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This is literally the most basic of questions. I am looking for a free donor management software for the nonprofit I work at, and after all my research, CiviCRM looks like the best option! But I have no idea where to begin.

What does it mean when the start up guide refers to "hosting"? We have a Drupal website hosted by someone in Texas. Would he be able to host CiviCRM? Can I host it from my own computer? What does hosting even mean? Am I able to download the program and run it on my computer? Or is it web based and that is why it needs to be hosted? In that case, does it need its own domain name?

I've played around with the demo online and I like what I see, but I'm 100% lost in the world of open source and just looking for a simple step-by-step on how to set this up. Thanks so much!

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CiviCRM needs to be hosted on a webserver that meets the proper hosting specs. See http://book.civicrm.org/user/getting-prepared/hosting/

Technically you could host it on your own computer, this would not be practical for an organization.

I believe that your CiviCRM installation should be hosted where your website is hosted.

Depending on the size of your database (how many contacts) and which features of CiviCRM you would be using (civimail, civicase, civicontribute etc...) the current hosting for you website might not be adequate. For example, many commodity hosting companies that offer shared hosting cannot really support CiviCRM.

Your best bet for learning about hot to setup civicrm is on the wiki, or in the book http://book.civicrm.org/user/initial-set-up/installation-and-basic-setup/

If you have never installed a web application on a server, though, I would urge you to speak with the vendor who built/supports your website, or the company that hosts it, or find a vendor that specializes in CiviCRM. Installing CiviCRM is not like installing an app on your phone or computer.

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I'm pleased to hear that you like CiviCRM. It is a good piece of software that has been used by many non-profits across the world.

However, I think you need to be realistic about the cost of installing a CRM system like this. While CiviCRM is 'free' in the sense that it is open source and you can download the code and alter it as you see fit there are still costs associated with using it.

CiviCRM is a complex piece of software and unless you have the technical skills yourself you will likely need to employ a professional to set up the software for you. You will also need to pay for ongoing hosting costs for the software. I would also recommend that you consider training costs for yourself and your staff/volunteers that will be using it.

I'm afraid that no CRM system is entirely free of cost.

I would suggest that you start by looking at the Getting Started section of the CiviCRM website.

In answer to your specific questions about hosting. Yes, it would need to be hosted on a web server (it is possible to host it on your own computer but this is unlikely to be a useful option in practice). Web hosting means purchasing space on a server (computer) that you can use to host a website. You may be able to host it with your current website, but CiviCRM requires significantly more resources than a standard website so you may need to upgrade your hosting package to accommodate this. Hosting CiviCRM is quite a technical matter so I would recommend that you get advice about this.

If you host CiviCRM with your website it would share the same domain name. If you host it separately it would need its own domain name (or a sub-domain of your domain).

Alternatively there are providers who offer CiviCRM hosting packages and would be able to take care of all these technicalities for you - see Hosting Providers.

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