If your business relies on web-based software, one of the most important decisions you will ever have to make is where would be best to host it. Choosing the wrong hosting company can, not only, result in a frustrating overall experience, but it can also translate into significant financial loss to your online business.
Questions to ask when evaluating hosts:
- What are their backup procedures? Are full backups performed at least once a day? How long are archives maintained for? Are off-site backups made?If your host doesn’t provide a comprehensive backup solution for you, be very weary. While it is often prudent to perform your own backup independently of your host, you want to ensure they’re doing it for you as well. The 2009 Global Backup Survey has found that 66% of people have experienced critical data loss at some point in their lifetime and this is why it is important that all parties have explicit backup procedures in place.
- If in the event of a hardware failure, what are the in place infrastructures and procedures to ensure that your application remains accessible/available?Be certain your host’s responsibility doesn’t end at just providing you with working hardware in the event of a failure. You want them to be responsible for actually getting your application back, up and running.
- What types of services do they offer? Shared hosting? Dedicated servers? Virtual services?Businesses correspondingly applications come in all sizes. Be certain that your host meets not only your current needs, but your future ones, as well. At the same time, avoid overkill. If your host specializes in managed hardware they may try to sell you a small, highly available server cluster to protect you against any single point of failure. While it would certainly do the job, for small businesses it’s unnecessary.
- Do they offer a service level agreement (SLA) guaranteeing availability? How are you compensated in the event of an outage?Be sure to check the details – it’s not uncommon for companies to promise 100% uptime, but only issue a credit if an outage lasts for more than a certain amount of time. For quick reference, a threshold of 30 minutes really equals 99.9% uptime. A threshold of 5 minutes equals 99.99% uptime. If a company is only advertising 99% uptime; stay away from them. In reality, that works out to more than 7 hours of uncompensated downtime per month which can mean a tremendous amount of money loss for your business!
- If your application itself requires support or maintenance, do they have the resources and expertise in-house to assist you if necessary? Or will you need to use a third-party?Even if your application is maintained internally or by another company, having your host be able to assist you should the need arise, is a very good plus. While you may never use their services in this regard, having the option to do do so simply provides another layer of protection for your business, as well as, security.
Company data and systems are significantly important, no matter what your business procedures entail. Equally significant, is choosing the right host that also cares and supports your systems and data.
An application host who also performs off-site backups are a better choice. This is due to the fact that backup systems can be used to store all of your files whether they are pictures, word documents, financial records, and so on. Protection through off-site backups means that your information can be accessible through the web from anywhere, anytime, anyplace, and in the case of any emergencies e.g. system collapse and natural disasters.
Another point of consideration to make when seeking a new application host is to ensure that they are a good fit for your current business size, type, and needs, as well as, its future requirements. Service level agreements (SLA) should also play a key role in your criteria and search of a good host – this means not only ensuring that there are no false advertisements or promises involved with the supposed percentage of “guaranteed up-time” but also that this up-time is as close to a 100% as it can get. Finally, having a host that is both experienced and acquires the right resources can serve as a great “security blanket” for your company, in case you encounter any serious, unforeseen problems.