixture of letters and numbers are still easily ‘crackable’ by someone with enough power. The best passwords are mixtures of letters (upper and lowercase), numbers and special characters and contain no dictionary words. You should also have a different password for each account you have. You may need to store all your passwords on a password manager to keep track. Check out our blog post on password managers for information on how you can have completely secure passwords for all of your accounts without having to remember long, complicated details.

Update Your Software

Updating all software is crucial to stopping any unwanted attacks on your website. This doesn’t just mean updating your CMS, but your computer’s operating system and any other plug-ins or third party software. Updates fix any bugs and close any potential holes that hackers could use to gain access.


If you send or receive sensitive data via your website (such as on an ecommerce website) it is vital that you secure that information using SSL. Having a security certificate means that hackers will not be able to easily access users’ data. For more information on SSL or to secure your own website, you can visit our SSL page here.

Invest in Reliable Hosting

The reliability of your web hosting and their security protocols are of high importance too. If they become compromised, your website could fall victim through no fault of your own. At Decode Hosting we take pride in the security of our servers – you can find more information on our high-tech datacentres here.

We are on hand to answer any questions you may have, and offer secure hosting for all website and cloud needs. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions!

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5 Reasons to Avoid Using Stock Images on Your Website

average_joe_rss_characterStock images are available on a pay-as-you-go basis or through a subscription service in order to provide websites with cheap pictures and imagery to accompany website content. There’s nothing worse than huge blocks of text with little colour or variation, and stock images can be a cost effective way of livening up your content. “Great”, you may think, however the truth is that stock images could be doing your website more harm than good!

Having stock photos on your website for the sake of it can cheapen your content and end up turning visitors off. Here are some of the reasons why stock images could be a bad idea…

1. Clichéd

Possibly the worst things about using stock imagery is that it is very often clichéd. Got a blog about business? Why not have a close up of two businessmen shaking hands How about a post on workplace stress? Here’s an image of a man sat at a computer with his head in his hands. Stock images suggest laziness on your part; try to think outside of the box and use creative images to accompany your text.

2. Overused

There are certain images that are used time and time again. Stock images stand out a mile, and if you are putting commonly used images on your website this tells the reader that you haven’t made an effort to find fresh images. An image is used for impact and to make your site stand out – by using a common stock image you are achieving the exact opposite!

3. Out of Touch

This sounds a little dramatic, but it’s completely true. Stock images can portray you as out of touch with your audience. People visiting your website are looking to connect to you in some way, but by using images without personality you are creating a faceless persona for your business or website. Using bespoke photography adds a realness and genuine quality that stock photos just don’t possess.

4. More Costly

While the short term cost to your business may be small, the potential customers and prospects that you lose due to lack of engagement on your website could be much more costly.

5. Looks Fake

This is an extreme example, but if people visit a website that only uses stock photography then it may make them wary. The intentions may be completely genuine, however it could come across as a dishonest website or even a scam site. Stock images offer very little personality and too many may look like you’re trying to hide something…

Of course there are exceptions with stock imagery. Stock databases are huge, and you are bound to find an engaging image if you look hard enough. So long as you can find unique images and use them in creative ways, they have the potential to be quite effective. The real skill is being able to take a step back from your site and assess how visually appealing it is and the type of impact it will have on new visitors.

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Which Cloud Storage Service?

Cloud storage can be an easy, secure way to store your data (or holiday photos!). With a lower cost per Gigabyte than traditional small disk drives and the benefits of ease of access from any device, it’s not hard to see why cloud storage systems have shot up in popularity over the last few years.

But, how do you know which service to choose? For an in-depth explanation of the services offered by each of the ‘big 3′ we’d recommend you take a look at this article by PC Pro. We’ve put together a quick overview of the pros and cons of Dropbox, One Drive and Google Drive below.


The oldest of the three services listed here, Dropbox is used by more than 300 million people and is a popular choice.


  • Dropbox offers a number of incentives that allow you to increase your free storage cap. For example, by inviting friends who sign up you will earn 500MB a time, up to 16GB
  • It is the only service here with a native app for Amazon Kindle Fire and for Blackberry
  • Simple to share files and folders


  • Initially, you only receive 2GB for free
  • Expensive to upgrade – £7.99 for 100GB each month



Previously called Sky Drive, OneDrive is owned by Microsoft.


  • Upon sign up you receive 15GB for free
  • £1.99 per month for 100GB
  • If you sync your camera roll, you will receive 3GB extra storage for free


  • OneDrive doesn’t have as many price tier options as Google Drive
  • For new users, it may not be as easy to share files as it is with Dropbox and Google Drive


Google Drive

Building on Google Docs, Google announced Drive as a service to store your documents, photos, music and videos all in one place.


  • As with One Drive, Google Drive offer 15GB free
  • $1.99 per month for 100GB (Google Drive only bills in dollars)
  • If you so desire, you can increase your storage to 30TB for $299.99 a month!


  • No native app for Windows Phone or Windows RT
  • There is no referral program to top up your free storage


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Our Datacentres

At Decode, we have invested heavily in improving our datacentres ensuring that when it comes to quality of service and value for money, we are at the top of our game. When you are looking to purchase web hosting or cloud services, the type of datacentres that your provider offers may be way down on the list of criteria you look for. The truth is that this is one of the most important factors of hosting, and making sure your data is safe, stable and secure should be a priority.

We’re going to look at the main features that our datacentres have in order to keep them running reliably and to ensure that they provide the best service possible.


  • 24-7-365 manned security and monitoring
  • Smart card and biometric access
  • Internal and External CCTV and security breach alarms

The round the clock security at our datacentres ensures that your data is completely safe and protected from break-ins. This means that the chances of loss of information, theft or damage is kept to an absolute minimum.


  • 24-7 environmental monitoring
  • N+1 redundant heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) system
  • Fluid detection system
  • Fire suppression system

Precautions are taken to prevent naturally occurring disasters, such as fire or flood. The environment that your data is stored in is constantly monitored and steps have been taken to prevent overheating and excess moisture. Automatic suppression systems activate when the environment is disrupted.


  • Dual independent power feeds with dual battery string uninterrupted power supply
  • 2 megawatt diesel generators to protect against single power loss.

Power cuts are a common cause of data loss. Our datacentres have independent power feeds and separate generators, so if one goes down there will always be one in reserve to keep your website online.


  • Our Cloud Servers operate out of London (City and Maidenhead), Ireland, Amsterdam, New York, Chicago and Dallas
  • Our Enterprise Cloud Servers operate out of London (Reading) and Birmingham

This may seem irrelevant, however when you take into account that many of the top search engines rank results based on location, by having datacentres based in your target market’s country you could vastly be increasing your SEO.

Disaster Recovery

  • Backup snapshots automatically taken hourly, daily and weekly to a separate datacentre for our Enterprise Cloud Servers
  • Daily backup snapshots can be bolted onto our Cloud Servers packages
  •  Datacentres in different locations across the UK

As mentioned under ‘Location’, we secure your data by making sure all backups are stored in different locations. This gives your data a geographical separation of at least 70 miles, should any physical disaster occur.


While talking about datacentres appears irrelevant, having one that is reliable and safe is so important. Our services are able to withstand all eventualities, saving you and your visitors or customers any hassle. Rest assured that your data is safe from disaster and any malicious activity.

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Common WordPress Mistakes

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) available on the web. The ease of use is evident and the vast array of plugins mean that any website is extremely versatile and customisable.

Just because WordPress takes care of the more troublesome aspects of web design doesn’t mean that you can just sit back and leave it all to them. You could be making mistakes with your WordPress site, and you might not even know it…

Backing up a WordPress Site

One of your priorities should be backing up your WordPress site. There’s no telling when a problem can arise, or your site can crash, wiping out your data and potentially costing you a great deal of time and money.

Backing your site up is especially important when updating so you can revert back to a previous version of your site should something go wrong.

Ignoring Updates

When prompted to, you should always update WordPress. These updates provide performance and efficiency improvements as well as important security patches for any new bugs or viruses.

Some plugins can react badly to updates however, so you should heed our previous advice on backing up your site before updating anything. 

Ignoring Comments

Moderating comments on your blog is something of a necessity, although it may not seem so initially. Allowing users to post comments without any kind of moderation stage by web admins can cause all kinds of problems (both spam and genuine).

If you have a high volume of comments being posted to your site where moderation isn’t an option, then you can sift out spam by following the advice given on one of our previous blog posts.

Having an Unresponsive Site

Did you know 74% of people say their more likely to revisit a website if it’s mobile friendly? The importance of having a mobile responsive website is becoming more prominent as mobile browsing is overtaking traditional browsing at an staggering rate! Read more on responsive sites here.

Not Using Analytics

Nobody is perfect, but with site analytics you can get as close to perfect as possible. If you install analytics on your website you can see all kinds of statistics and information about your site which will help you improve your visitor count and conversions. To see the benefits of Google analytics, take a look at our earlier post here.

Using a Poor Theme

There are two parts to this mistake. The first is choosing a poorly designed or generic theme. You need to get the balance right between something unique and something that is easy to navigate for your visitors. There is nothing more off putting than a website that looks uninspiring and is difficult to move around.

Secondly, if you download a free theme from a disreputable source, it may well be riddled with bugs and security flaws. Stick to recommended theme providers.

Disregarding SEO

Making sure your website is visible to search engines can often fall by the wayside during the initial creation process. One simple mistake people can make is to hide their site when developing, but forget to make it visible again once they’ve finished.

Here’s why SEO is such a crucial aspect of your website.

Not Editing Defaults

WordPress defaults are there to fill in the blanks of your website should you forget to change them or fill them in. If you do forget to edit your default settings such as your admin name, taglines or favicon you are left with an unprofessional looking website which may come across as lazy or inexperienced.

While you’re at it, make sure you delete the default first post that WordPress automatically adds to your blog!

Not Installing a Caching Plugin

The speed of your website is a key player when it comes to search engine rankings, and if you don’t install a caching plugin you could be seriously hindering it. A cache allows your site to remember information about visitors to your site without going through the process of identifying it every time they revisit. A caching plugin and a Content Delivery Network are musts for sites with high volumes of traffic. &

Choosing the wrong platform is a common mistake, as one is free with limited features where the other is a paid service with maximum control. allows for any plugins and themes and also lets you make money from your site with adverts. The free version of WordPress,, had limited plugin and theme support, does not allow for monetisation, but however does have full WordPress support features.

If you’re interested in switching your WordPress site to become self-hosted, take a look at our ’how-to’ here.

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Design for Mobile with Users In Mind

We’ve talked before about how important it is to have a mobile-friendly website, with figures showing that traffic from mobiles is ever increasing. But, where do you start when deciding what information to prioritise in a mobile design?

We love this post by Econsultancy, “Five user traits to consider when designing for mobile commerce”, that details some customer traits that can help you to decide what is really valued by users.

The post goes into detail about the following traits that users look for in a mobile site:

  1. Performance: customers don’t want to wait for anything
  2. Layout: customers are only interested in product and price
  3. Steps – Customers want to take as few as possible
  4. Access – Customers don’t want to learn a new system
  5. Context –  Customers want to order right here and now

Further research conducted highlights that 72% of consumers want mobile-friendly sites. According to this research, these are the top features users are looking for in mobile design:

  • Site speed – loading time of 5 seconds or less
  • Big, mobile-friendly buttons
  • Limited scrolling and pinching
  • Quick access to business contact information
  • “Click to call” access to phone the business
  • Links to the company’s social media profiles

If you already have a mobile-friendly site, have a run through that list and see how many you could check off! We’d like to hear what you think are the most important features for mobile; you can get in touch with us on Twitter.

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Top Google Analytics Tips

It’s likely that one of the first things you did when setting up your site was to enable Google Analytics. This is a great, free tool that can help you to understand how well your site is performing. Once you’ve got used to the basics, we’ve outline some tips below to help you get a bit more out of the data. (If you’ve not yet set up Google Analytics, you can do so here.)

1. Assign Goals

Goals are really useful to help you see the meaning behind the data you are viewing. There are 4 goals types: Destination, Duration, Pages per Visit, and Event. You can also add a monetary value to a goal, so you can see the worth of each conversion. Google has a great guide to setting up goals here.

2. Compare Data to Previous Periods

It’s easy to just concern yourself with the current data in your Analytics account, but comparing current data to historic data can provide valuable insight. This is easy to do; when viewing your site’s data, in the top right corner there will be a date range button. Clicking this will open up a calendar where you can select the ‘compare to previous period’ box. You can also use the calendar to select custom date periods to compare.

3. Keep Track

Did you know that you can annotate the graphs in Google Analytics? This allows you to leave shared or private notes on the data which can be used to explain the data to other team members. It’s especially helpful for noting down what caused an unexpected spike in your data.

4. Monitor Browser Data

Google Analytics shows you which web browser your visitors are using to access your site. It’s important to keep an eye on this as if you notice, for example, that there is a high bounce rate from users visiting from Internet Explorer then it may be that there is a bug that is causing people to leave your site quickly.

5. Track Social Visitors

If you use Twitter, Facebook or other social profiles to promote your website, Google Analytics has a really useful tool. Under Traffic Sources > Social > Visitors Flow you’ll be able to trace the path across your site of those who’ve clicked through from social media. You’ll be able to see which network is providing the best conversions and so which one to invest more time into.

6. Mobile or Desktop

This is a great way to decide if you should get a mobile-friendly website or not. It can be a good indication if, for example, a good proportion of visitors are coming from mobile and their bounce rates are much higher than those on desktop. Analytics will also tell you which mobile devices were used to access your site. You can find this data under Audience > Mobile > Devices.

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Password Managers

We all know the importance of having strong, complex password to help protect our data. However, it can be near-impossible to remember a different complex password for each need. This is where password managers come in – password managers allow you to store all your passwords and login details in one place, accessible by a username, password and Master password. These services are often cloud based (very useful if you use more than one device throughout the day) which may not seem very safe, however PC Pro points out:

The risk of using a cloud service isn’t as great as it may seem. Services such as LastPass use SSL for data transfer, in addition to your data being encrypted with 256-bit AES, and have a policy of not receiving private data that isn’t already locked down with your master password (which is never known to the company).

As mentioned, password managers use a Master Password and this will be the only password you need to remember, but it needs to be strong! If you’re interested in the other ways that password managers protect your data, take a look at this article by PC Pro.  Below are some of the most-used Password Managers:


RoboForm has a feature limited free version and a paid for version.


As with RoboForm, there is a basic free version with options to upgrade.


KeePass is free and open source, it also supports a wide number of platforms including Linux.


You will need to pay to use 1Password (but there is a 30-day free trial).

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Top Ten Google Chrome Extensions

chrome-logo-1301044215We’ve put a list together of some Google Chrome extensions that could greatly improve your web browsing experience!


Synata is a linking-app for keeping all of your accounts and documents together. No more rooting through Dropbox, Google Drive and Cloud to find that untitled word doc you saved yesterday – Synata keeps your accounts together and searches them all in one go, making it easy to find exactly what you need.


Sick and tired of browsing eStores online only to be haunted by your browsing history on adverts for days to come? Disconnect allows you to blacklist advertising, analytics and social media tracking cookies that use your personal data. This extension allows you to globally or selectively block/unblock trackers, and comes with great visualisations.


Great for anybody working on the go – NiftySplit simulates a dual screen, so you can have multiple tabs open at once instead of having to constantly click back and forth. Brilliant for researchers, online shoppers, and compulsive ‘Open Link in New Tab’ clickers.


With an ever-growing list of extensions, you’ll need a method of keeping track of them all – Extensity manages your Chrome apps right in your toolbar. Clicking on the Extensity button brings out a drop-down menu listing all your installed extensions and Chrome apps. Clicking on extensions allows you to selectively turn them on or off, while clicking on a Chrome app launches it.

Evernote Web Clipper

The mother of all web apps for taking notes, saving images, clipping articles and keeping them all in one easily-accessible place. Evernote links with your email account so you can sync your files on your desktop, phone, tablet, and browser – but unlike Dropbox or other file-sharing apps, Evernote includes a word processor so you can edit documents and add your ideas on the go.


StayFocusd is a fantastic tool for workers who are constantly battling the temptation to flick over to Twitter or Reddit. Users can set themselves a time allowance for websites they know they waste time on: once you’ve hit that limit, StayFocusd blocks access. The extension is highly configurable, allowing you to block access to a particular blocklist, restrict access to everything except an approved list or even block access to all websites.


Brilliant for people managing multiple social media accounts (or who send out updates multiple times day), Buffer allows you to schedule your posts, tweets, and other online updates to be sent out at chosen times during the day. This means you can write up all your updates early in the day, then sit back and let Buffer do the rest! Buffer also provides analytics and extra information for serious users.

Lazarus Form Recovery

Who hasn’t felt the pain of accidentally clicking away from a filled-out form, only to return and find out that it’s back to square one? Lazarus helps by saving form information to your computer as you type, meaning you can easily recover work if you should suddenly lose internet connection …

Gmail Offline

… Speaking of suddenly losing internet connection, Gmail Offline provides a solution to webmail services’ most basic issue – offline availability. This extension syncs your Gmail account when you’re online, meaning that you can still access your emails when you’re not connected. You can even write new messages or replies to be sent when you’re back online, since Gmail Offline automatically syncs all of your offline actions as soon as it detects an internet connection.

View Thru

The problem with shortened URLs used on Twitter is that you can never be sure where the link is headed to – and some users use this as a disguise to get people to click on things they’d rather not. View Thru allows you to see the real URL when you hover over a link, so you can spare yourself from ending up on a website that you weren’t expecting to see. (Especially helpful for staying protected at work.)

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5 Quick Tips to Improve Your Website

When you have your own website, you should always be looking for ways to keep it up-to-date and to improve it. We’ve put together a list of 5 quick checks you can perform today to see if your site is performing its best:

1. Check your title tags

Every so often you should re-assess your page titles to see if they are relevant to the content on the page, to check that you have included key words and to ensure that they are not too long.

2. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights

Run your site’s URL through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see how you could increase the speed of your site. This tool takes both desktop and mobile into consideration.

3. Use headings to break up long text sections

This may sound simple, but it can make a huge difference to your site users. Internet users are fickle, and if they can’t immediately find what they want on your page they may simple turn elsewhere. Make it simple and break your articles into short blocks of text using headings, bullet points or images.

4. Fix broken links

Use a tool such as Dr Link Checker which will check through all of the links, internal and external, on your site to see if any are broken. It will then highlight the broken ones for you so that you can go back and fix them.

5. Spell check!

Perhaps the most important check of all, always spell check content before you publish it online. A web page riddled with spelling and punctuation errors can put off visitors and make your site seem unprofessional.

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