If you are not satisfied with the current website hosting of your Small Business it's important to do at least a brief research before you pick another provider. The first question to ask is this: what are the main criteria for finding the best web hosting for your IT needs? Before you finalize your selection it's also important to find an answer for the second question which is: how to transfer website hosting to another host?
Main criteria for finding top website hosting
- Backup / Restore mechanism
- Customer service
The order of these criteria actually reflects the importance of the items. Let's elaborate on each of these aspects using LAMP
(Linux Apache MySQL PHP) hosting platform which covers vast majority of web-hosting for Small Business and non-profit organizations:
It's crucially important to know what types of website protection are provided: passive firewall
, active firewall, content-aware filters, protection against DDoS Attack
. If your webmaster neglects to apply a security update for your CMS
or update a 3rd party script incorporated into the site then your only hope is that the hosting platform itself would block a daily attack by bots seeking all kinds of vulnerabilities. Note that overly aggressive defense might cripple some of the features of the website and there would be a need for setting up exceptions and creating workarounds.
All four pillars - PHP, MySQL, Apache and Linux - are very dynamic entities due to their Open Source nature. If your website was composed six years ago using PHP 4 there might be insurmountable obstacles on the way of switching to PHP5 website simply because most of the code would require to be re-written. (actually we do keep a legacy web-server at Allora specifically to maintain websites designed a while ago). MySQL carries another set of flavors: MySQL 4 vs MySQL 5, MyISAM vs Innodb database structure.
Performance can leave much to be desired with nation-wide providers. Their most affordable plans offer website hosting delivered by over-loaded virtualized servers sharing a few CPU's over hundreds of websites which have files / database stored by NAS resulting in a rather low Input/Output performance. It's best to analyze a similar site hosted by a candidate and run it against Speed Tests: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights
The questions to ask here are pretty simple:
- how often a backup is done? Webmasters are humans, they can make a mistake and daily backups can serve as the simplest UNDO button.
- How far does it stretch back in time? If security layers fail and several months down the road you discover that there's a back-door injected into your website it's important to have a "healthy" copy of your site even though it's vulnerable. Undoing harm done by an intrusion is often much more difficult then reverting to a healthy version of the website and patching vulnerabilities.
- How easy is it to restore files, database(s)? It's also important to know if there are options for selective restoring jobs (for example - just image directory).
Most hosts would boast >99.9% uptime which basically means that there is less then a day of down time each year. This tool would allow you to see how various candidates perform: http://monitor.webhostingstuff.com/
At this point we cleared chapters 1-5 and there's one important challenge left: customer support. With Nationwide providers you don't stand a chance to actually speak with a knowledgeable engineer, the first line of provider defense would be an outsourced pool of overseas folks reading scripted answers to any questions. Sometimes this is the end of road and the only other option is to create a ticket and wait for a response by a Level 2 technician a couple days later. Sometimes you can escalate and finally get a person on the phone who's willing to help. Generally speaking, the smaller the firm the less distance you'd have to travel in order to get an engineer who would listen and work on resolving your issue.
These days the competition on this market is so stiff that the prices are set next to zero ($50-$150 a year). Allora Consulting, for instance, provides web hosting
primarily for the sake of dramatically simplifying the phase of website developing and ensuring premium quality hosting for our clients vs making big bucks. Big boys achieve modest profitability by overloading cloud hosting and, most importantly, web-hosting opens doors for solicitation of other products for them, thus it's also a form of marketing.
the odds are that you'd want to find a medium-size provider in your area. This would ensure that they would care about their local reputation, technicians would be reachable and IT resources wouldn't be stretched thin. For Raleigh NC area we could recommend firms like CarolinaNET
or Small Orange
and Allora Consulting
of course if you'd let us develop / manage your website. In our experience it's best to stay away from the monster players listed here: top10bestwebsitehosting.com