Let’s talk about something that often gets overlooked but is absolutely essential for online success: quality website hosting. Think of it as the sturdy foundation beneath the skyscraper of website dreams. Without it, well, the digital castle might just crumble faster than you can say “404 error.”

So, why does it matter? 

The Dangers of Low-Quality Hosting

While lower quality hosting is often less expensive, web hosting is like buying a bargain basement car; it might look like a deal at first, but the hidden costs can quickly add up. 

And while saving a few bucks for your client upfront may be tempting, the trade-offs are hardly worth it. Imagine having to deal with:

  • Your site being slow to load, so visitors simply leave and go to one of your competitors instead. Studies show that 40% of visitors will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
  • Your site being completely unavailable, preventing visitors from accessing your site at all. This can be due to an extended period of downtime or, just as troublesome, a short amount of time, but repeatedly.
  • Your site sort-of working, with some aspects of the site working properly, while others throw errors. This can be extremely frustrating to your site’s visitors, again pushing them away.
  • Your site gets hacked, exposing private data like client information to the hackers, injecting malware into your site, or just changing your site in ways that can be embarrassing (known as website defacement).  

    One of the more humorous examples of website defacement is when hackers replaced the image of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero on an official EU website with the image of Mr. Bean.

These problems can have real costs, in terms of not only the cost to fix/remediate the problem but also reputational harm, increased client frustration, and ultimately lost sales. So a top-notch host is a good investment that will pay dividends over time. 

What to Look For In Quality Hosting

So what should you look for in a quality hosting provider?  The following are the 7 most important things to look for when choosing the right web host for your client’s websites.

1. Highly Responsive Technical Support

Often overlooked, but by far the most important thing to look for in a hosting company is great tech support. The last thing you need is to be left high and dry in the event of unscheduled downtime. We have lots of nightmare stories we could share.

Nick Stiles, Director of Development at Nerder

Here are the things to look for in support from a hosting provider:

  • Can you connect with a representative quickly and easily?  Email support is the worst option, as we’ve often waited hours or even days before being able to connect with someone who can actually help. Live support (phone and/or chat) is a much better option (they’re a must for us!) as you can get a hold of someone right away.  
  • Is your request routed to a call center or directly to tech support? Call centers are generally not very helpful; they just take your message and put it in a queue, and then you wait. It’s essentially the same as submitting a request by email. Top hosting providers will put you in direct contact with support technicians who can actually help with your problem and will troubleshoot it in real time while you’re waiting. We’ve also found that it’s really helpful to have a direct dialogue with your support tech, as it can save a lot of back and forth, which saves time.
  • How well do the representatives respond to your queries? They should be friendly, patient, and helpful.  

    It’s always best to test support before you really need it. We recommend calling support with some simple questions when you first try their hosting service just to see how responsive and helpful they are. For example, ask them to help you set up a backup program. Then, once the backup has run, ask them to help you restore from the backup. It’s a good idea to set up and test your backup anyway so that it’s a good opportunity to talk with your tech support and see what they’re like.

2. First-Rate Reliability (Uptime)

Uptime is the proportion of time that your website is running smoothly and error-free. Most web hosting companies will aim for 99%+ uptime, which sounds good, but that means your website could be down for 7.3 hours per month. In our opinion, that’s far too much potential downtime. As a result, we recommend looking for hosts with at least 99.9% uptime, which is a more reasonable 44 minutes of downtime per month. At Nerder, we host our clients on servers with a 99.99% uptime guarantee (just 4.4 minutes of downtime per month).

3. Enhanced Security Features

Hosting provides the cornerstone to the security of your website. In our experience, most hacks are the result of either poor hosting or poor site maintenance practices. The security precautions that you should look for in a good website host are:

  • Free SSL certificates—SSL encrypts data as it’s transferred from your website to the visitor and vice versa. These days, SSL certificates are required for all sites as they convey a sense of trust to users. Browsers will send out a warning if a certificate is not in place, discouraging them from visiting the site. So, having access to a free, automatically renewing SSL certificate is a must for your site. 
  • Firewall—A firewall monitors traffic coming into your website and filters out malicious requests, such as preventing unauthorized access attempts, blocking unwanted traffic, and blocking malware.
  • DDoS protection—In a Distributed Denial-of-Service attack, multiple compromised computer systems can attack your website, flooding it with an overwhelming amount of traffic. This flood of traffic can overload the website, making it inaccessible to real users. DDoS protection will identify and mitigate these attacks, allowing only legitimate traffic to reach its intended destination while blocking malicious traffic. 

It’s important to note here that no host can guarantee 100% security, but exceptional security does greatly reduce the risks of your site being hacked.

4. Swift Load Time

According to a study by Tooltester, the average web page load time on desktop devices is about 2.5 seconds and 8.6 seconds on mobile. That’s relatively slow. 

So how fast should a website load? Studies show that 40% of visitors will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load. And with each fraction of a second longer, you lose additional people as they abandon your site and go to one of your competitors instead. So speed and performance really are crucial. 

A quality web hosting company can make a big difference in your site’s speed by providing ample computing power to ensure swift page delivery, even during high-traffic times. The use of SSD (solid state drives) are also a must as they provide much higher performance than traditional HDD (hard disk drives).  

Top hosts also provide performance-enhancing tactics like caching, which optimize frequently requested processes such as storing copies of frequently accessed pages or other assets (images, files, etc.) in memory so that they can be served up more quickly than retrieving them from storage. Making use of a content delivery network (CDN) is another performance-enhancing technique that boosts the speed of your site. A CDN distributes copies of a website’s static content across servers so that when a user accesses the website, the CDN serves the static content from the server nearest to the user, reducing latency and load time.

Speed is the name of the game in the online world. A quality web hosting service is like the hidden engine that propels your website forward, keeping users engaged with fast-loading pages. Think of it as the digital equivalent of a prime location for a brick-and-mortar shop, where speed and accessibility can significantly boost foot traffic.

5. Scalability

When your marketing efforts pay off, and traffic surges, scalable hosting is what allows your site to handle the influx without a hitch, ensuring your site’s performance remains top-notch. In instances of traffic spikes, such as during a holiday sale (we’re lookin’ at you, Black Friday), you need to be able to throttle your website’s resources, to ensure that there no risk of downtime.  This includes scaling key server resources such as CPUs, RAM, storage, and bandwidth.

If you choose shared hosting, scalability is limited because you’re essentially sharing resources with other websites on the same server. If your site hits high demand on Black Friday, or one of the other sites on your shared server does, then all of the sites will feel it as the server will slow down or even crash under the load.

With dedicated hosting, you have an entire physical server dedicated solely to your website, which is great. This offers better performance since you have all of the server’s resources to yourself. However, if that server can’t keep up with your Black Friday sale, you’re stuck in the same place as with shared hosting as it’s not an easy task to move your site to a more powerful server.

Cloud hosting, on the other hand, uses a network of interconnected cloud servers to host websites, which offers the ultimate in scalability because resources can be dynamically allocated based on demand. You are be able to scale up whatever resources are running low at any time, in order to meet growth in demand, then scale back down during quieter times. Some cloud hosting providers can even scale resources automatically. 

We believe that cloud hosting is a must!  Not only is cloud hosting scalable, it’s also much more reliable as a hardware problem on one server won’t take down your site – if a server fails, then another server in that cloud simply takes over.  That’s why cloud hosting providers are able to provide much higher uptime guarantees.

Glen Hayes, Tech Lead at Nerder

6. Effective Admin Panel

The ability to administer your server is super important, as you’ll need to do things like managing your domain names, setting up and renewing your SSL certificate, managing your firewall, managing your backups, and much more. The admin panel should be both powerful (allowing you to manage all aspects of the server) and also easy to use.

Some hosts use custom-built admin consoles, while others use a standardized admin panel, usually CPanel or Plesk. Even if your host is using a standardized admin panel, that does not mean that the functionality will be the same though as the hosting company is able to customize the admin panel, enabling and disabling different features, so no two hosting admin panels are really the same.

In our experience, there is a wide disparity in both what can be done through the admin panel of different hosts and how easy it is to administer. So we recommend digging into the admin panel and ensuring that it does everything you need, before committing to a hosting provider.

7. Website Backups

Regular backups are another must, keeping your data secure against potential server problems (hard drives sometimes break) and hackers (a hacked site is easily restored if good backups are in place). Some things to look for include:

  • Automatic Nightly Backups: Check the frequency at which backups are performed. Typically, nightly backups are recommended if you’re dealing with daily website changes so that recent changes are always captured and can be restored if needed. 
  • Retention Period: Factor in the retention period of backups offered by the hosting company. A longer retention period allows you to restore data from backups that are older, which can be valuable in certain scenarios, such as detecting and addressing security breaches. Your host should retain backups for at least 2 weeks and also offer options for longer retention periods as well as offsite storage of backups. 
  • Accessibility and Ease of Restoration: You also want access to backup files and a straightforward process for restoring not just the website from backup but individual files as well. Ideally, user-friendly tools or interfaces should be provided for managing your backups and performing restores. 

Once you sign up with a host, we recommend testing their backup and restoration procedure to ensure that it works properly. You don’t want to find out later that it wasn’t configured correctly when you absolutely need it.

Nick Stiles, Director of Development at Nerder

8. Server Location

When it comes to server location, there are two primary factors to consider.

  1. Proximity. If your customers are mostly in the United States, then you don’t want your server to be in Australia. Even though internet traffic is theoretically traveling at “light speed”, distance matters and gets magnified when there are thousands of requests to the server. You always want the server to be located in the region where your primary traffic is coming from.
  2. Privacy. For companies concerned about the privacy of their data, server location can also be a privacy factor to consider. This is especially true since the introduction of the Patriot Act, which gives the US authorities the ability to access all data located in the US without personal consent or a court order. If this is a concern, we recommend hosting in data centers outside of the US.

At Nerder, our preferred host allows us to choose between hosting in the US (east coast or west coast), Canada, Australia, Europe (multiple locations), and Asia (multiple locations), ensuring that we can provide the best hosting for every market.

Kent Hayes, Head of Operations at Nerder


It’s important to do your research and ensure that you’re choosing a top hosting provider to ensure that your site works properly, is quick and responsive, is available 24/7, and isn’t susceptible to hackers. If this is a bit overwhelming, you can just turn to us as we’ve already researched all of the options and have decades of experience dealing with a multitude of different hosting providers. You can be assured that we’ve got your back and will provide a recommendation that you can count on and that takes into account your client’s unique needs.