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Reclaim the Web with Reclaim Hosting

Image credit: "No Dash for Gas" http://www.nodashforgas.org.uk/

Image credit: “No Dash for Gas” http://www.nodashforgas.org.uk/

Yesterday Tim Owens finished up the “10 Reasons to Reclaim” series on the Reclaim Hosting blog. Granted I’m biased, but I think what he’s laying down in that series—especially the #1 reason to Reclaim—is arguably the most innovative infrastructural work happening in edtech. Why? Well, he’s taken what we’ve learned helping schools get up and running with their Domain of One’s Own projects and made it dead simple and dirt cheap for any school—no matter how big or small, rich or poor—to get up and running.

For $199 a month a department, school, or university can start exploring what it would mean to give faculty, staff, and students a domain of their own with web hosting. While this price doesn’t include a unique domain like mysite.com (though that could be easily arranged), it does provide a subdomain on any given top level domain, such as jimgroom.reclaim.host, that has access to a cPanel interface with the ability to install applications, map a domain, create an email, etc. You can get a trial account to see exactly what I’m talking about here: http://reclaim.host/

How could schools not afford to experiment with this? I think the innovation here is four-fold:

  • It’s an excellent platform for controlling one’s own data and identity
  • It meets a growing need for digital projects, courses, and portfolios
  • It’s eminently affordable
  • It can be seamlessly integrated into a school’s authentication system making it dead simple to rollout

Don’t believe me? Try get up and running with your own subdomain here, and tell me you can’t see faculty, staff, and students doing this?

What excites me most about this whole thing is that Tim has formalized and scaled a vision we’ve had for a while at UMW. Finding ways to share the innovation we’ve been working on with as many people as possible. We did it with UMW Blogs back in 2008, but that was a one-off approach that we couldn’t support and sustain beyond one school. Reclaim Hosting is for real, with the recent ten reasons series we’re doubling down on just how serious we are about making the work we do accessible to just about anyone.

This marks a highpoint for the edtech work I’ve been part of over the last decade. Rather than just bemoaning existing possibilities or pointing out the limits of the existing infrastructure (something I’m certainly guilty of), Reclaim marks an intervention into technical reality behind it. We’re offering something we believe in, we can scale, and we want to support. We’re making it easier and cheaper for colleges and universities to enable their communities to invest in the open web again.  It’s time to reclaim the power of the web with (or without) Reclaim Hosting. We’ve just made it easier. Can you dig it?

I knew that you could.

Ten Reasons to Reclaim #1: The Full Package

This is it folks, the final day of our feature sprint here at Reclaim Hosting where we launched not just one or two things, but 10 completely new features or products. For us it represents and landmark moment for the trajectory of Reclaim and a commitment from us to where we are going from here. If you’ve somehow missed all the news you can catch up on all of the awesome announcements with the Ten Reasons category of our blog. But we weren’t kidding when we said we would save the best for last. At the risk of a Steve Jobs style throwback, we have one more thing to add to our product lineup in time for the Spring semester and to us it completes the work we’ve been doing up until now. So enough build up, here it is:

Domain of One’s Own for $199/month

We’ve built a custom virtualized package that includes all of the software necessary to run a full-fledged Reclaim server of your own in our environment and we’re bringing it to you at a price that makes it infinitely accessible. We want to see the idea of getting a space of your own grow far and wide as well as provide sandbox environments for teams and organizations to quickly fire up spaces for exploring new ideas. This year we began piloting the idea of “Domain of One’s Own” and offering the same infrastructure we do with Reclaim to Institutions and we’ve been working with 4 different schools to pilot that idea. This is the next evolution of that for any school big or small, any organization thinking about using cPanel and domain spaces to further their mission. By building in the same subdomain signup process that we previewed with our Test Drive area we’ve removed the largest cost of registering domains and we’ve streamlined every aspect of this idea to build a package that is powerful and affordable.

We’ll be launching the Domain of One’s Own package by the end of the year in time for the Spring semester and you can find out more about it on our dedicated page about the service as well as request to be emailed when it’s ready. And with that we hope we’ve given you 10 reasons to continue supporting Reclaim Hosting as the premier web partner for schools and organizations and anyone who wants to finally carve out their space on the web and build a digital identity for themselves.

Ten Reasons to Reclaim #2: Get Virtual

Update

Reclaim Hosting no longer offers virtual servers except through direct contracts with organizations. For individuals who need a VPS we highly recommend digitalocean.com

Up until now a lot of our announcements and indeed our core offering has been geared towards the novice. We’re all learners and it’s been a rare treat building Reclaim to give back to a community of people willing to put in the effort to learn the space of hosting and domain control and understand the power it brings. But there’s another contingent growing within Reclaim that would like more. Advanced users that often hit the limits of what they’re capable of doing within a shared hosting environment. Our managed software offering gets at part of that need for very specific cases but there are understandably folks that just want a sandbox with no limits and full flexibility.

Have you ever heard the background of how Amazon Web Services got started offering their cloud tools? Amazon was using them internally to scale up their shopping cart system and decided they could try selling back the unused server resources to people who wanted to scale up any project. We’ve utilized virtual private servers since the beginning for various tasks here and there and even helped people set them up, and we recently decided to start moving towards full virtualization for all of our systems. The benefits are clear, you can easily migrate entire systems without any dependence on the hardware, software licensing becomes much easier with flexible IP provisioning, and resources can be scaled up and down as needed. We started building an infrastructure to support this and quickly realized the potential for that group of users that want the same flexibility. So today we’re opening it up to anyone.

We now offer Virtual Private Servers starting at $10/month

Whether you need an Ubuntu server running Postgresql or Ruby, or a Fedora server running a custom web stack, you have full control and power to build whatever you need. When you signup you get root level credentials and access to a management console to rebuild the entire system from any of our templates. Today we’re launching with the 2 most recent version of Ubuntu, Fedora, Centos, and Debian. But we’re not stopping there. We built this system on an architecture that isn’t limited to just Linux operating systems. We plan to build fully-featured software packages on top of specific distributions as well as offering Windows Server. Yep, you can VPN in to your private server running Windows and manage it if that’s your thing.

This is frankly one of those times where a product could have been stuck in “private beta” constantly being reworked forever, but we’d rather put it out there and have you all push the limits with it. The potential is there and we want to see it fully-realized. Head to the product page to see the details and get started and let us know in the discussion forum what features and offerings you’d like to see added.

Ten Reasons to Reclaim #3: Ain’t Afraid of no Ghost

Update

The complexity of hosting Ghost became too much to support and Reclaim Hosting no longer offers this service. We are exploring ways to bring this back in a sustainable fashion but for now, individuals who want to run Ghost are encouraged to signup at ghost.org

We’re in the home stretch of our feature sprint now and as you saw yesterday we saved the absolute best for the final days. If you didn’t catch yesterday’s announcement we now offer managed software hosting as a core component of Reclaim Hosting. Our goal is to enable users to run the most advanced web tools out there that won’t work in a typical shared hosting environment as well as to take the complicated procedures of setting them up out of the mix. We handle the installation, the updates and upgrades, and you get to do what you do best which is focusing on building something awesome. We’ve enabled that option with Discourse Forums right out the gate and we’ve got more on the way. You can read more about that announcement on yesterdays post.

Building on yesterday’s announcement we’re putting out our second managed software environment today which is another extremely popular tool that many folks haven’t had the opportunity to experiment with because of the technical demands of running it.

Ghost Blogging Platform Hosting for $5

So what is Ghost exactly? Ghost began as a thought experiment in what WordPress could be if you stripped away all the complication and “rebooted” the software as a purely focused blogging platform. WordPress is extremely powerful and yet as a publishing tool sometimes the power and flexibility can distract from a simple writing tool, which is what Ghost aims to solve. John Nolan launched a Kickstarter project to fund the development of this idea last year and the software has seen its release and plenty of updates since then. However the decision to build Ghost using Node.JS has caused complications for web hosts who can’t run the software in a standard shared hosting environment, similar to what we were seeing with Discourse.

It’s exciting to be able to offer this software to the community at a fraction of what others are charging for hosted Ghost installs and to build in world-class support and management as well. Not only will we install and update the software for you, but we will include a variety of gorgeous themes that have been developed for Ghost and help you install any themes or plugins that you’d like. Best of all we’re running this system on an extremely fast framework that proxies HTTP requests through an Nginx appliance with PageSpeed caching which will make your blog fast. Sorry for geeking out there a bit, but sometimes I can’t help myself. I’ve migrated my personal blog to our platform to push the system and show off what’s possible. We’ve updated our product page and you can grab a Ghost blog directly through this link for $5 a month. If you’re a tinkerer that has been looking for a new tool to write on the web give Ghost a shot!

Ten Reasons to Reclaim #4: Towards better Discourse

Update

The complexity of hosting Discourse became too much to support and Reclaim Hosting is sunsetting this offering. We are exploring ways to bring this back in a sustainable fashion but for now, individuals who want to run Discourse are encouraged to explore the One-Click Installer available through Digital Ocean digitalocean.com

We have just 4 announcements left and we’ve saved the best for last in every sense. In case you took a digital siesta this weekend you can catch up with all of the awesome through the tenreasons category. We’ve made a lot of small and large improvements to the core of what we do, but today’s announcement and the few to follow represent a significant shift here at Reclaim because we finally have the capacity and scale to build things that we could only dream of previously. We still think our shared hosting setup is second to none, especially when matched with world class support from people who actually listen to your needs and respond. We’re now branching out to meet the needs that haven’t been met through shared hosting and one significant need here at Reclaim that we’ve been longing for since Jim and I began this crazy ride. Read more

Ten Reasons to Reclaim #5: Rewarding Passion

Have I mentioned how awesome of a community we have here at Reclaim? Maybe once or twice. But it’s true! Getting to know the folks who sign up here has been infinitely rewarding and the passion that this community shows for the idea of reclaiming your space online is empowering. On top of that there’s a contingent of faculty who are pushing on this idea in their classroom and we’ve see a large growth of courses that make building a space online using Reclaim a part of the curriculum. What better way to push these ideas forward and give back than to reward that community that puts our name out there time and time again? Which leads us to our latest announcement:

We now offer 10% credit for all referrals and 20% off for your students

Starting today you can grab a special affiliate link directly in the client area under AccountsAffiliates that will credit you for any signups that are done as a result of visiting the link. We’ll give you 10% of their purchase and you can use that as credit towards future invoices. Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 3.27.28 PMIn addition to that we built a system to allow faculty to create their own promotional codes that can be used to offer your students 20% off the cost of their account. Instead of having to follow a particular link you can create a promotional code that is easy to understand and they can put it directly into the order form to get the discount. You’ll be able to track signups within the affiliate area as well.

Awhile back I wrote on my personal blog about how I wanted to find a way to build a fund for students who might not have the necessary resources to afford getting their own space. We pride ourselves on doing whatever is necessary to make hosting and domains dirt cheap while not compromising on awesome service and support. But sometimes that’s not enough and I want to do more. So perhaps you’re someone that doesn’t necessarily need credit to your account when you refer someone to us and they signup and you’d like to “pay it forward”. We’ll be creating a special fund that any affiliate can donate their credits too and we’ll use that to gift domains and hosting to students in need. We can build this community in ways we’ve never done before and make it accessible to a new wave of people. So grab your link and spread the word!

Ten Reasons to Reclaim #6: Test Drive the Ferrari

It’s been a busy few days here as we gear up for the Spring by kicking off our series of Ten Reasons to Reclaim and announce a new feature every single day. If you’ve been following along you’ll have seen that we doubled the amount of storage on everyone’s plans, began to offer refunds and swapouts on new domain registrations, offer free migration services, and even put a fresh coat of paint on our cPanel theme. But trust me when I tell you that we’re saving some of the best stuff for last, we’ve only just gotten started!

Today’s announcement addresses yet another primary concern and question we get a lot at Reclaim: “So, what’s the system actually like? Can I get a demo?” We’ve sent people a demo account similar to the one we linked to with yesterdays demo of the new control panel, but today we’re bringing you something even better.

7 Day Free Trial Accounts!

 

We totally recognize that not everyone is ready to jump right into the deep end and so we’ve built the ultimate wading pool to get your feet wet. We’ve built a brand new system at http://reclaim.host to allow you to signup for a free subdomain that is fully functional for 7 days with no strings attached. Install software, FTP files, setup email, it’s got everything. After 7 days the account will be deleted and you’ll never be charged (in fact the only thing we ask for is an email address). And when you’re ready to go a bit further you can always head back here to get a domain of your own. With today’s announcement we’re continuing our commitment to make the process of building your space online as easy and accessible as possible, and we can’t wait for you to grab the keys and take our system for a test drive!

Ten Reasons to Reclaim #7: A Fresh Coat of Paint

I’ve always been pretty pleased with the interface we use here for our control panel (cPanel) but nevertheless it was starting to feel a bit outdated. It didn’t work well on mobile devices, which people are more and more using to access their accounts. Beyond that there has been a great trend in software design to make things flat, clean, and clear. Along with modern web frameworks like Bootstrap, the writing was on the wall and it was time for a new look. That’s why I’m so excited about today’s Top Ten reason.

We’ve updated cPanel to integrate with our existing client area

Not only is this a redesign and fresh coat of paint that brings the theme inline with our existing portal area for current customers, but this is the next step for us at integrating the control panel for your site directly into that portal. We have a small handful of bugs to work out with it but everyone will receive the new design within the next week automatically and we plan to take the next step of integrating it more fully into the portal area where we do billing and client management already. We would love your feedback on the new look!

Ten Reasons to Reclaim #8: Free Migrations

One of the hardest parts of moving to a new host is getting domains transferred, all your files moved over, and the whole time you’re crossing your fingers hoping you managed to do it all correctly. Domain transfers are especially difficult because of all the rules and regulations surrounding how a transfer gets processed. This stuff can be confusing and even when you have all your ducks in a row one mistake could mean days of your site being offline while you figure out how DNS works. Which brings us to today’s announcement:

Reclaim Hosting now offers free migration services

Whether you’re moving a web hosting account large or small, or just trying to transfer that last domain over, we’ll get you up and running. No kidding. We’ve done enough migrations over the years to confidently assist you in getting all your stuff from there to here seamlessly, with practically zero downtime, and fast. So take the headache out of moving web hosts and let us juggle the ins and outs of moving accounts while you sip on pina coladas and watch. You can read all about the migration process on our Migration page. If you’ve been on the fence about making the switch because you worried it was going to be difficult or your sites would go down or whatever, sign up today and rest assured that we’ll turn that nightmare scenario into a dream come true.

Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan

Ten Reasons to Reclaim #9: No Regrets

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. You’re finally ready to reclaim your space, you’ve got lots of ideas for how to build a portfolio of work and what software you might use. You’ve read up on all of the various hosting options and (naturally) picked Reclaim Hosting. And now you’ve pulled out the wallet and clicked the Sign Up button. And then it asks you what your domain will be and you freeze. You hadn’t really thought about it, and a domain feels like a real commitment doesn’t it?

We’ve seen a lot of really awesome domain names get chosen here and I’d say most folks have some idea going in whether they want some variation on their name or a creative spin on their hobby. But occasionally we get a request to change a domain name whether it be due to typos or a change of heart. In the past we had to register a new domain in order to do so which came with a $12 fee. That’s no longer the case.

Domain Registrations and Hosting Plans now include a 24 hour No Regrets policy

For all new customers that get that sudden change of heart moments after hitting the checkout button, we now offer you the ability to swap your domain for any reason whatsoever as long as you let us know in the first 24 hours. You won’t be charged a dime extra and we’ll do all the heavy lifting to get the new domain registered and swapped in your account. Just put in a support ticket in the client area or shoot us an email.

In addition to this if you get started and realize now just isn’t the right time to reclaim, you can walk away from your account in the first 24 hours and we’ll give you all of your money back. No hard feelings, no questions asked. After the first 24 hours we’ll refund the full cost minus the domain registration ($12) if you cancel within the first 2 weeks of owning an account. We’ve updated our refund policy to include all these new terms as well as the process for cancellations.

We hope you love your new domain and account but we wanted to give you more options if that’s not the case and reduce the penalty for changing your mind. It’s just one more way we’re trying to do things differently here and ease the process of getting online. So what are you waiting for?! Get your space today and join a growing group of people carving out their own space on the web.

Photo Credit: Roland Tanglao