Speed matters. Sure, the Slow Food Movement, The Tortoise and the Hare, and Heinz 57 might be exceptions, but as a rule of thumb we like fast cars, fast race times, fast food…and fast web downloads, of course.
If it’s not the case already, soon more people will be finding your website via mobile devices than on desktops. Speed matters when you’re checking something out on a phone or tablet, and for many users who rely on cellular connections the download speeds are slower than wireless or network connections to the web. There are many things you can do to speed up how fast your church site loads, but let’s focus briefly on one of them: hosting. (Don’t worry – we’ll keep this from being too technical or detailed!)
The web host is the server where your website “resides.” Many churches don’t get a lot of traffic to their site and thus don’t want to pay a lot for their hosting. So, they usually wind up being hosted on “shared” servers. As the name would imply, these are servers that host multiple websites from multiple clients. Multiple sites means there can be many people trying to access the server simultaneously. Further, shared hosting can also mean that some of the software application might also be shared. All of that can mean slower download times. Still, shared hosting is popular because it’s affordable and, for most users, reasonably fast.
A Variation: Free Hosting
Yes, it really is possible to get free web hosting as a church. Free website hosts – such as Wix – offer a decent set of features, all hosted on shared servers. There are numerous downsides to free hosting, such as a requirement that you purchase a domain name from the host (at a higher-than-necessary price), added banner ads, slower speeds, and the use of subdomains such as yourchurch.freehosting.com. None of that is going to be very appealing to a visitor, so few churches will want to go this route.
Churches and other faith groups who have someone with a good bit of tech savvy might want to explore free hosting offered to nonprofit organizations by a few webhosts. For example, Dreamhost offers a fairly robust and free package for registered nonprofits, and I have used it in several instances in the past. The price can’t be beat, of course, but its still a shared hosting environment and does require a significant comfort level with server, domain, website and email setup.
A Much Better Variation: Optimized Hosting
A growing trend in shared hosting is what is often called “optimized hosting.” These are servers that have added features to speed up the delivery time for all those digital bits and bytes. Some use SSIDs, hard drives that are essentially giant memory chips with no moving parts. Others provide servers that are dedicated and set up for specifically and only for systems like WordPress. With optimized hosting, you might pay a bit more (generally from a few dollars to around $25) but the extra speed can be noticeable.
An alternative to shared hosting is dedicated hosting. In this case, a website has a server all to itself. On the plus side, that generally means faster access times and better security. On the down side, it also means there’s a higher cost and more maintenance involved to make sure things are running OK. A dedicated host is a great option for a very large church with many resources that will be accessed regularly on the website, such as streaming audio and video.
Few churches will choose this option, but I’ll mention it briefly. Collocated hosting means you purchase your own server and then have it stored at a web host’s facility. You’d be responsible for the costs of the server – and they aren’t cheap – but you’d have full control over what is installed on it.
So What About Hosting with Aboundant?
Aboundant uses WP Engine, one of the world’s best hosts that specializes in WordPress and nothing but WordPress. To use the terminology above, it’s optimized hosting…but they go far beyond what other optimized hosts offer. The service, support, speed and security are outstanding, and we feel confident in saying you’ll love having your church website hosted there. (By the way, in case you’re curious, it would cost you either $29 or $99 a month to “go it alone” on WP Engine – more than what Aboundant costs with all of the extras we provide.)
Got questions about hosting with Aboundant? Drop us a note and we’ll happily go into geek mode!