You know the old adage about pizza and sex that “even when they’re bad they’re good”? Malarkey.
Pizza can be bad for all kinds of reasons: it’s not hot enough, the pieces are too small, it doesn’t come on time. Heck, maybe it just plain ol’ tastes terrible.
Sex, too, can be bad if it’s not hot enough, if … well, you get the idea.
You know what else is just plain bad when it’s bad? Web hosting.
Slow load times, repeatedly hacked files, 24-hour support response times … we’ve all had a bad hosting experience.
The difference between web hosting and pizza or sex, of course, is that no one claims that bad hosting is still good. Everyone loathes bad website hosting.
So what makes web hosting good?
Consider the seven features below, which any serious site owner should view as essential for his or her website’s home.
Rich Eisen is a broadcaster for the NFL Network. One of his bits is running the 40-yard dash at the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Why does he do this? Because the juxtaposition of a doughy, 40-something man running with fit 20-something prospects is funny.
You know what’s not funny? When your website is the glacial Eisen and your competitors are the dynamic dashers.
Among the enormous benefits your site will experience by having load times consistently under 1.5 seconds:
- Readers won’t lose patience and navigate elsewhere. (It only takes 3 seconds to lose nearly 50% of your readers.)
- Google’s minimum requirement for being considered a “fast” site will be met.
- You can actually reduce operating expenditures … yes, just by reducing load time.
Oh, and you won’t put $2.5 million in annual sales at risk (relatively speaking).
This is why choosing a host with a server configuration specifically tuned to your content management system combined with a smart caching strategy is imperative. You need to have a strong core.
Seriously. Because otherwise, the guy running backward might even beat you.
Since we’re on the subject of the NFL Combine, one more quick example.
Back in 2009, Darrius Heyward-Bey bolted a 4.25 second time in the 40-yard dash. It’s the third fastest 40 time in the history of the Combine.
Yet despite Heyward-Bey’s incredible speed, he has amassed a disappointing total of 2,071 receiving yards during his NFL career.
But why? Speed — in football, as online — is everything … right?
Not so fast, my friend.
Heyward-Bey has failed to live up to his lofty draft position because he can’t catch. And a wide receiver who cannot secure the ball in his hands cannot advance it down the field, thus rendering his speed irrelevant.
The same goes for your site.
If your website cannot secure your content, then the content you create is irrelevant.
If you are constantly being hacked, brute-forced, injected, or worse, your website is as good as a dropped football rolling around on the grass: incomplete, irrelevant, and possibly even dangerous to those who go near it.
You need a host that has proven it will keep you safe during zero-day emergencies that you aren’t even aware are occurring. You need a host with daily processes sophisticated enough that it doesn’t need to burst into panicked action when so many others do.
And most importantly, you need a host that will take responsibility for constantly cleaning and re-securing your site if something happens to slip through.
Swift and secure. Your website needs to be both.
Make sure any hosting provider you consider can show you how it will deliver each component to your site.
While your site needs to load in an eye blink, and your mind should be at peace with your site’s safety, these should not be considered features as much as they are prerequisites.
So your host’s job is far from done simply because you are running the same race as your most astute competitors.
Your host also needs to have your back.
That means 24/7 support every single day of the year (yes, including holidays) from full-time company employees who are experts in your chosen CMS and, of course, their own hosting stack.
Intermittent, outsourced support can work for some products, but not for hosting serious websites.
Your site is, at a minimum, something you invest time in and enjoy. At a maximum, your site and its content are literally your livelihood. Choose a host that understands and respects this because the people that work there have lived it.
4. Support (continued)
This understanding and respect will truly show itself when trouble emerges.
Your website is going to go down. It’s inevitable. Plugins clash. Updates bork. An unexpected link drives thousands of concurrent users to your basic plan server all at once.
You need a host that provides a simple messaging system for emergency tickets and that guarantees — in writing — that it will respond in a super-timely manner when such emergencies arise.
How serious are we about emergency tickets at Synthesis? As an example, I am mainly just responsible for pre-sales tickets … yet even I get an alert on my phone, 24/7/365, within five seconds of a Website Down ticket being submitted.
We don’t mess around when it comes to uptime. Whoever is hosting your website better not either.
But this next-level, italicized version of Support shouldn’t just come after the fact. Your hosts needs to be preemptive as well, so that disasters never even come to pass (or that they self-correct before you even know it about).
Furthermore, your host needs to insulate you from catastrophe. In the online world, this means data loss or corruption.
Choose a host that follows smart backup best practices (like, for instance, storing backups in a separate place from the live site files), and that can restore your site in a timely manner.
Do they give you easy, free access to these backups so you can easily keep copies for yourself as well? Even better.
It’s a necessary comfort to know that your host has your back, but the smartest site owners leave nothing to chance and shine light in any dark places they can. This is where uptime monitoring comes in.
There are plenty of uptime monitoring services out there, so a host providing it is far from a necessary feature.
But our goal here is to separate good hosting from bad hosting. So what does it say about those hosts that do provide it?
It’s a matter of respect. You need a host that respects you and your site.
A web host can also show you and your hosting dollar respect by constantly researching new, relevant features that might make your work more convenient and your success more likely … and then adding those that actually do.
How about the ability to help you speak your readers’ language … right from the comfort of your dashboard? That’ll help you get more from your CMS, don’t you think?
When we introduced the “New Synthesis,” that is exactly what we wanted to do for WordPress users.
We had a tool, Scribe, that we knew would powerfully complement the daily efforts of many of our customers by helping them identify the topics their target audience cares about and the exact language their audience uses and responds to when discussing and searching.
So without raising prices, we just started including it as a value-add on all Synthesis sites.
What is your web host doing to help you maximize your hosting dollar? If you can’t answer that question, the answer is probably … not enough.
Optimization is the ultimate goal, by definition. You want your website to be as “fully perfect, functional, or effective” as possible.
A good host will share that goal with you, and partner with you to make it — as much as is possible — a reality.
Whether it be providing tools that help you optimize your site’s content development strategy, or a general setup and mindset that help you optimize your monthly hosting spend, a good host wants the best for you and your site.
That means thinking big picture enough to provide tools for free that it might otherwise charge for including.
That means caring enough to take time and provide data-driven advice that will help improve performance.
That means, even, not taking your money if there is an alternative better suited to the specific configurations and idiosyncrasies of your site. (Dear hosting providers, it’s okay to admit this!)
The takeaway …
The takeaway from this article is a simple one: bad hosting is bad, good hosting is good, and the seven components described above separate one from the other.
Learn the difference, and choose your host accordingly.
Synthesis provides superior managed WordPress hosting.
Superior hosting that enhances and protects your site.
Superior hosting that equals more revenue and less hassle for you.
Superior hosting that emancipates you from technical drudgery so you have more time and resources to pursue what’s really really important to you.
You know, like pizza and sex. Just make sure they’re good. Like your hosting …