So what is a web host anyway?
In my opinion, there are two definitions:
A BAD HOST: A computer connected to the internet with outdated software, lax security patches and upgrades, thousands of websites without load balancing software or hardware and a service that collects hosting “rent” with slumlord qualities. These hosts are usually staffed with technical support people who will often be unaware of the true answers to most problems and will often refer to form letters instead of trying to legitimately address a concern. This is MANY of the hosts on the internet, including the big box companies – we have all seen their ads on tv!
A GOOD HOST: A well configured, high-end server (not cheap like the server farms used by above). Properly organized with extra memory and several layers of redundancy and backup, including RAID backup harddrives, in the event a drive fails, others keep spinning and keep operations from never missing a beat. The are staffed with server engineers and administrators, skilled in the software supported by the server, available 24/7 every single day of the year. They are available and respond quickly to requests. Software and security patches are updated frequently, sometimes nightly and the entire operation is monitored by both software and a team of security professionals. Hackers never sleep, neither should your hosting solution! This is who we use and this is who we are as part of our ecommerce operations online.
The cost of a good host is usually a bit higher, but when you have built your infrasture of your business and ecommerce store to rely on performance online, your host MUST be in top shape, run by top professionals and online all the time!
Someone asked me the other day, who is your webhost? I paused and then had to think of the short answer and the long answer. Its not as easy to just say “Godaddy” or “Peer1” or one of those companies. You see, if you use a company like Hostgator for example, they may be the “host” but they are using a server in a datacenter run by the Planet (who is now owned by Softlayer). So while your host may be a Hostgator, that is not really revealing who the true host is, the datacenter that runs and operates the servers, to software security and upgrades to physical security. While I can speak to the efficiency of Hostgator or other hosts, I know datacenters and the inner workings of server engineers. As a server administrator, I have learned there is more to being a host than just throwing up a service and relying on the datacenter beneath the host. Those are resellers. You must, if you are going to run a serious operation, avoid resellers.
Years ago we were the host and used a server at the Planet. They suffered an explosion in their datacenter and while the backup generators kept everything online, the fire department came in and for the safety of workers, cut off the generators. The “host” had a problem as the datacenter’s action caused performance issues by the host.
A good host plans for contingency, not just at the topical level where the customer sees it, but at the datacenter level, the undergarments so to speak. Making sure they are fresh, updated and changed often and clean!