We all know how important it is for any business, company, or organization to have an online presence through its website. Nonprofit entities are no exception. A website representing them is an excellent means of reaching a bigger community for their specific causes and advocacies.
But often not realized is that the backend part of this endeavor needs just as much attention. Having a good hosting service will keep your site in running condition. Ideally, this will ensure your site visitors can access your content without fail 24/7. Moreover, a web host will also store your data and offer security to prevent online attacks.
Simply put, the more you invest in your web infrastructure, the better it should be for your purpose. However, nonprofits do not exactly have the biggest budgets to spend on this undertaking. That said, how can you optimize your web host option of having a reliable but affordable service? Is it even possible? Of course, it is. But first, you have to do this exercise. And that is, to ask yourself the following questions to land the right host for your website.
1.How much are you willing to pay for a web hosting plan?
The cost issue is an aspect anybody will always consider before buying something or subscribing to a service. Having a host in whatever shape or form is essential when operating a website. The price, however, should generally not be the deciding factor. But needless to say, for nonprofits, this is a critical point.
The good news is, some providers offer value for money hosting plan subscriptions which may be great options for nonprofits. These hosts will have full features such as fast page-loading speeds, automatic backups, SSL security certificates, PCI compliance, etc. And here's the bonus part: some of them offer special discounts for nonprofits!
Below are host provider plan options that won't break the bank.
BlueHost has some of the most affordable plans intended for small enterprises and startup companies. Nonprofits can use their subscription deals as well. Their basic plan initially costs $2.75, including 50GB SSD storage for one website, a free domain for one year, CDN, and an SSL certificate.
This web host is known to give high performance and fast speeds. Their startup tier is at a discounted price of $2.99 for a single site. It provides 100GB SSD storage, free site migration, among others.
If you want a steal subscription price for a simple setup, iPage's initial plan might be for you. It is currently only at $1.99 per month, including a free domain, SSL, and unlimited bandwidth.
This hosting service provider, which began in 2007, is known to have the most budget-friendly plans. That said, it has seen exponential growth, with over 29 million users to date. Their single shared hosting has you paying only $1.39 a month for a year. It gives you 30GB SSD storage, free SSL, among others. For their premium shared hosting, it will set you back at $2.59. You will get more space at 100GB.
inMotion Hosting is considered one of the top choices for overall nonprofit hosting solutions. They score big points in many important considerations such as storage, hosting features, value for money, uptimes, and technical support. Their launch shared hosting plan is discounted at $2.49. It comes with 10GB SSD storage, free email address, free SSL, among others.
2. Are you looking for a specific web host type?
Nonprofits are not your revenue-generating bodies. They rely mostly on membership dues, donations, grants, foundations, etc. But just like businesses, which are on the other side of the spectrum, their web hosting needs may differ. In fact, for some, they increase and require more than just basic hosting. It is particularly true for churches, as an example, which attracts higher traffic to their sites.
Aside from nonprofits, this type of web hosting is popular among small and growing businesses. Plans are offered for cheap, which helps minimize costs, and for those with low web traffic. BlueHost is the best choice for this service, even for experienced web developers. It is inexpensive, but you can expect high performance when it comes to page-loading speeds and uptimes.
SiteGround is also worth considering for more established nonprofits. It means your site visitors are in the multiple thousands. SiteGround serves as a middle ground for basic and premium hosting. Your plan will include a free domain, free email, to name a few.
Virtual Private Servers or VPS offer more than a shared hosting service. VPS is generally more expensive and has a different setup. It has single server hardware, but it functions as multiple different servers. It is in between shared hosting and a dedicated server (more on this next).
While it is somewhat a shared arrangement, a subscriber has the advantage of having a dedicated allocation of resources. This way, your website remains unaffected when other shared accounts encounter issues. At the same time, you are paying less than you would if you have a dedicated server. In other words, you can have the best of both worlds.
An ideal VPS package for nonprofits will cover high performance, server management, security, powerful drives, and free regular backups. Hostwinds is an excellent provider of VPS hosting services, with a stellar uptime of 99.99%. Their VPS plan provides ten configurations and up to 16 cores. Meanwhile, InMotion Hosting is also a great option. Their VPS plan starts at under 18 dollars, which includes 45GB SSD storage, a dedicated IP, 2 CPU cores, to name a few.
A dedicated server is considered the highest standard of hosting, which suits high-traffic sites. You are renting one server, which allows you full control as desired. It means you don't have issues with other websites affecting your resources. At the same time, though, this will cost you a whole lot more. However, it depends on how big your website is, your added functionalities, etc.
LiquidWeb is the best provider of dedicated servers for nonprofits, offering top-of-the-line services alongside the highest security levels. With five data centers located in the USA and Europe, their dedicated hosting plans boast of a minimum 500GB SSD storage, single and double processors, and zero downtime guarantee.
3. Do you need room to grow your nonprofit's web hosting?
If you are a startup nonprofit or foundation, you won't expect your website to be blowing up anytime soon. However, if your entity grows, you will likely see an increase in your web traffic, engagement, inquiries, and others. As such, there are hosting solutions that allow you to adjust according to your website activity.
When you use a shared hosting type, it's recommended for nonprofits and newly-launched sites. However, since it's considered an entry-level server, you can have the option to upgrade. So it's also important to consider a provider that has a host of scalable plans. This way, you will not have to worry about a tedious migration process when switching to another hosting provider. When there is a significant increase in your site traffic, you can have the option to upgrade from a basic shared tier to a premium one, for example.
A Nonprofit entity will be able to reduce their cost when they opt for a low tier hosting plan. As expected, though, this comes with limited data storage but makes up for it in bandwidth. Most providers offer unlimited bandwidth even for their cheapest plans. As such, you should be cautious if bandwidth limits are in place for your plan. It may result in overage fees in case your site picks up quickly. You should check with your host how they handle this scenario. It's also possible that they could place your site offline, or you may buy additional bandwidth by block.
Host provider options:
Hostgator is quite on par with BlueHost. It's a reliable web host that comes with advanced features. But more importantly, they are ideal for sites that prefer scalability. While basic shared profit plans will work with your nonprofit, this host can easily adjust to your needs as your nonprofit climbs the ladder. Their VPS plan can cover high site traffic which is to be expected when there are major campaigns or fundraiser events.
4. Do you need an email account?
While it isn't a prerequisite, email remains vital to any organization. Startup foundations and small-time fundraisers tend to use generic providers to communicate with their audience. While this may be ok for the time being, this can reflect poorly on your reputation as. a nonprofit. You must realize the using free email accounts may affect how others view your entity. Having an email account for your domain name is one way to make you not only look professional but, more importantly, trustworthy. There's also hacking, especially for large nonprofits, when using a free email account will be an easy hacker entry point.
Most of the time, a web hosting plan includes email hosting, which will enable you to create your email address. You can assign email addresses to your staff or team members. They can access them either through the internet or an email client such as Outlook. It can also be part of the hosting package depending on the provider.
Email hosting will also allow you to launch email campaigns more effectively. Email accounts are also part of having scalable options. However, it would help if you didn't assume that the inclusion of a free email hosting service will entitle you to unlimited storage and emails.
Host provider options:
InMotion has hosting plans which include unlimited email accounts. DreamHost and HostGator also have email hosting at no extra cost.
5. Does your site accept online donations?
Nonprofit websites are often created to facilitate the acceptance of donations from supporters. They are, after all, the major source of funding for their operations. As such, you'll need a web host that is not only reliable but also has strong security features to safeguard these transactions from both the nonprofit and the donor. You want to make your supporters have the convenience of sending their donations as hassle-free as possible. And at the same time, they should also feel confident in using your online facility, preventing any compromise of sensitive information such as account information.
Host provider options:
A good web hosting service provider for this purpose would be Liquid Web. It compresses site images and implements a caching system to optimize the programming language or PHP. It will result in a fast-loading website that will reinforce its security when collecting donations. There would be a dashboard that records all incoming payments and displays statistics you can refer to anytime. Options like configuration for recurring donations, customized plugins, and creating donation forms. iPage is another option that offers quality service at cheap rates. HostGator's iron-clad security, and strong uptimes are features you would want for a nonprofit website with an online donation facility. They make it easy to include a donation system through the cPanel whether you use an FTP account or any other app.
6. Are you environmentally conscious?
Green hosting is perhaps something that nonprofits look for in a web host provider, especially if you're an environmental advocacy charity or involved in natural resource conservation. Thankfully, a good number of hosting companies are responding to this demand by decreasing their carbon footprint. However, it's not enough that the web host is eco-friendly. It should still meet the highest levels of performance and security.
In any case, a web host can be considered green if they are consciously minimizing their industrial waste. One way is through the use of highly efficient hardware and software. Another would be having a recycling program. Other providers lay claim to being green by buying RECs or Renewable Energy Certificates. They are instruments that consumers utilize to validate their claims of using renewable electricity. Each is represented by one megawatt per hour of generated electricity from a renewable source such as solar or wind energy.
Host provider options:
Hostpapa is the top choice as a green host for eco-conscious nonprofits. The company is the first to go down this route and fully offsets its carbon emissions with RECs. GreenGeeks is considered to be the best overall with its solid hosting plans and green initiatives. It compensates for their electricity use by investing the amount thrice in Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Their customer service is highly commendable and has other perks that make them worthy of your consideration.
7. Does your nonprofit website generate a lot of traffic?
There is a reason why cheap hosting plans are not necessarily the best options for a budget-restricted organization. If you don't consider your monthly traffic, a low-tier hosting can incur additional charges resulting in higher fees. For example, you can optimize a higher plan if you know that your site has tremendous traffic.
Host providers will usually charge depending on the storage and bandwidth as laid out in their hosting plans. Hence it will do you good if you read the fine print section so incredibly low monthly fees won't deceive you. If your site only serves a few hundred visitors, you can save a lot with a lower plan, such as a shared host. When your website generates much interest, you should consider getting a plan with more data space and faster loading speed.
Host provider options:
Kamatera's cloud hosting plan is ideal for high-traffic sites. It is an affordable option for nonprofits. Their plan configurations consist of high technology, excellent bandwidth, and more storage. It ensures that your capacity will not throttle your web performance. LiquidWeb is a fully managed host to consider for busy sites. It has plans that can handle daily visitors in the millions. Furthermore, it has advanced software configurations and hardware that can handle data spikes and increased loads.
9. Do you use a WordPress platform?
Your nonprofit website may be using WordPress, or at least planning to. It is a highly popular web building open-source platform easily installed with a single click using Softaculous. Its robust features include numerous plugins and themes from which your site will benefit from. For nonprofits, investing in good WordPress hosting is second to none. After all, you don't want to waste your resources and make sure you are making the right decision on your first try.
Host provider options:
Once again, Hostgator is a provider you can rely on for the best WordPress hosting solution. Not only do they give preference to WordPress sites, but they also have a slew of functionalities in plans that are not too expensive. It has an over 99% uptime, multiple caching systems, and low-density servers suitable for WordPress CMS. Another web hosting platform that is very popular is SiteGround. It has 3 WordPress hosting plans that you can choose from. WP Engine offers high performance, unwavering security, and excellent support. For seamless WordPress migrations, you may also check out Kinsta.
9. Should you consider free web hosting?
As a nonprofit, you'd probably want to be smarter with your operating expenses. While there are affordable plans, there are free options as well. And the good news is, there is no shortage of free hosting services that cater to nonprofits. However, there is a catch. Or two,
Web hosting providers often provide their low-tier plans to nonprofits for free. They don't offer a cPanel; thus, managing the system can be a challenge unless you will have very minimal use of your website, which is counterintuitive if you think about it. Or you plan to test the waters with a provider and take advantage of their free plan for starters. A free hosting service is not an option even for nonprofits.
Common issues with free web hosting:
Spammy sites abound free servers
Advertisements are posted
Host provider options:
Realistically speaking, there is no good option in this category. If at all, you can make do with the free plan offered by DreamHost. They are a reputable company, so you can at least entrust your hosting, albeit without them vanishing into thin air any second. SiteGround's Host A Cause includes web redesigning is specifically targeted for nonprofits. It's a decent means for your site to get off the ground using the secure hosting services of a solid provider. Wix comes with a free website builder, 500MB storage, and 500MB bandwidth.
10. What other features should you be looking for in a web hosting provider?
Indeed, choosing the right host entails a lot of planning, which includes threshing out the things you want to be fulfilled by the hosting plan. Here are some of the things you might want to factor in your decision
High Uptime rate
It's crucial for websites to be up and running without fail, 24/7. Most of the host providers suggested in this article boast an uptime rate of 99.9%. With a low uptime rate, it can significantly impact your audience reach and your organization's reputation.
Backups are important during unexpected incidents involving downtimes or system errors because it allows you to recover your site. You can compare it to a spare tire, which allows a car to resume its motion after a flat tire situation. A website backup is ideally saved both in the server and outside it.
Location of server
When operating your nonprofit website in the US, your provider should have their data center in this same location. It will ensure fast speed and its latency. Otherwise, data that travels at longer distances may cause your web pages to load slowly, among other things.
Responsive client support
You must know that despite all the good things you expect from your hosting plan, in reality, it's never without a hitch. Since nothing is perfect, you can nonetheless make the most out of it if you can count on good service in the form of timely and efficient tech support. You should check some of the client feedback online to get an idea of your provider's quality of customer service.
Choosing the right hosting service provider takes careful planning and consideration as you figure out the answers to our discussion guide questions. If done haphazardly, it will only cause stress and money, which is the last thing you want for your nonprofit website. As such, always think long-term when in this situation. As advised, you have several reputable hosts to consider that won't make a huge dent in your budget.