Laser Technik Ltd
Providing Internet services for over a quarter of a century.
Web hosting, service availability and security
Your web site is located on a computer running a piece of software called a Web Server. How well the hosting works is important to your web site. It needs to be fast and reliable. That’s what we aim for.
If you look around at what’s available you’ll find web hosting prices ranging from free to tens of thousands. Every hosting service offers different features. In simple terms: the more you pay the more and better you get. You don’t want the worst and you can’t afford the most costly. You want that which offers the best fit to your needs.
It’s like buying a car, the little 2 seater “runabout” is totally impractical for most of us, we need to carry more passengers and luggage. A nice new Bentley addresses those needs but with levels of luxury and engineering resulting in a price a little beyond my budget. The majority of new cars sold are family saloons with room for all the family and their luggage at a more realistic cost. The family saloon category still covers a range of features and prices, perhaps you need a 7 seater.
Web hosting too is not “one size fits all”, some web sites need extra features not needed by most and that may have an impact on cost. There’s a substantial list of features available, you only need those relevant to your circumstances. It can be difficult to choose without an understanding of what each means in practical terms – and unfortunate if you sign up to a deal that omits a technical feature important to your web site.
As a hosting provider it’s difficult too: how do they explain what amount to dozens of technical features?
Our answer is to use our expertise to identify which bundle of features delivers the benefits each web-site owner needs. Fundamentally those are speed and reliability but there are technical aspects like database services, software and computer languages (and versions) available, backup policies.
We no longer operate our own servers but buy services from specialists. That gives us the flexibility to change providers as the various offerings evolve and to use specialist providers where that is the best way to address your needs.
Saying “trust us to make the best choice for your needs” is all very well but if you’re new to our services how can we ask you to trust our judgement? So I will explain some of the key features we provide:
- Solid State Disk (SSD) storage. That means your web site is stored on silicon chip memory instead of mechanical Hard Disk Drives (HDD). The benefit is speed, your web pages are faster to load. SSD is typically 4 to 10 times the speed of HDD. SSD is more expensive but uses less power and, with no moving parts, is more reliable.
- Fast internet connection. Just as home broadband connections range from under 1 Mbit/sec to as much as 1000 Mbit/sec, so do the internet connections to a web server, they need to be orders of magnitude more than the fastset home connection. Home users on slow broadband will complain of TV shows “buffering” (pausing to await more data). A similar problem arises if your web host’s internet connection is too slow. The benefit of a fast internet connection to the server is speed, your web pages will load faster.
- Generous bandwidth provision. Bandwidth is a measure of the amount of internet data your web site sends, it is relatively costly, every time anyone accesses your website they use some of that bandwidth.
This is comparable with Mobile phone service packages. Those come with a bandwidth allocation for accessing web pages over the phone network, that allocation can be quite small and if you exceed the limit it can become costly. Web hosting packages normally include a bandwidth quota. Even those offering “unlimited bandwidth” have a small-print condition of “subject to fair usage” and/or will apply throttling to slow down access to your web site and so reduce network usage. We aim to provide at least twice as much bandwidth as we expect you to need (but also when creating a web site we aim to minimise the bandwidth requirement).
- Generous disk-storage provision. We aim for disk capacity of double what we actually need. As you may have found on your own computers, performance can drop as disk usage gets over about 80%. There are hosting packages that promise unlimited disk storage, that’s just marketing, what they mean is “more than adequate for most users” and is subject to a fair-use clause (which basically means it’s NOT unlimited). We provide each client with more storage than they need, should they exceed that those with unusually large disk storage needs will pay £20p.a. per Gigabyte above the initial generous allocation (advice for reducing disk usage is available FOC).
- Inodes. It’s increasingly common for Hosting packages to set a quota on Inodes, in simple terms that’s the number of files hosted. While the allocation is generous a website that needs to store large numbers of small files may hit that limit before running out of disk space, bandwidth or other resources.
- Memory. Your desktop PC will probably be fine with 4GB of memory as long as you’re running just a few relatively undemanding tasks like the MS Office suite, web browsers, email. Other tasks like Video Editors or if you keep a large number of programs running at the same time might need you to upgrade maintain fast performance. The same applies to web servers, specialist needs will require more memory.
- Number and type of processor cores. A different aspect of the same issue as memory: some tasks need faster or more powerful processors if they are to deliver fast response times. In PC terms that includes some of the most demanding games programs. The processor chip in a “standard” desktop PC might have a retail price of £100 but the latest fastest, most powerful chip could cost ten to twenty times as much. If you don’t need that level of performance then your money is wasted.
- Backups. Most hosting services provide backups. This is for reliability. Things can break, people can accidentally delete something important. You need daily backups, storage of (a limited number of) past backups, “on-demand” backups and free restoration of backups on demand. But not just that backups should be sent to a separate data centre. There was a fire in the main data centre of a major French web hosting company in early 2021. Their backups were stored in a separate building on the same site, the fire spread to that and in any case had damaged power supplies and internet connections. Backups for our UK server are sent to a data centre in the Netherlands so in case of a major disaster in UK the data is still safely stored.
- Server location: Internet connections do mean that it’s perfectly possible to use a web-server on a different continent. For fastest response time it’s preferable to have a server close to your largest concentration of potential visitors (the image below shows how much faster it is for a UK user to access a server in Europe than further afield.)
- Software: This topic is much more complicated, there are thousands of choices. At a detail level you may not know what you need until you find your chosen host doesn’t provide it. We address that problem by building web sites knowing what software is available. Where a less-common requirement arises we will use specialist hosting.
- Control panel: You’ll find hosts might offer PLESK, cPanel or a proprietary CP (control panel). There’s no simple “which is best”. For example you need a secure certificate (aka SSL). Most CPs offer the free LetsEncrypt certificate with automatic updates but some hosts (subsidiaries of the internet giant GoDaddy) don’t. In that case you can install it yourself but you’ll need to update every 3 months and it is a little “technical”. Those hosts would prefer to sell you a commercial certificate at £50p.a.
- Email: There are many ways to handle email. By far the most popular option is to use “best of breed” commercial email accounts such as Gmail, ProtonMail or Microsoft Outlook. If you use their free services you will probably want email forwarding such that email sent to YourName@YourDomain.co.uk arives in your email account which might be YourName@gmail.com
- Email accounts are available on our server (£20 p.a. per name, capped at 500MB storage) but we strongly recommend that you consider Google, Microsoft (Outlook) and Proton email accounts (all offer a generous free account but the commercial offerings are even better at about £50 p.a. per account)
- Email forwarding associated with a web hosting account is free for the first 5 recipient addresses (otherwise £5 p.a. per address).
- Email forwarding associated with a domain name without an associated web hosting package is £5 p.a. per address.
- We advise against using any other email service for business purposes (for several reasons, too many to detail here).
- Use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN keeps copies of your web site on servers distributed all over the world. The benefits of that are speed and reliability
- reliability: if your primary server has a problem, the CDN will continue to provide a service
- speed: users on the other side of the globe may get your web pages faster than having to communicate round the globe (by fetching your web site from a web server closer to their location)
- speed: if there is congestion on the internet between a web site visitor and your primary server, pages will be fetched from a more distant server if that will deliver them faster.
The chart below shows access speeds from various points around the world to a UK hosted web site when a CDN is not in use: from Europe the home page loads in 0.15 seconds second, from Australia can take more than ten times as long. One purpose of a CDN is to make remote access faster.
- We want the web sites we deliver to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We all have experience of problems with computers and web servers can fail. That’s why we implement processes and features to manage the risk.
- Service monitoring – the sites are automatically accessed from different computers once an hour. If there’s no response we get an alert and can investigate.
- CDN – the CDN replicates your site to different global servers such that if there is a failure visitors should see a copy of the site from one of those servers.
- Backups – in the event of a catastrophic problem it should be possible to restore your web site from a recent backup. We also keep an older copy of the site on a separate computer. That means if your site has been subject to a delayed action hacker attack (the delay means the daily backups have been affected before the attack takes effect and so harder to recover) we can still restore a working version but it might need some updates.
- Separation of services – we intentionally avoid holding the domain name at the host. That means that in the event of a catastrophic failure we can route the name to a different host.
If you wish there is more we can do but charges apply and we regard this as only necessary for the most business critical sites:
- Provide you with a separate backup copy
- Implement an additional backup process, maybe once a week to a remote computer and retain a longer change history.
- Increase the uptime monitoring frequency from once an hour to every 15 minutes (every minute if necessary but that becomes very costly).
- In addition to uptime monitoring we can implement content image monitoring. In the event that a hacker gains access and corrupts your home page, we can detect the change and raise an alert.
We take your security very seriously, that will be undermined if you don’t do the same. I’m sure I don’t need to repeat all the advice about password security (there’s plenty of advice around the internet like this), I will just add: do make use of 2FA (Two Factor Authentication) and store your login credentials in a password vault like KeePass or LastPass.