So: you’ve arranged some hosting for your web presence, hopefully by referring to our guides and reviews, such as our recommendations for WordPress sites or our guide to the best shared hosting packages out there?
Once you’ve got your hosting in place, there are some crucial things to remember to ensure you don’t come unstuck at some point in the future. After over a decade working in the IT and Web industry, I’ve seen many clients tripped up by certain mistakes, which are quite basic, but also very easy to make. The idea of this guide is to help you avoid following in their footsteps.
So, without further ado, here are five important hosting tips to ensure your website stays live and secure:
1. The most important of my hosting tips: remember your dates!
Once you’ve set up your hosting, it’s essential that you make a note of all the key renewal dates. Most crucially, you need to make sure you remember when your hosting is up for renewal and when any domain registrations expire.
I’ve lost count of the number of times people have called me in a panic because their website has “disappeared.” Often, it’s because someone has failed to renew a domain or a hosting package. I therefore suggest that you set a reminder in Outlook or whatever other calendar software you use – with an alarm so there’s no way for you to overlook it.
A common reason renewal dates are missed is because the notifications have gone to the wrong person – often someone who was involved in setting up a website but has since left the company – and that brings me neatly on to my next point:
2. Ensure your contact details are current
As I just said, a common reason for renewal issues with websites is that reminders get missed due to inaccurate contact details. It’s therefore essential that the contact details your provide to your hosting company are kept up to date. One particularly vital piece of information is the administrative contact you provide for your domain registration(s).
I’ve personally had to unpick numerous situations where this has gone awry; Sometimes, for example, a startup company has used a temporary Gmail or Yahoo address when setting up their domain and hosting, then abandoned the address and moved on to using their own domain. Then, the renewal reminders have ended up in a “black hole,” and the domain and / or hosting has expired without anyone realizing.
Resolving these issues is often stressful and time-consuming, but these situations can be easily avoided by following these two pieces of advice.
3. Cancel old hosting packages
This hosting tip is the flipside of the situation described above – and I’ll confess that I’ve ignored it personally – to my financial cost!
Often, hosting packages are set to auto-renew. This is good in a way, because it helps avoid the situations I’ve described above. However, if like me you ever set up hosting for a domain and decide not to proceed with work on it, it’s important to remember to cancel the auto-renewal.
If you don’t, you’ll suddenly see a sum of money leave your bank or credit card – for a year’s worth of hosting that you no longer need. Trust me when I say that it’s all the more irritating when you know deep down that it’s your fault!
4. Keep on top of passwords
There are lots of passwords involved in Web hosting – passwords for your control panel(s), FTP logons, WordPress admin passwords – the list goes on.
It’s important to manage these passwords properly in two ways: Firstly, you need to make sure you don’t set them and forget them in the early days, only to have to scrabble around to find them when you need to make an urgent change to your website.
Secondly, you should avoid the easy option of using insecure and easy to guess passwords to “make life easier.” Best practice is to use complex passwords and change them regularly. This really is far less stressful than having to pick up the pieces after a site’s been compromised because you made life easy for the hackers.
5. Keep things up to date
Even if your site content is relatively static, it’s important to keep up to date with all the components that keep it running. Everything – from the backbones of MySQL and PHP, to content management systems like WordPress and Joomla, is subject to regular updates – often to address significant security issues that have been discovered.
As such, a key hosting tip is to make sure you regularly do some housekeeping work to make sure you’re running up to date versions of all the technologies that underpin your site. It doesn’t take long, but it must be done.
As I said at the start, I’ve built this list based on personal experience of what goes wrong in practice. These hosting tips are not difficult to follow – and certainly not as difficult (or expensive) as resolving the problems that can occur if the basics are neglected.
IMAGE CREDITS: Flickr,