Shhhh…Lean in Close…Time to “Reveal”

It’s time for a “reveal.”

On most writers’ blogs when the word “reveal” is used, it’s to share your soon-to-be-published book cover. Not quite ready for that yet.

But, we–husband Bob and me–are almost ready to “reveal” The Writing Studio in its finished state. I first shared images of my studio in this post. It’s been a long process, and I’m so grateful to my designer/builder Bob for the fantastic job he has done.

From the initial planning stages, Bob’s hand has been in the design, placement in our backyard, and materials. These are the things he knows how to do and does well. I’m so certain of his skills and abilities I sit back and wait until he’s finished.

Occasionally, someone (yes, Marian!) would ask about when images would be posted. I would hem and haw and give some silly excuse. But it was just taking time what with doctors’ appointments, medical tests, injuries, physical therapy appointments (both of us!), and more. And until my health began to improve, I wasn’t going to be able to work in the studio much.

I’m happy to say we’re almost there…only a few things remain to be done.

You’ll only have to wait two weeks!

Yes, we’re that close! Can you believe it?

Pictures will be posted of the finished Studio right here on the blog two weeks from today. Yesterday I hung a few items on the walls, looked at what needed to be done inside before the photo shoot (like I’m some kind of professional photographer–not!).

Maybe I’ll even get brave and do the tour in video format. You’ll never know if you don’t come back in a couple of weeks to see for yourself.

Why I Chose Squarespace Over WordPress

Decisions are never easy, and decision making is not one of my favorite things. Likely most of us would rather avoid making choices or decisions.

After thoughtful consideration, a review of finances and costs, and use of time, I spent about three weeks hands-on determining whether to stay with WordPress or move to Squarespace.

In the end, Squarespace won out for a variety of reasons. The following is based on my experience using WordPress, both free and self-hosted versions. I believe each of these platforms is structured to the unique needs of the individual or business owner making the choice between the two.

COST

WordPress.com is free. Its self-hosted version, WordPress.org, is not. You have hosting fees, domain protections and registration, not all themes are free, and not all plugins are free. When you add all that up, Squarespace came out ahead.

It won’t cost me much more to work with Squarespace than it did with WordPress. Plus I don’t have to hire a web master or a host to keep me up and running. Squarespace takes care of that within my annual fee.

When you build a site with Squarespace, Squarespace is your web host. We provide a place on the Internet to display your content, in addition to tools for creating and managing that content. Every Squarespace site is stored on our servers, similar to how physical stores rent space in a shopping mall.


— Squarespace.com

SUPPORT

My biggest complaint with WordPress related most often to support. There were online forums where you could post your problem, and then hope for days someone would respond.

If you’re not into coding or don’t have funds to hire someone to maintain your site, Squarespace is your best option. Whenever I have needed support, the response time is usually within the work day, if not sooner. Not only are they responsive, the staff is knowledgeable, courteous, and extremely helpful.

SECURITY

Security probably should have been placed in the top spot. You may remember my post relating to my experience with hackers a few months ago. Someone else’s fun hacking into my site created not only stress for me but a financial outlay I’d rather not have had to make.

With Squarespace, security is uppermost in the minds of its owners and technical staff. With your site, you have, at no charge to you, two SSL-related layers of protection. Squarespace also provides you free backup of your site content. However, this doesn’t mean we as owners of our sites shouldn’t take extra precautions to keep those files backed up as well.

TIME

Unless you’re willing and able to pay a web designer, WordPress can cost you hours each month checking for updates to plugins and themes, watching for and resolving alerts for hacking and/or viruses, and sometimes just downtime. Downtime is generally based on the host you are using.

Since moving to Squarespace, I find that I have regained some of the hours spent with WordPress allowing me to write more and to have time to do other things I enjoy. And it’s costing me nothing financially.

EASE OF USE IN BLOGGING

Preparing and editing a blog post is as simple as drag-and-drop. Having used the Elementor plugin in WordPress, I can say I find this much easier to use to create my posts and pages. If I have an idea or question about something I’d like to incorporate that isn’t readily available or clear to me, a quick email or chat with support will help me get it done. (Support is available 24/7). 

THE MOVE

Moving from WordPress to Squarespace was next to seamless. A simple export process on the WordPress end to an import process at the Squarespace end, and everything except a bit of cleanup was done.

A word on the comment set up. I have not incorporated Disqus comments here for one reason and one reason only. When using Disqus on Squarespace, for some reason still unclear, I was unable to capture all the comments left for me on previous posts. Many of these were treasured comments for a variety of reasons. I realize that the necessity to login here and/or create another “account” may be bothersome for you. However, please note that you can leave a comment as a guest without creating an “account.” If this becomes an insurmountable problem for many of you, I will reconsider my decision to not incorporate Disqus and determine a way to save those comments from the past, if I can.


I hope something here has been helpful to you, or at least explanatory in nature as it relates to my move. Please bring any inconveniences or errors you encounter to my attention. It is true two sets of eyes are better than one.

Cautionary Tale for All Web Site Owners and Bloggers

Before I begin my cautionary tale, I must warn you it is lengthy but it’s a story I feel strongly I must share. Also, in my story I mention my site host, BlueHost, for whom I am an affiliate. If you should use the link provided below and decide to buy a hosting service from BlueHost, I will receive a percentage of the sales price but it in no way impacts the price you pay.

Why the Cautionary Tale?

Like most of you, I function using a self-hosted WordPress site. What this means in lay terms is:

  1. I want ownership of my site and its content.
  2. I want the flexibility of design choices.
  3. I want to depend on a site host to help me when troubles arise.

You see I’m tech savvy to a degree, but not savvy enough to handle everything related to keeping my site running. That’s where I need a site host, and I chose BlueHost.

My relationship with BlueHost has never faltered, and it continues as a solid foundation for me.

What Happened to Make Me Cautious?

I strive to keep my site safe by using backups, plugins , WordPress and BlueHost advice about security, and general suggestions to protect my site.

A few months ago BlueHost notified its users of the inclusion, at no charge, of site protection against spam, hackers, and other thefts. I was grateful for what seemed an extra layer of protection for free. At the same time, WordPress highlighted a security plugin which also protected against hacks, spam and similar threats, also free.

With both free features in place, how could I go wrong? Obviously this is an area in which I lack the knowledge to understand what features will do exactly what to protect my site and me.

My Cautionary Tale

Here is what happened first

In early May, the WordPress plugin representatives began notifying me of potential malware problems. I contacted them for instructions about what I should do. Their instructions were to send these emails to them and they would sort things out.

A little over a week ago I received an email from the company BlueHost had contracted with to give security. A scan had resulted in this service finding malware on my site. I did what any conscientious owner would do and contacted them.

Immediately, I found myself talking with a sales representative. He, of course, was intent on selling a higher level of protection. And he didn’t start with the least expensive of his software packages. His sales pitch was high pressure.

I decided to give myself at least 24 hours to think about what he had to offer. In the meantime, I decided to contact BlueHost directly.

Imagine my surprise when I filled out the topic on my inquiry with words “malware” and “security” and immediately someone answered the phone from the security company BlueHost had graciously supplied to its subscribers.

It took a couple of chats to actually get to someone at BlueHost who was able to explain the problem to me. He also apologized for the sales pitches, which he indicated BlueHost was troubled by.

And then…

The worst happened. I attempted to get access to my site only to learn BlueHost had shut my site down. It’s hard to put into words how I felt.

Did I make a mistake in calling BlueHost? Likely the answer is no. An email had also arrived while I was talking with their customer representative. So, this would likely have happened whether I had been in contact with BlueHost or not.

What to do next? I called right back to BlueHost. I certainly felt my site was being held hostage for something I didn’t do and would never do.

This time I spoke with a Terms of Service agent who explained what had been found–what is a pharma hack. That’s where someone hacks your site and then proceeds to attach ads for drugs. How was I to know?

Remember those items I contacted WordFence about? I probably should have dug a bit deeper. Likely one or more of those security breaches messed up my responsibility in complying with BlueHost’s Terms of Service Agreement. That was why my site was shut down–failure to remove the hacks.

Fortunately, the agent I talked with knew of an affordable security plan I could buy from the seller of the free security program BlueHost provides. Purchasing this program means scans are performed daily and when something is found, it is immediately removed. As my dad always said, “You get what you pay for.”

Your takeaways

Several things I’d like to point out from my rambling cautionary tale.

  1. First of all, it is important you understand what your security protection is, who is responsible for finding threats, hacks, or security breaches and seeing they are removed, and what responsibility you have in all this.
    • If you have a web design company managing your site for you, this may not apply to you. But it would be good to check to make sure your understanding of your site’s security.
    • If you have a self-hosted site, which means you own your domain and registered it through someone like BlueHost, the onus is on you to be sure you know what is going on behind the scenes with respect to security.
      • Read your host’s service documents, particularly anything about terms of use, terms of service, or something similar.
      • Determine for yourself what your role is in your site’s security.
      • Be aware of getting caught like I did and being shut down as penalty for not doing the above.
      • Whether you are responsible for the hacking, you are responsible for knowing what’s happening on your site and taking care to see that it is cleaned of any damaging materials.
  2. Always make sure any security plugins you use on your site are up-to-date. Also make certain the platform you use (i.e. WordPress, Blogger, etc.) is running its most current version.
  3. Always, always, always make sure to keep up a schedule of backups for your site. You want assurance you are able, if necessary to restore your site. For WordPress, I use a plugin which not only prepares backups but provides recovery.
  4. For reasons only you will know, these security issues should make you think twice about what you have on your site that you wouldn’t want to lose. The first thing that came to my mind were excerpts from drafts of my memoir. Would they be recovered? Yes, they were, but what if they hadn’t and it was something I needed.
  5. The last thing I want to share with you is a post I came across in my search to better understand what I can do myself with respect to any other situations like the one I’ve described. Himanshu Sharma, founder of Optimize Smart, wrote the post, Malware Removal Checklist for WordPress–DIY Security. Sharma lays out in a clear format a checklist for use immediately on becoming aware of malware on your site.

CONCLUSION

The best advice I can offer to self-hosted site owners is no matter what software you buy, which plugins you install, what security plans you have in place, and unless you have a professional site manager who works on your site daily and regularly maintains it, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE TO YOUR SITE’S HOST FOR MAKING SURE ANY THREATS OF SPAM, HACKS, OR FRAUD ARE REMOVED.

Be safe out there,
Sherrey


Spring Has Sprung, and Spring Cleaning Is Almost Complete

Nothing raises one’s spirits more than signs of spring. Blue skies, sunlight, colorful trees and flowers. Even a quick spring shower. These conditions are especially effective in healing the spirits of someone who has been more or less confined for the month of March.

But time wasn’t wasted. Some things are done effectively from the recliner with a laptop at hand. Most of the time, however, I slept and read, and took more pain meds and slept some more, and read. When I had my wits about me, I was spring cleaning the computer and my website.

Not all is back in order as you’ll notice on the site. I’m working with the theme designer to work out the kinks and hope to have everything running in tip-top shape soon. Or at least as soon as my pain management doctor says I’m good to go off the current regimen.

I’m so glad to be back among you, my writing friends, and hope to have plenty of reading material for you soon.

Tomorrow look for my review of Pamela Jane’s memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing. Pamela is likely well-known to many of you as a regular on Women’s Memoirs.

For now, I leave you with this thought on spring:

Attribution: The Daily Quipple
Attribution: The Daily Quipple