This is the fourth post in a multi-part series on selecting a hosting provider for your Magento site.
Once you understand what hardware each hosting provider is offering up the next area to focus on is the software on the physical servers.
The following are the question I suggest you ask the hosting companies you are getting bids back from.
What version of PHP is supported by the hosting company? – PHP versions have a big impact on the performance of your Magento site. If you are running Magento 1.9 then you need to request PHP 5.6, any earlier versions of Magento and PHP 5.4 is the safest version I would recommend. If you are running a Magento 2.x site, then you need to run PHP 7 to realize all of the performance gains. Considering that you will be signing a multi-year contract for hosting services request to see their support roadmap for future versions of PHP. Also, request to understand the process to upgrade your server to a new version of PHP. The goal here is to ensure that the hosting company has a plan in place to upgrade servers to newer versions.
New Relic Monitoring? – More in-depth monitoring can help troubleshoot performance issues with your site. Find out what level of monitoring comes with the hosting companies service beyond hardware monitoring. Some hosting providers are including NewRelic monitoring in their packages. This would be the ideal monitoring solution for your Magento site.
Redis or Memcache? – You will want to verify that caching technology is available to your site. Using Redis for full page and block caching should be a requirement. If the hosting company only supports Memcache I would suggest that you do not move forward with that provider.
Apache or Nginx? – There is significant difference between these two web servers. However with a Magento site and assuming that both web servers are properly tuned there is not much of a difference in performance that you will realize with one over the other.
Without getting any further into deep technical questions this should give you a good handle as a site owner on what questions related to hosting software you should be asking. If you are working with a developer on your hosting provider selection there will be many more technical questions that they will be asking. Far too many questions to cover without going into the deep technical background required to understand what each one could potentially mean.
Next up in this series is how you put all of this information together and successfully negotiate a hosting contract with a provider.