Maybe you see lots of “unlimited” packages and assume this must be the best deal…
Choosing something as important as website hosting based on just price or the allure of unlimited features is a mistake we often seen made at KIJO.
You’re probably wondering:
Why does this matter?
Well here’s why…
Would you build a house on top of wobbly jelly?
Hosting is the foundation you build your website on top of. If you were building a house you wouldn’t build it on foundations made of jelly – the house would surely fall down. The same rules apply for hosting.
We have all navigated to a website and watched the loading bar slowly creep by…
What is your usual reaction?
To close the website and go somewhere else of course!
A slow or unreliable website provides a poor experience for your users. If they have a bad experience it’s likely they will never come back. You have lost a customer forever – not to mention all the potential revenue they might have spent with your business.
Not only is this bad for user experience, it will also destroy your search engine rankings. Google has publicly stated that the speed of your website and user experience is very important to how it ranks your website.
Put simply, bad hosting will lose you money and your ability to make money in the future.
So here’s our 5 things to consider when choosing hosting…
The 2 L’s – Location and Latency
Not to scale
I’m guessing you’re thinking the internet is already super fast so why does location matter – and exactly what is latency?
While information travels very fast over the internet – distance still has an effect on loading times. Your website lives on a server in a data centre somewhere. Where this server is located will affect the speed of your hosting.
Take the following example:
Your website’s hosting server is located in America. A user located in the UK navigates to your website’s homepage. First of all the request is sent all the way across the pond along the cables that the internet runs on. The server then returns the requested page sending this all the way across the ocean again. This round trip could take around 3-4 seconds and that’s just for a very basic text web page. Your website would be quite boring if it was just text. Most websites feature media such as images and video, which can make the delay even longer.
This delay is called latency.
Now think about this example:
Your website’s server is located in London. A user located in the UK navigates to your website’s homepage. The request is still sent along the internet cables in the normal way. However this time it only has to travel along the cables in the UK and not all the way across the ocean. The time it takes for the information to be returned is much shorter. The UK server has a reduced latency.
Choose hosting that is closest to where your users are. If your are lucky enough to have visitors from all over the world then choose a hosting setup that serves your website from multiple locations. Always choose the location closest to your visitors wherever they may be.
Shared or Dedicated
At a normal school in each class you have often have multiple students and one teacher. The teacher has a finite amount of time and attention it can give to each student. This way of teaching works fairly well most of the time.
However there might be a time where three students all need help at the same time. The teacher only has a finite amount of resources to help these students. The teacher must balance the needs of the entire class and can’t give attention to just one part of the class.
This is how shared hosting works. Shared hosting basically means that you share the hosting resources with other websites. Maybe one of the websites on your shared hosting gets a lot of traffic – this means there are fewer resources for your website. Another situation could be that one of the websites on your shared hosting is doing illegal or morally wrong activities. This will have a negative impact on your website as well. Similar to how a misbehaving student in a classroom takes up lots of the attention of the teacher – negatively affecting the education of the other students.
Now consider a situation where instead of a classroom with other students, a student has private tuition. The student has one tutor and all that tutor’s attention can be given to the student. This is how dedicated hosting works.
Shared hosting is often chosen for its promise of “unlimited resources” but this is just a sales tactic and there will be a fair usage policy in the small print. We don’t recommend shared hosting but if you are set on using it keep a close eye on performance (it’s normally very slow) and if possible who you are sharing with.
Dedicated hosting can potentially come with greater cost and technical overhead. However there are increasingly more providers who offer cost effective solutions with dedicated resources and friendly control panels to manage your hosting.
Opt for dedicated resources – this doesn’t necessarily mean a dedicated server but you should have your own allocated resources. This might be through a virtual private server or something similar. It’s also good practice to have your own dedicated IP address that you don’t share with other websites.
Is your hosting secure? It’s an obvious question but something which is commonly overlooked. The internet is full of automated bots all trying to gain access to hosting environments through security flaws, un-patched software or just plain old password guessing attempts. Your hosting is no different.
Consider whether your hosting has the following in place;
SSL Secure Padlock An absolute must in 2017. If you don’t have one already I strongly recommend getting one installed.
Firewall What parts of your hosting are exposed to the internet? A firewall prevents traffic from reaching parts of your hosting you don’t want accessed.
Password Guessing / Brute Force Protection This attempts to stop passwords being guessed. It works by blocking anyone who makes too many incorrect password attempts in a short space of time.
Intrusion detection If your hosting environment is accessed by someone who shouldn’t be there, would anyone know and would there be a record? Intrusion detection keeps a record of what is accessed and by who.
Isolation Is your hosting isolated from other hosting environments? You want to ensure that your hosting is isolated as much as possible from others and prevent someone else’s security flaws affecting you.
Data Encryption How is data stored and does it support encryption? Encryption scrambles data and only makes it accessible to the people with the keys. If you store personal or sensitive customer information then you should consider encryption.
Updates Is the software that runs your hosting updated regularly? A common tactic of bots and hackers is to target out of date software that has security flaws. Keeping software up to date is probably one of the easiest aspects of security but is consistently overlooked.
Invest in a hosting solution that is secure from the beginning and keep everything updated. The world of online security can be a lot of work – see if your hosting provider has a security package you can subscribe to or outsource it to a professional.
If your business handles other people’s data, such as an eCommerce shop, it’s vitally important to invest in hosting that covers most or all of the above points. If you are hacked or you lose your customers’ data, your business and your reputation might never recover.
No ones likes downtime – literally. It’s frustrating for everyone involved. Customers, business owners, even the people who provide the hosting don’t like it. The reliability of your hosting is linked entirely with the reliability of your business. Even for a company that isn’t mainly digital – someone not being able to quickly find your contact details or send you an enquiry still affects how reliable you are. I don’t know about you, but if I think something is unreliable I avoid it.
Does your hosting have enough resources to handle your expected traffic levels? If the answer is no then your hosting is not reliable. If you have a sudden spike in traffic, let’s say from a very successful promotion or being featured in the press, your website will go down or grind to a painful slowdown. Right at the time when you need to look reliable, your hosting will fail your customers.
The quickest and cheapest solution is to pick a hosting package that has enough resources for your traffic levels. If you don’t know these details then speak to your provider and see if they can help you with choosing something that works.
While the above is probably the quickest, it doesn’t actually solve the underlying issue that you are having to predict what you will need. This might not be immediately obvious and of course can change all the time. A solution to this is to choose a hosting environment that supports auto scaling and load balancing. This basically means that the hosting can adjust according to demand – growing bigger when required and scaling back down when it’s not needed.
If your website is mission critical and reliability is very important to your business then invest in a solution that can scale and adjust according to demand. We recommend our cloud hosting packages.
The final consideration is cost. However this is not about a race to the bottom. The price of the hosting you choose should reflect what you want to achieve. If you want to be successful online then you need to invest accordingly. Don’t expect to grow a sustainable online commerce operation using a cheap “unlimited” shared hosting package. Similarly if you expect your online business to grow then invest in hosting that can grow with you.
Rather than starting with a monetary figure in mind, start by mapping out what you require from your hosting and what’s important to your business.
Ask the following questions:
What effect would downtime have on your revenue?
If your website was hacked what effect would this have on your business? Would customer information be exposed?
Do you like the idea of sharing resources or do you want something dedicated to your business?
Do you want your website to be fast to your customers or can you tolerate it being a little slow at sometimes?
Create a realistic budget based on what you want to achieve and one that you can afford. Invest in your hosting environment so that your business has a solid foundation and a platform for growth. Underinvestment in this critical infrastructure will cost you money in the long run.
Ultimately any decision with regards to hosting comes down to the individual requirements of the project. It’s important to find something that balances all of the above factors.
We’d be happy to talk about your requirements and how we can help. Get in touch with our team by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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