Your choice of Website Hosting Provider is probably one of the most important choices you will need to make for your online presence and the market is split into two diverse group of providers. Firstly there are the budget providers who will promise you things like "Unlimited Bandwidth", "Unlimited Storage" and "24/7 support" all for a few pounds per month, but these providers rely on the fact that they will attract low volume, low storage websites that will have a negligible effect on their overall estate. Their support promise of 24/7 is for supporting their service and not your website as many discover too late. These providers are swift to eject customers who actually want to use significant bandwidth or storage and we receive a steady stream of such customers. The other side of the market are the professional hosting providers who will never promise you "Unlimited" anything but instead quote realistic pricing for realistic performance. Professional Hosting also brings with it real support for your website, which isn't always free (depending on the service) but will solve your issues and get your site fixed and running again swiftly. Professional Hosting also offers services such as hot or cold mirrors, redundant databases and more to significantly improve the load balancing and stability of your site. I'm going to elaborate on some of the benefits below for clarity.
Dedicated vs Shared
Dedicated Hosting provides a complete server installation for your use. This complete server can be windows or linux and can be installed by you or us. Shared hosting on the other hand is Hosting on a shared platform with other sites. We never congest our shared hosting with too many sites so there is always an abundance of resources available. Dedicated is significantly more expensive than shared but can be an advantage if you intend to develop customised back-ends in languages other than Java. PHP or ASP. Support options for Dedicated and Shared are comparable and can be tailored to your specific needs.
When customers view your website a volume of data is transferred from your website to the customer, this is bandwidth. Website Bandwidth is allocated in Mb/Month inclusive to your hosting charge. If you exceed this bandwidth then additional bandwidth is charged as an additional but your website will be uninterrupted. During on-boarding your assigned account manager will discuss the bandwidth requirements and will price accordingly. As the year progresses adjustments can be made to your hosting package to increase the included bandwidth and eliminate additional charges.
With larger websites that rely on a degree of back end processing, it may not be sufficient to simply rely on a single execution pool. Additionally execution pools will permit multiple sessions to execute simultaneously increasing overall website performance, but each hosting platform only has a finite allocation of execution pools so additionally pools are charged accordingly. The addition of execution pools can be done at any time during the year ensuring that your website is always up and running with the performance you require.
Not all websites can be load balanced, but those with static content or with a CMS Framework that supports it can be, and load balancing in essence is having your site hosted on more than one server, and having your customers spread over those servers to reduce the load on each and increase performance AND resilience. Most websites start their hosting on a single host and then upgrade to load balanced configurations are they grow and require it but we do onboard websites that already have an established volume and are initially hosted in a load balanced configuration.
Like Load Balancing, Multi-Homing a website means that different servers are routed through different physical connections which had the benefit of surviving an outage from a particular provider which whilst rare can occur. We can also multi-home across borders for customers that require localised resource to their customer base. A good example of this is an international company that has their website translated into several languages. We would host each language in the country of that language ensuring the fastest performance for that customer base.
Content Delivery Networks (CDN's)
There are a number of CDN's which can offer static content distribution for a relatively low cost, but these CDN's also have issues which makes their utilisation something that should be considered in the design phase of your website. If we are designing your site then this will definitely be considered and suggested as an option. Retro-fitting CDN's to an existing dynamic site is fraught with issues but can be done with careful configuration.
Tor Onion Hosting
Tor (torproject.org) has for many years been a conduit to access sites securely, and providing you follow the rules will provide you with complete browsing anonymity. To further enhance the Tor security service, websites can be hosted SOLELY on Tor and will have no Internet presence. This is sometimes referred to as the Dark web but that phrase is a little disingenuous. Tor Hosted Sites are only accessible from a specific onion url and will not be available from any browser except the Tor browser. We are one of the few providers who offer Onion Hosting should your application require it, but be aware that we will not host sites involved in illegal activity. You can check out our Onion Hosted site by visiting http://co7jhpg4vwnvu5bdqcufapx2vc6cjjr5huptna3cxub2bcjnblxbrzad.onion/ using the Tor Browser.
DIY or Managed
When we first started website hosting in the early 90's we found that the only viable option was Managed, and this means that we take care of the site and deal with updates, upgrades and changes. We don't author the site but the site owners supply updated pages and we handle the deployment. In the early 2000's this swung the other way with customers requiring the ability to upload their own sites and make their own changes and whilst this introduced a significant increase in support requests we factored that into the structure. Today there are now three variants of customer interfaces.
- DIY - The customer has complete access to the site and database and makes their own changes. Support is available if needed but is generally charged as used. This interface is ideal for customers who have in-house expertise.
- CMS - With the arrival of Joomla and Wordpress (and others) customers can now update their site content from a web based backend, and with ACL's a site owner can allocate update permissions to several staff in several site areas. There are still changes the customer cannot complete themselves and we're available for those changes but the majority is self-managed.
- MANAGED - We manage the site and its operation. The customer supplies us with updated content periodically and we merge this into the live site (or to a test site for approval before merging into the live site). In this interface we ensure the stability of the sites and deal with its daily needs such as clearing logs, debugging code and handling end user issues such as authentication or content. This whilst being the most expensive of the three does provide a controlled environment ensuring the overall stability and performance of the site.
Backup and Disaster Recovery
Having a comprehensive backup and recovery strategy is critical to any web presence, and our account manager will discuss the options during on-boarding. We can offer anything from monthly static backup's to continuous multigenerational sync. If your website becomes compromised or 'Hacked' you will always benefit from 24/7 critical care response by our NOC team to resolve the issue and then remediate.
Multi-Hosting Provider Load Balancing
Sometimes we're asked to host a mirror of a site and for that mirror to be part of a load balanced scenario between multiple hosting providers. We do not undertake such work simply because supporting such a setup is labour intensive and in our experience such a setup rarely works out for the better. With any load balanced site, from the end user's point of view its impossible to tell which host is hosting their session and for that reason customer issues cannot be easily referenced back to a specific hosting providers, which leads to endless finger pointing and discourse which is why it rarely works out.
Support is a term which describes our response to an issue, and with regard to Professional Website Hosting our support is second to none. Our technicians are not only experienced in the platform and setup's but are also developers experienced in design and development of websites. This means that no matter the issue we can fix it and do. You'll negotiate a Service Level Agreement as part of the hosting service and this SLA will ensure that we respond and resolve within the predefined timescales or face penalties (which usually means paying you money). Very few Professional Hosting Providers offer scaleable SLA"s and even fewer stand by them with penalties. Our support is not only managed 24/7 but we always have the correct mix of experts on standby to deal with any support scenario that may arise.
Monitoring and Analysis
When you have Professional Website Hosting with GEN, we automatically subscribe your site to our Network Operations Centre to monitor it for uptime and performance. This monitoring happens 24/7 and should your site exhibit unreliability our NOC team are immediately directed to investigate. Using such monitoring we are able to detect and terminate many common website attacks as well as being able to resolve outages long before you're even aware there was one. Our Reporting shows your website historic performance spanning up to 2 years and this intelligence can be used by our account managers to asses overall performance and when lacking suggest upgrades to improve it.
In recent years Google Analytics has become the popular choice for website analytics but with recent concerns over privacy issues and well as increasingly strict regulation in certain parts of the world it is in decline. For this reason we offer alternatives such as Matomo and AWStats as standard, both of which provider the same (if not more) reporting capabilities without the privacy concerns.
Shared or Dedicated Hosting on Linux, Apache Webserver, MariaDB 10, PHP 5 or 7 and optionally PERL/Ruby. Access to shared webspace by FTP/SFTP/SAS or WebDAV. Managed or DIY with various support options
The Apache HTTP Server, colloquially called Apache, is free and open-source cross-platform web server software, released under the terms of Apache License 2.0. Apache is developed and maintained by an open community of developers under the auspices of the Apache Software Foundation.
Originally based on the NCSA HTTPd server, development of Apache began in early 1995 after work on the NCSA code stalled. Apache played a key role in the initial growth of the World Wide Web, quickly overtaking NCSA HTTPd as the dominant HTTP server, and has remained most popular since April 1996. In 2009, it became the first web server software to serve more than 100 million websites. As of August 2018, it was estimated to serve 39% of all active websites and 35% of the top million websites
Shared or Dedicated Hosting on Linux, Nginx Webserver, MariaDB 10, PHP 5 or 7. Access to shared webspace by FTP/SFTP/SAS or WebDAV. Managed or DIY with various support options
Nginx is a web server which can also be used as a reverse proxy, load balancer, mail proxy and HTTP cache. The software was created by Igor Sysoev and first publicly released in 2004.
Shared or Dedicated Hosting on Linux, Apache Tomcat and JVM. Access to shared webspace by FTP/SFTP/SAS or WebDAV. Managed or DIY with various support options.
Apache Tomcat (also referred to as Tomcat Server) implements several Java EE specifications including Java Servlet, JavaServer Pages (JSP), Java EL, and WebSocket, and provides a "pure Java" HTTP web server environment in which Java code can run.
Tomcat is developed and maintained by an open community of developers under the auspices of the Apache Software Foundation, released under the Apache License 2.0 license, and is open-source software.
Shared or Dedicated Hosting on Linux with Joomla 3 or 4 and write access to install your own modules, templates or plug-ins. Full and unrestricted access to the Joomla Extensions Directory. Managed or DIY with various support options.
Joomla! is an open-source content management system (CMS) for publishing web content, developed by Open Source Matters, Inc. It is built on a model–view–controller web application framework that can be used independently of the CMS. Joomla! is written in PHP, uses object-oriented programming (OOP) techniques and software design patterns, stores data in a database, and includes features such as page caching, RSS feeds, printable versions of pages, news flashes, blogs, search, and support for language internationalisation.
Over 8,000 free and commercial extensions are available from the official Joomla! Extensions Directory, and more are available from other sources.
Shared or Dedicated Hosting on Windows Server with IIS (Internet Information Services), .net Framework, ASP. SQL Server 2014 or MariaDB 10. Dedicated configurations are built to order and where CAL's are required they can be added as you go.
Internet Information Services (IIS, formerly Internet Information Server) is an extensible web server created by Microsoft for use with the Windows Server family. IIS supports HTTP, HTTP/2, HTTPS and FTP, FTPS. It has been an integral part of the Windows Server family since Windows NT 4.0.
With dedicated servers, we can take management of the OS, patching, updates, and security or you can have complete autonomy as required. Backups are provided as standard for all shared hosting, and optional for dedicated hosting. Websites can be hosted in the UK, USA or Europe and where required high availability can be established with two or more mirrors. In more complex environments, MariaDB clustering can be setup to provide distributed database processing for high volume sites.