Web hosting plays an important role in low-carbon web design, ensuring your website loads fast to reduce emissions.
But a quality hosting package is important for your business, too. It helps you give your visitors the best possible experience, makes using your site easier, it protects your website against hackers, and it makes your website run more efficiently.
In this article, we’ll look at what makes a good hosting package sustainable, and offer some recommendations for green website hosting here in the UK…
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What makes a good web hosting package?
Web hosting isn’t the most exciting of subjects – nor the most exciting bit about getting your new website up and running – but it does make a real difference to the success of your website.
Just as a highly trained athlete still needs a good pair of trainers to perform at their best, a website needs good hosting behind it in order to run as fast as possible.
A website running on a good hosting setup will:
- Load fast
- Leave less of a carbon footprint
- Be automatically backed up in case anything goes wrong, and
- Be more secure against getting hacked.
But what makes a ‘good hosting setup’? And how can good hosting make your website more sustainable? If you’re looking to make your website more eco-friendly, these are some of the things you’ll need to keep an eye out for when choosing a hosting company.
Fast page load-speed
Page speed is important not just for keeping your customers happy, but for keeping your website’s CO2 emissions down. A website that takes longer to load requires more server energy, and that means a bigger environmental impact. So the faster your website loads, the lower the carbon footprint. Look out for:
- Server caching. This will pre-generate a static version of each page of your website, helping it to load more quickly than one that loads dynamically every time somebody visits it.
- File compression. This is where every webpage – and every file on that page – is compressed, or ‘squashed’, to the smallest size possible without compromising on quality. The smaller the file, the faster it is to load, and the less server energy it uses.
Online security is a major consideration for customers and businesses alike, and ensuring you choose a hosting provider that puts security front and centre of its offering is important for so many reasons.
Not only can your site be taken down by a successful cyberattack (meaning you can’t do business), if any customer data get stolen from your website, you could find yourself facing legal action and reputational damage if it transpires you didn’t have adequate security in place.
- Tight server-level security measures will stop your site from being hacked, even if the hosting company is targeted by cybercriminals.
- Strong security at the server level is also good for your website’s eco credentials, as it means you don’t need to install a resource-sapping, energy-guzzling security plugin on your website.
- If you sell things through your website or collect any customer information, such as through a contact form, it’s crucial to have an SSL certificate in place to keep your customers’ data encrypted. Many good hosting companies now offer free certificates; the best ones will install them as standard.
Automatic backups and plugin updates
Even with the right planning and tools in place, whenever technology is involved, things can go wrong. All it takes is for a power cut to hit the data centre where your website is being hosted, or a connectivity glitch while you’re uploading something, and your website can be negatively impacted.
- A good hosting company will provide automatic daily backups, giving you peace of mind that, in the unlikely event something does go wrong with your website, you can easily roll back to a recent working version and get back up and running.
- Automated plugin updates are important for keeping your website secure too. Developers often make changes to plugins when they become aware of new cyberthreats, new vulnerabilities, or new user issues with their plugins, and it’s important that these improvements are applied to plugins on your website as soon as they are rolled out.
Most business owners aren’t tech specialists, and it’s important to know you’ve got somebody who knows what they’re doing looking after your website. It’s equally important to know that, if there are any issues with your website, you’ll be able to access help quickly – and preferably from a human rather than a robot.
Your website is as unique as your business, so you want to know there’ll be friendly, specialist support at the end of a phone call, who can get your website functioning properly again.
Data centre close to your users
The further your website data has to travel from the server to the person trying to access it (your potential customers), the more energy it uses and the more carbon it produces.
It’s therefore a great sustainability choice to have your website hosted with a company that has a data centre in the same geographical area as your target users. This can not only help reduce your website’s emissions, it will speed up page load times for your visitors, too, resulting in a better user experience.
For businesses serving customers in Europe, it’s important to find a hosting provider with EU-based servers as well – not only for sustainability and UX reasons, but to ensure compliance with GDPR legislation.
CDNs for international audiences
For businesses that don’t rely on local visitors, it’s a good idea to cater for a potentially global audience. But it’s not possible to have your website hosted in a local data centre if your visitors could be coming from literally anywhere in the world. In these circumstances, choosing a hosting company that uses a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can help keep your website’s emissions down.
CDNs reduce the environmental impact of your website by loading it from whichever data centre in the network is closest to the end user. So if somebody visits your UK-based website from their home in America, a cached version of your site will load from a distributed server in the US. Using a CDN is a great way to ensure a fast, secure, reliable and consistent experience for all your users, wherever they are in the world, and a great way to minimise your website’s environmental impact.
As a counterpoint, Joshua Stopper’s excellent article The anatomy of a performant and sustainable webpage, argues when NOT to use CDN.
If you think you’re likely to be making ongoing structural changes to your website (or asking your web developer to do it for you), finding a web hosting company that offers a staging server is a good idea.
Staging lets you make, test and review changes on a ‘practise’ site, while your current website stays active and remains the same. It gives you a working web address for your staging site – so you can see, access and use it just like a visitor would, and iron out any issues before making the changes to your actual site.
The best hosting companies let you push and pull changes between your staging site and live website, so updates can be made with the click of a button.
Our recommendations for sustainable hosting companies in the UK
Much of a website’s carbon footprint is generated in the data centre where it loads from, so choosing a hosting provider that is nearby and runs on sustainable energy can substantially reduce the environmental impact of your website.
If you’re looking for a UK hosting company that shares your sustainability principles, the companies below use ‘green’ energy to help bring your website’s emissions down, while providing quality hosting packages that prioritise security, speed and user experience for further eco-friendy gains…
This Manchester-based hosting company has been running for more than 20 years and is a specialist WordPress hosting provider. Here at Root, we’ve been using 34SP for years and are always impressed with their speed, technical server quality and commitment to sustainability.
- Manchester data centre uses 100% renewable energy
- Carbon offsetting in conjunction with the Woodland Trust. 34SP is committed to planting 7,500sq. m of new woodland every year, removing double the amount of carbon from the environment that their infrastructure generates
- Offices run on 100% renewable energy
- Recycles all spent hardware
- Excellent UK-based technical support team
- Real Living Wage employer
In fact we like 34SP so much we recently joined their affiliate programme, so if you like the sound of their package you can grab yourself 1 month free WordPress hosting with 34SP.
This 100% UK-based hosting company and B-Corp is another good choice for ethical businesses. With nearly a quarter of a million websites on its books, it’s a company that knows what it’s doing.
- Certified B-Corp
- London-based data centre uses 100% renewable energy
- Committed to planting or protecting 1 billion trees by 2030 – and have ticked off 1.3 million so far
Eco Web Hosting
With its office in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and data centres in London and Derby, Eco Web Hosting is 100% UK-based.
- Uses energy-efficient servers in its data centres
- Partners with several tree-planting organisations on behalf of customers
- Offers funding to green projects in the UK
How to check if you have green hosting
Want to know if your current hosting provider uses renewable energy? The Green Web Foundation has a handy tool that can check that for you.
Simply input your website’s domain name, and it’ll let you know who your host is, if they use green energy, and what evidence there is of sustainability practices.
Read about more Tools for testing your website’s carbon emissions
A high-quality hosting package from a good provider is essential for business websites, helping keep your website working optimally, ensuring the best possible user experience for your customers, and protecting your website against cyberattack.
We hope this article has also given an insight into all the ways in which good hosting is also a fantastic sustainability decision. Good hosting can boost your website’s eco credentials by:
- Ensuring the servers it uses are energy-efficient and running on renewable power
- Loading fast to further reduce energy consumption while improving user experience
- Using compression and caching to further speed up load times
- Using server-level security, so you don’t need to install energy-guzzling plugins
- Using local data centres and CDNs to reduce the distance data needs to travel
- Automating backups and plugin updates to reduce the need for lengthy manual updates
- How much C02 does a website produce? – Root investigates the environmental impact of websites
- How do I make my website more eco-friendly? – Root offers tips on reducing the environmental impact of your business website
- web.dev’s guide to Content delivery networks outlines the benefits and what to look for in a CDN