Website hosting for law firms may not sound like a very interesting topic at first glance, so let’s put it into context.
The single most important thing influencing the success of your law firm website is speed, not the design, not the content but how fast it loads. Speed.
If a website loads slowly it is quite likely that the website visitor will not wait around to engage with the content.
One of the key factors that determines the speed of your website is the infrastructure provided by your hosting company. Most law firms have never had to consider where to host their websites as they will be using the hosting company recommended by their website developer or the website hosting provided by their domain name registrar, but is this good enough?
This article looks at website speed and other critical issues you need to be aware of when selecting a hosting company for your law firm website so you can find the right hosting plan to suit your needs. The article refers mainly to WordPress websites, the platform used by most law firms.
Website hosting for law firms - explained
A website hosting company provides the foundation for making sure that law firm websites are online 24/7 (uptime), they provide the servers so you can store and deliver the graphics, text, documents, audio, video and other files that make up your website and its content - it’s the technology engine that powers your website.
If your website is down a common cause is that there is a problem with the server – at the website host.
There are many options when it comes to website hosting for law firms, let’s dive into some of the crucial issues you need to consider before selecting a hosting company for your website.
Page Loading Speed
As I outlined above the load speed of your website plays a critical role in your visitors’ experience and in search engine results. The faster each page of your website opens, the better your search engine results and the happier your visitors.
Did you know that a 1 second delay means page views decrease by 11%? That means over 1/10 visitors will just turn away for every second your site is still loading.
TIP: Your website host should have a specialized environment fine-tuned for optimizing WordPress for the best performance and should provide a content delivery network helping make the website faster and more scalable.
Website Uptime is a critical measure
Site uptime is of critical importance. In simple terms if your site is down, your clients and visitors will be unable to find you or access the information on your website.
TIP: We recommend you use a host with industry leading website infrastructure specially designed for law firm websites which provides advanced, fast and secure hosting and service availability of 99.95% uptime.
If you are in charge of your law firm's online reputation or website security it's critical to understand the importance of securing your law firm website with an SSL certificate (SSL means Secure Sockets Layer).
Google recently increased its protection of website visitors by identifying websites that are not encrypted with HTTPS as being Not secure, alerting visitors to potential security risks associated with providing personal information when using these websites as this data could be intercepted by hackers. You should assume your clients, potential clients and website visitors are aware of this. Consider what impression it creates about your firm.
TIP: Cybercrime is now a multi trillion dollar business and if cybercrime was a country it would be the 13th largest contributor to GDP in the world! If you cannot tell if you have an SSL certificate call us – it will take us seconds to check for you. All the websites we host have an SSL Certificate.
Lawyers want to be able to get support when it is needed. Filling in an online form to an offshore business in another time zone is most unwelcome. We regularly hear of horror stories about firms unable to address an urgent security issue or to be able to gain access to their own site and often it’s the big, well-known companies that offer hosting at $10 per month, that have the worst reputations. You simply cannot call them and sort out your problem when you need to.
TIP: We recommend you seek a service that comes with ongoing phone and email support.
Whilst WordPress is considered an incredibly stable platform, it’s not fail-proof. There are various ways you can back-up your law firm website and this can be done through your hosting provider, plugins or downloading a local copy of your website via FTP. However, the option that best suits your law firm depends on the skills you have available to recover your website should the need arise.
At the very least your website should be backed up every week and stored offsite. Back-ups don’t impact the performance of your site but do offer peace-of-mind that your website can be restored should something go wrong.
TIP: We recommend that your hosting provider perform daily secure database backups.
Somebody must be responsible for keeping your website running, keeping the various components (WordPress core, themes and plugins) up to date is part of that process. If the website components are not current, then the website might be susceptible to security breaches.
If you are not across updates, then your website hosting provider must be - particularly the WordPress core updates. However, you should know what is being done for you because many firms think their site is being updated when in fact nothing is being done. Obviously, this is a dangerous non-strategy to adopt.
You or your website host should be aware of WordPress updates as they become available and implement the update as soon as you can.
As a worst case, it’s recommended that you check for updates to your WordPress platform at least once a month. These updates typically include fixes to performance issues, new advanced features and improved security, reducing the vulnerability of your website. Again, if you can’t do this, ensure your hosting company does.
TIP: We recommend that your website be automatically updated when the latest patches are released by WordPress and as part of your maintenance arrangements, all themes and plugins be updated at least weekly.
Whilst most lawyers don’t want to know about the intricacies of website hosting, the fact remains that the firm’s website is the number #1 marketing tool it has at its disposal.
Lawyers need to have the knowledge and the comfort that their firm’s website is secure and properly maintained. You need to know what has been done and when it was done.
TIP: Have access to a report about the website status for the preceding month reporting on security, plug-ins and updates and backups so you are aware and have a record.
Unsurprisingly, it costs more to repair a website than to maintain it. Whether this is managed by your law firm, your web guy or by your hosting provider, ongoing website management is good business practice as it not only enhances security, performance, functionality and customer experience - it also maximises the uptime of your website, improving the success of your website as a marketing tool and increasing your return on investment.
Lift Legal is the leading online marketing solution for law firms, we provide (via Active Legal Media the website arm of the business) a fully managed website service incorporating website hosting, maintenance and security.
We provide all the TIPs we have identified in this article for all the law firm websites we host and manage. Changing the hosting of your website is easy. If you are interested, we can put the process in place. Call me now to chat.
About the author
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.