Web hosting is a necessary requirement if you have a website. Without web hosting, the website cannot be exposed to the World Wide Web (WWW). For those who know very little about this, it could pose a potential pitfall if an incorrect hosting provider is chosen.
Here are a few key guiding points to consider when selecting a hosting provider:
Articulate hosting requirements
Is it just web hosting? Perhaps there is also a requirement for email or server disk space hosting? What are the expectations with respect to website availability and uptime? What about access to the website for maintenance? Is the provider hosting environment secure and reliable?
Investigate, analyse and list out the requirements. Use the requirements to assess every prospective hosting provider.
Agreed uptime guarantees
Uptime refers to the period when the hosting service is operational. Conversely, downtime refers the period when the service is not operational.
A 99.9% uptime 24 hours 7 days a week is typical. This ensures the website is operational all the times with a very small 0.1% possibility of downtimes due to planned and unplanned events such as maintenance activities or hardware failure.
Key factors in hosting infrastructure (i.e. server hardware and software) are reliability, responsiveness, security, location and upgrades for improvements.
Server equipment must be to industry standard in order to offer 24x7 availability including UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). The server hardware and software needs to be responsive enough to offer fast website response times. The hosting infrastructure must be highly secure to prevent unauthorised access (i.e. hacking). It is also important for hosting providers to undertake upgrades to the infrastructure to maintain currency and implement improvements. Also consider home country hosting infrastructure to ensure local data privacy laws comply.
Ensure the hosting provider undertakes regular backups of the website including offsite backup storage. Backups are critical in website recovery in the event of infrastructure failure. Liaise with the provider to restore the website and other relevant services as required.
All hosting providers must be proactive in communicating with customers. Any planned or unplanned outages must be made aware. Planned outage notifications allow customers to implement workarounds when websites are unavailable. Ongoing updates on any outages keep customers abreast on progress.
Website usage statistics
Website usage statistics offer a great insight into how the website is performing on the WWW. A hosting provider can typically produce reports detailing web traffic data such as web page hits, source location, browser type, operating system, bounce rates and more. Some of the data can be represented in charts for easy viewing.
Usage statistics also play an important role in measuring, understanding and optimising the website and how the business presents itself on the WWW. Finer adjustments to the website may be required to attract more visits.
A hosting provider should always have an issue resolution process in place. In any planned or unplanned event that may affect the website, the issue resolution process offers a streamlined approach to managing any issue including communication with customers, issue identification and action taken to resolve the issue. Such a process offers a level of confidence that any issue at the hosting level are identified and dealt with in the structured manner.
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