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6 Ways To Evaluate Web Hosting For Your Website

Ludovic Rembert by Ludovic Rembert Tweet - in Website Design - [wtr-time]

Last updated on January 22nd, 2020

Deciding a web host to start your online business is a matter of much importance. Being an entrepreneur, you must be aware of the fact that your commitment to one web hosting would determine the performance of your online business. It’s very difficult to move your business to another web host as it can confront great damage in all this conversion. However, if you’ve already got your new website up and running, congratulations! you’ve already done all the hard work of optimizing your design; making sure it works. If still having doubts, in this article, we’ve shared the major metrics that can help you to understand – how to evaluate web hosting for your new site.

Once you build your website completely including logo design, graphics, etc; your site starts to attract visitors. This is the time when you should make sure that you measure how well it is performing.

As your business develops, you should continually measure a suite of KPIs that will help you to improve your online sales and conversion rates. But at this early stage, you should also assess whether your web hosting is giving you the service you deserve.

These Are The Few Metrics You Should Be Measuring While Evaluating Your Web Hosting Services

01. Speed

You probably chose your web host based partially on the speed they promised you. If you didn’t, you should have, and you should read about why website’s speed matters.

Now it’s time to test whether you are getting the advertised speed.

Evaluate Web Hosting

There are many tools you can use for this. A good one is Pingdom’s Website Speed Test, which will give you detailed data on several key metrics. There are others, though: Dareboost and WebPageTest are similar. And, then there are more complicated tools like GTMetrix and Google’s Page Speed Insights.

Using these tools is pretty straightforward. But, you should bear in mind that measuring the raw ‘speed’ of your web host is not as easy as doing one test and taking one number.

Two Things You Need To Keep In Mind

Firstly, you will need to do several tests, at different times of the day and (if possible) from different regions to get a true picture of your website speed.

Second, you should realize that the speed of elements on your website design. These elements are hosted on external servers (like YouTube videos, for instance) don’t tell you anything about your web host. Since, these are hosted on different servers.

During testing, the most important metric to look at is your DNS Response Time. It tells you the time that it takes for your website’s nameservers to return an IP address to your browser.

The fastest DNS times are generally those for WordPress websites since WP has spent heavily on resources to make sure that their nameservers are fast.

Not all web hosts are created equal though:

The other metrics that speed testing tools will give you – typically connect, send, wait, and receive times. It can also tell you a lot about your site, but will generally follow the pattern of your DNS response time. Therefore, this measure can be seen as a proxy for most of these other stats.

Finally, pay particular attention to your SSL metric, which is the time it takes for your site to perform an SSL handshake with incoming visitors. This computationally intensive task can tell you whether your web host’s servers are up to scratch. As well as, if you’ve properly done your website optimized for mobile devices. A time of 250ms or less is considered good.

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02. Uptime

Uptime is the second major measure of how well your web host is performing. It is a measure of how much of the month (or week or year) your website is available is accessible. Uptime can be a confusing statistic because even poor web hosts will deliver 99% uptime, which on the surface of things sounds great.

However, if your website is down for 1% of the time, that’s still 7.2 hours a month. And, if this occurs during peak hours you are losing the equivalent of a trading day.

Evaluate Web Hosting

Most web hosts provide you with tools to measure the uptime of your site. But you might have spotted a problem with that: web hosts have a vested interest in not reporting downtime. For that reason, you shouldn’t trust these built-in tools but instead, use a third-party tool.

There are plenty of these available, and the best will check your site every 5 minutes to give you the most detailed report on your uptime: for example uptimerobot.com and pingdom.com. Other tools, like site24x7.com, 100pulse.com, serviceuptime.com, siteuptime.com or internetseer.com have 15-60 minute intervals available as a free service.

You should also pay attention to messages from your web host when measuring uptime. Quality web hosts will tell you when they have planned downtime, rather than just cutting your site off with no warning or explanation.

03. Security Features

Security is probably one of the features that you look for when choosing a web host. It should be one of the first things you check in evaluating your purchase.

This is particularly important because today plenty of good web hosts offer free SSL certificates. But, this is a fairly new service and some web hosts are still not used to issuing these to new customers.

Even if you are currently building your site, it’s worth getting SSL (or TLS) protections in place as soon as possible. As it helps to encrypt the data that your site exchanges with users and visitors.

Security Features

Once you’ve got SSL in place, you should also check the speed of the SSL “handshake” that initiates the encrypted connection. This can be done using any of the speed monitoring tools above. It will provide you with a time for “SSL Handshake”. Since this is a computationally intensive task, it is a good indication of how advanced your web hosts’ servers are.

Another important security feature to get in place is email protection. Today, there are authentication technologies that aim to secure your email system against phishing attempts, such as the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM).

A further system is the Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), which tells email servers how to handle unauthenticated incoming emails. For example, DMARC can block messages that look suspicious, or re-direct them to your spam folder.

Even if you are still in the process of building your site, you should get these security systems in place immediately. Not only will doing this significantly reduce your exposure to cyberattacks, but the process of setting all this up is a good test of how professional your web host is.

04. Threats

Website speed and uptime are the most important metrics to start monitoring for your new site. But, they are not the only thing you should be paying attention to. Hopefully, if you’ve just started your site, you haven’t yet been the victim of cyberattack, but you can be assured that any attempt to compromise your site will occur pretty soon.

Monitoring the number of attacks against your site is also an important measure of how your web host is performing. A quality web host will report when they have detected an intrusion attempt, and how many of these they have defeated. They will also, if you are the victim of a successful attack, tell you how they plan to prevent this in the future.

Threats

Recording how many potential threats your website faces is important because in the long term this is the most critical measure of web hosting performance.

If you see successful attacks increasing, you can take some measures to protect your website from attack, and in particular, WordPress or other CMS platform.

Users should make sure they are not running unused plugins and themes. But a rapidly increasing number of successful attacks is also a sure sign that your web host is not taking their role seriously.

05. Customer Service

Testing your web host’s customer service offering is also an important way of ensuring you have chosen the correct provider. There are, unfortunately, plenty of web hosting companies who prioritize marketing and flashy design over providing their existing customers with support and guidance.

During the first few weeks of paying for hosting, it’s worth contacting your hosts’ customer services department, even if you are happy with your service so far.

Customer Service

It pays to know whether this department is staffed with knowledgeable people before a major problem arises, by which time it will be too late.

Some people will recommend that you run a simulated ‘test’ of your hosts’ customer services by coming up with a ‘fake problem’ and asking them to fix it. However, in our experience, this approach often leads to confusion.

It’s better to seek the advice of your hosts’ team on an aspect of your site:

  • you could ask them questions about how to set up WordPress hosting, or
  • extra details about their pricing structure.

Inquiries like this have a dual purpose. Questions of this kind are not going to be flagged as high importance. Therefore, a quick response to them is an indication that a customer service team has adequate staff and resources.

Besides, starting a conversation with your web host can allow you to start building a relationship with them that is invaluable when a problem does arrive.

06. Ecommerce And Email Marketing Tools

Many of the best web hosts around today offer free eCommerce platforms and email marketing tools as part of their standard package. This can add value to a web hosts’ offer. But in some cases, these systems are dated and nowhere near as functional as freely-available tools.

Before you build a site with a specific web host, it’s therefore worth testing their eCommerce and email marketing tools. Building a huge site with plenty of great content with creative graphic designs, sometime becomes impossible to market because of poor marketing tools, will end up costing you a lot of time and resources.

Email Marketing Tools

Testing these tools is easy enough. Even if you are not yet ready to start selling items through your new site, you can set up a test shop that only your team can access, and make test purchases.

This should be done, if possible, from as many locations (and across as many devices) as you can. You can use a VPN Software to change the location you are connecting from. It helps to make sure that your customers can make purchases from wherever they are.

Email marketing tools can be tested by sending test emails to your team, and checking how easy this system is to use. You should also check that you can send emails with images, videos, and other content, to ensure that your marketing activities are not constrained by your email software.

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Conclusion: Keep On Testing

When you first sign up to a new web host, you should carefully evaluate all of the features above. However, assessment is a process and not an event. You should continually monitor the performance of your web hosting, to check that they can deliver on their promises.

The first two evaluations on this list – speed and uptime – are liable to vary over time, and so frequent monitoring of these metrics is critical. If you chose your web host because they looked like the best value, you can be sure that plenty of other customers signed up at around the same time.

The best web hosting will increase their server capacity as their customer base grows. But, others can be left with too many customers and associated problems with speed and reliability.

In short, while you should measure speed and uptime from the first day your site is active. You should also put in place processes that will allow you to assess a range of metrics on an ongoing basis. By doing that, you can look at the big picture.

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Ludovic Rembert

Ludovic Rembert is a security analyst, researcher, and founder of PrivacyCanada.net. He spent his career (before semi-retirement) as a network security engineer working in both industry and academia, and more recently has begun freelance writing on a variety of technical topics.

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