Your Questions Answered
Like many technical aspects of IT, public perception of web hosting is often misaligned with industry standards. This page aims to demystify what web hosting is and what you’re paying for. We’ll look at what we believe is important and the ways we are different from other providers.
Think of web hosting as like renting a storage locker on the internet. Inside this locker is where you keep your website files. All websites need web hosting; they all need somewhere to call home! The fee you pay for web hosting covers the cost of having storage space on a web server to “host” your website. No more, no less.
It does not include website maintenance or security maintenance for your website. Just like a storage facility in the physical world, web hosting does not assume any responsibility over what’s inside your account. This is true no matter which web host you choose.
Most web hosts will charge you an extra annual fee to secure your website with an SSL certificate, to the tune of $170+ per year.
Since 2017, all websites we build come with a DV (Domain Validation) SSL certificate included at no cost (when your website is hosted by Hart Design). And for as long as you remain hosted with us, your SSL certificate will be a free inclusion.
(Did we build your website prior to 2017? Ask us about retrospectively adding in an SSL certificate to your website).
An SSL certificate provides protection for your website visitors so that when they’re interacting with your website, their private data cannot be stolen by malevolent forces at play on the world wide web. It does not prevent your website from being hacked by the aforementioned malevolent forces.
You can tell a secure site by the padlock icon shown in the URL bar of many web browsers. Another hint is if the website’s address includes https at the start, rather than just http (i.e. without the s).
Google will soon bypass any website that’s not secured using a valid SSL certificate. So to have a website without an SSL cert will become virtually worthless.
Please note that our SSL certificates are not transferable to any other web host, should you cancel your web hosting service with us.
Our web server is provided and maintained by one of New Zealand’s leading suppliers and is housed right here in Auckland, New Zealand. If you have a local audience, you should for the sake of good SEO practices host your website on a local server. (Less distance travelled to retrieve your website is a win for page speed).
Note: if your audience is international, we can help there, too. Just drop us a line to talk through your options.
Comparing one web host to another can be like comparing apples and oranges.
We’ve tuned up our web server so it delivers your website at lightning-quick speeds, and is ideal for hosting your WordPress website. Google loves a fast-loading website, so a high-performing web server is a real value-add for good SEO. You get that right out of the box with web hosting by Hart Design.
We build websites. We host them. We offer digital marketing plans and SEO services. We want our customers to be successful in their SEO endeavours. We host our own website and want it to rank well! That’s why we’ve optimised our server to deliver WordPress websites at their fastest. We’re always seeking new ways to eke out a little extra performance on our web server. It’s good for business.
For many companies who offer web hosting, they often jam as many sites on a single server as they can. This is cheaper for them, and possibly cheaper for you, but it can adversely affect a server’s performance. And they’re not always as fussy about performance as we are.
Our web server as a whole maintains a regular backup schedule. This is a fail-safe and allows us to restore the entire web server should our server ever be critically compromised. It does not allow for the restoration of individual web hosting accounts.
Our standard web hosting service does not offer individual, automated account backups. Some web hosting companies will offer this as an add-on service, but we do not.
Why not? Our reasoning is three-fold: server speed, cost/reward balance and the nature of our workflow as website designers:
- If we enabled automatic backups of every account on our server, it would significantly impact the server’s speed. Speed is a valuable commodity for SEO.
- To get the best of both worlds – every account backed up without losing speed – would mean a big increase in costs to us, which we’d need to pass on to our customers. We’ve made a conscious decision to balance risk/reward/cost for these reasons as well as the following point.
- Manual Backups: Prior to launching a website, we take a full backup. When you come back to us in future for changes, we take a full backup. For those on a Security Plan or Digital Marketing Plan, we take a full backup prior to implementing any significant change or software update. This means that for all of our customers, your website is recoverable to at least its last significant round of edits or software update, where these changes are performed by Hart Design.
Those most at risk of losing changes made to their website are those who do not engage Hart Design for any future work on their website.
You – or another web developer of your choice – are welcome to handle manual backups of your website at any point. Please note that our web hosting service is not designed for the indefinite storage of account backups: you will need to download and store backups locally.
Part 1: Our Responsibility
It is our responsibility as web hosts to maintain the security of our web server. Prevention is always better than cure: we have in place a maintenance contract with our supplier that ensures our server is maintained to the latest standards. This protects our server overall.
We take the heat if our server gets hacked.
Part 2: Your Responsibility
The files hosted within each individual account are the responsibility of the website owner. This means that you as the website owner are responsible for maintaining your website and keeping it secure.
If your website gets hacked (and if you’re not paying Hart Design for its upkeep) then the cost to correct the problem falls on you.
View our WordPress Security Plan ⟶
When we build a website, it is launched with the latest, most up to date WordPress software, themes and plugins available. This makes the website secure at that point in time.
However, vulnerabilities — weak points where hackers may break in — are not known until they are discovered (naturally enough). No one can foresee what vulnerabilities will eventuate in future. This means that while your website is secure at the time of launch, it will not always be so. It’s inevitable that, over time, vulnerabilities will be found in any web application.
For WordPress websites that we’ve built after June 1, 2018, we have included a specialised WordPress security plugin which will proactively block many known threats to your website. No software can guarantee 100% security, but this is an important additional layer of security that you won’t get from most website designers. It’s just one of the ways that we’re different.
To remain as secure as possible, you must maintain your website to the latest available software versions. You have three options:
- Ignore the risks and NOT maintain your website. (This is certainly NOT recommended! To neglect your website security significantly increases your risk of being hacked); or
- Manage the security of your website yourself; or
- Have a professional manage this process for you. Hart Design offers a Website Security package for those who recognise the inherent risks of life online and who wish to mitigate these risks.
The good news is that once a vulnerability is found, it is often “patched” before they become a widespread problem for website owners. The caveat here, of course, is that each individual website must apply any available patch in order for it to be effective.
Staying up to date with website software takes a little time and expertise. Some WordPress themes and plugins carry a subscription cost. The subscription must be maintained if you wish to remain up to date.
Additionally, if you have any custom-coded plugins in your website, they will need to be brought up to date if you wish to keep pace with the latest PHP releases.
This cost to maintain a website is not covered under web hosting alone. Again, this is not unique to Hart Design; it is an industry standard. In fact, most specialist web hosts will not even *touch* your website for any reason.
If your website gets hacked, any web host worth their salt will deactivate your web hosting account. Your website will be taken offline to protect the other users on the server. (You are afforded the same protection should another of our customers fall foul of hackers). This practice is an industry standard.
Next, your website will need to be “cleaned” and have the offending vulnerability eliminated. Depending on the complexity of your issues, it would typically take Hart Design around two hours of studio time to clean a hacked WordPress website. That time is billable unless you have a current subscription to our Security Plan or any one of our Digital Marketing Plans.
Note: your chances of being hacked are massively reduced if you DO have a current Security or Digital Marketing Plan with Hart Design. We consider this your best protection. However, please be aware that no one can ever guarantee 100% security.
Email hosting (POP/IMAP email) is not available with our web hosting service.
The web hosting/email landscape has evolved from its early days. No longer should you lump the two together. Those in the know run their email through a specialist email service, such as Google’s G Suite or Microsoft 365.
If you’re still running your mail through POP/IMAP, then we recommend you consider migrating to a system more suited to a modern business world.
View also: WordPress Security Plan ⟶
View also: Web Hosting Terms & Conditions ⟶
Web Hosting Summary
What is web hosting?
Picture web hosting as like renting a storage locker on the internet. Inside this locker is where you keep your website files. The company who you rent that locker from – they are your web host.
Is web hosting location important?
The location of your web hosting can be vitally important. If you’re a New Zealand business with New Zealand customers, you want your web site to be hosted in New Zealand, too. The closer your website is hosted in relation to its viewers, the faster it will load. Speed is a big plus for your human traffic as well as being a key SEO signal.
What is an SSL certificate?
An essential component to SEO, an SSL certificate provides protection for your website visitors so that when they’re interacting with your website, their private data cannot be stolen by malevolent forces at play on the world wide web.
Aren't all web hosts the same?
No. While many web hosts operate a similar system, there are many factors that can influence the performance from one web host to another:
- Server resources (CPU and RAM) can vary between hosts
- The physical location of where the web servers are
- How many accounts share a server
- Whether a web host has enhanced the out of the box software