The ultimate guide to choosing a managed hosting provider

Published on May 2019

Hosting is the foundation of your digital real estate. Without a solid and dependable supplier, your next web application is doomed to be littered with downtime and performance issues. But with 1000’s of managed hosting providers all across the world all promising the perfect hosting solution for your next web application, it’s hard to know where to start. Here we’ve put together a list of features and functionalities we’d recommend you make sure your next providers have before signing on the dotted line.

Every hosting provider is different, although they widely offer the same services which are listed below. However, it’s a good idea to understand how detail oriented they are within those services. As a base line we’d recommend making sure they provide:

  • Software updates – this goes for server OS but also for any managed security solutions you are using
  • Backups – understand how often they are being backed up
  • Security software and maintenance – make sure your web assets are protected and that the installed software is being updated
  • Malware and virus scanning – make sure it’s a good tool, (we use Sophos)
  • Performance monitoring, more on this below
  • 24/7 support – if it’s not 24/7, it’s not managed
  • Managed databases – for performance and speed
  • Hardware upgrading – only relevant for data centres rather than public cloud but worth keeping in mind

When choosing a managed hosting provider, we highly recommend you build your specification first, then send the brief to your selected providers.  You can download a check list with more detail around this topic here.

Don’t forget to include:

  • What architecture, storage and processing power required to run your application?
  • What location or locations do you want this hosted from?
  • What uptime do you need?
  • Service-Level-Agreement (SLA): how quick should your provider respond and resolve errors?
  • Any pre-installed software or database requirements?
  • Bandwidth requirements?
  • Upfront vs monthly cost billing (upfront is cheaper)

Performance Monitoring and Support

I can’t stress this enough: performance monitoring your application is your insurance to make sure you can stop it falling flat on its face. Monitor the performance of your application and make sure you’re tracking the right metrics around server health, CPU usage, API’s, uptime and latency. These metrics can help predict a disaster before it occurs.

Just After Midnight has built our business around monitoring applications to prevent downtime. Whichever hosting partner you choose make sure they monitor more than just the server. Specifically, request to get the application monitored as well, not just the infrastructure. The majority of hosting providers will just tell you the state of server, so your website could be down and they won’t know about it.

In addition, make sure that you have an incident response plan in place to triage and remedy the incident, which will prevent lengthy downtime.

Finally, when it comes to support remember what your hosting provider can do and cannot do. The majority of providers will not go beyond a simple infrastructure monitoring and support, therefore when you ask for support, they’ll simply tell you that your server is working and that is it. We believe in an always-on world, that this is no longer enough. If the revenue or reputation of your business is likely to be impacted, you need to be able to get this application back up – waiting until 9am on Monday is just not good enough anymore. Work with your developers, agency or managed support team to make sure you and your customers round the clock.

If you have any questions about managed hosting, reach out to one of our team who will be happy to help.