Having a website these days is a must, and the costs associated with having one can vary. I'd like for us to consider the good, the bad, and the ugly of website ownership, ranging from the basic costs of ownership to the deceptive techniques used to scam money from you to the dangers of malware, viruses, and ransomware which can wreak havoc on your website and cost you lots of time and money in the end.
First, the legitimate costs. There are three main costs for a website - the domain name, the hosting, and the maintenance.
The domain name is what you call your website (i.e. www.domainname.com), perhaps what your email addresses end in (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org), and perhaps if you want to get fancy, some other things (i.e. greekfestival.domainname.com). If you have a custom domain, it should cost you somewhere around $12 per year. That is an annual cost. If you are paying more for that, something isn't right. Many parishes in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese take advantage of having a free domain in the form of parishname.state.goarch.org to save on that annual cost.
Website hosting is a monthly cost and is about paying to have your website contents reside on a server somewhere. There is more variety here, but still is rather inexpensive. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Department of Internet Ministries offers free web hosting to its parishes for up to 1 GB of storage. Other hosting providers may charge anywhere from $0 - $20 per month for a basic website, but this could vary and become even more expensive if you have more specific needs. On average, $5 per month is a reasonable amount to pay.
Maintenance costs can vary greatly. If you have a good volunteer or person already on staff who knows what he or she is doing, you may be set. But, don't assume that they just can blink their eyes and nod their head and the website is updated. Your webmaster - or if you are lucky, web team - spends his or her own time and energy to cultivate and craft the material for your website - taking photos and video, writing good quality content, and planning out your website and social media strategy. Those costs - even if they are volunteer hours - are more difficult to measure and will vary greatly depending on how your website is managed. If you are not so lucky to have a volunteer, be ready to pay anywhere from $25 - $150 per hour for work on your website.
Check out this article for more information about the good (real) costs: http://executionists.com/cost-to-build-websites-2014/
Unsuspecting small businesses each year get tricked into paying unnecessary fees for services they either don't need or don't even have. It is ever important to know exactly what you are using and what you are not using before paying a bill. Even if something looks real, double check with someone. If you are ever not sure if you should pay a bill, contact us at the Department of Internet Ministries, and we will help you sort things out.
For example, check out the bill for "Website Listing Service" below. I've altered it to say "yourdomain.org" instead of the parish's domain name that was listed. This company makes thousands and thousands of dollars off well-intentioned people every year simply because it looks like a real bill. Do not be fooled. It is a trap!
Many other companies such as this exist out there. I can't say it enough. If you aren't sure, ask us, and we will set you straight! Even the legitimate companies who provide real services will do what they can to sell you on extra services to just milk a few more dollars out of you.
For more about these bad costs, check out http://www.smallbusinessmiracles.com/spot-fake-internet-directory-domain-renewal-bills/
Finally, we come to the 'ugly.' Has your personal computer ever been infected with incessant popups, a virus, malware, or worse? The same thing can happen to your parish website. There are many people out there who enjoy causing trouble, perhaps just for the thrill of it or even to make some money in the process. Malicious code can be injected into your website if it is not secured properly and disrupt your ability to communicate in a moment's notice. Some of this malicious code is known as ransomware, because, as it hijacks your website or computer, it will demand payment in order to restore the site or else the hijacker will destroy all of your files. If you have ever experienced any of this, you know how ugly it can get.
It is essential in the face of all this for your webmaster to be vigilant in their maintenance of your website, keeping good backups, and ensuring that your code is updated and secure.
For more on the ugly of ransomware, check out: