FAQ: Cheap Internet Connections

I'm often asked what if costs to put Bob's Rock Shop on the World Wide Web, so here's a little info on one way of doing something like this without going broke in the process. If you're using a major service provider like AOL or CompuServe for internet access and your monthly bills are much higher than you'd like, the following may interest you even if you don't have ambitions of doing your own W3 pages.

My personal access to the internet is through a 28.8 modem connection and a dial-up PPP account with a local service provider, RTD Systems and Networking, in Tucson, Arizona. My provider supplies a preconfigured suite of capable freeware and shareware apps for using the internet such as Trumpet Winsock, Eudora, Netscape Navigator, Trumpet Usenet Reader, etc., that makes the initial hook-up pretty painless for a newbie at doing configurations for such programs. My PPP account costs $20.00/month flat rate for up to 150 hours of internet access. If I go over 150 hours of modem connect time per month, additional hours are billed at $.25 each. A UNIX shell account is also included. If you're not sure what that's good for, don't worry about it.

Included in this standard package is 10 MB of file space on the server that I can use for various purposes, one of which is serving web pages. This is where the Shop began, as http://www.rtd.com/~bkeller/rockshop/rockshop.html. That first 10 MB seemed like infinite web space in the beginning. However, it was just a matter of several months before I asked for more, and I was allowed to increase my allotment at the rate of a buck a megabyte, one time charge.

The going rate for a connection like this may vary somewhat from my neck of the net to yours, but with large number of local, regional and national providers around these days, there's no doubt things have become very competitive for them. My monthly charges for my PPP account have actually decreased several times in the last several years as RTD adjusted its rates to stay competitive.

If you don't start adding up other "optional" expenses like phone service, power bills, computer upgrades, video equipment, frame grabbers, software, topical magazines and books, et. al., it's really a pretty cheap hobby! Even when you factor in fair shares of these "optional" expenses, on a per hour basis of "entertainment" it works out to pretty low scale on the dollar meter. This is a roundabout way of telling you that if you want to do your own W3 site(s), you had better be prepared to spend what can turn into very significant amounts of time.

The functional basics of creating web pages are not hard to learn and the computer skills required are possessed by the average computer user. If you'd like more information on what's involved in creating web pages, Netscape Communications provides a nice set of topical links on their page How to Create Web Services.

If you aspire to do business from your website as a commercial entity, I'm afraid that at least around this neck of the net, you can expect to incur significantly higher costs than those which I've just discussed, which pertain to "hobby" or "personal" accounts, which typically do not provide support for running CGI scripts, use of interNIC registered domains like rockhounds.com, SSL (secure sockets layer) support for encrypting sensitive information like credit card numbers, detailed site access reports and logs, and all the other bells and whistles that typically embellish commercial sites.

Queries on my part to various "commercial" providers have produced responses of highly variable costs associated with significantly varying services. If you are wanting or willing to provide your own HTML/CGI and basically just want to lease space on a server, you might want to look around for a deal on something like Internet Direct's Go-Sites.

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bkeller@rockhounds.com 9/19/96