There are hundreds of options to choose from. And everyone who’s had a website has an opinion. All the way from your accountant who says I just host with Bluehost or Godaddy (shocker!, it’s the cheapest one) to your head of technology who wants a dedicated hardware with the latest specs (geeks love shiny!).
The worst way to start it by trying to compare technology vs. technology. Because then you will be locked in a battle of who has the better CPU, memory, SSD or HD, cloud or dedicated, etc. That can go on for a long time and none of it will relate to your needs as a business. How does faster CPU matter when you need your business to be up as close to 100% as possible. How does SSD vs. HD make a difference when you’re getting attacked by malware?
Alternatively, the way to start would be to be asking questions of hosting providers about what relates to your business goals. Things like:
1. Is there a physical person(s) that helps me manage my web hosting every day, all day?
When you need help, you want it now. You want a name and the feeling that their attention is on you.
Many hosting companies have support desks that are managed by real people. But their communication path is: file a support ticket, mark its priority, and we’ll do our best to get back to you .Which person in their right mind would mark it non-priority? That type of prioritization leaves you really at the end of the line every time.
Look for a company where there is 24/7 phone support with real systems administrators answering your call. That means you always get to talk to someone who can login to your hosting and help you. And they don’t mind helping you because that’s what they are there for.
2. What happens when something breaks?
With web hosting, you are dealing with hardware and software at the same time. The hardware being the server and the technology stack (OS, Apache/Nginx, Memcache, etc) that is running on it. And then there is your software application running on top of that piece of hardware (WordPress, Magento, etc).
When your site breaks for any set of reasons, you will quickly find your developers and your hosting in a blame game, “It’s not my code, it’s the server acting crazy” or “The server’s output is all correct, ask your developers what’s wrong”.
“To you as the business owner, you don’t care about blame right now. You care about getting the site back up so it can earn you money again.”
Look for a web hosting company that doesn’t draw definitive lines in what they’re willing to do. In many cases, web hosting companies are specialize in your software as well. So they can troubleshoot both hardware and software. Most web hosting companies won’t have an SLA for software, but that’s ok because you’re not looking for guarantees. You’re just looking for someone to help you fix things now until you have more time to diagnose the root issue.
3. What happens when you get attacked by malware, spyware, or brute force?
This tends to happen when you least expect it. And the attacks leave you stuck with a website that is completely infected with extraneous code. When this happens – there is no fast fix. You have to buckle down and go through a full process of cleaning the code and removing vulnerabilities you might have from unsecure passwords to turning off certain ports. Web hosting companies can at best offer the option to restore from a backup (if there is one), but that might not help if you have transactions or users created between the time of the backup & the attack.
Look for a web hosting company that does everything in their power to protect against attacks in the first place. What I like to call your defense shields. An actively managed web host will be proactive about such attacks by warning you of irregular behavior on the site, notifications of non-updated software (like outdated versions of WordPress or Magento, or outdated plugins/extensions, etc), and including services like NewRelic which allow you to track web transactions. Note –
“Firewalls are not the sole protector of security, active management of multiple security measures are.”
4. Do you have the power to initial a full system roll back? Or just a simple landing page?
Your online business is a 24/7 operation – there is absolutely no down time that is acceptable. But your business also has employees which work 8-9 hours / day. So that means there is atleast 2/3rd of the day where there is not a technical person on staff ready to fix something. Even if you hire a contractor or employee who is “ok” being on call – there are times as a business owner you do not want to bother them. Hence you want the capability of doing something on your own that will help fix things until your technical staff gets back.
Look for a web host where you have the power to roll back the system without any technical skill set. You can login to an interface and say “hey – I know the system worked fine yesterday, let’s roll back to then”. You click a button and a few minutes later, your online business is back to a stable position and operational.
“Having just a backup of the site without having an easy way to recover from it yourself is useless. It should be something you can control.”
If the system still can’t get back up because of hardware or dB related issues that you can’t control, then having the power yourself to redirect to a landing page is helpful. That way your customers are not seeing a white screen but instead a phone number where they can call if they need to place an order.
5. Who knows your eCommerce site better than anyone else?
There are hundreds of eCommerce software available for businesses to use. And each of them is technically supported by almost all web hosts. That doesn’t mean every web host is best for your eCommerce site. Web hosting companies can tend to specialize in hosting certain software better than others. That means they have studied the software, know how it runs, know what’s best to run it, and have engineers trained on the stack.
Look for a web host that shows not only proficiency in your Ecommerce software, but shows expertise within it. The more they know how your business is meant to run, they more they will build and architect solutions specially for you to ensure your goals are being met. Web hosts can undergo certifications and have certified engineers for software. Those are the best in our opinion as they act as backups to your own engineers.
CTA: If your eCommerce business wants help deciding between a few web hosts, schedule a free 30 min consult with our team. We’ll be happy to point you in the right direction and help you narrow down to a few choices.