Website security isn’t just about what you do to protect yours. A significant responsibility also lies with your web host. Most web hosting plans don’t allow direct server access, leaving the security on that side of things to service providers.
Finding the right secure web host is essential to ensure that your website and its visitors stay safe. Web hosts can provide many security features, but not all may cover the list comprehensively.
Here are 9 of the most critical security features to consider when choosing your web hosting partner;
There are two main security feature categories; those that help prevent attacks and those that help you recover after an attack. Having access to adequate backup and restore features is essential for the latter.
A backup feature can help you create a safe copy of your website files, database, and configurations. Backup restoration allows you to replace any files lost or damaged following an attack. Combined, these are the quintessential partners to ensuring that your website can get up and running regardless of what happens.
Backups are especially critical for businesses or sites with large amounts of data that may be costly or time-consuming to recreate should something happen (like an accidental deletion).
One thing to note about web hosting providers is that they offer various degrees of backup and restoration. For example, they may provide:
It’s always better if you can access backup restoration yourself. Relying on the web host to help restore files can take longer than you might anticipate, depending on the host’s quality of service.
Some web hosts go as far as to offer offsite backups. This feature helps store data at alternate facilities, so a safe copy remains even in a data center disaster. Kinsta, for example, allows you to create external backups on Google Cloud Storage.
File transfers are a significant vulnerability for websites. There’s a risk that data may be intercepted and stolen each time we send files to and from our web hosting server. The best way to mitigate this is by using secure access features.
Depending on your needs, secure access generally takes the form of either Secure Shell (SSH) or Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). SSH and SFTP are both secure ways to access your account, so if one is available, you can use it.
Secure access is essential if you’re a developer or do a lot of hosting migration. Secure access for files over the web provides strong encryption between your computer and the hosting server. Your connection will be safe from prying eyes—but only if you use them correctly!
Secure access isn’t just for more expensive web hosting plans. Even Shared Hosting plans generally have secure access. You can learn more about these plans in our article on “What is Shared Hosting?”
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks happen when multiple systems attempt to flood one or more machines on a network. The goal is to overwhelm the system with requests, preventing legitimate traffic from getting through.
A good web host can mitigate the risk of DDoS attacks by ensuring their servers have robust network protection features. One must-have is a powerful firewall that can provide blanket protection against threats like malware, phishing emails, and brute-force password-guessing attempts.
The best secure web hosts, like Hostinger, treat DDoS attacks seriously and provide multiple defense mechanisms. Others may require you to work with third parties like Sucuri or Cloudflare to obtain these services.
Finding web hosts willing to provide some advanced DDoS prevention features for free can be challenging. However, most will support Cloudflare CDN, which has a decent Web Application Firewall.
Malware is a broad term that encompasses all types of malicious software. Malware can harm your website by;
Most web hosting providers will offer basic malware detection and removal services. These services will help ensure the quick elimination of malware infections on the server. However, these services are often at the server level.
If you’re using VPS Hosting, you may need to pay special attention to the host’s Malware protection features. Some will offer tools like Immunify 360, while others have proprietary technologies like ScalaHosting’s SShield.
Server performance monitoring tools can help web hosts monitor performance metrics like hosting uptime. All web hosts will do this, but some will allow you to use other monitoring tools specifically for your website.
For example, Freshping is a monitoring tool that many users deploy. It helps notify them when their website goes down and also helps keep records of server response times. However, the best server monitoring tools generally apply to VPS or dedicated servers.
DreamHost, for example, makes it easy for you to install New Relic on their VPS plans without root access. That opens a new world of server and network monitoring since New Relic data can be highly comprehensive.
Sometimes, it isn’t just a matter of VPS vs. Shared Hosting. You can use essential tools like Freshping on any kind of hosting plan if all you need is uptime monitoring.
The data center is the heart of all web hosting operations. They are nerve centers where servers, network infrastructure, power facilities, and more congregate. Because of this, web hosting providers often place great emphasis on which data centers they use.
However, not all web hosting providers are willing to pay for the best secure data centers. Some may use the cheapest option possible, leading to lower security levels and safeguards. The best data centers;
Knowing the data centers your web host uses is an advantage. Most web hosts that use secure data centers are more than willing to share this information with their customers.
Equipment redundancies are also part of the data center advantage. Having equipment backups means that your website is less likely to fail. Data centers have tiers according to capability.
Every website owner likely has multiple access points to their web hosting. For example, logins to your web applications, control panel, client dashboard, and more. Logging in with a simple username and password combination has become increasingly risky.
That’s where Two-factor Authentication (2FA) comes in handy. The most secure web hosts today support 2FA in their systems. 2FA uses a second means of authentication in addition to your typical login credentials. For example, you may have to provide a security code sent to your mobile device.
Web hosts handle 2FA on their systems, but you can also implement it on your websites. Implementing 2FA on web applications like WordPress is effortless, thanks to its plugin system.
One essential security feature that web hosts should provide is support for SSL certificates. These digital certificates help assure visitors (and web crawlers) that your website identity is confirmed. This feature makes it harder for websites to misrepresent themselves to unknowing visitors.
While most web hosts are happy to support customers with some form of free SSL, a rare handful may make it challenging to implement. For example, in the past, HostGator didn’t support the easy installation of free SSL certificates.
While most websites can use free SSL certifications, some should consider more secure options. SSL certificate prices vary depending on the trust you wish to build with your website visitors.
While web hosts should keep their systems updated, some go the extra mile and make it easier for customers to update their web applications. Keeping applications up to date isn’t just for better functionality. Many updates include security patches intended to prevent cybercriminals from exploiting them.
Remember that websites involve many parts. A WordPress website, for example, includes the CMS, plugins, themes, and database. Each needs to be updated individually, often resulting in lots of work for website owners.
Some web hosts help customers increase security by offering options to keep applications updated automatically. Regardless of how you do it, make sure you keep your apps updated at all times.
Automated updates are not a magic wand. Updates sometimes break things on websites. It’s better to use the auto-update system to notify you when updates are available. Then you can do a controlled update and make sure everything works.
There are plenty of security options to consider when choosing a web host, and choosing the right one is bound to feel overwhelming. As such, it’s vital to know what you’re doing when you check these boxes.
If you believe a host isn’t taking the necessary precautions to protect your information, look for another option. Remember, you’re protecting not just your website but everyone visiting it over the years.
Timothy Shim is a former tech journalist who has turned his experience towards his business as a writer, editor and content strategist. Today, he helps businesses craft compelling messages and advises on SEO, content marketing, and social media strategy.