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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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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4 Reasons Why Shared Hosting is Like Fast Food

Everyone wants a great deal. Getting as low a price as possible, within reason, is essential to power your business with a shoestring budget. It’s easy to have a feeling with a business that the cheap solution is necessarily the best – you’re treating the challenge pragmatically, with as little investment as possible. Plus, the most affordable option is often the most widely available, since everyone wants to control their costs.

 

When we need hosting, as with any other business service, we want to quickly get the plan without any hassle. In wanting to check “get hosting” off our list and keep moving forward, it’s easy to set aside the health of our site. It’s a similar challenge to driving along and needing a bite to eat. The highly processed choices of fast food chains are available immediately, right on the side of the road. We can get a meal quickly, and we know it won’t cost us much. However, we know the health benefits can be devastating.

 

Steve Woody of Online Mastery suggests that shared hosting is digital junk food for your online presence. He says he feels that many people are not being cautious when it comes to the infrastructure they use to back their sites. Understandably, people who used shared hosting for their businesses are “[t]rying to increase the bottom-line and reduce cash-flow,” he says, adding that “[i]t’s easy to play naive and deal with the consequences later.”

 

Here are four reasons why it’s a good idea to go another route than shared hosting:

 

Reason #1 – You are expendable.

 

Want to be treated like a king? Unfortunately, you won’t get VIP treatment as a fast food or shared hosting customer. Shared hosting companies make money off their volume of customers – so they could really care less about whether one account stays or goes.

 

With a shared account, “there is only so far a host will ‘bend over backwards’ for you,” explains Jonathan Bailey of Bloggingpro. “If you want a host that is willing to do more for you and work with you more, you need to consider spending more money.”

 

Reason #2 – The information is misleading.

 

Shared hosting may be sold as if it is designed for smart and healthy business growth. However, like fast food, the hosting companies that focus on shared hosting are simply trying to cut costs and sell as many of plans as they can. Does the burger you eat ever look like the one in the picture? Similarly, your shared plan might not live up to the way it’s sold. One example of unreasonable shared hosting expectations is the notion of unlimited resources, which is protected with “fair use” clauses in fine print.

 

Reason #3 – Performance.

 

A shared server cuts costs for all businesses by allowing numerous people to share the same resources. It would probably annoy you to be reliant on the same cellular data plan that is being used by all the other people on your block, but that is essentially the idea with shared hosting.

 

What if you suddenly need a huge amount of resources? Think about that issue of scalability. “If one website is taking up too many resources these servers have a failsafe and the website gets shut down to prevent others from being affected,” says Woody.

 

How is this like fast food? Well, fast food is intended, like other food, to provide you with energy. However, it may be likelier that a low-nutrition meal filled with additives will leave you with symptoms of anxiety and chronic fatigue syndrome. Don’t feed your site so many French fries and chalupas that it can’t get up off the couch.

 

Reason #4 – Security.

 

Security should really be viewed as a necessary priority in an era of increased hacking and open sourcing of DDoS botnet code. You may think you don’t need to worry about hacking until you grow more. However, it’s important to know how vulnerable a site of a small business is if it does get compromised: 3 in 5 small businesses are bankrupt six months following a hack.

 

A shared server does not have the kind of distinction, separation of data, that any business should really want. It’s not a particularly careful way to host sites. What if a malicious threat such as E. coli comes along and wants to enjoy your site? Don’t let your site get food poisoning from shared hosting.

 

Why Shared Hosting is Dangerous – Exploration of Attack Steps

 

My point in this article is of course not simply to draw this parallel with fast food. It’s to suggest that shared hosting is not the right choice just because it’s simple. Like the perils of eating the wrong types of food are best explained by looking at specific issues, as explored in Fast Food Nation or Super Size Me, it helps to look in a granular way at shared exploits to understand why these servers present a weak front.

 

The InfoSec Institute looks at the shared server from the perspective of the process through which someone might compromise a site. Here are the basic stages through which a hacker might go after your site:

 

Reverse IP lookup

 

Before a hacker actually goes after your site, they will perform what’s called reconnaissance. In this manner, you can see what domains are on the shared server.

To see all the sites that are running on your server, you can use various methods, including search engines, the Linux dig command, or a free service such as YouGetSignal.

 

Server CMS enumeration

 

The next step for an attacker is often to find sites with certain types of content management system (CMS), such as WordPress. A CMS is a standard point of entry for cybercrime.

 

To understand the typical path of an attack, you want a list of the sites that are using a certain CMS. You can get a list very easily – the platforms place their name and version information in the source code.

 

You (or a hacker) can actually just build the IP and CMS lookup into a script if you want.

 

Waging a CMS attack

 

Once you have a list of sites running a CMS, you can divide it up into ones that are running WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.

 

You can use a vulnerability scanner to check for weakness on any CMS installation. Another place to get information is exploits that are on file at services such as Exploit Database.

 

The vulnerability scanner will quickly give you basic details that would be helpful in attacking the site. For instance, let’s look at the use of one for WordPress, WPScan. WPScan brings up the following information:

 

  • Active plugins
  • Active themes
  • Any detected TimThumbs (a known security issue)
  • List of usernames.

 

Note that one key way an admin panel is beaten is through brute force, leveraging the fact that many websites don’t use complex passwords. This method could use a list of the most popular passwords. You can even brute-force using WPScan if the login page doesn’t have a captcha in place.

 

“Based on the strength of your wordlist there is a high probability that the passwords of wordpress admin accounts will be cracked successfully,” notes the InfoSec Institute report.

 

*****

 

The above issues with shared hosting are disconcerting – especially since it’s clear that the security protection is insufficient for businesses. Luckily a shared server is not the only option on the market.

 

Do you want to drive by the fast food options and get hosting that will instead improve the strength and vitality of your business? At KnownHost, our high-quality managed VPS hosting plans offer fast servers and a 99.9% uptime guarantee at great prices. Compare plans.

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