If you’re looking to get a business or personal website online you’re going to need a web hosting service.
But once you start searching you’ll notice that there are a ton of options out there. It can get really confusing.
Don’t worry though. It’s pretty straightforward and we’ll explain exactly what to look for when choosing a hosting company for your website.
What Is Web Hosting And Why Do I Need It?
Good question. First up, web hosting is the collective term for the entire infrastructure that supports your website. It consists of:
- Datacentre – this is where the servers (computers) that host your website are located
- Servers – these are powerful computers that physically hold your website files and provide your email service
- Server Software – the server’s software configuration defines the type of service that can be offered to end users
- Technical Support – this is the support team that will support you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Let’s look at each in turn.
Datacentre – The Home Of Your Web Hosting
A Datacentre (or Datacenter) is a purpose built facility which is built from the ground up with security, resilience and reliability in mind.
The main services that the Datacentre provides are:
- Data Connectivity
- Electrical Connectivity
- Data Security
- Environmental Stability
A Datacentre is a huge investment both up front and on an ongoing basis. Datacentre’s are graded in various Tiers which go from 1 to 4 where 4 is the highest Tier. They are graded based on how resilient they are and how much Redundancy is built in to ensure as close to 100% uptime as possible.
The term redundancy is important. If a system has Redundancy built in, that means that it has a back up system which will automatically take over if the first system fails.
Redundant data connectivity ensures that multiple data lines from several suppliers enter the datacentre at different physical points. This ensures high uptime by minimising the possibility of data failure caused by one particular supplier or by physical issues with the data entry points.
Likewise electrical connectivity is assured by separate physical entry points as well as redundant back up generators on site which will kick in automatically if there are any power interruptions. There are even strict contracts in force with fuel suppliers to ensure that the back up power remains available whilst any power outages are addressed.
In terms of security this starts at the entry gate where visitors will not be permitted unless by prior agreement and they must always be accompanied by on site staff. Once inside the facility there are people traps and biometric controls to restrict access to the data halls.
Fire security is addressed by constant environmental monitoring and redundant fire suppressant systems.
Environmental control is a very important issue inside the datacentre. Servers generate a lot of heat and during normal operation must be kept at a constant temperature. This is achieved by using redundant Computer Room Air Conditioning (CRAC) units.
Pickaweb operates out of a Tier 3 Datacentre in North London. Full details can be found on our Datacentre page.
Server Hardware Configuration Is Vital To Ensure Reliable Hosting Services
Inside the Datacentre are data halls which consist of racks of servers. A Rack is a specially made cabinet that contains the servers in levels that are called a U. Each U represents a measure of height of a server. A small server may take up 1U and a larger server may be 4U in height.
The key components of a server are:
- Central Processing Unit (CPU) – the ‘brain’ of the server
- RAM – Random Access Memory (RAM) helps the CPU to perform tasks faster
- Hard Drives – the disks where data is stored – we use 10K SAS Drives as standard
- Hot Swap – A type of component that can be replaced without the requirement to power down the server
- Power Supply Unit (PSU) – keeps the server power consistent
- RAID Controller – helps store data across several disks
The way that these hardware components are configured determines the level of uptime that you can expect. Uptime refers to the percentage of time that a server is available.
Following on from the Datacentre Pickaweb uses redundancy all the way through the hardware configuration.
Our servers use dual CPUs, we have a high amount of RAM in all servers with room for expansion.
We use Enterprise grade 10K SAS hard drives in our shared hosting and these are configured in a RAID 10 configuration. This means that data is copied across four hard drives. If one drive fails no data is lost.
All of our disks are hot swap. This way, if a hard drive does fail it can be replaced with zero downtime. Once a replacement disk is inserted into the server the RAID Controller recognises it and adds it to the array so that the service can continue unaffected.
We also use dual hot swap PSUs. Power supplies can be higher failing units so it is important that these can be replaced quickly and without the need for downtime.
In terms of backup, your data is valuable. We use Idera/r1soft continuous backup to ensure that your data is backed up safely in case you delete something by accident or any server issues.
Server Software To Ensure You Get The Best Hosting Experience
You can see that the physical side of things is really important such as the datacentre and the servers.
However, you should also be aware that the software that is installed on the server has a huge bearing on the level of service you will receive. Here are a list of software that Pickaweb uses on all of our servers and which we offer as standard to all of our clients:
- cPanel – Industry standard web hosting control panel to manage all aspects of your hosting
- WHM – WebHost Manager – Server Management Tool used for Dedicated Servers, VPS and Resellers
- Spam Experts – Prevents Spam from leaving our servers so we don’t get blacklisted. Optional chargeable service for incoming email spam prevention
- LiteSpeed Web Server – High speed Web Server so your website loads super fast
- CloudLinux – Software which isolates shared hosting accounts to prevent ‘noisy neighbours’ from hogging key resources like CPU and RAM
- Website Builder – Easy to use website builder tool
- WordPress – the world’s favourite Content Management System (CMS) (installs in one click)
- Joomla – powerful CMS with Ecommerce and social features built in (installs in one click)
- Magento and PrestaShop – Powerful Ecommerce software tools (installs in one click)
- Softaculous – Install hundreds of free applications in one click
All of these tools combine to ensure that your website has loads of features and your hosting is not only very fast but also very secure.
So when you are looking at the options, check that the hosting company offers all of this software to ensure you get the most from your hosting investment.
Technical Support Around The Clock
Another really important point to take into consideration is the level of technical support you will receive.
As a minimum look for 24 hour support, 7 days a week by live chat, phone and email.
Also look for comments and reviews on independent 3rd party review sites like Trustpilot.
Here at Pickaweb we pride ourselves on the high level of customer support we offer. We are focused on fixing issues first time. Our friendly team is available around the clock and they can resolve pretty much any issue that is thrown at them.
Additional FREE Material To Help You Grow Your Business
We understand that you have a choice and there are plenty of competitors to choose from.
One thing that Pickaweb is committed to is to providing our customers and prospective customers with all of the information that they need to succeed online. Here are some examples for you to read through:
Free 5 Star Rated Book – The Lazy Website Syndrome
There are a lot of things to take into account when choosing a web hosting provider. Consider the following points to help you make an informed decision:
Choose a host that operates from a Tier 3 Datacentre with high levels of security and resilience built in.
Check that the servers they use are Entreprise grade with a minimum of dual components for CPU and PSU as well as using RAID with fast hot swap hard drives.
Make sure that your data is fully backed up on a regular basis.
Look for the list of software that they offer to ensure that your website is fast and secure.
Check that they offer 24 x 7 support via live chat, telephone and email.
Finally, does your hosting company educate you and provide useful and actionable information to help you grow your business through your website? Here at Pickaweb we do.
Follow these points and you’ll be fine. Of course, we would love to host you so to get started check out our hosting plans.