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How to Reset Your Hosting Space

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Sometimes you just want to tear everything down and then build it back up.  Maybe you are tired of your old nopCommerce site and want to try out WordPress.

Maybe you have an older version of an app in your hosting space and you want to upgrade, but first you need to remove the current installation.

Whatever the reason, the support department is often asked, “How do I reset my hosting space?”

Well, there isn’t a tool available in Control Panel to do this, so I have provided the following guide for you to use to clean out your hosting space and return it to “factory default” in two broad steps.

Backing up and removing your database

  1. Find your Control Panel’s MS SQL Manager (or MySQL Manager for you Linux types).
  2. Use your MS SQL Manager’s Manage link, and then the backup link to take you to the backup prompt.
  3. Back it on up!
  4. Navigate back to the first screen of your MS SQL Manager, this time use the Delete link.
  5. Confirm it, and delete your database.

Backing up your site’s files and then removing them

You might have had to mark a few sub directories as application starting points in the past; I recommend that you unmark them first in order to avoid potential permissions issues.

  1. Navigate to the Application Starting Point tool in Control Panel.
  2. Use the delete link to unmark these directories as application starting points, we will take the actual backups next as this step does not delete any files itself.
  3. Connect to your web server with an FTP client, I recommend FileZilla, I also recommend that you use your alternative FTP address, to avoid any potential issues with DNS.
  4. Since I want to take a backup of all my files and include my database backup, I’m going to download everything to my local computer. If you don’t want a backup, or just want to backup certain files, just download the files you want.
  5. Sometimes you have to manually enter “App_Data” (the directory I backed up my database too) in the Remote Site section in order to access it.
  6. Once you have a copy of everything that you need, select all your remote directories and hit DELETE.

If you cannot delete some of your files and directories at this point, try recycling your application pool.  Sometimes web applications do not “let go” of a file or directory properly, and you will not be able to delete a file while it is in use. Recycling your application pool should remove the lock.

If you tried recycling your application pool but still cannot delete a file, open up a ticket with the support department and ask us to manually remove the files from the server.

Make sure to provide us with a copy of your FTP log, just so we know that you tried to delete the files yourself.

And there you have it, we now have a completely clean hosting space.

Your database has been backed up and removed, so we don’t have to worry about old table data conflicting with new.

Also, all of your application starting points have been removed, and you have regained all of your disk space allotment on the web server.



WordPress Tips

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Here are some small tips you can use to make your WordPress site a bit more secure and slightly increase performance.  Make sure the version of WordPress you’re running is the most recent version.  This will ensure any security vulnerabilities found in the Content Management System will be addressed.

To perform an in-place upgrade of WordPress:

1) Log into WordPress as the admin user.

2) On the Dashboard, it should say WordPress x.x.x is available!  Click on the Please update now link.

3) Click the Update Now button.

4) Finished!

Alternatively, you can perform a manual upgrade by:

1) Instead of clicking the Upgrade Now button, click Download x.x.x

2) Extract the .zip file’s contents.

3) Upload the files using FTP, matching the same directory structure.

4) Once you refresh the admin screen in the browser, you should get an Update WordPress Database button.  Click on it and then the Continue button to complete the process.

You can also add an extra layer of security for the admin section.  Ruslan’s Blog shows you how.

According to IIS7 Manager, you can improve the performance a bit by moving the index.php file to the top of the Default Document list.

I also suggest you disable Directory Browsing.

Take note that any changes you make through IIS7 Manager will be written to your web.config file, so you should always make a backup of it before proceeding.



How to Check Email Disk Usage Per User in SmarterMail

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The first step is to log in to SmarterMail with your Postmaster email account.

Log in to the Winhost Control Panel.

Click the Sites tab at the top.

Now click on Manage next to the site you wish to check the email disk space usage.

Click the Email icon in the Site Tools section.

On the next page click the SmarterMail Manager link.

This will automatically log you in to the SmarterMail Email system using the Postmaster account.

Click on the “Reports” Icon.

Now Expand the Domain Summary Reports folder. Then Expand the Traffic Reports folder. Click Disk Usage.

The page will now display how much disk space each email account is using.



How to Create an Email User in SmarterMail

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You will need to log in to the SmarterMail system with the postmaster email account first in order to create an email user. To do this please log in to Control Panel on Winhost.

Once you have logged in to Control Panel, click the Sites tab at the top.

Then click on “Manage” next to the site you wish to manage.

Click on the Email box under site tools.

Then click the “SmarterMail Manager” link.

The link will automatically log you into the SmarterMail email system using the Postmaster account.

Once you are in the SmarterMail, click the “Settings” button.

Then expand the “Domain Settings” folder if it is not already expanded. Then Click on “Users”

Then you may start adding your email users by clicking on the “New”.



Three Ways to Skin a Cat (or Deploy a CMS)

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Did you know there are multiple ways of installing/deploying your favorite Content Management System at Winhost?  Below, I provide 3 general guidelines and briefly explain the benefits/drawbacks of each.  (I’ll be using DotNetNuke as an example.)

Method 1: Installing the Content Management System using the App Installer tool in the Control Panel

  1. Log into the Winhost Control Panel.
  2. Click on the Sites tab.
  3. Click on the Manage link next to the Site you want to manage.
  4. Click on the App Installerbutton.
  5. Find the Content Management System and review the requirements.  If it requires a higher hosting plan, then you should upgrade.  If it requires a specific ASP.NET version, you should change it through the Control Panel.  If it requires a database, you should create it beforehand and take note of the connection string information.
  6. When you are ready, click on Select this Application >>
  7. Fill out the application parameters.  For the application path, leave it blank to install it to the root of your site account or enter a sub-directory that you want it installed to.  Fill out any database parameters as well.
  8. Click on the Install Application button to load the files on to your site account.
  9. Once you get a message that your application has installed successfully, proceed on navigating to the root/sub-directory to configure it.  (Note: Please use your Secondary URL address if you have not pointed your domain name over to us or registered one yet.)

Configuring DotNetNuke example:

  1. Select Typical and click on Next.
  2. Make sure the CMS requirement check passes and click on Next.
  3. Enter the database connection information and click on Next.
  4. The database tables will install.  Once complete, click on Next.  (If you have problems with this step, try using an empty database.)
  5. Fill out the SuperUser Account and Website Information.  Click on Next.
  6. Success!

Benefits: The benefit of using this method is that you do not have to upload any files.

Drawbacks: A slight drawback is that CMS version might not be the latest.  This may not be a problem as most CMS nowadays have upgrade modules which you can invoke after the install.

Please also note using the App Installer tool will wipe out any files in the installation directory.  If you have files in the root, this is not a good idea.  Make sure you make a backup copy of your site before using the App Installer tool.

If you install the application to a sub-directory, it will also mark it as an application starting point.  If you have multiple apps running on your site, you will need to take this into consideration if you need to make web.config modifications.

Method 2: Installing the Content Management System using FTP

  1. Obtain the installation files from the Content Management System vendor’s site.  (e.g. http://www.dotnetnuke.com/)  Do not get the source code version.  Get the runtime version.  It is usually in the form of a .zip file.
  2. Extract the archive file’s contents.
  3. Upload the files using an FTP client such as FileZilla.  If you deploy it to a subdirectory, you might need to mark it as an Application Starting Point using the tools in the Control Panel.  This is not necessary if you install it to the root.
  4. Now navigate to your site/sub-directory using a browser to start the installation/configuration wizard.  For PHP based applications, you might need to add index.htm or index.html to the URL because it is not set up as a Default Document.  You can then follow the CMS’ wizard to complete the installation.  (I won’t repeat myself here, but since I am using DotNetNuke as an example, you can follow step 9 and on from Method 1 if you’d like to try it out yourself.)

Benefits: The benefit of using this method is that you can use the latest version of the CMS or install a CMS that is not available through the App Installer such as OpenCart.

Drawbacks: The drawback is that you need to be more aware of the CMS’ requirements and may need to perform more steps to configure it properly.  It also may not be a viable option if the CMS is particularly large, and you have a slow Internet connection (i.e. it would take a very long time to upload the files).

Method 3: Installing the Content Management System using Microsoft Web Matrix

  1. Launch Microsoft Web Matrix.
  2. Click on App Gallery.
  3. Select the Content Management System you want to install and click on Next.
  4. You will see an Application Description page.  Click on Next.
  5. A wizard will guide you through the process of installing it on your local machine.  Click OK when you are done.  (Pay attention to the pre-requisites.  For this demo, SQL Server Express needs to be installed on your local machine.)
  6. Your default browser should launch to help you configure the application locally.  (See section Configuring Dotnetnuke example for an example.)  This will allow you to develop your website locally.
  7. Go back to Microsoft Web Matrix when you are finished with developing your site.
  8. To deploy your site to Winhost, click on the Publish icon.
  9. You will see 2 options: Import publish profile (recommended) and Enter settings.  You can enter the settings manually, and all the information you need to supply can be found in various sections of the Winhost Control Panel.  We also provide you with a basic publishing profile (web server settings, not database).  You can find it by going to Winhost Control Panel -> Sites -> Manage -> Web Deploy [Publishing Information].  Click on the link to download it.

10. For this example, I will use Import publish profile (recommended).  Below is a sample screen shot, and I’ve manually entered the database connection string (found in the Control Panel). Click on the Validate Connection button.  If it does not say Connected Successfully, then you may have entered the wrong settings or you may have antivirus/firewall software blocking the connection.  Click on Save and Continue a few times.  (Don’t worry if you get a warning about site compatibility.  It should still work.)

11. You will now see a Preview screen, and you can choose what you want to publish.  Click Continue when you are done checking the files/database you want to update.

12. You will get a Publishing – Complete message when you are done.

Benefits: The greatest benefit to this method is that you can develop your site locally.

Drawbacks: The drawback with this method is that you may need to perform a lot of prerequisite setup prior to the installation.  Configuring changes locally may also not work when you deploy to Winhost.  You may still need to make some further alterations to the web.config file.

As with Method 1, you need to be careful when publishing as files in the destination could be overwritten.  Always make a backup of your site prior to publishing.

You may also want to spend some time reading this great post from one of our customers on the forums:

http://forum.winhost.com/showthread.php?t=8565&highlight=dnn+installation



That @#$%&* adaptive spam!

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All of us have experienced spam. Spam is unsolicited and unwanted email that arrives in our inboxes. It can range from a minor annoyance to complete disruption of email accounts, or worse yet, can harbor malware, trojans, and viruses.

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Some of us go through a period of time where we do not get spam in our inbox, then are suddenly bombarded with it. Some of us even incorporate spam/content filters, often decreasing unwanted and unsolicited email, only to have a renewed surge of spam activity within a year or so.

While our first instinct may be to contact our email administrators to inform them of increased activity and find out if any email server settings have been modified, let’s not forget our own responsibilities to help prevent, diminish, and combat spam from infiltrating our email accounts.

I want to bring up four points that we all need to think about when we want to protect ourselves from these disruptive and intrusive emails.

First, whenever possible, try to avoid using your primary email address when filling out forms. We see it all the time, at the mall or shopping center a booth is offering a free entry to win a prize. We eagerly fill out all the information to win that car or vacation to the Bahamas, and one of the pieces of information they ask for is our email address.

For things like these, try to use an email address that is not your primary email address. Set up a Yahoo or Gmail account that is used solely for these events, and it will help to greatly reduce the amount of spam that arrives in your inbox.

You might think that creating an alternative email address on your primary email domain will solve the problem. For example, your primary email account is postmaster@domain.com, and you create junk@domain.com. The problem with this method is that you are disclosing your email domain, and spammers can now bombard @domain.com with “guessed” addresses (such as info@, webmaster@, or even entire dictionaries of usernames) which can eventually spill over to your primary email address.

Second, look at this one as a duty or responsibility: never respond to spam! Delete it, and whenever possible, mark it as spam in your email system so that you build a reputation for what is and isn’t spam. The next time you get a similar spam message it will automatically drop it in your “Trash” or “Junk” folder.

In SmarterMail, if you see an email in your inbox that is spam you can go to Actions/Mark/spam. The more you use this, the more you build up your definition of potential spam.

The third good practice is setting up account level spam and content filtering rules. Many email systems have this feature. In SmarterMail you can go to Settings/Filtering. There you can define your own content filtering and spam filtering rules.

Don’t forget Greylisting! When an email network “greylists” messages, they do not accept the initial incoming message, but rather instruct the sending mail server to try to delivery again later (which most servers will do every few minutes). The assumption being that spam servers will not attempt to send the message again, but legitimate servers will. Greylisting will delay legitimate emails though, so it’s up to you to decide to enable or disable this feature. For the most part, Greylisting is a valuable tool in helping keep your email account clean of unsolicited emails.

Finally, if at all possible, try to avoid “catch-all” email accounts. Catch-all accounts will allow any email address to come through. For example, if you have Catch-all enabled, email addresses that do not exist (email1@domain.com, email2@domain.com) will make it into your inbox. There may be a business need to have this activated, but this will greatly increase the likelihood of receiving spam, even with a strong spam filtering system.

The last thing that I would like to mention is the necessity of remaining diligent.

Many of us successfully implement the above practices, reducing or even eliminating spam from getting into our inboxes, only to relax our guard, even temporarily, exposing us to a new series of attacks on our email.

Keep in mind that spam is an ongoing threat, and that spam is adaptive and always evolving. Spammers know that they have to constantly update their procedures and techniques to get through to the greatest number of people.

One of the biggest mistakes that we can make is believing that once we have effective anti-spam measures in place, that we do not have to revisit and update those measures. If that were true, spam would have been eliminated a long time ago.

As spammers find new and more sophisticated ways to infiltrate your inbox, you have to remain vigilant and active in combating spam.



Set Up Gmail for Your Winhost-Hosted Domain in 10 Minutes Flat

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I know you absolutely love the SmarterMail webmail that we provide with your account. What’s not to love? It’s old fashioned, clunky, confusing – perfect!

But you don’t have to be stuck with it. You can “pop” your email boxes using Gmail. “Pop” is just nerd slang for “check.” What we’re talking about here is reading and replying to mail that comes in to the addresses that you’ve set up on your domain name, but doing it all through the Gmail interface, and that’s pretty cool.

This is not a tutorial for using Google Apps mail with your domain. We already have one of those in our forum.  This tutorial will show you how to keep your mail service here at Winhost, but use Gmail as your email program.

You have a Gmail account, right? If not, go set one up, then we can get started.

Log in to Gmail and click the Settings gear and select Settings.

Click Accounts and Import.

Click Add a POP3 mail account you own. In the lovely orange popup window that opens, enter the email address that you want to check using Gmail. Click Next Step.

Next you’ll be on the mail settings page of the popup window. There are a lot of variables here (it’s Google, after all), but we’ll concentrate on the simplest, quickest setup.

Username is your complete email address, not just the part before @.
Password is the POP account password that you entered into Control Panel when you set up the email address.
POP Server should be pre-populated with mail.yourhosteddomainname.com.

Everything else can be left in its default state. If you do not intend to use Gmail exclusively, check the box for “Leave a copy of retrieved message on the server,” that will allow you to pull your mail down from another source in addition to Gmail.

But beware, if you use that option and your Winhost email boxes get full, your mail will bounce. To prevent that ever happening, do not check “Leave a copy of retrieved message on the server.”

Click Add Account.

The next window will verify that your account has been added.

It will also ask if you want to be able to send mail “as” the new address. If you intend to use Gmail as your only email client, or if you ever want to respond to the incoming mail for your newly set up account, select Yes, I want to be able to send mail as…

Click Next Step.

If you selected “No” in the previous window, you’re finished.

The end.

But you didn’t select “No,” did you? Good! You’re going to want to be able to send mail from Gmail “as” yourself.

So in the next window simply enter your name. This is the name you want to appear as the sender. Leave Treat as an alias checked.

Click Next Step.

Next the cheerful Google robots are going to ask if you want to send mail through their SMTP server or if you want to send through your domain. It’s much easier to leave the default Send through Gmail checked. And since this is the easy setup guide, that’s just what we’ll do.

Click Next Step.

Before Gmail will let you send mail as yourself they want to make sure that you are who you say you are. Otherwise you could send mail as me — or someone important like Scott Guthrie or Larry the Cable Guy. To get the verification ball rolling, just click Send Verification.

Now you could log in to your POP account with your desktop email client, or use SmarterMail webmail to pick up the Google verification email. But since you’re already checking mail for your address using Gmail, you should be able to click Inbox on the upper left side of the Gmail window and – through the miracle of modern technology – pick up the verification email right there.

Try it. I’ll wait here.

Once you’ve copied the verification code from the email, just enter it into the box in the popup window and click Verify.

The popup window will disappear and nothing else will happen.

Which is good, because nothing else needs to happen. You’re all set!


Speaking of Google, why not join our circles on Google+? We’re waiting for you.



Windows 2012, IIS 8, and CMS Woes

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Our team has discovered that since the launch of Windows 2012 and IIS 8 there have been some issues with installing and running some of the more popular Content Management Systems such as DotNetNuke and Orchard.

The problem can be resolved by setting the Trust Level to Full in the web.config file.  To do this:

  1. Download the web.config file using an FTP client.
  2. Open the downloaded web.config file with Notepad or any text editor.
  3. Search for “trust level” and change it from “Medium” to “Full”.  You can refer to this Knowledge Base article to help you find the appropriate section.  Note that you will need to also remove any comment tags: <– –>
  4. Re-upload the web.config file.

If you find that you’re having difficulties with other Content Management Systems, you might want to try setting the Trust Level to Full as well to see if that will correct the problem.