The length of time it takes for a web page to be displayed on a user’s screen depends on many factors. For this reason, it is best to think about page loading speed at the very beginning of a project, i.e. at the time of planning. In addition to the idea of an intuitive, economical, light, logical, but also the aesthetic structure of a site, it is also important to pick the best technical environment in which the service will work. We are of course speaking about hosting – that is, choosing the best server for your needs. The question remains: Which server host should you choose?
In my previous article, I wrote about the importance of page loading speed from Google’s perspective and how it can be improved. If you’re just starting out with this topic, be sure to read it.
Efficient hosting? Who needs it?!
The influence of hosting quality on website speed is unfortunately often neglected. Have you reduced you site’s code, set the right priorities for the code snippets, optimised graphics, as well as a lot of other technical work, yet afterwards are still not satisfied with the time it takes for your page to load? The blame probably lies on the server side. Its performance, especially when your project is commercial, is particularly important. As the statistics reveal, every second of delay when loading a page reduces conversion by as much as 7%.
Picture 1. Page loading speed and conversion. Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/1825005/how-one-second-could-cost-amazon-16-billion-sales
How to check the quality of the hosting server?
If your website is already on the web, and despite its optimisation you are still not satisfied with its loading speed, it is worth considering switching the server. How can you be sure that hosting is the cause of your website’s ailments? Nowadays, free tests enable anyone to be able to do it online. One of them, for example, is Intensys Tool which helps users in a simple way to check the most important parameters of the server a site is located on.
If the response time of the server (in this case called the HTTP transmission time) exceeds 1 second, it is worth looking for a more efficient hosting offer. A more efficient server does not equate to necessarily being more expensive, although it must be admitted that because it must be fast and reliable, a secure hosting has to be paid. However, it will be the best investment that can be made to ensure that the website works more efficiently and attracts users.
Shared server, dedicated or cloud?
Shared hosting server
If your website is small and your knowledge about server management is not great, your best option is to choose a shared server. This option means that the website shares space on a server alongside other websites. It is a cheap solution, however, is not without some risk. For example, if traffic on your website or pages with which the server’s space is shared increases dramatically, it may slow down or temporarily block the website. These servers are also not known for their high level of security. However, for blog designs and small websites, a shared server is a standard solution, due to their low prices and easy, autonomous management.
Dedicated hosting server
People who develop very large projects should be interested in dedicated servers. This service constitutes nothing more than a separate machine that is dedicated entirely to only one client. It is a much more expensive solution that works well for large e-commerce and media services. The purchase of such a server guarantees that even with heavy traffic on a website, it will continue to work efficiently. By virtue of the service, there is also no risk of access being blocked to the website by increased traffic on other sites. The disadvantage of this solution, however, is that a specialist is needed to operate the server, who then has to take care of regularly creating backups.
Server as a cloud
Cloud computing is one of the newest web hosting solutions. In the case of cloud-based server solutions, the advantage over a dedicated or shared server is that in the case of a failure all files and site data will be transferred automatically to another location. This allows for a reliable continuity and stability to the given website. Thanks to the use of this type of server, there is no risk of losing access to a site due to physical machine failures, as is the case with ‘dedicated’ and ‘shared’ web hosting servers. Another advantage of this solution is that in the case of increased traffic, the cloud will adjust its parameters in such a way that it will continue to work efficiently. Prices of this type of hosting are higher than for shared servers, but cheaper when compared to dedicated servers.
What else to look for when choosing a host? Server reliability
There are at least a few key aspects to consider when choosing a new hosting server. In addition to speed, the server should also be reliable, meaning that the service will be available to users 24/7. However, the conclusions following the last failure of the OVH servers come to mind – there is no such thing as 100% reliable hosting. Among the free hosting offers – there is no point looking for a completely reliable and stable server. As a rule, errors often appear on free hosting sites, limitations that slow down the server’s response time, or limits on the amount of data that can be transferred. That is why it is important to read the opinions of users using the services of a hosting company before buying a hosting plan. Moreover, it may be wiser to choose a server based on the ‘cloud’. Hosts of this type are free from the risk of losing access to the files of the site from the aforementioned potential of physical hardware failure.
Support for necessary technologies
One of the most important issues to be addressed when choosing a server is the aspect of the technologies that it supports. To make the right choice, we need to be sure what programming technology our site uses. Hosting and systematic updating of the PHP programming language, the possibility of creating MySQL databases, an FTP account and an e-mail account is a standard amongst hosting companies. A good hosting service also offers automatic backups. These are typical functionalities that are enough to create an efficient and attractive site, e.g. on the popular WordPress platform. However, what technologies should support your server depends on the requirements of the website and the project specifications- and it is the webmaster who knows best.
Think about how much space you need and multiply by two
Choosing the most suitable offer does not mean you have to overpay. The amount of space (measured in mega or gigabytes) does, of course, have an impact on the price of the package. If our website is small and its task is only to fulfil the role of a network card then there is no need to buy huge amounts of disk space. It may be best then to choose a standard solution based on a shared server. If, however, the project is going to be a powerful service with lots of data, content, graphics or movies, then you should not save on gigabytes – moreover, it may turn out that it is much more reasonable to purchase a dedicated server. Therefore, it is best to think about how much space is needed, and then multiply that value by two. Why? It’s much better to leave a security distance that allows you to manage your site peacefully, without worrying about exceeding the data limit. However, if this did happen, remember that you can still buy disk space. A good hosting company, after the data limit has been exceeded, will not immediately disable access to the site, but will notify you about reaching the space limit and will suggest possible solutions.
Data security on the hosting server
Another very important aspect of which attention should be paid to is safety. It is necessary to not only secure the files of your site but also the data of its users. The administrators of e-commerce projects must especially think about the security of the data they are responsible for, especially personal data. However, the fundamental condition that must be met by a server in terms of security is the automatic and systematic execution of a full backup. Remember that backup files should be stored outside of the hosting server – preferably in a secure place in the ‘cloud’.
Even the best-written website will cause a lot of problems if it is run on a poor and inappropriate hosting service. Good server performance from which the website is located on is a fundamental condition for its smooth and secure operation. Importantly, the speed of the server’s response time to a browser’s queries is an important component of page loading time. You can read about issues that affect loading times and how to ensure a website works quickly in my previous article: Page Loading Speed through Google’s eyes