5.15 Site Hosting

Internet companies do not necessarily need a website. They may:

1. Operate entirely through email marketing.
2. Employ free social media or other platforms.
3. Run a blog through a third-party blogging service like Blogger.
4. Build and host their pages on a third-party storefront service like Yahoo Merchant.

If none of these will suffice, then the company must create its own website and find ways of hosting the webpages. In increasing order of cost, the options are:

1. Employ a third-party web-hosting company and:
      a. Shared hosting (many websites on the same server), or
      b. Cloud hosting (company's site is part of a cloud computing service, fee by use) or
      c. Virtual dedicated hosting (resources are allocated to overcome hardware restrictions) or
      d. Managed hosting ( company's site is the only website on the server: hosting service manages) or
      e. Dedicated hosting ( company's site is the only website on the server: company manages).

2. Undertake their own hosting, choosing to purchase and maintain the appropriate computer and software with trained IT staff.

Corporate America often uses Windows servers (generally with SQL Server database). Other companies prefer Unix servers (with a MySQL database, and cPanel access for smaller sites).

What to Look For

Web-hosting companies are now large, streamlined operations that offer a host of services to demanding clients. Most companies will require at least the following:

1. High-speed connection (preferably T3 or higher) to the Internet.
2. Generous bandwidth.
3. Dependable backup systems.
4. 99.7% guaranteed uptime.
5. Choice of Windows or Unix servers.
6. Support for scripts and languages the web pages use: php, perl, cgi, coldfusion, frontpage, etc.
7. Ability to use their company domain name.
8. Prompt technical support by email and/or online chat.
9. Multiple email accounts (with email forwarding, auto-responder and alias).
10. Ftp access.
11. Own cgi bin.
12. Password protected folders.
13. SSL security.

Directories comparing webhosting companies often provide a useful explanation of hosting terms, but are not now wholly reliable, i.e. not as independent as claimed. Do a 'webhostingcompanyname complaints/review/scam' Internet search before finalizing your choice.

Security

Webserver security is highly technical, but the obvious things to check or ask about are:

1. Financial standing of the hosting company, and how long they have been in business.
2. Guaranteed uptime.
3. Security protocols to cope with denial-of-service and hacker attacks.
4. Regularity of backups: does it include user logs, product databases, order tracking logs, server-side scripts, etc.?
5. Whois database (www.whois.net) to ensure that your company and not the hosting company remain the administrative and technical contact for your domain and — most critically — the registrant of the domain.
6. Backup: ring them at 3 a.m. Sunday morning if they claim 24/7 telephone support.
7. Complaints procedure: you don't want your site dumped because of an unwarranted complaint from a competitor.
8. Other sites being hosted with them (ask for webmasters to contact). Also check the terms of use for possible hosting of spam or porn sites, which won't help your business.
9. Business address of the server (whois). Find the path to the server with a tracing program: with a reseller you'll find some other ISP's server.
10. Visit forums to see what webmasters really think about hosting companies.
11. Scrutinize the contract (and employ a business lawyer to check copyright, complaints, fees and service renewal / discontinuation matters).

And:

1. Host alternative company domains with another company: you can then switch painlessly if the first goes out of business or suffers a prolonged denial of service.
2. Check your webmaster is implementing proper routines, including the updating of passwords regularly.

Questions

1. In what circumstances would you hand over the hosting of the company website to a third party hosting company?
2. How would you select the appropriate hosting company?
3. What security measures would you expect your hosting company to have in place, and how could you check?

Sources and Further Reading

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