Can UK Consumers Easily Shop for Secure Web Hosting?

“There are real issues about the extent to which US law enforcement agencies can access personal data of UK and other European citizens.”stated the UK Information Comissioner’s Office.

IT expert in Secure Data Center

IT expert in Secure Data Center Source: istockphoto

The Current Web Data Security Situation

“Aspects of US law under which companies can be compelled to provide information to US agencies potentially conflict with European data protection law, including the UK’s own Data Protection Act.” continued the UK Information Comissioner’s Office on their website on the 7th June.

Earlier this month nine major internet companies in the United States were shown by The Washington Post to have data collected from their servers by the US government since 2007. The Prism program intends to protect citizens and national security but was found to inadvertently cause a data security risk to individuals and organisations.

In an article by Nick Hopkins in The Guardian this week it was revealed that classified papers showed “the British government had access to Prism since 2010.” William Hague appeared on television on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 9th June stating “Law abiding citizens have nothing to fear.” The issue has highlighted that currently customers in the US and Europe are paying for services to keep their commercial and personal data secure and confidential when in fact governments can legally access information via specific requests to web hosting providers.

Data security and privacy is of utmost importance to many people and their businesses who compete in a global marketplace where innovation and development is key to success and intellectual property is valuable. Busy consumers want to know exactly how webhosting companies are actually going to keep their data secure when they choose a company to host their websites and keep their data. We looked at the top 10 UK web hosting providers listed with a Google search and we found a wide variety in the amount and type of information on the web hosting company websites about this important aspect.

Security and UK Webhosting Companies

Several web hosting companies in the UK such as Fasthost and 123reg have services that focus on the security of customers data. These can be to do with preventing and retrieving lost data such as ‘Webspace Recovery’ and ‘Daily Server Backups’ and ‘Automatic Updates’. A few web hosting companies such as MyWebToNet offer packages with ‘Password-protected Directories’ and the best providers talk about the benefits of protection from unwanted threats with their ‘up-to date Firewall’.

Some web hosting companies such as Webhosting UK promote their automated backup systems to show how secure their synchronised systems are. New clients will certainly be happy to know that potentially time wasting ‘downtime’ is minimised with synchronised servers seamlessly handling maintenance updates. MyWebToNet’s website explains “In the unlikely event that one of our top quality servers experiences an error, our automated system replaces the service with a new server quickly and efficiently, with the correct functionality to provide continuous high quality web hosting services, without downtime.”

1&1 emphasised that their systems were backed up on different servers in two locations giving “..double security through geo-redundancy”. 1&1 are also enthusiastic about their “team of 1300 in house developers”. This can indeed be a very good thing to enable the generation of great services, however in this industry of automation, it is efficiency of the system overall which is paramount. When purchasing online products and services value can be possible without adding the costs of administration involved with many employees.

Larger web hosting companies websites such as 123reg and Fasthost described their data centers in detail which is reassuring for potential customers. It is notable that ‘center’ is usually spelt the American way in this context and not as ‘centre’ as the traditional English spelling. What happens to your files if there is a power failure, fire or another natural disaster is important to know when entrusting your precious business and personal information. HeartInternet were the only company we found to use a computer aided design (CAD) walk through to show their data center so customers know exactly what it looks like.

WebFusion warn potential customers that “The threat of computer crime to your business is as real as ever. Online businesses need to be well protected against the increasingly sophisticated techniques of hackers and spammers. After all, if you’re taking customer payment details, you could be a target for data theft.” So it is worth checking if your web hosting includes advanced ‘spam filtering’ to prevent unsolicited email which is a major source of security problems and viruses.

BT Web Hosting features a section that compares their different packages and highlights a special service called ‘Online & Protect Starter Hosting and BT Security’ that is “a complete security package that gives you all the protection you, your computer and your business need online and is provided to you in association with McAfee.”

Easyspace list 10 reasons to choose Easyspace section on their home page and the third reason is: ‘6 self-owned UK Data centres & Network’ This brief visit to their website left us a little unclear exactly what this means so as a new customer we may want to enquire for more details to check precisely how our data is held securely.

Some UK web hosting providers choose not to mention data security systems and procedures on their websites. HostPapa “promote the development and use of wind and solar energy resources by purchasing green energy certificates to offset all the power we use in our data centres and offices. By putting equivalent clean energy back into the grid, we effectively reduce our carbon footprint and support renewable energy initiatives.” This is interesting from a point of view of protecting the environment, however there is not any information on their website for customers about their actual data centers or how their data will be safeguarded. It could be that they are protective over their security strategies for commercial reasons or they wish to keep their websites very simple for customers and the focus on the sales process.

Regulatory Bodies and the Future of Webhosting Security in the UK

Get Safe Online is an organisation that advises individuals and businesses about online security and their website advises “The Data Protection Act (DPA) protects the privacy and integrity of data held on individuals by businesses and other organisations. The act ensures that individuals (customers and employees) have access to their data and can correct it, if necessary.” The Get Safe Online website continues to say the DPA “is enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which has responsibility for overseeing the Freedom of Information Act and the regulation of interception of communications under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).”

Many other industries require professional membership and certified qualifications in order to protect people from harm and ensure high standards are consistently met. Web hosting providers reputations and websites currently help customers to choose between them. Customer recommendations are important in this field and as with choosing any commercial service, new customers are more confident to know that a webhosting company is well established and has been in business for more than a few years.

As more people than ever are keeping their data online, clearly communicating how this information is securely stored and backed up is essential and may become key to success as a webhosting provider in the UK.