Proper Hosting: Why Your Business’ Reputation Depends On It

Few things are as frustrating when running a business as being dependent on externalities outside of your control. As much as you want to be able to do everything yourself, it’s impossible. There is always a need to have outside parties involved. Whether it’s software vendors, warehousing and distribution, or a hosting company, there will always be partnership with other businesses required. These partnerships can play a big role in making or breaking your business. Creating the best product or service in the world doesn’t matter much if you can’t deliver it to your customers or if they can’t reach you.

 

Of course, you do have some measure of control here. While you may not be able to have a say in how your partners operate, you do have a choice of what businesses to partner with. The challenge here is with so many businesses vying for your money, how do you choose a partner that will provide you with the best services at a reasonable price? It’s important to know what to look for while shopping around and comparing rates.

 

One of the most important businesses that you’re going to partner with is your hosting company. While at first glance you might think of your hosting company as “the website people,” there is much more at stake than simply having your website online. It really wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say your business’ reputation depends in large part on having a reliable host. If your initial reaction to that is skepticism, consider the typical habits of the modern consumer. Here are some statistics related to online activity that might surprise you. Adweek rounded up some stats that showed that 81% of shoppers conducted online research before making a purchase. 60% of shoppers begin by using their search engine of choice. The status of your hosting plays a key role in those figures and more. Let’s break it down.

 

SEO and Your Server

 

That 60% statistic is an interesting one because there are a lot of admittedly vague factors that go into search engine optimization efforts. Originally, way back in the wild west days of the young internet, search engines were relatively primitive in how they sorted the websites in their index. Essentially, the more links you had to your site and the more keywords present on the site, the higher you would rank. That was about it, which is why you had all sorts of ludicrous things like hiding keywords with invisible text all over the site. Needless to say, Google and others have come a long way with their algorithms since then and the criteria for ranking higher is much more complex.

 

What does that have to do with your hosting, though? Well, one of the factors that we know at least Google is looking at (and they are by far the biggest search engine, so this is reason enough) is site speed and page load times.

 

A lot goes into calculating speed metrics. Granted, big parts of it have to do with your coding choices, use of multimedia, and other architectural issues. However, your hosting solution plays a big part in this as well. After all, a VPS would handle heavy multimedia use more efficiently than a shared hosting plan due to the hardware and bandwidth available. Essentially, if your hosting solution can handle higher traffic loads and process code or plugins (if you’re using a CMS like WordPress) consistently, that will reflect in your page load times.

 

Remember, the further down you are on the search engine results pages, the less of a chance someone will click on the link to your site. A big part of your company’s success will rely on being on page one.

 

Customer Habits

 

We’ve established that 8 out of 10 customers will perform online research before making a purchase. They also tend to visit sites that are found on the first page. But, let’s go beyond search and to how customers engage with a site. While it’s true that Google puts some weight on page load times, your actual human customers put even more of an emphasis on it. While your own personal habits might differ, the research shows some interesting consumer behavior. 47% of costumers expect a page to load within 2 seconds and 40% will abandon the site and move on after 3 seconds. That’s not a lot of room for error.

 

Now you’re in a multi-layered situation where not only are you dealing with high bounce rates, but lower levels of conversion, lower search ranks due to relevancy metrics, and a diminished profile in your industry. And all of this is over 3 seconds. That’s why having the right hosting solution is so important so you can ensure your site performs at an acceptable level consistently. The VPS or dedicated server you choose to use will play such a critical part in your overall success.

 

Reliability

 

Beyond site speed, there is also the need for reliable uptime. Every second a site is offline represents money that you’re not making. Not only is it costing you active sales, but if you experience regular outages, you’ll see a decline in new visits. All it takes is someone trying to access your site one time and being greeted with an infinitely loading white screen before they give up and spend their money elsewhere, never to return. This one is pretty cut and dry. That’s why it’s so important to have a host that guarantees maximum uptime. KnownHost offers a 99.9% service level agreement which is an industry leading figure. Why settle for anything less when your business relies so heavily on a reliable website? Every host should be judged on site and uptime.

 

The Right Solution

 

It’s clear that your host plays a big part overall in the health of your business. So, what kind of server is right for you? Most sites would do fine with a VPS. It occupies a nice middle ground when it comes to resources. It’s definitely faster than a shared hosting plan, and you have the added benefit of not being surrounded by other websites on the server. Nothing is worse than having your site suffer because of the resource usage of another.

 

While most websites would do just fine with a VPS, on occasion a dedicated server makes more sense. Large ecommerce sites with thousands of SKUs, high traffic, and complicated architecture would benefit from the extra power provided by a dedicated server. If you’re already making a substantial amount of money from ecommerce, it’s worth making the investment into having a machine all to yourself to ensure you have the bandwidth necessary to not miss a beat.

 

Conclusion

 

Your hosting solution can have a significant effect on your business in both direct and indirect ways. That’s why when selecting a hosting company to partner with, it’s so important to know what it is they’re offering. With so many different hosts and packages out there, it can be overwhelming. That’s why we encourage you to contact the team at KnownHost today. We’ve provided our services to businesses of all types and sizes for years and bring the experience necessary to make sure you get all the support you need to have a successful online operation.

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Why Your Content-Based Business Might Need More Powerful Hosting Than You Think

Many web designers, developers, information architects, and other professionals that concern themselves with how a site works have some pretty set opinions on the kind of hosting their projects will need. As a general rule of thumb, most of these preconceived notions are probably on the money. After all, if you’ve worked in the digital marketplace for long enough you have a pretty good idea of what a project will entail. But, sometimes, the scope of a project can surprise even the most experienced web developer.

 

Many factors go into determining what the best hosting solution is for a project. Some of it requires having a bit of an ability to predict the future. Or rather, planning pretty far ahead and assuming some best case scenarios. After all, having so much traffic that you need to upgrade your hosting isn’t a bad problem to have. But, any project manager wants to get things right the first time. That’s why when determining what tier VPS or dedicated server you need, you want to future proof as much as possible. While your hosting company may assist with any migrations you need to perform down the line, you may not like the idea of needing to migrate at all if possible. After all, though you may have assistance with the process, there is always the long shot chance of something going wrong.

 

Clearly, there are many use cases where you would need a surprising amount of server power to create a reliable experience for your visitors. Let’s look at one specific use case  that people often misjudge because on its face it doesn’t sound like a terribly complicated project, but it ends up being a bandwidth beast. Let’s talk about content delivery or editorial sites. There’s a good chance you visit a few every day.

 

What Do We Mean by Content Delivery?

 

Doesn’t every site need to have content by definition? Otherwise, you’d be looking at a blank site. Yes, that is true. But that’s why you may want to refer to this kind of site as an editorial one, despite it not being home to opinion columns on current events. Essentially, this kind of site is similar to something like The Daily Beast or Huffington Post. On its face, this may not seem like a particularly demanding site. It’s words and images. Where is the functionality that’s going to bog everything down?

 

When web professionals think about dedicated servers, they immediately think ecommerce and they’re not wrong. There are many reasons why dedicated servers are the way to go for ecommerce. For one thing, dedicated servers are relatively more secure due to the fact other websites won’t be sharing server space with you. Of course, security comes down to best practices, software installed, and all of the other factors that go into it. But the fact it’s only your site on the machine closes off extra penetration points. Ecommerce sites are also fairly “heavy” from a structural standpoint, they see a lot of traffic etc. But many of the reasons why going dedicated for an ecommerce site is a no brainer applies to content delivery sites as well.

 

With an editorial-driven site, there is a tremendous amount of content living on the site. There are probably many authors who have access to either a custom or open source content management system. Depending on the way you produce content, there is a strong possibility you’ll at least have some video. Now you start to see how demanding a content site can be. So, here are some things to be mindful of and why dedicated servers make the most sense of this kind of site as well.

 

Site Speed

 

Producing content as a business model requires a very different kind of mindset from more traditional revenue streams like selling a product or service. You essentially want to convince as many people as possible to continuously return to your site to consume your content and share it. Unless you’re in a very specialized niche, the probability of your content being completely unique is low. That means your audience might go somewhere else to get the information they’re looking for. Consider every entertainment blog you’ve read. There are only so many ways to report on celebrities. One important factor in retaining an audience is site speed. The longer it takes a site to load, the bigger the bounce rate. Also, slow load times will hurt your SEO. And if you’re in a highly competitive niche, tumbling down the Google pages can be the difference between success and failure.

 

Bandwidth

 

A content delivery site needs a surprising amount of bandwidth. It needs it in amounts usually only found in a dedicated server plan. This is assuming of course you have a highly trafficked site with thousands of visitors, which you’ll need if you’re intending to make money off of ad revenue. There are some quick back of the envelope ways to determine how much bandwidth you need but it’s hard to get it down to an exact science. There are some pretty clear factors that come into play, though.

 

The first is obviously traffic. It takes bandwidth to handle not only all the visitors coming to your site, but also how many pages they navigate. If they go from page to page to read different sections, that uses up more bandwidth. Traffic spikes also play a big role. If you create content that suddenly goes viral on social media, you will see a large and sudden influx of visitors. Will your site have enough bandwidth to handle this unusual traffic? The worst thing that could happen is your site going down or slowing to a crawl because too many people are interested in what you have to say.

 

The second thing is hosting large files. If you optimize your images, they won’t take up too much bandwidth. You ideally want to be dealing with kilobytes and not megabytes. But, it’s videos that can really add up quickly. Most content delivery sites do a combination of video and text to reach a variety of audiences. If you’re hosting that video yourself, you’re going to need the bandwidth to handle it.

 

The third factor is page size. If you have pages that scroll to display content, complete with fancy visuals that are performed with CSS or JavaScript, that can be fairly demanding and eat up bandwidth. Of course, you don’t want to skimp on an appealing visual presentation just to keep your resource use in check, so it’s best to buy a plan that can support your vision.

 

Conclusion

 

If you are looking to launch a dynamic site, you need dynamic hosting. KnownHost is recognized as a leader in the industry and has offered support to businesses of all sizes for years. If your business model depends upon maximum uptime, consistently high performance, and hardware that is capable of handling the large traffic loads you’ll be courting, partnering with KnownHost is the solution you’ve been looking for. Contact us today and our team will go over options with you so you get the right hosting solution the first time.

 

 

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Tear Down: The Specs to Look for When Choosing a Server

You’ve been tasked with finding a hosting solution for your project. Typically, you’re looking for a way to get a website online. But, there are other reasons why you would need access to a server. Maybe you’re running proprietary software or a web app. Maybe you’re an avid online gamer who wants to set up a server for dedicated multiplayer. There are many reasons beyond having a website that a person would be interested in signing up for a hosting plan. Regardless of the reason you’re shopping around for a host, it’s important to know what your specific needs are.

 

Whether you opt for a VPS or a dedicated server, it’s important to look at the specs on the hardware. While there are certainly tiers when it comes to overall horsepower of a hosting solution, each specific category will have its own specs to peruse. Yes, a VPS is faster than shared hosting and dedicated servers are the fastest of all, but you can get dedicated servers at higher and lower relative speeds.

 

At the end of the day, servers are computers just like the ones you use at home or at work. They have the same components with the same functionality. However, the specs you’d look for when building your own gaming PC differ from the specs you need for a server. It’s not an exact match. You’ll notice pretty significant capacity differences that you wouldn’t even dream of using on a home machine. That’s because performing a task like hosting a website is significantly different than running an entire operating system with an assortment of applications and sufficient space for storing all of your data.

 

Let’s do a virtual tear down of server hardware and examine the major specifications prospective customers should take note of when looking to sign up for a hosting plan.

 

CPU

 

Just like when shopping for personal computers, it’s important to start with the processor since it’s “the brain” of the machine. There are two main manufacturers of processors that you’ll find in nearly every machine: Intel and AMD. Some simpler devices like netbooks use ARM processors, but they haven’t really been adopted for server technology due to their overall low power. Some servers have attempted to use them but the market seems to be highly niche, if not fading away.

 

The two major players have their supporters and detractors. In discussions of PCs this is much more pronounced because there are positives and negatives to both, especially when it comes to high-performance systems and wanting to control costs. With servers, however, it’s generally accepted that Intel is the way to go. This is because, from a performance standpoint, Intel is faster. Intel processors have quicker read and write speeds from memory on a per-core basis. Many of the offerings you see will advertise sixteen cores.

 

When you get to dedicated servers, you’ll begin to see processor choices that more closely resemble the processors you’d find in a high-performance home machine. Most will be familiar with Intel’s i7 processor which is generally considered the top tier for the typical consumer machine. Beyond that is their Xeon line which you’ll find in the most specialized machines designed for maximum performance.

 

Most people shopping for hosting won’t have to worry too much about the processor if they’re only looking to host a website because they’ll be opting for a VPS and won’t need that kind of CPU power. Taxing use cases like heavy software will probably benefit from a dedicated server with at least an i7.

 

RAM

 

If the processor is the brain, the RAM dictates how many different processes the brain can juggle at the same time. It is memory, after all. Choosing the appropriate RAM for your server is when you’ll notice a fairly big difference in comparison to shopping for RAM for a personal computer. While most people will tell you four gigabytes of RAM is the absolute minimum a desktop or laptop should have (and realistically, it’s more like eight gigabytes these days) the same doesn’t hold true for your server.

 

The bare minimum your hosting solution would need is about 512 megabytes but realistically you want to opt for one gigabyte or more. A standard VPS plan starts at the one gigabyte mark and would be fine for simple sites with average levels of traffic. Also keep in mind here that you are using a portion of a machine rather than a whole machine. You’ll notice this difference when you start shopping for dedicated servers and see they start with sixteen gigabytes of RAM.

 

Multiple factors go into having to figure out how much RAM you need. While a definitive calculation is difficult to make, you of course want to opt for more if you can afford it. Here are some variables you’ll want to be aware of.

 

Traffic: The higher the anticipated traffic, the more RAM you’ll need to keep up with demand.

Content Management System: Popular CMSes like WordPress and Drupal need at least one gigabyte of RAM, though two certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Control panels: Software like cPanel will count towards what uses up your alloted RAM.

Scripting languages and databases: Running PHP (like in WordPress) and SQL databases will require higher amounts of RAM.

Applications: Just like on any computer, the more applications running simultaneously on the device, the more RAM needed to keep them working.

 

Storage

 

Finally, let’s look at storage. Like with your own machine, you have a choice between standard hard drives and SSDs. A managed SSD VPS is often a popular choice because you’re getting a significant speed boost by using an SSD. Solid state drives have a few advantages over their spinning hard drive counterparts. For the purpose of a server though, the speed boost is your primary concern. Aspects like greater durability are nice, but that’s really your hosting company’s concern.

 

As for how much storage you need, the answer might surprise you. If you see a plan that offers thirty gigabytes of space, you might be taken aback. Your smartphone has more storage than that. But, you can’t think of hosting like a personal device. If you’re hosting a simple site, all that’s taking up space are text files and visual assets. They don’t add up to much at all. Now, if you’re hosting your email on your server too, you’ll quickly run out of space.

 

Essentially, you need to be aware of what you actually need to keep on your server. Does your site require huge databases? Will you be hosting multimedia? Taking an inventory of your assets before launch will save you a headache down the road.

 

Conclusion

 

We’ve broken down the major components of what makes a server run. However, every situation is unique and you may need more guidance on what monthly plan, exactly, would best suit your needs. You may still be on the fence between a VPS or dedicated server. Would an SSD really be necessary? If you still have questions about what server to choose or you’re ready to get started setting your hosting environment up, contact the team at KnownHost today.  Our experienced staff is always here to help.

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Is Speed or Responsive Design More Valuable?

  • What is “fast,” and why does it matter?
  • What is the role of responsive design?
  • Is responsive design or speed more pivotal?
  • Checking your speed
  • How SSD VPS fits into the speed conversation

 

Two of the most important elements that will determine the success of a website are the critical user experience (UX) considerations of performance and responsive design. In other words, how fast is the site; and does it consistently load a version of the site that is customized to the user’s operating system and device?

 

It’s interesting to look at these two elements head-to-head, to consider which of these core priorities is the biggest concern. It’s another way of asking whether it’s fundamentally more important to invest in performance (via optimization tactics and infrastructure) or design (via a premium, regularly updated responsive theme). Focusing on speed is certainly a broader process, but the debate will still be good fodder to consider these dual obsessions of the web development industry.

 

Albert Costill of Search Engine Journal pointed out that the previously impossible speed and sophistication of the Internet have given rise to more demanding expectations. When we arrive at a site, all its various pieces should load rapidly for us, or we will head to a competitor.

 

The hunger for speed runs parallel, in a sense, to the desire that the site function perfectly whether we access it on a phone, tablet, or PC. As with a sluggish load time, we will head to a different location if our device fails to access the site in all its glory.

We know that responsive design is a key to web success (at least in most situations) and that speed is central as well. If you haven’t yet focused deeply on either of these, which one should be your first and immediate point of focus?

 

What is “fast,” and why does it matter?

 

We all know that the speed of a site is central to how we perceive it. Assumedly just about every Internet user regularly leaves sites because they take too long to load. With users spending less than 15 seconds on your site on average, you don’t want to waste any of that time with them effectively sitting “on hold.”

 

After all, even back in 2011, nearly half of people (47%) expected web pages to load within 2 seconds. Given that fact, what should we now consider fast for a website?

 

One of the best pieces of recent information on the topic comes from Maile Ohye of Google. “Two seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability,” she noted. “[W]e aim for under a half second.”

 

Pingdom data on site speed shows that the average load time for a webpage is 5 seconds – more than double Google’s suggested threshold for acceptable speed and 10 times the search company’s benchmark. These sites are clearly not investing in SSD VPS servers or otherwise paying enough attention to speed.

 

Based on Ohye’s comments, we have a reasonable sense of what fast should be considered, at least to the search engines, and we know that sites are, by and large, slow. Does this matter, though? Yes, if you want to make money, according to huge websites:

 

  • Walmart has found that when it improves load time by 100 milliseconds, its revenue rises 1%.
  • To look at it the other way, Amazon says its conversion rate plummets 7% for every second of lag.

 

You obviously don’t want to lose out on the direct revenue potential that speed offers – but your slowness will even impact your Google visibility, since load time has been built into its algorithm since April 2010. Load time even affects your AdWords Quality Score.

 

What is the role of responsive design?

 

“Responsive design means you only have to have one website and it is designed to adjust to fit any screen size,” explains Costill.

 

In the past, it was common for businesses to have both desktop and mobile sites. Today, the standard has become responsive design. In fact, Pierre Farr of Google noted (in 2012) the search engine’s preference for going the responsive route. Based on Farr’s comments, we can assume that this design tactic is best aligned with search engine optimization (SEO).

 

It should be clear how important the mobile web is from the number of people we see scrolling through their screens in public. However, let’s again look at the numbers – because understanding the rise of mobility gives us a better sense of why it’s necessary to leverage responsive design and allow the user’s device to dictate how you serve them your site.

 

Statistics curated by Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights show that:

 

  • As of August 2014, mobile surpassed PCs as the preferred mode through which users access digital media.
  • The digital media time for US adults now tips in favor of mobile, with 2.8 hours spent viewing content on mobile vs. 2.4 hours on laptop or desktop as of 2015.
  • Also according to 2015 data, tablets and smartphones were gaining ground as web search tools of choice: 91% of respondents said they prefer searching on PC/laptop, while 80% and 47% said smartphone and tablet, respectively.
  • Multi-screening (splitting access of a site between mobile and PC or laptop) emerged as a concern for marketers in 2014, when comScore released findings that the practice was used by 57% of retail shoppers.

 

Is responsive design or speed more pivotal?

 

To be clear, some brands don’t adopt responsive design. Dominos Pizza, the second largest pizza chain in the US behind Pizza Hut (according to this chain/independent pizzeria analysis) was developing specific plans for mobile since most orders were coming through that route – so they kept their separate sites.

 

However, generally, mobile is the way the Internet is moving. By 2018, there will be more than 10 billion mobile devices connected to the web, according to one analysis.

Responsive design helps to cater to mobile users, so that is a big plus. The approach means you are only working with a single site rather than multiple versions. It helps your search presence.

 

In other words, the case for responsive design is strong. However, speed is critical on any device, mobile or desktop. Like responsive design, it also improves both UX and SEO – so more people come, and more stay.

 

Checking your speed

 

Everyone’s situation is, of course, a bit different. How fast is your site? There are various free tools to give you this information, the most prominent of which is PageSpeed Insights. Another popular one is Pingdom – which offers a performance grade (A to F) and allows you to check from New York City, Dallas, San Jose, Melbourne, or Stockholm.

How SSD VPS fits into the speed conversation

 

John Stevens of Webdesigner Depot looked at the issue of speed in 2016, and one of his primary suggestions was to carefully choose your web hosting provider. If you work with a high-quality provider, “you can get better support, better speed, and better space to meet your site’s demands, he said. “Don’t just jump on the bandwagon and choose the first site you see advertised.”

 

To extend those ideas, it’s important to look at the specific technologies used to serve your site. At KnownHost, we offer managed virtual private servers (VPS’s), some of which are based entirely on solid state drives (SSD’s). The VPS creates greater distinction between hosting accounts for consistently strong performance, while SSD is a more streamlined data retrieval approach than a mechanical disk. See our cost-effective solution.

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