Friday, May 6, 2011

What to look for in a web-host / the last month of my pregnancy

The most frustrating time is when you've dilated 1 cm and waiting to dilate to 5 cm so that you can actually get admitted into the hospital to deliver your baby. First of all, my OBGYN and I anticipated that my 2nd baby would be born early, just like my first baby, Salma. During Salma's time, I had a show of blood at 38 weeks, and went in straight for delivery. This time around, at 38 weeks, I wasn't even dilated yet. So she told me to come back in a week's time. So that whole week I was having all sorts of weird contractions. Some that were short, some that were long, some that were painful, some that weren't... and their frequency was totally inconsistent, 1 hour, 20 mins, then 30 mins, then 10 mins apart. Just weird. Made me anxious. When my contractions started to really get painful, and were more consistent, I went back to the doctor to find out that I had dilated only 1 cm. After a whole week - 7 days only 1 cm! Argh. Now we're just playing the waiting game.

I must admit though, I've been very preoccupied lately, in the last month of my pregnancy, so maybe that's why I'm not dilated yet. Back during Salma's time, my last month was spent waiting idly, watching tv or reading books (I had been given a month's bedrest before my actual due date). I am not working now either, but I have been very busy at creating my own website! My very own I had actually researched Malaysian web-hosting plans a year ago, before I even got pregnant, and had been eyeing Exabytes to make as my webhost for quite some time now because of their range of web-hosting plans. I wanted to start my own online business, and had put in the web-hosting cost in my business plan, but didn't actually have the guts to actually purchase a plan from them yet. But then about 2 months ago, Groupon came out with a coupon to redeem an Xtudent Exabytes plan for RM39 instead of the usual RM99 per month! It was just too good a deal to pass up, so I bought it. Even though I had originally planned to purchase one of Exabytes's business hosting plans, the Xtudent plan, although basic, is still great. Let me explain.

Here is their banner, hehe: To get your own website, please click on the banner, and sign up through me! (So that I can earn affliate points. Yes, please do it!)

What's so great about Exabytes is that, no matter what plan you purchase, you still get the same built-in scripts and server software. The main differences between each of the plans is the disk space (storage) and bandwidth. If you are clueless about what I'm talking about, let me explain further. The most important features you should look for in a web-host (the company that provides the server on which your website will run on) is whether or not they can provide you with the latest web developing scripts and languages, like PHP and Javascript. Exabytes is fantastic because it provides the latest version of PHP, PHP 5.+. The second thing you should look for is to see if your web-host supports the latest MySQL database, and Exabytes does (MySQL 5.x). Most of the blogging and shopping cart platforms use MySQL databases. You will need a database to store all your data (duh!). To put in layman's terms, MySQL is like MS Excel and Access joined together to be used on an internet platform. You can store customer data, customer purchases, sales, inventory, etc with MySQL. Next, you need to check if your web-host has PHPmyAdmin, which is a software that allows you to manage your MySQL database easily. Or else it would be hell to manage an SQL database with just using SQL. And of course, Exabytes has PHPmyAdmin. I'm sure most web-hosts will have MySQL and PHPmyAdmin bundled together, but in case they don't, you know, I'm just pointing it out to you that you'll need both. And lastly the scripts. Exabytes comes with the option to install a whole bunch of scripts for your site for creating blogs, magazines, forums, and shopping carts. Examples: for blogging they have WordPress and Joomla (you can use both to create corporate sites too, not just for blogs). For creating an online store, they support a whole range of shopping cart scripts, among others: CubeCart, OS Commerce, and Zen Cart (there are more that aren't listed in their chart, like the one I'm using). Exabytes also supports a number of payment gateways, including the very popular and most widely used one in Malaysia: ipay88, which allows customers to pay you via credit card and online bank transfer, like Maybank2u, so no need for Paypal, which even though is nice, collects their commission from you in USD, which will dent your pocket a bit!

The nice thing about Exabytes is that they have a user-friendly software for you to use, Softaculous, that helps you to install the scripts and software you want to use in your site with a touch of button. So you literally don't need to have any coding knowledge to get your site up and running with Exabytes. And the best part is, no matter what plan you purchase from Exabytes, from the most basic Personal or Student plan to the largest Business plan, you are provided with the same scripts and softwares. That is the best part. Cos if you're just starting out, you don't need 300GB of disk space, you know what I'm saying, so starting with the Xtudent Plan is fine, because with Exabytes you can always upgrade your existing storage and bandwidth at really affordable prices (I'm serious... check out their hosting comparison charts. Just click on the banner above, then click on Web Hosting on the menu bar to compare the plans). Oh, and Exabytes uses both Linux and Windows. And depending on the plan you select, you can have your domain name ( address) for free. With Xtudent, I got a free domain name! Yay!

So I had some time to fool around during my pregnancy, and I contemplated between WordPress and Joomla to create my "main" site. I did a lot of research, and seeing as most of my blogging "colleagues" were using WordPress, I decided to install it. And I am not looking back! WordPress is great. (But I didn't realise this until much later...) Then, before I even stated to develop my WordPress backed site, I researched on the various shopping cart programmes to use on my online store. By the way, WordPress is free (or as the term is known on the net, an "open source" platform/tool). At first I chose to install OS Commerce. According to the stats and articles, OS Commerce is one of the most widely used open source shopping cart programmes in the world. But once I installed it, I realised that even with the free templates that come with the programme, OS Commerce was really difficult to customise for a newbie like me (even with my knowledge of HTML and Javascript, it didn't help that I wasn't an expert at php language). I struggled for awhile to make my online store to look the way I wanted it to look with OS Commerce. I just couldn't do it, so I started to look for alternatives. Then, by chance, I read an article that some guys had developed an open source shopping cart plugin for WordPress (WP), called WordPress E-Commerce (WPEC). I was so excited! So I dropped OS Commerce altogether, uninstalled it, and started to focus entirely on WP. That's when I started to really love WordPress, (sorry because as I found out, WP has this huge community of people who create wonderful plugins for you to use with your WP blog, and all of them are free (well all have a free version, and a Pro version with added features that you have to pay for). So if you want to add a photo gallery to your WP blog, install the plugin. If you want to add beautiful custom forms, just add the plugin. It's so fun. Everything is fun when it's free yo.

Now, at the time, since I was using just the Xtudent plan, Exabytes had put a cap on my PHP memory (I am allowed 64MB but then it was capped at a lower level). And to run WPEC, I needed a higher PHP memory. I didn't know this at first, so when I first installed the WPEC plugin, it crashed my site. But to my surprise ya, I raised a ticket with Exabytes customer service and told them what happened, and they acknowledged that I needed a higher PHP memory, and released more memory for me, without me asking them to. So I was extremely happy. I thought I would have to go through a long process of asking them to give me more php memory, but it took less than a day. Their customer service tech team communicates via e-mail and online chat, and I've used both, and they've been very helpful. To the point of actually showing me where to look for errors, how to interpret the errors so that I can easily solve problems on my own in the future. Because you know, it is easier to do it yourself so you don't waste time.

Now having said that, I get all this service for only RM39. Wow. I still can't believe it. Even though I have to renew my plan when the year is over, I'm still chuffed about it. :) It's fine, I'll pay the renewal fees. The only other thing I had to pay for was purchasing a professionally designed website template. I spent USD35 on it. Which is cheap okay! But I found the most wonderful site theme, it is fully customizable using a user-friendly admin panel and has the most wonderful after-sales support. I don't know where my web-developer, PrimaThemes is located (they don't actually tell you where they are based), but it seems like they provide 24x7 support all year round! They even layan stupid questions like "where did my photos go?" Haha! oh man... seriously. The patience that these guys have... they deserve a medal. No, they deserve to be knighted! For just USD35, I get a beautiful site theme and great developing support. (Btw, OS Commerce web-designers charge USD99 and above for their themes). Yes, all the programming has been done for you, but you know, to tweak the site to look and function the way you want it, you'll need to add your own additional coding in there somewhere. So you do need to know a little HTML and CSS, and a little PHP. But don't worry about it even if you don't, cos has really good online tutorials to guide you if you are totally green. But anyway, my web-developer at PrimaThemes writes the code for me, and I just have to copy and paste it into my php files. Hehe. Happy. So if you are looking to hire a local web-designer, make sure that they are also a web-developer, because the 2 are not the same. A web-designer just designs the site (the aesthetics part), and the web-developer puts in all the code to make the design do what it should do, e.g. make the menu drop down when you click on it, etc. A web-designer will not necessarily know how to do this. And lots of people fall into this trap. They buy a site design from a web-designer, and then don't know how to make it "work" because the designer has no developing knowledge. Don't fall into this trap people! Make sure whoever you hire has a team that can do both!

So I've been spending the last month or so building my website. My online store is not ready to go live yet (because I haven't bought the inventory yet), but the blog accompanying my online store is ready. It is fashion-centric so I keep it toally separate from this blogger one, which is centered on my kids. You can view it here, Nüunäa Stylist and please start leaving your comments! There are a bunch of articles I haven't put up yet, so feel free to bookmark it and check for updates.

Being preoccupied with building my site lately, I haven't really noticed if I have contractions during the day or if the baby is moving around. Sometimes I get the impression that baby in my tummy is sitting quietly listening to mommy tapping away on the keyboard, and cursing now and again at failed loadings and other errors. Sometimes I am aware that I am having a contraction, but continue to work on my site design, and then I fail totally to note how long the contraction lasted, what time it took place, and how many minutes apart from the previous contraction. Maybe that's why I'm not dilated 5cm yet. Because, if I think about it, my former colleagues at the office mostly worked til the last day before their due date. So working probably reduces the chances of you delivering early. Doesn't that make sense? Even now as I am typing this blog entry, I have ignored the contractions that I've had. And I'm pretty sure I had 2 already (cos it hurt for awhile, but I just ignored it). But anyway... building a website can be time-consuming, but is totally fun when you have all the right tools. Start with a good web-host, like I did, and then find a good developer to assist you, like I did, and you can make the internet a new home for your business (or hobby or whatever...) :D

1 comment:

  1. Hi.
    I thought every hosting has a Softaculous in their cpanel. I have been a customer of exabytes and so far so good.