Best Practices for Web Hosting – A Guide For B2B Companies
Every business needs a website, and every website needs a host. Your web host is the foundation of your website, so it’s crucial that you choose the right one. Slip up here, and you risk a whole heap of potential problems; from crippling slowdown and substandard SEO, to weak security, leaving your site vulnerable to hackers.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into some web hosting best practices. These are the steps you need to take to ensure you select the best possible host for your site. Before we begin though, let’s define what a web host does.
What is Web Hosting?
First things first — what is web hosting? Think of a web host as the home of your website. They house all of your website’s files and data and share these with any visitors to your website. All of this data is stored on the web host’s server, and these servers are what make it possible for anyone to access your website via the internet.
It’s a simple concept, but be aware that not all web hosts are the same. For example, some may offer unique perks, such as auto-healing servers or free SSL certificates. To make matters even more complicated, there are different types of server setups, too. Confused? Don’t be — we’ll explain everything below.
Types of web hosting
As we’ve already mentioned, web hosting services use specialized computers (referred to as servers) for storing website files and handling visitor requests. However, these machines can be configured in several different ways, with each configuration suited to different uses.
The server setup you choose will depend on many factors, including:
- Cost — how much can you afford to spend on your business’s website?
- Power — do you expect your website to pull in millions of visitors every month? If so, you’ll need to invest in a server setup that’s capable of handling all that traffic.
- User-friendliness — as you’ll discover below, some server setups are far easier to deal with than others!
- User control — for a simple B2B website, any hosting service you choose should provide adequate user control for your needs. If you’re planning to host a more complicated website (such as an app built on a custom framework), you’ll need to pay close attention to how much control your host gives you.
- Flexibility — do you require the ability to rapidly scale your website’s resources in real-time or choose your server’s location?
- Reliability — one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing your server. Picking a provider with high reliability (referred to as uptime — more on that later) is crucial, but it can come at a cost.
After you’ve decided which features are most important to you, it’s time to choose a host. Let’s examine the different types of server setups:
- Shared hosting — With this type of web hosting, multiple websites are hosted on a single server. This is the most cost-effective type of web hosting, as you are splitting the costs with other customers, but you will also have to split resources too, so if you’re expecting extremely high volumes of traffic to your website, it’s best to look elsewhere.
- Dedicated hosting — This type of web hosting is for businesses that require a high level of performance and reliability. With dedicated hosting, you are the only customer on a server hosted in your own data center. This is far more expensive (and complex) than shared hosting, but can be worth it for large businesses that value security and control over anything else.
- VPS hosting — VPS hosting is a virtualization of dedicated hosting. One server is split into several separate (virtual) machines. Think of it as a middle ground between shared and dedicated hosting, with each website hosted on its own private virtual server.
- Cloud hosting — cloud setups host your website on a pool of unified computing resources. So, if one server starts to become sluggish due to traffic overload or hardware issues, a second server can immediately pick up the slack. The exact difference between VPS and cloud hosting can be tricky to establish, but if you’re feeling confused, visit Cloudways’ guide on cloud vs VPS hosting.
- Managed hosting — Managed hosting is when a company controls your entire hosting environment remotely. This can be useful for companies with specialized hosting needs, but is usually more expensive.
Selecting a host — best practices
So, you’ve noted down your needs, and you’ve identified the type of hosting to suit your business. What next? Simple — It’s time to begin your search!
Want to avoid the hassle of having to migrate to a more suitable host after settling for a substandard provider the first time around? Be sure to follow our list of best practices:
1. Understand the bare necessities
It may be tempting, but don’t be drawn in by a flashy website or a persuasive sales pitch. There are essential features that any host should offer their customers, and if your chosen provider doesn’t offer them — run! Any host worth their salt should provide:
- Robust security features to ensure your data is safe and sound
- Competitor-matching (or beating) uptime
- A comprehensive support system provided by knowledgeable technicians
- A scalable service that can be customized to suit your needs
- Analytical tools to measure key metrics and figure out who is visiting your website
Additionally, it’s crucial to estimate exactly how much traffic you can expect. Make sure to choose a hosting provider based on the factors above and their storage and bandwidth limitations once you’ve tallied up an accurate figure.
2. Always read the small print
Any web host you’re considering doing business with should be able to present a Service Level Agreement (SLA) upon request. An SLA is just another name for a guarantee — it’s a promise to you, from your provider, that assures a defined level of service will be delivered.
In a standard SLA, you’ll find details on things such as the availability of the host’s customer support team, and the amount of server uptime you can expect. Uptime is particularly important — this is the percentage of time your server (and consequently, your website) will be functional. Typically, you should disregard any providers which offer an uptime of less than 99.999%. This may seem excessive, but a server uptime of 99.99% could result in almost an hour of downtime over the course of a year. For more information, we’d recommend visiting uptime.is — their handy uptime calculator is great for showing just how important this figure really is.
It’s also important to read any penalty or termination clauses carefully — you may have a daily data allowance that can result in additional charges if not monitored carefully. In addition, you may also be charged fees if you decide to end your hosting plan (or switch to a more suitable provider). Of course, it’s worth remembering that these agreements work both ways — expect to receive compensation if your server experiences more downtime than stated in your SLA.
Above all though, make sure that your host’s SLA is clear and easy to understand. This could save you huge amounts of trouble later on down the line, should things go awry.
3. Avoid paying for extras (unless you need them!)
Every web host is bound to offer optional extras. Just note that these are optional for a reason — not everyone will need them. While not an exhaustive list, below we’ve listed some of the most common add-ons you can expect most hosts to offer below:
- Domain name privacy — this stops your personal data from being visible to anyone using a WHOIS lookup service.
- An SSL certificate — When a web browser contacts your secured website, the SSL certificate enables an encrypted connection. In simple terms, it’s like sealing a letter in an envelope before sending it through the post.
- Backup services — Some hosts may give you the option of setting your server to automatically backup according to a set schedule.
4. Be wary of “unlimited” hosting packages
Similar to mobile network providers, web hosts are just as guilty of using phrases like “unlimited” or “limitless” in their sales pitches. Unfortunately, these slogans are somewhat misleading.
Buyer beware: if you see any of the terms below touted by a web host, proceed with caution.
- Unlimited domains
- Unlimited storage
- Unlimited email accounts
- Unlimited websites
- Unlimited subdomains
These “unlimited” hosting packages are almost always limited in some shape or form — usually by something known as a ‘fair usage policy’. If your usage exceeds the boundaries set by this policy, you’re likely to incur additional charges.
Before you invest, read the terms and conditions (and the SLA) to find out exactly what you’re getting for your money (or avoid providers that offer ‘unlimited’ packages altogether).
5. Check for blacklisting
If you’re considering a shared hosting solution, tread carefully. If you’re unlucky enough to share the same server as a spam site, there’s a high chance your server’s IP will get blacklisted.
If this happens, and you’ve got an email address tied to your domain, expect major issues. As a precautionary measure, you won’t be able to send or receive emails from your business’s email address. Why? Because you share the same address as the spam site, and therefore you are the one responsible for sending spam messages.
Selecting the right web host may appear complicated, but by following these rules of best practice, you should avoid some of the most common pitfalls involved in the process. Just remember — the success of your business, to a large extent, is dependent on the reliability of your web hosting provider, so choose wisely.
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