What to look for in a web hosting service

So you’ve gathered all of your content, designed a beautiful website, optimized it for search, and you’re ready to go live. Now the question is: What should I look for in my web hosting service? And how can I compare the range of web hosting providers available?

The answers vary based on the specific needs of your website, including where your audience is, how much traffic you expect, and a bunch of other factors.

But at the end of the day, the four most important components for evaluating a hosting service are:

  1. Speed
  2. Reliability
  3. Scalability
  4. Security

So let’s take a closer look at each of those dimensions.

Speed: “How fast will my site load?”

Evaluating a hosting service’s speed means measuring how quickly your content loads in your site visitors’ browsers, no matter where they are. If your site’s files are hosted on just one server, in one place, then visitors will see slower and slower page loads the further they are from your server.

The solution is to store and distribute your assets in a content distribution network (CDN). A CDN distributes your files throughout data centers worldwide, then delivers them to visitors via the data center that’s closest to them. This means snappy page loads for all your visitors, worldwide.

hosting server map
Webflow distributes your site files through a global CDN to ensure fast page loads for all your visitors, worldwide.

Of course, we wanted to make sure your website loads as fast as possible for people across the globe , so we took itt a step further, by using not one, but two CDNs:

  1. Fastly
  2. Amazon Web Services (AWS)

How we use Fastly to accelerate your time to first byte (TTFB)

The first CDN we use, Fastly, delivers your HTML documents. Speed is key with that first document, because it’s what tells the browser which image, CSS, and JavaScript files it needs next, which is why we use a second CDN. At Webflow, we’ve striven to optimize the time to first byte (TTFB), because it’s the biggest factor in visitor experience and page load speeds.

This is often overlooked by pagespeed tools, but there’s good reason to believe that it actually affects your site’s rankings: According to a Moz article, there’s a correlation between lower TTFB and higher search engine rankings — yet another reason we’ve focused so much on this vital metric.

How we use Amazon Web Services to accelerate site content loading time

Our second CDN, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloudfront, delivers your site’s assets to you from even more locations (or, PoPs, for “Points of Presence”). This ensures that images and videos will also load extremely quickly.

Our Business hosting plan takes that even further, giving you access to three times the number of PoPs as our other hosting plans.

Scalability: “Will my site crash if it goes viral?”

Will your site be able to handle tons of traffic? Or will your server fall over when it gets too many requests? This is the core question for scalability: What happens when your site traffic increases?

The best services handle this by automatically spinning up servers as your traffic ebbs and flows, so you can handle any amount of traffic. Which is exactly what Webflow hosting does, with a little help from Fastly and Amazon EC2.

Webflow hosts several sites that get over a million pageviews a month without a hitch!

fast-web-hosting

Reliability: “Will I have to deal with downtime?”

A website that fails to load is useless. So look for a service that guarantees 99.99% reliability, because outages are a pain (and damage your brand).

“Cheap” hosting can often be highly unreliable — and ironically expensive to your brand — since your files are often stored in shared hosting space, which can go offline if your server neighbors see unexpected spikes in traffic.

We pride ourselves on our uptime. Last year we only had 1 minutes of total downtime, which translates to 99.999% uptime. Check out status.webflow.com to see our historical performance.

Security & HTTPS/SSL

Ever notice the difference between sites with a URL that starts with http:// and those that start with https://? That S stands for “secure,” and indicates that all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted with an SSL certificate. Today, some browsers may still show the “https://” part of your domain in the address bar, while others like Chrome will display a lock icon.

chrome SSL lock
Chrome displays a lock to show that this website is SSL-secured.

This is especially important for websites that collect data in forms, ecommerce sites, or really any website where personal information is exchanged. SSL matters for search, too. Google revealed in 2014 that sites without an SSL certificate will be subject to ranking penalties, making SSL a must-have for any serious website today.


Webflow provides free SSL certificates for all sites hosted in Webflow, so your site visitors can feel comfortable sharing their information with you — and you can rank higher in search.Unleash your creativity on the webBuild completely custom, production-ready websites — or ultra-high-fidelity prototypes — without writing a line of code. Only with Webflow.Get started for free

What else should I consider?

While speed, reliability, scalability, and security should be your chief concerns, Webflow offers a host (pun sheepishly intended) of other features that have a significant impact on SEO and performance, and may not be offered by most hosting services.

HTTP/2

2015 saw the release of the first new Hypertext Transfer Protocol since 1999: HTTP/2.

This new standard promises faster websites across the web — but not all hosting platforms support it yet. Because Google has always cared about page speed, there’s a good chance that HTTP/2 will become a component of their ranking algorithm soon.

Here are some benefits of HTTP/2 support/compatibility:

  • Multiplexing: Your browser can receive requests over multiple connections, not just one. Think of it like switching from a one-lane road to an interstate.
  • Header compression: Your browser loads the top of your pages first, before the rest of the page, which means your site visitors see content faster. On mobile especially, this is a big improvement.

Webflow’s hosting has been HTTP/2 compliant for a couple years now, unlike services out there. (And even hosts who do offer it typically only do so on higher-tier packages.)

Today, all assets published to a Webflow site are served via HTTP/2 — increasing page load performance when a large number of assets need to be downloaded.

Other powerful features of Webflow hosting

Everything above is more or less essential, but there are many other features that can make managing your website a lot easier and more convenient. These include:

  • Automatic backups and version control (you can also save and name a site version whenever you’d like with the key combo Command + Shift + S on Mac or Control + Shift + S on Windows)
  • Site-wide and per-page password protection
  • Simple publishing workflows
  • Responsive images
  • Protection against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks

On top of these features, Webflow hosting includes:

  • Form submissions (manage lead gen and let us store your data for you). It’s like Wufoo, but built into Webflow!
  • SEO and social tools: manage OpenGraph and SEO meta tags in one convenient interface. Easily combine it with the CMS to automate your metadata optimization.
  • Dynamic embeds: integrate Webflow CMS with Shopify for ecommerce, SoundCloud for music, Eventbrite for events, and anything else that uses custom code embeds.

Webflow combines all these elements in a first-class global hosting infrastructure that’s available at the click of a button. This means that when you publish with Webflow, your site’s files and assets are published across the globe and immediately ready for any amount of traffic, from any location.

Want to know how much we believe in Webflow hosting?

We put a lot of thought and effort into making Webflow hosting one the the best hosting services out there. We’ve seen Webflow-using businesses like Kisi grow their organic traffic by over 300%, while also supporting thousands of requests per second for businesses like Eventbrite.

In fact, when Eventbrite launched their Amstel Live festival page with Webflow, they received over 10,000 requests a second — resulting in over 3,000,000 page views in just one hour. Webflow hosting was able to handle it without a hitch.

But above all, we believe in our hosting platform so much so that we use it for our own websites, which see hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe every day, and have seen nearly perfect performance over the last year.

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