What You Need to Know About Picking a Website Host in 2021
Posted by: Reaction
Last Updated: May 4, 2021
Sure, articles, copy, pictures, graphics, and video all make your website an experience for the user and can drive serious engagement from your customers. But, while content is key to putting together a customer conversion machine that ranks well in search engine rankings, there is another piece to the puzzle that sometimes gets left out – your website hosting platform.
In layman’s terms, your website host is fundamental to running a well-performing website.
However, picking a company that understands your needs as a business, has time to help you troubleshoot issues as they come up, has the foresight to update key certificates and protocols before they flare up into larger issues, and can expand their offerings as your company can be a real chore.
So, let’s take a look at some hosting options and run down some key features you are going to want to pay attention to when you shop around for web hosts in 2021.
Just the Right One
As you probably know, there is a wide spectrum of hosting solutions that range from simple website hosting for a few bucks a month all the way to large-scale dedicated hosting servers that can run you thousands of dollars a month.
With that said, the first step in finding a website hosting platform that works for your business is knowing the scope of what you need from your website.
The key here is looking at the current state of your business, where you plan to be in the future, and finding a solid platform that can accommodate you now and in five years’ time.
Getting Technical About Web Hosting
Other than the scale of web hosting solutions, you might be asking, “what other offerings should I be looking for regarding features my web host provides?” Here are a few important elements to consider.
If you have a pre-existing website and are looking to make a change to a more full-featured provider, or you are creating something from scratch, onboarding services are something you should definitely consider when looking for a web hosting company.
How will you transfer your domain and existing page? Does your potential provider handle migration end-to-end? Are they able to explain their offerings in a way that makes sense to you? These are all important questions.
Plus, transferring a domain and an accompanying website can be fairly technical and you don’t want to risk costly downtime and serious SEO complications from a botched migration, so it is important to have someone in your corner who can advise you on the best steps to take to not lose any of that precious search engine real estate.
A vital metric for 2021 that you will definitely want to look into is the speed and responsiveness of your web host’s hosting platform.
What that means specifically is how quickly your web host is able to handle traffic on your website.
While the speed of your website is not solely related to the reliability of your web host, the foundation of your website’s speed is heavily dependent on a snappy host.
Absolutely no one has ever relished having a laggy website, but in 2021 page speeds will be especially important, as Google has recently named page speed in their core web vitals white paper as a large flag for Google to use as a marker for ranking web pages in their search results.
In saying that, they were essentially stating that if you have a slow or unresponsive website, your page may not be ranked above a competitor who has a faster website, and that’s bad for business.
So, make sure your next web host has zippy servers and the available bandwidth to give your site the horsepower it needs to rank highly and satisfy consumers who are accustomed to a quick browsing experience.
Tip: You can test the speed and stability of your site by load-testing its servers with Supervisor.com. Their service simulates tens to thousands of customers browsing around, which can uncover holes in performance and prevent costly mistakes for your business.
If you use WordPress or another modular content management system as the framework for your website, you are likely keenly aware of the dangers that ageing and stagnant plugins can cause if they are not kept up to date. The same goes for the platform itself.
Managing updates can be a huge chore, especially when there are conflicts between the operating version of WordPress and a plugin that has not yet been optimized for the newest version.
As such, it is important to have a web host who is able to have some forethought and take care of updating plugins before they lead to performance issues or ultimately unplanned and expensive downtime.
SSL Certificate Management and Renewal
An SSL (or secure sockets layer) certificate is a universal standard that signifies your website is in compliance with a global system for encrypted communications between a server and a web browser.
This SSL certificate acts as a flag to let your website visitors know that their data is relatively safe from hackers, and establishes your authority as a legitimate web domain.
As of June 2020, Google has begun warning visitors to unencrypted pages that their data is at risk on their Chrome browser, and they are also demeriting domains for search engine indexing as well.
These certificates can be issued with a varied expiration date, but one certificate cannot be valid for more than 27 months, so it is entirely possible that your certificate could expire under your nose and lead to an SEO nightmare.
While this sounds complicated, and it is, obtaining and maintaining an SSL certificate should be a top priority. Most web hosts provide services that automatically renew SSL certificates, or at least prompt webmasters to renew them manually, but that is not a guarantee with every company.
A content delivery network (or CDN) is a decentralized global network of server nodes that store your web content and deliver it quickly to a user, no matter where they are in the world.
Effectively, a CDN operates concurrently with your web host to do the heavy lifting on delivering graphics and other web elements that might take a while to send to someone who is further away from your main web server.
These networks can be a very useful ally if you have a particularly large website packed with graphics and have users logging sessions from all around the world.
However, they are not foolproof and can go down from time to time. This can result in a very buggy experience for your end-user with loads of broken graphics.
In that case, it is important for your web hosting company to have experience dealing with CDN services and to be able to provide you with support in the event of a breakdown.
Last but certainly not least, you are going to want to have a solid understanding of how reliable your web host’s servers are.
You can check user reviews on aggregator websites like G2, and do a quick google search to get a picture of an overall brand sentiment because unplanned downtime can have incredibly costly impacts on your bottom line.
Imagine Cyber Monday and all the traffic that can bring to an eCommerce brand. Sales are spiking, and you see revenue rolling in. All of a sudden, that stops. The website is down. You call the 1-800 number in a panic and after a heavy wait, you are told they will have the servers back up in 4 hours. What a nightmare!
With that said, any web hosting platform will have downtime. Servers need to be maintained, and occasionally your website will go down alongside those maintenance periods.
However, if you go with the right folks, they will notify you of planned server maintenance, possible issues affecting website uptime, and, in the event of a crash, keep you apprised of the situation, so you won’t be left wringing your hands in the dark.
Avoiding the Hassle
Take it from us, when it comes to web hosting, there’s no one size fits all solution for every business. Great hosting companies like Convesio, Kinsta, and Big Scoots power the websites that grow our clients’ brands and might be a worthy option for you.
But we get it. As a business owner, you have more important things to worry about. At Reaction, we tuned our web hosting services to feel like a true concierge experience!
We will help you make confident and informed decisions that are best for your brand online. From there, we’ll take care of website onboarding, migration, updating plugins ahead of time, CDN management, and so much more. All of that in a way that feels custom-tuned to your needs and is in line with providing a lightning-fast web experience to your customers.