Website hosting providers make it possible for your website to be active on the internet. However, hosting a website comes with certain responsibilities; namely to supply a secure and professional service at a reasonable price.
Most web designers also offer hosting, although you can host elsewhere and simply point your domain name to the hosting company. Some business owners try to save money by hosting with one of the larger budget hosting companies. Others feel they need to pay top rates to get the level of service they need.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but to fully understand what you are getting for your money, you need to know what website hosting entails.
All websites require regular updates, both for functionality and security. You need to know if your web hosting service includes these updates or not. Some providers charge extra for this service, whilst others leave it to the website owner to manage their own updates.
The language of the internet is continuously being updated. As it evolves, programmes that have been written using this language can become obsolete if they are not updated to reflect these changes in the language or code. When this happens, you will start to get errors on your site and certain functions no longer operating until eventually your website simply won’t work.
Security updates are the most common type of update, as they are required to combat the threat of attacks from viruses and hackers. When a vulnerability in a website programme is identified, an update is issued to remove the threat.
The company that owns the platform upon which your website is built will issue these updates, but most updates are not automated and still need to be applied manually. For example, if your website is created using WordPress, when you log into the admin section, you will often see various alerts come through about an update. This could be for WordPress itself, the theme you are using for your design or one of the plug-ins that has been installed on your website to extend its functionality.
WordPress is an Open Source platform used by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, from start-ups to large corporations. In fact, WordPress has 58.5% of the market share (as of 01 December 2016). The next closest only has 7.2%.
Hundreds of developers around the world provide design frameworks, themes and plug-ins specifically for WordPress, giving you the customer, a larger range of options for creating a customised website for your business. This is why WordPress is the platform of choice for Web Tonic and many other web designers.
As part of our web hosting service, we take care of all the updates required to keep our customers’ websites secure and functioning at their optimum level.
Themes and plug-ins also need updating regularly too. With so many updates to manage, there is the chance that some could cause your website to crash. It is important, therefore, to back up a version of your website before initiating a major update.
Again, you need to know if your hosting service includes regular back-ups of your website. Web tonic makes daily, weekly, and monthly back-ups of all our customers’ websites, so that we have several versions on file at any given time. This enables historical re-instatement of a site in the event that an unreported site error is include in a daily update – usually when the customer has inadvertently ‘broken’ something whilst changing the content of the site, and not realising there is a problem until several days or even weeks later.
The hosting platform and the server
Websites are stored in a hosting platform and hosted on a server. The server is one of the places where hackers will try to breach the security of the website to gain access to it. A server is a type of computerised data storage facility where your website’s data is kept. It needs to be both accessible and secure at the same time. There are companies whose sole function is to manage servers for the internet. Web Tonic uses a trusted New Zealand based server company, which offers a high level of security protocols and technical support. We have our own dedicated server for our customers’ websites, rather than sharing a larger server with a greater pool of websites. As an additional security measure, we have configured the hosting platform on the server specifically to host WordPress websites.
We also monitor the server for downtime minute by minute: if it is down for more than five minutes we get a text alert from the server company.
Email hosting is currently part of Web Tonic’s website hosting service. This requires its own security and monitoring process, as emails are another gateway for potential attacks from hacker programmes.
The IP address of the email server is checked daily to ensure nobody’s email accounts have been hacked, and if there has been a breach, we can action it quickly. We also switch immediately to a back-up IP address to prevent any other customers’ emails being blocked due to the server IP address being blacklisted as a threat by other email servers. We can then contact whoever has blacklisted our IP address once the threat has been removed, to have it reinstated as safe. Web tonic has five different IP addresses we can rotate to provide continuity of service.
When your website has a technical problem, you need to know who to contact to get it resolved. Different web hosting providers offer different levels of tech support. You need to know firstly what the procedure and response time is and secondly, what charges you are likely to incur.
Unlike some web companies, Web Tonic does not offer different degrees of technical support at different monthly hosting charges. All our customers have access to free technical support as part of our hosting package. Instead of filling out a form and waiting days for an email response, we have a Freephone number to call, and you speak to a real person. We will answer the phone or call you back promptly. In most cases we can remedy the problem the same day.