The Year Reclaim Hosting Grew Up

We just passed the half-way mark for 2019 and Reclaim has already accomplished most of the big items on its to-do list—which feels good. Our primary focus this year was pretty clear from the outset, hire more support staff to get Tim, Lauren, and I some relief from frontline support. I find the hardest part of Reclaim’s steady growth is letting go of certain things, but it has to happen. In order to focus on infrastructure, client outreach, workshops, conferences, community building, and planning for the future (not to mention our growing VHS rental market and nascent arcade) we had to stop answering so many tickets.

Hiring, Hiring, Hiring

To this end we started 2019 with a key hire of Judith May as Reclaim’s Customer Support Manager. Once we made the decision to go forward with the hiring process in late October we made the offer to Judith in December and she started soon after the New Year. It was an intense process that Justin Webb ran brilliantly, and we have not looked back since. Judith fit right into the culture, and the idea was to hire the manager first and then let them take ownership of the entire support side of things and from there augment the team and start building processes to make sure we can start scaling that side of the house beyond Tim, Lauren, and I. The crucial element to this transition was Meredith Fierro, who has been with us now for almost two years and has become an absolutely crack support specialist. Having colleagues like Meredith who are able and willing to chip in to make this big shift possible by showing folks the ropes and getting them trained up has been huge, and I am really grateful. 

Not long after Judith was hired we decided to double-down and hire two more support specialist that can begin to cover the nights and weekends, which would effectively begin to realize the dream of getting Tim and I more removed from support after hours. With that we were able to focus the next couple of months on another hiring process for two Customer Support Specialists that Judith ran, and by mid-May we had hired Danny Jimenez and Chris Blankenship for additional support coverage, and they have been an  awesome addition. In just a few shorts months the Reclaim Hosting team almost doubled, which is mind blowing for me. What’s more, I think all of us are beginning to feel the immediate rewards of the increased capacity for support so that we can begin to switch focus to other elements of Reclaim. This was our primary objective for 2019, and I am glad to say it is moving along beautifully.


Another huge accomplishment was planning and running Domains19. Much of the credit goes to Lauren who took on that colossal task in addition to her account management, training, support, and sales responsibilities, so it was no small task, but just like in 2017, it went off without a hitch. You can read more about the conference in Lauren’s two-part recap here and here, Judith’s reflections on the sessions she attended, Tim’s post about automating session recording, my initial post about Art at Domains here (there is more to come), and there is even a bigger list of posts that I still have to work through. Domains was encouraging, and as John Stewart points out in his insightful post recapping the event we are at an inflection point, or between acts as it were:

If act one was the development of the technical, financial, and human resource models for building Domain of Ones Own projects, act two will I think focus on answering the existential challenge of integrating Domains into “normal” pedagogical practices.

That’s an awesome frame to revisit in two years, and it gives us all something concrete to build towards, which is something I really appreciate given being freed up from support a bit allows me to return to some serious community building.

Health Insurance, Dental, 401K, the whole damn package

Another big move we made this year is to move away from reimbursing our employees for health insurance and take the leap and provide it for them. It’s not a cheap endeavor by any means, but as we started hiring this year we knew a full blown benefits package was going to be key, so we now provide not only health, dental, and vision, but we also upgraded from a Simple IRA retirement program to a 401K, which means we are official. All we need is a fridge full of Fuji water and we can compete with all those Silicon Valley shit heads.

The other piece of this is we started to do some of that morbid planning that takes into account scenarios like “what if one of the two co-founders were to fall off a mountain”, or “what if one wanted to leave to start an arcade machine repair shop”, etc. This involves fun stuff like personal wills, life insurance, articles of organization, and the like. As we’ve been going through this process Tim and I realized that Reclaim has grown up a bit this year. We effectively doubled the number of employees, made sure everyone had real benefits, and even started to plan for the long haul to ensure no matter what happens Reclaim lives beyond either of us, which is crucial to us, our families, our employees, and our clients. It also means we have an answer for those questions we’ve been getting from potential clients since 2014 regarding what happens if Tim or I get hit by a bus*—which is always a pleasant talking point. I think we have accounted and planned for many of those scenarios at this point, and the process of building in safeguards and redundancy has been a really rewarding part of the first 6 months of 2019.

Investing in the talent you have 

Something Tim and I were keenly aware of after out time working at universities was making sure we acknowledge and reward the talent we have. This is something in our experience universities always struggled with, and was a big reason for the regular turnover. We want to try and keep our team as consistent as possible, and that means regularly evaluating, celebrating, and rewarding good work. We’ve been lucky that we have been able to retain amazing talent like Lauren and Meredith, and we wanted to avoid the scenario we were all too familiar with at UMW were you effectively had to get an offer from another job for them to even consider a raise. It was demoralizing for not only the employee, but also the employee’s team. It’s a bad situation, and we want to try an avoid it at all costs. So, in addition to providing regular raises, we want to start working with our employees to project the next several years of their professional life with Reclaim. Lauren and Meredith have been our longest running employees at 4 and 2 years respectively, so we started with projecting what it would look like if they were to stay with Reclaim for the next 4 or 5 years in order to start giving everyone at Reclaim a larger sense of their growing roles over time.  It’s something I really wish past employers would have done for me, I would have appreciated the opportunity to work towards a broader goal once I was settled in a bit, so we’ll see if this makes a difference in the long run, but it does highlight our philosophy of hiring the person beyond the position and making sure they have the space and encouragement to grow and learn.


I guess none of what came before would be possible if folks weren’t still hosting with us. So for that, we are ever thankful. Our growth has been steady for the first 5 years and this year is the first we may see a bit more of a dramatic uptick. Already this year we have as much new business as we had all last year, and the thing that has been interesting in this regard has been that while our shared hosting and Domain of One’s Own offering continue to grow consistently, managed hosting of WordPress Multisite and other applications has already doubled. It’s been nice to see this, and even better that many of those new accounts come from clients that are already using Domain of One’s Own—I can think of no greater testament to the fact they are happy with what we have been doing than by giving us more business ?

cPanel and the pitfalls of investment funding

Talking of growth, we remain investment free and in many ways got to witness the dangers of that road first hand—as did many other hosting companies this last week. In a rather unexpected move cPanel changed its pricing structure resulting in anywhere from a 300% to 800% increase monthly. They switched from per server licensing with unlimited accounts to charging per account on any given server which will create all kinds of financial havoc for many a host. So, for example, if you were paying $15 per server license for unlimited users, the new license would be $45 per server up to 100 users and either .10 or .20 cents (depending on whether you were a partner) per account beyond 100 accounts. So, if we have a server with 800 accounts, it would now be $45 for the license up to 100 accounts and another $70 per month for the additional 700 accounts (or $140 if you are not a partner-ouch!). So, what cost us $15 a month historically will now cost us $115. Now multiply that by X servers and the increase adds up quickly. We were lucky in that we could leverage educational licenses and avoid the increase on our Domains schools, but it still hits our shared hosting server costs hard, but at least we can manage that without immediate talk of price increases. In fact, we have to thank our account manager Brenda Gehringer who has been amazing at helping us navigate these changes to ensure part of our core business model was not in jeopardy.

It’s not coincidental that cPanel was bought by the Oakley Capital firm less than a year ago, an investment firm that also owns their biggest competitor Plesk. So, with cPanel and Plesk as the only robust alternatives the entire hosting industry felt both blindsided and trapped by the new pricing model. What’s more, the fact that the folks raising the price also own the main competitor infused no one with a sense of faith in moving panels. Even more damaging is the loss of faith amongst their customers. You can see how hard this has been on the employees of cPanel who are trying to deal with the fallout of what is a blatant strategy to squeeze as much money as possible from the hosting community to appease investors. It’s a dangerous road to travel because nothing is more valuable than your customers’ trust, and what has taken cPanel almost 20 years to build could be gone in a week. I feel for all of the folks at cPanel doing the work on the ground that have no control over this decision, but once a company goes down this road it has the real potential to end bad. At this point this is no longer about hosting, it’s all about the money.

Open Source

One of the things I had been thinking seriously about when Phil Windley was here, and a month later during Adam Croom‘s visit, was how we can ramp-up our community building at Reclaim. One approach is more on-the-ground meetups and workshops, which we have been working on already and I want to do more of this year and next. The other is an advisory board of folks from various Domains schools for us to consult and work more closely with. And that last idea, in the wake of the recent cPanel pricing announcement, sparked the idea that this might be the perfect opportunity to spearhead an open source web hosting panel that is developed in collaboration with a number of universities. It’s the seed of an idea I am really quite excited about the prospect of Reclaim pursuing. It would not only provide alternatives to a market that has been monopolized by an investment hedge fund, but more importantly create an opportunity to imagine the next generation of web hosting in light of a new era of applications, while imagining an alternative ecosystem of user-controlled privacy, data collection, and resource sharing. And while this is pie-in-the-sky right now, I am reminded that not so long ago Domain of One’s Own was just that. 

Reclaim Arcade

And lest you think we are too grown up, plans are moving along swimmingly for adding another 3000 square feet to our existing office space in order to realize Reclaim Arcade. If everything goes according to plan it will not only post high scores online, but also allow players to stream video of their gameplay live to the web, cause that’s how we roll!  

Well, what I though was going to be a quick update turned into an all day post, but that brings you pretty much up-to-date with the goings on at Reclaim this last 6 months. Looking forward to what the next 6 brings our way!

*Although they were always more worried about Tim than me for obvious reasons.

Patching Meltdown and Spectre

Patching Meltdown and Spectre

Seems like every 1-2 years we get a major security scare in the form of a global exploit that effects server infrastructure in some fashion and requires a response. We’ve had Heartbleed, Poodle, Shellshock (who comes up with these names anyway?). 2018 didn’t wait long to bring us that gift in the form of Meltdown and Spectre. has a lot of great information about these two exploits but the short story is that rather than taking advantage of any particular software configuration, these exploits expose vulnerabilities in pretty much all modern CPUs. That means not only does this require patching for server admins like me at Reclaim Hosting and across the web, but every operating system from all computers including mobile devices and personal computers are vulnerable. The vulnerability takes advantage of exploits at the hardware as well as software layer to leak data into memory that can then be read by the attacker. It’s not a question of whether or not you are affected, you are affected.

Antivirus can’t block it either, only patching the underlying systems will resolve it and thankfully companies have been hard at work at getting these patches developed since long before the news became public. Intel became aware of the exploit last fall and many major companies have been under an NDA as they developed patches to secure their systems. Due to the complexity of this exploit however, we are still awaiting patches for some systems and now it is public (which will hopefully light a fire under certain groups to get these patches out).

Thankfully when we at Reclaim became aware of the issue last week CentOS, the distribution of Linux that powers over 90% of our server infrastructure and the only supported distribution for cPanel, was already releasing patches. We had to do some testing as well as await patches by Cloudlinux which is a third party that we use for our kernel software, but by Monday we felt confident the patches were safe and we set to work to patch our entire fleet. Normally with maintenance that involves downtime we like to give customers a heads up and with this kernel update requiring a reboot sites would indeed be offline for a few minutes, however we made the judgement call to rip the bandaid off and favor getting these patches in place as soon as possible rather than risk data being exposed as a result of the vulnerability. By 6PM Monday our entire infrastructure that runs cPanel and all CentOS servers were patched for these exploits with minimal downtime across the majority of our servers.

We have a small number of Ubuntu servers that we are still awaiting a production patch on and hope to receive that sometime this week. If you want to make sure you are secure, the best thing you can do is run all updates for your operating system and browser to make sure you’re running the absolute latest version. Due to the nature of the exploit there is no way to trace whether the vulnerability has been taken advantage of (it does not log any of its actions) so it’s particular important to be proactive. I’m proud of the capacity of Reclaim Hosting as a small operation to remain aware of these events and to stay on top of them in a timely manner.

Now can we take a nice long vacation from these major exploits? My spidey sense tells me that’s likely not to be the case as we come to rely more and more on computers and specifically internet-connected devices in our lives. It’s the new normal and the best security we can hope to have is proactive patching and awareness.

Multiple Hosting Accounts made easy for Domains

One of the things Tim has been working on lately that has me excited is deeper API integration between WordPress and cPanel. This Spring we migrated and are now hosting Princeton’s cPanel offerings. Additionally, Tim has been working on some custom integrations for their existing setup. They have 3 cPanel instances that provided their community members with a personal account, department account, and/or dev account.

Continue reading “Multiple Hosting Accounts made easy for Domains”

cPanel Conference- Wired or Weird?

^photo creds: Jim // thanks for the new twitter header!

As mentioned in my previous post, the Reclaim team had the pleasure of visiting Portland for the cPanel conference not too long ago. We had a fantastic & productive time, though it was agreed that this was not cPanel’s doing, but the fact that all of us were in the same time zone, and in a vacation-like state for a couple of days. Continue reading "cPanel Conference- Wired or Weird?"

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.

Understanding Email Retrieval: POP vs. IMAP

This week at Reclaim, the guys and I have spent a lot of time brushing up on all things email related. I say “brushing up,” but take that with a grain of salt as MX Records weren’t heavily discussed in my liberal arts, English major classrooms. I’ve learned a whole lot in the last year of being taken under the Reclaim wing, but I’m honestly thrilled that there’s still so much more to learn. So much more to conquer. I think that’s one of the major reasons why I love what I do. But I digress. 🙂

Like I mentioned, we’ve been discussing the big green monster that is email. I’ve found that this is one of the hardest topics to provide support for, given that there are so many larger concepts, as well as so many unique set ups that can be at play. So to start I wanted to go back to the basics of email configuration, and then branch off into specific scenarios in later blog posts.

So before setting up your email at Reclaim, or anywhere really, it’s important to understand what your options are. As a Reclaim Hosting user, email is configured through cPanel. cPanel supports two different methods of accessing mailboxes on the server: POP3 and IMAP.

Continue reading “Understanding Email Retrieval: POP vs. IMAP”

Updating WHOIS Contact Information

What is WHOIS?

Pronounced as the phrase who is, this system’s sole purpose is to ask the following question: who is responsible for an IP address or domain name?

Upon signing up for a domain, you must provide some general information about yourself like name, address, phone number and email. This is referred to as your WHOIS data. It is managed by domain registrars and used to identify you with whatever domain you’ve just recently purchased.

Who can see my contact information, and how can I protect it?

All registrars are required make WHOIS data open to the public. Anyone anywhere can search the WHOIS database through any search engine to learn the registered name holder of a domain. To try it out for yourself, head to and search a domain name. For instance, searching brings up the following information:

Most can agree that they would prefer not to have their home address posted on the Internet for all to see. Not to worry, there is a way to cloak your identity while still providing valid contact information for the WHOIS database.

Updating WHOIS Contact Information

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Generating a Backup of Your Reclaim Site

Just recently added this guide to our support docs, so I thought I would share it here as well.

Reclaim Hosting holds onto nightly backups of your website for up to thirty days. This provides insurance for users who are looking to experiment with their site without fear of losing their content. While reaching out to Reclaim Support for a full backup is always an option, this quick tutorial explains how you can generate one yourself right within your cPanel:

1) Log into cPanel.

2) Head to the Files section of cPanel, click on the Backup icon.

3) Under Full Backup, click Generate/ Download a Full Website Backup.

Generating a Backup of Your Reclaim Site

4) On the next page, select the Home Directory option from the Backup Destination drop-down menu.

5) For Email Address, select whether or not you wish to receive an email notification once the backup is complete. (You may also change the notification email address in the provided field if you wish.) Click Generate Backup.

Generating a Backup of Your Reclaim Site

It’s as simple as that, folks!

Changing Storage Quota for cPanel Accounts

This is a quick and easy tutorial for changing storage space quotas on specific cPanel accounts, perfect for a rainy Sunday morning. I often get this question from someone managing a Domain of One’s Own initiative that needs to modify an account to allow for more storage space.

This process is done in WHM, which is basically the GUI interface for managing all the accounts on cPanel. Once logged in you do a quick find using the word “list” (no quotes) in the left upper hand corner. Then click “List Accounts” which will allow you to search for the account you need. You can search by the username or domain as demonstrated below.
Continue reading “Changing Storage Quota for cPanel Accounts”

Site Publisher for cPanel

As a company, Reclaim Hosting is heavily invested in the cPanel software to drive a decent user experience for building on the web. It's been interesting to see them evolve the product after what honestly seemed like years of stagnation. The x3 theme which was still the default just a few years ago and felt straight out of the 90s has been replaced with Paper Lantern, a responsive theme built with Bootstrap, Angular, and jQuery. I've also kept a close eye not just on the user-facing features but also the administration tools. I love that they openly welcome discussion (and participate themselves!) in their Feature Request area and you can see as things develop and are coming down the pipe.

All that being said cPanel is a big piece of software and so change is gradual and slow (which is understandable) but they have now released a rather important new feature that will no doubt be of great use to a lot of people. The latest version of cPanel includes a Site Publisher.

Image of Site Publisher

Let me start by pointing out what Site Publisher is not. The Site Publisher feature is not a replacement for WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, or any other true content management system. In fact it's not meant to be the primary means of driving most websites at all. The ability to edit or customize is incredibly restrained. Folks who take advantage of it should understand from the start the reason for these limitations and treat Site Publisher as a possible jumpstart to something better rather than the end solution.

Site Publisher at it's core is a series of templates and forms that allow someone to throw up a static website quickly. cPanel will ask for some basic information like your name, email, social media links, etc. And they take that information and dynamically inject it into a prebuilt HTML template and publish those files to your domain. At that point you're free to continue editing the site but would need to edit the HTML to do so, or you could later replace the existing site with a more full-featured CMS like WordPress.

So why is this useful? Some immediate uses I can think of are parked domains. You bought a great domain but you're not sure what to do with it yet. Site Publisher has a simple "Coming Soon" template that you could throw up there with a few clicks. A lot of folks also love as a destination for a simple Bio Site and Site Publisher has a simple theme that would meet that need. The simple idea is to make it easy to throw something on your domain while you think you through possible next steps.

What's also great is that cPanel has approached this feature in a way that is extensible to web hosting companies like Reclaim. We're able to build custom templates and make those available to our community. I've played around a bit with that and we've already got two themes available today:


Screenshot of Aerial
Aerial is very much in the spirit of a minimal "About Me" type site. Just a form with some basic information about yourself and your links to social media and you've got a pretty great looking website. This theme is provided with a Creative Commons license from HTML5 Up

Clean Feed

Screenshot of Clean Feed
As I was experimenting with building templates I thought it would be cool to utilize Feed2JS to dynamically pull content from an alternative source. A remote blog of sorts. So Clean Feed does exactly that by taking an RSS Feed and converting it to a simple Blog site that updates dynamically. The theme is taken from Start Boostrap

We're making all of our templates available on GitHub with open source licensing to make it easy for other hosting providers that use cPanel to make use of them. How useful this stuff is I'm still trying to work out, but it seems like some low-hanging fruit to domain management that was missing previously and it's been fun to start playing around with and see what's possible. If nothing else it provides a short-term win for someone diving into hosting and domains to throw up a simple website while they start thinking through future plans.