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Android handy hint - Google's phone finder

Blog post written by Rob Henson | 28 April 2015 | Category: Technical advice

A quick blog post sharing something we’ve just discovered which we like. If you’ve got an Android phone and you’ve lost it or forgotten where you’ve put it, there’s an easy way of finding it.

  1. Go to google.com on a computer and sign in using the Google account associated with your phone
  2. Type into Google “Find my phone”
  3. A Google map appears showing exactly where your phone is. Underneath that there’s a button labelled “Ring” which will set your phone ringing on maximum volume for five minutes while you hunt for it.

Nifty eh?

Have you got your .uk domain name?

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 29 October 2014 | Category: Technical advice

It’s always seemed strange to me that all other countries in the world have a simple top level domain extension and we don’t. For example, France is .fr, Germany is .de and so on. We’ve always had to tack on a ‘co’ or ‘org’ or some other such extension to make .co.uk or .org.uk.

Well there is now a simple .uk extension and the rule is that if you have a .co.uk domain then you are entitled to buy the .uk domain for a limited period.

There’s no great rush as you have got until 10 June 2019 but it could easily be one of those things you put aside and forget to do so why not get it done and out of the way?

If your domain name or names are handled by us, let me know if you want us to set up the .uk domain.

If not, you simply need to contact your domain registrar or hosting company.

Google increases ranking for secure sites

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 13 August 2014 | Category: Technical advice

Google has announced that it is now using websites’ security status as a ranking method. In other words, if your site uses the HTTPS protocol to encrypt communication between user and server then it will rank higher than a site that is not using HTTPS (all other things being equal).

For the time being this is a lightweight signal and doesn’t rank as highly as other things such as site content and keywords but Google has said it may increase the importance of a secure connection over time.

Google believes all website communication should be secure to stop passive attackers ‘listening in’ to people using the web or worse still, being able to tamper with data. They want to entice developers such as us to use a secure connection.

We already use HTTPS on our online shops (see for example Geo F Trumper, Shaw & Sons and Pace Aquatics) and it is particularly inexcusable not to use HTTPS when asking for a user’s payment details (not to mention really bonkers business practice).  We’re going to be reviewing all of our sites and sending out recommendations to our customers over the coming weeks.

If your site already uses HTTPS, you can test its connection at Qualys SSL Labs

If you have any questions about this issue, just drop me a line.

Google logo with padlock

Taking the mystery out of domains

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 04 June 2013 | Category: Technical advice

One subject that occasionally confuses clients is the whole thing about domain names and how they work especially in terms of how they are related to email addresses and websites.

So I thought I’d pen a simplified blog post to explain it in terms that (I hope) are easily understood (something we could have done with ourselves many moons ago when we first started out!).

The first thing is that you register a domain name. You can get domains registered in many places. The only advice would be to use a reputable domain provider. We can register domain names. We don’t do this as a standalone service but we have registered many names for our web design clients. For the purposes of this blog post we are going to use our own domain, novamedia.co.uk as an example.

A domain name is normally simply in two or three parts, separated by dots. In the case of our example, the .co.uk is known as a second level domain. (Top level domains are .com, .org and .net amongst others). Then beneath our .co.uk is the domain name we have chosen, novamedia. For most people this information isn’t at all important. You just know that you want to use novamedia.co.uk as your domain name and then get it registered.

What is the point of a domain name? All computers on a network are indentified by a unique number known as an IP address. This is normally a four- or six-part number such as If you type that IP address in your browser’s address bar, you’ll see that it goes to our website. So what is easier to remember – novamedia.co.uk or Clearly it’s much easier and more user friendly to remember a name that a set of numbers.

This is where DNS comes in. DNS stands for Domain Name System and it is effectively a distributed online directory that translates easy-to-read domain names into their numerical IP addresses and then routes network traffic off to the server for that IP address. It knows what to do for various uses of the domain as well. So for example, if you type in www.novamedia.co.uk, the first thing that the DNS does is to look for the DNS records for novamedia.co.uk and then within these records it looks for the IP address for the www part of novamedia.co.uk which is  Then via the internet it gets the information from the server with that IP address and returns it to the user’s browser, showing them the Novamedia website.

The same thing applies to email. If you send an email to dave@novamedia.co.uk, the email sending system will look for the DNS records for novamedia.co.uk then, knowing that the dave@ part represents an email address, it will look for the IP address of the email part of the domain. This won’t be the same as the www IP address but it will be the IP address of the mail server that receives email for all addresses at novamedia.co.uk. The email is then sent to the server on that IP address and deposited there ready to be retrieved by my email program.

DNS records are usually managed via a control panel for the domain. We often need to change records via such a control panel especially when we are producing a website for a client that already has a domain. Either we or the client can log into their control panel and change the DNS record for the www part of the domain from the IP address of the current web server to our server’s IP address where we are hosting their shiny new website. No other records in the DNS are changed so their existing email service still goes to the same place it always has.

I hope that has helped to take some of the mystery out of domains and how they work.

What is hosting and why do I need it?

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 18 September 2012 | Category: Technical advice

Now and again a client will come to us and ask what hosting is and why they need to pay for it. Although we set this out upfront when beginning a job a client may sometimes forget about this service we are providing them with and the costs involved (after all, quality hosting should be something you are able to have minimal involvement in as it should just work!). So after several questions about hosting from clients we have realised that perhaps we have not been clear enough in the past about what hosting actually is. Hopefully this blog post will answer all those questions.

What is hosting?

Hosting is literally where your website lives. A website must exist on a computer (called a server) which has access to the internet and is running web server software. When somebody using the internet tries to visit a page on your website they send a request for that page over the internet from their computer to the server where the website is hosted (aha!). The server will then send the requested page back to the user’s computer which will look all pretty in their web browser. In essence that is all there is to it although technically this can get quite complicated!

A server can be any computer which is connected to the internet. Any PC or Mac with a connection to the internet and the correct software installed can act as a web server but you get many advantages when you use a server specially designed and installed for the job.

Our server

Our server does not sit in our office keeping us all nice and warm but is installed in a datacentre. A datacentre is a building with the specific purpose of housing servers. There are many advantages to keeping our server here:

  • The datacentre is temperature controlled so that the servers do not get too hot and can therefore provide their best performance.
  • The connection to the internet at the datacentre is unlike your broadband connection in your office or at home. Datecentres lease a large amount of bandwidth so that upload and download speeds are very fast and very consistent. The hardware used to connect to the internet is extremely high-end and there are backup solutions in place if hardware is to fail.
  • The datacentre is physically very secure so that hardware and more importantly data, are protected.
  • Backups to an offsite location are performed regularly, ensuring that you never lose your important data.

The above advantages ensure we are able to provide high-availability worry-free hosting for your website or application.

Speaking of applications

In order to create a website or web application which does more than present static pages of text  and images to the user extra software is required on our server. Most importantly we require a web application server and database server. We use Adobe ColdFusion and MySQL respectively. ColdFusion provides us with an architecture which allows to efficiently build rich, scalable applications which can do almost anything you can think of. MySQL provides us with a robust and well-supported database for storing the data which these applications rely upon.

Why do I need to pay for you to host my website?

You don’t! But you will need to pay somebody to host it. The implementation and management of our hosting service obviously requires an on-going commitment for us and we believe that the service we provide is extremely good value for money. The websites and applications which we build for you are specifically designed for the software environment on our server and so by hosting with us you can be assured that your site will just work (and in the rare case where there is a problem we have systems in place which immediately alert us to it so we can go about fixing it)!

Setting up email accounts

Blog post written by Dave Henson | 27 March 2012 | Category: Technical advice

This week's blog is a bit of back to basics, answering one of the questions we often get asked if we have set up a domain for a client: How do I set up my email accounts?

I'm not going to go through every different software program in detail but just cover in general terms the information that you need to set up email accounts using your preferred software.

The first thing you have to do is to decide what email address or addresses you want to use and get these set up on the system. If you have a control panel for your domain then you will be able to do this yourself. If not, you may have to ask your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or the person who looks after your IT to do this for you. (If you've got a person who looks after your IT in-house then he or she can probably do this whole thing for you anyway, so there may be no point in reading on. Go and put your feet up and have a cup of tea!).

But let's assume that you have to set all this up yourself. We'll choose and email address – let's say fred@novamedia.co.uk. The control panel will ask you to enter the email address and select a password for the email. You'll need both of these things when you set it up on your email program. Your control panel may well have other options too but you can ignore these for the time being.

As soon as you have set this new email address up, any emails sent to fred@novamedia.co.uk will start going into Fred's inbox on the mail server. The mail server is the server your ISP uses to receive email on your behalf. When you set up your email program, it interrogates this mail server to see if there are any emails in Fred's inbox and downloads them to your PC.

You don't actually have to set up your email software if you don't want to. Most ISPs will offer a webmail service where you can just log in to the mail server and view and send emails from there and in fact this is basically the way that cloud email services work such as Google's GMail.

But we'll assume you want to receive emails on your PC otherwise this blog post is going to end much sooner than expected.

So you go in to your email software and go to the bit where you set up a new account. You'll need various bits of information:

  • Your email address
  • Your password
  • The POP server address
  • The SMTP server address
  • The server port numbers if the defaults are not being used

Now you know the first two already but you'll need to find out the last three and these are questions you need to ask your ISP. It may well be documented on your control panel. What are these things?

POP stands for Post Office Protocol. It's got nothing to do with the GPO (that ages me!) but is simply the protocol used to describe how email messages are received. SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and is the system used to describe how messages are sent. Often the server addresses for these will be the same. For example, our ISP uses mail.flintmedia.co.uk.

There are two port numbers, one for the POP server and one for the SMTP server. By default these are 110 and 25 respectively. Your ISP may use different port numbers and you may need to check this. If you are setting up an email address on our system, the SMTP port is 587.

Finally there may be a checkbox that you need to tick if your ISP's server requires authentication. Again, your ISP should be able to make this clear. Our ISP requires this to be ticked.

That's basically it and I hope I've given you enough information to enable you to set up your email address using your chosen software program.

There's just one final thing. By default, when you download the emails from the mail server, they are transferred to your PC and deleted from the mail server. However, most email programs will enable you to choose if you want to leave the message on the mail server. This can be useful in some circumstances. For example, you may want to have access to your emails from other devices such as your smartphone or a laptop but still want to have all messages downloaded to your PC. You can set up your email accounts on your smartphone or laptop in the same way as described above but click the box that tells the system to leave messages on the server. When you get back to your desktop PC and download your emails, these messages will still be there and will therefore download to the PC and then be deleted from the mail server.

(If you've been pointed to this blog post as one of our clients and anything isn't clear, do give me a call).