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Ephrata Township needs a web host. Q's they should ask.

Wed, 21st August 2013, 16:03

The Pennsylvania Township of Ephrata is exploring new web hosting options for its online presence after the county announced it will stop hosting local municipalities' websites. Township Manager Steve Sawyer says that Lancaster County has been provided the server that stored the data for Ephrata Township's Web site which includes ordinance and zoning info as well as basics on elected and appointed officials, meeting agendas and upcoming events or services. Beginning next year, the county will contract Kansas-based Civic Plus, a service that provides "citizen focused government web sites. Ephrata can continue hosting on the county's contract, but the  estimated costs would be about $4,000 in start-up fees, plus an annual maintenance and storage fee of $800. Township Manager Sawyer said he has begun collecting estimates from other web-hosting companies, including Web Tek, which is located in the township.

(Editor's note...  I have been to Lancaster County and it's a beautiful area... I never seen their website prior so it had no impact on planning my journey.. but it is simply ugly, horrendously ugly. It looks like it was made by someone's lazy cousin from the comfort of the sofa! HostJury does not recommend web hosting companies therefore I will not comment on Lancaster County future web hosting choices. But the present... Using  GTmetrix, I tested the performance of ephratatownship.org.  A page speed grade of 48%.. an F as in Fail)

Looking for a new web host is a rigorous process. Ephrata might be a government entity, but their web hosting needs might be similar to yours. What questions should Ephrata ask possible candidates for web-hosting? We've taken the liberty to make a few suggestions, as well as the reason why the question is important to ask.

 

Questions Ephrata Township Should Be Asking About Web Hosting

 

Q: Where is the web host located?

Ephrata is unlikely to get a lot of traffic from the United Kingdom, or Florida for that matter. They should look for a host that is in their back yard. The closer the host is to the people who will be accessing the web site, the faster and more efficient the web site will be. 

Using the HostJury search function with the keywords 'Pennsylvania web hosts' provided pages of possible web hosting companies. A very few examples presented in no particular order or preference: 

 

 

Q: What kind of technical support do they offer?

Like most governmental organizations, Ephrata is limited in budget. That means that their IT department is strapped for cash. They can’t afford a huge support team. That means that whatever host they go with has to be able to provide the server-side support that they need for a reasonable cost.

Q: Web Host allowance for traffic overloads?

While there is little fear of a traffic jam on Ephrata roads, there will likely be times when the web site experiences more traffic than what is considered normal. A lot of hosts allow for periodic spikes in server usage. Ephrata Township should ask their web-hosting candidates what happens when they need more server resources than what they are paying for.

Q: How does the web host handle scaling?

It is also likely that over time Ephrata Township will need to expand the online services they offer. That means that they will eventually need bigger and faster servers. They need to ask how easy it is to transition between server classes (known as scaling), so that when the time comes they don’t have to suffer downtime due to a transition.

Q: What is the network and server uptime average?

This may be one of the most important questions they need to ask. Web sites are only useful if they are online. Ephrata Township needs to find the host with the best reputation for being online all the time. Constant periods of downtime could be a sign of a host with some problems. Checking online reviews of said hosts is a great place to find out how many times the host has experienced long periods of downtime.

Q: What software does the web host offer?

Ephrata Township will need to make sure the software they run can function on the servers the host offers. What operating systems do they offer? If Ephrata Township wants a blog for township news, then what sort of CMS do they offer? The more software that is available straight from the host, the better it will be for the township. Having to install the software themselves could cost both time and money.

Q: How do Your Prices Compare to Other Webhosts?

Finally, the huge question. How much will it cost for the server resources needed by Ephrata Township? Are there possible hidden fees in the fine print? These are the last questions because it is the question that will decide whether all the questions that came before mean anything. Web hosting is only part of the online budget; they still need to hire a designer, a web manager, and so on. Price is very important when deciding which web host to use.

 

Conclusions

These questions are the same for almost any organization or individual who happens to be looking for a web host. There are four things that need to be taken into account: location of the audience, server capability needed, support offered, and price. For Ephrata Township, they only need local servers, so that limits the number of web hosts they should consider. They also only need a site that provides local information like zoning and information on elected officials. That means that the software and server capabilities won’t be very high; traffic will be the biggest consideration when it comes to resources. The price and support are two sides of the same coin. Ephrata Township will need a host that is available for support at an affordable price.

Choosing a web host can be difficult. The best advice we can give Ephrata Township, or anyone for that matter, is to shop around, and compare as many hosts that meet your needs as possible, then choose the best one.