Your website is your shop window. It is often the first touchpoint that potential customers make with your business. While good website design and content is needed, your choice of hosting provider is equally important. It impacts on website performance, security, search engine ranking and email reliability.
All hosting providers are the same, right?
It would be easy to view hosting providers as being all the same, but in reality, the choice is a little bit more nuanced. While it might be tempting to subscribe to a yellow pack hosting package, a bad choice of web hosting provider can result in untold problems and frustrations for your business further down the line.
Some factors to consider when choosing a hosting provider
There are a couple of factors to bear in mind before choosing a hosting provider.
What is their uptime like?
- A website which continually goes offline website does not project a good image of your business, can result in lost business and may even lead some customers to think you’ve gone out of business. You should be looking for a hosting provider with at least an uptime guarantee of 99.90%.
Where are their servers located?
If the server hosting your website is located on the East Coast of the USA and your customers are primarily in Ireland – your website is at a distinct disadvantage for ranking well in local search results (e.g. search results from google.ie). This is because Google ranking algorithms take into account hosting location when deciding where to rank a website in the local search results. So, if your customers are Irish, having your website hosted in Ireland is always a good idea.
How security conscious is the hosting provider?
- For most standard hosting packages, your website will be hosted on the same server as hundreds of other websites. For hosting providers this is a more efficient use of resources, in the same way that an appartment block can house more people than a housing estate This is a wholly standard practice followed by some of the most reputable hosting providers. However, if neighbouring websites are involved in nefarious activities such as sending out spam, porn, hate sites, illegal gambling, etc., the IP address of the whole server can get blacklisted by so called “spam-authorities” (These act as a kind of automated police force for the world wide web). This can result in your business emails getting treated as spam and not reaching intended recipients. Unfortunately, this is a common problem faced by businesses who’ve gone with “cheap” hosting providers. Quality hosting providers normally prevent such nefarious tenants from residing on their servers in the first place or will take swift action if they detect that one of their servers is a candidate for spam authority blacklisting.
- And because shared hosting is such a common practice among hosting providers, using a security conscious hosting provider is important. Some hosting companies employ weak inter-customer boundaries on their servers. This means that if a hacker does infiltrate a server, they can move laterally across the server “directory trees” of other customers’ websites more easily. It is not unknown for Irish businesses have their website compromised, defaced or totally wiped out by such a hack over the space of a week-end.
Do they employ fast and optimised servers for hosting?
- A good hosting provider uses servers which load web sites quickly. In fact, a recent study from Akamai has revealed that you could be losing nearly half of your visitors if your website loads slow. Customers like fast loading websites. Slow websites repel customers like DDT to mosquitoes…
What is their customer support like?
- No matter how good your hosting provider, there might be a time where you might need to contact them for technical support. Do they answer their phones or emails within a reasonable amount of time? Are their staff knowledgeable? Do they treat their customers honestly and fairly?
And our award for the best hosting provider in Ireland goes to…
RealClear has been liaising with different website hosting companies since 2003. We can wholeheartedly recommend Blacknight hosting based in Co. Carlow. Their secure Irish-based servers have the same reliability as an expensive Swiss watch. Their support team has been consistently responsive, knowledgeable, friendly and a pleasure to deal with. We make this endorsement without having any affiliation to them, we just want to save people the hassle and frustration that can ensue by signing up with a bad hosting provider.
A favourite ploy of some hosting providers is to use words like “free” and “unlimited” extensively in their marketing. Unfortunately, these are the very same hosting companies that use mountains of small print in their terms and conditions. Those too-good-to-be-true offers are often just that. It’s always nice to deal with a hosting provider who is upfront and honest about pricing from the start.