Best practice website hosting for law firms

What do we mean by best practice website hosting for law firms, for that matter what is website hosting and why is it critical to all law firms. The true cost of website downtime equals lost clients. If having your website down even for a split second is something your business can’t afford, you need to read this article.

Nearly every law firm principal or practice manager understands the importance of having a website. What is less well known, is that behind every website is a website hosting company playing a crucial role in the availability of the website and that site’s performance.

In this article, we explain the basics of website hosting and look at how that translates into best practice website hosting for law firms.

The basics cover why website hosting is needed in the first place and the issues you need to consider when selecting your website host, because not all hosting is the same. When you hire a website hosting company what does it do and what are the critical things you need.

In summary, website hosts are designed to make your life easier by saving you the trouble of worrying about the infrastructure that your website is built on.

What is website hosting

A lot of people think that registering a domain name is enough to get a website active. What they fail to understand is that a domain is as good as your name, a name by which others may recognise you. To get a website active and live on the internet once it is built, you need to host the website. Just like a building needs strong foundations that are not visible a website needs a strong hosting platform for it to perform at it’s best.

The term hosting refers to the company that rents out its computer/servers to store your website and it’s files and to provide the internet connectivity that allows visitors to access the website.

Every single website is made up of group of elements, computer code that comes together to form a website, the website needs to be stored in a location (or host) that is connected to the internet and easily accessible anywhere in the world.

The host provides the servers which allow visitors to access and use the website, to run your website. They provide things like storage space for your code, files, and any other media or data that you have. They provide the computing power and reliability to keep your website up and running 24/7, and possibly provide technical support to help you when you get stuck.

Can you host your own website?

In short yes, it is possible, just as it is possible for a client to conduct their own murder defence or a High Court argument. It’s not advised.

Hosting your own website reliably requires a significant investment in equipment, infrastructure and security. Just as businesses no longer host their own accounting software and law firms don’t host their own practice management system, the hosting of your website is best left to the experts who invest millions into the hosting platform to ensure reliability, performance and security.

Hosting plans

To make the most of your website hosting, and understand the various pricing schemes available, it’s helpful to know what you are actually buying when you buy a hosting plan, and what the web hosting company is spending your subscription on.

Below are the top 6 considerations you need to know to make an informed decision:

Reliability

Website uptime is critically import. If your site is down, your clients and visitors won’t be able to find you or access the information on your website.

If your law firm’s website is built on the WordPress platform, like millions of websites worldwide, then you should look for a high quality host that specialises in WordPress, provides excellent uptime, specialised layers of security, daily backups and on demand support.

We have partnered with the award winning team at WP Engine to provide specialised WordPress hosting for law firm websites, ensuring lightning fast page speeds, high website uptime, security monitoring and 24/7 support.

Security

Security is a major concern for all law firm websites and the layers of security provided by the website host is only part of the security puzzle. You can delve deeper into website security generally in these two articles The adverse impact if your law firm website is hacked and Why would a hacker attack your law firm website?

Keeping your website, and the components that make up your website, up to date is critically important to best practice website hosting for law firms and the security of any data collected. Your website host should provide constant monitoring and ensure the platform is hardened against old and new vulnerabilities.

A good website host will be doing a lot behind the scenes to secure and protect your website. If your website is professionally managed, and it should be, your manager will build on the security layers provided by the website hosting platform. The additional security layers will ensure all user data is encrypted and the site is protected from being hacked, safeguarding your sites uptime and maintaining the integrity of your law firms reputation.

Your hosting platform should provide continuous website monitoring, automated updates, managed upgrades and daily backups so you can focus on the business of law

Speed

40% of visitors will wait no more than 2 seconds before exiting your site.

It’s important that your website loads as fast as possible. If visitors to your site have to wait a long time for your page to load, high chances are they will exit and move on to your competitors’ sites to find the answer they’re looking for.

Google now includes speed as part of their overall score of the quality of a site, so apart from the irritation to viewers, a slow loading site can impede your SEO efforts.

Unfortunately, a lot of different factors affect the speed of a website, and only some of them depend on the website host. And pretty much every host advertises that their service is “amazingly fast.”

An important consideration with all this is not just absolute speed, but consistency. If a site is usually exceptionally fast, but then is really slow sometimes, that is worse than if it was only decently fast all the time.

Your website host should have a specialised environment fine-tuned and optimised for the best WordPress performance and should provide a content delivery network helping make the website faster and more scalable.

Service & Support

Entering into a cheap hosting arrangement may not give you the service and support you need for your website. Ironically, it is exactly these hosting outfits that don’t apply updated plugins or security patches to your website at all, you get what you pay for.

What does this mean for your business? It means there is zero ongoing maintenance, which increases the likelihood that something will go wrong or exposes you to a security risk.

Support is not much help if it comes in the form of a FAQ or phone communication with offshore consultants who may have language barriers. If an issue arises, the support and service you want is by phone/email/live chat contact with a real person who can help you immediately.

As with all things, you can expect that a more comprehensive support program is going to cost more than an otherwise equal hosting package without a support plan.

Technology is just too complicated for that not to be the case. You want to make sure you have a hosting company that will help you deal with the problems when they come up. Don’t skimp on service. Even if this is your first website or your first web hosting account.

There will be problems. No matter how good your hosting company is, no matter how basic your website is – there will always be a problem at some point. When that happens, you will want to have someone to call.

Don’t penny pinch on service and support, your website is a valuable marketing asset and it should work for you 24/7/365

Bandwidth & Storage

Bandwidth is a measure of the amount of data flowing from your website to visitors over time, usually per month. How much storage do you need? As always, this depends.

Be careful to steer clear of hosting plans that have penalties for going over your allocated bandwidth amount. This can become very costly and is a good reason to look for plans where you pay for what you use, or the price is fixed. As with bandwidth, most shared hosting plans claim to offer “unlimited” storage capacity, but that always comes with restrictions, and you need to check on what they are.

All of our website hosting plans are fixed price and can be tailored to suit your law firm business

Pricing

It is easy to look around at available hosting plans and pick the cheapest one, assuming they’re all about the same. That’s exactly the problem – they are not the same.

The discount hosting companies promote the idea that web hosting is essentially a commodity, and therefore, price is the only thing that really matters.

They fall over themselves to offer the cheapest monthly rate – it’s a race to the bottom that no one really wins, least of all the client.

This often also means more customers grouped onto a single shared server with relatively little attention paid to individual issues because there are too many individuals to pay attention to. Finally, if your hosting is part of a bundled service there could be difficulties if you want to move away from their hosting. They can make domain name transfer a complicated, multi-step process; provide no instructions for unlocking or transferring domains; require phone verification of cancellation; hide buttons for dealing with transfer and cancellation under vaguely named menu labels.

With discount web hosting the expression “you get what you pay for” comes to mind, but the reality is you often get a whole lot more trouble on top of that!

We provide website hosting & maintenance exclusively for law firms, our pricing is structured to provide exceptional value and website uptime, with high security levels, optional monthly reporting detailing the plugins and patches we have applied as well as the knowledge that we can be contacted if or when support is really needed.

Conclusion

Today, as more law firms accept that their website is a key plank in their firms marketing strategy and ‘converter’ of new potential clients, insufficient consideration is given to the hosting of what is a highly important marketing asset.

These points are intended to provide principals and practice managers with more knowledge around common hosting issues and to help support their law firms.

Your relationship with and reliance on your hosting company is more important than you might have previously thought. Most of the time the website hosting might work away quietly in the background without a problem but eventually, as with all technology, a problem will arise, then…who ya gonna call?

If you want to know more contact Peter Heazlewood on 0407 018 109 or email me at [email protected]

About the author
Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.
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