We have taken over the management of quite a few Umbraco websites over the last five years and have often been surprised at the hosting plans they were under. Many used dedicated or virtual private servers which were unnecessary and expensive. This post covers the features you need in website hosting to keep your prices down but without skimping on quality and reliability. Note that although I use the word Umbraco in the title, the points here could apply to any website hosted on any platform.
- Phone support. You need hosting with phone support. The best phone support is from help desk staff that are Microsoft certified technicians. You want the phone operator to be able to do something, not just pass issues up the queue. This is important as you may need to discuss details with the operator.
- Cheaper hosts come with online ticketing systems. This means you have to log on to a control panel and submit a form to get an answer to your question. This is a terrible way to interact with a hosting company. It’s slow and frustrating. What can be said on the phone, all the um’s and ahh’s, questions and the “what do you mean by this” type statements will take you many emails to resolve. There is also a good chance you won’t be interacting with someone who is a native English writer and that makes things even harder. Issues can take days to resolve with ticketing systems versus minutes with a certified help desk technician over the phone.
- Unless your website gets a lot of traffic, hosting on shared servers is likely to be sufficient. It has been fine for 99% of websites we have built in the last 16 years including some for large corporate businesses.
- You need guaranteed backups. Some companies say they provide backups but when you press them on details you find the backups are not guaranteed. I insist on 7 days of daily backups or better 3.5 days of 12 hourly backups. If your data is really critical, you need the ability to create SQL server and IIS backups on demand but we have found this to be rare for company websites.
- If you are worried about high traffic in the future you will always be able to use a Content Delivery Network (CDNs) like CloudFlare with your shared hosting. Their pricing can be free and even the paid plans are cheaper than dedicated hosting or a virtual private server. Hosting a website through a CDN can speed it up considerably and allow it to receive large amounts of traffic that shared hosting may not be able to handle. It is also likely to improve your SEO because of the increase in site speed. For a great article on speeding up websites via a CDN, I recommend this article from the guys at FirstSiteGuide.
- What you don’t need:
- Web farms
- Dedicated servers
- Virtual private servers
We have seen many sites hosted in these environments which we transferred to a shared environment with no impact on speed.