Choosing a web host for your Church website is the first, and one of the most critical decisions you will make when it comes to establishing a successful online presence. Your church building has a physical foundation. Think of your web host provider as the foundation of your “virtual church.” It’s crucial that your church website is built on a solid foundation. (Think Matthew 7:26) DO NOT cut corners when it comes to web hosting.
Oh no! This is going to be expensive!
Anytime someone tells you not to cut corners you prepare yourself for the sticker shock that’s sure to follow. Not this time. The vast majority of churches can get all the functionality and resources needed to host a dynamic church website for no more than $20-$30 per month. Churches on a tight budget can start out with budget hosting in the $10 range.
I know the $2.95 per month hosting is very tempting, but avoid the super cheap hosting if at all possible. These companies operate on a quantity over quality philosophy. They pack as many websites as possible on a single server, and while they may promise unlimited everything, you’re sharing limited server resources with 500 or more websites. Also, customer service is usually non-existent. I will say that there are some good hosting companies that also offer these budget packages because the demand is there. Don’t shy away from a hosting company just because they offer this type of hosting. Just stay away from those packages. It will save you a lot of headaches in the future! 😉
Church Website Hosting Considerations
Operating System – The two main choices are Windows and Unix, with Unix available in several “flavors” such as Linux or BSD. This basically comes down to software requirements and personal preference. The majority of servers on the internet, including Christian Website, operate on some variation of Unix. Unix servers provide better security and are normally cheaper since you’re not paying a Windows licensing fee. Some web designers prefer Windows servers because they’re more user friendly and offer better support for the latest programming software. Unless you know of specific features you’ll need that are only available on a Windows server (asp, .net, MS SQL, or Access) I recommend going with a Linux server.
Make sure your server includes the latest version of MySQL and PHP. MySQL is your database software and PHP is a programming language that allows you to manage your database. Don’t worry! No technical or programming knowledge is required, but most software you will use to control the look and functionality of your website will require the latest version of MySQL and PHP. That includes WordPress. which we will discuss later in this series.
Bandwidth and Hard Drive Space – The features you plan to offer on your church website will play a huge part in determining your bandwidth and storage needs. If you plan to provide audio and video streaming from your server you will certainly need plenty of storage. Your bandwidth needs will be determined by the popularity of your streaming. The key here is to look for a web host that offers flexibility as you grow. You want to be able to easily upgrade your bandwidth and storage at the click of a button and not have the hassle of moving your whole website to a new server. Trust me when I say, that is NO fun!
If you plan to offer streaming audio or video, let’s start with a minimum of 10 GB of storage and at least 250 GB of bandwidth per month. This will cover the majority of church website hosting needs, including moderate streaming demands. Remember to be wary of hosting packages that offer unlimited anything. There is no such thing.
VPS or Shared Hosting – VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. This gives you the same level of control as having your own dedicated server at a fraction of the cost. Technically it’s still shared hosting, but there are usually fewer clients on the same server. This is the best route to go… BUT I would only suggest this option for the experienced web designer or computer user. With a VPS, if you mess something up you better know how to fix it, or be willing to pay big bucks for tech support. The hosting company will handle any hardware issues, but when it comes to server settings and software, you’re on your own.
Support – You want a hosting company that is quick to respond to your support requests. You would be surprised how many hosting companies are operated by one person. A simple way to test out their support is to locate their support phone number on their website and give them a call. See if you can speak directly to a support technician. Also, submit an online support request from their website and see how long it takes to receive a response from a real person, not an auto responder.
If you have doubts about a hosting company post your questions below. You can also take a look at Web Hosting Talk. There are ongoing discussions on just about every hosting company.