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TheWord Tutorial » What it takes to run a Website

What it takes to run a Website

What it takes to run a Website

Hi, my name is David Cox, and I am the webmaster of this website.  Some people say, “these websites, they are always asking for money. They don’t do anything either.” So I am writing this so that you will appreciate what I do in making this website. These are some of the things involved in it.

Learn WordPress

WordPress is rather easy to just use. But that is deceptive because the more you use it, the more you want out of it, and the more complicated things become. I have been using (and learning) WordPress for about 20 years now. It is very easy to put up a web page. But no website can survive with only one page. You need a bunch of pages. As you grow your website, you learn that WordPress doesn’t grow with it, you have conflicts and problems. To fix these things you have to spend time, sometimes hours or days, to fix conflicts.

A good website has menus and links to other sections of itself on each page. All of this takes time and energy to make. Plugins help, but they make things more complicated.

Maintain WordPress

Having the site up with a few pages is great. But the problem is, your users want links to click around to different parts of your website. That means you have to install plugins. As you do that, some work, some don’t, and some work poorly. A webmaster has to analyze what is slowing down your website, what just doesn’t work, and sometimes completely sacrifice on the feature that a plugin offers because it brings your website to a crawl or conflicts with other things.

I have had a website with 800 pages, each one with a download link to give the user a file, and the plugin I was using to do that became obsolete, and it was no longer supported. That meant setting all 800 offline, and then finding another plugin or just make it a simple download (with no statistics of how many times it was downloaded) and go back page by page and fix each one, reuploading the file. While in the process of doing that 800x and almost finished, again a glitch or hacker or who knows what, and all the files are not available. Something erased them all. I had to decide if it was the new plugin or something I did, or a hacker. Restart all over again.

Plugin Updates

WordPress is an active environment, meaning that thousands of people are working on the code behind it. People at WordPress and thousands that have made plugins. Hackers find holes that they can penetrate into your website, and then the makers and other coders fix these holes, and update their plugins or the core program. The core program gets updated automatically, but the plugins you as webmaster have to do it yourself.

Once some new code is on your website, you always have the possibilities that things don’t work right with the new coding. I have had websites break (show an error page) because of this, and that means fixing it. You might have 20 plugins, so you un-activate all 20 plugins, and then activate them again one by one until it breaks again. You have to activate one, and check the website etc. Once you have what caused the website to break or not work, you have to see how important the plugin is, remove it completely, or whatever. Many times when a developer has a plugin that completes breaks the website, he will update it again with his own fix, and it will work right. But if you decide to wait, he may never fix it, and it may only break when you use it in combination with other plugins. Themes are also the cause of things not working, and they give the look and feel to the website, and this is another battle.

Hackers hacking your website

I was happy at first for a few years, and then we went on a trip, and somebody said that they tried to get onto one of my websites and couldn’t. To a webmaster, this is necessary news, but it is horrible news. I went to it, and sure enough, there were problems. I checked the other 40 websites, and half had the same problem. They were all working when I left for the trip, but now no.

As I investigated, I searched for a few days for possible reasons for the problem. There is a front end, and a back end to every website and webmasters and authors of content go in on the backside to work. I could not even get in on the backside.  So I deleted all my plugins, still no help no entry. I had a virus.

So I had to learn how to clean a website of a virus. To do that, I had to learn how they get into your website and stop that from happening. Then I had to delete the virus from the website. After that, I had to run external services to search my website for virus time and again, and I didn’t settle for one, but I had 4 such services and ran them multiple times on each of the 18 infected websites.

I finally got the virus off my websites. Then I had to study how to prevent that from happening again. Getting the viruses off my website took me several months of all my free time to do this. The fixing things with preventative plugins and other defenses took me another 3 months. It was a 6-month ordeal that consumed all my free time, and I spent many nights until after midnight reading, searching trying.

Once all that was done “perfectly” (right), the plugins I chose to fix and protect against viruses wouldn’t work right with my existing plugins, so we play the plugin trial and error swap game AGAIN!

Out of some 18 infected websites, I cleaned all 18 of them, and the reports of scan for virus came back negative on all of them. So I was good. No. I write tracts (350 of them) and books (66 of them). The book website that I put up my personal writings on I could not get into it. Come to find out my computer’s antivirus software had it listed at an infected website, and it would not allow me into it unless I disabled my antivirus. Turns out that an antivirus software company in Taiwan listed it as an infected site and I tried getting in contact with them, translating my email into Chinese, but their website didn’t exist anymore, and no answers. I had to abandon that website and start that website all over from scratch at a new domain.

Hackers making Attacks

Once I had the hacker thing fixed, it surprised me that my hosting company wrote me that they took my website offline. Come to find out I had a hacker attack, or just malicious attack. One single file, that normally is downloaded some 4-5 times in a month, was downloaded 5000 times in 24 hours. It broke the website.

Did you know that if you insert a virus code into a search box on a website, the website can execute it inserting the virus into the website code? There is a plugin to block that and another one to check when the code is changed. More overhead I have to juggle with my other plugins.

In the end analysis, a webmaster has to content with these attacks, and normally, the website is down, and until you resolve it, the hosting company will not put it back up. So that is like all of your time until it is fixed. You can wait a week before you start work on it, but that is an extra week before it is up. Since we used shared hosting, I have 1 hosting account with 4-10 websites on it. When a website is being attacked like that, the hosting company brings down the hosting account, not the website, so all of the shared websites go down with it.

I have 5 hosting accounts actually. twmodules, for example, has some 2 gigabytes of space on it, and I have 4,000 tw modules on it, either public or waiting to go public, and I have another 6000 different modules that I can put up on it. It is basically alone on the account.

Dealing with Growth in Web Hosting

Ever see these ads offering an unlimited website for only $3/month. I have and I have searched for them. The ad price is only good for the first month. One offers a website hosting for a penny. Great. First month only. After that they are charging you $20/month, and unlimited is not unlimited. It means what they call unlimited, and when you exceed certain boundaries they set and are not too upfront to tell you about before you enter, then you have to go to another plan. I started out in a $3.95 a month plan that over time morphed (or you can transfer your website to another hosting company) into a now $39.95 per month plan. Yea, that is how that works.

So every single website “grows” with time. When people visit your website, they leave invisible footprints. Every page they visit gets that page counter increased. The logs of visits are updated. Every plugin you install installs a database and files. When you delete the plugin off of your website, only the files are deleted, and sometimes not even all of them. That is baggage. The plugin is not there, but its files and SQL databases are eating up your allotted space. And generally, there is an overall creep of files and space you are using. If you put up a new page every week, that increases things. Every time you as webmaster make a change to the website, that makes backups.

So one day, they send you a message that you are nearing your limit of space and files on your website, and offer you to go to next high hosting plan. That is what they want. Instead of $2.95/month, you go to $29.95/month plan. You can try to clean up and it works, but eventually, you have to buy more hosting space. With some hosting companies, the jump from $2.95 to the next cheapest thing is like $20 more.

I am constantly trying to keep making space for my websites, moving them around, and having to purchase new hosting plans. So the $2.95 offer doesn’t apply to existing customers, and they are initial offers only.

Cpanel issues

Every website and hosting company just about that is out there uses a piece of software called CPanel. It simply allows you to access your website on a file level, and does about 20-30 other things as needed. The company that owns and maintains Cpanel offered it to Web hosting companies at a very economical one time a year fee for all the websites that use. They have changed their pricing scheme, and now they want to charge each website, not the hosting company, but each website $20/month for using their software. Basically, the hosting company controls what controls your hosting space, so it is a hosting company decision to put it on or not. At present, I don’t know of alternatives. It is Cpanel, or nothing. I am waiting for the hosting companies I deal with (4 of them), to let me know what they are going to charge me. But since I am not making any money from this, and rarely in a month will the donations come close to paying one of the four hosting packages I have, it will possibly be very expensive in the future to put up a website.

But I cannot stand even 1 month of these charges ($20×40=$800) so I am preparing by removing websites. If they do charge per website (even per hosting account, that would be 4x$20= $80, I am hurting pretty bad.

Slow Websites mean Google Ignores you

Then comes Google. I noticed that my websites were not showing up in Google searches, and I tried to fix that. Number one problem is a slow website. I found a speed test, and sure enough, my websites were all very slow. Bad user experience and users won’t click on your website if it is slow. Got it. So too many plugins is a common problem, as well as slow plugins. So I loaded up my websites with antivirus plugins, and that wasn’t a good idea. So I have to see what each plugin does, do I really need it or do I want to risk doing without it? The solution? Find a faster plugin that does the same thing.

So again we play around with the website trying to make it work right (and run faster).

Google wants you to register every website with their webmaster tools program. I had to do that. They want their own code on the home page of every website in Webmaster Tools. Did that.

Use Adsense to Make money

While on Google I see that I can make “lots of money” using Google’s Adsense program. So I register for that, and that is a whole another problem for putting their ads on your website. When people click on the ads I get money, and when people view a page on my website, I also make money. It works out to make a few cents for every 1000 page views. But I have done that, and it really doesn’t make very much money (in my experience). I have what is called niche websites, that very few people want to see, so tough.

A secure Website gets noticed SSL

Along comes our friend Google again, and all websites need to be SSL, or secure. If they are not secure, then they won’t appear in Google results. So I have to secure my website changing it from a http: to a https:. $20/month per website. I have 40 websites with very, very few donations, usually $15 to $20 and only 1 or 2 of those every 6 months. I managed to resolve that after a really lot of work without it costing me so much.

Putting Content up on the Website

I didn’t mention yet the very matter of why I have a website. It is to present content to the world. According to Google, your website will work its way up to the top of their search results if you post something new every week. So at that point in time, I had 32 websites, so I needed to make a new page in each one every week, or 32 new pages per week. On some, that was easy. On other websites, it was difficult to impossible.

But now, I have 40 websites, and I should be posting something new on each one weekly. That is a lot of work, for example with a Bible program website, because I have to search the Internet for a book, then I format it into the format of the Bible program, and then make a web page. A lot of work. Just converting it from somewhere on the Internet into a file is a lot of work. Some of these books may have over a hundred pages.

Then there are the scrapers

These are copy cat websites that scrap all your material and have several people doing the same thing on different websites, so they always have more material than you. I have scrapers that actually email me if I make a post on a book and forget the download link or it doesn’t work. I was actually making almost enough money from Google Adsense to pay my monthly hosting fees until these people came along and copied about 6 of my most profitable websites, copying all of my material. My income dropped to about $5/month at that point.

Customer Service requests and protests

Then there are the users. Over the years, I have had all kinds of emails about my websites. A lot of people compliment me on a particular website that was helpful to them. But some write to just be mean and argue. These people are common also. Some I delete without answering, but on some, I need to refute what they are saying.

In the books by other people, I need to study the book to see if it is a serious flaw or what. Sometimes I let the book stay up, and others I delete it and the page it was on. Then somebody complains about where did the book go?

Some people use my website to ask me as a pastor for advice.

Spam

Spam is unwanted advertising or just talking about nothing really in your comments section of a web page. After dealing with it (deleting it), then you look into another plugin to block spam. In my email account, I can easily get a thousand emails in a day. I have got close to that on my websites. It is time-consuming and frustrating and tedious to delete all of that.

Conclusion: We are closing up shop

So in conclusion, I am closing up shop on these websites. Depending on how things work out, I will work to keep up my priority websites. Below are my priorities.

Tier one Priority Websites

Tier Two Priority Websites

Tier Three Priority Websites

Tier Four, Websites to absolutely be taken down

When you donate to me via Paypal, I will consider keeping the website up and continuing to work on it. Basically, a one-month donation doesn’t do it. I need to have several months in advance to keep it up at its domain renewal date. I will move the websites I get donations for up on the priority list. I make copies of a website before I take it down, and that is a couple of hours work, and then I take it down, and once I take one down, I am not considering putting it back up again. Once I pass the domain renewal which is an additional $15/year, I lose the domain, and it is just too much work for me to change everything to a new domain.

So I am going to try and keep the tier one and maybe the tier two websites. Most of the tier two websites are small. But all the rest are on the chopping block. If I do not pay down my Credit Card debit, which is where all the hosting and domain bills have been accumulating over the last 15 years, then I may even take down everything.

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