Understanding Website Hosting & Service Level Agreements
March 4, 2021
When it comes to creating a new website for your business, your focus will tend to be on the design and development services. But how much attention do you pay to your website hosting plan and the accompanying SLA (service level agreement)?
Web hosting and SLA’s are often an afterthought, but they should not be. After all, once your lovely new website has been unleashed upon the world, you want to know that it is going to perform as expected.
In this article, we aim to help you understand what web hosting is, why having an SLA is important and how to choose a good hosting service for your website.
What is Website Hosting?
Take a moment to think about your home computer and how you create and store documents. Each document is likely saved somewhere on a hard drive inside your computer, ready for you to access and edit at a later date.
Web hosting is the same principle for the files that make up your website. All the files are stored on a server (the hard drive) which is part of a very large computer network, housed in a secure storage facility.
These files can be accessed by you and your developers using a set of login details, enabling you to change those files. The results are viewed by anyone with internet access.
Sounds simple, right? But not all web hosting is the same.
As a business owner, you rely on your website to sell products and services. To do this effectively you need your website to be fast, secure and always available.
Business web hosting
Like everything else in life, with web hosting it’s a case of ‘You get what you pay for’.
You can easily create an account with any hosting company such as GoDaddy or 123-reg and choose their cheapest hosting plan for your website. You can give access details to your developer and be up-and-running in no time. Job done.
The problem is that the cheapest plans are often lacking in performance, can suffer from a higher rate of downtime and lack the extras that can prove very useful, such as regular back-ups.
One of the reasons for the poorer performance level is that your website would be sitting on a shared server, possibly with tens of thousands of other websites.
To get around this issue and to gain access to the benefits that you deserve, you should be looking at business-level website hosting.
Good business web hosting should include the following benefits:
- Support by phone or chat and ticket. Not just via email, which can cause delays when trying to fix any issues that may arise.
- Guaranteed 99.9% uptime for your website.
- Regular backups for your website files. Often weekly but preferably daily, especially if you own an e-commerce website that is updated regularly with new products.
- SSL certification. This shows your customers that your site is secure and is now required by Google.
- Dedicated hosting. Allowing for the server to be customised for the website that uses it, including performance and security settings.
If you already have your web domain registered and need web hosting, you do not need to use the same company.
You can easily point your domain to your new hosting package or transfer the domain to your service provider of choice.
WordPress web hosting
There are many different website builder platforms available and each of these can often benefit from specialist web hosting services.
As WordPress development experts, we advise our clients to use specialist WordPress web hosting for the sites that we build.
If the client wishes to take care of the hosting themselves, we are happy to advise on the best solution that we feel suits their needs, usually WP Engine, 34Sp or Kinsta.
We are also happy to take care of the setup and maintenance of the website and the associated hosting package, offering dedicated support through one of our Service Level Agreements.
What is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)
A Service Level Agreement is a maintenance package for your website. Designed to keep your website running smoothly and secure from attempted hacks.
Any website platform such as WordPress will be regularly updated to improve performance and plug any potential security holes.
Along with the CMS itself, there are also plugins that are used to add extra functionality to the site. These too will need regular maintenance to keep the website running as required.
We understand that SLAs are often unwelcome due to the ongoing costs, so we know what you are thinking…
Do I really need a service level agreement?
Running a website is a bit like running a car. Over time some parts will need replacing to keep the machine running smoothly, making sure that the vehicle does what it needs to do, which is get you from A to B quickly and safely.
Some car owners spend a great deal of time and money learning how to maintain their vehicles themselves. But most like to handover that responsibility to a set of trained professionals, which leaves the owner free to spend their time doing other things.
In the case of a website, you can easily decide to take on the responsibility of maintenance yourself to save money. It’s easy to just hit the update button in WordPress and hope that everything will be working ok after the process has completed. But what happens if something goes wrong?
What would the cost be to your business if the website was offline for a few hours or even days because of a problem with an update?
Only you can answer that question, but we feel that for a relatively small amount of money each month, having an SLA in place results in some much-needed peace-of-mind for the business owner.
A good web design agency should be able to create a service level agreement that is tailored to your needs. Offering a quality support service that is seen as an investment and not a tax.
Choosing a Secure Hosting Service for Your Business
Choosing a secure hosting service for your business website will require some solid research. You should consider a range of factors when choosing your provider, such as:
- The website creation platform
- Estimate traffic levels
- Where that traffic originates?
- Who needs access and why?
- Do they offer backups as standard?
- How good is their technical support?
Consider if you are happy to take on the responsibility of maintenance yourself or if you would prefer to have a dedicated team look after the site for you.
If you would prefer to rely on the support of an agency to maintain your website, make sure you discuss your requirements with them in detail. From this information, the agency will be able to suggest the right SLA for your site.
Both LWDA and our sister agency Devstars have helped business owners who have fallen foul of poor hosting packages. Migrating their websites to more suitable service providers and setting up SLAs that help keep their sites running at all times.
If you are looking to have a new website built for your business, make sure that you ask about hosting options when discussing your requirements with your agency.
If you already have a website and are not satisfied with your hosting service, feel free to get in touch with us at LWDA. We’re always happy to help where we can.