Posted by: paragon | April 10, 2008

Choosing A Hosting Provider

Choosing A Hosting Provider

An important step in selecting the right hosting provider for your business is to first identify your hosting requirements such that you can effectively evaluate and compare the different options available. As you begin to define your requirements and consider different hosting providers, consider the following factors.

Customer Care (Support) Services

 

 

It is important to understand the level of Customer Care and Support services that will be available to you as a customer. What type of account team or support staff do they provide and what level of certification and expertise do they have? Are they available to help you with any problems 24x7x365 and what type of response time will they commit to for issues? 

Review the company’s online resource for support to make sure they are user friendly and useful. Do they make it easy to contact them via phone, email and web submission? Consider testing out their responsiveness and level of expertise by submitting an issue to see how well they respond to your inquiry and if they can address your questions. 

Make sure to select a provider that focuses on customer care as a primary objective. Their technical staff should monitor and maintain your site’s performance round the clock and automatically address any problems or performance issues as soon as they arise.

Uptime Guarantees

 

 

What level of uptime guarantee does the company provide? It should be as close to 100% as possible and if its not you should be concerned about their ability to maintain their service levels. Inquire as to the actual uptime levels for the past six months and what their worst/longest outage was during that timeframe. It’s important to remember that when your site is down, its lost productivity and revenues for your business so make sure you select a company that is passionate about sustaining its service level. 

Be sure to get specific guaranteed commitments on network uptime, elapsed time for hardware replacement and elapsed time for on site data restoration. Additionally, in the event of an outage will they provide a credit to the monthly fees and determine the approach taken to determine the credit received based on the severity of the outage.

Bandwidth and Storage

 

 

Many hosting providers today offer generous amounts of disk space. However, depending on the usage of your site, the space requirements may be significantly greater than that which is provided. Carefully review the size of your existing site, plans for how you will evolve it over the coming months/years to determine what level of storage you require. If you require backend databases make sure to take into account growth over time of the database as well as space required for database backups. 

Most providers now give bandwidth allocations of 200 Gb/month or more, which is more than adequate for most small businesses. Make sure to consider your site and how it’s used to ensure this is a sufficient level. If you offer a multitude of downloads or large collections of images/photos, then your bandwidth requirements will be much higher than that of a mostly text based web site. 

Having high speed access is an essential to having a responsive site. Hosting providers offer connectivity to the internet through T1, T3, and, less frequently, OC (Optical Carrier) lines. T1 and T3 lines offer data transfer rates of 1.5 and 43 Mpbs (megabits per second) respectively and OC3 lines offer 155Mbps. The provider should offer a minimum of two OC-3 (311Mbps) lines for connectivity with sufficient bandwidth available for each server being hosted. This bandwidth should also preferably be connected to high speed internet backbone. The connection point to the internet should also be redundant to avoid outages if one of the lines to the internet is lost.

Shared vs. Dedicated Hosting

 

 

In a shared hosting environment, your site is placed on a server that also provides hosting for a number of other businesses. You have your own space, domain, etc, but other people are also using the resources of that server for their sites. There is no risk of your pages showing up on the other businesses site, or vice versa as each site has its own unique set of folders, logins, and so forth. 

Besides the fact that shared hosting costs considerably less, the important consideration for most people is that the hosting company support staff administers the server. If there is a problem with the server, they have to fix it, not you. When the operating system or other system software needs to be upgraded, they do it. All you worry about is your own site and the pages contained on it. 

For a large number of small businesses, shared hosting is more than adequate. In a shared hosting environment, there is no need for you to have technical knowledge of Windows or Unix server administration. That’s not your core business so why would you want to take that on? In some cases however, there may be specific reasons why someone needs to administer their own server. These usually involve people who have specialized requirements. In that case, a dedicated server would be the option of choice. In a dedicated server environment, you have full control over everything; you configure the server the way you want it. It’s almost as if the server were in your home or place of business, except that you are administering it remotely.

Security

 

 

The security of your environment, both physically and digitally, is very important. Determine what type of facility the provider has and how is it secured to ensure only appropriate people have access to your site? How do they control and manage the access such that as staff changes occur they can ensure you site is not at risk by previous employers of the provider? 

What type of firewall systems are employed to keep intruders out of the network? How is data snooping prevented? What steps are talking to ensure a denial of service attack can not be employed against the facility or your site? 

It takes many layers of Internet security, from password protection to firewall barriers to protect your site from determined hackers. Make sure the hosting provider you choose has enough security measures in place to ensure that your data is completely protected.

Server Platforms Offered

 

 

Does the hosting provider offer multiple platforms to selection from (e.g. Windows and Linux) on the latest and greatest equipment? Although it’s possible to host a web site on the CPU of an average personal computer, responsive web sites require high speed SCSI disk drives, lots of memory (ideally memory correcting RAM) and fast microprocessors. Reliable providers host their sites on equipment built to withstand that constant bombardment of web traffic. Inquire as to the hardware used by the provider and the robustness of its configuration to ensure high-availability. Ask about the certifications of the support staff and engineers with regards to the platforms leveraged.

Server and Device Administrations

 

 

What level of access and control will you have over the site? Can you directly access the site and if so over what means? Do they provide FTP access, a web-based administration console, remote control, etc? Make sure that you have the level of control you feel necessary to control your site and manage your companies public image. You need to be able to access the site in a manner that enables you to effectively manage it.

Reporting

 

 

What type of reporting capabilities are offered by the provider? It’s important to have good reporting analysis tools to watch how many people visit your site, where they are coming from and where they go on your site. In addition, it’s also nice to be able to track/audit updates to the site, when they were made and by whom such that if there is ever a issue you can determine who was the last person to modify the site.

Backups

 

 

Backup processes and procedures are critical in the event there is ever a disaster at the provider’s site. Make sure that the site is backed up at least once a day and more frequently if needed based on your specific business requirements. The backups should be kept at an offsite facility such that they are available in the event the primary facility is destroyed. If you leverage databases with your site, make sure the provider is capable of backing up the database and has the skills and a appropriate backup agent that can handle that type of database. What is the time required to restore a site from a previously taken backup? It’s important to understand how long you will be down in the event of hardware or other problem that requires your site be recovered from a backup.

Customer Base

 

 

It’s important to judge a hosting provider by the company they keep. Review their website and look for customer testimonials and reference. Ask in detail about the types of companies they serve and make sure you are a good fit for their business. Is your company comparable to their typical customer or are you too big/small for them? Ask for references of business that are similar in size to your business and preferably located in the same geographical area. Follow up with those references to confirm the service level they have received to date from the provider.

Additional Services

 

And finally, some other services to consider that may be of importance to your business.

  • Does the provider offer fully managed email services on the email platform that you leverage?
  • Do they provide 3-rd party plugin software for discussion forums or blogging?
  • Do they provide eCommerce capabilities such as a shopping cart and merchant accounts?
  • Do they provide Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates for secure transactions?
  • Do they offer Internet Marketing services to help you optimize your site so it is found by search engines?
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: