What is a CDN? How to set-up Max CDN in under 10 minutes on wordpress?

Like any other business offline or online, a website is ALL about user experience. Even if you have the best content available on your site, it would be of little use, if you provide poor user experience on it. For anyone in need of better rankings for their site , all major search engines have been stressing this point time-and-again.What is a CDN?

One of the best ways to go from good-to-great user experience is to make sure that your website is able to load fast. While this article is written keeping in mind wordpress CMS but in general it is applicable for any site employing any content management system.

There are various ways to ensure good speed for your wordpress powered website. The regular ones among them being; making use of good web-hosting, ensuring gZip compression, enabling cache for your static content (using a plug-in like WP Super Cache), minifying CSS and JavaScript files, optimizing images for web, minimizing DNS look up time.

All techniques mentioned above are good for boosting speed but all of them are limited by one important factor – your web hosting provider.

Imagine a visitor is browsing your site from Australia and you host your site in one of the web hosting companies of US. Every time, he loads your site, there is a round trip involved from Australia-US-Australia which can result in a lot of processing time for your website aka poor user experience. Now imagine your webhost has put all your static files in various servers across the world. A user in Australia won’t need to fetch the site content all the way from US, rather he would be fetching it from the nearest physical server available for him. This is the essence of CDN.

What is a CDN?

CDN is an abbreviation for Content Delivery Network. In all probability, any big site you come across your daily life would be using CDN. With increase in competition and decrease in hosting costs, CDN services are becoming popular among small and medium size businesses as well. Check the video below on how your site can be made to run faster using a CDN.

 

Why Every WordPress Site should be on a CDN?

WordPress powers almost 20% of the sites on the web (and that is a conservative estimate). While being one of the easiest CMS, it starts to drag when you start adding fancy themes and plug-ins on top of it. All these themes, plug-ins comes with their own set of baggage (read CSS, JavaScript, image files) A CDN’s job is to pull all such static files and distribute them to servers (called Edge locations) across the world. With CDN implemented, any given visitor on a site would be served content from the nearest geographical location of the Edge servers and thus will be able to access the content quickly.

As seen above, CDN will not only help you speed-up your website but will also help in reducing your bandwidth usage (ultimately lower bills, if you are on a metered hosting plan)

There are tons of CDN services available, which one should I choose?

There are several CDN providers available in the market today. Choosing one of them can be an uphill task especially if you are beginner to the market. There are experts who have made thorough comparison among the major service providers. I took help of the latest exhaustive tests conducted by TopTenReviews and by Gabriel.

When a small business or a bootstrapped company go shopping, they look for best bang for the buck, which means among factors like speed, Point Of Presence (POP), we have to give priority to pricing as well.

Compiling the tests above and keeping price factor in mind, Max CDN emerged as the winner for me.

Test Drive Max CDN on a WordPress Site

After being prima-facie satisfied with Max CDN , I took it for a test drive.

Here are my notes:

  1. In my past 8 years of online business experience, I have used many services and interacted with support staff, I think I can say this without any ambiguity that Max CDN has ONE-Of-THE-BEST on-boarding process for a new user.
    • There are LIVE 24*7 , knowledgeable professionals available to chat with you at a click of a button.
    • As soon you are registered, you will be asked if you wish to join a 1-on-1 live call with a CDN support engineer.
    • You can even complete the steps yourself using the excellent step-by-step Getting Started Guide.
  2. I took help of the getting starting guide. After activating Max CDN account, we need to create a pull zone. Following the on-screen instructions, this step shouldn’t take more than 3 mins. A CDN URL will be created for you automatically.
  3. I use WP Super Cache for caching needs of this website. Following the instructions, it took 2 minutes to set it up. They have instructions for W3 Total Cache as well. In case you don’t find your favorite caching plug-in listed, you can check with chat support staff.
  4. That’s it you have enabled CDN for your blog. You can confirm that by viewing the source of your blog.
  5. Before you go on and celebrate, please wait for an important tweak. Now that your blog images are residing at more than one place, these can contribute to duplicate image issue as described at Google Webmaster blog. Please make sure to enable canonical headers and Robots.txt on your CDN control panel as shown in the first image here.
  6. I used Gtmetrix to measure the affect of CDN on this blog. Here are some stats (25% speed boost after implementing CDN )cdn-vs-no-cdn
  7. Max CDN’s control panel is neatly divided in 4 parts.
    1. Dashboard: Provides you a broad overview of your account.
    2. Zones: Here you can create various types of zones like Pull, Push, Video and more. (Pull is the most popular zone)
    3. Reports: This tab provides an exhaustive report on what is happening in your account, which edge locations are being called, detailed access logs and more.
    4. Account: Here you can view details of storage stats, invoices, users. You can enable Max CDN API to connect to your app. It also provides a security tab where you can enable 2 step authentication for your Max CDN account via Google authenticator app.

Can Max CDN create a problem with Google Adsense or any other advertising program?

I don’t find a reason why Max CDN should interfere with Google Adsense or for that matter any other advertising program. The only difference before and after implementing CDN is that, now our static content like CSS and JavaScript files are being served from various servers across the world. These files have no bearing on codes provided by such advertising programs.

Can I use Max CDN on top of Cloudfare?

Technically, yes. However, you need to understand that Cloudfare primarily provides security to your website while Max CDN primary role is to provide speed boost. While the price tag of Cloudfare ($0) looks lucrative, If you are starting out, I would suggest you to not touch Cloudfare at this point – it may prove to be an over-kill. However, if you choose to go for Cloudfare or Sucuri Cloud proxy service, make sure to enable XFF under Pull Zone > Settings > Edge Settings

Ok, I also want to use Max CDN on my site. Is there any discount?

Sure. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to this page on Max CDN site.
  2. Choose one of the plans depending upon your site’s requirement. [For people starting out, the starter 100GB plan should be more than enough.]
  3. Use the coupon code ROW to avail 25% life-time discount on all plans offered by Max CDN. They offer 30 days money back guarantee on all plans.

Over to you, how was your experience with a CDN provider? Did you find any noticeable speed boost?

Here Is Why You Should Enable 2 Factor Authentication (and a list of 9 services)

As our lives are getting increasingly dependent on web based services, they are getting prone to hackers (crackers). There is a recent case of a web based company which was virtually forced to shut down its operation after the hacker was able to gain access to its backend and servers.

A company winding up its operation after a cyber attack

While no one can guarantee 100% safety against a malicious hacker, there are some precautions you can take to protect yourself online. One of the most important among them is 2 Factor Authentication(2FA) and you need not be a geek to enable this. Had the above company been a little prudent and enabled 2FA, I’m sure they would not have met with such a fate.

What is 2 Factor Authentication?

In simple words 2FA provides a 2nd layer of password on top of your regular password for a given web application. This second password is normally either SMS-ed to you at the time of login OR it is configured in an application which is stored on your mobile phone. Except a couple of cases – which involved Social Engineering – I have not really heard some one getting hacked after enabling 2FA.

9 Important Services

Here are some commonly used important services where you can enable 2FA. Check the documentation link for the step-by-step procedure.

  1. Google Services (Gmail, Drive, YouTube): Documentation. If you use Gmail for business purposes, take a backup of Gmail using Spanning backup service.
  2. Yahoo: Documentation
  3. Outlook: Documentation
  4. FaceBook: Documentation
  5. LinkedIn: Documentation
  6. Dropbox: Documentation
  7. Amazon S3: Documentation
  8. Apple: Documentation
  9. PayPal: Documentation (Only available for US based customers)

Also check a comprehensive list by twofactorauth which provides a category wise list of all services providing two factor authentication.

How to book Tatkal tickets super fast?

Till yesterday I had never booked a Tatkal ticket on Indian Railways. A friend of mine was trying to book her tatkal tickets for last 2 days but every time she would try to login at 10:00 AM, the IRCTC site would stop responding.

In anguish she called yesterday to check if I could help. So began my research.

For the uninitiated, here is a primer:

  • Booking for Tatkal tickets can be done only between 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM.
  • Booking for Tatkal tickets can be done only a day before your travelling date.
  • Under tatkal scheme, you are not offered any concessional fare.
  • You can only book 2 tickets at a time under tatkal.
  • An ID card number is required for all the passengers traveling on tatkal tickets. Unlike normal reservation, tatkal booking form requires this number to be filled at the time of booking.
  • There are several thousand people across the world who try to book tickets at the same time concurrently. Indian Railways site is busiest and slowest at this time.
  • A session on IRCTC site expires after 3 minutes of inactivity.
  • QuickBook feature is not enabled during tatkal booking hours.

As I started reading articles online, it became clear that I need to beat others in form filling time. To semi-automated the process, most of the sites have recommended a utility called Magic Autofill written by Amit Agarwal. I tried it on 3 browsers (Chrome, Firefox and IE) but for some reason, it didn’t work at all.

Enter Roboform. This has been my favorite utility for past several years. It stores and generates passwords for me and help fill long forms at the click of a button. Taking help of this software and a bit of planning I was able to book tickets in a single attempt.

Here is the step-by-step process you can follow:

  1. Download and install a full functional 30 days trial of Roboform. (I would strongly suggest you to buy this inexpensive software once the trial expires, it has saved countless hours for me over the years.). Roboform gets installed as a browser extension.
  2. You basically have 3 forms to fill on IRCTC in the complete process. Do this little exercise, before you actually go on to book tatkal tickets. (This is a one time exercise, it will help you for future bookings as well) Go to IRCTC and login as you would normally do. Roboform will prompt you to save your username/password credentials. Save it using a meaningful name – say irctc. [You have completed automation for Form #1]
  3. Click ‘Proceed for Booking’ on the next page. On the left side, you will see the form shown below. plan-my-journey
  4. Now go to Roboform > identities > New and create a new identity.Give it some name say – IRCTC From and To Destination.new-identity
  5. Fill in the custom fields marked in Red box exactly as shown below. The fields for green box should be taken from the first image above. Save these fields by clicking on save button on top right side. [You have completed automation for Form #2]irctc-custom-field
  6. Click ‘Submit’ as shown on the first image above. On the right side, choose the train and class of travel as you would normally do. You will get this form. irctc-passenger-details
  7. Again, create a new identity as shown in Step#4. Fill in the custom fields marked in Red box exactly as shown below. The fields for green box should be taken from the image above. Save these fields by clicking on save button on top right side. [You have completed automation for Form #3].custom-passenger-details
  8. It may seem a bit daunting since you are doing this for the first time but I am sure this will help you in the long run. Make sure you do a dry-run before actual tatkal booking.
  9. IRCTC time out is 3 minutes of inactivity. I would suggest you to login around 9:58 AM and keep toggling between various classes of travel to prevent time out.

All the best! Let me know if you need any help.

Note: We are NOT doing anything illegal here. We are just taking help of a simple software to speed up the form filling time.

Complete process for filing TDS on property in India

Since June 1st,  2013, Indian Income Tax dept. has made mandatory to deduct 1% TDS if the property you are buying is more than 50 Lakhs. I see there is a lot of confusion amongst people regarding how and what to fill in the various fields provided in the form of Tax Information Network (TIN) website.

Some points before we start

  1. The online form available on the TIN website for furnishing information regarding TDS on property is termed as Form 26QB. It has been specifically introduced for deducting TDS on property purchase.
  2. According to rules in respect of tax deducted at source, buyer of the property would have to deduct the TDS and deposit the same in Government treasury.
  3. Buyer or Purchaser of the property is NOT required to procure Tax Deduction Account Number (TAN). The Buyer is required quote his or her PAN and sellers PAN.
  4. Frequently Asked Question: If amount of property sold is 70 Lakhs, would TDS be calculated at 20 Lakhs or on 70 Lakhs? TDS is to be deducted on the amount paid/credited to the seller. In this case, the deduction will be on total amount i.e. on 70 Lakhs.
  5. TDS would be calculated on the total value and not just the BSP i.e. you have to include EDC/IDC, parking, service tax.

Here is the step-by-step complete process from filling Form 26QB to downloading Form 16B from Traces website.

Navigating to IT website

Go to e-payment page of Income Tax department and click on Form 26QB hyperlink.

26QBlink

Filling the form 26QB

Now before we move ahead, you need to understand this part clearly.

If the property you are purchasing will be in the name of a single buyer and it is sold by a single seller, your life is just made easier. On the form shown below, you would need to fill No for both fields Whether more than one Transferee/Buyer* and Whether more than one Transferor/Seller*

If not, don’t fret. We will make sure the process is smooth for you. Online statement cum Form 26QB is to be filled in by each buyer for unique buyer-seller combination for respective share. For example: in case of one buyer and two sellers, two forms have to be filled in and for two buyers and two seller, four forms have to be filled in for respective property shares.

In the process below, we will take the common case of two buyers and one seller hence you would need to fill (2*1) two forms. (You can click below to view enlarged image) Fill in your details as shown in sample below.

TDS Process for property

Once you click on ‘Proceed’ above, you should get ‘Confirm Data Page’ (if you have filled the form without any errors). Go through this page to cross-verify your inputs. Scroll down and click on ‘Confirm’ button.

On the next page, you will get Acknowledgement number. Make a note of this number and save it in a safe location since it would be needed later to download form 16B.

Scroll down, hit ‘Submit to the bank’ and make the payment. Make a note of the Challan number you see on the last screen. This will be needed for Traces registration below.

Downloading Form 16B from Traces

After you get the acknowledgment number above, wait for 4-7 days. Now go to Traces website and register as a new user (if you have not registered yourself earlier) by entering your Validation details and details required under Option 2.

If everything has gone well, you should see the screen below.

Download form 16B from traces

[Go to Downloads > Form 16B (For buyer)] Fill in the required details on the next page and you should be able to download the form 16B within 15-30 minutes.

That’s it. Enjoy!

I use this software to semi-automate the process of filling up forms. This is an inexpensive software which has saved me several hours of time over the past years.

*Some people report that various income tax websites are inaccessible from outside India. In such a case you can make use of a proxy service. Such services can make the web server of a website appear as if you are coming from a particular country (of your choice). (In our case, just select one of the Indian servers when you register and logon to such a service)

Please go through all the comments. In all probability, your question(s) may have been answered already in the comments section below. Since the questions are getting repeated, we are closing the comments section for new ones.

Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 8? – 11 Essential Points To Note

By now you may be aware that Microsoft is phasing out Windows XP and will support it till April 2014. Moreover, any versions of Internet Explorer above 8 won’t work on Win XP.  If you’re on Win XP, it may be the right time to upgrade to Windows 8 or Windows 7. I chose to upgrade to Windows 8 pro 64 bits.

On my primary laptop I have used Windows XP for past several years and at first, the upgrade seemed like a daunting task. However, with little bit of a planning, the upgrade went smooth without any unforeseen situations.

I am mentioning below all steps to make sure you get a super smooth upgrade.

1. Check for 64 bit readiness

Use this free utility SecurAble. Download it on your machine and with a click of a button it will report whether your system is 64 bit compatible or not.
You should note that all applications that work on 32 bit system will work on 64 bit systems. You need to check for device drivers which should be 64 bits. Since it’s almost a year that Windows 8 is out, most of the device manufacturers have provided a 64 bit alternative already.
If your system does support 64 bit and if you have equal to or more than 4GB RAM on your machine, I suggest you to go for 64 bit OS. You would notice a remarkable increase in PC performance.

32bitcompatibility64bitcompatibility

2. Make an inventory of software installedbelarc_logo

Belarc Advisor is my tool of choice. This tool creates a complete inventory of hardware and software installed on your machine along with the keys of licensed software. If you’re switching machines or upgrading to a new OS, it is a good idea to take a print in case you wish to refer later.

3. BackUpwd-externaldisk

I keep my software installation and files in separate partitions. Even if you are just upgrading your OS, take a complete backup of your machine. There are several inexpensive external hard disks available , you can choose as per your budget and preference. I use WD My Book 1TB external disk.

4. Purchase & Upgrade

I purchased a Windows 8 Pro pack from Flipkart. [Amazon US link.] The pack contain two DVDs  – for 32 bit and 64 bit systems. Before you go ahead and insert one of the DVDs. Check the points below.

Upgrading from 32 bit to 64 bit?:

If you are upgrading from Windows XP/Windows 7 32 bit to Windows 8 64 bit, you would need to change the boot order and boot from DVD drive with the 64 bit DVD disk you got above.

Upgrading from 64 bit to 64 bit OR 32 bit to 32 bit?:

If you are upgrading from Windows XP/Windows 7 32 bit to Windows 8 32 bit, you can simply insert 32 bit DVD and the follow the upgrade instructions.

5. Windows 8 to Windows 8.1

If you have purchased 8.1 already, you can skip this point but if you haven’t, you can download 8.1 for free from Windows 8 app store [Start screen > Store]. There are fair chances that you may not find the upgrade option in the app store. In that case make sure to install and run all available updates on Windows 8 from Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Windows Update.

Windows 8.1 upgrade is about 3.6 GB in size.

6. Where is the Start Menu in Windows 8 or 8.1?

There isn’t any. You would need to make use of 3rd party utilities to get the Start menu which we have gotten used to for the past several years. I checked many paid and free utilities, the one I liked the most was Windows 8 Start menu by Pokki. This is a free download which not only provides the familiar Start button and menu but does a much better job.

pokki-startmenu

7. Where are the 32 bit softwares installed?

Windows 8 creates two program files folders in the installation drive. By default, all your 32 bit software will get installed in Program Files (x86) folder while 64 bit software will install in Program Files folder.

8. PIN based access to machine

While installing Windows 8, you are forced to create a LiveMail account which is subsequently used to logon to windows every time you start your PC. You can change that to PIN based login for a normal PC OR a picture based login for your touch PC. Go to Start screen > PC settings > Accounts > Sign-in options

pcsettings-windows8

 9. Anti-Virus

Windows 8 has a built in Anti Virus known as Windows Defender. This has the same interface and malware engine as Microsoft Security Essentials – which was my antivirus engine of choice for more than 3 years. With Windows Defender pre-installed, I don’t think you would need any other anti-virus software.

10. Search your Desktop

Use Windows + s key combination to pull up the windows search bar. By default, this will only search for the commonly used programs, you can change that to search for all files in your hard disk.

Pull up the search bar, enter Indexing Options. On this window, Click Modify and tick the boxes next to the drives you want to have indexed. Once that is done, click Advanced on the main Indexing Options window and under the Troubleshooting section, click Rebuild. This will force the system to re-index everything that you have selected in the Modify screen.This can search every other program/file/app sitting on your PC. [Tip courtesy TomsHardware]windows8-search

11. Add programs in your start-up folder

If you have been using Windows for some time, you may be aware that you can put program shortcuts in StartUp folder to run those programs automatically on Windows Startup. In Windows 8/8.1, finding the start up folder is not so intuitive. Here is what you should do:

  1. Press Win + R key.
  2. type shell:common startup
  3. Add shortcut using the method described here

Additional Reading:

Boot to desktop mode instead of Start screen in Windows 8.1 [This was not available for Windows 8. Another reason for upgrade]

That’s it. I wish you a new improved super fast PC. In case you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.