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Ask Slashdot: What Should a Non-Profit Look For In a Web Host? 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the low-latency-for-your-quake-3-servers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We are a large (multi-national) non-profit and currently deal with 503s on a near daily basis. We've worked on this for over a year and the host hasn't been able to figure out how to fix it. We're paying for a managed host and need to evaluate other options. My boss has tasked me with evaluating a new one. I'm the most geeky of the group, so I know the terms, but don't have a sense of what's actually needed to suit our needs. We sometimes have upwards of 1,000 people browsing the site at the same time, so my sense is that we shouldn't need massive amounts of power or bandwidth... but, somehow that's not working on our current host. Can anyone help me get a sense of what types of hosting will best suit the needs of a 'large' non-profit? We're not Facebook, but we're not a mom-and-pop shop. Any help or tips would be fantastic, particularly if you've also selected a new hosting provider in the past year or so. I don't necessarily need actual names (though those would be nice, too) but at least some tips on what makes a huge difference when suddenly a whole bunch of people around the world read an email and want to help out."
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Ask Slashdot: What Should a Non-Profit Look For In a Web Host?

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  • Managed VPS? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like maybe you want a managed VPS with cloud-like flexibility. Something like VPS.net or HostGator, maybe? Or you might want to get a part-time IT guy on board so you've got someone who can handle this stuff without the guesswork or asking the unwashed hordes of /.

    • Re:Managed VPS? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Cenan (1892902) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:56PM (#44073751)

      This.
      If you're here for help on this, you're doing it wrong. Get someone on board that can take you through these decisions (because there are going to be more involved than just this), someone who can do the groundwork analysis for you.

      We sometimes have upwards of 1,000 people browsing the site at the same time, so my sense is that we shouldn't need massive amounts of power or bandwidth

      That is vague at best, and certainly not enough basis to make an informed decision on, or recommendation. Do yourself a huge favor and just hire someone for it, the 90s were the time for nephew art [userfriendly.org], not so much nowadays.

      • May I hate? (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This.
        If you're here for help on this, you're doing it wrong. Get someone on board that can take you through these decisions (because there are going to be more involved than just this), someone who can do the groundwork analysis for you.

        I hate, hate it when people give this type of answer because it's very incomplete. Yes, it's advisable that they hire a techy but how do they pick one? There are tons of web admins kicking around, just like contractors, lawyers, accountants, etc. At least give the poster some clue about what they need so when they're shopping for an admin they can ask the right questions. Most times that's the fundamental problem, they buyer doesn't know what's involved, doesn't know what questions to ask from prospective v

        • by sjames (1099)

          well, naturally they will need a hiring consultant. But not just any hiring consultant. Hiring the right hiring consultant is a highly specialized talent, so if they want good results they need a techie hiring consultant hiring consultant...

    • by Jonah Hex (651948)
      This, plus the main component is going to be your caching and use of a CDN. While I'm not a fan of Cloudflare [cloudflare.com] I do use them and they do offload a bit from your server, and MaxCDN [www.maxcdn] can handle all your other distributed CDN needs reasonably. Easy to integrate into Wordpress with W3 Total Cache. This will help immensely when Slashdot takes an interest in your site. - HEX
    • by icebike (68054)

      I agree, but I'd recommend the options in the reverse order you listed them.

      The guy was pretty vague about what the Web Host is supposed to be doing and pretty keen to point out the companies "non profit" status (as if that makes a difference).

      But it sounds like simple web hosting is all he is looking for. He hints a periods of high demand, which a scale-able VPS service would be good for, but also suggests a thousand concurrent connection seems to be the most they ever see at once.

      The problem might be in

      • by cmholm (69081) <cmholmNO@SPAMmauiholm.org> on Friday June 21, 2013 @08:40PM (#44075581) Homepage Journal

        Based on my experience via my wife's work in the state affiliate of a national non-profit, I feel the OP's pain. The non-profit flag is code, and it decodes to incredibly financially tight fisted and technically naive as an organization.

        The OP's org likely spent money ONCE to have a professional set up their web presence, without any budget or plan for follow-on maintenance, upgrades, or refactoring. If they thought about it at all, they likely assumed they'd handle these issues with the luck of having someone tech proficient on staff or get someone to donate their time.

        Thus, offering what the OP ought to do is a waste of time. It'd be a huge project to write up the justification to spend significant money on this, and the management chain will want to see alternatives have been explored, first.

        So, to the OP: your best bet will be to look over the high customer-service ISPs mentioned in these comments. Another alternative is to see if a local college/uni with an IT/CS program has any fourth year undergrads capable enough to be productive as interns.

      • by jafiwam (310805)

        More than likely the "we are non profit" mantra is double-speak for "we ain't gonna pay much for it" and probably "we'll pay late, and try to get the host to do it for free as a "charity"

        So, my advice, look for the dumbest host you can, the smart ones will kick you off in a year or two when they tire of your shit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The same things every other small/medium company looksfor in web hosting?

    • by NFN_NLN (633283)

      The same things every other small/medium company looksfor in web hosting?

      I was wondering the same thing. Because they're a non-profit they expect the service for free or something?

      • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:57PM (#44073783)
        It says something about the guy asking the question: i.e. he's not someone who first tries to pass himself off as a professional to a company and who then turns around and asks /.ers to do his job for him. Rather, he's likely someone who does not do this for a living, who specializes in something else, but is just the guy who got stuck with the website problem. The margins are often too tight for non-profits to bring in specialists. Plus, hiring a web guy would be likely be a deductible expense for most businesses, but not so for a non-profit. We might conclude, therefore, that he's looking for a solution that is as low maintenance as possible. Perhaps that's the significance of this being a non-profit.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by gmack (197796)

          It says a lot considering hes talking 1000 users like they should be able to handle it with no problem. A thousand concurrent users is more than I'd bet 80% of hosting providers can handle and how bad the problem is is going to depend a lot on how CPU/ database heavy the software they are running is. I've seen some software max out perfectly good machines at 256 users. What's worse, the people here who honestly seem to have correct answers are getting drowned out by a ton of idiots who think this will be

    • by greg1104 (461138)

      Without the disclaimer, the comments here would have an even heavier dose of "you suck, learn how to do your job" abuse. That a non-profit organization might not want to pay for in-house technical staff capable of doing this makes more sense to some people.

      • by icebike (68054)

        Without the disclaimer, the comments here would have an even heavier dose of "you suck, learn how to do your job" abuse. That a non-profit organization might not want to pay for in-house technical staff capable of doing this makes more sense to some people.

        Which "some people"?

        Those in the non-profit top management getting huge salaries?
        Its common knowledge that after your government job is gone, you form a non-profit to "give back to the community" while lining your pockets with other people's money.

        Non profit does not equate to charity by any sense of the word, but its clear many people drink that koolaid.

        • by greg1104 (461138)

          Serious government corruption work in this style involves the revolving door [wikipedia.org]. You get a job for a company you regulated while in office, making that job be how you get paid for the preferential treatment you gave them. Then, after a few years collecting, you move back into the government. Lather, rinse, repeat.

          In the US, the people playing games with non-profits are amateurs compared to the revolving door crowd in the financial and defense industries.

  • by helixcode123 (514493) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:41PM (#44073587) Homepage Journal

    If you're serving up static pages you shouldn't need much in the way or resources. I've been hosting my heavily dynamic site (see sig) on Pair.com and have found them to be quite competent.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They will help you get to where you want to be. Lots of smart people over there.

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:42PM (#44073599) Homepage Journal

    A large, multi-national non-profit org. that hosts content that is looked at by 1000 people at any one time, and that's all the info basically. Nothing about your current usage pattern, nothing about your site, is it dynamic, static, what is it running, what does it do?

    I suggest you find somebody to look and evaluate your needs, given that you call yourself 'the most geeky of the group', I think I can figure out that you are running almost no dynamic content (dynamic in the sense that there is an application behind your site), so it must be mostly static stuff that somebody updates by hand (probably), or am I wrong? Can't really be sure from the summary. So giving an advice from your summary is basically impossible, you should get somebody to evaluate what you have, what you actually need, then, when you have that information you can ask more questions on /. and people can actually give you a meaningful advice maybe then.

    • Why is this down voted? These are all valid points. Per usual "Ask Slashdot", there's not enough information given to give informed advice or suggestions.
      • by Maow (620678)

        Why is this down voted? These are all valid points. Per usual "Ask Slashdot", there's not enough information given to give informed advice or suggestions.

        No down-votes (so far; at this time: it's +5 Informative with +6 divided between Informative & Insightful), but the user has bad karma, so it started at -1.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      , I think I can figure out that you are running almost no dynamic content

      Personally... I interpreted it as: [] He's probably running the site on top of an ancient version of Joomla, Wordpress, or Sharepoint.

      Under PHP; on hardware suitable for 1000 unique users hitting a day, not 1000 hits a minute by simultaneous visitors... hence the HTTP 503 errors.

    • by rcs1000 (462363)

      This is a crucial point. What is your website?

      Is it built on Ruby on Rails? If so, then Heroku is probably your best bet.

      Is it Python (Django/web2py/Flask/etc.)? Then I'd go for PythonAnywhere

      Is it all static content?

      Is it PHP? etc etc etc

  • by dave562 (969951) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:42PM (#44073601) Journal

    Unless people know what your application is, it will be difficult recommend a hosting provider.

    Is the issue with the provider, or your staff?

    Who is responsible for the application? You or the provider?

    Most providers simply provide the infrastructure. Application support is on the customer.

    If you guys do not know what you are doing, taking your mess somewhere else might not fix it.

  • You need a CDN (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    With that kind of traffic you could be making considerable savings and have a much faster site if you used a CDN; They'd cache the static parts of your site - the assets, and hopefully a large number of your static pages. They're normally cheaper than the bandwidth your provider provides, and a good one will be faster still.

    I recommend the newcomer fastly [fastly.com] for this because they offer a few things that many other places don't (real time stats and the ability to do edge includes so you can cache _almost_ sta

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:43PM (#44073615) Homepage

    If your hosts don't know enough about webserver tuning, then you need to look into tuning the content --

    • What can you do to reduce file size?
    • Can you reduce the number of images, CSS files, JavaScript, etc. that are called from each page?
    • Can you segregate static & dynamic content to different servers? (even without shutting off all of the bloated extra on the static server, it allows it to cache things better)
    • Can you reduce the number of *different* CSS and JavaScript files on each server?
    • If you're using a javascript framework, is there a CDN that you can call it from, rather than hosting it yourself?
    • Are your images and such being directly linked to from any other sites?

    I'm not going to say that you haven't outgrown your current host ... but odds are your website could be trimmed down unless it was made 10 years ago.

    If you have access to configure the webserver, you can squeeze even more performance out -- cache control headers can do wonders, as can properly tuning the database if you're serving dynamic content.

    • by cdrudge (68377)

      You forgot to ask: Are any of the above issues even the problem?

      He doesn't state what the problem with the existing host is. They could have infinite bandwidth and disk space/IO, but the generation of the page is extremely processor intensive for whatever reason and the CPU load is maxed out, causing individual page generation to crap out.

    • LOL "unless it was made 10 years ago" in which case it would likely be a hell of a lot leaner. WTF is wrong with a simple static page? The profusion of modern crap is just bling, and worse -unsearchable, highbandwith, often difficult to use and unaesthetic, and hard to work with if you have modified your fonts or display params or you're using a suck touchpad. \end{ vent } Elegant design is when there's nothing left to remove.
      • by oneiros27 (46144)

        Absolutely nothing's wrong with it ... I've been making web pages and managing web servers for 18 years now.

        In the early days of Fark, the pages were *all* static -- we generated it whenever we added a new entry, or archived the day's content. The only dynamic bit was the random comments in the banner, and that was a CGI with a randomizer and then would push out a different image once in a while. (and the image was sent NPH to avoid server overhead).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We sometimes have upwards of 1,000 people browsing the site at the same time, so my sense is that we shouldn't need massive amounts of power or bandwidth... but, somehow that's not working on our current host.

    Your current host can't handle that?!?

    whatever.

    Check your ISP. If you have a decent business account with them, they probably have hosting as part of your plan. Why pay more when you don't have to.

    Or just google it

    Have a look here [sitepoint.com]

    Those same companies keep coming up.

    Yahoo! has hosting services.

  • by Guspaz (556486) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:45PM (#44073639)

    And what's your budget? You can throw some money at Linode to get a managed VPS, and that'll scale up or down very easily, so long as your needs don't exceed what you can do with a single node (it's not hard to throw more RAM and CPU at a problem, but if you need to scale to multiple boxes, that's more complicated). If you have more time than money, you can do the same thing yourself and just spend a few hours a month keeping things up to date and maintained. $140-180 per month is probably going to cover you, or $40-80 if you DIY.

    If you really want to have this as close to zero-effort as possible, throw some money at somebody like rackspace who does cloud hosting, where your site is sitting on top of their cloud so they're already handling scaling stuff for you, and you never have to worry even a little about the infrastructure. They start at $150/mth and go up from there, so they'd probably end up more expensive than a managed VPS, but at that point they're doing pretty much everything for you, including scaling to multiple servers transparently.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:45PM (#44073641)

    Asking for "a hosting provider" is not enough context: what are the technical details - languages / OS / DB / expected load, etc?

    Have you done any troubleshooting on why are you getting 503s - are there not enough app server processes / threads? Is your DB blocking things?

    1000 simultaneous users isn't much, so unless you're on a thoroughly undersized VPS (or worse, an oversubscribed *shared* host) you should first look at WHY things aren't working. Changing hosting providers won't help if your app is doing stoopid things (loading the entire DB in memory on every request, etc) but it will take a lot of cash and time.

  • Utilities Don't Care (Score:5, Informative)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:46PM (#44073643) Homepage Journal

    I know I'm overgeneralizing, but in large part commodity utility providers, like web hosting companies, don't really care about specific customer problems. They will work diligently to make sure that if they sell a widget, that widget is working the way they say it will, but if you're wondering what your capacity planning outlook should be, where the system inefficiencies are, how you could tune the site to make it perform better - hire a local consultant who will learn about your company, your customers, and your systems. The web hosting companies do care about their problems, just not yours.

    Find a consult who's not reselling anything and then if it turns out that the current web hosting company is, or ever becomes, the problem, then he will tell you straight and help you find a better solution. I do this in Northern New England, but you'll find somebody just about everywhere (go by word of mouth from your peers).

  • A PHP module with automatically writes grant proposals.

  • Work in the hosting industry and every time I see the worlds we really should not need much the first thing I always wonder is what is the site running. 1k users is not much but if it's some slow CMS or worse yet the we got a CS major intern to do it one off. The big thing that people do not get is a managed server is managed though the stock OS level your web sites code generally not included and often the web dev guys do not want to deal with servers bit so you have a gap. If your already on a decent b

  • by mtippett (110279) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:52PM (#44073707) Homepage

    If the vendor isn't helping or finding a root cause, then it may be better for you to hire an external engineer to look into the problem for you. As mentioned elsewhere there are no details on the application... But as per the HTTP standard 503 is a generic "server unavailable". This could be caused by load or a transient application failure or simply a real repeatable bug that is triggered periodically.

    My recommendation would be to contract a developer (how is left as a problem for the OP), and have them debug the problem on behalf of your organization, make the SOW a root cause analysis for the issue.

    Assuming you are using a web application of some description, you will most likely run into a similar problem when you move to a new provider. A rule of thumb that I use is that when making drastic changes to a deployment/infrastructure/application/software/etc. You will be invariably swapping a set of painful intractible problems that you know and understand and work around, for a set of new intractible problems that will take time for you to know and understand and work around.

    The art is in known whether the unknown intractable problem is going to be better or worse than the previous ones. I am sure most of the SW people on slashdot have seen far too many "Our new system is going to solve all our problems". Only to get given something that is different, but just as bad - but cost a hell of a lot more to put together than the workarounds for the old system...

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:52PM (#44073723) Homepage

    Have you considered that it might be your application crashing or freezing up that is causing the 503 errors? You'd better rule out that possibility before you look elsewhere, because if your company's lousy code is to blame then you'll likely have the same problems wherever you go.

  • I have our marketing department handle all of our web stuff and they outsource it. I don't know the exact details of the inner workings of the magic used by our web company, but I know it's based on Amazon's EC2 infrastructure. I'm sure as a non-profit that you're extremely cost conscious and something like that might be a good fit for you. We're highly seasonal in our work, so during the busy times of the year they ratchet up the compute services available and we pay a few extra dollars. Then during th

  • (Disclaimer: I'm a Google engineer, but I don't work on or have any particular affiliation with AppEngine other than being a very satisfied user for some of my personal projects.)

    Depending on the software you're using, AppEngine may or may not work for you, but if it does it's highly reliable, arbitrarily scalable and quite easy to work with. At the volumes you're talking about it's not free, but it's also not too expensive; perhaps less than what you're paying now.

  • by grahamsaa (1287732) on Friday June 21, 2013 @04:59PM (#44073803)
    As others have pointed out, you've missed a few details. So, you're getting 503's -- do you know why? Is processor or disk load too high? Is your server misconfigured? I'm guessing at this point that your host is managed by a third party -- have you asked them to explain the problems you're having? Have they offered a solution (even if it might cost you more money)?

    What is your budget? What are you currently paying? What about your level of in-house experience? If you're a linux / unix admin (or have one at your disposal) you might be best served by using either a managed VPS or colocated server (or a couple, behind a load balancer, but that gets to be more expensive and complicated to set up).

    If you're less willing or able to manage hosting yourself, be aware that generally, you'll get better service from managed hosting providers if you're willing to spend money. Even though you're a non-profit, probably with a limited budget, you shouldn't skimp on hosting if you decide that a managed host is right for you. If you typically have ~1000 active users on your site, any downtime will hurt you -- even if it doesn't cost you in terms of donations, it will make you seem less legitimate.

    Anyway, here are your options:

    Unmanaged VPS -- cheapest option, will require some technical expertise on your end. Potentially less reliable than colocated servers.
    Colocation -- Can be expensive, requires a fair amount of technical expertise. If configured properly, your site should be very, very reliable, but there's a lot of room for error.
    Managed hosting -- Forget about paying $80/year for managed hosting, considering the amount of traffic you're getting. You may have to spend $100/month or more. Good managed hosting won't require much experience from you or your staff, and will be less expensive (probably) than colocating multiple servers. Do research, read reviews, etc. to find a provider you feel comfortable with. While price is an important consideration, you shouldn't go with the cheapest option just because it's the cheapest. If you need to talk to a technician at 3am, you want to be sure that you're going to get someone on the phone when you call. It's also probably important that the person you get when you call during an outage / emergency isn't an idiot, and with most bargain-basement hosts, you're lucky to get a human on the phone at all.

    Good luck :)
    • To add to the previous comment, here are some of the skills someone would need to manage something like this:

      1) Quite conversant with using Linux. Will need to install packages, add users, set permissions. Set up iptables.
      2) Familiarity with network concepts. What is a web server and what does it do? Apache is a very common web server FYI. How do you set up https? How do you configure Apache?
      3) Conversant in object-oriented programming. I'm guessing it's not just static pages on your site. Common web pr

    • Also - go to different websites. For the ones you like, look at the very bottom of the page. The web design company that made it might have a link.

  • Nothing special here except you need an actual experienced consultant or employee to do this. Just being able to chant words and feeling geeky does not mean you have the skills to competently run this. All small businesses like to think they're unique but you're describing very average needs that just need to be addressed by a skilled person - non-profits are not one of a kind though they may have some special privacy/regulatory needs. That's a very small part of what competent IT staff can manage. Good
  • by gQuigs (913879) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:14PM (#44073935) Homepage

    But it is free for 501(c)3s.. http://wiki.dreamhost.com/Non-profit_Discount [dreamhost.com]

    Hey.. you might want to get that just to have a backup..

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      I was very happy with dreamhost for a number of years, but my experience was that they couldn't handle the load.

      I still think it's great if you're just doing hobby stuff.. or have a site that gets low to medium traffic. You get a tonne of features for what you pay, their control panel is actually pretty damn good, and their "just a bunch of guys" public image (though at this point they are probably quite large) gives a warm fuzzy feeling.

      Once you get into the realm of what submitter is talking about however

  • I work in NPO field exclusively and have dealt with a lot of hosting situations for different sizes of organizations. Since you are being tasked with finding a host and based on your description I am betting that the site isn't maintained internally but was outsourced and the org just adds content now. I would recommend you find out what CMS you are running. If you aren't running a CMS I would recommend you migrate your site to one of the major players that is well supported by its community and consulta
  • If you have a lot of static content, eg, css/js/gpf/gif/swf/png/bmp, etc and do not have access to CDN, at least put an nginx proxy in front of it that loads it all, and forwards the rest off the content to apache (or better yet, just migrate completely to nginx if possible). Does your app have any caching at all? Would memcached be beneficial? Running a stack trace on all http/php processes should give you an insight as to what is going on. Sometimes it;s lacks of resources, sometimes it's something as si
  • by fazey (2806709)
    Colo a box, and find a competent admin. 1000 concurrent users isn't small either by the way. You also completely neglected to mention what the site was written in, and what webserver you are using. There is a major difference if you have 1000 concurrent users on apache tomcat, or a simple php site.

    Personally you are better off hiring someone in house to manage it, but do yourself a favor, and do your research. There are a lot of people in the industry who talk big and suck at what they do. If he cant loo
  • Just out of curiosity, is your current provider by chance BlackBaud Enterprise Solutions, or one of their many acquired products?

    At my last position, I worked on moving the company from using BlackBauds 'CMS' which consistently threw 503 errors under even the slightest type of load. I would definitely be interested in providing you with some details and requirements for a server. It really does depend on, just like many others have said, what the expectations of your site are.

    Do you have a ton of stat
  • Bigger is not always better. As a small hosting provider myself, I have picked up many clients from major providers because I offer a consultative approach to my customers, especially during the pre-sign period where we as a team need to understand their environment, usage patterns and availability requirements. While you may pay a little more, it is completely possible that a smaller provider will take the time to understand what you have and what the issue is before telling you the proper solution. I'm
  • Here are your options:
    1. Get free hosting elsewhere. Pick a random hosting compnay. You can get nearly any cheap-ass web hosting company to offer you a "free" account which will likely be on shared hosting. Your service probably won't improve. If your code is the problem, you'll experience the same issue at your new host. Lather, rinse, repeat. Keep switching until you do one of the three options below.
    2. Work with a larger hosting company who is more B2B oriented to obtain free / reduced cost / sponsored h

    • by mtippett (110279)

      +1 for option 4, +0.5 for option 3.

      Vetting and getting a good engineer who can troubleshoot isn't easy.

      But I would almost guarantee you'll have problems transitioning to a new provider, and there will be a different set of problems with the new provider. The cost benefit of staying/debugging vs moving/restabilizing are something you'll need to make.

  • You may have some miscommunications with your current provider which if you can get resolved may allow to you address your 503's without have to change providers.

    I do not typically see HTTP 503 error codes for static web pages so I am going to guess you are seeing the error for dynamic web pages. For dynamic webpages, a CDN is of limited usefulness.

    Things to look into:

    • For 1,000 concurrent visitors you may be having over 200 concurrent HTTP sessions at which point the Apache web server does not fair a
  • by drew30319 (828970) on Friday June 21, 2013 @08:57PM (#44075689) Homepage Journal
    This might not be the type of answer that you're looking for but the issue that has most affected me (running a one-person nonprofit from home) is that I've occasionally had problems because my IP address is shared by "adult" web services because I do not have a dedicated server or address.

    And so . . . with my nonprofit's focus on the prevention of teen dating violence I have people in school districts regularly contacting me via email and/or visiting my website from schools. From time to time my IP address used to wind up on block lists and I would spend a fair amount of time contacting school web admins to allow my emails through and/or access to my site.

    The host I use (HostGator) has worked well for me but unfortunately does not offer a shared-but-not-with-any-adult-sites hosting plan. What I've done to ameliorate the impact is: (1) use Google's fantastic (and FREE) support for nonprofits by using the free Google Apps service to route all of my email accounts through Google and (2) use a free service to monitor my inclusion on any blacklists (MxWatch Monitor via MxToolbox.com). As a result I've been able to avoid almost all email issues and have been able to address any other blacklisting issues as soon as they crop up.

    I don't have the web traffic that you do (approx 5,000 unique visitors daily and less than 50GB monthly bandwidth) but HostGator has been almost completely hassle-free. This is the third hosting company that I've used in the past 7 years and I doubt I'll ever have to switch again. I pay around $20 / month and that includes reseller hosting (I help out a few other sites for small nonprofits that don't have a tech background by hosting their sites for them).

    If you need further info feel free to contact me - and if you decide on HostGator I'd be happy to give you a referral code (my org could use any and all financial support possible!!!).

  • As a web host I can tell you this is coming from the wrong angle, there's no "Large Non-profit" package I could sell you that'd make you happy within your budget. $15/mo general web hosting has capacity limits by design. Ultra-redundant with a 24/7 team of on-call remote hands and the full rack of dedicated hardware that comes with it may not be a smart use of your org's money. Hopefully these will help you better flush-out your solution:

    Consider your needs in three categories:
    1) Infrastructure.
    - What does it take to drive your site?
    - What's your uptime requirement?
    - What OS/Software/Hardware are you running on now?
    - What does traffic look like today? 5 years from now?
    - What bottlenecks/problems are you experiencing?

    2) Support.
    - When things break who's the first person that gets called? Who's the second?
    - Who will maintain the infrastructure (security patches, hardware updates, etc.)
    - How important is it that you get personal, escalated support at 3am?

    3) Cost.
    - What's the budget for a Large Non-profit? $3/mo, $30/mo, $30,000/mo?
    - What price point can you realistically sell your board?

    Typically at least two of these will drive your needs for the third. As a Large organization you're probably looking at 1 & 2, then selling 3 to the board. That can be a whole other mess, but a well designed needs document and a decsion-maker friend to bounce ideas off can work wonders. Make sure to flush out the why, "what happens if we don't", and alternate options for these points, which are by no means comprehensive for your project.

    Also consider having a developer sit-in on the needs assessment. 1000 people at a time doesn't mean much with no context of the site. It's been mentioned above: is that 1000 people browsing pure html, 1000 people on a heavily-optimized PHP site, or 1000 people running data intensive operations (like multi-million row searches)? I've personally brought down big servers with crappy PHP code, and run 1000+ active vBulletin forums on 10 year old whitebox servers. It's all in how you identify and address bottlenecks, and a trusted developer can make that process easier.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with your search.

    • +1 to Wrexs0ul's comments. Additionally, Some of the pieces of information that would be good to have with anyone competent you speak with. Analytics of some sort – google, etc: this would tell you much more in depth info about the 1000’s of people hitting the site at one time. Peak times, etc. This _may_ be able to provide you with times and/or relationship to the frequency of the 503’s. Current hosting/architecture specs – virtual machine, shared webhost, physical box? Stats to
  • At EasyTomato.org we use Dreamhost as their shared hosting in free for 501(c)(3) orgs and then we use the free edition of CloudFlare in front of that. We don't have 1,000 users on at a time, but we've handled 250+ at once with no problem. The price is right at least...
  • If you are indeed a charity, I would happily have a look at your front/back end and typical usage patterns and based on that give an honest recommendation as to what you can do to improve stability. I currently manage/own/run The hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (both the foundation/charity and h2g2.com), the Lycos Chat's in Europe and a number of smaller sites/companies and would be happy to lend a hand. Pop me a mail on Brian (a) Larholm.org if interested.
  • You told us who you are but you reduced your requirements to "a webhost". That isn't enough information for us to make recommendations.

    If you are concerned about scalability, consider using cloud resources to run your site. They are designed to scale to extremely high levels.

    For example, you can host static web content directly on Amazon S3 with no need for a 3rd party webhost. You pay for what you use in terms of storage and bandwidth. You say your load may be 1000 concurrent users, which should

Forty two.

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