8 Things To Follow While Using Shared Hosting Server

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Shared web hosting is one of the most preferred methods for hosting websites and blogs. Individuals, freelancers and small businesses start with a shared hosting plan and gradually upgrade as their traffic and revenue increase with passage of time. New webmasters often find it very difficult using their shared hosting plan in a right manner. Sometimes, the problems faced by novice webmasters can be easily avoided or can be solved by following some simple guidelines or by taking some very basic precautions. In a nutshell, proper utilization of shared hosting requires careful implementation of website setup and maintenance. A single weak link in the chain can bring the entire site down. So here's a handy guide for new webmasters and bloggers who've recently purchased a shared hosting plan and struggle to get the best experience as expected.

Check knowledge base before contacting customer support

Newbies are prone to this disease when it comes to dealing with hosting problems. Whenever you're going to implement something new or want to tweak a portion of your website, always scan the knowledge base before going ahead. Same thing applies to incidents where you run to customer support immediately after encountering a problem with your website. In most cases, the answer of the problem lies in the knowledge base or in the help manuals. Once you've tried all the solutions given in the manual and if still the problem is persisting, you can definitely open a support ticket for the same. This approach helps in the following ways.
  • You learn from experience - The more you search and discover, the more you learn vital details of properly maintaining a website or a blog. This not only makes you able of solving minor problems on your own, but also equips you with added technical knowledge so that you do not repeat those mistakes again.
  • You get excellent customer support - Yes that's true and does make sense. Do you like a kid rolling on floor for every little problem he faces? Same thing applies to you when you're running to customer support for every little problem that can be easily solved by yourself provided you're ready to scan the help manuals. Check, read and try to rectify. If everything fails, press the support button and you'll get the best possible customer support experience from your web hosting company.

Check compatibility of caching plugins before using them

Caching plugins like W3 Total Cache can be very confusing for new website owners. Although, an average user understands the concept of caching but fails to correctly configure various available options in the plugin. Before you install this plugin on your website, you must check or inquire about its compatibility with your shared server.

Once you get the green signal either through customer support or through the help manuals you can go ahead and install it. Remember, configuration of various options is quite different in different hosting environments. For example, you cannot use APC page caching in a shared hosting environment. Make sure you read the entire manual before applying these settings else it may bring down your website altogether.

Use Google Apps for email

I strongly recommend using Google Apps for all your email needs whether you're using a shared hosting plan or own a VPS server. This not only reduces email handling load from your web server, but also gives you robust infrastructure of Gmail to process all your mails. Here's a list of excellent tutorials to get you started with using Google Apps for your custom domain.

I've always used Google Apps for all email communication for all my domains and found it extremely reliable and easy to use. Email programs like Roundcube and SquirrelMail generally offered by web hosting providers stand nowhere in front of Gmail when it comes to customization and advance mail handling features. You must configure it as soon as you install your fresh blog or website to avoid losing old emails or indulging in lengthy archive migration process.

Keep your plugins count to the minimum

It's very tempting to install a new plugin for every new customization needed for our blogs or websites. They're easy to use but may eat our server's resources without our knowledge. This can even lead to account suspension if one of your plugins is slowing down the entire shared server. The best policy regarding plugin usage is to restrict yourself from installing any plugin unless you cannot implement a custom functionality without one.

It is often seen that an untested plugin is the reason for either making the entire website sluggish or breaking it altogether. Shared server resources are limited; especially the CPU share and installing inefficient resource hogging plugins can make things worse.

Avoid using SSL certificate on a shared server

If you're planning to use SSL certificate with your shared hosting account, then think once again. It can cause trouble in certain conditions that are beyond your control. In rare conditions, an account using SSL certificate on the same shared server can cause problems for you leading to indexing of https URLs in Google's database.

This can result in serious duplicate content penalty which can dry up your organic traffic in no time. Generally, an average small scale website on a shared server does not need a SSL certificate and you can safely avoid it. If you ever feel the need of using one, make sure you confirm about any potential conflict that may arise in case any other account is also using SSL on the same shared server.

Activate limited and optimized Cron jobs

Who doesn't love automation? We all love to automate maximum possible daily routines to lessen our burden. Cron jobs are one of the best possible ways to create scheduled tasks that you need to complete at specific intervals on your web server. You must be familiar with the standard syntax and directives used in creating a typical Cron job.

Normally, a shell script is triggered through these Cron jobs to perform a routine task. You must be very careful while using these shell scripts as a little mistake can bring down the entire server. It's always better to get commonly used scripts that are thoroughly tested by the community. In case you're unsure, you can get it inspected by the support representative before including it in your Cron job.

Always use secure FTP for added security

This is applicable not just for shared hosting environment but is vital for any kind of hosting setup. Generally, new users do not bother to use secure version of FTP and transfer files to and fro from their web server without any security cover. This can be dangerous especially if you're uploading sensitive files containing your login information.

The best possible solution is to create a SFTP account for securely transferring the files to your shared server. This way all your file stream is encrypted before it is sent to the server giving you security from hackers and packet sniffers. It may slightly slow down the file transfer process but you'll be assured of any kind of information stealing from your sensitive files.

Examine raw server logs every week

A good webmaster always preemptively takes necessary measures to guard against possible hacking attempts. One such measure is close examination of raw server logs for any suspicious activity. If you receive massive amount of traffic, you cannot examine entire logs on a daily basis. But, you can certainly check them on a random basis at least once a week to pick any abnormal activity.

Interpreting raw Apache server logs requires some knowledge and general users may not understand it at all. Here's a common log format generated by Apache web server. Technically challenged users can also use this handy Apache log viewer to better understand and interpret the entries.


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