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Hosting & domains
Submitted by adam on Wed, 09/02/2009 - 03:09.
Hosting your website on your own server can be very demanding for an organisation and may require a lot of technical know-how and on-going support. In most cases, it is best to choose an external service. Shop around and ask allies for recommendations.
Your domain (for example, yourorganisation.org) is vital internet real estate – register it yourself and consider buying variations of each domain you own, if you can: your country identifier (for example, .za for South Africa or .th for Thailand), .org, .com and .net; this will stop your opponents or ‘squatters’ buying them. It's a good idea to buy your domain name for as many years as you can afford.
It's important to take good care of your domain: keep the domain registration and contact email addresses up to date and don't loose your user names and passwords for accessing these.
Getting a domain
Getting a domain name, like myorganisation.org, isn't as hard as you might think. Many website hosts will register your domain for you when you set up an account, but you can also register your own domain name before you even set up your site. Businesses like godaddy.com or networksolutions.com are two examples of places where you can buy your domain. If you need to set up a website and you have security concerns, there are also anonymous hosting services that won't show who the owner of the domain is; some of these allow you to pay with a Western Union transfer instead of a credit card.
If you get a domain from your website host, read the contract to ensure that you'll be able to take your domain name with you if you change hosts. Having your own domain name means that you'll be able to move your website if you become dissatisfied with the service you are receiving.
Activist & NGO-friendly website hosts
Website hosts, also called Internet Service Providers or ISPs, have access to your content and all the information about who visits your website. For this reason, if you are handling sensitive information or working with a high-risk community, you need to be aware of the policies of the ISP that is hosting your website, because they are obliged by law to keep detailed information about your website (who owns it, who uses it and what content is there), and present this information to the authorities on request. If you are working on particularly sensitive issues you may want to consider hosting your website outside your home country. This is not a secure solution but does reduce the ease with which your government or local authorities will be able to demand to see this data.
When looking for an ISP, consider who will implement software and content updates and provide technical maintenance to your site. Will you need your ISP to handle that for you? If that question has you scratching your head, you probably want to start with an ISP that can handle updates for you. If, however, you have technical staff available or a good relationship with a technology assistance provider or volunteer,you can ask them about their capacity to manage updates and maintain the Content Management System you are planning to use.
Another thing you may want to consider is finding an ISP that guarantees easy access to your content for the user. For example, bandwidth affects the speed at which the website can be downloaded by users and how many users can look at it at the same time. This is especially important if you are intending to use multimedia content.
Below are a few organisations that provide free or inexpensive hosting services to activists and organisers, using Free and Open Source Software tools. This is just a small selection, there are many more we haven't listed here. We've divided them up by continent as it's often easier to stay in contact with an internet service provider that is close to your time zone.
You may want to ask allied organisations about website hosts they're using and what their experiences have been.
- Kabissa - a US based organisation focussed on Africa that provides hundreds of grassroots organisations with internet services and training, including email lists and websites.
- InterConnection - US- based non profit that gives African NGOs free or discounted space and recycled computers.
- The Development CAFE - offers website development and management, training and consulting services to NGOs among others.
- HR Info - provides limited website hosting services to human rights activists and NGOs in the Arab world, especially in Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia
- Jinbo - provides computer communication services including internet service and training services for Korean NGOs.
- Mahiti Infotech - provides simple and affordable ICT services based on Free / Open Source Software to civil society (India).
- C2 Centrewest - is a non-profit website hosting and online publishing systems provider for progressive networking activities in the Australasia region.
- XS4All - a Dutch based ISP providing secure communications infrastructure for business and activists.
- Autistici/Inventati - creates free means of secure communications on a large scale, including website hosting, email lists, blogs and more (Italy).
- GreenNet - is a progressive community working for peace, the environment, gender equality and social justice, through the use of Information Communication Technologies.