7 Questions To Ask Your Web Hosting Provider

By  Jeff Pond

With the large number of web hosting providers now in the market, as a customer, it's difficult to cut through the technical jargon and know if you are really getting what you paid for.  This is especially true when it comes to the business–critical end of the market where costs are higher and the expected level of service and performance are also equally as high.

These 7 questions will arm you with the required technical information to make an informed choice for your next web hosting provider or help confirm if your current web hosting provider is the most suitable provider for your needs.

1.  Where are your hosting servers located?

In real estate it's location, location, location.  The same is also true when it comes to web hosting.  Is your website hosted within the same country as the people and customers you are trying to reach?  Having your website hosted within the same country can have a great improvement on page load times and overall customer experience.  Also, depending on the kind of data your website is storing, keeping that data onshore may also be a legal requirement.

2.  How well is my data backed up and how quickly can you recover from a failure?

A backup isn't a backup unless is meets the backup rule of 3:

  • 3 independent copies:  Two copies simply isn't good enough for important data
  • 2 different formats:  An example of this is two independent storage devices.  Both must be separate from the production environment
  • 1 off-site: This is the most important part.  Keeping all three copies of your backups in the same location doesn't help if that location burns down

Now that you know your data is properly backed up, you also want to have the same assurance that you can recover quickly from each copy.  A true business–critical web hosting provider can restore a full server back into production in under 10 minutes.

3.  How secure is your web hosting environment?

What you're looking for here is layers of security, technically called "defense in depth".  A true business–critical web hosting provider will have security devices on the gateway of their network, another layer at the hosting server level, and a final layer around the website application itself.  It's also incredibly important to employ real–time intrusion–prevention systems that monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic and dynamically block malicious traffic when identified.  These layers of security provide excellent protection against hackers and spammers trying to break in and steal your private data or deface your website.

4.  What level of redundancy is built into your hosting environment?

Redundancy is incredibly important when you rely on your website being online 24/7.  If a web hosting provider's environment is fully redundant, this means there is no single point of failure.  This extends from the datacentre itself, for example, primary and secondary power; right through to the network and server components, for example, multiple network switches with multiple connections between them.  This essentially means if a component fails, your website stays live.  When it comes to web hosting, you can never have too much redundancy.

5.  How technical is your technical support team?

It's quite simple to test how good a technical support team is, just pick up the phone and give them a call.  Did you get straight through to someone or are you stuck on hold?  More importantly, is the technical support team "technically competent" enough to help you on the spot?  Lastly, you need to confirm their technical support hours to ensure when your business is open, so are they.

6.  What are your guarantees regarding performance and uptime?

When it comes to performance and website uptime guarantees, the devil is almost always in the details.  Make sure that your provider's website uptime guarantee covers all the critical components, not just a "network" uptime guarantee where if the server fails and your website is down for hours, they are still not in breach of their guarantee because their "network" is technically running fine.  Make sure the guarantee extends to the hosting server and any required software that's running on it.

7.  What steps are being taken as a company to reduce its carbon footprint?

It's commonly known that the web hosting industry is a major contributor to global warming.  Datacentres and servers need a lot of cooling, and even more power, which is why it is so important to only deal with companies that take an ethical responsibility to minimise their environmental impact.  While this point has no impact on the performance or uptime of your website, it does, however, have a major impact on our planet for future generations. Check their Green Web Hosting credentials.