The Short Story

Can you afford to "go cheap"?

How cheap can you go?If you are being offered a cheap website with cheap hosting, it will almost certainly be using software the web developer can get for free, supplemented with "plug-ins" built by hobbyists, and installed on cheap rented hard disk space with little if any service included by the "landlord".

You probably can't afford "free"

Around a half dozen times a year, those "free" software programs require "emergency recalls" -- replacing vulnerable portions with revised code.

You can't not do the updates.

If not updated immediately, those sites built on "free" software get hacked.

Your hosting provider is not going to update the software for you, and your website developer won't do it for free.

Google makes it easy to find costs of applying the "recalls" for the most common "free" systems. Service plans averaged around $100 - $150 a month, on top of that "cheap" hosting. That's just for the updates, not site changes.

Not included in those service plans: Once the new "free" software has been installed, it's not uncommon for the "plug-in" to no longer work, so some part of the website will be disabled until that hobbyist-developed component is updated, or a replacement found.

Believe us -- if we thought those "cheap" options were the best solution, we'd still be doing it, not shelling out tens of thousands of dollars a year on the advanced commercial system we use.

A view from Down Under

Last year, SmartCompany, an Australian online magazine for small business owners, published an article on why you might choose a commercial hosted platform such as our Online Business Partner® for your site, rather than having your web people download one of those "free" programs and host it on one of those super-cheap services.

Here is a summary, used with permission of the author, ruthlessly edited for length and to "Americanize" it:

Who would you prefer underpin your business website?
The hobby community, or a large profitable company?

The commercial hosted platforms generally contain the latest features – far more than a smaller business would use. Not so long ago, these features and functionality would cost millions of dollars. This means website tasks gets done quickly, rather than taking many hours of costly programmer time.

These systems typically cost $25 - $75 a month, including hosting. For this you get a complete and fully tested and supported system, constantly being improved and upgraded at no extra charge.

If there are any problems with the commercial system, the provider has an in-house support staff at the ready to quickly resolve it – at no further cost to you.

This means that both you and your web professional can get on with what you do best – and leave what can be a monumental task of maintenance and security to the professionals who work for the multi-billion-dollar firm that owns the commercial platform.

One web developer’s view

In closing, I’ll leave you with a few comments from the owner of a San Francisco web design firm that I came across:

"Free" software is built by hobbyists for hobbyists – who by definition get pleasure in messing around with the topic of their hobby, such as finding and installing the latest great plug-in to make a site work correctly, after installing the last mandatory security patch that broke the old plug-in, and reprogramming things to work with that new plug-in which works just a bit differently than the last one.

For business? Forget the "free" software that some web people choose to use because it costs them nothing (and makes them a lot when they have to fix hacked sites).

Don't think you are too small and obscure to be at risk. Hackers use ‘robot’ programs that scour the internet, thousands of sites per minute, looking for vulnerable sites using that "free" software so they can automatically install their viruses on your site.

San Francisco web design firm? This was our comment, but understandably our name "Frisco Websites" was interpreted as related to that other town, in California, rather than to our then-home base of Frisco, Texas.

Hmmm. this is a comment about a comment they included in their article, which we included in our article... dizzy yet?



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