What to look for in a web hosting provider

Not all hosting providers will provide the same quality of service for your website. A good hosting provider will be proactive in maintaining and securing their server and your website, as well as having the skills to fix your website if it breaks. Here’s a short list of what I look for in a hosting provider.

This is part 1 of the series. You can find part 2 here, What to look for in a website contract.

Regular Updates for all websites on your server

Many developers are reluctant to update websites because they have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. It’s important to be proactive in updating websites because older code poses a security risk. If your website is up to date but is hosted on a shared server with other websites that aren’t updated, your website is at risk. At CCP we update our clients websites for them every month.

CageFS Enabled

Dedicated servers are expensive and therefore rare. If any website on your shared server is hacked then, unless you enable CageFS, your website can be hacked too. CageFS creates a virtual file system for each user, which protects your account from others hosted on the same server. You can check if CageFS is available on your current account by following these instructions.

Offsite Backups

All hosting vendors offer backups but it’s highly recommended you have another backup on different infrastructure to avoid having website and backup data wiped simultaneously. It’s important that your backup is independent and secure or else it may not be available when you need it the most, and you don’t want to lose your website code because you paid a lot of money to create it.

DNS Renewal and Management

This is an area of technology that, anecdotally, people make mistakes with and if something is wrong with your DNS records it will take your entire business off the internet. Imagine your website down and emails being returned to the sender and you can see why it’s critical that you have access to DNS at all times. Every second counts when someone forgot to include a full stop and that broke your DNS. Now it’s as if you were never on the internet. It’s important that your DNS renewal and management is done by someone who will not make a mistake with your valuable intellectual property. CCP staff work with DNS daily, and when we make changes we check them thoroughly. We prepare our changes so that, if downtime is necessary, it will be minimal, if there needs to be any downtime at all. Find out more about how DNS works here.

SSL Certificate

SSL certificates protect the data going between your web browser and the web server. Without an SSL certificate, there will be a warning in the web browser that your website is not safe, which doesn’t look good to prospective customers. With an SSL certificate, your clients will be more comfortable browsing your website and you will also rank better in Google search results.

Security plugins

Your hosting provider should be actively working to protect the data in your website by providing more than the default security options of a username and a password. Security plugins like Wordfence ensures that too many login attempts will not affect you, but will cause hackers to get blocked and unable to attack your website further. Wordfence will also scan your files for any malicious code, notify you of any changes made to files, check the password strength of accounts on your website and so much more.

Regular antivirus and exploit scans

When a website is hacked it’s likely that anyone visiting your website will be subject to a virus attack. The damage to your reputation grows with respect to how long it takes you to discover the problem and it could be days, weeks or months before anyone notices you’ve been hacked. There are services and software out there that can be used to regularly scan your website for a virus and we run regular antivirus and exploit scans to make sure there haven’t been any unexpected changes to your website code.

Strict Firewall

We can not emphasize enough how important security is on the internet. Make sure your hosting provider has a strict firewall to keep your website and data safe. Your risk of attack is reduced by exposing fewer services on a server. Shared hosting servers have multiple services allowed through the firewall which increases your risk.

Litespeed Web Server

Performance is important when choosing a hosting provider because a slow server means a slow website speed. Most websites run using the free software Apache, but it’s far from the fastest option. Litespeed is an Apache replacement which will give you better performance. CCP uses Litespeed, which is not commonly found.

Lightweight Virtual Environment

On shared servers you share all the resources and this means one misbehaving website can cause poor performance for the entire server. A LVE is a way to make sure that no one website is going to eat all the resources on a shared server and ensures your website will always perform properly. Make sure your hosting provider is using LVE so that you know your website can use the resources you’re paying for.

If your current hosting provider isn’t delivering the services above, come talk to us about what we can do for you.

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