There are thousands of webhosting companies in business today, and while many provide great service, the market is saturated with companies that provide less-than-stellar service at low prices. I firmly believe that in the web hosting & web development industry, you always “get what you pay for”. This is especially relevant for nonprofit organizations, because the goal is to usually cut costs as much as possible. After all, your NPO/NGO wants as much money as possible to go towards meeting your actual mission, right?
What if I told you that properly utilizing technology can help you better meet that vision, and that as a nonprofit organization / NGO, you should NOT select the cheapest web hosting provider you can find? In this post, I break down each type of web hosting “package” companies sell. But first, I want to take a brief moment and explain why choosing the cheapest web hosting provider isn’t a good idea.
Why might it be a bad idea to find the cheapest price available?
Many web hosting providers are huge companies that make money off of the sheer number of clients that they have. While they probably also provide 24/7 phone technical support, I’m willing to guarantee that the interaction with said support, and the knowledge that they bring to the table about your specific organization’s structure & needs is sub-par. You truly do get what you pay for, and while the support and “features” might be excellent, many nonprofit organizations typically do not have the resources or knowledge base to ask the right questions or know exactly what they need.
And now to the list…
- Shared Hosting
Shared hosting provides the most basic services. If your nonprofit organization has a small website without a lot of traffic then this is all you will probably need. Websites on a shared web hosting account “share” server resources (such as a physical server’s hard drive, memory, and processor) with other websites. Depending on how big the actual server is, there could be a dozen, or there could be hundreds websites that share the same server.
Those with a shared web hosting account are typically only given very basic access to the server to transfer files. Databases are either manually created by the hosting provider, or the users are given access to create their own databases using a GUI (graphical user interface). These kinds of accounts typically do not come with SSH (command line) access. The server and all of its software is completely managed by the hosting provider. No software updates can be performed by the customer.
Signup for Shared Web Hosting with Barred Owl Web
- The Managed & Unmanaged VPS
A Virtual Private Server has an advantage over a shared package in that the server’s resources are private. If 512mb of RAM are allocated to a VPS, then the client will always have access to 512mb.Why does this matter? Let’s say a shared server has 1GB of RAM (memory, not to be confused with storage / disk space), but hosts 20 clients. First of all, those clients probably don’t even know the specifications of the server to begin with. But even if they did, each client wouldn’t be able to consume 1GB of RAM at any given time because all of the clients are sharing it.Another advantage that several VPS solutions have over a shared web hosting package is that clients are usually given SSH (command line) access to the server. This makes it a lot easier to update website files, make database backups, and more.
However, a VPS is “virtual”. While VPS’s guarantee a set amount of RAM and disk space for each customer, they typically don’t have as much RAM as dedicated, physical servers. Multiple VPS’s are installed onto a single physical device. So while the hardware is shared, each VPS is completely separate and can potentially have different software installed onto it.
What’s the difference between managed & unmanaged?
Similar to the shared web hosting package, the managed VPS is completely “managed” by the web hosting provider. Software & security updates to the server’s operating system are not the client’s concern! While many managed VPS solutions will come with SSH access, often times that access is not root level access. Providing root level access to a server would enable a client to update anything they wanted on the server, which in a managed environment, isn’t a good idea because the client could break something that the hosting provider would then need to fix.The unmanaged VPS is exactly what it sounds like: unmanaged. Clients get full root SSH access to the server and are responsible for installing the operating system, and configuring any software they want. The hosting provider simply makes sure that the backend infrastructure is available for the VPS to continue running. As a result, the unmanaged VPS will typically be cheaper than a managed VPS that has the same features.
- Hosting in the Cloud
The “cloud” is sometimes a misunderstood concept. Often times synonymous with terms like “high availability” web hosting, a “cloud web hosting provider” maintains several physical servers in a way that if a single server suddenly crashes, the website and/or data stored in the cloud environment continues to be available. Cloud / high availability hosting is more expensive than VPS or shared hosting packages because they typically are not configured in a redundant environment. Many nonprofit organizations might find the cost of cloud hosting to be prohibitive. ROI for the little bit of downtime other types of hosting might experience may not be enough to justify the additional cost. However, for a corporation or nonprofit organization that relies on internet communication 24/7, this is certainly the best decision to make in order to minimize downtime.
- The Managed & Unmanaged Dedicated Server
A dedicated server is a physical server that is use only for a single client. Similar to the VPS, the dedicated server is completely private. When a client signs up for a dedicated server, they know exactly how much CPU processing power, RAM, hard disk space, and bandwidth they are going to get – guaranteed. There are no VPS’s running on top of the dedicated server – the physical hardware is completely in the power of the single client who rents it.
Just like in the difference of the managed vs. unmanaged VPS, the managed dedicated server is ultimately “controlled” by the hosting provider – they make sure that the operating system stays up to date, and makes sure the website continues to be available, while the client is in charge of maintaining all of the software, and making sure that their website stays available on the unmanaged server.
Like all of the other hosting options described thus far in this post, the dedicated server is only rented for a certain amount of time, and is not actually owned by the client. It is also going to (typically) be more expensive for the client than a VPS or are shared hosting package, although probably won’t be as expensive as cloud hosting.
A “Datacenter” is indeed a place where data is stored. It is where companies place their servers. It is typically a building (or a location inside a building) that has redundant internet providers, redundant power feeds and backup power sources (including generators and batteries), and even provides high speed links between different servers inside the same building.Building a datacenter to meet all of these demands is quite expensive. For this reason, companies that own their physical hardware (instead of renting dedicated servers for a certain length of time), but want to place it into a well-designed datacenter can do so by “colocating” their servers into a datacenter managed by a different company. The client in this case will rent power & space in the datacenter for the server(s), and pay for internet service provider costs. Because the server infrastructure is owned by the client, everything else is up to the client – configuring the server, installing the operating system, and making sure the website continues to be available.
These are the most common types of “web hosting” available to end-consumers such as small businesses and nonprofit organizations. While some larger companies may offer all of these different kinds of hosting options, many hosting businesses (including us) only provide a few of these options.
The important thing is to shop and choose wisely. While 1 hosting package might be good for 1 company or NGO, it may not be the best package for a different entity.