What to look for in a web hosting service

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.

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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 it 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.

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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!

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.

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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 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.