Hosting and Security: Are You Leaving Your Doors Open Without Knowing it?
Cybercrime is nothing new, but it is evolving. Being that each year the digital environment continues to grow and evolve new security threats keep revealing themselves.
It’s not so much that cybercriminals are getting overly powerful, it’s just that the digital sphere has grown so much that it’s hard to keep all the gaps closed.
When it comes to small businesses, first websites tend to be rushed affairs. In a lot of cases, SMB owners don’t have a lot of experience with setting up an online presence for their brand, which can lead to mistakes of various severity ranging from minuscule to very serious.
The biggest mystery for them is probably hosting and the server-side of things. In a lot of cases, they just pay for hosting without even knowing what type of hosting they’re getting let alone if it’s set up properly and has all the right protections.
Let’s see what you need to pay attention to when purchasing hosting.
Backup is essential
Things happen, nobody is perfect, no software is infallible, and downtime can be forgiven. What cannot be forgiven is not having a backup for the files you host.
If a malfunction occurs on the server, all the files that belong to the client can be lost. Being that most business websites are living things that constantly go through changes (product pages, blog posts, banners, etc.), a lot of time is wasted on recovering everything. In some cases, it’s impossible.
The only thing that can help is having backup files.
Understand the type of hosting you are getting
Not all hostings are the same. There are more than a few options to choose from, and what you’ll be getting will depend on what you intend to do with your website.
Here are the prominent hosting types:
- Shared hosting – Cheap, shared resources, low security.
- VPS (Virtual Private Server) – Somewhere between dedicated and shared hosting, good security.
- Cloud hosting – Instead of storing data on one server, it is fragmented on multiple machines, good security.
- Dedicated hosting – A dedicated server for your business with all resources at your disposal, good security.
- Managed hosting – The provider manages everything from hardware, software, updates, patches, and so on, good security.
- Colocation hosting – You share physical server rooms with other businesses, but you have your own hardware, you take care of everything and get higher bandwidth, security is what you make it.
As you can see, there are quite a few options to go for, and it all depends on your know-how. Choosing the wrong provider may lead to security gaps and inconsistency in service.
Network monitoring is essential for prevention
Your website is a particular symbiosis between hardware and software. This symbiotic system is quite complex, and its performance is not always the same.
If you get hosting with network monitoring, you’ll be getting updates on how well each part of the system is performing. It can be useful for optimization but also in times when you’re experiencing traffic spikes that may cause some parts of your website to malfunction.
Furthermore, network monitoring also records and reports access from unknown machines, IP-addresses, and other suspicious activity happening on your server.
Firewall, DDoS protection & SSL
Most of us have at least a basic understanding of what a Firewall is. It serves as a barrier between the server and the rest of the web. We’re talking about host-firewalls, which are responsible for traffic coming in and out of a server machine.
DDoS attacks are the most common malicious attacks a server can experience. Their full name is Distributed Denial of Service, and the concept behind them is fairly simple.
Multiple devices bombard one system with requests for data and/or queries in order to prevent anyone else from gaining access to the server’s resources. It can be done to incapacitate a particular service or an entire server. These are considered basic protection.
With these attacks, we face a denial of service through the virtual hijacking of server resources like RAM, bandwidth, and CPU. Having a mechanism to protect you from these is essential for serious businesses.
SSL encryption (or TLS as the current version of the certificate is called) is something you see every day but don’t know what it is. The “https” marking that you see in the link of a particular website is functioning under the security certification of TLS.
Here’s what SSL/TLS ensures your visitors have when they visit your website:
- Confirmation of website authenticity.
- The documentation signed within your webpages isn’t altered.
- The communication between users and the server is encrypted.
Having this security certificate also helps with SEO as it shows search engines that the website is secure.
User access and permissions
Now, this is more of an internal thing. It is up to you to decide who has access to what within the server.
This goes for basic users, moderators, administrators, and so on. We’re not going to go into the details of how to do this, as it will depend on what server you’re using.
Be advised that failing to set these parameters properly can open your server to manipulation, tampering, and even theft of sensitive business and customer data.
Updates are not there to only remove bugs and improve performance. They’re there to close up any security holes that might have been identified. Missing one update can be bad for you if you are unlucky. Missing multiple updates increases this risk many times over.
Oftentimes we hear about exploits that developers didn’t realize they left open to hackers, and these updates help them close them up. The longer the list of updates you missed, the longer the list of potential security breaches you are leaving your server open to.
We understand that some updates may make a bunch of plug-ins go down. Change them!
Updates take precedent over non-essential functionalities.
We hope we managed to help you understand the connection between the hosting and security of your online business. Do additional research for things you can’t understand – nobody expects you to – and find an approach that keeps you safe.