It’s a Monday like any other Monday – at least that’s how it starts. But at 11 AM, just as you’re finishing your third cup of coffee, your office phone lights up like a Saturday night in Vegas. Your inbox spits out new emails so quickly that you can’t read the subject line of one before ten more appear. Your mobile phone dances across your desk, buzzing like a hive of angry bees.
A sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, you stare helplessly at your phone, computer, and mobile. Picking one, you answer the mobile. It’s your CTO, and the sick sensation morphs into an outright panic when she explains that everything has crashed. “We’re down, and I don’t know when we’ll be back up,” she says, and you have no response that will make this particular Monday a good day.
A Website is Only as Good as its Hosting Provider
If this scenario seems eerily familiar, it’s probably because you’ve lost sleep dreading the possibility. Or perhaps it’s already happened to you. Sadly, while the story above is purely fictitious, it has a very somber basis in reality. Such scenarios keep network administrators and senior management up at night (literally and figuratively). Poor website performance directly affects revenues, reputation, and brand, and the type of hosting provider your company uses can dramatically impact your bottom line. So if you’re experiencing warning signs, it’s probably time to find a new web hosting provider.
Typically, there are four basic types of hosted solutions:
- Dedicated Hosting is a fully autonomous solution, using dedicated servers (with full performance control, a built in layer of separation and security, and exclusive access). It is best for organizations that want to reduce the costs associated with site management, need superior performance, and require the ability to handle large volumes of traffic.
- Shared Hosting is essentially a dedicated server split up into many smaller accounts. It offers a low-cost solution for smaller organizations that experience a limited amount of web traffic. It is literally a server shared with other customers.
- Cloud Dedicated Hosting is dedicated hardware with the benefit of the instant provisioning and scalability that comes with cloud. With Cloud Hosting you can add more resources to your server, such as RAM or extra back-up.
- Virtual Private Hosting (VPS) is a smaller virtual server on a single, larger Cloud Dedicated server. It is a good option for small- to medium-sized organizations because it provides a virtual server dedicated to a single client website. One physical server will run multiple virtual servers, however those virtual servers are limited in their resources.
Which option your organization needs is usually dependent on the immediate and near-term goals of your business and its clients, while keeping one eye on the future. But there may come a time when you realize that your needs three years ago don’t mesh with your needs today.
So the question is, when will you know that you’ve outgrown your current web hosting?
5 Signs You Need a New Web Hosting Provider
These are a few common signs that suggest the time has come to look for a new web hosting provider.
1. The Service Breaks: It Isn’t Ready For Prime Time
In November, Cyber Monday traffic brought the website of retailer Neiman Marcus to its knees, and extended outages due to increased shopper traffic also crippled Target and PayPal. These aren’t small organizations and the incidents should serve as an example to businesses everywhere that no one is impervious to the effects of inadequate website infrastructure and the volatility of Internet traffic. What’s worse, the Cyber Monday crash was anticipated. In October, Dynatrace, an application performance management and monitoring company, conducted a Harris Poll of 5,000 shoppers and concluded that mobile shopping in 2015 would shatter previous records.
Cyber Monday may seem like an extreme example, but all it takes is one healthy burst of traffic to test the limits of your hosting provider. It is important to realize that not all hosting providers are created equal. While no host has the power to guarantee your site will never go down, a site that regularly goes down due to unexpected traffic is a surefire sign that a hosting provider is not prepared to provide you with the service you deserve. It simply isn’t ready for prime time. In addition to avoiding service interruptions, other features that you should expect from a good hosting provider include:
- Regular and automatic software and plugin updates
- 24/7/365 live support
- Continuous server health monitoring
- Continuous security monitoring
- Frequent system and configuration backups
- On-demand server cloning
- One-click installation of popular tools like Drupal and WordPress
If your organization is experiencing a constant tug-of-war with your hosting provider, if traffic bottlenecks are cropping up on a regular basis, if you’re experiencing constant downtime, or if your clients are losing conversions, the time has come to show your current hosted solution the door.
2. You Get This Sinking Feeling That Your Information Isn’t Secure
Information security is an ongoing headache for organizations that handle sensitive information, whether patient records, credit card information, or other client data. Privacy laws and regulatory compliance dog most industries in the digital age, and even when they don’t, the constant threat of litigation and punitive measures is a risk that every organization is well aware of. As an organization grows, the stakes grow with it, and choosing a secure hosted solution is of paramount importance. That’s not to say that other solutions can’t provide a high level of security; but a managed hosting solution can help ensure you’re compliant with the myriad of regulations that govern sensitive data handling.
A surefire sign that you’ve outgrown your hosting provider is if security events are either commonplace or increasing in number and/or severity. Hackers have several preferred methods of attacks, particularly spear phishing, ransomware, and other common hacking methods. The prized target for hackers is your client’s’ valuable data, whether it’s passwords, credit card numbers, or user information. For example, 2016 has seen an uptick in ransomware attacks on hospitals across North America. Patient health information is invaluable, and hackers can hold that data hostage until a hospital pays a ransom to release it.
Hackers can gain access to systems through numerous methods, but system vulnerabilities are often the result of outdated software, poor or inconsistent patching, limited or no updating policies, and security holes related to poor monitoring. Unfortunately, nobody is impervious to attacks. LinkedIn recently came clean about a massive data breach where 117 million email and password combinations were absconded with. Want to know what hackers do with that information? It’s for sale on the dark web.
A good hosting provider should be able to give you a clear and well-thought-out security strategy. It should be able to offer you industry-leading security services like two-factor authentication, which provides an added layer of security by requiring two distinct forms of user authentication. In addition, managed providers usually offer security mechanisms such as intrusion prevention, intrusion detection, industry-standard vulnerability scans, and protection against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. All this translates into greater security and the reduced risk of having your clients’ data show up for sale on the dark web.
3. You’re Growing But Your Hosting Provider Can’t Grow with You
If a web hosting provider can’t grow with you, it will limit your business growth. You live in a world where customers rely on accessing information and making transactions on-demand and in real-time. When demand outstrips capability, things break. Downtime or poor website performance translates into lost customers and conversions, because when customers experience wait times, they move on.
Scalability is a pain point that simply cannot be understated. Your clients are only one social media post away from going viral, so you have to ask the question: are you ready for it?
By association, you also have to ask whether your web hosting provider is ready for it. What’s their ability to scale? Are they ready for you?
The Dynatrace poll found that “75 percent of all shoppers and 81 percent of millennials report that if a mobile site or app is buggy, slow, or prone to crashes, they would abandon it and shop elsewhere.” So what if your client’s traffic is growing exponentially? What if their online store is experiencing rapid growth? You could contact your hosting provider and ask them to add a server. If increasing traffic is causing regular issues or outages, ideally your provider will already have notified you that it’s time for an upgrade. But if that call has to come from you, it’s a good sign that it’s time for you to find a new web hosting provider.
If your client sites are on a shared hosting solution, for example, and warning signs of growth appear (sudden increase in conversions, viral upticks in social media hits, consistent growth over time in website traffic), it may not take much to break the system. Using a hosting provider that can’t scale without some kind of intervention on your part could be a recipe for disaster. It’s absolutely unacceptable if you’re the one constantly calling your hosting provider to rectify issues related to web traffic and server performance.
Likewise, if you call your hosting provider’s tech support with an issue, the speed with which they react will tell you whether it’s time to move on. If it takes two or three days for a ticket to be responded to, then you’ve got a problem. What if your business experiences sudden rapid growth and you need to add more servers? Do they keep you on the phone while they walk you through the details of your order, or do they casually thank you for the order and leave you hanging?
A good hosting provider should be able to give you an expected go-live timeframe for a new service. What if they can’t guarantee and deliver on a server expansion in a matter of days? If they’re telling you a week or more, then you definitely need a reliable hosting provider. Your hosting provider needs to be able to accommodate your growth – transparently – and if you’re not getting that, then now is the time to migrate to a managed hosting provider, rather than on Monday morning when your CTO calls you.
4. Your Hosting Provider Just Doesn’t Seem to Care
You have clients who have real-time business needs, but what if your current provider isn’t able to keep up? Do any of the following situations ring true for you?
- When an outage occurs, you’re finding out from your client, not the provider.
- Your sites are slow and it seems that there are always open tickets with your provider.
- Tech support is difficult to reach and slow to respond.
- Your provider’s disaster recovery plan is sketchy and backups are inconsistent.
These scenarios all represent a single, indisputable sign that your hosting provider is more interested in how quickly you pay your bills than whether or not they’re meeting your expectations. If you get the feeling that they don’t understand your business needs and don’t care to understand, you’ll know it’s time to move on to a new web hosting provider. Not to mention, if the agreement you have with your hosting provider feels more like a handshake than a well-coordinated plan, that’s normally a good sign that they don’t really care if you grow.
5. You’re No Longer a Hero in the Eyes of Your Clients (And They Blame You For the Downtime)
Here’s the bottom line: if your hosting provider isn’t a hero in your eyes, you’re not a hero in the eyes of your clients. You’ll know you’re ready to move on from your current web hosting provider if you’re spending too much time on the phone with tech support. If you’re not getting 24/7/365 continuity in a consistent fashion, if quality of service is a pipe dream, if frequent security breaches are putting your client data at risk, and if outages are becoming the norm rather than the exception, then you’ve reached a crossroads with your current hosted solution – and should consider new web hosting.
Does Your Hosting Provider Measure Up?
There are a number of takeaways that every organization should consider adopting as policy:
- Poor online performance results in significant loss of revenue.
- Network downtime damages an organization’s reputation and the brand
- Management of online performance is no longer simply a ‘nice to have.’ It’s the way business will be conducted in the future.
So if you’re wondering whether you can afford to ditch your existing provider because the cost of a managed provider seems prohibitive, consider the costs of managing your client sites and providing in-house tech support, and then add to that the cost of all those clients you’ll lose if your hosted site keeps going down.
When considering a new web hosting provider, the business case for managed hosting might be more attractive than you realized. To learn more about how a managed hosting provider can help your business, contact Liquid Web today.