We look at many factors when advising clients on the best hosting solution for them.
When deciding how to choose hosting, we work through sizing a website's audiences in terms of Unique Users, sessions, page views and object downloads. Some metrics don’t matter and some are only really relevant to UX and commercial website questions. The key is to get an understanding of what technologies might be best for the types of customer behaviour expected at the website.
One of the hardest things website owners have to when trying to choose web hosting is to estimate scale. We can help you in this – we have estimated audiences and visitor numbers for hundreds of new websites and web applications, using our experience on new sites and new online initiatives. We can help you take the risk out of the launch phases without spending precious budget on infrastructure unnecessarily.
Websites with modest visitor numbers need less complexity in their hosting (VPS, entry level Dedicated Bare Metal) and websites with larger numbers of visitors need more robustness and scale (large scale Dedicated Bare Metal, Private Cloud)
Usage patterns are critical to understanding what kind of hosting a website requires. Are there seasonal patterns to factor in? Are there large daily fluctuations? An understanding of any historical measurement metrics (if available) is key, but so is understanding future plans for website or web application.
For example, media websites might have extreme busy periods ‘flash crowds’ when a story breaks, so they need scalability. A private Cloud combined with CDN might be best. E-Commerce sites might have relatively small numbers of visitors, but those visitors might work around the site extensively - in full ‘buying mode’. So a private cloud with Dedicated Bare Metal database server could be the optimum solution for that e-commerce site.
All websites are slightly different, and so are the audiences for those websites. We can help you understand what your customers want from their experience on your website, and what technical solutions can help your customers acheive what they want to do, be that download a white paper, buy an item, submit details on to a form, watch a video etc.
The physical location of a customer's website can have a huge bearing on the quality of customer experience on that website. This sounds counter intuitive to many website owners: isn’t the Internet one thing? Why does physical location matter?
The Internet is a physical thing: a giant global network of cables and servers and networking equipment. Some websites need to be physically close to their intended audience, so that customer doesn’t experience jitter and delay as they interact with it. The further away in Internet terms a website is from the customer, the higher the risk of performance problems.
We help our customers determine whether location is an important factor when trying choose the best web hosting for User Experience in terms of ‘jitter’; and latency, and if it is, how best to tackle that issue cost effectively. In this example, modest servers in multiple locations close to key markets might be best.
Some clients’ customers insist on data being hosted in a certain country (or certain part of a country). That could be due to their corporate policy, but is more likely driven by legislation in their customer's territory.
Data Sovereignty requirements mean that the geographical location of your customer will be an important consideration for your customer. We can help with finding the best web hosting for location-specific requirements where a client is insistent on either data processing and / or data storage is done within a specific territory.
What happens if your website is offline for an hour? Or what about for a few minutes? Does it matter? Or does website availability only matter to you during your peak times? Does it matter commercially? How important is online reputation to your business?
For most customers, the starting point is the need for 100% website availability. This can be accommodated through dual-server solutions and load-balanced solutions. That allows 'in-flight' maintenance and updates (servers often need rebooted to apply updates, which creates downtime). Other customers can tolerate maintenance windows for updates and patching, provided they are completed out of business hours.
We help customers work through the real costs for downtime (both reputational and in terms of lost sales) and then build a solution that meets that need.
Our starting point for every client is this: your website should be available to every customer you might have, for whenever they choose to visit your website.
There are large differences between different software packages and different web CMS (Content Management Systems e.g. Kentico, Magento, WordPress etc), in terms of the way they perform and what they require from a host in order to perform well.
For example Magento is notoriously 'heavy' in terms of the amount of RAM required and Microsoft SQL databases perform best when placed on a dedicated server. CMS that are designed for Apache Web Servers need careful server management in terms of maximum sessions. All CMS and software packages have quirks and requirements that will determine the best hosting package for them.
There are real performance and User Experience gains to be enjoyed from proper analysis of software and applications on a hosting platform. We work through your software requirements and use our experience of how platforms can be optimised to run those applications.
Storage requirements are an important consideration for the type of hosting solution we recommend. Will your server be used to store videos? What about images for brochures etc? Do you envisage a large document library?
Will the website / CMS server be used (as servers often are) as a de facto document management system? Does your website form part of your formal DR plan? Or is part of an offsite Business Continuity document store?
We understand that the ‘pure’ website storage element is typically small: but that tells only part of the story in practice. It is important to understand how website and application servers are actually used. There is no right or wrong answer for each client.
What kind of back-ups are required for your website or web applications? Minute-by-minute back-ups? Or hour-by-hour? Perhaps once-per-week would be ample?
Back-ups are an essential service for all website hosting solutions. The determining factors about which back-up solution to choose are centred on two related metrics:
1. Mean Time Recovery (MTR). The time taken to re-establish a website or application after a failure or other incident that affects a website (human error, equipment failure, security breach etc).
2. Recovery Point Objective (RPO). The requirement for recovery to a specific point-in-time before the incident that affected the website.
Some clients can tolerate their website being unavailable for days, whilst back-ups are retrieved and the website is re-established. Other clients need their website online again in minutes, even after a catastrophic event.
Some clients rarely make changes to their website, so backing up that website every single minute is simply wasteful. Other clients have website data that changes continually, so they will need to have a very regular back-up solution.
Back-ups are a very important part of website management. We can help you understand what your back-up requirements might be, and recommend the optimum hosting solution for that requirement.
All hosting solutions must be secure.
Web / IT security and the risks from 'cyber threats' are possibly the single biggest determining factor in terms of selecting the correct hosting platform, after availability and audience numbers. We have vast experience in web security and can help you make sure you meet your security obligations, whilst putting in place a solution that is workable in practice.
Tolerance for security incidents and risk appetite varies significantly from client to client. For example, your company policy might require ISO 27001 certification from its web host. Your customers might require that your web host is ISO 27001 certified. Your IT Department might have its own policies and requirements in terms of logging and access, or storage and encryption. Your insurance providers might have web security expectations. And IT Security and 'cyber threats' are now on the Board agenda of almost every large company.
Web security is a complex and important area for hosting. We can help you analyse what security measures your website or application should have, and help you choose the optimum hosting solution for your requirement.