When you’re juggling all the countless things you must do to make your online business a success, choosing a web hosting service can seem like a low priority. Web hosts are all roughly alike, right? The truth is, they’re not, and skimping on web hosting can leave your website open to security risks and lengthy suspensions that could permanently damage your brand’s prestige.
With shared hosting, security is a shared concern
When first starting out online, many small businesses choose shared hosting because it’s the cheapest option. Shared hosting means your website’s files are stored on a server that’s shared with hundreds or even thousands of other websites. This keeps costs down but introduces a plethora of security concerns.
With shared hosting, even if your own website is highly secure, a hacker can take advantage of security flaws in other websites hosted on the same infrastructure as you. You have no control over the software other people install on the shared web server, and when a hacker can exploit a weakness in other sites they can often access all of your files too.
Even if you diligently update your software and patch potential security holes, if other people on your shared hosting don’t do this then there’s the possibility of an attack. This is especially likely if the file and directory permissions on the shared host are weak, making it easy for a hacker to gain access to all the websites on the server once they’ve breached one.
An exploited site could mean a lengthy suspension
In the event your hosting provider discovers a potential exploit on your website, the host may suspend your site until you’ve rectified the problem. Responsible shared hosting providers suspend compromised sites as quickly as they can before it affects other server users.
This can spell disaster for your brand’s prestige and your search engine optimization efforts. It will take time for you to patch the security hole, inform the web host that it’s patched, wait for them to check your site is again safe, and finally reactivate your website. During this time, your customers are going elsewhere with their business.
Unless you’re a website security professional, you might find yourself at an impasse if your site gets suspended like this. The web host will tell you there’s a problem you need to fix before your site can go live again, but you must find a professional to repair your site for you. Precious time will be wasted trying to patch the security breach, especially as the professional may not be familiar with your particular website.
The obvious alternative to this potentially messy situation is to choose managed private server hosting instead of shared hosting. Not only are your files hosted on a private server that’s not shared with anyone else, but the hosting provider also handles all the security for the servers. If a security breach happens, it’s up to the hosting provider to fix the problem quickly as part of your contract with them.
Is managing your website’s security the best use of your time?
The web host and type of hosting plan you choose makes an enormous difference to how much time and effort you need to spend on your website’s security.
On the whole, if you choose the cheapest shared hosting around, you’ll be struggling with security issues all the time, whereas choosing a reliable private shared hosting provider will free you to look after your business’s principal interests.
Finding the hosting provider that meets your needs
It would be easy to say you should simply choose the most robust private web hosting available as it’s the most secure, but it’s also the most expensive, and businesses must also consider their bottom line. Finding the right type of web hosting and the best web host for your needs requires you to evaluate the skills of your IT staff and the importance of security to your business. If your brand would suffer greatly from extended website downtime, paying more for managed private hosting makes sense.
Shared, private, and managed server hosting all have their pros and cons. If you do decide on shared hosting, you need to have a good idea of how the provider handles security. Check the web host’s website or email its support staff. Will the staff help you secure your website before it goes live? How does the web host respond to exploits? Does it offer an uptime guarantee and protection from DOS (Denial Of Service) attacks? How often are backups taken, and how long does the restoration of backups take?
The answers to these questions will help you decide which hosting providers offer you the best security and support for your business at a reasonable price.
- Read our guide to the best web hosting providers