RSS

Fleecing The Flock: Are Faith Based Web Hosts Taking Advantage?

Wed, 11th September 2013, 14:54

There are many web hosting companies that cater to specific demographics, ie e-Commerce, gaming, or wordpress users, so ishouldn't be surprising that there are web hosts that “specialize” in traditional web hosting services for church and religious organizations. These web hosts say they provide services that are in concert with religious and moral beliefs. There are people out there looking for hosts like this because of hosts like Go-Daddy, which does not have the best reputation when it comes to moral sensitivity. The question is, can faith based web hosting actually be a thing without becoming just another way to grub money from unsuspecting customers?

 

First, The Good Part

The idea behind these web hosts isn't a bad one. I do think they had noble intentions. There is a niche of web hosting customers out there that want to be customers of a company that doesn't engage in rude advertising and that have ToS agreements that prohibit immoral and illegal activity.

It’s what happens after they fill that niche that’s the problem. In the next three parts we’ll talk about the tainted nature of these faith based web hosts. Then we’ll talk a bit about reasonable alternatives.

 

Touting Built in Features as Extravagant Extras

All web hosts do this to a certain extent. They give you a list of features as part of a “package”, and act like they are adding all of these basic features in for you to make your package special. Of course, what they don’t tell you is that these features should be part of your package, and that it costs them nothing to add them to the service. 

For example let’s take the web host ShareFaith. First let’s look at the features on that chart at the bottom. Here are the features they claim are elusive on other web hosts:
  • Blogs
  • Gallery
  • WYSIWYG Editor
  • Social Media
  • Website graphics
  • 50,000 Worship Media
  • Calendar 

Blogs are not a feature of a website. Not for any web host. They may offer one click installs of blogging software, but it isn’t a service they will provide for you, you actually install that yourself. Galleries are part of the website, not some special extravagant feature.

Then we get to the last two. Calendar? For what? And worship media? What exactly is that?

These web hosts list all of these features, hoping that you won’t notice that you should get these at any web host. They then charge you as if you are getting something more than a standard web-hosting package. More on pricing in section three.

 

Words Are Cheap… 

So what you’re getting is a web host with a basic web hosting package. They are promising on their website that their beliefs align with yours and that they don’t sanction any immoral practices on their servers. This is a statement from OurChurch.com:  

A Christian Web Host?

One more thing you may want to consider is whether the company fits with your organizations beliefs and ideals.  Are you going to be sharing server space with pornographic material?  Does the host use morally questionable advertising?  Or does the host have the same ideals and beliefs as you and have a similar mission?

Lot’s of questions there, very few answers. You get the sense that they are promising that the answers to those questions for them are the answers you want to hear. We’re not saying they aren’t moral and faithful people, and that that isn't the way they run their business. It probably is, and they probably are. But where’s the proof? Should you just take their word for it?

Then there’s the question of is that really worth it? Yes, maybe the price of a more moral web host is a little higher and maybe it should be. But how much of a premium is that morality worth?

 

…Their Prices Are Not 

You can probably get past both of the previous problems. All web hosts claim their packages are loaded with extravagant features that should always be included. Almost all web hosts claim things without backing them up. The problem is that faith-based web hosts are promising morality and faith-based services, and then charging a pretty penny for it.

Here are some examples:

  • OurChurch – $299 a year for domain and the premium theme they “give” you. Then at least $59 a year on top of that for hosting.
  • E-Zekiel.com – They seem cheap when you first look at it. Just $12 a month. But then, if you want more than 1 email address you have to pay more, and if you need more than a gigabyte of storage, you have to pay more. All told for 20 email addresses and 4GB of storage, you pay $64 a month. That doesn’t include the $20 startup fee.
  • ShareFaith.com – $49 a month for their “loaded” basic package. 

OurChurch is just a bit ridiculous; let’s just leave that there. E-Zekiel and ShareFaith are a bit better. But when you compare that to even the most extravagant hosting services out there they are horrendously expensive. For example, MediaTemple, which is not considered a 'budget host' offers the same features for $20 a month with no startup fee.

The question is when did being so moral and religious start costing so much more? It doesn't seem like it should cost anything more, especially when they are basically offering what you can find for $10 or less on other web hosts.

 

What To Look For In Reasonable Alternatives 

So what is a faith-based organization supposed to do? You want and need a web host that meets your standards, but you don’t want to be gouged for that morality. There are options out there. Here are some things you should look for when searching for alternatives:
  • Online reputation
  • Hosting packages
  • Pricing
  • Claims and Offers
  • Terms of Service
  • Charitable and community work 

There are a number of these that, as a religious organization, you’ll really want to look for. First is online reputation. Are they respectable in every way? Look for reviews and testimonials on sites that aren't associated with the host.

Second, read their terms of service. What sort of content do they allow on their servers. If they allow things like pornography, then pass them by. Most hosts do not allow that sort of content, and they don’t charge you extra for it.

Thirdly, many webhosting companies not only provide free or discounted hosting to charitable organization, some make substantial contributions to their communities, both financially and otherwise.

The other points will be considerations once you've made sure the hosts are reputable.

 

Conclusion 

There is nothing wrong with a specialty web host that caters to certain demographics like religious organizations. Where they go wrong is charging extra for basic services. That doesn’t seem like a moral thing to do, and isn’t that what you’re looking for? When searching for a web host for your organization online presence, don’t limit yourself to specialty web hosts. Broaden your search, because even those that don’t cater to religious organizations can still be great options.

Have comments? Talk back in the comment section below!

A2 High Performance WebHosting