Following is a breakdown of the bottom-line running costs of this website (2016), information on why it costs a lot to run, and how you can help...
Hosting: £648 p/a inc VAT
Domains x 4: £50 p/a
Forum software currently costs £170, plus we've had to pay for several upgrades over the years, some which cost us over £200 - the next one will cost us £150 and will mean transferring to a new platform. (done)
Miscellaneous paid for items (such as the mobile template) are needed occasionally - in the past we have paid for chatroom software, photo gallery software and more - these, and a bespoke mobile app, are on hold indefinitely until debts* are paid.
When this forum started we used a standard "shared" hosting package costing us around £50 a year - fine for non-interactive sites and anything with low traffic. As the forum grew it started crashing, and so we looked into new options - we tried another shared host, but we had the same problems, and so we switched to a couple of Virtual Private Servers (vps) costing us around £30+ a month. Again, similar problems, although not as bad as before.
Even during quieter times we get up to 3 million hits per month; this forum is valued by members and a resource to non-members all around the world, and it would be a shame to lock that down. That's not including the bandwidth used by subscription emails or notifications etc.
About three or so years ago we upgraded to a fast server with lots of processing power and RAM, costing us around £45 a month+VAT, with telephone support, regular backups and based in the UK for better response time - it rarely crashes and it's typically stable and the best it's ever been. The guys are vbulletin experts and know their shit.
So while we occasionally hear people say "I can get you a better deal", or "that sounds expensive", jumping ship now we have a reliable company isn't going to happen any time soon - there's too much of a risk of going backwards.
Since 2005 we have invested thousands of pounds into this site, largely paid for by donations (not including the original investment in setting the site up), but regardless of this the site still owes me (Paul) a little under £600 (down from £800). This is because, over the last ten years, when donations were low, I made up the difference out of my own pocket and never recuperated it. I'm unwilling to invest anymore of my own cash until I'm square, I've spent too much.
Donations pay for the site.
Donations help - and in order to keep this site afloat we need a minimum of £60 a month.
This covers the costs of the hosting and domain registration and the percentage Paypal takes for processing the funds, but no more. Anything above that will eventually clear the debts, but not if we have a bad month, then it's back to playing catch up again.
The current minimum one-off donation is now £7, but you can set up a subscription donation for £5 per month which can be cancelled at any time via your paypal account.
We have over 16000 members on this site, and if everyone donated we would never need to ask for money again.
- Making a donation does not exempt anyone from the rules of the site.
- Making a donation helps a lot and stops worrying about ongoing costs.
- Money goes to renewing domain names, upgrading software, hosting, adding features as they're needed, software licenses and anything else to do with the site running costs.
- Hosting on a high speed server costs us over £640 per year and that's without software updates, domain registration etc.
- Software upgrades and new features add more to this. For example, the gallery cost us £50+ everytime we did an upgrade, if we ever want to bring back features (such as the chatroom) they too will cost us similar or higher prices - last time around, upgrading the software that runs the forum cost us in the region of £200. The next upgrade will cost us £140 and we are currently overdue for one.
- We have spent several thousand pounds since the site began in September 2005 and we still only just scrape through.
- In the future, we may incur extra costs, like developing mobile apps etc. For instance, apart from the dev costs, the fee would be $100usd a year just to run an app on the Apple app store and $25usd for Android
- We do not profit from donations to this website, but unfortunately paypal does take a small percentage because we use a premium verified account - there's nothing we can do about this; all merchant banking systems take a percentage of the money transferred
- Please consider that, if we were employing someone to run this site for 8 hours a day on minimum wage they would have earned over £139000 by now (Based on 2016 minimum wage rates).
- When this website started (in the days before social media), we invested a lot of money believing the site would flourish. Because donations have been slow in forthcoming, this left approximately £800 (now £600) worth of arrears. Failure to hit the donation target increases these arrears
- We rarely hit our monthly running costs (see arrears above) - even when we have a good month it covers the previous month.
Around this website you will see affiliate links to Ebay, and I may add others at some point - using these links will set a cookie on your computer and thus a small percentage of your purchases through these stores will be passed our way. This doesn't bring in a lot, but again it helps.
Paid membership ideas
This is an egalitarian website, and as such so we don't wish to restrict people because of a low income. Again, we may have to go down this route at some point, but it's against our wider principles to do so.
I have resisted paid advertising because it's a pain in the arse to manage and would take the website out of the hobbyist domain and into the business domain - it's not completely dismissed it, in fact it's becoming more likely, but I'm holding off for as long as I can.
Alternatives to Paypal?
No; it's too much hassle trying to run merchant accounts and set up payment processors - this website is run as a hobby and as such we keep it simple as possible. Implementing any other system would be too time/effort consuming at present and cause us problems with processing fees, tax etc.
You do not need a Paypal account to use paypal for donations.
If you are a newbie seeing this post, a donation to the running costs of this site will give you access to all the forums that are currently restricted by post count. Click here for more information.
Please note that donations are processed manually, so may not happen the second you hit the "submit" key.
Any questions or ideas, please discuss below