Nearly all services provided via the Internet fall into two broad categories: "free" options and options for which you will pay for the service. Blog hosting is no different. You can leverage a variety of "free" methods to host your own blog, and when starting out, these are probably best. WordPress was the go-to blogging service when I started, and likely was for most bloggers.
Free, though, is never truly free, hence I refer to the option as "free." You always pay. The question is by what means, restrictions, or conditions your "free" payment entails. A "free" WordPress blog has limited functionality, e.g. no video hosting. You cannot install most plug-ins. And perhaps most important from a content creator's perspective, you have limited control over aspects of your blog's web presentation. I always cringed and was a tab embarrassed when my WordPress blog was littered with ads promoting some anti-fungal foot cream!
So free is fine so long as you are ok with "free." It is fine when you are just starting blogging and getting your feet wet. Free will also be good for smaller, limited-purpose blogs. But if you truly want to take control as a content creator, you will need to pay. How much is it worth to you, as a content creator, to control your website and blog's appearance to the world?
What you truly want to pay for a blog can have several dimensions. In general, though, for a basic blog like mine, you need to consider the costs of:
- Blog hosting
- Domain registration
- Mail options
Of these three, only the first is truly required if you want to pay for your own blog. As an example, you can pay WordPress for a professional/business blog, but still piggyback your site's URL off of the "wordpress.com" domain. And you don't need any special mail options, necessarily.
All three - hosting, domain, mail - should be considered for your own needs. In my personal case, for the blog you are reading, I decided to pay for all three, more or less, with the mail portion needing further explanation below.
Paying for the Blog Server
I previously wrote about choosing between a blog service and self-hosting. As I chose to self-host, my cost is for the cloud server that runs my blog.
Digital Ocean hosts my blog's cloud server. Digital Ocean calls their cloud servers "droplets." I am paying for their most basic droplet, which is frankly all I need for the traffic my blog gets. If a day comes when my small humble droplet cannot handle the volume of traffic to my blog, I will file that under, "Problems that are nice to have."
When I started this server and blog last year, the cost of a basic droplet was $5 (US) a month. It has now risen to $6, and by the latest prices on Digital Ocean, it appears the price may be going up again, as of August 2022:
I also pay for a weekly backup, which I consider vital as a disaster recovery option, e.g. if I totally screw up my Linux server and have no recourse. I am, after all, on my own when it comes to support and maintenance of this blog (one of the disadvantages of not going with a hosting service). The cost of the backup is 20% of the server. 20% will quickly add to the monthly cost of a droplet as you go up in tiers. But if I really needed 8 Intel CPUs with 16 GB of RAM and 6 terabytes of data transfer, I am probably monetizing my blog, and the cost would be a factor in its upkeep (and again, a nice problem to have if your blog is getting that much traffic!).
As of August 2022, here is a summary of my monthly payment to Digital Ocean for my cloud server/droplet which runs by blog:
Paying for the Domain
Since my blog is self-hosted, I have no recourse but to also pay for a domain registration. As mentioned in a prior article, I use Hover for my website's hostname and DNS.
The exact costs can vary (e.g. by domain extension). For my "dot com" my renewal price will be $16 (US) annually. And this is approximately what I am paying right now and for the next several years.
I could, in several years time, decide to go with another domain service, but for the purposes of this discussion, we will assume $16 is my yearly domain and DNS cost. This cost covers my domain name (paulstephenjournal.com), redirect setups, and ICANN registration.
What About Mail?
Mail has at least two aspects: publishing and account hosting. As far as publishing, I am using the "free" service over at mailgun. How mail distribution is set up will be its own article entirely, but as far as costs, just know that I am using their effective free option. And again, if my volume ever grew substantially, I would have to look into paid mail delivery, e.g. if I had hundreds or thousands of newsletter subscribers.
I do pay for my blog's custom email address, which is how you can contact me. I use Hover again for this, since it nicely integrated with my domain setup, but I could have used other services. The cost of this email address is $20 (US) annually.
...and once again, this "small" mailbox covers all the usage I have and require. If my blog ever outgrew my small mailbox, I would have to pay for a larger one.
Summary of Costs
To neatly summarize all of the above discussion, here are the costs for my blog as of August 2022. I assume, with out-of-control inflation, that this cost will only continue to rise in the years ahead. All costs are in US dollars.
- Cloud Server - $72 annually
- Cloud Server Backup - $14.40 annually
- Website Domain/DNS - $16 annually
- Website Email - $20 annually
Annual Blog Cost - $122.40
Is The Cost Worth It?
Why pay over $120 dollars a year, when I could simply have a blog for free? My website and blog are important to me as both my personal and professional presence on the Internet. I and I alone control it. It is the definitive source about me, by me. It is not part of a social media harvest algorithm (though I do leverage social media to promote the blog, more on that some other time). It's actually a great feeling to know that I built "this place" and keep and maintain it as my own.
Is the cost for having my own space on the Internet worth it? Absolutely.
This article is part of my series on how I set up my website and blog.