What to Know Before Choosing the Right Web Host
Your idea is ready, revenue models have been perfected and your website was built with your target audience in mind. The only thing left is to take your website live. Who do you turn to for hosting? Choosing the right web host is a very important step, as it will influence your site’s availability, credibility and security. Website design is visual, making it easier to comprehend. With hosting, everything is behind the scenes, forcing you to rely on the company selling the service. With a little knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to understand the details and what to look for, other than pricing, when choosing your web hosting partner.
Uptime is a very important factor to consider when choosing your web hosting service provider. Most hosts will try to convince you with technical jargon and guarantees, but the bottom line is simple: even a fraction of a percent of downtime can have big consequences in the long run. Most hosting companies boast 98-99.99% uptime. While this may be true, there’s also a catch. Even 1% of unplanned downtime per year can result in 87.6 hours that your website is not available, and that could be a nightmare, especially for eCommerce sites. Recently, a 40-minute downtime was estimated to cause $40 million in losses for Amazon. Beside the financial aspects, an unreliable host poses a great threat to your website’s credibility, which can lead to your customers losing trust and search ranking deterioration.
Separate from unplanned downtime is planned downtime, which is used for maintenance and upgrades. Depending on your host’s plans, your site could still be down for hundreds of hours in any given year regardless of assurances that downtime is minimal. Despite the importance of uptime, no host can guarantee 100% uptime. Servers are machines, and machines break down with time and use. Factors such as network issues, power equipment failures, software problems and human errors can all contribute to downtime as well.
What you can do is choose a reliable web hosting service provider with a good reputation. Before choosing a host, ask if they use good hardware and have a backup arrangement in case of breakdown or unplanned downtime. You can also track the historical data of uptime of the particular web hosting service provider and cross-check their claims. User reviews are helpful as well, providing another perspective on reliability.
Speed is another sign of a good hosting service provider. The world is fast-paced, making slow-loading web pages a real turn-off for users and costing you traffic and sales. A proven method of increasing web traffic is improving page loading time, even by a fraction of a second. This is especially important with ecommerce sites, as cart abandonment rates increase if users feel a site is taking too long to load. Even if you take all of the appropriate measures to ensure pages load quickly, it might not make a difference if your host’s server is clogged.
Many hosting companies claim unlimited bandwidth and storage space, but both are actually limited based on the number of other sites that are sharing those servers. Ask your potential host for a true breakdown instead of taking these claims at face value. Server speed is dependent upon various factors like hardware, ram and processing speed, along with the kind of hosting plan you have. A static website with minimal traffic can run very well on an economical shared hosting plan, but the same might not hold true for an eCommerce site with heavy traffic. When choosing a hosting plan, consider the estimated traffic for your site, along with any specific needs you might have, such as eCommerce. If a shared server isn’t right for your site, consider VPS hosting or a dedicated server to help ensure quick load times.
This is one of the most important things to consider when looking for a hosting service provider. The internet is infested with criminals and hackers who will stop at nothing to steal information. Make sure your host is committed to providing a secure environment for your site.
Must haves for the server include:
- SSH file transfer protocol (SFTP) for safe files transfers, ensuring they aren’t intercepted or manipulated by hackers while in transit
- Secure socket layer (SSL) for ensuring the safety of data between the browser and the server. SSL encrypts data, ensuring complete security from theft. It’s an essential security measure for eCommerce sites, as it secures confidential information like credit card numbers, helping protect your customers from fraud.
- Regular backups protect your data in case of critical equipment failure. Make sure your host stores backups on a separate device for easy recovery.
While most hosting providers will claim excellent service and support, it’s best to ask for a metric like response time on help tickets. Most low-cost hosting services either outsource support to a third party or don’t have enough in-house support to resolve problems in a timely fashion. This can lead to help tickets getting ignored or long response times that cause big headaches.
Technology can be unpredictable, meaning even the best hosting providers can encounter issues. That’s why adequate support, that responds and remedies issues in a timely fashion, is so important. Whether problems arise on the website or the hosting services themselves, a good support team is an essential piece to successful troubleshooting. Does your host provide 24-hour support? Will they give critical issues higher priority? You won’t truly know unless you ask.
Technical specifications and add-on rates
Web hosting is a business, and like any other business, it’s about profit. That often means high-profile features are sold at a lower rate, while behind-the-scenes features are sold at a premium. While hosting charges may be affordable, other features needed to run the website—such as email accounts, blogs, renewals, etc.—may be over-priced. Ask ahead of time, or you might regret it later.
Learn all you can about the platform and technology used by the web host and whether your site is compatible. Doing your research up front can prevent a costly and difficult hosting move down the road. What kind of control panels are provided for the user interface? Will you have the ability to automate repetitive tasks? Are auto scripts available? Not all web hosts include these features.
Choosing the right web host may seem simple, but technical glitches can cost you—in time, money, credibility and search rankings. Read the fine print carefully and do your research before committing to a hosting provider, and you’ll enjoy reliable service for years to come.