When you entrust a company with hosting your website, you essentially handing over the keys to your business future. You’re outsourcing the expertise needed to support the existence of your business’s presence on the web to a third party, but since there is so much competition between providers, some will try to compete on cost but not be able to back it up with expertise.
Imagine your business growing and then your web host being unable to configure your site to manage the additional traffic. Not good! This is why it’s important to invest in web hosting security, which keeps your site running around the clock and protects you and your customers from fraud. Your online business depends on high-quality secure web hosting. When you begin the process of researching your next web hosting provider, you need to have a shopping list of requirements. In this article, we’re going to try to arm you with the information that you need to make the best possible choice. Here’s what to look at:
Do They Offer Data Backups for Easy Rebuilds?
Disaster recovery is a big deal for businesses. If your shop goes down because of hackers or ransomware demands, then your business is offline, and you stop making money. To avoid that your host should be able to offer you a physical backup stored at a second location for maximum security, or a cloud, backup feature. This kind of ‘belt-and-braces’ approach to backing up is known as redundancy and is well worth doing because it covers you in the event that the first backup fails for some reason.
Look for a hosting package that offers:
- Frequent backups.
- Multiple backups, so you can restore your website to specific dates.
What About DDoS Attacks Prevention and CDN Support?
One of the standard hacker tactics is the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. It’s a concern for businesses because if your website is bombarded with millions of simultaneous requests, it may become overwhelmed and effectively frozen for your customers.
One of the ways that your web host can protect your website from such attacks and deliver a better service to your customers is to use a Content Distribution Network (CDN) service. A CDN acts like an extra layer between the host’s servers and the world. It reproduces your content in data centers on different continents so that customers are always interacting with a version of your website that’s physically close to them. This makes the site safer, because even if one version crashes, the rest will still be available, and more responsive, because if it’s located at a physically closer host then the shorter duration of the data ‘round-trip’ will make the site seem much more responsive.
So, be sure to ask your host whether they provide a CDN service as part of your hosting package, and also about how they respond to DDoS attacks, how they will let customers know when one takes place, and what security measures they have in place to mitigate such attacks.
Access Restriction Policies
Your web host should allow you to limit access to virtual machines and also put boundaries on physical access to servers. These basics of data security are essential for repelling hackers.
Login access should be via Secure Socket Shell (SSH) or a similar network protocol. SSH features a strong password authentication system using public keys, and encrypted data communication for application management, and remote system management. A web host will be able to let you know whether they permit access via SSH.
SSL, or Secure Socket Layer encryption is another recommended feature because if a malicious third party attempts to intercept your data, all they will see is a meaningless array of unrecognizable characters. A lot of web hosts will now include an SSL certificate in their packages, which is great news for those running e-commerce sites, or any sites for that matter because it’s so crucial for website security.
If the host you go with doesn’t do this, then you can still purchase an SSL certificate separately. It’s a worthwhile investment because search engines take a dim view of websites that don’t have them, and potential customers will also be turned away if they think your site is insecure.
You will also want to ask your web host if they provide web application firewalls (WAFs). They should be available at the host or cloud level and are essential because they protect web apps from attacks by filtering and monitoring HTTP traffic.
Put your web host on the spot by asking them these questions:
- Do you use SSH or similar?
- Do you offer free SSL certificates with the package?
- Is the WAF host-based or cloud-based?
Malware Detection and Removal
The march of malware never ends. Malware is the name for any piece of code that’s been prepared by a bad actor to infiltrate your system. It may steal your data, encrypt it for the purposes of a ransomware attack, spy on your activities for industrial espionage or blackmail purposes, destroy your data, and more.
This is why malware detection and prevention is so important for web hosting security. You don’t want it compromising your system, and you don’t want it stealing your customers’ personal data or credit card information, as this could open you up to legal action, data protection fines, and reputation loss, all of which could harm future sales.
So, make sure to ask your web host what measures they have in place to prevent malware from infecting your website.
Prevention is always better than cure, and monitoring and analyzing threats on an ongoing basis is something that your web host should do in order to prevent them from becoming problems. Your host needs to be able to tell you what type of monitoring they use to detect and mitigate network threats, as well as how they will keep you informed of any ongoing incidents that might affect your data and the service you provide to customers.
Operating System Software Selection
Most websites are delivered, using either Windows or Linux-based operating systems. The one that you choose to use will come down to the requirements of your website.
Fewer known threats exist for Linux OS compared to others, which is an advantage for security. You will find that most web hosts can install programs that protect Linux-hosted sites from Windows-based malware. Linux is blessed with an enthusiastic user community, which can support you if any software flaws or issues need to be addressed.
The ability for users to access sensitive information will be (or should be) limited by default. Standard users will have to request permission and type in a password before the chief administrator grants them access privileges. This kind of gatekeeping stops intruders, malicious software, or rogue employees from doing damage. There is a large community of authorized Windows server professionals who can offer expert support and advice.
Web Hosting Services And Their Security Level
In your quest to find the right web hosting service you may have come across terms like WordPress, e-commerce, managed, VPS, shared, dedicated, and so on. The one that you select will have a direct effect on the security needs of that environment, so let’s consider the different types.
Managed Hosting Services
Managed hosting environments are more secure because they have fewer websites accessing server resources. As a result, there aren’t so many of them using server resources and every site has its own specific security measures in place. This is the case if you use a managed WordPress host, the server environment is set up to protect the WordPress CMS, and there’s a dedicated, knowledgeable support team ready to step in when issues need to be addressed, and with some managed hosting providers you will get a team of experts that keep everything up-to-date, security-wise.
Dedicated vs. Shared Hosting
A shared server will host anywhere from dozens to hundreds of other websites, which means that shared hosting could be one of your least secure options, although the security protocols in place may vary between providers.
For instance, some offer round-the-clock protection, server monitoring, integrated CDN, spam protection, and encryption. The advantage of having such features provided for you is better site security without the big time investment.
Dedicated Server vs Virtual Private Server
One of the major downsides with shared hosting is that an attack on any of those other sites sitting on the server could spill over and compromise yours. Despite the best efforts of hosting companies to make them safe, you will almost always be better off using a virtual private server, or a dedicated server compared to sharing physical space with others. What’s more, the latter options will also give your website more space and resources, which means a better level of service.
E-commerce site hosting environments need to meet higher security standards because in order to process transactions they need to handle customer PII (personal identifying information) along with payment credentials. These sites will need to offer SSL bundles, payment processors that meet PCI-DSS standards, DDoS protection, regular backups, and firewall protection at the site level to ensure that none of that important data is compromised.
Secure Web Hosting Service – How To Evaluate
It can be hard to find hosting companies that use highly secure web servers. Many have impressive-looking websites, but you can’t take their promises to the bank.
What you can do is check to make sure that they can deliver on these five elements as a minimum:
RAID arrays can protect against data loss by replicating the content of drives. If one fails, then there is always another one with the same content which is immediately available. This may be a feature that you can purchase separately from some hosts and is well worth considering.
Data Center Security
As we already mentioned, Mother Nature is fickle and prone to breaking things when you least expect it. So, data centers need to be built with resilience in mind, and they probably shouldn’t be built on geographical fault lines. It may be worth checking!
Minimal Uptime Interruptions
There probably isn’t a web host out there that can guarantee 100% uptime – which means the completely uninterrupted availability of your website. But that isn’t a problem because 99.9%+ is a perfectly acceptable standard and there are providers who can guarantee that. Whatever their headline figure, it’s worth checking whether your web host offers compensation for loss of service.
Lots of web hosting providers will allow you to create data backups on a weekly, monthly or daily basis, but always go with daily if you have the choice. If the worst comes to the worst and your website fails or is compromised in some way, then you need to have a very recent backup to hand so that you can restore your services as quickly as possible.
Most companies allow you to back up your data for emergencies. Weekly, monthly, and daily backups are common – but a daily backup is preferred. You can then restore the latest version of your site if your server fails. The chance to perform manual backups can also be valuable, as it gives you the flexibility to do so whenever you want.
Bear in mind that some hosting plans impose backup limits, so be sure to make yourself aware of any conditions before you commit to renting such services. At the end of the day, the choice is yours, but make sure that you make it based on a wide range of reviews. This will give you the best overall impression of whether a web hosting provider can meet your website’s needs as it scales both reliably and securely.
In 2023 the average website is attacked 94 times a day, it’s visited by bots around 2600 times a week, and it exists at a time when 30,000 new websites are hacked every day.
The potential for damage to your business by malicious actors is always there. For this reason, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of thoroughly researching the security questions at play in your search for a web hosting provider.
The successful candidate needs to be able to prove to you through all the questions that we’ve mentioned that they’re up to the job of defending your website, and by extension your customers. If they can’t take every box for you, then move on to someone who can. Happy hunting!