Web Hosting is the forgotten hero of the web industry, not seen as exciting as web design, or as critical as support, yet without it there would be no Google, Amazon or isitchristmas.com (Heaven forbid!!).
Since the introduction of the Internet in 1991 web hosting has been quietly supporting the World Wide Web with only the occasional groan. Fast-forward 25 years and web hosting is now a billion dollar industry. This is a far cry from the early days when hosting your own website meant either using your own server and messing around with partitioning a hard drive (if you couldn’t afford a dedicated server!) or getting your 1 whole megabyte of space to use on GeoCities (Src: Peer1Hosting).
So, if you are looking to set up an online identity, or move an existing one, listed below are some things to consider when trying to find the right Hosting provider.
Size & Scalability
The first thing to consider is size. How much CPU, disk space and RAM you require will determine what kind of hosting you should opt for. A small business with regular but not heavy traffic will not need a virtual private server (VPS). Businesses with a medium to heavy amount of virtual footfall would need something more customisable with room for expansion such as VPS hosting which is easily scalable.
Picture the scene, there is a major sale event coming … like, say, Black Friday… and this is one of the biggest online sales events of the year, you are very excited about all those lovely people spending money at your online store and suddenly your website shuts down because it can’t cope. Hmmm sounds familiar….(sorry Argos!).
Security is vital for any website, however if you plan on taking customer details or trading online through an eCommerce website then this definitely should be part of your hosting checklist. It is worth researching what security policies and systems your selected hosting provider has in place before signing on the dotted line. Things to consider are:
- Is the server protected by a Firewall?
- Can access to the server be controlled easily?
- Is admin access via a VPN connection?
Usually displayed as a percentage, uptime is defined as the amount of time a server has stayed up and running. It is a good to have some idea of uptime but don’t base your choice on it without looking into other factors. Any company can wow you with uptime percentages, but remember that even with a high uptime any site can still go down. Generally though most providers who guarantee uptimes will reimburse you for hosting costs when your site is down for an extended period of time.
When problems occur with your hosting (as they sometimes do!), are there procedures in place to ensure downtime is protected against. Failover systems will help ensure your website and server remains online if hardware fails, but this will come with a higher price tag. It is a good idea to weigh up any increased costs against how likely it is that a failure will happen and the cost of any lost business if your website did go offline.
Read the small print
When it comes to web hosting the devil is most certainly in the detail, what you think is totally unlimited bandwidth could be unlimited until you exceed x amount. Reading the small print could save you from signing up to a complete donkey of a service that will require more money, time and effort to exit from.
Do check out what is covered under support, especially if you are running a VPS. Sometimes things do go wrong and it is good to know what level of service you can expect in these circumstances. If you are running a VPS then it is vital to be clear on what the hosting provider will do for you regarding your contract, for example, are you responsible for the software updates or does this fall on the hosting provider.
Last but not least – price! Remember, whilst we all love a bargain, it is not always the cheapest that is the best. Look into what you get for your money, a good deal is brilliant until you suddenly need support for example, only to find out that this is not included in your plan. You may be fine with paying a one-off fee every now and again but if it is an on-going occurrence then it can get costly.
Once you have worked out your needs and researched all of the above (don’t worry there is no test) then you should be in with a good shot of getting the right service for your website. Now go and have a cup of tea, you deserve it!