New & Newer Web Economics

The Old Way

   For several years, I hosted everything with Earthlink. Web, email, ftp, and (rudimentary) listserv. All in very Web 1.0 manner. And at over $100/month for the Mouzon Design site and the New Urban Guild site. Because I don't know HTML and don't have time to learn, I had to hire an HTML guru to build the sites at a cost of several thousand dollars per site.

The New Way

   I discovered iWeb several years ago and within a week, I had the Original Green site up without learning a stitch of HTML. Amazingly empowering. Hosted by Apple's MobileMe.

   iWeb was always a bit limited Apple should have bought iWeb Buddy and folded those capabilities directly into the program, for example. But iWeb is the difference between me being able to quickly put content up whenever I like, and having to hire a web developer and wait on them to do it. Ever wonder why websites quit getting updated? It's just too hard and too expensive. iWeb was a game-changer for me.

   Next, I put up a new version of the Mouzon Design site with iWeb. Problem is, that broke my Earthlink-hosted email. Because I could never figure it out due in part to the language barrier with Earthlink's tech support people in India, I switched my email hosting to my domain registrar: Less than $1/ month.

   I've recently put up the New Urban Guild site with iWeb, which of course broke the Guild email. But the Guild is more complicated because I also use it for FTP hosting and the (rudimentary) Guild listserv, two things that the more basic MyDomain email won't do. So, working around the time limitations of a recent town planning charrette, I spent many hours on the phone with Earthlink's tech support people in India, and still, the Guild email was down for over two weeks. In times like these, you can't afford that kind of downtime.

   I switched the Guild listserv over to Google Groups, where it remains to this day. Google Groups are much more like full-featured listservs, and can't be spammed because they only accept email from existing members, whereas spam was always a problem with the Guild list on Earthlink.

   That left just ftp. I woke up one morning at 4 AM, puzzling over it. And then it occurred to me: Apple's iDisk experience at that point was far simpler than most FTP sites… matter of fact, you didn't have to know anything about FTP to post something there. So I switched over the Guild email to MyDomain, and finally put an end to the miserable Earthlink customer service experience.

   Total cost? I never put all of these websites up on Earthlink because it would have been so expensive, both for development and hosting. But if I had, it would have been around $250/month, not counting tens of thousands of dollars in development costs. I ended up putting up the Original Green site, the Mouzon Design site, the New Urban Guild site, and the Guild Foundation site, all on a single MobileMe family plan at $150/year. I planned to eventually build a new Katrina Cottages site and move it to MobileMe, since the family plan allows five sites. So that's five sites for $150/year, or $2.50/site/month. Email is slightly under $1/month with MyDomain (which also registers domains at under $10/year.) And the listserv is free on Google Groups, and the iDisk is part of what you got with MobileMe. So the total cost per domain is less than $3.50/month... versus around $50/month doing everything through Earthlink.

   Save 93% on monthly costs and 100% of the tens of thousands in development costs, avoid dealing with language-barrier tech support (Apple's and MyDomain's are US-based,) put up content and change the structure of the websites whenever I like... what's not to love about that?

The Newer Way

   This all changed when it became painfully clear over the course of about a year that Apple was no longer developing iWeb. I had good luck for years with MobileMe, but others didn't. Matter of fact, Steve Jobs said before he died that he considered MobileMe to be Apple's greatest embarrassment. So I moved to Sandvox as a result.

   Sandvox recommends A2 Hosting, a company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their tech support people are US-based (so no language barrier) and are available 24/7. I spent a couple weeks looking at other hosting companies, but determined that nobody had a substantially better deal, and if Sandvox was happy with them, then they seemed like as safe a bet as any.

   A2 provides everything I'm about to describe for $124 and change per year, so it's clearly a better deal than I was getting with MobileMe and MyDomain email, which was in turn far better than what I got from Earthlink.

   My A2 account allows me to put up an unlimited number of domains. So I've put up the aforementioned Original Green and Mouzon Design sites, and will soon have up the New Urban Guild and Guild Foundation sites. But I've also recently put up this site, plus the Urbanism BlogOffs site, and because it's so easy, I'll likely put up a number of other sites as well.

   It gets better. I was having a number of problems with MyDomain email hosting. Above all, I often got tagged as a spammer because everything coming out of their hosting was read as a single IP address, and therefore it appeared to the spam blacklists like all email traffic was coming from a single company.

   A2 lets you set up email on every domain you're running through your account at no additional charge, so I've moved all my email to A2. I still use MyDomain as my domain registrar (at a bit over $10/domain/year) but other than that, my entire web presence now runs through A2 at the aforementioned $124 and change per year… or just over ten bucks per month for as many websites as I want to build, and as many email domains as I prefer to have. A sweet deal, if you ask me.

© 2012 The Guild Foundation Press