Running any type of website or web application today is a risky business. 2020 saw a 149% increase in the number of data records exposed, which is just the tip of the iceberg. While there’s much you can do to increase security, some responsibility lies on the web hosting service provider.
The booming eCommerce scene presents a ripe target for cyberattacks
(Image Source: Oberlo)
Web hosting service providers have considerable responsibility in many areas. Their service lays the foundation for many things, from website speed and reliability to specific features provided. Among these, security is one of the foremost considerations.
When choosing your web hosting partner, here are some areas of security on which to focus.
- 1 8 Security Factors to Consider When Choosing a Web Host
- 2 Final Thoughts
8 Security Factors to Consider When Choosing a Web Host
1. Security Scanning
Almost all web hosting service providers will provide some level of security scanning on their servers. However, this is typically done with their interests in mind – ensuring that viruses don’t hamper their operations.
Some web hosting providers do go the extra mile in various ways. For example, some may establish partnerships with prominent cybersecurity brands like Sucuri to further improve security. Others may offer specialized tools, allowing users to conduct ad-hoc scans.
One good example of this is Kinsta, which has a partnership with Sucuri. Others like ScalaHosting have even developed an in-house real-time cybersecurity solution it offers users free of charge.
2. SSL Support and Availability
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates are an absolute must for websites today. They help encrypt the information flowing between the website and users and prove a website’s identity. Search engines penalize websites with no SSL certificate to protect their users.
SSL is especially relevant for eCommerce websites since it is very likely you’ll be storing important user data. For example, names, addresses, and other personally-identifying information. You might be storing financial information as well.
The problem arises in specific cases when some web hosts don’t support easy installation for SSL certificates. In cases such as this, third-party tools may be necessary, further increasing the risk profile for your eCommerce website.
3. Malware Prevention and Removal
No matter how well you protect your website, accidents may happen. Avoiding them is typically a matter of prevention and recovery. That means the scanning mentioned above and automated backups you can use to recover infected files.
Two aspects of the web host can help in this area – a comprehensive backup and recovery system is the first. The second is rarer but does exist. Some web hosts offer free malware removal or website cleaning services.
While this isn’t critically important, it does serve as an additional element for peace of mind. If something happens, it’s also far more likely you can recover with less effort with the aid of your web hosting provider.
4. Security Patching
Application patches and updates can add new features, but the essential part is addressing potential security loopholes. Keeping everything updated can be a pain point given the number of applications the typical eCommerce website runs.
One good workaround would be finding a hosting partner that offers automated updates if you’re concerned about this. Most web hosts will keep system files updated, but your applications are out of their scope. That’s where managed hosting plans come in handy.
Managed web hosting plans are offered by hosting providers willing to provide complete technical upkeep for your plan. This type of hosting may cost more, but it saves you time – and effort.
5. CDN Support
Web Application Firewalls are often included in CDN services.
(Image Source: Cloudflare)
Most website owners look towards Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) as a means of performance enhancement. However, their core purpose is to increase security with Web Application Firewalls and load balancing for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack mitigation.
While logically CDNs are not host-specific, some hosting brands don’t always work well with all CDN services. This occasional irksome incompatibility can be challenging to overcome. Before signing up with a service provider, check if other users have encountered issues with specific CDNs on the host.
Most web hosting service providers work well with Cloudflare as it offers a popular free tier of usage. If you’re looking to implement KeyCDN or an alternative brand, verification is essential to ensure a smooth process.
6. PCI-DSS Compliance of the Web Host
Running an eCommerce store almost always includes having to process payment information. Being able to do so allows your customers to pay directly via your online store. The problem is the multiple layers of compliance involved in accepting cards payments.
Having a PCI-compliant payments processor alone isn’t sufficient.
Your entire eCommerce website needs to be PCI-compliant. Some of the PCI standards documentation guidelines will require a focus relevant to the web hosting solution. For example, how data is stored and encrypted.
When looking for a hosting partner, check to see if the service is PCI-certified. Not all are, although most popular brands today have gone through the process of certification.
7. Expertise of the Web Host
Web hosting involves many moving parts, each involving a particular field of expertise. Because of this, many web hosts with diverse product lines often field a team with generic skills, not all of whom may have high levels of security expertise.
Where possible, look for a hosting partner that focuses on a niche product. This focus almost always increases the chance that they’ll hire dedicated experts in the field. Looking through their knowledge base can help generic hosting providers gauge their level of security expertise via the information shared.
8. Web Hosting Resources
While this may sound irrelevant to security, implementing a secure eCommerce website will require many resources. Not only is it for coping with traffic, but you’ll need to implement multiple security-related features on your eCommerce website.
Even the best eCommerce application platforms don’t come rock-solid secure by default. Some things you may need to add on include multi-factor authentication (MFA), two-factor authentication (2FA), 2-step verification (2SV), and more.
Each additional element increases the load on your eCommerce website on a per-visitor basis. Because of that, a web hosting service provider that offers good scalability in resources should have priority.
The responsibilities of website owners and web hosting service providers are diverse when it comes to security. However, many elements can easily be taken for granted, with fingers pointed only after an incident occurs.
Some factors can be dual-natured, meaning the responsibility can lie on either side. Because of this, you should ideally have a framework in mind of what areas you want the web host to be responsible for and find an ideal match based on that.
Remember, though, that finding a web host willing to take on more responsibility than they absolutely must be a futile effort. Even if you find an ideal match, they’ll likely want to charge steep fees to offset their costs.