Things to consider before choosing a web hosting company
Designing and developing websites has become increasingly easier and accessible thanks to the expanding array of web development platform and tools, and the growing demand for companies to have a consistent online presence.
However, finding the right place to host your website can be a challenging task, especially when you have a wide range of providers with reputable services, each with their own benefits and limits. You may end up paying for things you don’t necessary need or missing out on essential functions for your business.
What is the uptime agreement?
If your website is the main medium to your company, then uptime will be one of the major factors to consider when choosing a hosting platform.
Let’s say that a hosting service outlines in their contract that they can provide a 99% server up-time guarantee. While this may sound like a good deal, it actually means that in a year they can get away with 1% downtime without any obligation towards you – that’s approximately 87 hours (nearly 3 days) of your website being down and inaccessible to your users.
Therefore, if you have an average of 50 visitors per hour, that means 4,350 lost visitors. Whilst, if your conversion rate is 1% you will lose 43 leads or customers and there are other damages to be calculated including search engine penalties and customer churn.
At face value, a 99.9% up-time guarantee may not seem like a huge improvement, however, in effect it reduces the downtime to a tenth, which can make a significant difference for a high-traffic website.
In conclusion you should make sure that the hosting provider you choose has a clause where the up-time commitment is explicitly stated. Furthermore, whilst an inaccessible website is a problem that cannot be replaced, you should look for reparation your hosting provider offers in exchange for downtime that exceeds the contractual agreement. If a hosting provider is ready to offer free hosting in exchange for downtime, it shows their sincerity in making sure they stay true to their promise.
What level of support you are getting?
No website is a one-man effort, regardless of how good you are at your craft, you will eventually need help from your hosting provider. The question is whether they are ready to support you and to what extent?
Make sure your hosting service offers live customer support and won’t direct you to a hard to navigate FAQ page when you need help. Also verify that your plan includes this service as some companies don’t provide it in basic plans.
Another relevant element is the responsiveness of the provider. How quick is the hosting provider’s support team responding to customer queries? How qualified are they in answering technical questions? What level of support do they provide (server configuration, site-level customisation, coding support, etc.)?
You shouldn’t expect a support team to answer every question you have. However, a good support team should be able to respond quickly on general queries and have a clear workflow to get back to you on more technical queries. The support team should at the very least help you navigate and find the answers you need in their knowledge base.
Which Content Management Systems (CMS) are supported?
One of the key points you should consider before signing up with a web hosting provider is the CMS they support. Depending on your website's purpose and available assets, you may want to build your website on Umbraco, Drupal, or WordPress. However, your need may change in the future and you will need to be able to transit to another CMS.
A good web hosting company will allow you to set up multiple sites with the CMS of your choice in an easy to use and user friendly interface. Ideally, it will offer extra tools to help tailor your website structure to your specific needs like an e-commerce function or a discussion forum. It will also allow you to customise it with minimal efforts by adding links to social platforms, ads, RSS, pools etc.
Another important component you should consider is support for migration. Does your web hosting provider support transferring your website from another service? Can it help with the transition from one CMS to another?
While automated migration tools are already a basic necessity, most of the time they are not enough for successful migration, especially if your website has been live for a few years and contains legacy code and assets.
How much customisation you will get?
The amount of access to your website back-end and server configuration is crucial when choosing your web hosting provider. Some providers offer only basic level administration such as wp-admin to WordPress websites. While this could be suitable for basic use cases, it could become a huge limitation when you want to expand the capabilities and functions of your website according to your company’s needs.
If you are looking for a central hub to manage everything that is related to your website you should look for even more advanced features like DNS, SSL/TLS certificates and email hosting support. If you are replacing a website of an established business with a new one, the hosting they provide should be able to integrate all certificates and DNS records that you have in place
How protected you will be?
No web hosting plan would be complete without the measurement of defence against common cyber-attacks. The fact is that at the end of the day you are responsible for securing your digital assets. If you become a victim of hackers, the damage done to your digital assets, your customers and your reputation could not be recoverable through financial reimbursement. Hence, it will be good to know what kind of help you can receive from your hosting provider.
A good hosting service will offer at least automatic updates for major CMS platforms. At a deeper level it would secure the underlying services like Apache, MySQL and PHP. Most of the time, updates are the first line of defence against common cyber-attacks like SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS).
However, there are certain things that no hosting can protect you against including vulnerabilities in custom themes with poorly written code, or themes downloaded from illegal websites that have intentionally coded vulnerabilities. Some of the better web hosting providers have specialised features that can scan the source code of your website and determine if there are known vulnerable coding patterns and malware.
A huge bonus will be if your web hosting provider provide measures of defence against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, in which malicious botnets attack and flood your website with bogus traffic restricting other users from accessing it. Not many websites become victims of DDoS attacks, however, if you have a reason to fear you may become a target, you should check with your web hosting company to see if they cover DDoS mitigation or if they have partners that can offer support to you.
What are the available plans?
Every website has different resource requirements. Some may be able to attract millions of visitors each month and have high engagement, while others may decide to specialise more in niche markets and get less traffic but higher conversion rates. Some companies may require dedicated servers due to their regulatory need, while others may be sharing resources with other websites to cut down the costs.
A good web hosting provider will offer flexible pricing plans that can meet the needs of every type of customer. The plans should provide discounts for customers that make long-time purchases. Also the hosting provider should be transparent about what they charge you for and what is included and excluded from the plan.
Think deeply before you sign up with a web hosting company
The best way to find the best web hosting company for your needs is to pause on these questions. Determine your current needs and try to roughly outline how these needs may potentially evolve in the future. A good hosting provider will be able to support you as your online presence grows. Considering all that, selecting the right web hosting provider for your company shouldn’t be a problem.
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Content marketing is really like a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second date.David Beebe, TV Producer