6 things to know before choosing a web host

Designing and developing websites is becoming easier and more accessible thanks to a growing range of web development tools and a growing demand from businesses and organizations to have an online presence.

But finding the right place to host your website can be a daunting task, especially since there are a number of reputable services, each with their own advantages and tradeoffs. You could end up paying too much for things you don’t need or missing out on things that are vital to your business.

Here are five questions that will help you evaluate the services of web hosting platforms and find one that suits your needs.

What content management systems are supported?

One of the main things you need to know before signing up with a web hosting company is the content management system (CMS) they support. Depending on your purpose and available resources, you might want to set up a WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal website. But your needs might change in the future and you will need to switch to another CMS.

“A good web hosting platform should allow you to set up an unlimited number of sites with the CMS of your choice in an easy-to-use interface, like a step-by-step wizard,” says David Foster, software engineer at Web Hosting . the society HostGator. “Ideally, it should have additional tools to help you tailor your website structure to your specific needs, like an e-commerce website or discussion forum, and customize it for your business with minimal effort. effort, such as adding links to social networks, advertisements, RSS feeds, etc. surveys, etc.

HostGator supports softaculousan application that easily installs more than 190 CMS platforms and scripts, including WordPress, AbanteCart, PrestaShop, Joomla, phpBB, Open Real Estate, and much more.

An important part of any hosting service is migration support. Does it support transferring your website from another service? Can it help you switch from one CMS to another?

“While automated migration tools are a basic necessity, they are rarely enough, especially if your website has been around for several years and contains legacy code and assets,” says Foster, adding that a good migration platform hosting should have support teams that can help. streamline the migration process.

How much customization do you get?

The granularity of the access you get to the website and server configuration can be crucial when choosing a hosting service. Some companies only provide basic site-level administration, such as wp-admin access to WordPress websites. While this may be fine for very basic use cases, it will become a limitation when you want to expand your website’s capabilities to suit your organization’s needs.

“Good hosting platforms should provide a multitude of levels of access and customization to meet your needs,” says Foster.

For example, HostGator’s cPanel includes file manager and FTP access to your website backend. “These options ensure that all the bases are covered, from the simplest to the most advanced,” says Foster.

Foster also suggests looking for more advanced features like DNS, SSL/TLS certificate, and email hosting support to go with your domain. “It will give you a central hub to manage everything related to your website,” he says. “If you’re setting up a new website for an established business, the hosting service should be able to integrate certificates and DNS record management with what you already have in place.”

What is the availability agreement?

If you decide to make your website the mainstay of your business, availability will be a major factor in choosing a hosting platform.

“Let’s say a hosting service states in their contract that they will provide a 99% server uptime guarantee in their contract. This may sound like a good deal, but it means that in a year they can get away with 1% downtime with no obligation to you; this represents approximately 87 hours, or almost three days, during which your website is inaccessible to your visitors! Foster said.

In other words, if you have an average of 50 visitors per hour, that’s 4,350 lost visitors, and if you have a conversion rate of 1%, that’s 43 lost customers. And calculating other types of damages such as search engine penalties and customer churn due to server inaccessibility is more difficult to calculate.

At first glance, a 99.9% uptime guarantee might not seem like a big improvement. But in fact, this means downtime is reduced by a tenth, which can make a big difference to a high traffic website.

“First, make sure your hosting provider has a clause where they explicitly state their uptime commitment. And second, while there’s no substitute for an inaccessible website, you should also look for the remedies that your hosting service provides in exchange for downtime that goes beyond the contractual agreement,” says Foster. “If a hosting service provides hosting credits or free hosting in exchange for downtime, it shows their sincerity in making sure they stay true to their promise.”

What is the level of support?

No website is a one-man effort, so no matter how good your trade, you will need help from your web hosting company at some point. The question is how willing are they to support you?

“Make sure your hosting service has live customer support and isn’t directing you to a difficult-to-navigate FAQ page,” says Foster. “Also check that the plan you buy includes live customer support (some companies don’t provide this service on basic plans).”

Responsiveness is also relevant. How quickly does the hosting company’s support team respond to customer questions? How qualified are the staff to answer technical questions? What level of support do they provide (server configurations, site-level customizations, coding support, etc.)?

“Obviously, you can’t expect a member of the support staff to be able to answer all of your questions, but a good support team should be able to answer general questions quickly and have a workflow to respond to you on more technical issues,” says Foster.

“One of the hallmarks of good hosting support is an extensive knowledge base,” he adds. “The support staff should at least help you navigate and find the answer you need in their knowledge base.”

Will you be protected?

No web hosting plan would be complete without a defense against common cyber threats. To be clear, ultimately you are responsible for the security of your digital assets. And if you’re hacked, the damage to your digital assets, your customers, your reputation might not be recoverable through financial reimbursement.

That said, it’s good to know what kind of help you get from your hosting service.

“At a minimum, a good hosting service should provide automatic updates for major CMS platforms such as WordPress. At a deeper level, it also needs to ensure underlying services such as Apache, MySQL, and PHP are secure and patched for known vulnerabilities,” says Foster. “In most cases, updates are the first line of defense against most web attacks, such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS).”

Foster points out, however, that there are some things that no hosting service can protect you against, such as vulnerabilities in custom themes written with poorly written code, or themes with intentionally planted vulnerabilities downloaded from illegal websites. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with someone who installed a custom theme that they downloaded (most often torrent) and as a result inadvertently installed a backdoor into their account”, he said.

Some of the best hosting services have specialized features that scan the source code of your web applications for known vulnerable coding patterns and malware. HostGator plans include Site locka web security technology that includes a web application firewall and protects websites against outdated vulnerable code, SQL injection and other damage.

A bonus would be to have a measure of defense against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, in which malicious botnets attack and flood your website with fake traffic to prevent others from accessing it. Not all websites become the target of DDoS attacks, but if you have reason to be concerned about becoming a target, check with your hosting service to see if they plan to mitigate DDoS or if they have partners who can help you.

What packages are available?

Not all websites have the same resource requirements. Some might end up attracting millions of visitors every month while others will become more specialized in their field and get less traffic. Some organizations may need dedicated servers due to their regulatory needs, while others may just share resources with other websites to save costs.

“A good hosting service should have a flexible pricing plan that meets the needs of every type of customer,” says Foster. “Pricing plans should offer discounts to users who make long-term purchases. The hosting service should also be transparent about what they charge you for, which their package does not include.

It’s equally important to have a support team that can guide you to the best rate plan that suits your needs, not the most expensive.

Think carefully before launching the browser

The best way to start your search for a good web hosting company is to pause on these questions. Determine your current needs and try to map out an outline of how those needs might change in the future. A good hosting company should be able to help you as your online presence grows.

With that in mind, verifying each hosting service shouldn’t be a problem.

James S. Joseph