Taking the plunge – 4 (Online family trees expense)

The next area to tackle in this “Taking the plunge” series is the expense of putting your family history information on the web.

It’s worth noting right away that there is really no way to completely avoid SOME expense if you are going to use the web. The closest you might get to “free” would be if you used your existing computer (assuming you have one) and made it into a “web server”. That means making it accessible to the rest of the internet world, in your home or office. It certainly can be done, and IF you already have adequate hardware, could possibly be the cheapest solution. How cheap would depend on the amount of traffic your site generates, and whether your internet service provider would want to charge you more as a result. But costs aside, this is the most technically complex, time consuming, and hazardous option for a novice, so I’m not going to spend any more time discussing it here. If you are capable of setting that up, you probably don’t need to read these articles anyway!

For the rest of us, establishing a web site introduces a range of different cost items:

  1. A web site needs a domain name. That’s the bit you type into your browser to find a web site, like www.kiwitrees.net. You have to register one that has not already been allocated (with a domain registry), then pay an annual fee to retain ownership.
  2. You need somewhere to host your domain – in other words space on someone’s server where you store your data, software and everything needed to produce a website. There are literally thousands of places you can go for this, from the company who supply your internet connection, to the bloke down the road! What or who you choose can depend on what you want to pay, what you need, and even where you live.
  3. If its not your own server, then someone needs to manage the installation. Because the internet is world wide, that usually means some degree of 24 hour per day, 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year responsibility, and no-one does that for free!
  4. If owning or managing your own web site is not for you, then you can use one of the many sites who let you create your own tree with them. But beware, and check carefully what rights you might be giving away with your data! The less you pay, the greater the risk is a fair rule-of-thumb.

So how much do all these things cost? Well, there are three important clichés to remember here:

  • Its as long as a piece of string.
  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  • You get what you pay for.

Which can all be summarised as: Work out clearly what you want before you look at what’s on offer. That way you should be able to make some fair price comparisons. Remember that they don’t generally want you to compare prices, so they will make their packages as complex as possible, just like cell phone companies 🙂
If someone offers you something for free, you can safely assume there is a catch. Usually it means they want to place a lot of advertising on your site or to be able to use your data for “other purposes”. But it might also be a reflection on the standard and reliability of their services.
Equally, if for example, web hosting is expensive, check that you are not paying for a lot of features you don’t really need.