Don't Let Your Brother Host Your Website or Blog
The clients we work with, without exception, have a friend, family member, or fan who have offered to help them out with one thing or another. Whether clients are just starting out with a new website and online promotion or have achieved a reasonable level of success, they all have a grassroots network of people willing and able to lend a hand, which is commendable and very helpful. Commendable and helpful, that is, if said volunteers are truly knowledgeable and talented and have the technical know-how and quality hardware necessary to actually do a good job for you.
Your brother or friend could very well have the ability to provide a safe and secure hosting environment with all the bandwidth you need. The odds are better, however, that they can't. Time and again, I've seen some wannabe webhost with a couple servers in their mother's basement offer to host websites and have seen this end up as a massive FAIL as frequently. Over the last 5+ years, I've seen the following happen with clients whose buddy hosted their site.
Bad things that can happen when 'Brother Frank' hosts your website:
- Acts of God ravaged the basement or house and destroyed computers and hardware
- Entire websites and blogs lost due to the above natural disasters, shoddy hardware or lack of regular data backups
- Sites hacked and mutilated beyond repair because the hardware and knowledge base of the 'host' were not adequate in the real world
- E-commerce sites and private customer information such as credit card numbers etc left vulnerable because SSL (secure socket layering) and other common sense security measures weren't in place
- Situations where the inexperienced host was also the inexperienced web designer who held the site hostage, refusing to release it to the client when they wanted to move hosting or site design to another party. There's nothing more frustrating than having to deal with other people's 'hurt feelings' and having it impact your web presence.
- Possessive and paranoid types who would not let anyone, including other web professionals the site owner has hired, have access to the site, at any time, for any reason (another frustrating and unethical hostage situation)
- Hosts so hung up on 'permissions' that nothing was ever able to be modified or added to a site without weeks of intense negotiation and a summit meeting with the @!#%$ United Nations
- And maybe the worst part: relationships and friendships lost over a bad hosting situation. I've seen years-long friends and colleagues stop speaking, because neither party knew the right way to do things.
How can you prevent this from happening? Here's what to look for in an individual host or a hosting company. If they can handle the following, you'll be in a good place to move forward with building your web presence!
What to look for in a web host:
Data transfer, bandwidth and space
The type of website and content will determine the amount of hosting space needed. A basic static site with little media or simple e-commerce site will require much less space and bandwidth than a site with videos, a popular blog, downloadable MP3s, multimedia content, strong e-commerce etc. The estimated number of 'hits' (visitors) per month also will determine the amount of data transfer needed. A static site may need only 5-10GB space while a larger e-commerce, small business or multimedia site with popular blog might require 250 GB or more.
If you aren't sure how to determine the required space needed, a good hosting company will work with you to asses your needs before signing up. There are many pricing options available depending on the host, so keep in mind that the services provided for your site/blog are more important than the price.
Sure, you might just be getting started and have to keep an eye on your wallet. While 'the best deal' isn't always the right deal for you, it's not necessarily true that the most expensive hosts are the best, as many companies offer stable and secure hosting services for a very low price (example: Network Solutions VS 1and1-both are top notch companies that offer hosting for about the same price, but the amount of space and other factors differ). Also, some hosting companies offer you registration of 1-3 FREE domains with new hosting service, essential if you're concerned about brand management and securing multiple domains at once. Carefully compare prices and services before you make the final choice.
There are many things to consider when registering your domain name, here are a few related to hosting: Consider NOT registering your domain name with your hosting company. If you do choose to register your domain with your host, ensure that they aren't a reseller. If you decide to change hosting companies, you may have some hoops to jump through with regards to your domain name. Register your domian name for 5+years, 10 is best. Confirm that your registrar offers 24/7 support (call/email their support first before signing up with them). NEVER let your domain name expire.
Dependability and customer support
I guarantee, your buddy will not appreciate a support call from you at 2AM if your site is down due to an overage in alloted bandwidth, has been hacked or is experiencing any other significant security or hosting issues. They also can't guarantee sorting out your issue within 12-24 hours. You need a host that offers the ability to reach a support professional by phone or email 24/7 and has a ticketing system that allows you to track and respond to your support issues at any time.
Uptime, security and speed of access
Speed, security and reliability are critical to the success of your online community building and marketing initiatives. If your website is down or slow to access for any reason, not only will you lose potential visitors and customers, but search engines tend to not index unavailable sites and also take longer to re-visit the site after the fact. You also want a hosting company that provides up to date security measures, updates and full security and support for e-commerce sites, blogs, etc.
SSL and other security measures
SSL (secure socket layering) enables secure e-commerce, communications, and interactions for websites, intranets, and extranets.If you are running an e-commerce/business site or offering anything that relies on secure data transfer (credit card numbers, private information, detailed online forms, etc) this can't be emphasized enough: if Brother Frank can't offer you or help you with the following, do NOT host with him. Look for the ability to purchase a dedicated SSL certificate and other services such as SSL encryption, daily server backups, firewall protection, password protected directories. Costs vary among hosts.
FTP is an acronym for File Transfer Protocol. FTP is used to transfer files between computers, servers, etc . It's critical as it allows you or your designer the ability to work directly with the website or blog, upload and download files, folders, plugins, content. If you do not have FTP access to your site at all times, you risk a pain in the rear process of getting Frank to let you access the site at best and at worst, a hostage situation. You should ALWAYS have access to your own site.
You want to work with an established company that has been providing hosting services for at the very least 3 years or more. They need to have a proven track record of providing the above services and a strong client base. Frank up and decided to provide hosting services and you're his first customer. Bad news. The hosting company should have at least 95% uptime and a solid infrastructure to tackle everyday technical and support problems.
If you aren't using Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools on your site/blog (they're FREE!), then you should be guaranteed at least basic traffic statistics, available to you at any time through your dashboard (your host DOES provide you admin access and a dashboard, right?). Watching your analytics and site performance can clue you in to what's working on your site, what's not, what's broken or not optimized for top performance, etc. If you don't have at least the basics in site analytics available to you, you're flying blind.
There's much more to learning about what makes a good host, but this should get you started. Remember, don't let your brother Frank host your site. Find someone you can trust or you'll end up screaming for help...