Reliable website hosting tips result from years of managing sites, making mistakes and achieving successes.
Businesses will go through the trouble of moving to a new hosting company because of bad experiences with the old one.
Bad experiences usually fall into a few categories:
- The hosting company has poor customer service response.
- Server performance is slow (especially on shared servers).
- Upgrades done by a poorly skilled technician results in data loss.
- Spammers chew up bandwidth and other capacity.
- Hackers take down the site.
The tips below define some simple standards when a business is looking for a company to host its website. The host company should have standards on its own website for making comparisons.
Bandwidth and server space are two basic needs for handling visitors. Consider adding more when either number exceeds 80 percent of the account’s limit each month.
The total bandwidth is the amount of data transfers each month that take place from site visitors downloading articles, graphics and photos. The server space accommodates all files for the site including articles, graphics and photos.
The number of CPUs and amount of RAM are closely related to capacity. A shared hosting account for smaller sites will split the capacity among all of the sites.
A dedicated server or virtual private server should have enough CPUs and RAMs to handle regular spikes in traffic with only minor declines in response time.
3) Customer service
For business critical sites, see 24/7 live support from on-duty (not on-call) staff with immediate or nearly immediate response to emergencies.
An online system that allows you to submit a ticket for routine support and track the progress on that ticket is convenient and a simple standard of good service.
A hosting company that takes minutes to reply has great customer service. Ones that take hours or even days — yes, some of them exist — have customer service that will lead to problems in the future.
A good hosting company should guarantee 99.9% server uptime, redundancy/data backups and site snapshots.
Even if the host has properly functioning servers, a programming error by the site’s staff can crash the site or damage key files. Data backups and site snapshots can restore files or an entire site.
Reliable site hosting companies offer weekly backups and some offer daily. Sites with daily changes to the content should have a hosting company with daily backups.
Hackers and spammers will try their best to gain access to critical parts of the sites. A site management product such as Cpanel, which is standard for most hosting accounts, can block some of them.
For bigger security problems, the hosting company should make changes on request to at the server level to block malicious visitors even more.
Other services include shared SSL certificates, encryption and complex password generators.
6) CMS Support
Many hosting companies have a one-click server that installs WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and other content management systems.
Sites that buy a CMS or use a free, open-source one like Drupal will find the implementation and maintenance much easier with a host that has experience in such a system.
7) Scripting Functionality
Popular CMS systems like the ones above use PHP in the background. Sites that use other systems may need other scripting support such as Perl, ColdFusion, Python, etc.
Check to see if the host in question provides the capacity for the type of scripting that best matches the skills of the site staff. Beware the host that has fallen behind. An upgrade can lead to trouble.
8) Database Support
Likewise, MYSQL and other databases are crucial for content management systems and providing classifieds, directories, calendars and other services.
Quality hosting companies will offer many if not an “unlimited” number of MySQL databases with each account. Some have tools such as cPanel and PhpMyAdmin that allow customers to create and manage their own databases.
Others need a support ticket so that customer service creates it. Such strict controls can lead to lag time in making changes.
9) Application Support
The ability to provide mailboxes, subdomains, FTP accounts and other applications is an essential part of website hosting tips.
For sites that don’t use a CMS, support for blogs, ecommerce and message boards is often useful.
Reporting functions are important for managing costs from bandwidth and disk space.
AWStats is a popular free service with many hosting companies, but it has mostly raw statistics. Google Analytics is free and much more sophisticated.
Sophisticated sites buy even more advanced reporting tools from outside vendors.