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February 2018

February 1, 2018, New York / San Juan -- Wow, that month flew by fast! So much has happened in life and on the Westlinks Online platform. Read on to see what's going on here at Westlinks Online.
 

A brief note from the owner...


I am on a deployment to San Juan Puerto Rico to help in the Hurricane Maria recovery effort here. This is expected to last for several months. Although my time to devote to Westlinks is significantly reduced, we are still very much in business and the site is in good hands with a tight team. it came as no surprise that I would get this deployment and so in anticipation of it, several key development projects were built and put into place before I left. We have Olive Quizon keeping a close eye on customer activities and I work with Talgat Baltassov, our senior developer, daily to continue polishing up existing features as well as implement new ones. 

So although some of the chemistry shifted a little, rest assured that we are here, we are serious about success and open for business.

-Gerion

 

So let's move on with the newsletter!

Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter. This is the fourth edition and we are excited to have you on board!

What's new this month?

These items were finished in January

Security Features

In this crazy world we live in these days, security is key. Whether it is your home, your vehicle, your finances, or travel (to name a few), we must be on-guard from attacks and vulnerabilities from all sides at all times. Sometimes it is hard to know the motives of these intruders, but regardless, they are out there, just looking for a way in. This month we have added two security features to help you protect your online assets.

Two Factor Authentication

2FA is now available on Westlinks Online. If you are not familiar with it, here is a brief explanation.

Normal web logins include a username and a password. Get them right and you gain access to the site. If your credentials somehow get into the wrong hands, then those hands can log into your account without your awareness. There are even hacking tools that criminals can use to robotically figure out your password. 

With 2FA you gain a 2nd level of verification to prove that it is actually you logging in. This is done by sending a code to your mobile device in the form of SMS or to MFA devices. We have used the Authy API which allows you to use the cool Authy app on your smartphone which cleanly interfaces with the login. Give it a try and we think you won't go back. Anything else is like leaving your door unlocked.

Server SSH Keys

For those customers who want to access their servers via the command line or SFTP clients, we now provide a place to insert your public SSH key during server creation and on your account in your dashboard. Using this we build your server and pre-load the SSH key to the server allowing you to log in using the passwordless login method. We block username/password login which eliminates a common vulnerability on VPS accounts.

Communication Options

This is a fun one. We try really hard to engage with you, our customers. We provide notifications for various events so you are aware of your assets. Previously email was the only way to receive these notifications. But email is not always the most effective communication channel. Most people don't stay glued to our email clients all day and night waiting for notification messages.

So what about SMS text messages? It is a known fact that most people react to incoming SMS messages within just a minute or two of receipt. 

We have added a section in your Settings where you can choose to have your notifications sent by SMS or email. You can switch back and forth at any time. You are in control. As we expand services we will continue to make further notifications available. 

Social Media Marketing Update

We have now exceeded 150 followers on Instagram. This growth is exciting and continues to astound me. Other platforms like Twitter, G+ and Facebook are growing as well (but a bit slower). Olive has also written a new blog article on the ease of WordPress installation. 

Read it here:
https://blog.westlinks.com/

February Plans

We will continue to perfect existing features on the site with bug fixes and general cleanup. Other features are not ready to be announced at this time. Stay tuned. March is just around the corner! 

Do you have any suggestions or ideas of how you would like this to work? We welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Send them to suggestions@westlinks.com. Thanks!

January 2018

January 1, 2018, New York -- Happy New Year! 2018 is here and we are very excited to share with you what's going on here at Westlinks Online.

Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter. This is the fourth edition and we are excited to have you on board!

What's new this month?

December was HUGE! There were major changes made to our platform. Here's the rundown...

New Server Ordering Process

After a middle-of-the night epiphany, it became clear that we needed a complete make-over in how we deliver our server orders. Rather than going through the shopping cart and paying a flat monthly charge, you can now order a server on the fly, operate it for any length of time you wish and then only pay for the time you used it. Need a server for a week? Not a problem. You only have to pay for that week, not the whole month.

Corresponding New Billing System

The daily usage charge makes a lot more sense and conforms with how most cloud hosting is operated. Some providers charge by the hour. We don't consider that necessary for our business model at this time.

If you keep your server for a full month (as most website customers do), pricing converts to the monthly fee and never exceeds the monthly list price. This keeps it predictable and convenient.

Finally, all server usage is billed on the first of every month for every customer. Other charges such as domain names, software installation and consulting are paid for at the time of the purchase.

Enom Integration

Enom the domain name registrar service we use to provide in-app domain name registration directly to our customers (you) has been fully integrated.

You can now do these activities:

  • Buy and register domain names
  • Manage host settings
  • Manage email MX settings
  • Manage DNS including your own nameservers
  • Manage contact information
  • Transfer to/from other registrars
  • Set auto-renew

These features are available on request but not integrated into the platform:

  • Purchase SSL certificates
  • ID Protect

Social Media Marketing Update

Olive has been doing a phenomenal job on social media. Instagram is popping with now over 100 followers and growing quickly. She has established our Facebook page, posts to Twitter and is working on G+ and Pinterest as well. This activity helps to establish name recognition and eventually customer attraction. It's very exciting to see it come to life.

January Plans

 

Communication Options

The latest project we're working on and nearly have complete is the ability to control how you would prefer notifications to arrive. Email is the default but it will soon be possible to choose SMS text messages and Facebook Messenger as well. SMS is in testing now and should be released in the next few days.

Event Notifications

We now retain all notifications on the website so you can visit your profile and see what has been sent out to you there. Some messages are too long for the 160 character limitation of SMS so we provide a link in the text message to the full message in your profile.

We invite you to log in and investigate this new section and  look forward to your feedback!

Feedback

Do you have any suggestions or ideas of how you would like this to work? We welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Send them to suggestions@westlinks.com. Thanks!

December 2017

Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter. This is the third edition and we are excited to have you on board!

December 1, 2017, New York -- December has arrived! Winter and the holiday season will be here soon. It's that time of year again for family and friends to eat, drink, be merry and give gifts.

What's new this month?

We were very busy in November with the majority of our milestones met. Here's the rundown...

Authorizenet CIM API Integration

We completed the bulk of the CIM integration in November and are now able to allow you to securely manage your credit cards and billing/shipping addresses. You can add/edit/delete your cards in your settings section.

Now, when you enter the checkout page, you will see your saved card(s) included as possible payment methods. You can also add a new card if you don't have any saved or wish to use any of the saved ones. All of this provides a secure, quick and efficient checkout process.

Enom API Integration

Enom is the domain name registrar service we use to provide in-app domain name registration directly to our customers.

Until now, the extent of our Enom integration has been to search for and register domain names as well as set the auto-renew flag on or off. We are now in the process of adding full domain name administration functions and are about 90% complete.

When finished, you will be able to do the following:

  • Manage host settings
  • Manage DNS including your own nameservers
  • Manage contact information
  • Transfer to/from other registrars
  • Purchase SSL certificates
  • And more

We expect these features to be released during the next 2 weeks. Pick one of your domains in your domain name section and you will soon see the new set of menus where you will be able to access these settings. We look forward to hearing your feedback!

Social Media Marketing

We are happy to announce that Olive Quizon has joined our team and is driving our social media marketing efforts. With a focus on Instagram as the first platform she has been posting photos, captions and hashtags every day and monitoring likes and follows. It has been impressive to watch the follows increase on a daily basis.

Following Instagram were Twitter and Facebook with G+ and Pinterest coming soon. The goal is to develop a strong following of fans that will advocate for our platform and attract a loyal customer base.

Company Profiles

We have begun to improve the way company profiles work on the Westlinks Online platform. If you operate a small business, it will be possible to have your Westlinks account based on your company profile rather than your personal one.

Currently you can manage your company name and address in your settings section. Future plans will allow a company to have authorized employees place orders and manage inventory.

Do you have any suggestions or ideas of how you would like this to work? We welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Send them to suggestions@westlinks.com. Thanks!

November 2017

November 1, 2017, New York -- Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter. This is the second edition and we are excited to have you on board!

Welcome to November! We hope you are doing well as we head into late Fall, where around here the air is getting cooler and the nights longer. We've got a lot to talk about so let's get started!

What happened in October?

Before we get to November, we are happy to report that we have accomplished most of what we had planned for October. Here's the rundown...

New Settings section

Profiles is now part of the new Settings section and is where all the action is this month. When you place orders, your credit card and billing address info will be managed from this section. 

  • Profile
    • The original purpose of this section still allows you to manage your identity and avatar photo.
  • Address Book
    • Managing one or several billing and shipping profiles allows for quick and convenient order processings. 
  • Manage Credit Cards
    • Similar to addresses storing your payment profile allows for secure and convenient purchasing without the need to enter your credit card number each time. 
    • NOTE: It's important to know that we do not store any sensitive information on our servers or databases. All information is securely managed by Authorize.net our credit card gateway provider.
    • At the time of this writing, this section has not yet been deployed to production, but it should be ready soon.
  • Password Settings
    • Need to change your password? This is where you do it.
  • Cancel Membership
    • We hate to see anyone leave but it happens. We make it just as easy to leave as it is to sign up. No questions asked. If you have any active virtual servers or domain name subscriptions we will work with you to make a clean transition to wherever you choose to go.

Joomla! added as new product in Apps

Joomla!, a popular open source community-driven CMS application fits nicely alongside our existing product offerings of Drupal and Concrete5. Joomla's large, active and dedicated community is a major force behind the platform. Joomla comes in as more configurable than Concrete5 and a much shorter learning curve than Drupal. We invite you to give it a try soon.

Joomla! Demo Site

Like the rest of our CMS platforms we have a bare-bones Joomla demo site running so you can see it in action. Check it out at http://joomla.westlinks.net

Campaigns, Discounts, Groups - Phase 1

Discounts allow users to add a coupon code to their shopping cart and get either a percentage or fixed amount taken off their price. This is now working and as an example, we are happy to provide you with a promotional demo discount of 10% off of any app installation. Just enter 'NovemberNL' in your shopping cart to get the discount.

Planned for November

  • Continue to refine Authorize.net CIM API integration
  • Begin Enom API Integration

Authorizenet CIM API Integration

We began this project in October and due to its complexity it is continuing in November. It is worth the time to get it done right. Here's a recap of what CIM is:

Customer Information Manager (CIM) is a part of Authorize.net who is our existing credit card processor. Integrating CIM will allow us to provide more flexible billing. Currently we use Automated Recurring Billing (ARB) which is fine for a single subscription but we expect there to be many cases where customers will add/remove features to their accounts and will want only an adjusted single bill per month rather than a new charge for each feature. This is similar to your cellphone or cable bills where changes in service continue to be reflected on your monthly bill.

Additionally you will be able to maintain the "credit card on file" in your account eliminating the need to re-enter your billing information repeatedly. Note that all user information is securely managed by Authorize.net, not us. This is a high priority project.

Enom API Integration

Enom is the domain name registrar service we use to provide in-app domain name registration directly to our customers. The current state of the integration allows for these features:

  • Search for domain names
  • Purchase domain names
  • Set/unset domain name renewals
    • Unsetting allows a domain name to expire at the next renewal date

The above features are useful but there is a lot more that can and should be made available to our users. Moving forward, we will be adding the following additional features:

  • Manage contact information
  • Manage host settings
  • Manage DNS
  • Transfer to/from other registrars
  • Purchase SSL certificates
  • And more

These are not trivial additions but will add much more value to the Westlinks Online platform. Please note that all of these services are available to you now via customer support. We are happy to facilitate any adjustments to your domain name that you may need. Just ask!

 

October 2017

October 2, 2017, New York -- We have been hard at work, feverishly upgrading the backend and redesigning the look and feel of Westlinks Online and are excited to share some of the details with you in this first edition of our newsletter.

Our lead (and only) developer, Talgat, has been onboard since July. His expertise as a skilled PHP/Laravel programmer was key to the successful upgrade (we upgraded from Laravel 5.3 to 5.5). As a bonus, his day job colleague Maria, a gifted designer, contributed the awesome new look and feel of the site including the new logo. She totally nailed it! (Note that the Support and About pages are not her design and will be updated later.)

Recently Added

Key additions over the last week:

  • Integrated Zendesk API
  • Added new provider: Vultr
  • Elastic Load Balancer

Zendesk API

This key integration allows us to handle support tickets from within the website. As a user, you can now submit support tickets directly from our support page. Any existing open tickets submitted by you will be shown there as well as on your dashboard.

Additionally, we have also integrated the FAQ into our support section which is hosted on Zendesk.

Future plans include built-in search where information entered into a support ticket will be analyzed in real time for possible existing answers.

Vultr

We are excited to announce that today we added Vultr as another hosting provider. Vultr is a well regarded, high performance VM provider which promises to be a strong competitor to our existing line-up. More will be revealed once we get to spend some time using them.

Elastic Load Balancer

Amazon Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) provides automatic distribution of traffic across multiple servers placed behind a single gateway. The purpose of this setup is mainly to provide a method of automatic scaling. For example if there was a sudden boost in traffic from some sort of publicity, our platform is capable of being replicated onto unlimited additional instances allowing all requests to be handled without overloading a single server.

The other key benefit of running behind the ELB is the elimination of a single point of failure. Similar to a twin engine aircraft, with a minimum of two servers running in parallel we will continue to operate even if one of the servers fails.

Planned for October

  • Campaigns & Discounts
  • Authorize.net CIM

Campaigns and Discounts

This integration will allow us to track the effectiveness of ad campaigns by tracking incoming traffic to landing pages so we will can learn what works and doesn't work. Tied to campaigns will be associated discount codes which work as sales incentives and provide savings to customers.

Authorizenet CIM

Customer Information Manager (CIM) is a part of Authorize.net who is our existing credit card processor. Integrating CIM will allow us to provide more flexible billing. Currently we use Automated Recurring Billing (ARB) which is fine for a single subscription but we expect there to be many cases where customers will add/remove features to their accounts and will want only an adjusted single bill per month rather than a new charge for each feature. This is similar to your cellphone or cable bills where changes in service continue to be reflected on your monthly bill.

Additionally you will be able to maintain the "credit card on file" in your account eliminating the need to re-enter your billing information repeatedly. Note that all user information is securely managed by Authorize.net, not us. This is a high priority project.