This discussion is intended to be about the hosting and development of our site, not so much about the content or organization.
Currently, our site is hosted on ning.com, which is an internet provider dedicated to hosting social networking sites. Ning.com has many good features, but, as with anything, there is a down-side.
- Very easy to set up a web site, without having a great deal of technical knowledge.
- A variety of features that are very useful to a group such as ours, including an events calendar, management of membership, forums and blogs where we engage in interesting discussions, and ability to post interesting photos and videos.
- A domain name that must contain the name "ning.com". Ning.com allows us to use our own domain name by paying an additional $5.00/month.
Note: the domain name I registered, 912centralpa.org, currently just redirects you to wesurroundthemcentrecounty.ning.com. If you try it, you will see the URL change in the address bar of your browser. If you pay ning $5.00/month, you can actually change the domain name for the site on ning.com, to use our own name.
- A mandated advertising bar that occupies a significant amount of real estate on the right side of the page, and that often contains advertisements that are contrary to this group's principles (e.g. ads supporting Card Check). Ning.com allows you to eliminate this bar - but it costs $25.00/month.
- We are limited to the features and functions of this site, made available to us by ning.com. Some additional functions and features are available at extra cost, of course.
- The security and privacy controls on this site are very simple. (We had a discussion about this back when the site was first set up.) Our ability to make certain content available only to members, while allowing other content to be public is very limited.
- If ning.com shuts down, we lose this site, and it would take some time to set up another site, that has the same features and functions.
- It is difficult to backup all the valuable information that has accumulated on the site. Again, if ning.com shuts down, much of that content would be lost.
- We are at ning.com's mercy, if they decide to change or eliminate a feature we are using.
- I read somewhere in ning.com's documentation that there are limits to the size of our content, or number of articles.
To clarify: ning.com limits the size of our site to 10GB. They also limit the amount of data transferred from our site each month by users or visitors browsing the site (the bandwidth) to 100GB. Beyond that, it costs $10/month for each additional 10GB of space and 100GB of bandwidth. At this point we are probably not near those limits.
Bill Ames touched on some of these points in his discussion. The technology of the internet allows us many options for our website. I think we should start discussing some options now, so that we are prepared for the future.
Some options are:
- Write our own web site from scratch. This option would allow complete control over the features and functions of the site, but would take time, and someone with good skills in web design. I am not advocating this course of action, but if Bill Ames wanted to tackle this, he is welcome!
- Develop our own site, using a content management system. There are several content-management systems out there that would allow us to create a site with the same features and functions of this site, but that give much more control. Joomla is one example of an open-source content management system, that I have used. It requires some technical knowledge to set it up, but once it is set up, it is easy for non-technical people to write content for, or manage the site.
The advantage of either of these approaches is that we would own the site, and all data. We would need a hosting plan, which costs $5 to $10 per month. I have a host, and I think Bill Ames offered one as well. But, even if our hosting company shuts down, it would be a simple matter to move the site to another host.
Please feel free to add any comments or suggestions you may have on this topic.