Helping you to make an informed choice before you decide on which hosting provider to use.

It is not easy deciding on which provider to use to host your website as there are so many companies available with an array of different options and prices but there are some things you can do beforehand to help you in making that choice which are relatively easy to do.

Never go on price alone, particularly at the budget end of the scale. In our experience and hosting is no different than other things, if you buy cheap then cheap is what you will almost invariably get. If you are serious about your website and the benefits that it can bring to your business then don’t skimp on the cost of the hosting as you will almost certainly lose more than you gain. Cheap hosting will almost always be slower and each extra second a website takes to load can equate to a 10% loss of users which means a potential equivalent loss in revenue.

These are some of the things you can check beforehand.

Find out the IP address of the server

If you ask the hosting company what would be the IP address of the server that your website would be on, you can check whether or not that IP is blacklisted, either because another site on the server sends out bulk mailing or may contain viruses or malware and is blocked. You can do this at sites such as MX Tool Box and just enter the IP address and run the blacklist checker. If you then do a reverse lookup you can find out the domain name of the actual server on which you can then run further types of tests and see what if any problems are highlighted.

Another useful reason for knowing the IP address is that you can find out where the actual server is located. Just because the company may be in the same geographic location as you, doesn’t give a guarantee that the server is. It is always better to have the server located in the same country as your main target audience so that it loads quicker and also potentially for better search engine rankings. You can do this by running a visual traceroute on the IP address at sites such as Monitis where you can also see the different times it takes to reach it from various regions.

Run a security check on the server

Using the domain name you obtained from doing the reverse lookup on the IP address you can run a security check at SSL Labs. If it doesn’t achieve at least a Grade A rating it means that there are configuration issues on the server. It is also a good idea to run the same security check on the hosting company’s domain name. For instance Applejack’s server achieves a Grade A+ rating.

Run a page speed test on the hosting company’s website

How fast your website loads is extremely important in retaining users and also affects your search engine ranking. As they say every second counts or in the case of a website, every millisecond counts. If a hosting company is unable to achieve a high page speed or doesn’t care, then what does that say about the service they are likely to provide for your website. You can run page speed test at GT Metrix, Pingdom Tools and Web Page Test, where for an acceptable score it should achieve at least 80% if not higher.

Further questions to ask

  1. What version or versions of PHP are there. For a modern website this should be at least PHP 7. On Applejack servers you have the choice of PHP 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 7, 7.1 and 7.2 and you can even run multiple versions on the same website in different directories, if for example you have an older application that you still need, but which will not run on the latest versions.
  2. What is the version of MySQL or Maria DB. For MySQL this should be at least 5.6.
  3. Ask if they allow FTP (as opposed to SFTP). If they do it means it is not secure, FTP should be disabled completely.
  4. Can I access server error logs in realtime. This is quickest and best way to work out errors which may occur from time to time such as may happen with a plugin conflict.
  5. What backup procedures are there and where are these stored i.e. on the server, on a different server or in an entirely different location etc
  6. What security measure are in place such as a Firewall.
  7. What is the configuration of the server such as the amount of RAM, the CPU speed, chip type and number of cores.
  8. What is the overall connectivity rate. For comparisons sake at Applejack we have a 1Gbps connection.
  9. Do they perform updates on the system when they are released which also includes patches, such as for security and if so how often, as these are released regularly, almost on a weekly basis.
  10. What is the average downtime of the server. If they say never, then it means they don’t update the core system, as the only way to do this is to reboot the server and therefore it will almost certainly have security vulnerabilities.

At the end of the day as they say, you pays your money and takes your chance, but at least if you follow these simple step and ask the right questions, then at least your chances of getting decent hosting will have improved.

By the way this article only relates to websites not email, as configuring an email server for security and to combat Spam is a whole other ball game.

At Applejack we provide what we call Dedicated Managed Hosting. This enable us to provide the best service we can to our clients at a competitive price and have been doing so since we first started in 2000, so hopefully we know a bit about what we are doing by now. We place great emphasis on security and speed and we are crazy about backups.

Take a look at part 1 of this article  which give a brief explanation of the different types of hosting available along with various other options.

You can find out more about our hosting plans using the button below.