Finding the right web host can be challenging, yet it is crucial that the company you go with and the package you choose are right for your business – not just for now but as you grow. After all, your site’s performance, reliability and security depend on the service you opt for.
You’ll also need a host that can give you many other essential features: great email, managed services, sufficient storage, etc. Choosing badly can have calamitous consequences for your business, so to help you, here’s a checklist of essential web hosting services that you should look for.
- 24/7 expert technical support
If your online business is open 24/7 and your critical apps run continuously, then you need the reassurance that if anything goes wrong, at any time, you’ll have the technical support you need to help you sort it out.
By technical support, we don’t mean someone who is just paid to answer the phone sympathetically; you need an expert who can help resolve your problems. Remember that every minute you’re offline, your losing custom, so this service is essential. As your business grows, 24/7 support will become even more important, especially if you run complex systems and use sophisticated apps to undertake your company’s operations.
- Backup services
Another feature of a good host is a remote backup service. Imagine what would happen if you lost all your data: website content, emails, customer data, sales and financial details, and inventory records? For many companies, this type of disaster can put them out of business.
To protect yourself, you need a web host that provides a backup service that meets your needs. For example, if you are selling products continuously, you need continuous backups so that you do not lose any recent sales info.
Make sure that backups are stored remotely on different servers to the ones on which you’re hosted. This way, if your server goes down, your backups are still available.
In addition, ensure your web host is backing up their servers too. If the server goes down because of an issue at the host’s end, you need to know that they have a failover server ready to kick in.
- Guaranteed uptime and high availability
There is nothing worse than having a website that keeps going offline. It gives a bad impression to your visitors, can affect your search engine ranking and loses you sales. This can happen if your shared hosting is affected by other users on the server or if the servers are old and need constant maintenance. When you are choosing shared hosting, look for a host that guarantees uptime of at least 99.95%.
If you are using more sophisticated hosting, such as dedicated servers or cloud hosting, you should be looking for high availability. This means you want guarantees that your server will remain online for 99.99% of the time or, as with our enterprise cloud hosting, 100% uptime.
- Managed services
If your busy running a business, you don’t want to be burdened with the task of managing the server on which your site is hosted. A good provider will take care of the management for you. This means they’ll make sure that the server’s operating system is kept up to date and that all patching and updates are taken care of. Depending on the level of service you require, it is possible to create bespoke managed services to suit your specific needs – talk to your vendor if this is the case.
If you require managed hosting, make sure your host provides it.
- Robust security features
Sophisticated hacking software enables any cybercriminal to scan millions of websites and networks every day looking for vulnerabilities. Nearly every website and system are affected. If a vulnerability is found, the hacker will try to take advantage.
With this in mind, you need a web host that can provide an arsenal of tools to defend you against a wide range of threats. You need strong firewalls, intrusion prevention, email scanning, spam removal, SSL encryption and more.
The consequences of weak security are frightening. Your site could be ransomed or used to spread viruses and your data can be stolen. If it is, you can face enormous fines.
- Migration services
Moving from one web host to another can be a technically challenging process if you have to undertake it yourself. Most good web hosts now provide a free migration service for you. This means they’ll move your website for you and make sure everything is working.
If a host doesn’t provide this service, it could be an indication that they don’t have the in-house expertise or human resources to do this for you. If that’s the case, it could be an issue further down the line.
- Support for WordPress
Nearly a third of all websites are built using WordPress. However, despite its popularity, not all hosts have the setup or the in-house technical experience to support its quirks and unique requirements. If you are using WordPress, make sure your host offers WordPress technical support and, if possible, provides dedicated WordPress web hosting.
- Capacity for long-term growth
A good web host will have all the resources you need to help your company grow. What starts out today as a small website on shared hosting, could, in a few years, be an enterprise that needs a hybrid solution of dedicated servers combined with public and private cloud hosting.
Your host should offer every type of hosting to help you progress from small to large. Not only should they provide all those services, they should make it simple to move up as you grow; from shared server to VPS, from VPS to cloud or dedicated servers, and so forth.
Scalability is important for many businesses who use cloud hosting as it enables you to grow at a pace that suits you and have extra resources over the short term to cover spikes in demand.
Spikes in demand can happen unexpectedly and without additional resources being available on tap, they can take your system offline, as happened to Cambridge University when they when they released Stephen Hawking’s Ph.D. online for the first time.
The great thing about scalable resources is that you pay for them on a pay-as-you-go basis, which means you don’t need to upgrade permanently to a larger package. If you think your site will need the capacity to handle periods of increased activity, make sure your host provides scalable resources.
- Easy to use control panels
Administering the back-end of your website or server can be challenging when you don’t have a user-friendly interface. The most popular type of control panel and one of the easiest to use is cPanel, which is great for Linux based servers. If you use a Windows server, look for the Plesk control panel.
Both these control panels provide a single dashboard interface with easy to navigate, well-categorised features that let you change settings and manage updates and software installation in just a few clicks.
- Great email
Most web hosting comes with email included, however, you need more than just the ability to send and receive. A good host will scan emails for spam and malicious software and will check daily that your email server has not been blacklisted.
Make sure your provider enables integration with services such as Outlook, that it provides adequate storage, file sharing, mobile and webmail access and has features such as calendars and tasks, which are essential to today’s businesses.
- SSL certificates
If you sell online, you have to make transactions secure for your customers. To do this, you should encrypt data using an SSL certificate which most web hosts will provide you with. If you don’t have SSL, Google will mark your site as ‘not secure’ and payment gateways may not let you use their services to sell goods directly from your site – you may need to send them to another site to take the payment.
The recent flaw in Wi-Fi, known as KRACK, has also seen antivirus companies telling their customers to only use sites with SSL certificates (i.e. those that have addresses beginning with HTTPS). If you are selling online, make sure your web host provides SSL certificates.
If you need to change your hosting provider, make sure that the software you are using is compatible with the hardware and operating system used by your host.
Some hosts will provide OS environments where you can use your own software, and there can be alternative solutions that the host can put in place. However, if the software is not compatible, it may need to be rewritten before you can migrate – and this can be a very expensive and time-consuming process. Always speak to your new host prior to taking out a contract.
- No vendor lock-in
When you sign up with a new host, the last thing on your mind will be leaving them, however, it should be something you consider as some hosts make it very difficult for you to move on.
If the terms and conditions are restrictive or the environment that you move to makes it unlikely that your system can be easily migrated, then you could be locked in. If you ever need to get out again, this could cause serious difficulties.
Make sure your new host doesn’t lock you in.
- Affordable pricing
Whilst it is important that the cost of your hosting is affordable, you should not base your choice solely on how cheap it is. If your business is to succeed, then you must have a hosting service that is reliable, secure, supportive and gives you all the resources you need to operate. Only when you have found these things should you take price into consideration. The focus should be value for money, not cheapness.
Hopefully, this post will have given you a detailed insight into the hosting features that many businesses will need. Remember, when choosing a host or package, not just to think of your present requirements but also what you’ll need in the future.
If you are looking for a web host for your business, visit our homepage to see our wide range of hosting options. We have everything from shared hosting to enterprise cloud solutions and offer the full range of services mentioned in this post.