There are three main factors when it comes to deciding who’s a good web hosting provider: speed, reliability and security.
In order for your website to rank high in search results, it needs to load fast, and it should be reliable, which means it shouldn’t have too much downtime. Further, you want for your website to be well protected from attacks and any other reasons for data loss.
In this post I will explain what it takes to make your website safe, and what helps to support high ranking with search engines.
Please also take a look at the post What is Web Hosting? to find the basic terminology and requirements explained.
Let’s take a look at the most complex one first. Security has many components. It’s geopolitical (see Location), it’s technological (Firewalls, SSL, Backups) and it’s a question of ideology (GDPR).
They work on your computer, they work on servers too. When you think of the safety of your website the first thing that probably comes to mind is that you don’t want your website to get hacked, or in any other way compromised from the outside. Every web host is keen to assure you that they do everything in their power to protect your website from getting hacked. And I truly believe that they do. You can contribute to the security of your website in this regard as well, by making sure you update all your themes and plugins and your operating system on a regular basis.
Remember how not so long ago all urls started with http://? Now the standard is https:// because another security level has been added. All providers I talk about here, and I would guess all providers do by now, offer a free ssl-certificate in their packages. This is important so that the data submitted through your website will be protected. This could be relevant for people filling out a contact form, leaving a comment or purchasing something in your shop.
This is essential. Usually providers make two to three backups of each site which they store on different servers. This way, if one server gets compromised another version of your website can be made available. Providers have a lot to do and a whole lot of responsibility!
Have you ever thought about where servers and data centers are located and why? Providers make sure to set data centers up in regions which are not easily affected by natural disasters, or where a civil uprise or even war is very likely. Data Policy (see below) laws play a role in this too and so do copy right laws (e.g. if you break a copyright law you can expect more trouble in the US than in other places, in China you will feel more pressure when you post something poltical, and in Germany you may get in trouble if you don’t follow all rules very preciesly 😉 ).
This is why there are more data centers in some countries than in others.
In Europe we have the GDPR to protect any user from having to share too much information about themselves for the benefit of some companies and there is a certain protection from full surveillance. This is important for the owners of websites everywhere: no matter where your provider and their servers are located, you have to comply with the GDPR, if you have visitors from European member states.
The GDPR is the toughest privacy and security law in the world. It deals with the technical security I talked about above, and it also makes sure that, when you visit a website, you can take an exact look at who will know that you were there, and you have the right to determine how much of the provided information will be allowed to be used.
In the end, if you select a provider who doesn’t comply with the GDPR, you might be held legally responsible.
Google and other search engines used to prefer it if the server that hosted the website was near its visitors, because that was the quickest way for a website to load for the visitor. However, with changing technology and cloud services in place, that doesn’t have to be the case any more.
I would still recommend that if you are just catering to a local audience, get a provider that uses servers near you. That might save you some money too. If you want your websites to have a global audience, you should probably get one with multiple servers and a Cloud Service.
What matters most for your ranking is speed. Every study shows that you lose visitors if your pages load very slowly. Search engines obviously know about this and will also rank you lower accordingly, because your website is just not as attractive as it takes too long to load.
There is a lot which can be done to optimize your website manually to achieve fast loading as well, but that is for another post.
When it comes to servers, what slows down your loading times are overcrowded servers and a slow DNS provider.
If you use a shared host it also means that the more sites there are on a server the more resources those sites use up, which results in a slower page load for your website. So you need to check what your provider has to say about this.
DNS (domain name server) links the URL you are using to the IP address of your website – a bit like you typing in a name and the computer looking up the corresponding phone number and connecting you with it. You can look up the fastest DNS servers on SolveDNS, they post a new update every month.
Finally there is downtime. A server might break and your provider might not be there on time to fix it. Or an update might be run on the server on which your website is hosted, which again, can lead to downtime.
Downtime basically means that, instead of seeing your website, your visitors will see a ‚currently unavailable‘ note. If you are curious about your current website’s downtime, you can have it checked at Monitor The Internet for free.
This means we want to see, on the one hand, that the providers comply with the GDPR and have firewalls and other protection mechanisms in place. On the other hand, they also should give information on the capacity of their servers, their downtime and the DNS servers they use.
Whew. Now we’re done with all the technical information. Let’s take a look at what green web hosts have to offer for us.