Making sure that your web host is secure is one of the most critical aspects of choosing a good hosting platform.
It does not matter how fast, value-for-money the hosting plan is unless you get essential security features with it.
If you are an enterprise or have opted for a premium managed hosting solution, you need not worry about the security features. Most established managed hosting solutions should provide competitive security features. Still, it is worth checking for the essentials.
If you are looking for a web hosting provider, it is wise to scout whether the host offers the fundamental security benefits. Moreover, it would help if you are also aware of the online threats to protect against.
Here, I will highlight common online threats and the key security features you should look out for when choosing a hosting provider.
Common Online Threats to Online Businesses
No matter the type or size of your business, if you rely on a web host to operate your online website/business, you will always face a wide range of security threats.
While some may not be disruptive, getting compromised by an attacker looks terrible for your business.
So, knowing the most common threats should give you an edge in protecting your online business.
Brute Force Attacks
A brute force attack tries a range of possible combinations to get your account credentials right. It could be manual guesswork or a bot trying out hundreds of combinations to access your account.
If an attacker manages to get into your online hosting account, one can easily affect the operations of your business.
Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks aim to overwhelm your server with traffic (not from real humans, but bots/compromised devices) to affect the availability of your website.
An attacker does not need any of your account credentials or sensitive information to start a DDoS attack.
You will find several DDoS protection services to protect your business, but it is best to find a hosting provider that protects you against it.
Distribution of Malware
These attacks aim to use your server as a disguise to carry out their malicious activities.
Operating System Vulnerabilities
Every web server offers options to choose from a variety of operating systems. Every operating system is often regularly updated to combat issues.
However, if there is a vulnerability that hasn’t been patched by your hosting provider, the attackers can get control of your website or business.
In addition to these, there are various threats online that can pose a risk to your web host and your business. You can also explore common types of hacks and hackers if you are curious about them.
Let’s now look at the Critical Features to Look for When Choosing a Secure Hosting Platform.
Most of the top web hosting platforms offer essential security features. However, every hosting provider specializes in something different. So, you may want to consider multiple options to compare and decide one for yourself.
Some of the key features include:
Backup and Restore Functionality
Every host offers some backup/restore functionality. But, the feature must be as seamless as possible.
If the backup/restore process does not involve a recent archive of your files, it may not be useful enough.
So, you should verify if your hosting provider offers automatic backups with optional real-time functionality. If the web host only supports manual backup/restore, it is wise to go through their documentation to see if the process is easy to follow or time-consuming.
Do note that the available options will depend on the pricing plan and the type of hosting you choose, regardless of the hosting platform.
For instance, backup/restore is relatively easy with managed hosting providers.
That reminds me, we also have a guide to help you set up a WordPress site on SiteGround if you are just starting.
Server and Network Monitoring
It is best not to rely on automated solutions for everything. Hence, if you need to keep an eye on your server stats and the network traffic, monitoring tools should help you.
Even if you do not have the time to monitor it yourself, it is best to have some insights when you get time. It could also come in handy when your server is having downtime and you want to look at what’s happening.
So, a web hosting partner that offers you the basic server/monitoring stats using built-in monitoring tools should be preferred.
Regular Malware Scans
Not every web host offers the ability to scan for malware on your server. You may have to opt for a separate service or a plugin to get the job done. You can also try looking at malware website scanners if your host does not offer them.
However, there are some options like Scalahosting, which equips you with a real-time protection service to automatically block attacks and scan for malware.
In addition to the automated features, it also sends you regular reports on the attacks blocked or malware.
If your hosting provider comes packed with this feature (or similar), it should reduce the effort required manually to keep online threats in check.
Most hosting platforms provide basic DDoS protection along with their server hosting plan.
However, DDoS protection services are not usually available for a good bargain, and the basic protections may not be enough. So, it is best to opt for some premium web hosting options, especially if you are building a WordPress website.
In this case, we would recommend trying out Kinsta for some of its best security offerings.
Manually Restarting Services
It is often a good thing for web hosts to manage most of the critical tasks. However, it is also important that you get control of your server.
So, even if you notice that the web host does not take any action, you can simply try restarting some running services to resolve the issue.
Most of the cloud hosting providers like Cloudways do give you fine-grained controls to start/stop running services.
Web Application Firewall integration
A Web Application Firewall (WAF) is an expensive investment for small/medium businesses.
But, it should be a steal deal if your host offers WAF protection out of the box with simple integration, making it convenient for you to make use of it.
One of the examples includes SiteGround with Cloudflare. With such options, you do not have to manually configure or set up a WAF to get enhanced security for your website. You can also explore other Web Application Firewall services if needed.
Usually, the data centers of web hosting companies are physically secure, considering they are located in various remote locations.
To ensure that the data center of a web host is secure, it is best to choose a hosting solution that uses a robust data center infrastructure.
For instance, SiteGround relies on Google’s data center networks. So, you can be sure that you get the best of the technologies if you opt for their hosting plans. In contrast, an unknown web host that claims that they have total control over its infrastructure may or may not have the best technologies to secure the data centers.
You need to do some background research to know more about the data centers used by your favorite hosting platform.
Access and User Permissions
If you need to give your team access to manage the server, it is good to have access/user controls to manage permissions as per their roles.
You do not want all of your team members to have full access to the hosting account. So, a hosting platform that offers access/user permission tweaks should be preferred.
Periodic Password Change and Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
It is healthy to change your account password regularly, so it becomes difficult for an attacker to compromise your login credentials.
Some web hosts strictly instruct you (or notify) to change your password regularly to re-enforce this habit. But, not everyone does that. So, it is okay if your hosting provider does not nudge you to change passwords very often.
That being said, you need to have two-factor authentication (2FA) enabled.
With that, you may not need to worry a lot about the password change. However, it is still good to regularly change passwords for enhanced security. After all, you can choose to use password managers to make things easier.
Most web hosting platforms give you the ability to enable 2FA.
If you notice that your web host does not support 2FA, you should avoid using their services entirely.
It is one of the most vital security features.
It is common to have FTP access on hosting platforms. While you do get easy benefits with FTP, it is not a secure protocol to access your web hosting files.
So, it is best to opt for a hosting platform where you have SFTP supported for secure access to your files.
Moreover, if a web host prohibits the use of FTP and only restricts you to SFTP, that’s even better.
Whether you opt for a premium or cheapest plan, your files still rely on a data center managed by the hosting platform or a third party.
So, in case of a disaster, what are the policies available by your hosting provider to recover your lost data?
Do they have special measures ready to recover your data after such cases? What exactly can they do about it?
Of course, you do not need to be super paranoid about it. I mean, no one can predict what can happen. But, it is better to know your options before you lose your data permanently, affecting your business.
Every web host supports SSL certificates. However, some charge a premium for it while others offer it free.
To save a few bucks, it is better to look for a hosting platform that provides free SSL certificates, mostly when using certificates issued by the Let’s Encrypt certificate authority.
You may get a free SSL certificate valid for a limited period in some cases. It can be a good deal, but you need to evaluate the cost after the free period if you plan to continue with the same host for a long time.
You do not need special SSL certificates unless you have a massive business or a payment-related business.
If your preferred web host manages to tick all the essential security traits, the efforts required to protect your online business will be minimal.
Overall, SiteGround, Bluehost, DreamHost, and Scalahosting are some popular considerations that you can look at. In either case, you also explore other established hosting platforms to pick one for your use case.