Web hosting 101: why the public sector needs strong hosting providers
Public sector websites continue to grow in importance as a vital source of information and access to services. It’s not just about whether the website looks attractive and professional – although yes, that’s important too –it’s whether the website can provide the public with reliable access to online services and guarantee security.
In a society where continuous access to the latest information is both expected and demanded, government websites need to be up-and-running 24/7. A strong online presence is therefore necessary particularly in times of peak traffic such as tax rebate and application deadlines.
Discussions about website strategy usually revolve around design, user experience, marketing and security. But sitting in the middle, underpinning all of this, is where the site is hosted, and how the choice of host can effect everything from uptime and performance, to reputation and security.
Web hosting, explained
A reputable hosting provider will ensure that a website is available at any time of day, no matter how many people are trying to access it at once. There are hundreds of hosting companies out there vying for business, but opting for one that focuses on performance and security should be a priority for government organisations looking to provide a reliable website to the public.
The importance of “superior“ hosting
Having a reliable web hosting provider is vital for any organisation with an online presence. Public sector sites that could experience high volumes of traffic must take particular caution, ensuring that their web host can monitor and manage that level of activity. It’s also useful if the host is proactive in finding a solution to handle high levels of traffic, such as using a content delivery network (CDN).
The hallmarks of a good provider
There are a few important factors to consider when choosing the right hosting provider, namely: performance, scalability, security and support. Reputable hosting providers should be skilled at identifying performance issues and creating a solution before the end-users – in this case, the general public – is aware that a problem has even occurred.
Private, managed web hosting such as cloud is ideal for public sector sites, ensuring high availability and meaning that they can scale the platform to handle any increased levels of traffic. Several large scale public sector websites utilise the cloud, allowing them to cut costs and work flexibly.
Security is undoubtedly the most important element for public sector organisations. Being an expert in security and having comprehensive knowledge of the cyber threat landscape is vital. They should be continually working to provide new defence systems against attacks; as seen in recent times, government organisations are often prime targets for hackers due to the sensitive nature of the data they hold and its importance to the public. Regular website security and penetration tests help protect websites and applications by identifying vulnerabilities before they are an issue, therefore fending off cyber criminals and keeping public data safe.
Any respectable managed hosting provider will also offer round-the-clock support, 365 days a year, so that should a problem or crisis occur, there is a person on the end of the line who knows exactly how to help. Committed to solving the issue and minimising downtime, this level of service can save government organisations from any potential reputational and financial damage.
Settling on a supplier
Ultimately, determining the exact needs of the organisation is the first step in the process. How many site visitors are there, or are anticipated? How mission critical is the website? Which services are a priority? What budget can be allocated?
It’s really important to investigate a host’s reliability and uptime guarantees, so lots of research is key. A government website should be a reflection of the organisation’s physical identity - working with a managed hosting provider means that the public can depend on the online services as well as maintaining the organisation’s reputation.