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The Importance of Network Quality in Web Hosting

The Importance of Network Quality in Web Hosting
September 26
15:28 2013

The barriers of entry for new Web Hosting providers are extremely low, and that can be a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, users have an abundance of options when it comes to choosing a provider to best fit their needs. On the other hand, it’s not very difficult for providers to build a fancy, professional-looking Web Hosting business with low quality infrastructure and network behind the scenes.  For all you know, the “enterprise class” provider you’re evaluating about could using a window unit to cool their ‘data center’ and a residential cable modem to provide ”network connectivity.”

Think I’m exaggerating? I kid you not … I toured a Web Host’s data center (that shall remain nameless) a few years back and was shocked at what I discovered: The company’s website was beautiful, intuitive, and gave the presentation that this was a major operation, but after looking behind the scenes, I found that my impression couldn’t have been further from the truth. I even found out that the company didn’t even trust their own data center enough to host their own website there!

Fortunately, some Web Hosts “get it” and understand that to stay in business, they need to do things at a highly professional level. One of the most obvious characteristics of a top-tier Web Host is a high quality network, but that characteristic is too often overlooked when users are caught up comparing servers’ processor, RAM, and disk space specifications.

How important is a Web Hosting provider’s network?

Has your website ever been down or slow?  Has it been inaccessible from certain parts of the world or even your local region while at the same time being accessible from other locations?

I’m going to take a leap of faith and assume you have experienced these kinds of situations, regardless of how long you’ve been online. Outages, website speed slowness, and accessibility issues make businesses lose credibility, and the residual effects are even more visible:

  • Lost revenue when customers are turned off by a slow loading website.
  • Lower Google rankings… (they happily announced that site speed is now a major ranking feature)
  • A prospect wanting to buy who can’t access your site due to slowness (they just hit back and pick the next company on the Google search results)

While server specs are significant, the server’s NETWORK is actually the MOST important factor when it comes to choosing a Web Host. Hard drives and RAM can be changed easily … A Web Host’s network architecture is much less flexible. Why? Because providers don’t see the same kind of immediate, direct return for the money they invest in their network when compared to buying more RAM and charging customers for the incremental cost.

A hosting provider’s size DOESN’T MATTER.

Just because a provider boasts that it hosts thousands or millions of websites doesn’t mean that the host has invested in a network architecture that won’t leave your site in the dark. The cheapest providers in the market could be hosting millions of websites simply because they’re the cheapest providers in the market…And they’re the cheapest in the market because they either haven’t invested significantly in their infrastructure or they’re overcrowding their servers and network to get maximize profit.

Don’t get me wrong … Most large Web Hosts understand that without a solid network, they’ll lose their customers, but the investments they make are often reactive rather than proactive. Here’s a little secret they don’t want you to know:

Even some of the largest commodity Web Hosts simply do not care because they don’t have to care. They focus on volume and the fact that 95% of their customer base may only use their hosting accounts for email.

How do you prioritize network speed and reliability when choosing a Web Host?

We’ve all heard the clichés like, “You get what you pay for,” and “It’s all about location, location, location.” While it’s painful to admit, those trite phrases are absolutely true.

When choosing a Web Host, it’s important to pick one with:

  • Fair pricing (“fair” does not mean “cheapest”)
  • A solid network and a worldwide presence (this is explained more below)
  • Fast responding support teams
  • Products in-tune with their customers wants and needs

In theory, those characteristics are all no-brainers, but in practice, finding a provider that excels in each of those areas can be exceptionally difficult. To prove that these kinds of providers are not as elusive as Big Foot, unicorns, and the Loch Ness Monster, let’s look at one hosting provider in particular that I often find myself recommending.

Instead of outright revealing this company, I’ll start by giving you a few clues: This company has world’s LARGEST external network with 13 data centers and 17 points of presence in different locations around the world. In each of these facilities, they leverage multiple 10Gb connections with Tier-1 and peering network partners, and they have a global network capacity of over 2,000 Gbps.

This highly-redundant, worldwide presence means that users experience lightning-fast speeds from anywhere. Think of it like a big highway road network. Some hosts may have a few roads to major cities in the US or Europe, but if users aren’t geographically close to those cities, they’ll have a long drive to get onto the network. This hosting provider brings the network to the users (rather than having the users go to the network).

The mystery provider I recommend: SoftLayer

With the hints I gave you above, you might’ve already guessed that I’m talking about SoftLayer, an IBM Company. SoftLayer was one of the first major Web Hosts to reevaluate what a network architecture should look like, and they are a perfect example of how innovative companies are pushing the hosting industry forward.

Instead of following in the footsteps of the hosting providers before them by offering a single public network for all servers, SoftLayer decided to incorporate a three-tiered network architecture. Each physical server has five network ports: two redundant connections to the public network, two more physical ports to a global private network, and one to an out-of-band management network with access to their management platform and API.

The result in this innovative approach to a global network architecture is that users around the world take fewer network hops to reach the SoftLayer network, and customers who want to geographically diversify their hosting infrastructure can do so with free unlimited bandwidth between servers in different data centers. The fact that the entire network also natively runs IPv6 further proves that they’ve heavily invested in the underappreciated “network” side of running a powerful hosting company.

As you’re evaluating potential providers for your next bare metal or virtual server instance in the cloud, keep an eye out for evidence that each provider prioritizes its network performance and reliability. If you don’t find any indication of significant investment in that area, move on. The most powerful server hardware in the world is completely useless if you or your users can’t access it, so move “Network Quality” to the top of your “Must Have” hosting provider checklist.

Christian Henning

About Author

FindMyHost Editor

FindMyHost Editor

The 'Web Hosting Blog' at was established to provide the web hosting industry with the very latest in news, technology, interviews, event information and more. About Launched in January 2001 to protect Web Host Consumers and Web Developers from making the wrong choice when choosing a Web host. showcases a selection of web hosting companies who have undergone our Approved Host program testing and provides reviews from customers.

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