Today’s Community Contributor is Jeremy Goldsborough, Owner of Spirelight Web, a company which builds and hosts simple websites for small churches. Jeremy has spent the last 10 years building relationships with pastors and churches by assisting them with their website needs, drawing from his own roots in local church ministry. Check out his reviews about Dashlane and Diapad on TrustRadius. In this blog post, he shares his insights into the various options church website managers have in regards to choosing a website hosting provider.
If you have a dime, there are dozens, probably thousands, of web hosting companies that would love to sell you an “easy” and “powerful” solution for your church website.
Just Google “website hosting for churches” and you’ll be rewarded with a wide array of options. Any of these choices could be a great fit or a real bust.
Whenever there are lots of options, there are usually lots of accidents waiting to happen. To minimize the chance of failure and set your church up for a heavenly hosting experience, there are a few things you need to consider.
There are three routes to go when choosing a solution for your church website. Let’s take a look at each option and discover the pros and cons of each.
1. TRADITIONAL HOSTING
This classic option works like this: You rent server space and bandwidth from a web hosting company. You upload your website files to this server and point your domain name to it.
The main benefits of traditional hosting are:
Low Cost. For a very low monthly or annual cost, you can be up and running with a traditional hosting account in just a few minutes.
Just remember that cheaper does not always mean better!
Don’t choose the cheapest hosting company you can find. In the long run, it’s just not worth the cost. Choose a host that offers a generous set of resources at a mid-range price, say $10-$20 per month. Read their reviews (not from their website, but third-party real-world experiences), ask lots of questions, and understand what you’re getting before you commit.
Great Flexibility. With traditional hosting, you can use any platform or CMS you want to. Whether it’s WordPress, Joomla, straight HTML, or other structure, the door is wide open.
However, with great flexibility comes great responsibility. This introduces the biggest con of traditional hosting…
Great Responsibility. In the traditional hosting environment, you are responsible for every aspect of the actual website. If something breaks in the code, you’ve got to fix it. Are updates needed? That’s on you too. If you’re not comfortable with this, it may be best to go a different route.
2. DIY BUILDERS
Over the last few years, there have been some amazing companies that have emerged to offer a nice fusion of website hosting and website builder. These companies not only provide web hosting, they also provide a simple toolset that allows even a novice to build a pretty nice looking website.
Companies such as Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, and Duda all have solid options at reasonable prices. Many churches have found great solutions here!
Less Responsibility. In the DIY builder environment, the responsibility for the platform, codebase, and hosting are on the vendor. If you have a problem with the toolset or the performance, they will fix it for you, or support you through it.
Less Flexibility. With a DIY builder, you are confined to the limits of the builder. If you need your church website to achieve a more complicated goal, you may find it difficult to achieve with this option.
3. WEB AGENCY
Many churches find that it is easier and overall more cost-efficient to hire a website agency to handle every aspect of their web presence. In this scenario, the church contracts with the agency to build and maintain their website, thus completely offloading the management end of things. A church representative communicates with the agency who fulfills the requests as they come in.
Little Responsibility. The web agency handles nearly all of the website responsibilities. This makes it easy for the church staff to focus on other community services and ministries that are important to them.
Big Cost. The website agency option is the most costly. It can run thousands of dollars to have an agency build a church website, and there will most certainly be hefty monthly retainer costs to have them manage things for you.
While these three options are the most common, you may find that your church can benefit from a hybrid solution.
For instance, there are church website companies that will provide the expertise and oversight of a website agency while relinquishing the maintenance responsibility through a DIY builder.
The best plan is to do your research, stick to your budget, and choose a solution that will provide the best combination of cost, responsibility, and flexibility for your church.