What do web hosting, servers & cyber security have in common?
When building a new website you may hear the term “hosting” mentioned several times throughout the process. If you’re like most of us, you just nod your head as if you understand what they’re talking about and do a quick Google search under the table. Usually this doesn’t help that much, because Google will give you the dictionary definition of the word, which may or may not lead to more confusion.
In simple terms, hosting refers to where your site or application lives. What a lot of organizations may not realize, however, is the importance of your ‘web house’ when it comes to keeping your online assets and data safe. Think of it like your real house; you run your life from your house and most things in your life center around it; important information like your birth certificates, social security cards, pictures, etc. are all kept at your house. You can also move to get more space or better security.
In addition to the concept of hosting, you may hear the term “server” a lot during this conversation. The term “server” refers to your physical house, whereas “hosting” refers to the action or idea of storing all of your data in your physical house (or server). To use both terms in a sentence, one may say, “If your website is being hosted on our server, you gain a lot of benefits!”
Security Reasons for Upgrading Your Web Hosting Plan
What happens if your family grows and you can’t fit in your house comfortably anymore? You find a new house! This happens to websites and applications all the time. When you first start out, you pick a smaller server because you may not need a huge server—or realize that you need one—quite yet. Over time, your site or application will get more traffic or you might add more functionality and your current server starts to struggle to quickly load your website or app. When this happens, it’s recommended to move your site or app to a larger, more powerful server. Just like a house, this comes with a slightly higher bill, but whether you need more room or better security to improve your performance, in the long run it’s well worth the investment. Furthermore, ensuring your hosting server is high-quality and can accommodate your assets is crucial to keeping your data safe.
How do I decide where to host my website?
Deciding where to host your site or app is an important decision, almost as important as deciding who designs and builds it. You can have the most beautiful, functional, and user-friendly website that brings in loads of new customers, but if the company you choose to host your website isn’t reliable or secure then it doesn’t matter—you’ll potentially be at risk for downtime, poor performance, and security threats.
Hosting a website or an application is an ever-changing, imperfect science. Not only does technology move forward and change, but there are thousands of bots and people out there that are constantly attempting to gain access to privileged information. This data might be your email address, physical address, credit card number, bank account information, or even your search behavior online. Depending on the type of website or application you have, you may be storing all of the information listed above! Making sure that your hosting company is certified to host and store that information is a critical step in determining where you host. Many hosting providers have different levels of security based on cost, so be mindful of that when you’re selecting a plan.
Can my hosting company access my website’s information?
When weighing your hosting options, integrity and transparency is important to consider. A good, honest hosting company doesn’t have the ability to read the information you’re storing. This is important for a couple of reasons; the first being the fact that it’s your private information and you don’t want anyone having access to it besides you, the second being that in the event that the hosting company’s data centers are compromised, the hacker may then encrypt the data being stored.
What does this mean for you? If your data gets encrypted in a cyberattack, you can’t access your information without paying them large sums of money. Instead, look for a hosting company that encrypts your information at the get-go. This ensures that neither your hosting company nor a hypothetical hacker can access the information.
For example, a few months ago the Colonial Pipeline was compromised and all of their information was encrypted. The hackers demanded $5 million dollars to provide the encryption keys that would restore the pipeline. This completely stopped all oil production and transport for six days, cutting off nearly half of the east coast’s supply to fuel. More than likely, if your business is shut down for six days it won’t affect one quarter of the United States, but it could have detrimental effects on your customers, revenue, and reputation.
Is all hosting created equal?
No! Every organization is going to have different needs when it comes to hosting, and having some different options to choose from is not a bad thing. There are a few things to consider when you’re looking at hosting environments: managed services, getting a shared or dedicated server, and what’s included in the cost.
Unmanaged vs Managed Hosting
Along with checking your hosting provider’s certifications and their ability to store the type of data you have on your website or application, another critical piece of information to see is if the hosting is managed or unmanaged hosting. Going back to our house example; managed hosting is similar to living in an apartment complex with amenities. There is usually a full staff of employees that clean the building, landscape the grounds, control the mail room, handle security, etc. You pay to not have to worry about any of these things and have someone else keep an eye on it for you.
Unmanaged hosting is just like living in your own home; you are responsible for everything that goes on with your house. Managed hosting is typically a more expensive option, but you save time and allow the experts on their team to handle proactive monitoring and maintenance so you don’t have to worry about it.
Shared vs Dedicated Hosting
Another item that can drastically change your cost is shared hosting vs hosting in a dedicated environment. Shared hosting is similar to living in an apartment complex. You have your own apartment, with locks on the door that only you and the building manager can access. In shared hosting, this means that only you can access your site or app. However, in an apartment you also share resources like electricity, internet, and utilities with the rest of the tenants. If you’ve ever lived in an apartment, you know that sometimes you have neighbors that work at odd hours or enjoy partying a bit too much, and you can hear them through the walls. Hosting on a shared server has the same considerations; if another site or app on the server is dragging down resources or disrupting the other websites or applications on the server, it has the potential to slow down your site too, because they’re both sharing the same foundation. This is the cheaper option of the two, and definitely a great starting point for hosting your site or app.
Dedicated hosting is more expensive, but just like your house, it’s all yours. The only information on the server is yours, and the only time you’d have to worry about the server slowing down, is if the foundation of the server starts acting up. There are settings that your host can configure to ensure that the foundation always runs smoothly.
Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Web Hosting Plan
Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make in choosing a website hosting provider is to go for the cheapest hosting you can find. For a while this might work exactly as you need, but you’ll quickly find that what you save in cost you end up losing in security or services. More often than not, at some point down the road you may find yourself on a call with a server administrator saying, “Our site’s been hacked! Can you help us fix it?”. On the upside, most of the time it’s possible to fix quickly. The downside is that it’s usually more expensive to pay to fix the hack than it would have been if you had hosted with a more secure or robust plan for those six months.
Let’s look at Webspec’s shared, managed hosting plan as an example. Among other things, Webspec will look through your site every month to ensure that everything is up to date. We also have constant monitoring to alert us in the event of a security threat or downtime and we pull backups of your site on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Not only does this ensure that there is a very slim chance of your site being hacked, but also in the unlikely event that a hack does happen, we make it our top priority and get it restored for free.
Hosting with Webspec
Regardless of the size or complexity of their website or application, Webspec clients can confidently host on safe and secure servers in a managed hosting environment. Our Systems Administrator and COO have spent hours and hours of time reviewing a dozen companies for cost, reliability, data protection, and certifications so that we can bring the safest and best hosting options to our Webspec clientele. Now, Webspec offers hosting on servers managed by our own team with encryption and a 99.99% uptime guarantee.
We would love to talk with you and your team about migrating your website or application to one of our hosting plans. Contact us today to start the conversation and ensure your assets are safe and secure online.