Website Hosting Information

There are several benefits to hosting your libraries website with a host provider including a unique domain name, website building tools, web based email access and establishing a place for the public to interact with your library.

Domain Name

A domain name becomes the identity of your library on the web.  If your current website is hosted by FLLS, the identity is tied in with our domain and then uses a page address to display your homepage.  For example, Cortland’s website is currently www.flls.org/cortlandlib.  By registering a domain name, a unique address such as cortlandfreelibrary.org or cortlandlibrary.org could be used instead.

For other libraries that have one of our generic pages, the address is more obscure.  For example, Marathon’s current address is www.flls.org/memberpages/mara.htm.  Not only does it not give an identity to the library, it’s also not intuitive for a person who knows the name of the library.  The default pages are also not best suited for search engines such as Google, potentially making it even harder for patrons to locate.

Website Building Tools

There are applications such as Dreamweaver that can be used to build a website from scratch, but there are many free platforms available on which a website can be built.  Wordpress is one of the most popular and easiest to customize to your requirements, but more robust Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Drupal and Joomla are also available.  Hosting companies usually make one or more of these applications available with custom install programs that can have you up and running within minutes.

You are not limited to tools for presenting a website, there are also applications available to build forums, add a storefront, create photo galleries and wikis.

The other positive of these applications is ease of update.  It’s relatively easy to create a new Page or Blog in WordPress or add photos to a gallery.  The integration that these tools afford also allow interaction with Facebook, Twitter and other social networking applications.

Email

Not only will hosting your website with a host provider allow you a unique domain name, it will also allow you to create email addresses for all of your employees and give them web access rather than tying them to a computer.  Email could be checked from any computer in the library or at home but will still integrate with Outlook or another email client.

Most hosting companies have no limits on the number of email ids you can have and you would be able to designate one person that can manage them rather than having to deal with a company such as Time Warner/Road Runner.

Public Interaction

Building your website with a hosting company that has additional tools, besides the CMS applications, can allow you to interact with the public via forums, blog comments and email.  A hosted site would also provide a way to post calendars for upcoming events and even create surveys for public feedback.

On the back-end, the hosting company will collect web stats that you can use on annual reports and to see what content is the most popular with the public.

Search Engine Optimization applications available on hosted websites will help make it easier for the public to find your site.

Hosting Company Recommendations

There are many web hosting companies that have reasonable prices and some that include free domain registration with purchase.  Most sites have a monthly price but you can reduce your cost by paying for a year or multiple years at a time.  For example, Lunarpages.com offers a free, for the first year, domain name with new accounts.

Doing a search on Google for “web hosting reviews” will bring up multiple sites that compare and rank the various companies providing hosted websites.  Different reviews are likely to have different companies rise to the top so comparing a few reviews will help make the best decision for your library.

Below are four companies that we recommend based on reviews and having libraries in the system already using them.  Make sure to read up on each host and look at their pricing scheme before settling on one.

Just Host: www.justhost.com
Just Host has recently been ranked at or near the top of several web host ranking sites. They offer hosting packages starting at $6.95 per month as well as specials as low as $3.25 a month.  Just Host offers free domain registration, unlimited storage space, monthly bandwidth, email accounts and software such as WordPress and PHP Nuke, has 24×7 monitoring and 99% uptime guarantee.
Lunarpages: www.lpwebhosting.com
Lunarpages offers a Basic Web Hosting package for as low as $4.95 a month and includes unlimited bandwidth, storage space and email addresses.  Built-in installation software allows you to add WordPress or another CMS application with just a few mouse clicks.  Domain registration is free for the first year with new accounts and they have a proven record of reliability.
BlueHost: bluehost.com
Again, Blue Host offers unlimited storage space, bandwidth and email accounts along with the most popular CMS applications.  Hosting starts around $6.95 per month with specials in the $3 – $4 range.  Domain hosting and 24/7 phone, chat and email support are also available.
Go Daddy: godaddy.com
Go Daddy also offers unlimited bandwidth, disk space and email addresses as well as CMS software such as WordPress.  They have 24/7 phone and email support along with a knowledgebase.  The pricing for their unlimited account is higher, upwards of $15 per month, than Just Host but they do offer lesser packages for less cost.

Considerations

There are potentially many considerations to keep in mind when choosing a web hosting company.  Three that we think are important when doing the initial shopping are outlined here.

What is the vision for the website

If the plan is to put up a rather static web page and only update for event photos, closed dates or hour changes, a cheap site with limited storage space and monthly bandwidth would be fine.  But there is always the possibility to expand the library web presence.  Make sure there is room to grow with the service you choose, whether that’s through included add-in software or access to programming languages for your web developer to take advantage of.

Look for a host that appears to be updated with the latest web hosting software.  A host provider that’s growing will keep new tools updated as they become available to web developers and you want your library to be able to take advantage of them.

Is  your domain transferrable?

Most, if not all, of the hosting companies offer free or inexpensive domain registration.  Check with the hosting company to make sure that your domain name is transferrable if you decide to leave the hosting company for another one.  If you register “yourlibrary.org” with BlueHost but decide to move to Lunarpages, for example, you want to be able to take “yourlibrary.org” with you.

If the web hosting company doesn’t offer that option, you may want to register your domain name on your own with a registrar like register.com, or go with a hosting company that does offer you the ability to transfer the domain name at a later time.

Pricing

Some of the sites listed offer introductory pricing for new accounts.  Take into consideration what the monthly or yearly costs are after that introductory pricing is over.  In other words, don’t pick a hosting company based on the cheapest rate now if that rate is going to go up.  Especially if the final price is more per month than another host that offers more service for the price.

Also look into purchasing your hosting service several months in advance.  Some hosting sites offer price breaks if you pay in advance for 12, 24 or even 60 months.  Keep in mind that many host providers offer automatic billing to a credit card.  Make sure that the provider you choose will accept your payment method, you don’t want to run into a situation where your website is offline because a bill has not been paid.

Wrap-up

With the FLLS migration to WordPress for our website, it has become less feasible for us to allow libraries to host their website on our server.  We do not currently have plans to do away with the static pages that the CNS department has created for libraries not doing their own updates.  However, that may change in the future.

There are a lot of hosting companies available on the internet (Google search “web hosting” will bring up over 500 million hits) and the four sites listed above are by no means the only players out there.  They are hosting companies that the CNS department has researched, that have stable servers, competitive pricing and popular application offerings.  If you would like additional information, please email or call the CNS department and we will be happy to go into more detail.