The goal of a web host is to deliver the content that you’ve created to users who are requesting that content, and to do it quickly and efficiently. Reliability is therefore one of the most important features of a web host. You want your website to be available when users request it, and you want it to show up on their computers and phones quickly.
Some people and sites can run extensive tests on their sites. For most consumers, this will be impractical, and you need to know if your host is reliable so that you know whether to continue service with them or switch somewhere else.
The last thing that you want to do is discover that your host is unreliable through the complaints of users, a massive technical failure, or hours after you’ve lost tons of business. That means that testing the reliability of your host will be critical before and during the host selection process.
Testing Customer Support
When you sign on with a hosting company, you are their customer and your website is their product. As such, they should care about the delivery of their product. No website is going to experience 100% uptime. It just doesn’t happen. No security system is going to be perfect. You don’t need a hosting service that delivers perfection, you need a hosting service that responds well to imperfection.
That means that when you’re looking for reliability, you’re not just looking for a company that knows how to run near perfect websites, you’re looking for a hosting service that knows how to handle the imperfections that come along the way. You should be asking your potential hosting providers about the way that they respond to crisis. Don’t accept hosting websites that just want to brag about 99.99% uptime. Ask them about the 0.01% downtime.
Preparing for Crashes to Avoid Them
One of the best ways to test the reliability of your hosting solution is to ask yourself what you would do in the event that X happened. X, in this case, should be a terrible site data loss, a data breach, or a horrible crash. You can then begin talking to your hosting provider about what they might do in the event that that happened. You want to have contingency plans for various pieces of the web hosting puzzle going wrong.
Websites crash, code goes wrong, and data gets lost. One of the ways to know that you have a reliable service provider is to make sure that you have a service provider that affords you with free, regular backups. When your hosting solution is fully managed, you shouldn’t have to take care of backups. But they should be available when you need them. To test the reliability of your hosting provider, ask them to restore a backup and see how long it takes to complete.
You won’t know if your site is reliable or not if you aren’t sure how your site should be performing in optimal situations. Compare some metrics down below so that you can perform your own user reliability tests to see how your site is doing in comparison with how it could be doing.
If your service provider gives you 99.9% uptime, that means that you’ll be up on the internet for all but 8 hours out of the year. Many hosts will give you numbers that approach upwards of 99.96 or 99.97%, meaning that you’ll be down for only a couple of hours out of the year. If you’re a massive corporation that is turning over thousands of dollars in sales every second (Amazon records approaching $5,000 in sales every second), then that downtime can quickly turn into massive profit margins. But for most companies, the upwards of 99.9% uptime will be plenty of time online.
While there’s no great way to “test” the uptime of a web host without living on their services, you can always compare hosting providers to see who gives you the best options. But don’t get too caught up in the numbers. You should take a 99.96 over a 99.97 if you can get much better customer service.
First, a word of caution. The “grass is always greener” effect comes into play here. While once upon your time your site used to load super fast, it might be lagging a lot now. You might expect that your hosting provider is siphoning off your bandwidth or simply cares less because you’re now a paying customer and they don’t think you’re moving. More likely, you’ve begun to add data to your site, and your once pristine code is now a bit jumbled through ad hoc additions and random redactions. If this is the case, clean up your code and delete those absolutely unnecessary, tacky graphics before proceeding.
But once your site has clean code and isn’t attempting anything too fancy, test the load speeds from different kinds of connections. From a good internet connection you should be experiencing load times of under 3 seconds on both laptops and mobile devices. Google has famously run some statistics that people are really likely to bounce from your site if you take more than 3 seconds to pop up on their phone.
Cost of service is one of the things that you should expect to be stable and reliable in your hosting provider. Companies that try to squeeze extra profits through fine print on service, maintenance, security, backup, and special deals are generally not as trustworthy. One way to see how reliable your hosting provider might be is to begin looking around at the different ways that they are charging you. Reliable providers are upfront about their costs. Reliable providers won’t charge you a bunch of money for basic reliability features, like backups, site restorations, and maintenance.
Email and Communication
For many web hosting services, email is a critical part of the business model. Some hosting providers limit the amount of storage that comes with their email accounts, which can hurt your ability to store information in the long run. Make sure that if email data is limited, they have a system for backing up communication set in place.