What organizations really need from their hosting companies

Web hosting
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Alfa Photo)

When you’re launching a website there are a lot of decisions to be made, from the design and functionality to the content that will populate the site. One area that you should think about is hosting.


Alex Jackson is head of Govpress at dxw

Partnering with another company to support your web capabilities can seem like a daunting task. But if you ask the right questions up front and do your research properly, you’ll avoid getting stuck with a service that doesn’t meet your needs. Before signing on the dotted line for any website hosting plan, make sure you take time to consider the following things.

Hosting - the first choice, and the only choice?

It’s important to think about what your objectives are for hosting, the benefits you hope to achieve and what it will mean for staff and customers alike. The users of your website will need a reliable service, accessible information and as little down time as possible. Their needs will often align with the needs of internal staff, and the organization as a whole.

There are so many choices and it’s easy to be tempted to simply go for the cheapest option. However, with basic platform hosting, there’s no-one there to look after you if something goes wrong. That can work if you have the right skills in-house, but a lot of organizations don’t. That puts them at risk. And it’s expensive to build that kind of capability in the first place. 

A partnership is just that. Think of your host as the foundation of your website.

Robust technical support

Down time: the words guaranteed to bring a groan to any digital team. Putting a stopper in operations to deal with maintenance issues is something you want to avoid if you can, because the consequences of that can ripple out and affect staff, customers and prospects alike.

Ask your hosting provider what support they provide. There’s nothing worse than having an issue with your site when you’ve just run a campaign that’s driving valuable traffic to you – only to have it crash. Whenever issues like this come up, you’ll want to have a dedicated and responsive support team behind you. Better still, to stop it happening in the first place.

A good hosting and support partner will play a major role in looking after your whole website all the time - for example, WordPress core and plugin updates. For businesses, this means staff time is dedicated to serving customers and not dealing with website crises. For public sector organizations, it means vital services are kept available for vulnerable citizens and information is readily available to the public 24/7.

Site and content security

Website security is too often an afterthought and something that’s easy to remember to try and fix when it’s too late. The rise of cloud hosting has driven an increased need for security (DDoS attacks are on the rise and there have been a few high-profile cases of major incidents that have compromised sensitive data). 

The coronavirus pandemic has also moved a lot more activity online, particularly for public sector organizations like local councils, and other companies whose services may have traditionally been reliant on in-person interactions. The way people communicate with businesses and local services has changed, some say for good, and it’s vital to stay aligned with this shift. 

With this in mind, you’ll want to make sure you have confidence in your host, and know that they can handle spikes, rebuff attacks and that the platform itself is being made more secure all the time. It’s important to invest in proper security measures before anything bad happens. A high-quality host will have measures in place, like regular website backups, firewalls, and other methods to protect the web server and the data-centre.

Maintenance and maximum uptime

Good hosting, maintenance and support from a reliable partner will save your team a lot of hassle and time when changes, bugs and problems can be funnelled through to another experienced team. If that team is armed with knowledge and experience, all the better. If you have any problems, just raise a support ticket. It’s that simple.

Some hosting companies will insist on a minimum level of support in contracts for all the websites they host, because things always come up, no matter how robust or secure a website might seem on the face of it. No organization wants to have the IT team constantly sidetracked to deal with small issues or have all of their time taken up with a crisis. 

Hosting companies can look after your site 24/7 if you can afford it, but a range of packages are available from suppliers. From solving small bugs to onboarding new editors, it can be taken care of for you and teams can concentrate on the core elements of their daily work without being distracted.

Another thing to consider is whether the hosting company can scale with you as your business grows. You should choose a hosting provider that has different levels of service on offer so that you can upgrade over time if you need to.

The need for web hosting is only ever going to increase. People will want to start their own online businesses, build and read blogs, browse websites, create and use apps, for the foreseeable future and beyond. 

In short, the need for web hosting services, servers, domains, and everything else involved with keeping the internet running isn’t set to go away, so making sure to keep ahead of the curve is vital. The pandemic proved that those organisations which were in tune with the cloud and hosted off-site, were the ones able to adapt quickly and continue to deliver services with no disruption.

Future plot twists are never far away, so to save yourself a significant headache, a good web hosting arrangement is vital. No organization should compromise on a part of its operations that is so essential to reaching out to the people it serves.

Alex Jackson is head of Govpress at dxw, an independent digital agency that works with the public and third sectors to deliver sustainable digital change.