Open a website with less than $2 a month – Build your Website (Part 1)

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When I planned to open this website I started investigating the best, cheapest and easiest way to open and host a photo blog. I try here to share my experience and I hope it will help somebody making this easy step. I do not have too much of programming experience. I did few exams at the university, but that was 20 years ago. I asked myself if I wanted to start programming HTML but I did not think it was a great idea. I really wanted to focus more on the content side than on the engine behind it. Let’s move step by step.

How does it work?

There are here two possibilities.

You can host your website on somebody else space and receive an almost personalized domain name . Let’s assume you want to build a photo blog. You can go either on WordPress or Blogger (Google) and in less than 5 minutes you are able to post your photo. The advantage is of course the cost, bloody free, and the multitude of available ready made theme you can use for your website. The drawback is that you will not have your own domain but just a sub-domain. Honestly, for just few dollars, or even for free, it is worth to have your own domain and most important your own space. This is for sure a good way to start and get familiar with the tools. My personal preference is WordPress, also because it can be loaded later on your own space and domain. MEL365.com is based on WordPress. They typical domain you will be assigned is something like yourdomain.blogspot.com

What should I check for my own domain?

In case you want to have your domain (as yourdomain.com) there are few options. The good news is that there is such a competition in the market that prices have literally crashed down. Your monthly fee may be less than a cost of a coffee. Not too bad. I speak here below of four popular options. The evaluation process should be based on 3 main things:

  1. cost of the domain name. If you want to keep your domain forever check if the domain cost is yearly or forever. Sometime the first domain is included at no cost
  2. hosting monthly fee. There are usually two prices, the introductory price and the ongoing price (once the cheaper price is over)
  3. what does include? How much space they give you and how much traffic you are allowed.

In all cases you will be provided with a C-Panel, which is an interface very easy to use where you can activate software, manage your domains, verify your statistics and much much more.

It’s time to compare some of the most popular choices.

Bluehost

I use Bluehost as provider and I almost never had a problem. In last two years I had only an issue once when I could not reach the website for about 30 mins. My content is not critical, therefore it was not a problem for me. There is a 24×7 help line in case and I heard some good feedback about it. You can test here the CPanel interface to have a feeling of how you would manage your website. You are provided with lots of easy and free software to install, as WordPress, the most famous platform for photo blog and website generally speaking.

What I love of Bluehost is that:

  1. The domain name is free for the first year. Expect to pay $13.99 thereafter. I was lucky enough that I joined two years ago when the domain was free for ever.
  2. The monthly fee is $6.95 but discounts are offered on a regular basis. As I speak (Feb-13) there is an offer for $4.95 (for 3 years plan). They offer other options as backup, etc. Just go step by step. You can always buy them later on.
  3. It includes a lot! Unlimited emails, space and file transfer as well as domain hosting (you can activate multiple domains using the same space). In case you have a photo and video blog, my personal suggestion is to go for unlimited traffic and space. The size of the files can increase your bandwidth more than you expect

Overall I suggest this provider. I am using it and I am happy with it. Bluehost is based in US and unfortunately they do not offer the domain .com.au

HostGator

When I looked for my website HostGator was the oher provider I was very keen with. I checked few forums and I found some nice comments about this provider. Originally I had two domains and that was the main factor that pushed me to go for Bluehost. The service and Cpanel is pretty similar to Bluehost but the cost structure is slightly different. It can be even cheaper if you have only 1 domain. Even better you can pay on a monthly basis, although this option can be expensive.

What I liked of HostGator:

  1. The domain name is just $15/year. It’s quite low, although I expected to have a similar offer to Bluehost
  2. The monthly fee (Feb-13) is as low as $3.96 for the single domain. It is a real bargain. Unfortunately for multiple domains the price starts from $6.36 which is a bit expensive compared with other providers.
  3. The offer is very similar to Bluehost. Mostly an unlimited offer. You can’t get it wrong.

If you want to compare apples with apples it is more expensive (multiple domains) than Bluehost, however the single domain offer is really a great value at less than $4. HostGator is based in US and they do not offer the domain .com.au

Go Daddy

This is another popular option. The thing that differentiate this provider is that they have an Australian sales branch. I am not sure if there is actually any host or person in Australia but you can buy here a .com.au as well as many other country related domains. Reading the forums I can see some unhappy comments and I suggest to google GoDaddy before committing. It is always worth to verify the present status.

What I like of Go Daddy:

  1. The domain name is free for the first year which is great. Thereafter is between $10 and $15.
  2. The monthly fee (Feb-13) is as low as $1.99 for the single domain and 100GB of disk space. This is the best bargain I could find. Unfortunately for multiple domains and databases the price starts from $6.99 which is a bit expensive compared with other providers.
  3. 100GB can be a small amount if you plan to add videos and photos.  It is a good starting point though. With $24 you can have your website up and running for one year. If you think to have a website for 2-3 years or more, than probably make your math and BlueHost and HostGator are better options.

Go Daddy is a good option to start with. They offer Australian domains as well as many other countries. Move elsewhere for more years

Crazy Domains

They claim to be #1 Australia’s web hosting service. Also in this case check the last news on the forums, Whirlpool Forum on top.  The main reason I did not use them is the cost, however having a local service may help a lot in case of problems. You add that your website is physically in Australia and this will help with the google indexing.

What I like of Crazy Domains:

  1. The domain name $12/year. It’s not so expensive at $1/month. The price goes down if you take a .com
  2. The monthly fee (Feb-13) is as low as $2 for the single domain and 25GB of disk space. This is the second best bargain I could find. Unfortunately for unlimited web space the price starts from $4.75 and there is no offer for multiple domains and databases.
  3. 25GB can be a far too small amount if you plan to add videos and photos.  It is a good starting point though. With $24 you can have your website up and running for one year. If you think to have a website for 2-3 years or more, than make your math and probably BlueHost and HostGator are better options, especially if you think to add other domains.

Crazy Domains is a good starting point. They offer Australian domains as well as many other countries. Move elsewhere for more years

What’s next

Just make your math. Do you have photos and videos, you are ok with a .com domain and you plan possibly to expand and keep your website for a long period? Probably Bluehost and HostGator are better option

You want to give a try for one year and see what’s happening? Go Daddy and Crazy Domains work probably better. Remember that after one year you can always move your domain elsewhere, although it has some technical implications

I love Bluehost for the service I had in last two years but for my needs I think also HostGator would work great.

Are you planning to have a website with 200-300 photos and 3-5 videos, than Go Daddy and Crazy Domains are a good option.

Do you have a mission critical websites? You can’t have more than 2-3 minutes outage? Than most probably go to a local provider that you can contact straight away, just verify the backup options they have in place

Last thing

Google the forums to see the last bad and good news and………do not hesitate to buy your website, it does not cost too much and it can be a good fun and in some cases a good business as well.

In the next posts we will talk about


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Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a cycling, movie and life style photographer with a big love for landscape & travel photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o

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