Your website is the face of your business. How easy it is to navigate, how it is designed, and whether it loads quickly and completely says a good deal about your company. And when it doesn’t load quickly, unless you’re tech-minded, you’re reliant on others to be forthright in determining if it’s a problem that stems from the coding of the site, or if it’s a web hosting environment issue.
Websites are Costly (but Worthwhile) Investments
The general professional consensus is that a website should be designed with a specific digital strategy in mind to make the user experience “smarter, faster and better.” The cost of having a website planned, designed and brought into digital reality can run into thousands of dollars. Therefore, with a considerable investment in a website design and your company’s reputation on the line, it is highly recommended that you carefully consider where to host it. Unfortunately, this crucial step is often an afterthought. With website hosting, you often get what you pay for – and the cheaper plans rarely work as well as you might hope they do.
If you have a website that is running slowly and not performing as you would like it to, compare the underlying mechanics of your web hosting environment with the following information.
There are two basic performance factors that override all other considerations when it comes to your website hosting environment:
Availability: The site should be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. Period.
Page load times: This factor impacts the willingness of people to take time to look at your information, and is highly instrumental in how people think about your product or company
The underlying mechanics behind those performance factors are:
- I/O (Input/Output) performance of the server being utilized. You absolutely must know this. Hint: If the hardware is underpowered for the functions the web site is required to perform, page load times will struggle.
- Solid-state (SSD) technology rather than spinning disk will make a difference of two orders of magnitude in the web site performance. SSD is more expensive than spinning disk, but is really worth it.
- The hosting specialist should work directly with the web site designer to make sure the infrastructure is optimized to work with the specific software used to produce the web site and its various functions. Hint: It’s never too late to have this conversation.
- Remove competition for compute resources from other applications. In other words, don’t use the web server resources for anything else. Hint: This means not using shared public cloud or shared hosting resources from any other vendor, private or public.
- Allocate sufficient redundant (from more than one carrier using 100% diverse infrastructure) Internet bandwidth to handle anticipated or potential spikes in user traffic. The ability to automatically “burst” would be a handy tool to have. Hint: Shared Internet bandwidth us hugely over-subscribed in shared hosting scenarios.
- Host in a Tier III, or better, data center for guaranteed uptime. Hint: If you don’t know specifically where you are hosting, or what specific industry standards your hosting facility meets, you are making a poor decision.
- Work with an engineer from the hosting specialist to work with the designer of the web site and the marketing team that is ultimately responsible for its performance. Hint: If the hosting specialist doesn’t have a specific engineer for you to work with, how can you expect them to stand behind their product?
- Load testing for the website and its design is a vital part of making informed business decisions. This means running the website in trial mode until it “breaks” to understand the constraints of the technology utilized in building the website to see how long it will last and if re-design work is necessary.
- Security is often an overlooked aspect of any website hosting. The fact that your site is secure when initially activated does not guarantee that it will stay that way. Make sure you have a plan, in collaboration with the hosting specialist, to actively keep all of the technologies involved up to date.
The lure of comparatively low monthly cost for a web hosting environment will inevitably lead to sub-optimal performance. Lower monthly costs are derived from spinning disk utilization, subscription of applications to over-subscribed infrastructure, inadequate bandwidth, and under-powered hardware. The higher monthly cost of hosting with a specialist organization is well worth it in terms of wasted marketing budget, soured relationships, and lost reputation, lost sales and sleepless nights. So while you might pay a bit more, you’ll save a ton in the long run.