WebsitesWhat are they and what do they cost
A website is a grouping of text and graphics with some code all woven together (designed) to be displayed on a persons computer, smartphone or tablet screen. Three components make up all websites, and all have different functions and a wide range of costs. The costs I quote in the following are based on my industry knowledge and are geared towards any small to larger business or organisation in Northwest Ontario.
There is a lot of false information out there, and this is for information purposes for those who wonder, what exactly am I paying for?
Before you have a website, you have a domain name. This is the “name” of your site (www.mydomain.com) and possible emails (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Each country has its domain name system and body which governs it. In Canada (for .ca domain names) it is called CIRA. For other domain names like .com, .net and .org it is an entirely different governing body. Each governing body makes its own rules about who can own a domain name, potential copyrights of names and all that legal stuff.
So what is better for domains?
The most prolific websites use the .com domain system as it is widely viewed as the “best” and most universally known. Typically a business will use .com domains however there are over 150 million .com web domains it can be hard to get one you want. Easy and short domain names in the .com are bought and sold by individuals at huge markups because they can sit on them for long periods of time for next to no cost waiting for the right person to pay the premium price.
My website nipigon.com was initially priced at USD 2500
(Not what I Paid)
nipigonriver.com cost me $25/year
nipigonriver.ca cost me $15/year
To me, this is where the .ca domains (or whatever your country) come into play. Country domains are more strictly governed, and some even require residency in a country to purchase/register one. As a result, there are usually many more choices available with a .ca domain name.
A fresh, new domain name (.com, .net, .org and .ca) all cost between $4 and $30 per year depending on the company who registers them and the term you are registering for. The actual cost of the domain name varies due to individual domain name registration companies, varying markups and the actual domain name itself as some are deemed as higher value by the company registering the domain.
This is a recurring, yearly fee paid to the domain name registrar of your choosing.
Domain names can be purchased online with credit card pretty much instantly. The domain is then “set” by adding a few numbers (two sets of 12 numbers each) that tell the physical computer address of the website or “Host”. Other than the initial setting, there isn’t any other work needed to maintain a domain name other than paying for it.
A web host is the physical computer address of a website. Physically a site is hosted on a small part of a Hard Drive on a computer somewhere in the world that runs special software that serves the website to any other equipment that requests to see the information. This is your web host, and it has nothing to do with the domain name. The domain name points to this little part of this hard drive that hosts your website.
A web hosting company is responsible for the day to day maintenance, backups, security and uptime of a website. This is what they do full time with vast racks of computers housed in specialised buildings around the world.
There are a few types of hosting types meant for different purposes and at significantly different pricing structures. There are even “FREE” web hosting services however they tend to serve out advertising with your website as well, not a great look on a business website especially when you have no control over the type or quality of the ads.
Shared hosting (Apartment building for websites)
This is easily the most widely used and most inexpensive hosting style out there. Multiple different websites “Share” a hard drive on a web host, don’t worry about how they do. Different hosting companies will limit the number of shared sites on a single computer, limit resources given to each website and can remove websites that violate their terms of service.
If you have a business website, it is most likely on a shared web host server. Costing for a shared hosting service can be very cheap from a few dollars a year to very expensive to thousands of dollars a year depending primarily on security, services, space and of course company markup.
Cost of Shared Hosting
There are much high quality, secure and safe web hosts with shared hosting packages around $100 per year. This cost level would cover all small business websites and all websites except huge demand websites (millions of users) and specialty websites like file sharing on one of my shared servers which I pay less than $100/year I host 20 sites of various sizes and have not yet reached even half of the web host resources allotted to me. I include web hosting in my full yearly web design fees.
Typically little none after initial email creations (yes your web host is usually an email host as well). Since the web host company tracks security, backups, resource allocation and everything, you don’t need to worry too much about it. I do additional backups and server maintenance on my shared hosts because I can although in the majority of cases the end website owner would never work directly on a web host server. They would be much more interested in the website itself, not all the tech stuff that makes it work.
VPS or virtual private servers (Townhouses of websites)
Much like shared hosting, however, they are considered more secure as they are virtually separated from the other websites on the same server. Giving them a more extensive range of system resources, less crowded servers and a lot more control over what the web hosting computer (server) does. There is a price increase for a VPS web hosting service that can double or triple the price. A VPS is usually further divided up into shared hosting as the primary users of VPS servers are the web design industry as a whole.
A good quality VPS server can be purchased for as low as $200/year to well into the thousands of dollars. The price is usually dependent on the features and how much control the end user wants.
The same work as involved in shared hosting also applies to the VPS, minimal. You can pay more or less depending on how much control you want over the server. In almost all cases though, you won’t be working on the VPS settings, server or resources after the initial setup.
Dedicated web host servers (a single detached house website on a huge lot with a garage next to a school)
These powerhouses give your website the full power and resources of an entire computer dedicated to just one site. Dedicated servers are for elite websites serving millions and millions of users continually. You can pay into the tens of thousands a year for a dedicated web hosting package. Since this is far outside of the realm of the need of any business or organisation that would be reading this, I will just stop talking about them.
A website is merely a bunch of code, graphics and information that is designed in such a way to display that information when requested over the internet. This is the part of a website that everyone sees. The single most expensive part of a website and is dependent on the complexity of the website, features, ongoing maintenance and website upkeep and site updates.
If you have time and patience, there are many free website builders as well as website creation products that simplify a website design down to a word processing design level. Although not recommended they are out there and can be free. From there website design goes from free to millions of dollars. Larger web design companies charge a lot more as they have more overhead and personnel. Find a web designer you can trust, who is there for you and not spread to thin across hundreds of other clients.
The work involved
Designing a website can be a long and expensive process, the critical part to remember is to supply the content, information and pictures in a timely and convenient manner and to trust your designer. Too many times people know what they like and what that for their business or organisation, no matter if it works or is beneficial to the website. This is the business or organisation designing a site for themselves, not necessarily their audience or clients.
Once a website is up and running ongoing costs are associated with website updates and content. If you are using a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, with just a couple of hours of learning, anyone can edit create and modify content quickly and efficiently. It becomes as simple as word processing. In most instances, I would recommend some sort of maintenance contract with all websites as all websites benefit from a designers touch and content formatting. As well its always nice to have an expert identify and fix an issue before it becomes a serious issue.
In a Nutshell…
Any business or organisation in Northwest Ontario could be served by a shared hosting web host and domain name for around $100 per year.
(This happens to be the cost of my entry level website package)
Some larger business, organisations and maybe municipalities would benefit from a VPS and expect to pay around $300/year.
These are your base costs for a website and does not include initial website design or ongoing updates and maintenance.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE YOUR WEBSITE HOSTED BY YOUR WEB DESIGNERS. IF THEY SAY YOU DO, GET A NEW WEB DESIGNER. IT IS ADVANTAGEOUS TO HAVE ONE CENTRAL PERSON OR COMPANY DOING DESIGN AND HOSTING, NEVER A REQUIREMENT.
All pricing and information presented are my opinions based on industry norms. Yes there are cheaper hosting, yes there are incredibly more expensive hosting. What you use is up to you, I am simply presenting information.
A typical rack of web hosting computers and hard drives