Choosing the right hosting package: 9 questions to help you decide

With a mind-boggling array of web hosting packages on the market, it can sometimes be difficult to work out which is the right one for your organisation.

Posted on 21 April 2015 - Hosting
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In this blog post, we'll try to simplify the process by presenting your with 9 straightforward questions. The answers should lead you towards the right hosting setup.

How much traffic do you get?

The number of pageviews, unique users, sessions and downloads your website attracts might each have a bearing on which technologies, platforms and applications are best suited to your customers and the way they interact with your site.

Obviously, lower traffic sites can function without any problems on entry level hosting packages, whereas busy sites might need dedicated servers or their own private cloud to ensure the site is robust enough to accommodate larger numbers of visitors and scalable enough to be able to manage a sudden influx.

How does your audience use your website?

We’ve already mentioned downloads, which leads on to the other things your customers do when they reach your website. Looking at usage patterns gives a good idea as to what kind of hosting is required.

A site that gets sudden surges of traffic in extreme busy periods (such as a media website breaking a news story) might need a private cloud coupled with a content delivery network (CDN) to be able to scale quickly and meet the demand.

By contrast, an e-commerce website might have low but database resource heavy traffic if shoppers are opening various items, zooming in on photos,  and checking size and colour availability. All of those database queries might be best served by a private cloud with a dedicated bare metal database server.

Where are your audience?

The physical location of the server hosting your website can have a major impact on the quality of user experience on the site. The closer it is to the person accessing the site, the better their experience will be.

So, if you know that 80% of your customers are based in Ecuador, you wouldn’t want a version of your website to be hosted too far from Quito.

Modest servers in multiple locations close to key markets can be hugely beneficial to global websites.

Where do you want your data to be based?

Performance isn’t the only geographic consideration. Data sovereignty is another key issue and one that is becoming increasingly important. You might want your data to be hosted in a particular jurisdiction because of legislation relating to how that data will be stored and who has the right to access it.

How much data are you storing?

Is your server going to store video, high resolution images, audio files or a document library? If your website or CMS is doubling up as a storage space for those files, you need to ensure that’s factored into your hosting setup.

What will downtime cost you?

No doubt your want your website to be available 100% of the time, but what is the cost - to your revenue or your reputation - if it is offline for a few seconds? What about for a few hours?

Putting a figure on these costs will help you choose a hosting package that puts infrastructure in place to achieve 100% availability. That might include dual servers or a load balancer.

At the other end of the scale, you might decide it makes economic sense to be offline for maintenance during off-peak times rather than put those measures in place.

Which software and applications will you be using?

Different content management systems (CMS) and software packages vary in the way they impact server performance. You will need a hosting package that is tailored to the services you plan to use. 

How secure is secure enough?

It goes without saying that all web hosting needs to be secure. But there is still a difference between, for example, the most risk-averse of high street retailers and the Ministry of Defence.

The level of security you choose will probably be influenced by the requirements of your insurance policy, the potential cost of a security breach and your budget.

What are your disaster recovery requirements?

In the event of a security breach or another disaster, how quickly do you need to recover your website? And how specifically do you need to pinpoint the time of the back-up version to which you want to revert?

The answers to those two questions will help to establish what back-up and recovery services you need to incorporate in your hosting package.

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