Understanding website costs
When you have a website, there our five things you can be charged for:
1. Domain registration
When you reserve a domain name (e.g. bestpotatoes.com), you pay an annual fee to a registrar. The registrar gets your domain name listed on what is really a huge phonebook of domain names, kept at 13 ‘root nameservers’ around the world. When someone types your domain into a web browser, the phonebook tells their computer exactly which machine holds your website’s files. You can register a domain without building a website. Domain registration usually costs between R80 and R300 a year.
If you build a website at your domain, you need somewhere to put the files. A web host keeps your website’s files on a machine in a safe place, and makes those files accessible as a website. If you only register a domain, but don’t build a website, there is nothing to host. Web hosting is charged for monthly. This fee covers the hosting company’s expenses running datacentres with smart technical people at the helm. The monthly fee will depend on the extent and quality of the software and hardware your website requires in that datacentre. For most basic websites, monthly hosting costs around R100 a month.
3. Website development
Unless you teach yourself to set up websites, you’re going to need to pay a pro to build yours. There are countless ways to build websites, from almost-free DIY services to high-end web-development companies. If you’re paying less than R10K, expect to have to get your hands dirty, and/or live with a very basic site. Above R10K, make sure your website build happens in three independent stages: (a) a workshop for you and the developer to discuss and plan the site, (b) a technical specification document (i.e. how the site will be built) written by a pro, and (c) the actual build. When you add pages or features to your site after that, you may need to pay extra, depending on your contract with your developer.
4. Website maintenance
The Internet runs on software, and that software changes all the time. Mostly it gets better, especially at being secure against malware (like viruses). To keep a website’s software up to date and secure, someone has to maintain that website – just like a car needs small weekly checkups and occasional big services. Unless you’re willing to learn a lot yourself through trial and error, you’re going to need to pay a pro to do this for you. This kind of technical support can be paid for as an ongoing monthly contract or as occasional work when something goes wrong. On average, you’ll be paying between R500 and R1000 an hour if you pay for ad hoc support.
5. Data overusage
This is very rare for most websites – so only worry about it when it happens. In the happy event that your website gets loads of traffic (i.e. so many visitors that a huge amount of data is flowing between your host and your site visitors), you may exceed the maximum amount of traffic included in your web-hosting account. When that happens, you’ll get billed per gigabyte for the extra traffic (say, R15 per GB). If this happens often, you’ll need to ask a pro for advice, since there may be ways to reduce that cost or move to a cheaper host, depending how your site is built and where the traffic is coming from.