Web hosting for your non-profit's website

I really need to spend some time and write a full page combining all these posts into step-by-step instructions. Maybe by the end of the month :)

With the source code for your website safely stored away, it's time to find a good place to deploy it. Since I come from a strong .NET background and had some slightly complex ideas for this year's site, the Linux-based PHP hosting we originally had wasn't going to cut it. My immediate thought was Azure and since you get 10 free websites I figured it was ideal.

Except for one thing. You can't host custom domains on the free accounts :(

And there's no way we are going to have people visit orleansfestival.azurewebsites.net instead of orleansfestival.ca or festivaldorleans.ca.

Unfortunately I realized this way too late and had already convinced the committee that switching was free unless we needed to scale. (Keep in mind all these tasks I'm writing about are being done with a $0 budget).

So I bit the bullet and decided to donate the $10/month for hosting to get us through till September 2014. And now I'm glad I did.

The updates rolling out to Azure bit by bit (including reduction in pricing to match S3 storage) are always welcome news. The most useful features I've found revolve around the integration between visualstudio.com and the actual Azure deployment.

Awesome Azure Website features

(that I've used so far)

  1. You can connect your website to a visualstudio.com project (repository). Any commits to that repository will automatically deploy a new website.

  2. You can enable online editing directly from your Azure dashboard. What this means is you get a live copy of your repository, in a nice editor, where you can make changes and see the result immediately. When you're happy, you can push the changes back to visualstudio.com as well!

    Visual Studio Online "Monaco"

    (Yes I know I said in the last article I chose visualstudio.com because the Git learning curve can be high. But since I'm the only dev currently I can choose Git and then always switch to TFS if and when I get help. I wouldn't have that option on Github).

Other Options

There are so many webhosting companies out there I am sure other sites have put together up-to-date comparisons. I would caution people to be wary of any "free, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited space" hosting options, though. Although I don't have the details on it, I know the Festival was unfortunately hit with an outage from that type of site in the critical two-week period before the event.

For .NET developers, my experience with discountasp.net has always been decent, but even their current deal (which requires an annual subscription) can't beat what you get for a pay-as-you-go Azure shared website (and certainly does not include the cool real-time editor).

I have zero experience in deploying PHP, Ruby/Rails, or node.js apps but I've heard a lot of good things about Digital Ocean. Keep in mind, though, that Azure supports all of those platforms too :)


Join a community of like-minded developers who want to help Canadian non-profits.

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