When you first set up your website, you may not have given your hosting much more of a thought than the price. However, there is a lot more to hosting than just a monthly fee, and as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
Hosting and website performance
Your choice of hosting will have a major impact on almost every aspect of your website’s performance, from speed to stability. You can have the best designed website in the entire galaxy, but if it’s hosted on a low quality, high volume server, it will never be a stellar performer.
Choosing hosting can seem complex, but in the end it boils down to seven key considerations:
- The technical specs of your hosting - that’s the Linux, PHP, PERL, MySQL, Python stuff.
- The ability to run websites built in WordPress and other platforms
- Can it host e-commerce websites, especially high volume ones?
- Who else is on your server?
- How reliable is the hosting? (The downtime)
- Is it easy to get problems fixed without a degree in computing and/or hours on the phone to a support line?
- Is your website backed up?
Web hosting tech specs
Let’s start with the tech stuff. Frankly, you shouldn’t need to know any of that stuff if your website is built by a professional website design studio like Akira. Any designer worth their salt will make sure your hosting is up to the requirements for your website.
Sadly, this isn’t the case for a lot of “free” hosting, often offered by domain registration services such as GoDaddy, or “complete” web design solutions like Wix. With these services, you are usually tied down to the basic hosting they offer you, and even their design templates, unless you pay for hosting separately. If you’re happy to pay extra, they you should really opt for an independent hosting for maximum flexibility.
Platforms for WordPress sites
Which brings us neatly to the ability of your hosting service to host your WordPress or custom-built website. Again, it’s about flexibility. Whilst the cheaper services nail you down, professional hosting give you (or more accurately, your web designer) the ability to create the perfect solution for you, based on a wide range of options open to them.
To be honest, there’s a lot of geekery involved, and not all services are suitable for every website. So, if your web designer offers high quality website hosting as a service (as we do), you’re probably best to take that deal. This ensure your web designer has access to your hosting to both set it up and fix it (if required), and you don’t have to spend hours researching multiple options just to save a few dollars.
At Akira, we spent much of our time in 2020 setting up online stores for clients selling everything from craft beer to high end clothing. E-commerce is not longer a ‘nice to have’; for many it is now an essential part of their business. Again, hosting has an important role to play in ensuring the success of your online store.
You need secure, reliable and high-capacity hosting to cope with the 24/7/365 demands of people buying online. You also need to make sure their orders are properly processed and payments are secure. Again many of the DIY options for e-commerce hosting tie you down to a specific solution that may also be too basic to cope with, say, changes from online only to click and collect, multiple product variants, overseas shipping, or whatever the next ‘new normal’ demands.
Other websites on your server
First, a quick word on servers and hosting. Unless you set a dedicated server up in your business premises (which is a major pain and a technical adventure in itself),you will in effect be renting a space on a shared server. Think of it as a parking space, albeit one smart enough to expand when you swap your little town car for a hulking big truck! Just as with a parking space, you have other websites parked next to you. The more websites, the more congested the entrance and exit to that car park will be at peak times. That ‘congestion’ can adversely affect your website loading speed.
The website parked next to you could also affect your own website’s ranking. If your website is on a server alongside a lot of low quality websites, the whole server could be seen by Google as low quality. It’s like your shiny new BMW parked in the the middle of a row of beaten up pickups. One BMW does not a quality (or secure) car park make!
Hosting is, for many companies, a numbers game. They will max out their server space, and possibly ‘outsource’ your website to a server abroad. This really is an issue. Google will see that your website is hosted outside of the country you are based in, and not rank it as highly as a competitor’s website hosted in your own country.
That’s why at Akira our hosting is country-specific; Canadian servers for Canadian websites, UK servers for UK websites, and so on. In Canada, we even have servers in both the west and east of the country to max out the location advantage for our clients. We also include a SSL certificate as standard, making your website more secure and more Google-friendly.
How reliable is your website?
Your website is your shop window, so you want it to be up and available all day, every day. You just want it to be up there, no worries.
At Akira Studio, we only use hosting that offer us 99.97% uptime, and use systems to alert us of any issues, so we can fix them before you or your customers even notice. There will be the occasional seconds of downtime due to important server maintenance or upgrades, but overall it’s on display and available. For larger, band-width hungry websites. we include CloudFlare in our package, which speeds up your website page load times AND protects it against malicious attacks. We can also tweak other aspects of your hosting to improve its trustworthiness for Google. (For more on why this is important, see our blog on the forthcoming Google Core Update.)
Many hosting packages boast that you can get into the back end of your hosting and therefore potentially spot any issues. That’s fine if you know what you are looking at - but most business owners don’t (and in our view, shouldn’t need to). Add in the issue of hosting helplines that are impossible to get through to, or ‘live’ support outsourced or non-existent due to the pandemic, and you could be waiting days for issues to be fixed.
Not with Akira Studio. When you host with us, if you have an issue, you ring us. Tony answers the phone, checks out the problem, and most of the time he and the hosting company will have it fixed pronto. It’s this kind of level of personal attention that sets our hosting service apart from others. Yes, it may cost a little more per month (and we mean, a LITTLE more), but it will save your precious hours that you can spend on your business, not on hold.
How often do you back up your data? Chances are, you’ve probably got an automated system that backs up your personal phone data to the cloud, and your business data to a NAS and/or the cloud.
But what about your website?
High quality hosting should offer daily, automated backups to protect your data, so if something does go wrong, your website is safely backed up and can be quickly restored. High quality hosting should also restore your website to another in-house server - that’s the type we use to ensure our clients’ websites are seen online, not stuck on an offline server.
Our website design customers trust us with hosting their websites, and many have been with us for many trouble-free years. We’ve swapped hosting providers ourselves over the years, moving to make the most of new technologies and more modern, faster servers. We do this as part of the service, so our clients get a better hosting for their usual fee.
Call us to discuss your website maintenance and hosting care requirements. You don’t have to be an Akira customer, and we can look after websites not created by us (subject to their tech specs, of course). We’ll be happy to discuss all aspects of hosting in straightforward, non-techie language.
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