When it comes to having a church website, many pastors and church IT directors are wary of the potential costs of such an endeavor. It is true that online expenses can be sizable (though often the benefit of accessibility and convenience outweighs this cost). However, church web hosting should not be looked at as a monolithic expense where expenses are fixed. In fact, switching web hosting plans, minimizing the resources used, and other on-page tactics can decrease the cost of running a website substantially. In fact, you may be able to better leverage the resources you already have to build a more efficient website at the same (or lower) cost.
When it comes time to pick a church web hosting package, many times those in the church that have been tasked with the role assume that they need the biggest-and-best option. However, it is extremely valuable to look at the size of the congregation, the type of website you intend to build (or have built), and look at how your church members are using your site. For example, a congregation of a few hundred people may seem large, but on the scale of the internet it is very unlikely that you will use a considerable amount of bandwidth [for upload and download speed]. Many users think that having many separate domains or subdomains for their different groups and divisions is necessary. While in practice, it seems like a good idea to have separate sites for a youth group, an elders group, and any other division your church may have. However, it is more cost-effective in most cases to simply create pages on your existing site for these groups. Creating pages is not associated with an increased cost, whereas purchasing a second or third domain or using several subdomains may require increased fees.
In addition, a lot of novice webmasters may also be unfamiliar with the fact that often design expenses and hosting expenses are completely separate. For example, if you use WordPress to build your website, that is perfectly fine. WordPress is a great tool and is free. However, you may also want to use a professional looking template. In many cases, this is where the cost comes into effect. With templates, you often get what you pay for in terms of quality; free templates are often watermarked, ill-maintained, or simply not very good. We recommend combining both of these expenses into one bill. The best way to do so is to choose a host with included templates for their design tools. In many cases, you may even be able to find a host , like Truepath, that includes church templates specifically, taking care of both expenses and providing you with professional looking design tools.
Bandwidth is consumed by every visitor to your site and every file that you upload. However, bandwidth too is not a fixed number. It is easy to optimize a site to use the minimal amount of bandwidth, thus maximizing the amount of visitors your site can experience without going over your monthly limit (and accruing overages). Generally, a bandwidth allotment applies to all sites on a domain, so it is important to optimize each site under a particular account. Optimizing a site for bandwidth can mean many things, but generally speaking, optimizing in this case refers to ensuring that your site serves the minimum amount of data to for the information you are trying to convey. For example, high-resolution images are taken by default on many cameras. These look the best and are usually desirable, but when it comes time to publish these to the web, many novices will not compress them or use thumbnails. This means that every time someone goes to the page where these images are embedded, they have to be loaded. This process uses up bandwidth. Multiplied by hundreds of users or images, this scenario is what results in users going over their bandwidth allotment. However, using compressed images (formats such as JPG, PNG, BMP) or even just using thumbnails can drastically reduce the amount of bandwidth used by each visit. In addition, having many hi-res images uses an inordinate amount of disk space (another resource that can lead to overages).
Aside from images, other web content can be hosted elsewhere to minimize the amount of your hosting resources that are expended. For example, if a video is hosted on Youtube, and then the content is embedded into your site, this would not expend any bandwidth to stream the video. The only resource that would be used is the bandwidth to display the rest of the page. The same is true of hosting audio files on the Internet. In most cases, it is not necessary to actually use the disk storage and bandwidth to host video and audio for your church members.
Many of the expenses that church administrators take for granted can be mitigated or accounted for. Optimizing on-page aspects of a site are a great way to minimize the amount of bandwidth that is expended, and in turn, reduce the amount of bandwidth necessary. With a properly optimized site, it may be possible to downgrade to a smaller hosting package or one with fewer resources.