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.
Today we are pushing out a new release of Scalar, the born-digital publishing platform developed by The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture at USC. The latest version of Scalar offers some really exciting enhancement’s to the interface including a completely overhauled new theme for published work that is mobile-ready and a variety of new page layouts. You can read all about this update at http://scalar.usc.edu/scalar-2-is-here/. New installs will default to the new theme automatically and existing installs that are updated through our automated installer can selectively choose to use it on new and existing work.
I’d like to take a quick moment to send a huge shoutout to Craig Dietrich who has been instrumental in partnering with Reclaim Hosting to make sure our automated installation of Scalar provides a seamless experience for our customers hosting it on their own domain. Much of this work would not have been possible without his guidance and willingness to help iron out bugs and make this installer what it is. Thanks Craig!
We are pleased to announce the official release of our newest installation package on Reclaim Hosting, the Mukurtu CMS. Mukurtu is a grassroots project aiming to empower communities to manage, share, and exchange their digital heritage in culturally relevant and ethically-minded ways. In addition to a compelling platform, Mukurtu also offers open office hours and workshops and a demo site to take a test drive. You can also check out some wonderful examples of the software in use at their showcase. Huge thanks goes to Kim Christen Withey and Alex Merrill for their support and guidance to make this installer a reality. Mukurtu joins a growing list of custom open source applications at Reclaim Hosting focusing on education and digital humanities. We are committed to making a growing body of software available to an extensive audience of educators and practitioners through our platform and we are happy to welcome Mukurtu!
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 http://docs.reclaimhosting.com/miscellaneous/installing-free-ssl-certificates.
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.
We regularly monitor trends with the support tickets and feedback we get daily to look for future opportunities to make Reclaim Hosting even better. If one person is struggling with something we can help them, if many people are all struggling with something it’s a sign we need to fix the issue at a larger scale. Incremental improvements like this are a win/win situation because it solves problems for a lot of people and reduces the number of tickets that come in to us needing similar responses.
One question we’ve gotten regularly since day one revolved around the amount of storage we offer with our hosting accounts. When we launched in 2013 we had a single plan with 1GB of storage. At the time I’m sure it seemed crazy given the world we live in where every other hosts proudly promotes “Unlimited” storage (with 7 asterisks telling you they’ll take it away if you try to use it). Much like the myth of 24/7 support this is another area where other hosts overpromise and underdeliver. I made a point as we built out our infrastructure to offer reasonable plans and limits that would meet the majority of our community’s needs. Last year we added a Faculty plan at 5GB of storage and then 5 months later we doubled both plans to 2GB and 10GB respectively. As we have grown we’ve continued to build and give back.
There are, however, edge cases where groups or individuals just need more space for their stuff. We’ve helped folks setup connections to Amazon S3 and showed them tips on storing media off-site, but that also makes it difficult to marry with the message of “reclaiming your data”. With all that said we’re proud today to begin offering a third plan, the Organization Plan, with 100GB of space for $100/year (a little over $8/month). The plan, like all of our plans, includes unlimited hosting of addon domains, subdomains, databases, and we include a free domain registration or transfer as well. At a little over $8/month we think it’s a great deal for groups needing to setup exhibits and archives, users with high storage needs for archival work, or any other purpose. I’ll also point out that upgrading your plan is always a great way to support the work we are doing here! We continue to promote web hosting at reasonable cost and build slowly the right way and we’d love your continued support. Any existing customer can upgrade their account in the client area easily.
The other small change we’re making revolves around the Student plan. In the past we did not allow addon domains on the student plan. It was a great low cost option with limited storage meant for setting up a single site or a small handful using subdomains. Buying and hosting additional domains required the Faculty plan. This led to lots of confusion with users and frankly uncomfortable conversations on our part where it felt like we were “upselling” the user on additional upgrades after they had just bought a second domain with us. So we’re getting rid of the distinction. Our three plans now share all the common tools and features, and functionality. The only difference going forward will be the amount of storage space you need, making it dead simple to make informed decisions.
We love getting feedback and even more acting on it by growing and building as well as giving back to the community. We hope it’s making a difference and that you’ll continue to trust and support us for years to come as we continue to make this an awesome place to reclaim your digital identity.
Reclaim Hosting is proud to announce a partnership with Lynda.com, a company that is setting the standard for online video tutorials and training, with the production of WordPress in the Classroom. This video series was produced by Chris Mattia who we’ve worked with previously through California State University at Channel Islands on their institutional platform. When Chris approached us about building a platform to compliment a new Lynda title that would explore getting a domain and building a WordPress site for use in a classroom environment it struck us as the perfect partnership.
Jim has written a bit already about the platform we built, State University, for this title already. Essentially we wanted to create a mock institutional environment that mirrored the same tools and setup we create for schools with our Domain of One’s Own product. When you visit State University all it takes is a single login through your choice of a number of social networking sites and you can be up and running with a subdomain and building in cPanel in minutes! The WordPress in a Classroom title compliments this platform by walking users through the steps not only of getting up and running but also exploring how a hosting platform like this can enhance teaching methods and augment instruction within your courses.
We know that many of the schools we work with already have Lynda subscriptions on their campus and we’re excited to see this title go live not just because it exposes these alternatives of traditional learning management systems to wider audiences, but also because tutorials like these can become building blocks that faculty using Reclaim Hosting can integrate into their courses as resources for their students. If you don’t have a Lynda account you are eligible for a 10 day free trial so do check it out! When your State University trial comes to a close after 30 days we’ve even provided a promotion code of our already deeply discounted hosting plans. And we’re excited to think that this could be the beginning of a whole series of titles on reclaiming one’s digital identity and building spaces for the web.
Take the opportunity today to check out this title as well as test drive the State University platform and experience the power of building in open spaces for the web!
Starting this week we’ll be having open office hours at Reclaim Hosting headquarters (ok, it’s the slightly disheveled office in my home, dream with me). This will happen this Thursday at 11AM EST and we hope to continue doing these every other week depending on demand. Open office hours are a chance for you to get any question big or small answered in person. Maybe you have a question about how to use WordPress or Omeka for some other platform on Reclaim in your class. Maybe something isn’t working right but you haven’t gotten around to putting in a support ticket. I’ll be sharing tips and tricks that have come up for folks often over the past few weeks, some things we’re working on as well. So join us this Thursday! We’ll keep a schedule at https://reclaimhosting.com/open-office-hours with links to the event page and an embedded view of the livestream in case you’d like to watch along but don’t want to participate.