Web Hosting: How to Make Sure Your Provider is a Good One?

December 1st, 2015

DevOps // Gleb

What Should You Look for when choosing your Web Hosting

With so many available web hosting providers, it is hard to choose sometimes, but the question remains: which web hosting will make sure your website will be up in the most critical moment? Here are the questions to ask and issues to consider. 

Uptime

Uptime is the percentage of time your website is up and running. The server should be working and available for that to happen. Otherwise, you might lose your potential customers because your website would simply be unavailable.

What does it mean?

  • The lowest time to look for: 99%. Don't bother considering the options below this.
  • The optimal uptime: 99.9%. Translated into real time, that .01% is about 40 minutes of downtime per month. 
  • The uptime of 99.5% is an average of 3.5 hours of downtime per month (due to maintenance or bug fixing.)

What to ask:

Ask whether there are multiple backup locations (also known as mirrored servers) which help in case one server goes down for some reason. That way your visitors won't even know there was an issue with a server. 

Disk Space

Disk space is basically how much space you are allotted. 

How to gauge:

  • If you are upgrading your server space or switching providers, get 20% more than you currently use (or plan to use). This would allow for some room to grow. 
  • 10MB = 100 web pages (approximately)
  • Remember: media files (images, music, video) require more storage space. 

Sidenote: while it might seem illogical at first, unlimited disk space is not always better. There will still be some restrictions, so read the "Unlimited disk space" offers carefully. 

Bandwidth

There is a certain amount of data that your host will let you upload (from your computer) / download (to your computer) per month from the website. 

Check out these things: 

  • What happens in case you run out of limits?
  • Does your website go offline if you're over the limit?
  • Do you have to pay extra (and how much) for extra bandwidth? 

Read the small print. Some hosting providers write "Unlimited bandwidth" but they might not mean the same as you think. So make sure you know what you're getting. 

Sidenote: Media files require more bandwidth.

How much bandwidth do you need?

It can be calculated using a simple formula that uses the size of your website, the number of pages you've got, and the number of visitors you expect per day. 

For example, you've got 5 pages on your website, and including graphics and everything, your page size is about 60Kb. Based on your website statistics (or expectations), you anticipate about 80 users per day. Therefore, the bandwidth of your website per day should be: 

60 (Kb / page size) * 80 (visitors) * 5 (pages) = 24,000Kb (or 24Mb)

E-mail

This is not a requirement of everyone because some prefer to stick to personal Gmail or something. However, when you're running a professional organization, it would be a good thing to have a business e-mail address. 

Questions to ask:

  • Is there an e-mail support at all? (Some providers don't offer this feature)
  • Does it offer POP3 / IMAP4? (This allows to connect your e-mail to apps like Outlook or Mail)
  • How many e-mail addresses can be created within the hosting plan?

Server Accessibility

Some hosting providers grant you access to the server itself, so you can easily create e-mail accounts, make changes in server settings, etc. In case this is not provided, you would have to go through tech support (which might be a good thing, if you don't want to deal with servers or bad thing, if you know what you're doing and need the access not to lose time.)

Customer Support

An ideal service you're looking for is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. This would guarantee that no matter when you develop an issue with your website availability or some other issue, you'll be able to contact tech support. 

Questions to ask:

  • Do they offer 24/7/365 support?
  • Do they have efficient means of communication: e-mail, phone, live chat, Skype?
  • Are there additional charges for tech support or it is included in the hosting plan? 
  • What is the query resolution time (i.e. how long does it take your issue to be resolved)?

Security

While you want your website and information to be safe from external threats and hackers, this is a must when you deal with e-commerce and process credit cards yourself. 

Things to consider and ask about:

  • Does your web hosting provider offer SSL (secure socket layer) certificates? 
  • Is there an internet firewall?
  • Does your provider conduct security audits on a regular basis?

Backup

We can't stress this enough. Things do always go as planned - there might be a power outage and your server might crash, the website might develop a bug, someone might upload some wrong information or accidentally delete a critically important folder. Things happen. Make sure your website data is backed up so that you don't lose it all. 

Question to ask: what backup options does your web host provide?

Multiple domains and subdomains

As time goes, you might realize that you actually want to run a few more sites and, therefore, you'd need storage for those as well. Usually, hosting companies include a different number of domains and subdomains you can host within various plans. Make sure you leave yourself some wiggle room. 

FTP Access

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it's the tool that allows you to quickly and easily transfer a lot of files to your web host. While there are other means of doing it, FTP is the most efficient one, so check with your provider if there will be access to this protocol. 

Depending on the clients' needs, desires, and budget, Grossum either offers web hosting on our own servers or sets up the projects on the hosting services of other providers the client chooses. 

Need DevOps for your web or mobile project?

Author: Gleb

Gleb joined the APP Solutions/Grossum team as an experienced DevOps, who, besides setting up and monitoring servers and their security, also taught computer classes at a local college. Besides deepening his professional knowledge of DevOps, he enjoys riding his bicycle and find good new music, books, and movies.

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