Free SSL Certificates Now Available

I know a number of folks who have shared my excitement at seeing support for the Let’s Encrypt project grow as the timeline towards a public beta inched closer and closer. Let’s Encrypt is a new certificate authority backed by a wide variety of sponsored organizations including big names like Mozilla, Google, the EFF, and Facebook. Their mission is to help secure the web by offering freely available TLS certificates. But why is this important?

Having an SSL certificate has been a traditionally cumbersome process of creating signing requests, storing private keys, verifying authority through domain records, and configuring Apache accordingly (not to mention there was typically a cost involved to this). There are a variety of reasons to do it that go well beyond getting a green padlock in your browser. When you login to website and interact with them over standard HTTP that traffic is easily monitored by others on your network. With our goal of helping users reclaim their digital identity and build out a space on the web, it only makes sense to provide the necessary tools to allow them to do that securely. In addition browsers have begun proposing plans to deprecate standard HTTP and display warnings in the browser.

Let’s Encrypt opened their public beta this past December and we’re pleased to finally announce a working solution that gives everyone immediate availability to install these certificates completely free of charge directly from their cPanel. All Reclaim Hosting customers will find a Let’s Encrypt icon under the Security section of cPanel. Receiving and installing a certificate is as easy as the click of a button. During the beta period certificates expire after 90 days, however using our tool certificates will automatically renew for you in the background every 60 days ensuring you never have to worry about an expired certificate again. You can read more about the process at

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Providing secure spaces to host your content is at the core of Reclaim Hosting’s mission and we believe this integration with Let’s Encrypt goes a long way towards a more secure and safe environment for us all.

Reclaim Growth with Support by the Numbers

It's been over a year since Tim Owens left Mary Washington for Reclaim Hosting. He officially went full -time in January, although he has always been the caretaker at Reclaim. Needless to say he hasn't looked back since, and when we were talking about his bold departure he pointed out that in his post announcing the move he has an image of the support ticket stats from the Fall 2014 semester. [caption id="attachment_18122" align="aligncenter" width="615"]Fall 2014 Support Stats Fall 2014 Support Stats[/caption] From late September through late November 2014 (roughly 60 days) we had 238 tickets at Reclaim Hosting. Our average first reply time was just under an hour. Not bad. But take a look at the support ticket numbers for Reclaim over the last 28 days : Snapshot of last 28 Days in Intercom 422 support tickets with a median response time of 5 minutes. That is almost twice the number of tickets in half the amount of time with a response time that is 10x faster than it was over a year ago. [caption id="attachment_18125" align="aligncenter" width="617"]Number of Conversations of past 28 days Number of Conversations of past 28 days[/caption] What's crazy about the longer view of our support over the last 15 months is that while we have grown significantly, we have focused on scaling our support accordingly. In fact, not only has our median response time dropped dramatically from the 50 minutes we clocked last Fall. We've continued to decrease the response time from 8 minutes this September to 5 minutes this month. Talk about squeezing blood from a sugar cube. It's an insane standard, but it's also why we rule! Graph of response times And if you look at the median response times there were only two days over the last 4 weeks where tickets sat for any significant length of time: New Year's Eve and New Year's day---and even then it was just over an hour. Do the math and start reclaiming #4life!

What Was Wound

"Everything is a commercial, we advertise our memories We leave our shit on silver platters and then we buy whatever's left -- "Off this Century," Unwound
Reclaim Hosting has added another server this week. Building on our tradition of naming all of the machines after indy/punk bands, this one was dedicated to one of the very  best post-post punk bands of the 1990s: Unwound. This trio hails from the Olympia music scene, and they were the first band signed to the Kill Rock Stars record label, which also released indie groups such as Bikini KillBratmobile, The Melvins, and singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. In fact, Unwound may be amongst the lesser-known of those Kill Rock Stars acts, but over the course of the 90s they steadily produced brilliant albums, toured tirelessly, and forged a sound that is still getting broader recognition 15 years later. This fairly recent review in Pitchfork of the Numero Groups four-part reissue of Unwound's decade-long oeuvre is a testament to that, and the following pull quote from the "No Energy" reissue on Numero Groups site provides a nice profile:
As a robust rock underground got swallowed alive by the Major Label Industrial Complex, the very autonomous Unwound—Olympia, Washington's Great Noise Hope—toed the troublesome line between pay check and Check Engine light. Captured in the gaps of a ruthless touring schedule.
Underground, autonomous, and awesome!  In many ways they defied strict categorization given how disparate their sounds could be from album to album, and that might be one of the reasons they got out of the 90s alive! The Numero Groups reissue was also mentioned earlier this month in this LA Times post as an essential. How's that for history smiling kindly on this relatively obscure trio. What was craziest to me, as a fan, was that they were showing no signs of rust all they way up until the very end when they decided to call it quits in 2002. In fact, it could be easily argued that their final, double-album Leaves Turn Inside You (2001) was their most ambitious, and in many ways most impressive both conceptually and musically, to date. But that was Unwound, consistently changing, exploring, and creating outside of the distracting grunge musical explosion of the moment. They never flew a flag, staked out an agenda, or preached about this or that; they just came out and rocked. What's more, they remained fiercely independent throughout their entire career. They were with Kill Rock Stars until the end, and they played local gigs at record stores, all ages shows, and modestly toured the country delivering some of the best sounds of the decade for $5 or $6 a show for their entire career. A model for the indie edtech we continually aspire to at Reclaim. The above video clip has them playing Hexenzsene at Off the Record in San Diego in 1997, interspersed with clips of Justin Trosper  (guitarist) and Sara Lund (drummer) awkwardly explaining themselves. It's awesome, they talk about the emptiness of punk as a term, the importance of staying young, and the fact their shows are cheap enough that no one should get too pissed if it sucks. Here's to Unwound, I'm glad to be the first web hosting company to name a shared web hosting server in their honor. Some great reward for all their hard work!

OU Creating Again

OU_create University of Oklahoma’s Domain project OU Create has gotten a redesign, and I absolutely love what they have done. The above GIF—which is just the tip of the iceberg of their new site—captures the possibilities of a Domains project better than any post I could write. OU continues to push hard on their domains work, and the fruit is everywhere apparent. They are a brilliant example of the fact that you don’t need an army to run a domains project, just some old school hard work and dedication. What’s more, they are subtle. Check out the subtle love letter to indie edtech in the background of another section of the homepage. Can you find the indie album? Screenshot 2016-01-22 18.08.53 The fact that Oklahoma is have so much fun building out their domains project is everywhere obvious, but their ability to also build an aesthetic and an ethos around their work is a sign that this could be a much broader shift in the academic web culture of the university.  And that’s the thing. It’s the work that matters, and it’s everywhere apparent at Oklahoma!

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

We’ve made a lot of references to WordFence on the Reclaim blog, about how it’s a great tool for securing your site* against unmentionables, and how it’s easy to set up and use. But how easy is it, really? There are a lot of options in Wordfence, how do you know you’re setting up the right ones? We’re going to go through that today and get your site hardened against attackers in 10 minutes!

What is Wordfence?

Wordfence is a free security plugin that hardens (makes more secure) your WordPress site against a variety of common attacks. If you’d like to learn more about exactly what it guards against, you can check out their site, but the list of defenses is pretty comprehensive.

Wordfence has a free version and a premium version, and for this post, we’ll just be going over the free features – the premium version does have some nice features (remote scanning, phone support, some other advanced stuff), but we take care of some of that functionality for you, and if you’re a regular WordPress user, these features are probably not necessary. The top feature the premium version has that the free version doesn’t is scheduled scanning, so with the free version, you unfortunately have to run scans manually.

How do I install Wordfence?

To install WordFence or any other WordPress plugins, I recommend checking out our tutorial on how to install plugins, which can be found here. It only takes two minutes to read! Really!

Getting Started

Once I’ve added the plugin by clicking “Plugins” on my dashboard and searching for “WordFence,” I’ll click “Install Now”…

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

And then “Activate Plugin”…

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 MinutesAs soon as I do this, I’ll get a notification on the left that prompts me to put in my email address for alerts, which I recommend, but we’ll need to revisit this a little later. It also asks if I’d like to join an email list, which I’ll opt-out of.

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

There’s also a button that says “Start Tour“, which I’ll skip for now. Instead, I’ll just click “Close“. WE ONLY HAVE TEN MINUTES. I’ll then click on the new “Wordfence” option in my sidebar.

You’ll be presented with another screen, and at the top it says “Start a WordFence Scan.” Ignore this for now, but DO click on the “Yes, enable auto-update” option. Then, head straight to “Options” under WordFence in the sidebar.

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

Once you’re on “Options,” leave everything you see at its default, then ALL the way down to the bottom of the screen. There is an option here that says “Import WordFence settings from another site using a token,” which can be found here. Copy the entire string of numbers and letters, paste it into the “import” field, and click “import settings.” Once you’ve done this, don’t forget to click “Save Changes” at the bottom!

Important: if you use the token method, you will need to update your email address in the “where to email alerts” field under “basic options” at the top of the Wordfence settings. If you don’t update your email address, you will not receive email alerts.

The token has all of the recommended security settings enabled for Reclaim Hosting users. If you’d like to get into the advanced features, simply scroll through the “Options” screen and see what’s available. Most of the options are self-explanatory, and if you’d like to know more, click on the little “information” button next to each option. The settings are pre-configured to email you (very occasionally) about important alerts – you can change the email settings at the top of the “Options” menu under “Alerts.”

A note about WordFence tokens – our token token contains generic, recommended settings for Reclaim Hosting users. If you end up with custom features, like whitelisted or blacklisted IPs, or if you’ve filled out any of the custom fields, your token will change. Do not share your updated token with anyone else!!

Now, under Wordfence in the sidebar, click on “Scan,” and then click “Start a Wordfence Scan.” The scan will only take a minute, and your results will be displayed immediately.

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

Looks like I’m all set! Occasionally, Wordfence will detect issues with plugins or themes that are really non-issues. If you work with a lot of plugins or themes, review these issues carefully. If you see any issues in these sections:

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

Definitely proceed with a repair and/or contact us for support in case we need to restore your site from a backup. BOOM. TEN MINUTES! Or less!

Since you do have to scan manually with the free version, try to run the occasional scan when you’re working on your site. The time and headache saved by detecting issues before they get bad is beyond worth it.

And there you have it! The 10-minute Wordfence express setup. Happy securing!

*Information Security is a comprehensive umbrella of services and technologies, none of which are bulletproof. Wordfence and other security plugins do help prevent the bad guys from breaking in, but there are unfortunately no guarantees in the wild world of web security.

Coffee and #ds106 at FredXchange

CYw1qiyWcAAUQyn I am back in Fredericksburg for a few days for some business and house cleaning. I head up to NYC on Tuesday, so it will be a fairly quick turn here, but it's always exhilarating to spend some quality time with my pardner Tim Owens. Yesterday was particularly eventful because we we're invited to talk at an Open Coffee Event hosted at the Foundry, the new co-working space  in Fredericksburg brought to you by the good people of the FredXchange. 12407529_203904386621759_989721171_n The story of how this came about is another bizarre testament to the wonder of the web. Libby O'Malley, one of the movers and shakers behind FredXchange, emailed me out of the blue a few weeks back asking me if I wanted to talk with the folks at the FredXchange about the venerable and righteously right ds106. She informed me that she had found out about that international gem through doing a google search for "Digital Marketing Degree," and ds106 was mentioned as a free alternative in an article that was a top-hit . I think it may have been this article, but I'm not sure. Look ma, no SEO!!! Crazy, I told her I am in Italy living like a pimp daddy in the old country, to which she suggested I come in via Google Chat. As much as I love the internet, I hate remote presentations. They can be done well, but the amount of work it takes to create the conditions of a good remote presentation versus simply being there is staggering. That said, I did know I would be in Freddy for a few days and threw that out and she agreed. I'm glad she did. 12547195_217760811892155_1759698265_n I have been in repose in my mountain villa in Italy mustering as much thought leader mojo as possible. It's hard work, and I don't recommend it for the faint of heart. Being a visionary is extremely demanding, especially in a country that is steeped in the hairy legacy of Lucio Battisti. But ed-tech pioneers persevere, and I knew it was time to get back on the road after 3 months of intensive meditation. And what did I do? I got nostalgic about the past---but I blame that on my new surroundings. More seriously, I hadn't presented for a few months, which is a good while for me. It felt good to talk about ds106. It just never gets old, and once I get going I feel as passionate about it as I did in 2011. It was pure in my heart. Tim and I didn't have a presentation prepared, or even a plan really. We talked briefly about an outline on the car ride over. Early days of the Bluehost experiment at UMW -> UMW Blogs -> ds106 -> Domain of One's Own -> Reclaim Hosting. It's interesting to look at that narrative progression and to see ds106 at the center of the story. I think that's pretty accurate. ds106 galvanized a community, brought Tim and I into contact, and reaffirmed that the Domain of One's Own experiment wasn't all that crazy at scale. I took the first 10-15 minutes talking about the Blue Host Experiment, UMW Blogs, and the beginnings of ds106, and Tim took the last 10-15 minutes talking ds106, Domain of One's Own, and Reclaim Hosting. 10413901_1645532262375051_656298805_n-1 It was quite fun, and I really enjoyed being back in front of a group of people talking about this stuff with Tim. One of the things about my work with Tim that is so rewarding is that we truly do have an amazing partnership. We agree on the fundamental principles undergirding Reclaim Hosting: fierce independence and freedom online! What's more, we push each other to keep going further. Tim has an insane standard for the quality of work and support that defines Reclaim, and every day I wake up knowing that it is the goal. When people come to Reclaim they get the best ed-tech support anywhere. Period. I stand by that statement. Try me, I dare you. It was awesome to be back in Fredericksburg hanging with Tim Owens sharing the work we've done thus far and planning for what's to come. In short, taking care of dot.bizness.
Reclaim Hosting I figured I'd write up some thoughts on how I approach the problem of cleaning up a site that's been hacked. Not all WordPress hacks