If you want an online presence, you’ll need to host a website. Whether you design the site yourself or hire a service that specializes in website design, you will still need website hosting to provide the internet-accessible server which holds all your live website files and pages. Managing that server, keeping its performance competitive, and preventing hackers from colonizing your server will, of course, take continuous monitoring and web hosting management.
To do this right, you’ll need some strong website hosting best practices. Fortunately, these are policies anyone can implement with the right tools and team on your side. Let’s dive into the best practices for keeping your website’s server safe, satisfactory, and lightning-fast.
1.) Choose a Trustworthy Website Hosting Provider
The first and most important decision you will make with website hosting is choosing the right host provider. A web host is a company with server banks that provides both virtual and physical server space to host your website. Unlike your local IP, each hosted server is automatically accessible to the internet and also offers a few helpful bonus services like SSL certificates and basic cybersecurity.
However, if your hosting provider is compromised, so too might every server they host. This makes it vital to choose a trustworthy and robust host as well as one with a nice list of extra server features.
2.) Backups and Tested Recovery Plans
Once you have your server established and your website files loaded onto it, begin making backups. Should anything happen to your website files, from malicious attacks to database errors, the right backup and recovery system can have you back online in minutes instead of lamenting all your lost work. The more frequently you update the website (or user interaction creates records) the more often you should take backups.
It’s also helpful to keep an archive of landmark backups (once a month/quarter/update cycle) just in case you need to roll back to a previous version.
Always test your backup recovery system. The last thing you want is to rely on corrupted backups or a flawed implementation system when you need to restore from backup most.
3.) Firewalls and Antivirus/Antimalware
When it comes to website hosting, cybersecurity measures are no longer optional. While you can toy with your first WordPress installation without a firewall, never go live without a full stack of security measures including a (configured!) firewall, antivirus software, and antimalware programs. Closing unused ports and using the most secure settings for all of your web server programs and features should also be part of your cybersecurity measures.
4.) Prepare Defenses Against Known Attack-Types
There are several important steps to take based on known methods of attack. Prepare your server for a DDOS attack, which is when a hacker sends so many queries to your server that it is overwhelmed and stops serving the website. Close all routes to an SQL injection attack, where a hacker uses text entry (like username or message features) to mess with your database tables. Make plans for how you might deal with a ransomware attack (wipe and load a backup), infiltrated accounts, and password cracking.
5.) Restrict Access and Authorization
Make sure only authorized logins can access your web server, and restrict which accounts can do what. Never give root access and avoid using it yourself after your website hosting server’s initial setup. Create restricted accounts for users and other admins. Make sure that new users on your site have an enjoyable but limited ability to make changes to the site or use admin access.
6.) Network Monitoring: Live and Algorithmic
Once your website hosting server is secured, set up network monitoring. Network monitoring was originally a detailed diagnostics tool able to see everything from your CPU temperature to network and software activity. It has since become the most accurate and fine-tuned way to detect hacker and malware activity, even well-hidden and lurking programs. How?
Network monitoring detects every change to your server and, with live and algorithmic oversight, can identify anything out of the ordinary. Did someone access your web server without an approved login? Likely a hacker. Is something eating your server resources without logging its presence? Probably hidden malware. Network monitoring can root out the sneakiest spyware and identify hackers in the act.
7.) Remove Unnecessary Applications & Features
The next step is to remove any potential security gaps in your web server software and website structural stack. Take out plugins or modules that you are not using. Uninstall programs that are not part of keeping your website secure and online. These programs will only create access points that hackers can manipulate. Because they are unused, they are also unlikely to be properly configured and many unused programs on a web server can still hook into your website while deactivated, providing unwanted backdoor access.
8.) Update Regularly – Including Optional Patches
Don’t miss an update. It’s important to keep your entire server and website stack up-to-date with the latest versions of the software, programs, and modules you use. And we don’t just mean major updates. Keep an eye out, especially, for optional security patches released by the teams who develop the software you use. These security patches are often responses to the latest discovered cybersecurity threats. They can close backdoors and security gaps and provide additional protection against recently cracked hacker tactics to best avoid hacks before they happen.
9.) Force Strong and Regularly Updated Passwords
Passwords: no doubt you’ve heard of how important a strong password can be. This is important not just for you as the website owner, but every person and account associated with your website – especially admin accounts. Strong passwords can’t be force-cracked with algorithms (in a reasonable amount of time and computing power) and regularly updating passwords prevents any stolen passwords (or common passwords stolen from another site) to compromise your web server.
Use cool widgets to help your users make strong passwords, then have passwords update at least once a year to prevent the circus of password theft from allowing access to your site through a user’s multi-site password use.
10.) Perform Regular “Mystery Shopper” and Penetration Tests
Finally, test, test, and test again. Regularly run multiple types of tests to make sure your website can handle heavy traffic, hacking attempts, and is not currently hacked. Penetration testing is when your IT team takes the role of a hacker and seeks ways to infiltrate the server that are not yet secured. Mystery shopper tests, for a website, involve accessing your site from an unaffiliated device to make a new account and explore the site as a new user would see it. Hackers often infiltrate websites to redirect users and show ads that are configured so admin-accounts never see the effects. A “mystery shopper” test can see what your users see, which can sometimes be quite revealing.
When your website hosting server is secure with a robust system of updates, monitoring, backups, and tests, you will be ready to move forward with other goals like SEO and performance analytics.