It has to be said: All website hosting companies are equal. Some are more equal than others.
Just about every company has an Internet presence in the form of a website. Alongside e-mail, it’s the primary means by which businesses communicate sight unseen.
There’s a veritable sea of hands out there – all grasping at a share of your wallet to host your website. Some do it for pocket change. Others cost orders of magnitude more. You can even do it yourself if you’re game.
So, let’s explore five things to cross-examine when seeking a home for your company’s website.
Animal Farm and Website Hosting Services
One of the easiest ways for a burglar to physically enter your business is by jemmying the front door or a window. They rarely drill through brick or excavate from underneath. Your website is analogous to the front door. It’s the easiest entry point. What will someone find if they break in?
If your website is hosted externally, any such uninvited guests should be presented with a brick wall directly behind your front door. There should really be nowhere else to go. If your website is sitting on your own computers, what happens once an Internet burglar breaks in? They potentially have access to your network. What information can they see, precious files can they delete, or trade secrets can they steal?
Your website should ideally be hosted in its own dedicated Linux-based environment that is regularly patched to the latest version. Good hosting companies individually isolate the websites of all their customers from each other. This means that if something inadvertently goes wrong with one of them, it doesn’t open the floodgates to all and sundry.
If your website uses WordPress or other web publishing software then you will need to periodically patch it – or arrange for the patching to be done for you – to overcome any security exploits as they are recognised.
- Bandwidth – your Internet link.
Let’s say you’re about to launch a new product on your website. This thing is going to be huge. You’re expecting a lot of hits: clicking through your product gallery; viewing your funky video clip; and downloading the manual. There could be 10s or even 100s of people on your site at any one time.
If you’re hosting externally, what capacity Internet connection does the hosting company have?
Every time someone visits your website they download data. A bit for the text, more for images, a lot for videos. You actually have to pay for that in two ways: its physical ones and zeros storage; and data that’s transmitted out whenever someone visits your site.
As you can imagine, this can add up – quickly if you’ve got a ripper of a popular site. If you’ve gone the really cheap option with your web hosting contract, you might just find that you pay a lot for it once a certain threshold is reached. That could hurt.
If you’re hosting within the walls of your office, how is your Internet link going to cope with this? What happens if Bill needs to host a Skype conference with your sales team? Or Jane needs to submit your quarterly tax obligations? Who wins and who loses?
- Reliability and redundancy.
In a perfect world your website would be available 100% of the time. And your soufflé would always rise. But computers and humans aren’t infallible.
The best IT service providers know this and make sure there is redundancy through all the circuits and wires. But there’s also floods, fires and pestilence to potentially contend with.
In contract terms, all this rolls down into a solitary figure called “uptime”. The real business grade players talk numbers like 98%, 99%, 99.9%. No one can guarantee 100% – be wary of that. Most have lots of clauses about force majeure that could mean you’ll be off the air in the event that someone sneezes. So, beware the rubbery numbers.
If you like the idea of your website being haphazardly available throughout the week then, sure, go ahead and host it yourself. Or on the 2004 vintage desktop computer in your friend’s kitchen closet.
But if you want your customers to have it when they want it, you’ll need to find a reputable hosting company with all the right sounding reliability and redundancy babble.
Backups are a regular theme in these posts. It’s because they’re never needed until you critically need them – that’s what makes them so important!
If you’re still contemplating hosting your website yourself, then you need to take backups. If your web designer accidentally deletes something important, you’ll need it back. They’re not necessarily clumsy, this stuff just happens.
Is your hosting company taking backups? How often? How far back do they go? What’s the general turn-around time for restoration? All sensible questions to think of.
- Domain registration and DNS hosting.
Your website has an address that looks something like: www.loftusit.com.au. The bit after the “www”, in this case, is called the domain. You need to periodically pay for your domain. Someone will need to keep tabs on that for you.
Whilst the Internet appears to work by human readable names, like the aforementioned www.loftusit.com.au, it actually uses addresses that look like phone numbers – and new addresses are even funkier with hexadecimal digits.
This phonebook style translation is performed as part of the Domain Name System (DNS) and happens whenever you visit a website.
For your website to be accessible via its human-friendly name, DNS entries need to be created, periodically adjusted, and hosted. Someone has to oversee this and make your particular entries available for the phonebooks of the Internet to lookup.
If you’re a guru with all this stuff, you might do it yourself. Otherwise, a web hosting company or managed service provider is probably looking after it. But you do need to check and make sure that it is done so redundantly in case the primary server goes offline.
As we can see, by examining the above, all website hosting companies are, in fact, not going to be equal.
When you boil it all down, choosing where to host your website is both easy and hard. It’s easy if you use a reputable company and it’s hard if you’re a skinflint expecting silver service.
Loftus tailors website hosting to your exacting needs utilising Data Centre technology. Whether your business has one or many sites, we help to ensure that your customers can reliably find you.
Contact Us or phone 1300 LOFTUS (1300 563 887) to discover how.