10 Essential Features of a Good WordPress Host
Choosing the right web host for a WordPress website needs to be an informed decision and not one that is based purely on price. In our last post, we discussed the different types of hosting available for WordPress, in this post we are going to show you ten essential features you’ll need in your hosting package.
1. WordPress specific hosting
WordPress is a unique platform and has its own requirements when it comes to hosting. Many of the standard hosting packages available from web hosts will be suitable to run WordPress, but will not always guarantee you all the functionality you need. What you should look for is a web host that specifically offers a WordPress hosting package.
By choosing a WordPress package, you will have all you need to run your website effectively. For example, the computer code language WordPress uses, PHP, needs to be version 5.2.4 or greater and its database software, MySQL, should be version 5.0 or greater. You may find that some hosting packages use older versions of PHP and MYSQL which, whilst being perfectly adequate for websites built on other platforms, may cause your WordPress site to function badly or even fail.
2. Choose a web host that provides website security
Website security is now a major issue that all owners need to get to grips with. Failing to protect your website can leave it vulnerable to hackers who can infect it with malware, spy on your activities, take down your entire website and steal all the personal data you store – including that of your customers.
All web hosts know this, but not all of them will offer security features as part of their hosting packages. You should choose a host that does.
Types of security you should look for:
- Automatic WordPress updates. When WordPress releases an update it will usually include improvements to security, often fixing a new vulnerability. To prevent hackers using this vulnerability to access your site, you need the update as soon as it is released. A web host who offers automatic updates will help you achieve this.
- Vulnerability and malware scanning. Scheduled scanning of your website by your host can identify vulnerabilities and spot malware before it has time to do any damage. You should choose a host that uses a cutting edge scanning tool, like MTvScan.
3. Security for your customers
You may have noticed that some website addresses begin with ‘http’ whilst others begin with ‘https’. The ‘s’ stands for secure and means that the website has an SSL certificate or Secure Socket Layer. What this means is that any personal information sent to your site by a customer, such as credit card details, is securely encrypted and cannot be intercepted by hackers.
If you intend to collect any personal information or sell anything via your website, then you must choose a web host who can provide you with SSL security. Many payment gateways (online companies who let you accept credit card payments) will insist that you use SSL in order for you to use their services and many web browsers will inform visitors that your site is not safe to pass details to if you do not have SSL. Also important is that search engines rank e-commerce sites with SSL higher than ones that don’t in their search results.
4. Website backups
The worst possible thing that can happen to a website owner is that they lose their entire website. This can happen due to server failure, hacking, software errors and even by accidental deletion. Not only do you lose all your content and customer details but you will be offline and losing business until the site is rebuilt. If your site is not backed up, this could take months and be very expensive. If you do have a backup, however, you will lose nothing and can be back online in next to no time.
It’s essential, therefore, that your WordPress host offers a website backup package. This needs to be a remote backup (one which is not saved on the same server as your website), that allows you to schedule frequent backups and can restore your website quickly if needed.
5. Email Protection
When you purchase your domain, you’ll also get access to your own email addresses. Unfortunately, that also means you’ll begin getting spam emails and emails containing malware. For some people, these can vastly outnumber the genuine emails that arrive in their inbox.
A good web host will provide an email service that includes a robust spam filter and one that will check the contents of your emails for viruses, trojans and other malicious code. This will help protect you from scammers and hackers and also prevent you having to sort through lots of unsolicited junk mail.
6. Make administration easier with CPanel
It can take quite a while to fully understand all the options and features that your web host provides on your hosting account. It makes this much easier to do if they are clearly organised and easy to navigate. The best solution for this is the CPanel. A CPanel is an easy to use control dashboard for your hosting account which lets you administer every aspect of your account: domains, databases, emails, files, security, software updates, logs and your account info.
7. Growing Space
Websites grow and evolve. A site that might start out as a blog may develop into a membership site with thousands of members, each with their own user area. You may have a business venture that requires lots of different websites, like a range of local business directories.
If you expect that your website will grow, then you will need to ensure that the hosting package is big enough for you and has the capacity to let you expand. Check how many gigabytes of storage you are allowed and how many files you can upload to the server. Make sure, too, that you have enough bandwidth to keep you sites online. Most good web hosts will provide a range of packages to choose from. They will also make it easy for you to upgrade to a bigger package or move from shared to dedicated hosting with ease.
8. 24-hour technical support
Problems can happen at any time of the day and it’s essential that your web host is available to help you when you need it most. Good web hosts, therefore, will provide 24 hours a day technical support. However, there is more to technical support than just being open all day. More important is the level of support you receive. Is there a help forum? Does the website have a help section or knowledge base? Can you get support via live chat? Is there a 24-hour telephone service? If so, are you dealt with by an expert or someone in a call centre following instructions on a screen? What do other customers say?
If you are a novice when it comes to the technical aspects of running a website, then technical support will be a valuable tool you will want to use – make sure you choose a web host that provides a high level of service in this area.
9. The need for speed
Google now uses website loading speed as one of its ranking criteria. The faster your site, the better chance it has of ranking higher in search results. Slow loading sites are also very off putting to visitors, many of whom will hit the back button if your pages do not load instantly.
One of the issues with WordPress as a platform is that some of the plugins and themes can slow loading times down. To overcome this, WordPress can be dramatically speeded up by caching images, using content delivery networks and by compressing content. A good web host will provide you with the means to do these things in your hosting package. Access to tools like CloudFlare, for example, can speed up loading times by 30%.
10. Go Local
There are two very sound reasons why you should choose a web host which has servers entirely based in your own country. Firstly, as hackers use proxy servers to make them look like they are in one country when they are actually in another, anti-hacking software is becoming increasingly suspicious of websites where the domain and server location seem at odds with each other. So a co.uk website hosted on a server in the US might cause suspicion, even if it is entirely legitimate.
The second reason is to do with a recent change in the law concerning data protection. If you hold personal data on your website about EU citizens and this is stored on servers in the US, then, as the US government may access that data, you may be in breach of the Data Protection Act. This can’t happen if your information is permanently stored in the UK.
If you are looking for WordPress hosting that offers all the features mentioned in this article and more, visit the eUKhost WordPress page to see our range of packages.