Managing Risks With Web Hosting


We’ve had some clients recently who’ve been burned by other web designers and their hosts. At first we wondered how… our own uptime so far this year, removing planned outages, has been 99.966% – ie, we had three hours downtime on a Sunday morning due to a routing problem at our hosts.

It’s unusual to have even that much downtime, but it can happen. Machines can break, drives fail, and availability isn’t always easy to guarantee.

But if it’s happening a lot, or you run a mission critical website, then this can be a major issue. Imagine spending £200k on a national advertising campaign, and the day it goes live the web server’s having a nap. The developers are on an office day out, and the hosts put you on hold when you call.

In web hosting there’s an awful lot of people making false economies – they run major companies on cheap, consumer level hosting that costs perhaps £15 a month… or less! This may be fine if the site isn’t generally that busy, but any spike in traffic and the machine won’t have the resources to keep the site going. Not only that, but because you’re sharing a box with possibly thousands of other websites, the poor server may well be over-stuffed and overworked anyway.

There’s a few steps to consider when dealing with this:

  1. Properly assess risks. If you could lose £100,000 of business when your website fails, it’s obviously wise to spend more than a few hundred pounds a year on it. But there’s no point spending £10k a month on a site that generates very little trade, just for the sake of avoiding ten minutes of downtime.
  2. Make sure what goes on the server is only ever fully tested code written by people you can trust. Our own web consultancy, Interconnect IT goes to great lengths to make sure the code supplied is reliable.
  3. Consider bringing in house code-reviews and creating your own testing requirements.
  4. Load test your server with the predicted maximum level of traffic. If you don’t, how do you know its adequate? And you can’t predict the load just on raw visitor numbers either – some websites are much more demanding on server resources than others.
  5. Make sure the site is suitably protected from attacks by hackers and even malevolent rivals.

Ultimately any website is a reflection of your business – if it’s cheap and unreliable, it’ll say that to your potential clients.

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