What am I Paying for on my Yearly Invoice?
Recurring Charges Explained that our Clients will see on their Regular Invoice
Sand Dollar Digital Design, Inc. uses an electronic invoicing system for all services that will send email notices when invoices are coming due. One of the more regular invoices is the yearly hosting invoices as we only bill once per year for some of our services. Here is an explanation of what is involved with those charges.
Yearly HostingThe largest recurring charge on all yearly invoice is for web site hosting. This covers a few different aspects of our client's web sites.
- Physical space for a web site - Our servers are located in Las Vegas, Nevada in one of dozens of very large web server sites. These sites house servers for hundreds of thousands of servers owned by companies of all sizes, including many of the largest corporations on the planet. I have been told that the specific farm our servers are in also house servers for some of the largest world banks, the largest entertainment company in the world and even a large American railroad transportation company.
These sites have so many redundancies to stay on the Internet and even enormous generators to keep them going even in a power outage. They are constructed with thick solid cement walls making them look like an over-sized vault and surrounded by high cement walls topped with barb wire which makes them look like a prison! They are all designed with security and continuity first and foremost! Obviously, this type of service costs money and we pay a third party to keep our servers operational within that building.
- Monitoring servers ensuring they stay functional - The company that keeps the physical servers connected and powered only do part of it. Every day of every year we monitor the servers to ensure they are running as they should. Maintaining web servers, database servers and even the challenges of the email servers require consistent watching to fend off attacks that happen literally every single day and at any hour of the day. Some tasks are done by automated systems and some tasks require someone to be on call at nearly any hour of the day. Regular hosting fees cover this activity.
- Basic services to help you maintain your site more efficiently - Web SPeED is our own system designed to be a simple way for even the Internet Novice to keep a web site updated without having to pay a web master expensive hourly rates to make important regular updates to a web site. Web master rates vary from $60 to $200 per hour and we have always worked to keep our costs down to the lower end of that range at $85 per hour.
Even so, before we developed Web SPeED we found that people were more than doubling their yearly web costs asking us to do very simple and routine tasks that they could easily do on their own... many even asked if they could do these simple things. To date the creation of Web SPeED represents an investment of thousands of hours in the past two decades, none of which has been charged to an individual web site or its owner. We have long felt that this is one of the most effective uses of our time to bring the small business owner the best service we can.
Frequently, we hear clients comment that there are other web hosts out there that are cheaper, and that is true, however, one must also take in to account the level of service and features available. Here are some reasons for the differences in prices:
- The cheapest hosts out there may charge only a few dollars a month but they only provide an FTP location and the site owner must have the knowledge to create the content. There is a definite necessity for this type of service and I always believe that if a small business owner has that capability they would do better with this type of service.
This is not Sand Dollar Digital Design, Inc.'s target client. We offer a full service package that covers a web site from end to end and will even help beyond the site.
- Another reason a web host will offer cheap hosting is that they will load (and frequently over-load) servers with thousands of web sites. Properly run hosting services will honor limits on servers but the cheapest of the cheap will put as many as three or four times what should be on a single server which jeopardizes the speed and stability of a server. It is a dangerous game to play as in our early years we fell prey to such practices. Ultimately we had sites down for nearly a week as we searched for our current situation. That was in 2002 and only a handful experienced it as we only had a few sites back then... * thankfully!
Sand Dollar Digital Design, Inc. never overloads our servers. In fact, we feel we cannot provide the quality of service to that many client due to the fact that there are only so many hours in the day and we will not hire employees. When our clients call us we are happy in the thought that everyone knows they will only be talking to Jennifer or David, never a call center, never a lackey that hasn't the authority to do what is needed.
There are far more expensive hosting services, too! In our experiences we find two primary reasons for the greater expense.
- Shopping Cart Systems - This is by far the most expensive reason for higher costs. An eCommerce site can run hundreds, even thousands of dollars a month with a plethora of services. Now, don't get me wrong, there are a LOT of great services out there! Our focus, however, is on the small business owner who is pinching pennies. We have addressed two sides of this cost in different ways in developing our own Cartamonga On-line Catalog:
- Credit Card processing - Integrating credit card processing into a server is a costly process and can quickly become the most expensive part when applying server wide. We find that most small businesses have their own credit card processor already set up and many use this service to manually run charges. Others use PayPal as they offer extremely competitive prices for this service and Cartamonga can easily be plugged in to their system. That being said, we occasionally have a client out of necessity move on to one of the more expensive services but has a forty plus year veteran as a business owner we invite the small business to start and save as much as possible with our services.
- On-line Check Out System - Many are familiar with sites like Etsy that offer selling services with a fee on every purchase. Also, there are larger shopping cart systems that not only charge per order but also a yearly fee of hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
Outside of credit card processing the larger portion of this will be in some kind of licensing fees. A software developer will have created a large and robust system to meet the needs of millions of web sites that want to sell products and services. The use of that software is the licensing fee.
Again, there are many good systems out there like this but looking at the needs of the small business owner we long decided to help where we can. Cartamonga is our own creation. All the programming and maintenance is done in house for only our own clients. Also, since those needs do not span the thousands of features available in the larger systems we are not required to develop every feature BUT because it is our own, when a feature is needed it can be developed on a smaller scale. In fact, most of the features of Cartamonga and Web SPeED were created to meet the growing needs of our clients!
Since there are no yearly licensing fees we do not have to charge additional yearly costs nor do we charge a 'per sale' cost.
- Content Management Systems - (CMS) That is just a web term for Somewhere you can log in on the Internet to change and update your web site from a browser window. One of the most popular such systems is Word Press but that is only one of hundreds of such services available. Like the other items listed in this page there are good ones out there that fit a variety of needs, however, in our search to create the best tool for the small business owner with every little experience or education we created Web SPeED. Word Press is a very robust system that is designed to meet the needs of thousands of businesses and a plethora of modules are available for purchase to expand those features even further.
Again, because we developed Web SPeED in house, we have no licensing fees or outside development costs which keep our overall costs down, a savings we are happy to pass on to our clients. Additionally, Web SPeED is designed to be simple and intuitive as it found its beginnings developing software for inexperienced octogenarians in data and web site management.
Another advantage of in-house development is that when someone wants a new feature we can create a new module and add a feature. As it stands today, MOST of the currently available features arose out of this very need! We also encourage all out clients to ask if they want to do something new with their site. In this way we can know we are meeting every need.
Domain RegistrationWithout getting too technical having a domain name www.yourname.com is not something just anyone can do. There are a large number of domain registries out there that perform this service and their fees range from zero to hundreds of dollars per year.
This cost depends on the domain itself and the quality of the registrar used. There are cheap registrars that may cut costs by cutting security measures and services. The single most advertised registrar falls deeply within this category at a cost of severely violating some of the standards adopted by better registrars as outlined by ICANN, the organization that governs such procedures.
The process itself is so far above my own understanding even with my 35 plus years dealing with computers, networking and the Internet for a majority of those years. What I consider the most important task these registrars accomplish has more to do with hijacking domain names. Every once in a while we hear in the news or on a TV Series about how someone has redirected an important web site to their own servers. From there they trick people in to using their log in credentials for bank accounts, email accounts, even eBay and more! Once those credentials are captured the criminals use that information to do their destruction.
This is the best example of what a registrar does with their unique talents. They prevent these hijackings from happening and if they do they work hard to correct them.
For us, what we charge for this service is a majority of what we pay our Domain Registry. It has fluctuated over the years starting at $70 two decades ago when Network Solutions was the only registrar available. Today we see numbers reported from free (when bundled with web hosting) to as much as thousands of dollars per year.
Use of the SSL Key for your siteA client will find this on their yearly invoice if they use some type of check out system in which guests will provide credit card information or other personal details. It is also used to ensure other data that requires security encryption.
The SSL Key is a piece of information that encrypts a web page. The little LOCK symbol in your browser window is the indication this is working properly. Although our server can generate its own, this SSL Key is purchased from a trusted party that is registered with the standards that govern Internet Security. Every browser contains a current list of these trusted providers and sometimes can be seen buried deep in the advanced settings.
We share the cost for this service among the sites that use it. When we were a smaller company years ago it was $4 per month but over the years has dropped to its current $2 per month.
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