Many site owners and web developers think of web hosting as an afterthought. “My beautiful site is done and now I need to connect it to the web.” We don’t look at it that way, and we encourage our clients not to either.
Web hosting is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle for any website and it can have a direct impact on how many potential customers see your site in their search results. But before we dive into the hosting options that are currently available, we think it would be useful to describe the various “features” and what they mean for your site.
- SSL Certificate
As mentioned earlier, you will need to make sure you have a SSL certificate installed on your site to avoid being marked by Chrome as “Not Secure” moving forward. In addition to the privacy and security considerations of making your site HTTPS, there are also documented SEO advantages for making the switch.
- Software Updates
It’s no secret that a large number of security breaches happen through outdated software. Developers are constantly patching holes and fixing security issues in their products so remaining several versions behind is a recipe for disaster. Most hosting companies will leave the software updates to you whether you are technically capable or not!
- Brute Force Protection
One of the most common techniques used by hackers is the brute force attacks. This is where a hacker will try to compromise your site by trying different logins repeatedly until they eventually get your password and gain access. Protect your site by limiting failed attempts and the blocking repeat offenders.
- Reverse Proxy
Using a reverse proxy on your site puts a layer of protection between the internet and your site. By running all traffic through the proxy, you can filter out potential threats before they even get to your site.
- Web Application Firewall
Web application firewalls (WAF) exist to protect your site against the most common vulnerabilities. From SQL injection attacks to cross site scripting, a strong WAF can help keep your site secure from the majority of today’s top vulnerabilities.
User Experience Features
Speed is very important to users as Hubspot points out, “If your website takes longer than three seconds to load, you could be losing nearly half of your visitors.” People are notoriously impatient online, so relying information to the user quickly is the crucial.
Bandwidth refers to how many users your site can handle at one time, if too many people are on your site at once, some may not be granted access.
Site Owner Features
Think of back-ups like a copy of site that is stored in a secure location, if your site gets hacked or otherwise broken, an intact copy is there to replace it. A backup of your site also ensures that your data and other information is preserved in the event of a data loss.
- Visitor Metrics
Metrics provide valuable insight into your visitors’ behavior online and allow you to accurately measure your site’s traffic. Having the ability to see trends comes in handy when making marketing decisions for your business.
Now that we have a working knowledge of the features are out there, let’s look at the hosting options that are available and how they will suit your website.
Options for Hosting:
Shared Hosting: This is by far the cheapest option for anyone looking to connect their site to the web but it does come with a “host” of problems. In addition to your files being on the same server as a bunch of other sites—some of which are most likely compromised—you will be hard pressed to find a host that provides the features listed above for the advertised rate. Shared host typically brag that they offer hosting for 2-3 bucks a month but they are so good at upselling these features that by the end your monthly bill is close to what a managed host would cost.
Managed Hosting: Many of the features that we discussed above will come standard with managed hosting services. A managed host not only connects your site to the web but also works behind the scenes to keep your site up to date, secure, and accessible.
Dedicated Server: for a small business website to have a dedicated server is a kind of like bringing an Abrams tank to a knife fight—it’ll get the job done, but more than likely it’s a little overkill. And at $250-1000 per month, it’s an expensive hosting option.
Skip the risk, hassle, and up-sells of the shared host and avoid the budget-busting costs of a dedicated server. Managed hosting is the best option for a small business that wants a secure and maintained web presence.