All posts in Platforms

Introduction to Social Media for Charities

Many charities and non-profits are still thinking in the past and adding on social media as an extra, thinking that conventional ways of promoting themselves are more important.

The reality is that more and more people are logging-in to Twitter, Facebook and other online applications, not only for their own interest, but also because their firms are using this medium to quickly spread the word about their business.

If you increase your social media presence then in many ways you are already knocking at an open door because millions of people are already using it.

DDOS Protection for Charity Non-profits

I’m sure the news over the last 24 hours of the largest DDOS attack in the history of the internet is well underway. We have been following this story since the first salvo was fired by Spamhaus the non-profit spam prevention service that blocked cyberbunker as a source of large amounts of spam hitting systems across the web.

Cyberbunker hasn’t taken kindly to this and has struck back launching a DDOS attack in excess of 300gb/s, this is equivalent to about 40% of the worlds web traffic all being directed against SpamHaus in an attempt to take them offline.

How did SpamHaush survive the largest DDOS in history?

It failed.. while the internet slowed down as routing points around the web became congested Spamhaus and it’s partners were able to keep the servers live and their service in tact. It remains to be seen what Cyberbunker will do next but so far at least all their DDOS attacks have failed to do more than dent the web the world over.

When the DDOS hit Spamhaus knew their was only one partner to turn to Cloudflare a company dedicated to accelerating and protecting the web from attacks. Cloudflare is traditional thought of as a web accelerator it sits in front of your server and ensures that visitors always receive data as fast as possible served from a location close to them. So even if your server is on the UK but a visitor is in America they get data as if they were just popping to the local shops and back… fast, fast, fast.

Cloudflare though has another function it offers some of the best DDOS protection service in the world and they are mostly FREE! Yes that’s right you can make your website load faster AND protect against DDOS and other security issues and it wont cost your charity a penny to get started. IF you want to move up-to the PRO package that offers even more speed and security it will cost you $20 a month!

In our experience though the free service is ideal for 99% of charity non-profits and only in specific situations would you need to spend any cash to protect or accelerate your website. The site you are reading this on now uses Cloudflare.

Cloudflare works so well because it’s able to analyse hundreds of thousands of sites using it’s network and provide fast action against DDOS attacks, in most cases filtering the bad traffic automatically and only allowing the good to pass through. It’s caching systems ensure that it takes the hit not your servers and by distributing it’s servers across the world any attack that is DDOS in nature has to overwhelm many internet points worldwide not just your server which is always the weakest link.

On top of all that Cloudflare also offers protection against other forms of attack like XSS and Injection Attacks although we would recommend securing your code on the server rather than relying on a third party to deal with those particular security issue.

How to add Cloudflare to your service mix.

It’s very simple to move to Cloudflare all you need to do is sign up, let them analyze your current DNS settings and then change your Domain Name name servers to the ones they give you. 12 – 24 hours later all requests to your website will first be routed via Cloudflare and protection and acceleration is active. In all it takes 10 minutes to do the actual work of enabling and setting up Cloudflare more than worth the peace of mind it provides.

If you would like advice or would prefer not to go hands on we can provide Cloudflare setup for you, get in touch to learn more.

 

Flickr redesign goes live 1TB of free storage for all

Well this is a surprise Yahoo has just announced that it’s highly popular photo storage and sharing site Flickr is being upgraded. As well as a redesign of the entire look and feel of the site they are also giving every users 1 terabyte of free storage.

The Facebook phone is coming…

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It appears that Facebook and HTC are warming-up for the launch of a dedicated Facebook phone. Based on Android, the new Facebook device will offer deeper integration between the operating system and the world’s biggest social network.

This isn’t the first time Facebook and HTC have teamed-up to work on a device, the ChaCha was the first and had a dedicated Facebook button to quick launch their app.

This new project looks much more involved and may include a separate Home Launcher for those who want the look of the new Facebook mobile experience but on their non-Facebook Android device.

For charities, this could well mean Facebook users becoming even more mobile focused. Should Facebook also allow developers to create custom applications that take advantage of the deeper integration, it could be a big boost for charity non-profits looking to offer a cutting edge social / mobile experience for their supporters.

All will be revealed on April 4!

How your charity non-profit can survive the largest DDOS attack in history

The largest DDOS attack in the history of the internet is well underway, and if you’ve noticed the internet is loading more slowly, that’s the reason. There’s now a possibility that it might affect online banking and email.

We have been following this story since the first salvo was fired by Spamhaus, the non-profit spam prevention service, that blocked Dutch hosting company CyberBunker as a source of large amounts of spam hitting systems across the web.

CyberBunker hasn’t taken kindly to this, saying it will host anything except child porn and terrorism content, and has struck back launching a DDOS attack in excess of 300gb/s. This is equivalent to about 40% of the world’s web traffic all being directed against Spamhaus in an attempt to take them offline.

It failed. While the internet slowed down as routing points around the web became congested, Spamhaus and its partners were able to keep the servers live and their service intact. It remains to be seen what CyberBunker will do next, but so far at least all their DDOS attacks have failed to do more than dent the web the world over.

How did Spamhaus survive the largest DDOS in history?

When the DDOS hit, Spamhaus knew there was only one partner to turn to – CloudFlare – a company dedicated to accelerating and protecting the web from attacks.

CloudFlare is traditionally thought of as a web accelerator. It sits in front of your server and ensures that visitors always receive data as fast as possible, served from a location close to them. So even if your server is in the UK but a visitor is in America they get data as if they were just popping to the local shops and back… fast, fast, fast.

CloudFlare though, has another function. It offers some of the best DDOS protection in the world which is mostly FREE! Yes that’s right! You can make your website load faster AND protect against DDOS and other security issues and it won’t cost your charity a penny to get started. If you want to move up to the pro package that offers even more speed and security and it will cost you just $20 a month!

In our experience, the free service is ideal for 99% of charity / non-profits, and only in specific situations would you need to spend any cash to protect or accelerate your website.

The site you are reading this on now uses CloudFlare.

CloudFlare works so well because it’s able to analyse hundreds of thousands of sites using its network and provide fast action against DDOS attacks, in most cases filtering the bad traffic automatically and only allowing the good to pass through. Its caching systems ensure that it takes the hit, not your servers, and by distributing its servers across the world any attack that is DDOS in nature has to overwhelm many internet points worldwide, not just your server which is always the weakest link.

On top of all that CloudFlare also offers protection against other forms of attack like XSS and Injection Attacks, although we would recommend securing your code on the server rather than relying on a third party to deal with those particular security issues.

How to add CloudFlare to your service mix

It’s very simple to move to CloudFlare. All you need to do is sign-up, let them analyse your current DNS settings and then change your Domain Name name servers to the ones they give you. Just 12 – 24 hours later all requests to your website will first be routed via CloudFlare and protection and acceleration is active. In all it takes 10 minutes to do the actual work of enabling and setting up CloudFlare – more than worth the peace of mind it provides.

  • If you would like advice or would prefer not to go hands-on we can provide CloudFlare setup for you. Call us +44 (0)20 8123 2555 to learn more.

Near Field Communication (NFC) and charities

NFC or Near Field Communication to give it its full title, is a way for devices to exchange information with each other without having to plug in or even physically touch each other. Soon it will be used to create “contactless” payments where you can simply place your credit, debit or even phone onto a pad and the retailer can charge you for your purchase in seconds.

How does NFC work?

NFC uses small chips, sometimes called tags that have no power of their own but when scanned by an NFC reader a small electromagnetic charge brings the NFC tag to life and the data contained can be accessed by the reading device. A device can be both a reader and able to write to NFC tags and tags themselves can be write once or written to many times over.

Facebook page PayPal donation buttons – A ‘how to’ guide

*UPDATE – Facebook have changed the way you add content to your pages. Please see How to Create a Facebook iframe tab for Facebook pages .

Follow those instructions but use the same HTML code on this page for your PayPal button.

This question comes up a lot so we thought it was time to put a guide together so you can have your own PayPal donation button on your Facebook page. You may also like to read How to Add Google Analytics to your Facebook page which uses many of the techniques covered in this guide.

What you will need:

  • A Facebook page
  • A PayPal account
  • 15 minutes of your time

To get started go to the EDIT screen of your Facebook Page, scroll down to the bottom and look for application browser, click and then do a search on the next page for FBML the programming language that Facebook uses.

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Google Gmail goes https by default

Here is some interesting news. Google have now switched to forcing a https connection when you access the Gmail service. Gmail is Google’s free email service like Hotmail or paid service like Microsoft Exchange. Https is used to secure your “session” between you and the website you are accessing. If you have ever made a purchase online you have used a secure session.

Why does HTTPS matter?

Security above all else, creating a secure session between you and the server means no one can snoop on your log-in details or the content of emails you are reading.

However there is a downside! Https is slower than a normal http connection, the reason being that the data has to be encrypted and decrypted on both ends as well as placing an extra burden on routers along the path of the connection.

In modern terms you shouldn’t notice the difference but for users on older computers or slow connections (dial-up, sub 500k broadband), you may find a lag effect when accessing Gmail.

Warning

You can turn https off in your settings but we would suggest it’s on for a very good reason – your security – and leave it on unless you have problems.

If you’re an IT manager you might want to take a look and see if your existing infrastructure will be able to cope with an increase of secure connections running across your internal networks.

What Google public DNS means to you

Google announced its DNS project this week, an attempt to speed up the domain name system (DNS). You may not realise, but when you type in a web address like www.google.com you don’t just arrive at the website in question. A complex set of exchanges occur between your computer and a set of servers known as the DNS root. These 13 world-wide servers house a giant address book on web addresses and a corresponding IP address.

Think of it like a telephone directory. You want to speak to Joe Smith but first you need to know his number.

DNS holds the entire fabric of the modern web together. The faster it operates the quicker we arrive at the site we were looking for. As we say, there are 13 root servers, not many when you think of all those websites and even though the system has been designed so that if even 90% of the DNS servers go offline it will still function, Google wants to make sure that it’s able to keep everything working if those servers fail for any reason.

Server attacks

In the past there have been attacks against the root servers such as Poisoned DNS and DDOS attacks. A poison DNS attempts to hijack a domain name and re-point it to a hacked server allowing users to become infected with viruses and malware.

In a DDOS attack the aim is to flood the server with millions of requests a second, taking it offline or slowing it down to a crawl. You would be very surprised how often the root servers get attacked… try constantly!

Google is working hard to make even the oldest parts of the web’s infastructure faster and more resilient to problems and attacks. With Google running a DNS server, they can filter out and guard against attacks and use that incredible worldwide data centre to make DNS requests incredibly fast.

We will put together an article later covering how to change your computer’s DNS settings to talk to Google’s new DNS servers.

Save hassle by accessing other computers remotely

We don’t know about you, but we find it a real pain to have to keep going round to friends’ houses to fix whatever problem they are having with their computer… and don’t get us started on relatives!

That’s why we use remote access software to allow us to access friends’ and relatives’ computers quickly and easily and see what they are seeing. We can interact with their mouse and keyboard just as if  we were sitting right next to them. Fixing PC problems has become a snap. No more trying to get descriptions of the problems. Now we can really see what they are seeing and get right to work fixing it.

To access a single PC costs $4.95 a month or if you need to access loads more, multi-access plans start from just $49.95 a month for up to 25 computers.

Being able to take direct control of a computer has really helped save time and hassle and we think it’s given friends a less stressful time of having to explain to us what they have done this time.

Can’t help if they kick the power cable out though :-)