Guest post by Josh Ewin, Managing Editor of Web Hosting Madness.
One universal pain that all affiliates, webmasters and website owners have dealt with at least once in their careers is web hosting. Downtime, support issues and even data loss can erode the web hosting experience and make life difficult for online marketers. So why does web hosting have to be a negative experience? It doesn’t have to be, and if you follow these simple tips, your web hosting experience can be a great one.
Setup Uptime Monitoring
Time Required: 15 minutes
As a professional affiliate marketer, you livelihood depends on your website being online. Pretty much everything else in your world (PPC campaigns, SEO, media buys, etc) could be running perfectly, but if your website is offline, then you aren’t making money. So, it’s critical that you know the status of your website at all times.
Keeping tabs on your website’s uptime status is very easy and even, yes, free. UptimeRobot.com, the service I personally use for monitoring my websites, is free and works like a charm. Enter your URL, your email address and your phone number, and Uptime Robot will send you an alert when your website goes offline. It will even alert you when your site comes back online (quite useful if you’ve submitted a support ticket to your web host and have been waiting for them to fix an issue). For being a free tool, Uptime Robot does have some decent features – you can monitor your site for certain keywords, setup network monitors, and monitor custom TCP ports.
Cache Your Site
Time Required: 2 Hours
Slow loading pages affect the user experience. If a user is running into slow loading sites when coming from a Google search results page, that poor experience reflects on Google and could potentially mean fewer ad views for Google. So, in early 2010, Google took matters into their own hands and factored page load time into their algorithm. Sites with page load times higher than 99% of other websites (i.e. the slowest 1% of sites) could be negatively impacted in the SERPs.
Enter CloudFlare. CloudFlare is a caching service that stores your website’s files in multiple locations around the globe. By routing your DNS through CloudFlare’s servers, CloudFlare can serve your site’s content from the nearest datacenter to your user. The result – dramatically improved page load times. The technology for caching site files has been around for a while in CDNs (content delivery networks), but CloudFlare has been the first to make it simple to deploy (and even free for small websites). They now have a new tool called RailGun that compresses previously uncacheable objects by 99.6%, improving performance on average by 730%.
Setup Vulnerability Monitoring
Time Required: 1 Hour
What CloudFlare does that other CDNs don’t do is monitor your traffic for potentially harmful visitors. CloudFlare uses their network of client websites to build a global database of potentially harmful visitors, like spammers & botnets. As a CloudFlare user, you can leverage their threat control tool to monitor and block potentially harmful visitors from ever reaching your website.
Web application attacks like cross-site scripting and SQL injections can cause irreparable damage to your website and to your brand reputation. If your site is compromised and is infecting visitors’ computers with malware, Google will quickly take action.
Infected sites aren’t immediately pulled from Google’s database; they alert you and give you a chance to repair the problem. However, until the infected files are removed, your site probably be sporting a red page, warning the user that if they proceed, they risk infecting their computer and becoming infected themselves with something nasty like swine flu or leprosy. It’s not a pretty sight and it can be prevented by using a simple application like CloudFlare to prevent attacks from happening in the first place.
Always Have Fresh Website Backups
Time Required: 1 Hour Setup + 15 Minutes Per Week
Cost: $0-$XXX/mo (cost varies widely based on the degree of redundancy you require)
It’s not a matter of if you will have to use your backups, but when. This is the digital age and if you aren’t backing up all of your data, you’re headed for trouble. If you don’t have a backup regime setup yet, today is the time to plan it out and do it. Setting up your digital disaster preparedness plan can be very easy.
I personally like having data redundancy on site as well as off site. For example, in my workstation, I have a RAID10 array setup for my business files. It consists of 4 separate hard drives that comprise the entire disk volume and a RAID controller. In a RAID array, all of the drives work together as one logical volume, thereby improving redundancy and in some cases, performance. If one of the drives in my RAID array fails, I can replace it without any data loss.
Beyond having data redundancy in my office, I like having a copy of my data stored offsite. If my home were to burn down tomorrow, I’d want a way to retrieve the years and years of data and business details that I’ve accumulated. Services like Dropbox and Box.net are great for this. Absolutely all of my business files are stored on Dropbox. As a result, my files are backed up on Dropbox’s servers, and also on all of my other devices, providing another layer of data redundancy.
What about website files? Website files are a little different, because the data you need to secure and backup isn’t static. The simple (read old school) way to backup your site data is to use a tool like cPanel to configure daily/weekly incremental and monthly full backups of your websites and all your server files. While this doesn’t provide you with an absolute, real-time backup, it is comprehensive (i.e. files, email accounts and databases are backed up). If you have cPanel or Plesk, both of these control panels have backup modules that you can use to configure automatic backups.
If you want to go the extra mile with your website backups, you’ll probably need to go outside of the budget/shared hosting arena and pickup a VPS or dedicated server. Most VPS accounts use RAID storage (usually RAID10 from what I’ve seen) and if you have a dedicated server, the sky is the limit when planning your redundancy. If you’re in this category, I’d highly suggest reaching out to the guys over at DedicatedNOW; their engineers really know their stuff when it comes to advanced hosting setups.
As an affiliate all you have is your data. So why not take the time today to use just one or two of the tactics and tools mentioned in this article to ensure that your business can weather any disaster the world might throw at it.
About Josh Ewin
A career marketer since 1996, Josh Ewin has founded and lead the marketing operations for web hosting and web development companies. Josh is the Managing Editor of Web Hosting Madness, a top ranked web hosting resource that leverages its relationships with hosts to find exclusive deals and provide detailed ratings for web hosting companies.
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