How To Spot A Reliable, Secure Web Host
A high level of customer satisfaction doesn’t necessarily mean a web host is reliable or secure. A customer is satisfied when their needs have been met. Most web hosting customers have simple needs, and wouldn’t notice if a host lacked specific security features.
In this regard, the majority of web hosting customers are easy to satisfy. As long as their website stays online and their email isn’t interrupted, they’re happy.
Happy customers often post reviews sharing their positive experiences, but a positive review doesn’t equal a secure experience. Some customers use the word ‘secure’ in their review without ever having an experience that tested or proved the existence of security. In their world, their site is secure because they’ve never experienced a problem. In reality, their site might have multiple vulnerabilities just waiting for a cybercriminal to find.
For example, many people wouldn’t know if their host provides them with an SSL certificate because they don’t need one. At least they think they don’t need one.
This July, Chrome began displaying warning messages on all non-SSL websites that the site is ‘not secure.’ In response, hosting companies have started offering free SSL certificates to customers. The truth is, an SSL certificate has become necessary to earn a visitor’s trust because just filling out an unencrypted web form can result in a data breach.
Rave reviews will tell you a company has excellent customer service, but to find a truly secure web host, further investigation is needed. Here’s what to look for:
What secure services does the web host provide?
Figuring out if a web host is secure begins with knowing what secure services they provide. The following services are considered best practices in the hosting industry:
- Backup and restore points: With all hosting accounts, you’re responsible for backing up your website. Web hosts don’t guarantee their backups because anything can happen to digital files. Regardless, good hosts will provide backup and restore services that either run automatically or can be manually configured. Some will help you restore your site from backup files, and others will go the distance to restore corrupted files.
- Firewalls: Firewalls are a standard in website security and help prevent attacks that crash websites. It helps to know what kind of intrusions your web host’s firewall is likely to stop, and what other security measures they have in place.
- Antivirus and malware scans/removal: You’ll probably have to pay for these services since they eat up precious resources, but your host should make them available to you.
- Disaster recovery: Does your web host have a bare-metal image of your server to recover from a system failure in a pinch? If they do, your website is in good hands. Disaster recovery is more than saving a copy of your files. It begins with encrypted data backups and also involves a plan for file restoration and database recovery.
- Redundant hardware and software: Your English teacher told you to avoid redundancy, but that doesn’t apply to web servers. Having redundant hardware protects against downtime caused by hardware failure. The same is true for software. Redundancy is best when the backup device is separate from the primary device. You can ask support about this but your host’s customer service representative may not know these finer details.
- Load balancing: Hosting your website on a server that uses load balancing makes your site less likely to crash due to excessive traffic. The server uses an algorithm to distribute increases in traffic across multiple servers so that no single resource becomes overburdened.
- Restricted physical access to servers: Cybercriminals and hackers aren’t the only threat you need to be aware of. Remember, servers are physical computers and must be stored Usually they’re housed in a data warehouse. With poor physical security, anyone can access and potentially sabotage the servers that house your website. If you can, find out if your host limits physical access to technicians with security clearance.
- Strict policies for employees and their passwords: Hosting company employees have access to areas that would be a hacker’s playground. A secure hosting company will have a routine for changing passwords when an employee leaves and will have rules for not sharing passwords through unencrypted emails.
Reliability is about more than 99.9% uptime
Web hosts pride themselves on being able to offer 99.9% uptime (or higher), but are they available when you need them? In addition to having a reliable server, you need a host with a reliable team of customer support agents who respond to requests and resolve issues to your satisfaction.
If you’re going through customer reviews, look for reviews describing pleasant interactions with chat agents and phone representatives that ended in resolution.
Transparency from start to finish
You should have no problem relying on your host to provide you with accurate information in a straightforward manner. What you see should be what you get. If you can’t figure it out, keep looking.
Many popular hosting companies try to bring in customers through misleading prices. For example, they’ll publish an unbeatable low monthly price, but the catch is you must buy three years of hosting at once to get the deal.
They don’t tell you the real cost until the end of the checkout process. If you decide to make the purchase anyway, when your three years are up, you find out the deal ends with it, and you’ve got to pay full price. Many people choose to switch hosts at this point.
There are professional hosting companies that don’t need to obscure hosting plan details to get customers. Skylands Networks is one of those companies. Our base prices are transparent, and we will customize any hosting plan to meet your specific business needs.
We employ best practices including load balancing, disaster recovery, security scanning, firewalls, and patch management.
We also offer server monitoring so you can define your own criteria to monitor more than just server up/down status. You can run premade conditional responses to thwart problems before a critical alert is triggered.
If you’re looking for a reliable host that takes security seriously, contact us today for boutique website hosting tailored to your specific business needs.