What if your website is hacked? WordPress updates break your website? Is your website protected from downtime? When was the last time your website was backed up? Does your website have an SSL?
If you have a good website host or hosting service you won’t have to worry about any of the above and you’ll feel confident they have everything in hand. However if you use a cheap hosting company i.e. those you see advertise hosting for as little as a few pounds a month, chances are the stress of all of the above will fall on you.
Past experiences, stress that both myself and clients have experienced have left me passionate about quality website hosting as it’s something that is easily overlooked and misunderstood.
I completely understand, especially now when prices are rising and businesses are tightening their belts, how tempting it may be to downgrade or opt for cheap hosting. BUT poor quality hosting can cause huge amounts of stress, time, effort, resources and money in the long run. If you want a professional website, then please don’t underestimate the importance of a good quality website host.
Note: It’s worth mentioning I’m not talking about all inclusive DIY website platforms such as SquareSpace and Wix. Whilst those platforms have a number of limitations when it comes to website design, functions and other things, they do look after all the hosting side for you.
What is website hosting?
First I’ll briefly cover some website hosting basics, like what is website hosting? Simply put, website hosting is a service that allows you to host your website on the internet – think of it like the land that your website lives on.
In addition hiring the land you need to ensure it is maintained and protected from threats such as hackers, and the technology/ system used to build your website such as WordPress, is updated regularly. These updates are important to ensure your website remains secure and it continues to function as intended. I can pretty much guarantee that any hosting service that is only a few pounds a month, will not include this website maintenance.
Website hosting - hiring the land
The only benefit you get from cheap website hosting companies is that it is cheap! Therefore the land you’re hiring, which is technically a server, is cheap too and it will usually be shared. Meaning you’re sharing space and bandwidth with other unknown websites and you’ll only be as secure as the least protected website on that server. If other websites on that shared server receive a large volume of traffic this can also impact the speed of your website, and a slow load time not only means impatient web users will leave your website. Slow response times also negatively impact your SEO.
With cheap website hosting you often don’t have any guarantees or service-level agreements (SLAs) to protect you from downtime. Therefore if the shared server you’re using goes down, there will be no recourse against the provider for losses incurred.
Ongoing maintenance and protection
The majority of website hosts are literally just land, so all you’re paying for is the space on the shared server. Sticking with the land analogy, think of a website like a newly planted sapling on that land. Whilst there is a chance it may grow for a while if you just walk away and do nothing, to get the best results the young tree needs to be nurtured. Just like a sapling, a website needs to be looked after, once your shiny new website is built and goes live, it needs to be maintained to ensure it continues to function and flourish on an ever changing landscape – the internet!
Yes, you should of course make the effort to post new and fresh content on your website, but on this occasion I’m talking about the unseen maintenance that is needed, particularly on a WordPress website. WordPress updates need to be performed on a regular basis, WordPress, theme and plugin updates are released to ensure your website continues to function on the technology, and is constantly protected from new and recent threats. These are absolutely crucial but are often overlooked until a website is hacked, it breaks or stops working etc.
Usually website hosting providers (even good hosting providers) will not perform these updates for you, so it’s really important you’re making these updates (if you know how) or you’re paying someone to make them for you. You can switch on automatic updates for a lot of plugins, however it doesn’t check your website after all the updates have been made to ensure no updates are conflicting/nothing is broken, so auto-updates does not solve this problem completely.
Backups and support - a cautionary tale
Some providers may offer extra services or support for additional fee, however you may then find the costs are no longer that cheap, yet you still have the time and stress that comes with shared servers and cheap hosting.
Every so often, I will get a panicked call from someone who has found their website was hacked and with no surprise they’re almost always with a cheap hosting company. They have no one to turn to, there are no back-ups of their website and no one to actually help the them fix the problem.
Now of course you may hear a few people say they’ve used a well known cheap host without any issues. In these cases the likelihood is the website hasn’t been updated or protected, but combined with the nature of the website/low volume of traffic, the website can plod along fine for a few years – this is more luck than judgement!
What does good hosting look like?
I won’t go into too much technical detail but ultimately you want to look for a few things from your hosting provider, and those are; quality UK-based servers – ideally a dedicated server or one you’re sharing with known parties where space and bandwidth can be effectively managed, a proven track record, SLAs to protect you, regular website backups and a support model that allows you to contact them using multiple channels.
On top of that you need to decide who will be updating your website in terms of maintenance and security, as well as content updates. Do you want your website to run smoothly and not have to worry about anything? Or do you want to manage updates and monitor the website yourself?
Should you manage the updates yourself or have someone do it for you?
That is really completely up to you, how much time you have and how confident you feel arranging hosting and managing the website yourself – although I will always recommend you select a good website hosting provider at the very least.
If budgets are really tight, you’re good with techy stuff and are happy to login regularly and perform the WordPress and plugin updates yourself, then managing the hosting yourself could be an option. However I would recommend you do your research into different hosting companies and opt for quality hosting services, you learn about making the updates and make sure you know how to restore your website to a backup point.
If you’re not particularly technical and don’t want to worry about your website and/or hosting, then opting to have someone else manage your hosting is definitely the way to go.
Green website hosting
As final food for thought, if you’re environmentally conscious, are trying to be green or you pride your business values on sustainability and ethics, you may want to consider looking into a hosting provider that has good eco-friendly practices and credentials.
Did you know that the internet is currently responsible for an equal amount of carbon emissions as the aviation industry? A statistic that is absolutely shocking and one that most people are completely unaware of and it is expected to double by 2025 (figures correct at date of publishing).
Even the smallest websites generate around 20 milligrams of CO2 every time a user accesses a page – and web giants with image-heavy sites can easily be responsible for generating 300 milligrams of carbon in a single second.
By using a green hosting provider, you can highlight your commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly practices, and prove to your customers that you’re a proactive, responsible business.
At Clockwork Creative, we use UK-based Nimbus Hosting for all our website hosting servers. Nimbus data centres are powered by 100% renewable energy, they are a registered green host with the Green Web Foundation, they are carbon neutral and they support multiple green initiatives.
I know website hosting isn’t exciting or sexy but if you have or want a professional website that will be secure, reliable and responsive, it really is something you need to know a bit about, or at least make sure it’s in the hands of a provider that looks after every aspect for you.
When you are considering different services and website hosting providers, keep your needs in mind and be sure you know what is included within the service and cost.
At Clockwork Creative, we offer secure, reliable, UK-based eco-friendly WordPress website hosting, along with website migrations, maintenance and content updates and different levels of hosting service plans to suit your needs.
I really hope this post has helped you understand more about website hosting, and it will encourage you to ask the right questions, so you can make sure you know who is responsible for what when it comes to your website.
If you have any questions about the website hosting we provide at Clockwork Creative, or you would like to discuss a new or existing website, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us, we’d love to chat.