Imagine moving into a new home, fitted into a nice complex, where all the houses look the same, only change would be the contents inside of each home. The same concept is applied when looking at web hosting service providers.
There are plenty of them around the world, offering the same core service, yet each host has a trick or two of its own. In this article we will be discussing the possible guidelines one should follow to ensuring your website is safe and secure.
What is web hosting?
In just one sentence: Web hosting is a place where individuals or organizations place their websites.
Normally when we talk about a web hosting, it means a company that provides space on a computer (server) to *host* the files for your website, as well as providing Internet connectivity so that other computers can have access to the files on your website.
Types of web hosting
Generally, there are four different types of web hosting: Shared, Virtual Private Server (VPS), Dedicated, and Cloud Hosting. While all types of hosting servers will act as a storage centre for your website, they differ in the amount of storage capacity, control, technical knowledge requirement, server speed, and reliability. Let’s dig in and look at the main differences between a shared, VPS, dedicated, and cloud hosting.
Domain name registration
Registering a domain name is essentially like owning a small slice of internet real estate and, just like in the real estate market, consumers will be expected to cough up a good deal of information about themselves and pay for the privilege of claiming their corner of the internet’s public space.
Examples of a domain name: Alexa.com, Linux.org, WebRevenue.co, eLearningEuropa.info, Yahoo.co.uk, all examples above end with a different ‘extension’ – .com, .org, .net, .biz… and so on. We call this “extension” as top level domain (shortform:TLD). Examples of other TLD include .uk, .ws, .co.jp, .com.sg, .tv, .edu, .co, .com.my, and .mobi.
Web hosting bandwidth and files transfer protocol (FTP)
Bandwidth is the measure of maximum data that can be transferred by your hosting account in a given time, usually measured in seconds.
The term “bandwidth” should not be mixed up with “data transfer” as they are two very different things. Data transfer refers to the consumption of bandwidth. In layman terms, the amount of data being transferred is ‘data transfer’; while the rate of data being transferred is ‘bandwidth’.
Questions to ask your web host
Selecting a web host for your organization’s site is an important – and at times, daunting – undertaking. Beyond finding which Web hosts are out there, it’s a matter of digging through different plans, comparing inclusions, and checking customer reviews. But beyond that, it’s important to look for what isn’t said.
- What is their uptime guarantee? (Anything less than 99.9 percent is unacceptable)
- What is the average monthly uptime?
- If you are looking at a tangible data center/ service model, where are your servers physically located? Are you given a choice in location?
- What level of customer/ technical support do they offer? Online only? Phone? Email? Etc.?
- What are their customer service/ technical support hours by method? If online chat is available 24/7, what are their phone support hours?
- What type of set-up assistance is included at no additional cost?
- What types of e-commerce features are included with the plan that you are considering
- What payment plans are available? For example, if you sign up for a two-year subscription term, do you need to pay that full amount upfront or is it divided into increments?
- What are the renewal terms and fees? (Know that if you are a first-time subscriber, you will likely sign up at a discounted rate that the changes when you renew your contract – make sure that you know the full ramifications.)
- If you are looking at an unlimited hosting plan, exactly what does that mean? All unlimited plans have limitations – it’s just a matter of what those limitations are.
- What are their security measures and server back-up protocols?
- How long has the Web host been in business? Have they changed management/ ownership in that time or, more importantly, recently?
- What are their server upgrade protocols? For example, are they able to update and upgrade their servers without downtime? If so, how? During what hours of the day/ night do they make those updates?
- What are the provider’s requirements to cancel a hosting contract? What is their required period of notice?
- What are the ramifications for organizations that eat up bandwidth and storage in a shared hosting environment? How does the hosting provider mitigate these types of issues?
- What does their set-up/ installation process entail? What exactly are you responsible for and how much support do they provide during the process?
- Is their support center outsourced? Where is it located?
- Are there limitations to the types of software that you can run or install?
- If someone does manage to hack their network and servers, what is their guarantee of being able to restore your data? What measures do they have in place for this?
- Are there set-up fees? If so, what are they – and are they waived for first-time subscribers?
- How are spam complaints monitored and dealt with?
- What specifically is included in the plan that you are considering? Sure, you know that it includes X RAM and Y bandwidth – but what does that mean? Make sure that you understand what you’re getting from the storage through the number of email addresses, quantity of domains and subdomains included, and beyond.
So whats in it for me?
There are hundreds of questions that you could ask your potential web host, but by getting the answers to these 30 questions before you sign on the dotted line, you should get a clear picture of what you will receive, what the provider offers long term, how they treat their customers, and if they are an organization you can trust and truly want to work with.
Does cheap hosting amount to bad service?
A reliable web host is a must for all websites and blogs, but it shouldn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Not all cheap web host sucks. Some budget web hosts are as good as that VPS hosting deal you were looking at.
If you are interested in hosting your website, or know of someone, drop us an email and we will get you set up quick and easy or drop us a line at 021 637 8186.