What is Two-Factor Authentication?

Security is a major concern for webmasters. Strong passwords are a good way to keep people out of your admin panels, but it isn’t enough. Passwords can be cracked or stolen. You need another layer, one that makes it much harder for the bad guys to get into your stuff. That’s where Two-Factor Authentication comes in.

Two-Factor Authentication Explained

Two-factor authentication may sound complicated but it’s actually very simple. I’ll explain it in two different scenarios.

Use your mobile device to provide an extra layer of security for your login forms.
Use your mobile device to provide an extra layer of security for your login forms.

Let’s say you want to log into your website dashboard. You pull up your login form, then enter your username and password. Hit enter and you get in. The trouble is that if anyone gets your login credentials, they can do the same thing.

If you are using two-factor authentication, you have an additional step to follow. Once you enter your login credentials, you must then perform another action to prove that you are actually the person who should be allowed access. One popular method is to have your site send a text message to your phone. The text message will contain a secret code that you must enter in a form on your site. If what you enter matches what was sent, you are allowed access.

The idea behind two-factor authentication is that while someone may get your login credentials, it’s less likely that they will have your login credentials and your authentication device (your phone in this case). If they can’t enter the authentication code, they can’t get in.

Two Factor Authentication for WordPress

Adding two-factor authentication to your WordPress installation is pretty easy. There are multiple plugins that offer a reliable two-factor authentication system. Let’s go over a few of our favorites.

Google Authenticator

Google Authenticator for WordPress

The Google Authenticator plugin for WordPress provides two-factor authentication for all of the users on your WordPress site. It works with the Google Authenticator app for Android and Apple mobile devices. The plugin asks for the code the Authenticator app provides, one which automatically generates and expires on its own. If you enter the correct code, you get in.

With the Google Authenticator plugin for WordPress, two-factor authentication can be enabled/disabled on an individual user basis. This is useful for sites that may members who don’t own an Android or Apple mobile device.

Duo

Duo Two-Factor Authentication for WordPress

Duo is a company that provides an advanced two-factor authentication system that can be used across almost any platform. It is capable of working with tons of applications to secure email systems, websites, or even server logins. And that is barely scratching the surface of what their system can secure.

Duo provides a plugin for WordPress that interacts with the Duo system. After you try to log into your dashboard, the mobile app provides a quick push button option to automatically accept your login attempt. No need to provide a code.

For those who can’t use an app, Duo can send a code via text message or call your phone. You will need to sign up for a free account on the Duo website to authenticate with.

With Duo for WordPress, you will also have to follow a setup process that is certainly a lot more involved than the other two-factor authentication plugins in this list. This may be the reason why the plugin has such a low user count, despite being such a great system.

Clef

Clef Two-Factor Authentication for WordPress

Clef is an amazing system that does two-factor authentication differently than its competitors. Unlike many systems that want you to enter a code, Clef provides a weird moving barcode that you must scan with your mobile device. The app uses this barcode to verify who you are. It also provides a timer to automatically log you out after a length of time you set each time you log in. This helps keep you secure by kicking out your session if you happen to forget to log yourself out.

Like Duo, Clef users will need to sign up for a free account in order to use the system. The app is incredibly easy to use (seriously, just open it and point the camera at the barcode). The Clef WordPress plugin currently lives on over 900,000 websites.

 

If you’re concerned about security (and you should be), I recommend that you take a look at using two-factor authentication. It can help protect your logins and keep out the bad guys.

Online image optimization replacements for Smush.it

In an article I wrote last year about image resizing, I mentioned the Yahoo! image optimization service called Smush.it. Since then, Yahoo! oddly decided to shut down the service without any warning or explanation. If you’re looking for an alternative online image optimization service, we’ve got you covered.

#1 – Optimizilla

Optimizilla online image optimization
Optimizilla is an online image optimization tool that can handle multiple uploads at once.

Optimizilla.com is a great alternative to Smush.it. It provides a simple interface to upload your images, followed by an easy to use compression tool that can reduce the weight of your images to a fraction of their original size. Best of all, there is very little quality loss. This is a perfect online app for web designers and webmasters who want to improve the speed of their website graphics.

With Optimizilla you can upload and optimize up to 20 JPEG or PNG images at one time. The optimizer will automatically compress the images based on the image type. It will also provide an option to change the amount of compression being applied. This will shrink the size of the file but also degrade the image quality as a result.

After uploading your images, you can download the optimized versions individually or all at once in a zip file.

#2 – Compressor.io

Compressor.io online image optinmization interface
Compressor.io is a fast and easy to use online image optimization tool.

If you’re looking for a fast option for online image optimization that also supports GIF and SVG, check out Compressor.io. The free service accepts JPEG, GIF, SVG, and PNG images, and applies automatic compression to reduce the weight of your images. It’s fast, dead simple and even supports outputting the files directly to Dropbox or Google Drive.

Compressor.io is a great tool that offers lossy or lossless compression for your uploads. We ran a test between Optimizilla and Compressor.io on a 7.07MB stock photo of Beatrice Maria. The results of the image optimization test:

  • Optimizilla – 811kb  (90% Quality)
  • Compressor.io – 788kb (Lossy)

To get the Omptimizilla version down to 784kb, the quality had to be reduced to 88%.

The best online image optimization tool is….

When it comes to the best of the two, the winner is obvious: use the one you like best. Both tools offer great compression, speed and ease of use. The results are similar, so the choice is really based around your particular needs. If you need to upload and optimize multiple images at once, use Optimizilla. If you don’t want to alter the compression and only need to upload a single image, go with Compressor.io. The two offer great results and will help increase the speed of your webpages.

Get Help with Color Picking from these Five Websites

Coming up with color choices for a website can be difficult. If you’ve ever worked on a project (for yourself or a customer), you’ve probably found yourself spending a lot of time on the color scheme. We’ve compiled a list of 5 web sites to help break through the creative block and pick colors that not only work well, but work together.

Adobe Kuler

Adobe’s Color Wheel is one of our favorite tools. You are provided a color wheel with several swatches. Each one can be dragged around the wheel to different shares of colors. As you do this, other color swatches will move around the wheel to the colors that best match the one being moved, based on a color rule you select. If you prefer not to have your colors automatically adjust, you can set the color rule to Custom. This will prevent the other swatches from moving.

Each color is presented in RGBA and HEX, for use in Photoshop or CSS using the method you choose.

Color Schemer

Color Schemer is not just a website with color pallets that members share, but is also a full application that allows you to select and build your color pallet. The application is $49.99 but the gallery of pallets created is free to browse. Since each color in the pallet displays itself as two shades, you are presented a nice range of colors. The gallery is a great place to find inspiration, with over 6,000 member generated color schemes.

Color Scheme Designer

Color Scheme Designer is much like Adobe’s Color Wheel. It features a large draggable wheel and “color rules” at the top which change how your complementing colors are chosen. It builds the colors for you in a large square to the right, but breaks up sections of this square to show you how the colors visually work together in close proximity. This can be especially useful when using background color on website body and div backgrounds that may touch or overlap.

Colourlovers

At first glance, Colourlovers is similar to Color Schemer. Members create color pallets, share, comment on and rate them. When Colourlovers differs by offering color inspiration and sharing in more than just a simple pallet. The site focuses on colors, palettes, and patterns. It provides links to various tools (including Color Schemer) to allow you to generate your ideas. It also features images to help show how websites and other products are using color. With over 3 million color pallets, Colourlovers provides a large library of inspiration.

HGTV

Sometimes you have to leave the regular spots to find what you’re looking for. When it comes to visually appealing, HGTV does it best. Using their website, you can find enough inspiration to last a life time. They offer everything from paint colors to furniture to layout ideas. It’s certainly worth taking the time to see what their creative minds have put together. It may spark a few ideas in yours.

Do you know of a site that offers a great way to find color inspiration? Let us know in the comments below!

Getting Started with Building a Website

If you’re about to build your first web site, you may not know what to use. With so many ways to build a site, the possibilities may seem endless. This can be very overwhelming for some. Fortunately, there are several tools available for free to use.

Let’s assume you’ve already found a web host. If you are not sure what that is, take a look at this article first. It explains what a web host is and why you need one. We also cover the pros and cons of Free vs Paid web hosting.

We will also assume that you know what you want on your site, or at least have a good idea of what it will have. If not, start planning out what you’d like on your site. You don’t need to have the complete blueprints for the site, but a rough idea will help.

Get an Editor

To start with, get a code editor. There are plenty of free code editors around to provide an environment for you to write code in. Most of them offer many of the the same features, so you’ll want to find one that works best for you. Below is a short list of many free code editors available.

A code editor will allow you to write and edit popular web code, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, JAVA and more. Many will have the ability to upload files directly to the server through FTP.

Get an FTP Client

Though your code editor may have an FTP client built into it, it’s a good idea to have a stand alone FTP client as well. An FTP client allows you to upload, download, rename, and delete files and directories. It also allows you to change file and directory permissions, something not commonly found in the built in FTP feature of code editors. Below is a short list of free FTP clients:

Using a stand alone FTP client makes it easy to upload, download and delete files in bulk. It’s a great tool to have.

Use a Content Management System

For those who are less code savvy or do not want to spend the time it takes to learn to write web code, using a content management system is the way to go. A content management system (CMS) provides a lightning fast method to have a website up and running in a matter of minutes. Typical features of a CMS include:

  • User Registration and Management
  • Pages and blog posts created in an administration dashboard
  • Plugins and modules to extend your website functions and features
  • High availability of Themes and Templates to change the look of your website immediately
  • Developer friendly with a large community of users

There are several content management systems to choose from. Below is a short list of some of the most popular free systems available today:

The choice is yours, depending on your website needs. The biggest three in the list are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Each one has a massive community behind them, but the others in the list are certainly worth the time it takes to look into them.

Sell Things Online

If your aim is to sell items or services online, there are several tools available to do so. If you are using a content management system, you may be able to find an ecommerce tool for your particular system. WooCommerce and MarketPress dominate in WordPress, while Virtuemart is often the tool of choice for Joomla webmasters who want to add ecommerce to their website.

In many cases, a stand alone ecommerce tool is best. Below is a list of very popular free ways to sell online:

Each shopping cart system offers many of the same key features, but what I’ve found most useful is how well the cart operates. Prestashop and Magento can quickly grow heavy for shared hosting, but both are highly useful and powerful systems. They also have large communities to back you up when you need help, so it’s easy to see why they come out on top for most online sellers.

Softaculous

If you would like to get a website online in less time than it took to read this article, Softaculous is the tool for you. It doesn’t let you build websites, but it contains a massive library of tools that make it possible. Many of the content management and ecommerce systems I mentioned above are found in Softaculous. Each one can be installed in less than a minute (two minutes if the network or server is slow). That means that with very little effort, you can rapidly get a website up and running.

Most web hosts that use CPanel will offer Softaculous for free (or very cheap if using a Managed VPS or Managed Dedicated Server). It is a tool that makes it easy to get your site up so you can focus on the content, management of the site and your business.
If you’ve had success with any of the tools listed above, or any that aren’t listed, let us know in the comments section below.

Install Software with Softaculous in 1 Click

The web is a fast paced world. You want something that works just as quickly as you do. These days tools like Softaculous have made it much easier and faster for a webmaster to get software installed and working. But what can you install and how does it work?

What is Softaculous?

Softaculous is an automatic installer for web apps like WordPress, Joomla, PHPBB, OpenCart and Magento. It gives you a one click method to get your site software installed without the need to FTP all of your files, setup a database, and other tasks needed just to get the app activated. This can save you a lot of time, especially if your internet connection doesn’t upload very fast.

New and seasoned webmasters will enjoy how easy it is to use. In less than 2 minutes, you can go from nothing to ready by filling in a few form details and hitting Install. Most of the form is already filled out, so you may only need to set your login, email, and password to get going. If you make a mistake or miss anything, you’ll get an on screen error message to let you know what needs to be fixed. Most of the time, you can use the defaults, but it’s a good idea to change your login information before the software is installed.

Focus on using apps rather than spending time on installing them.

Softaculous is the current king of automatic installers, giving a webmaster rapid installation of over 100 applications. It does everything for you, from downloading the necessary files to creating a database. It even offers automatic updating and automatic backups for your installation. This way you can focus on building your content, while your site remains up to date and backed up automatically.

Where can I find Softaculous?

Many web hosting providers offer Softaculous. Because of the easy to use interface and power it brings, web hosts like A2 Hosting realize that their customers will benefit greatly with this feature addition. If your web host offers cPanel, check your Software/Services section for the Softaculous icon.

Softaculous is a popular auto installer offered by web hosts like A2 Hosting.
Softaculous is a popular auto installer offered by web hosts like A2 Hosting.

If you can’t find the icon in your control panel, check with your web host. These days, it’s hard to find a great web host who doesn’t offer Softaculous.