How to find reliable web hosting

Have you been in the unfortunate situation where you've gone to check on your website and either discovered it's all offline and that parts of your website are obviously broken and you know that dreaded feeling of upcoming wasted time and desperation?

As a web designer, I strive to make sure that my client's customer experience and love for their new website doesn't end when their website is launched. For the last 4 years, I've provided managed web hosting for the majority of my web design clients. Managed web hosting is the perfect solution for most small businesses by making sure that all the technical aspects are taken care of leaving you free to run your business. Unless you want to learn about cPanel, MYSQL, DNS and SFTP managed web hosting is for you.

A reliable web host will take into account and be exemplary in these three areas: speed, customer service and security.

Test your website's speed

Do you know how long it takes for your website to load? Pick one of these free tools to test your website's performance:

Each will provide you with a very detailed report. To begin with, identify the time it takes for your homepage to load. Anything more than 2 seconds is likely to have a negative effect on your business and should be improved.

Fast web hosting is just one element of ensuring that your website performs well but for many small businesses cheap web hosting is the primary reason for a slow website.

Why's a quick load time important? A slow website results in poor service for your visitors and potential customers/clients and gives Google a bad impression of your website. Page load speed is a known factor in SEO (search engine optimisation) and therefore will influence your position on Google.

'Who you gonna call?' - Customer Service

There's nothing worse than discovering your website is partly broken or down entirely. If any potential customers try to visit your site they won't be impressed.

If there is an issue with your website who are you going to call? If you've parted ways with your web designer you might try and contact them. But they could have moved on and your old web designer may charge you a fee to revisit the website. Or you can contact your web host. The advantage of contacting your web host is that most web hosts offer some sort of 24/7 support whether with chat, email or phone. However, a web host support will only go so far. They are responsible for the reliability and infrastructure concerning their servers, but they are not responsible for helping you troubleshoot plugin or theme issues with your website.

For the clients on my Website Hosting, Updates and Maintenance plan I continue to make myself available to be the go-to port of call for my clients over the life of their website. They understand that I'm not available 24/7 to work on their website but they recognise the benefit of handing dealing with a web host over to someone with more experience. There is also a huge amount of time saved if you have can have the same web designer looking over the site as built it than having to wait for a new web designer to orientate themselves.

Security

There's one thing that needs to be made clear: the weakest part of any website is a bad password. With a good password in place, there are still many other factors behind the scenes all working to protect the reputation of your website.

Bot Protection

The most common security threat I encounter is a website being targetted by brute force bots. These are software scripts that will try a login form or order form 100s of times a minute cycling through leaked or common passwords. As a web hosting provider I take two steps to minimise the risk:

  • Server level bot protection - visitors with activity that looks suspicious are locked out for incrementally longer periods of time.
  • 2FA (2 Factor Authentification) - correctly guessing a password is not enough to gain access, a malicious actor must also provide a 1-time password that changes automatically every minute. Here we see the benefit of having a proper password manager. My favourite password manager is 1Password.

Software updates

Over time software receives updates to add a new feature and patch security vulnerabilities. At the start of 2021, 50,000 websites were left vulnerable when plugin vulnerability was found with Contact Form 7 Style. This is a normal part of the software development process and in the end, everyone benefits from more secure software the sooner a vulnerability is found. But it does go to show how important it is to keep your plugins up to date.

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