CiviCRM is an open source constituent relationship management software for non-profits, NGOs and advocacy organizations. It allows you to manage your contacts, contributions, events, memberships, email marketing, reports and more. It can be integrated with WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or Backdrop. It is supported by a large and diverse community of users and experts. CiviCRM Spark is a lightweight hosted version of CiviCRM with some features missing.
This article looks at different hosting options for CiviCRM. We’ll deal with Spark first as it’s a special case, then look at the options of Shared, VPS or Internal.
Spark – Limited by Design
Spark is a recent addition to the options for running CiviCRM. It has some important limitations:
- Not a replacement for the full download version of CiviCRM
- Not a replacement for CiviCRM support provided by the community
- Not open to complex customizations unique to your organization
- Not possible to self-host or use a hosting provider of your choice
Upgrading to full version of CiviCRM isn’t possible, although you can export data and then import it into full CiviCRM. However all design and customisations will be lost.
CiviCRM Hosting options – Shared, VPS or Internal
There are different reasons for hosting CiviCRM on shared hosting, VPS or internal systems, depending on your needs, budget and technical skills. Here are some of the pros and cons of each option:
- Shared hosting: This is the cheapest option, but it may have some limitations in terms of performance, security and customization. You need to find a hosting provider that specifically supports CiviCRM and its requirements. You don’t need to do much sysadmin work, but you also have less control over the server configuration.
- VPS: This is a more expensive option, but it offers more resources (RAM, CPU, etc.) and flexibility. You can choose between unmanaged or managed VPS. Unmanaged VPS requires more sysadmin work, but gives you more freedom to customize your server. Managed VPS takes care of most of the server maintenance, but may have some restrictions³. You have full control over the server configuration and can optimize it for CiviCRM.
- Internal systems: This is the most complex option, but it may be suitable for organizations that have an internal IT department or staff with technical expertise. You need to have your own hardware, software and network infrastructure to run CiviCRM 24/7. You also need to ensure the security, backup and reliability of your system. You have complete ownership of your data and can customize your system as you wish.
Which is Best for You?
Whilst we cannot recommend a specific option for you without knowing more about your organization, your budget, your technical skills and your expectations. However, we can give you some general guidelines to help you make an informed decision:
- If you are a small organization with a limited budget and no technical staff, and you want to try out CiviCRM without much hassle, you may want to consider CiviCRM on Shared Hosting. It is a quick and secure way to get started with CiviCRM for a low monthly fee. You can sign up and get your own installation of CiviCRM in minutes. You can also upgrade or cancel at any time.
- If you are a medium or large organization with a moderate budget and some technical staff, and you want to have more control and flexibility over your CiviCRM installation, you may want to consider a VPS. You can choose between unmanaged or managed VPS depending on your level of technical expertise and the amount of work you want to do. You can also optimize your server for CiviCRM and scale it as needed.
- If you are a very large organization with a high budget and a dedicated IT department, and you want to have complete ownership and customization of your CiviCRM installation, you may want to consider internal systems. You need to have your own hardware, software and network infrastructure to run CiviCRM 24/7. You also need to ensure the security, backup and reliability of your system. You can customize your system as you wish and integrate it with other internal systems.
Hosting Provider Considerations
A good hosting provider for CiviCRM like 2020Media.com meets the following criteria:
- It supports CiviCRM and its requirements, such as PHP, MySQL, CMS, etc. It also keeps the software updated and secure.
- It offers a reliable and fast service, with sufficient resources (RAM, CPU, etc.), bandwidth and uptime. It also provides backups and restores in case of emergencies.
- It provides technical support and customer service, with knowledgeable and responsive staff. It also offers documentation and guidance for CiviCRM users.
- It charges a reasonable and transparent fee, with no hidden costs or lock-in contracts. It also offers a trial period or a money-back guarantee.
CiviCRM is a powerful and flexible software that can help you manage your contacts, contributions, events, memberships, email marketing, reports and more. It is designed for non-profits, NGOs and advocacy organizations that want to build and maintain relationships with their constituents and supporters. CiviCRM is open source, which means it is free to use and modify, and it is supported by a large and diverse community of users and experts. 2020Media has been providing CiviCRM reliable hosting for over 10 years. Get in touch with us for a chat about what might be best for you.