Hosting tips for non-webmasters.

Hosting tips for non-webmasters

You may wonder why would a person that owns a website via a web services company, have to know anything about hosting. How about I show you a couple of things, related to hosting that can be leveraged to improve your websites performance? Maybe you can ask your webmaster to do the same for you.

geocities
Image credit: http://www.modpc.com/foros/showthread.php?t=252814

I do have a bit of experience with hosting headaches and pluses. Let me tell you a story about the first time I needed to host a client site, leaving out the GeoCities stories.

Will you believe me if I tell you that there was a time where some hosting companies didn’t have their own website, you only found them in the yellow pages, Joke…

Well round about then I started hunting down a host online, although limited I did find a couple of hosting service providers. I tell you this because when we compare the services provided by hosting companies then to what is available today, we easily see how hosting became more affordable, what was added and where cuts were made. In other words, what to look out for.

In contrast to the casual approach most webdesign service providers have towards hosting, are the fact that hosting can affect your website’s performance in a good or bad way. Hosting requirements becomes even more important when you step up from a website to hosting an application.

What happened to the price?

Obviously after shopping around it only made sense to go with the host that offers the most at the best price. You were signed up into a 12 month contract, it felt like you signing your life away, and then you got about 50 megs of space at roughly R 367.73 per month.Luckily at that time no one though of charging for traffic.

These days you can get hosting either free riddled with ads or a space to keep some photos for as little as R 9 per month. The prices grow according to the amount of space you need, how much traffic the site will generate and features.

Whats the features like?

Back in the day you got a FTP account to load your site and your host would have set-up your email accounts for you. That’s about it, that’s what you got. As time passed hosting companies adopted different hosting control panel solutions and started offering features like e-mail account management, spam filters, DNS settings, database management tools and even detailed statistical/analytical reports and much more.

Features became a selling point for hosts and hosting options diversified. We have gone from the popular 3 price model to many services. Right now prices change according to hosting space on a shared server, hosting on dedicated servers, cloud hosting, self managed or managed servers, virtual servers and enterprise hosting.

one vs many

The take-away here is that you need to understand the difference between shared and dedicated hosting. Are you planning to host a lightweight website or an application that stores important information? Shared hosting is more cost-effective but can affect your website’s performance. As an example, if one of the sites on the shared server, hogs the server your site can become unavailable.

 So, how do you improve performance?

The first hosting feature you can leverage to improve performance is compression. Not all hosts enables the modules that allows for compression. Compressing your website will improve page load times, better load times = better ranking. Some hosts offer services optimized for WordPress.

Here are some tools to see if your site leverage compression.

Next: How can hosts decrease performance?

The first most obvious way will be downtime, if you’re hosting company manage their servers poorly they can be off, I have seen it so bad in the past that Google webmaster tools starts giving unavailable errors during crawls, that is not a good thing. If your site is built on a WordPress platform you can install the Jetpack plugin, which is written by WordPress. This plugin provides a server up-time monitor.

The moment your site goes offline you are sent an email and the same once back online, this way you can monitor downtime. Keep in mind that servers do go through maintenance and sometimes you will receive an email telling you your site was offline for 3 minutes, that is most likely just a reboot nothing to worry about. At least you will be able to see if your site goes offline for hours at a time. Some hosts do give a 99.9% up-time guarantee.

Memory.

Just like your desktop computer goes slow with big apps and small memory, can the server memory provided by your host also reach upper limit and prevent your site from rendering on the visitor side. If you get any errors while loading your page that talks about errors with codes 500 and up, you need to contact your webmaster, these are server errors and your webmaster will be able to reference error logs to find the problem.

Here is a list of error codes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_HTTP_status_codes

In some cases memory errors can mean that you have outgrown your hosting package and you may have to move to dedicated hosting. Memory related errors can also come from poorly designed websites, templates and scripts.

Page load times

Your host can have an effect on your page load times, this is something you want to get as fast as possible. GTmetrix offers a nice tool to check your site speed with and you can find it here: http://gtmetrix.com/

GTMetrix Test

What else can I tell you about hosting.

Google recently integrated php into their App Engine, Enabling the use of WordPress directly on Google cloud storage. To get your site to run like this you need to sign up as a developer and activate billing. I tested it out and it works nice, but it is obviously still early days and to me, the costs did not validate moving my sites in to the Cloud SQL come compute engine solution.

In Conclusion

As a non-webmaster you do not have to break your head about hosting. Google App Engine will become a very possible option for hosting your WordPress site and use the links above to see if your site uses compression.

That’s not too bad. O yes, please feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments section below and please share my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/renierskydigitalmarketing)

Renier van den Berg
Working alone, providing digital services to businesses in different sectors, comes with an advantage. I get to see the similarities in businesses operating in different sectors and will gladly help you to implement the right digital strategies and applications to save money and generate more business leads.