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Website Hosting 101

August 26, 2018

If you have a website, you’re hosting it somewhere. If you don’t know what website hosting means, we’re here to provide some much-needed education. Even if you don’t feel this applies to you, by knowing more about the products your business is using, you can make more informed decisions regarding your technology.

What is website hosting?

Web hosting is essentially how you get your website onto the world wide web. A web host, or someone who provides a web hosting service, owns a server and “rents” out webspace. This server is essentially the computer on which the web pages are stored.

Website hosting services are not created equal. There are cheap web hosting vendors out there that simply don’t provide business-class web hosting service. Getting the support that you need from those guys can be nearly impossible, especially if you’re not familiar with the technical end of things. Unless you’re an IT or web hosting guru, you’re best off hiring an expert to manage the entire operation.

Website hosting services are not created equal.

At Element 47, we use Amazon to host our CMS websites and our non-CMS clients are hosted on Liquid Web. Both are managed cloud systems, offering tons of space for any website needs.

How do I pick a website host?

If Element 47 is hosting your site, you can skip ahead; we do all these things for you and more. If you’re in the process of building a site, or about to be, proceed. These are the things you should double- and triple-check before settling on a website host.

Does the web host backup regularly?

This is numero uno, top of the list, CRUCIAL to ensure. Sometimes things go wrong when you are managing your website ongoing. Just like you back up data on your computer, you need to have your website backed up as well. This protects you from losing your whole website due to any unforeseen events such as someone accidentally deleting a source file, a website virus, or a hacker. When you have a host that regularly backs up your website, you can set your mind at ease that you can save your website if anything should happen.

Do they also host email?

Nowadays it is the norm for you to have your email the same as your domain name. ( Because this is a customary practice, most web hosts will also host email. However, not all do, and this is an important question to ask when choosing a host. It is also common for businesses to use an outside application to host business email such as Google Business Email or even just connecting Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail. You’ll want to make sure your web host allows for connecting to these applications.

Do they have knowledgeable, reliable, and efficient support?

If you are going it alone and do not have an internal or outsourced IT contact, you will want to make sure your web host has good support. You’ll also want to make sure they have 24/7 support, or as close to round-the-clock support as you can get. If your website or email go down, you want to be able to call someone to help you get it going again quickly. Also, things can get tricky when you are hosting both a website and email and if you make changes to one or the other, you should know what you are doing or have help figuring it out.

Can it scale?

The scalability of your web host is also something to take into consideration. Many companies start out with a certain amount of website traffic, but that can increase with the growth of the business. Website traffic can also spike depending on what sort of online and offline promotions you are running. You’ll want to make sure your web host can scale your website traffic easily, so you don’t have too many users crash your website. As a side note, if you know you are going to run any sort of campaign or event that might increase your website traffic, you may want to notify your web host first.

Shared or dedicated hosting?

Many times, web hosts will run specials or offer low-pricing on website hosting each month by placing your website on ‘shared hosting.’ This means your site is being hosted along with multiple other sites by sharing one server. You could be sharing the same server with a dozen or even hundreds of other websites. This means, if there are troubles with one of those sites, you may have problems as well. Shared hosting can also decrease website response time. The other option is dedicated hosting. This means your website will have its own dedicated server that it runs from. While this can be more expensive monthly or annually, the quality, performance, and safety of your site will be better.

Can you park other related domains?

It is sometimes beneficial to not only register your website domain but also buy the .net., .org., and .info, as well as hyphenated and misspelled versions of your website domain name. This is a way to protect the company brand as well as catch-all website traffic for your name. Check with any web host that they can easily park your company’s other domain names and redirect those domains to your live site.

Can you make changes easily?

With any website, there are a variety of things that you may need to change that are connected to the web host. Sometimes you need to change a server setting, create or update new email accounts, change email passwords, or connect your email or website to third-party applications. You’ll want to make sure your web host allows for easy access to your domain name to make these changes.

Can you change hosts any time you want?

As in any business endeavor, sometimes you need an exit strategy. Before you make the commitment to go with a web host, you will want to make sure you know what you are committing to and for how long.

I have a reliable host – does that mean my site will never go down?

As a business, a website going offline for even a few hours can be costly. It’s time to recognize some of the most common reasons that websites go down.

Hardware Failures
Hardware failures account for more than 50% of all downtime for small to mid-sized businesses. No one can predict a widespread power outage or a hard drive crash.

DNS Issues
Anything from misspelling a nameserver to letting a domain name expire will cause your website to go down. If DNS is the reason that your site isn’t loading, you’ll need to figure out what to do to correct it ASAP. This is also why we recommend letting professionals handle your domain.

DDoS or DoS Attacks
This means Distributed Denial of Service or Denial of Service. The only difference being that a DoS is carried out by a single computer while a DDoS is carried out by multiple. In both instances, a destination server is flooded in attempts to overwhelm it so much that it will stop accepting new connections. If a website has been attacked through a DoS or DDos, you will not be able to connect to it. Even if you are not the target website, a shared server will mean that your website could be unavailable as well if you are connected to the same one as the target.

General Heavy Traffic
In recent years there has been an obsession with “breaking the internet” with random bits of outrageous pop culture. While this saying isn’t technically accurate, if a website incurs a tidal wave of traffic, it can overload a server, causing a website to go down. Just ask Ellen.

We’d like to say that there’s a foolproof way to prevent your website from ever crashing, but that would simply be dishonest. However, we do know that partnering with E47 is a great start in the right direction. Give us a call.