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Putting Domains Infrastructure in the Cloud

This semester we having been moving our Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) packages for new institutions to Digital Ocean. Up and until now we haven’t run DoOO through cloud infrastructure providers like AWS, Linode, Digital Ocean, etc. for two reasons: price and storage. It has been cheaper for us to run these packages off a larger dedicated server that we could virtualize and partition into 4 or 5 institutional setups. But ever as the financial differences were becoming nominal, the storage constraints on servers at Linode and Digital Ocean made it impossible. We offer 250 GBs as part of our DoOO package, but most comparably specced servers through Linode or Digital Ocean had 100 GB of storage max.
Putting Domains Infrastructure in the Cloud

Recently Digital Ocean announced Block Storage which essentially enabled us to run a server with 60 GB storage and mount another 250 GB SSD drive. Fast, cheap storage to accompany there server made the idea of running a Domains package on Digital Ocean feasible this Fall, so we did it. There are a couple of beautiful things about this development for Reclaim Hosting. First, if a school needs more storage or CPU power we can manage than almost immediately with the click of a button. When we had BYU creeping up on storage and CPU capacity limits we had to move them off our virtual server to dedicated machines, this meant a physical migration of accounts—that would no longer be the case.

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New Server: Dino Jr.

In honor of their more than three decades of awesome music, Reclaim Hosting is naming the first of two servers for the Fall 2016 semester after Dinosaur Jr. Few bands that were part of the 1980s hardcore, indie punk movement have had the staying power of this trio. They just kept on playing, and J Mascis returned punk to the glorious hey day of the rock and roll guitar solo. And while drummer Murph left in the early 90s to play with the Lemonheads and bassist Lou Barlow formed Sebadoh (a 90s indie giant), the original band has been back together since 2005. If you think of ed-tech groups as bands, which I tend to do, than Dinosaur Jr. have much to offer in terms of longevity, fierce independence, and influence on a whole generation of post-punk, show-gazing indie bands. I have had their 2012 recording session at Roundhead Studios in New Zealand in constant rotation on my playlist the last 6 months, and I highly recommend it. But if nothing else, listen to them play “Sludgefeast” off their classic 1987 album “You’re Living All Over Me.”  So rocking, so tight, these guys are too legit to quit!

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Add-On Domains: Start to Finish

See the post on Community Forums here.

Signing up for a Reclaim Hosting account and domain for the first time is pretty straight forward, but what about when you want to add a second domain to your account? It can be a little confusing to understand the different steps and requirements, so this post is here to set the record straight:

Understanding pricing:

When first signing up for a Reclaim account, you purchase a hosting plan. (The student/individual plan is $25.00, so we’ll move forward with that in this example.) And since Reclaim is awesome, the $25.00 also gets you a free domain registration. Additional domains, however, are each $12.00 per year.

Note that you do not need an additional hosting plan when you purchase an additional domain. You can obviously add hosting if you want, but it’s not necessary. The only time you really need to mess with or adjust your hosting plan is when you’re running out of space and you need to upgrade to a larger plan.

So if you’ve got an student/individual hosting plan with two domains, your renewal price for everything each year will be $25 + $12 = $37.00.

Registering the additional domain:

Once logging into your Client Area portal, you’ll want to go to Domains > Register a new domain:

Type in the domain that you want and click Continue.

SSL Everywhere

In the past few years there has been a big push to make the web more secure for everyone. I can think of no greater example of that than the organization Let’s Encrypt which finally brought free SSL certificates to the masses. Let’s Encrypt opened their system up in December of last year and in January of this year we were pleased to announce built-in support for issuing free supports through them directly within cPanel for all customers. Today we’re taking that one step further.

There’s no doubt that having an interface in cPanel to provision and install free SSL certificates makes it incredibly easy to secure your sites. But it seemed to us like the real dream would be doing this all in the background, by default, for everyone. After testing over the past 2 weeks I’m pleased to announce that going forward every domain hosted by Reclaim Hosting will automatically be provisioned with a free and renewable SSL certificate by default. This happens at the time of signup within seconds of the domain being registered and a recurring process on the server checks for new domains added and will provision certificates if one doesn’t already exist or has expired. For users that want to buy and install your own certificates that’s still an option, but it’s no longer a requirement for securing your sites and https will be a default option now available to everyone.

If you have an account with Reclaim Hosting you likely got SSL certificates for your domains during the testing phase without even knowing it. To date we have provisioned over 7,500 certificates in our system! We couldn’t be more pleased with what this means for making the web more secure and making SSL-enabled sites as easy as possible.

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Reclaim the Birthday Card

As I wrote last month, Reclaim Hosting turned 3 years old recently. Time has flown, and there is not a day that goes by I don’t thank my lucky stars for all the awesome folks who continue to support us. And on that note, recently Tim, Lauren and I got a birthday card from a few domains.

Reclaim the Birthday Card

Thank you very much pgogywebsuff.comlouisegrove.com, and ansellockley.com, we’ve never gotten a birthday card from anyone before, no less from a tripartite of domains. We really appreciate the gesture, and who knows, you may have even started a tradition or something. [Wink, hint, wokka wokka.]

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Reclaim Community Helps Scratch an Old Itch

Been on a bit of a blog vacation over the last two weeks. Between traveling, hiking, entertaining and enjoying some mental downtime the bava was dormant. It has been a welcome break.* I still think in terms of blog posts, and when I go this long without posting I start to feel a bit like what I imagine a sidelined athlete must feel, just not nearly as svelte. I have a lot to blog about, including the novel I just finished by Richard Matheson, but that will be a bit longer affair. For now I want to quickly highlight the immediate dividends the resuscitated Reclaim Community site has paid.

A couple of weeks ago Tim decided to breath some life back into our languishing Community site. He started posting about specific topics and inviting others to contribute. Pretty soon thereafter others, like the great Kristen Eshleman, started jumping in with their own questions. It’s how this stuff works: you target open invites, seed conversation, and pray for rain. Tim also made a call for feature requests, and Tim Clarke from Muhlenberg University (one of Reclaim’s newest institutions!) requested we provide a more prevalent link to Installatron Applications. Tim Clarke had no idea that the Installatron icons in cPanel had been an ongoing issue for us, in fact Muhlenberg’s server has no issues with a broken Installatron icon that others had limped along with for almost a year.

Reclaim Community Helps Scratch an Old Itch

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Magnet: Window Manager for Mac

If you know me at all, you know that I’m all about trying to find the most productive & time efficient way to get from point A to point B– especially when it comes to my job and technology. This can be a slippery slope however, when one day you wake up and realize that your planning tools to “stay organized” take up more of your time than the actual items themselves. (You should have seen my planner in high school- it was more detailed than my actual homework.) So through the years of perfecting my “help, don’t hurt” productivity policy, I’ve found that the most helpful tools end up being the simple, obvious ones. Which brings me to Magnet, my newest find. Magnet is a window manager for Mac that allows you to take advantage of the space on your screen or monitor without a second thought. This comes in handy when you need to have multiple windows open at once, and you’re not interested in fiddling with manually sizing and placing all of your windows using those little cursor arrows. Magnet is compatible with a dual display set up, and is super easy to install and begin using right away. Read more
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Investing in Community

Investing in Community

I recently received a support ticket, not so much asking for support, but rather wondering about the status of https://community.reclaimhosting.com/ and why it wasn't promoted more. The person pointed out that it wasn't really linked anywhere or mentioned as far as they could tell, which was absolutely true. When Jim and I first started Reclaim Hosting the idea of building community was very much at the forefront of our minds. I fired up an instance of Vanilla Forums at the time probably only a month after Reclaim Hosting got off the ground. But I never visited there myself. I let it stagnate almost from day one. When Howard Rheingold started experimenting with Discourse I thought "now here's an interesting piece of software for conversing on the web!" and switched up the community site to run on that. I even used a WordPress plugin to make all comments from our blog get driven there as larger discussions. The result: well....nothing. As it not so surprisingly turns out, people don't just flock to new spaces because you hope they will.

The community site has been dormant for a long time now and often I've wondered if it was better to just nuke it into orbit. I had high dreams of folks sharing with each other there, asking questions about how they might approach a given topic, or even user-driven documentation on how to do a particular task on Reclaim. But building community takes so much more than just sitting back and hoping for something to develop. It takes real effort to draw people in, stoke conversations, and it takes a huge amount of good will in the early days. We've had no shortage of good will in building Reclaim Hosting from the community that has embraced us, and if a space to cultivate that is something that I want, something we want, then it's going to take work.

And so last week I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. There were some boring technical details I wanted to accomplish like getting the site to run on SSL thanks to Let's Encrypt support. For the first time I added a link within our client area. I grabbed the RSS feed and started showing the latest posts on our documentation site. And most importantly, I started seeding conversation and inviting folks to the party. You see, Discourse has this great feature that allows you to invite someone to a thread and when they click that link they can immediately start responding without having to go through the process of creating an account. It's a very powerful feature that I have been using a lot this past week to bring folks into the fold and cultivate....well...discourse. Discussions, ideas, tutorials, announcements.

We have a long way to go and it will often require me to get outside of my comfort zone and ask people to participate, be intentional in my actions to seed the space with new ideas and conversation. It's not something I'm used to doing, but it's incredibly important. There is no shortage of amazing people doing incredible work on Reclaim Hosting. And if our support system is any indicator then there are plenty of folks who could use a helping hand as well. We're always there for them, but I would love for that same generosity to extend to the broader circle of people who have trusted us to assist in helping them build their digital identity on the web.

Consider this post me breaking the ice and welcoming you in. I would love for you to come over and chat with us there. As time goes on we'll continue to figure out ways to generate new topics there but I ask that you not be shy and participate in what's happening there. After just one week of investing the time to cultivate the space I've already seen the rewards and it has renewed my efforts to see that space grow. And I now realize this is the investment that we (Reclaim) needs to make in each and every one of you to foster a sense of communal support, the idea that you don't rely on me, or Jim, or anyone else, but that we all can call on each other and have a space to openly share our thoughts. It's more important than ever to me now and I would love for you to join us in that effort!

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Investing in Community

Investing in Community

I recently received a support ticket, not so much asking for support, but rather wondering about the status of https://community.reclaimhosting.com/ and why it wasn’t promoted more. The person pointed out that it wasn’t really linked anywhere or mentioned as far as they could tell, which was absolutely true. When Jim and I first started Reclaim Hosting the idea of building community was very much at the forefront of our minds. I fired up an instance of Vanilla Forums at the time probably only a month after Reclaim Hosting got off the ground. But I never visited there myself. I let it stagnate almost from day one. When Howard Rheingold started experimenting with Discourse I thought “now here’s an interesting piece of software for conversing on the web!” and switched up the community site to run on that. I even used a WordPress plugin to make all comments from our blog get driven there as larger discussions. The result: well….nothing. As it not so surprisingly turns out, people don’t just flock to new spaces because you hope they will.

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Understanding Email: MX Records

Where to start: Understanding Email Retrieval: POP vs. IMAP

All right, time for round two. MX Records. While POP and IMAP handle the retrieval of email, MX Records answer the question: which server is responsible for handling and accepting email for exampledomain.com?

Reclaim users: when you create a new email in your cPanel, these MX Records are created automatically. Which makes sense, right? If you create an email through cPanel, then cPanel is going to assign their servers to handle the functions of your email.

The only time that you’ll really need to mess with MX Records is if you want a third party service to handle your email. Since email can cut into your hosting storage quota, sometimes it can be useful to move your email to a service like Google Apps to free up your storage space for your website.

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