My website's decisions

My website hosting is particular - I basically forward a domain to a free Google site. I'll explain why I've chosen to do this.

These were my "business requirements"

  1. I wanted it to be which was available
  2. As far as the webpage, all I need is to display text and be able to link to other places on the internet
  3. Cheap - as cheap as possible
  4. HTTPS much preferred - real green padlock please
  5. Private WHOIS for the domain registration is a must
  6. Minimal maintenance
  7. Keep IT security in mind, especially if a solution is known to be risky
  8. HTML level access is a plus, but I can work with a GUI too for my needs
I have to say I could have gotten or but I really like the ctrl+enter shortcut when going to a site :D

My first site was done, after some research, through 1and1. The most important thing was that it was the cheapest private domain registration - I think it was $1 the first year, $15 after.  I wasn't fond of the domain and website control panel, but it wasn't terrible either. It met criteria 1, 2, 3, 5, 6. I didn't get HTTPS (not included in the really cheap package) and I can't speak to the IT-SEC decisions, policies or how often 1and1 patches their web servers. Since my page is just text and links and they are a reasonably sized company I wasn't too worried they could hack my payment information without it being a bigger deal to them and their image.

That current deal only let me do 5 pages though, and I hit that limit easily. Also, mobile-optimization was an extra - my website looked like crap on a phone. So, I needed to review and add two new business requirements

9. I don't want limits (space, bandwidth, pages, etc) to be a thing that limits my simple page, no matter how cheap it is.
10. I want mobile optimization so my page looks good on phones or tablets.

I soon started looking for another option. There are many, many, good and cheap hosts, but most of them suffer from one or another problem. If I had just wanted a blog, it would have been easier, but I wanted my website in a particular way. I also didn't want "cheap now, I'll stick it to you later" deals.

The first thing I did was move my domain to (then new) google domains (still in beta as I write this). This allowed me to renew the domain, with private registration, for $12 a year. I am not fond of the transfer process, which effectively turns off the private registration for a while, but it is what it is. I liked the interface, the price for private registration was fair and one less login I have to remember.

While that happened, I still hadn't made a decision on where I would move the actual website. I took a backup and started looking around.

I had created a website a long time ago in . I remembered it was free, but I couldn't remember much else. I started checking what I could do and was surprised. Here's how it answered my requirements:

  1. My domain can re-direct to the Google Sites page (it doesn't replace it, it's just an alias)
  2. I can display my text (I honestly use only one template, but I was able to control palette and layout to my liking)
  3. What's cheaper than free (well, my data in exchange), but they had lots of that already
  4. Would you look at that. HTTPS included - didn't have to do it for, Google includes it for all sites in
  5. Got my private registration yay
  6. Minimal maintenance - doing changes is quite easy too
  7. Google is a pioneer in web related IT-SEC, and i'm running on their platform
  8. No HTML access, but the GUI is workable enough for what I need. There is however a HTML box which I will explore more.
  9. The only limit I know is 100MB per site. Of which I have reportedly used 0MB.
  10. Mobile optimization included - looks good!
I'm sure there's other providers where I could also do this - but none is Google. Google may be the only company on the internet which doesn't give me shivers down my spine. It always comes down to trust. I trust Google to do the right thing (and really believe in their do no evil motto). I extensively use Gmail, Domains, Blogger, Plus, Google Pay, Android - I'm practically married to them. I would work for them in a heartbeat (they have a real nice office in NYC too!).

This is a good enough setup right now. However, I'm already looking at the future. What if it turns out Google has betrayed my trust? Right now, I'm not learning anything, and I believe that you always need to be learning.

So far this is what I envision my website will become:

  • Running on OpenBSD and its HTTPD, which are regarded as the most secure things you can run for a server, and require very little hardware-wise
  • Could be one or two servers - plan to run PF as firewall, NSD/Unbound as DNS, have syslogging as well.
  • Using Cloudfare's Universal SSL (user facing) and LetsEncrypt to Cloudflare, or only LetsEncrypt
  • Keeping the HTML in Github (there's an option to front with Jekyll too)
  • I will host it in a cloud service. I once tried Digital Ocean and was amazed at how easy and slick it was. However OpenBSD is not officially supported, although I've seen things like this
Things I don't like
  • No draft mode. You save, it's live!
  • Not many options in the layout
  • Blogger has more and better widgets (I wish I could display my Adsense visit counter)
I'll keep a log as I continue on this journey of trying to find the cheapest way to run the website that I want.