Choosing The Right Web Host
Your website is only as good as your hosting service.
Whether you wire frame the site yourself in code or use a CMS engine like WordPress or Drupal your site’s performance, load times, and up-time are all dependent on the quality of your host. There are a lot of players in the space that are household names today like Godaddy, Bluehost, Host Gator, etc. These companies offer web hosting services for a monthly fee and manage the servers that your website lives on for public consumption on the internet. When you sign up for web hosting there are a number of factors to consider as you select the right service for your organization.
Is your site content heavy? Does it include tons of graphics and video? If so, you need a lot of storage space on your web host and that can increase the overall cost of your service.
Bandwidth & Monthly Page Loads
High traffic websites create a greater burden on a server for a hosting provider and your organization will inevitably be required to select a more robust plan to cover the cost of bandwidth to service your audience online. The larger your audience base the more you should expect to pay for your hosting plan.
Using a CMS Engine
Some web hosting companies offer specialized hosting service plans for sites using WordPress or Drupal. Many hosting providers offer services to deploy these web engines as part of the initial implementation of your service plan. Once the engine is deployed you will still require customization and configuration of the platform, usually done by a web developer or design firm, before your site is completely functional and ready for the public. The need for back-end database support and specific CMS functionality often determines where you should host your site, or which level of service your organization requires.
Once you’ve answered these basic questions, selected the tier of service your company needs, and narrowed down your list of web hosting candidates it’s time to start making some tough decisions. What factors should you use to narrow down your list to that final candidate? The reality for most organizations is that they’ll use whichever hosting service their web design firm recommends, but if you have chosen to be more involved in this process here are a few things you can do to help narrow the field. Call the customer service department of your prospective web host. How long does it take to get a support rep on the phone? The amount of time it takes for a person to pick up the phone and start helping you will determine how quickly you can respond to a crisis when your site goes down. Some hosting providers have robust call centers and pick up support calls live, others put you into a queue and you end up waiting up to 15 minutes for a help desk person to pick up. Some hosting services don’t offer phone based support and only respond to support requests via email or by submitting a support request on their website. What kind of support are you willing to accept when it comes to your company’s website?
The final step you should take to ensure quality web hosting is to monitor the actual performance of your site after your site has gone live. WordPress offers a basic monitoring feature as part of the JetPack plugin, and Drupal has a myriad of plugins for various third party services. Nearly every web host on the planet advertises 99% up-times, but if your website happens to end up on a server with performance or hardware issues then those numbers are meaningless. The only way you can know the up-time of your website is by implementing a basic monitoring service. There are a number of such services available that provide basic up-time monitoring services for free. Below is a list of just a few of the more well known monitoring services that offer a free basic plan.
- Up-time Robot: https://uptimerobot.com/
- Site 24 x 7: http://www.site24x7.com/
- Status Cake: https://www.statuscake.com/
- Site Up Time: https://www.siteuptime.com/
If you notice an issue with up-time on your site you should immediately bring it to the attention of your hosting provider. Many of the bigger hosting providers today recommend using cloud caching services like CloudFlare to avoid down times on your site, but you shouldn’t have to depend on these services to guarantee your site is accessible to your audience. If you have continued problems with your site’s up-time then it’s probably time to contact support at your web host and request a server change. If this doesn’t solve the problem then it’s time to take your business elsewhere.
Make The Call
The Engaged Video team encourages any organization selecting a web hosting service to follow the old adage, “Hire slow, fire fast.” Do your research, find a service type that fits your needs, pick a provider, test their support services and ensure that they’re prompt and informed, then monitor the up-time of your site once it has been deployed. If you discover that your site’s up-time isn’t what you expected then notify your host immediately. If the problem isn’t fixed in a timely fashion take your business elsewhere. The hassle of migrating your site isn’t nearly as damaging to your company’s reputation as having a website that just doesn’t load, or simply isn’t online when your audience wants to engage.