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Improving Our Web Services


(
At our last meeting I agreed to make a proposal for relocating our email and website system.  This is it so far...)


Summary of Proposals
  1. Relocate email and site hosting services to Google Apps .......... free
  2. Accept a limit of 10 email accounts associated with domain name.
  3. Register domain name www.bicycletasmania.org.au  ...............$30
  4. Find a team of 3 volunteers to work on it. (I can be one)
  5. Do it all forthwith.


and for those who like details ... (you know who you are)

What's the problem?
  1. Our web and email host doesn't want us any more .. it's nothing personal.
  2. The new web site is redirected to a personal google account which will start to run out of space in the next few months,
  3. Administration of the the current system is quite complicated. 
What do we want?
    1. A professional web and email hosting service for the long term,
    2. Low cost or free,
    3. A simple system to administer that can be shared between a volunteer team,
    4. Possibility of extending our site to include commercial transactions, event management, chat, social networking etc. without needing to be a technical guru.
What are the options?

There are many more web and email hosting companies than mobile phone companies ... their options and pricings are even more complicated.

Here's a list of a few with the monthly cost of their basic package with at least 10 email addresses,

Australian
http://www.ausweb.com.au                     $9.95                         
http://www.crucial.com.au                   $11.95
http://www.digitalpacific.com.au             $9.90

International
http://www.bluehost.com                     $5.95            
http://www.justhost.com                     $2.95
http://www.google.com/apps                   Free (really)


Each of the packages are slightly different but for budgeting purposes we could assume a cost of up to $15 per month. Also it seems that the hosting industry is converging on a set of basic capabilities for personal and small business needs. So ...

How to Select a Suitable Web Host?

  First, decide on what we need and would like,
  • Our minimum requirements
                   What do we want?           What do we have now?
    • 10 GB server space                3.5  GB
    • 10 email accounts                   10 
    • 10 GB web traffic                    8 GB
    • 10 GB email traffic                  ?
    • 24/7 Customer support            ?
    • Webmail                                 ?
    • Regular backup protocol
    • Virus and spam protection
All of the above providers can achieve these specs within our budget of say $15/month.

  • What features will save time for BT?
    • Site building software
    • email auto forwarding and auto responders
    • email lists
    • File storage via FTP
    • SQL databases
    • Support for Wordpress
    • Website and email analytics

Again, I'm reasonably sure that all of the above providers can provide these functions.

(There are a number of websites which offer reviews and ratings of web hosts but they seem to be affiliated in some way with the companies they are rating i.e. not objective .... shame on them!)

 With no strong reason for deciding between the providers my inclination is to go for the FREE service from Google? 

What is Google Apps?

Google Apps is a service from Google providing independently customizable versions of several Google products under a custom domain name. It features several Web applications with similar functionality to traditional office suites, including: Gmail, Google Groups, Google Calendar, Talk, Docs and Sites.

What are the key Specifications for the FREE Service?

Exact specifications are difficult to find. Different numbers are quoted on different sites. BUT the service is based on GMail which is a reliable service with a storage limit of >7GB per user and Google Sites which is used to host the Bicycle Tasmania Site satisfactorily now. (Google Sites max. 10GB)

The one definite limit is 10 user accounts, i.e. a maximum of 10 email accounts. 
The next step up to a paid service costs $5\user\month ... so for 11 users $55\month or $660 a year ... too much I think.

How critical is the 10 user account limit?

Jeff says 10 email accounts is going to be sufficient for a long time. We can always use individuals' addresses for the less publicly visible positions. I agree but I think we should check at our next committee meeting.

Any Other Issues?

Yes.

We need to establish the new service whilst continuing with our current arrangements. That means we need to use our domain name www.biketas.org.au in two different places at the same time ... not possible ... it's like building a house on top of the one you're living in. So we need a temporary domain name OR we could take this opportunity to fix an anomaly...

Our Name is Bicycle Tasmania but our URL uses biketas

we could register the name  www.bicycletasmania.org.au (it's available) and use it to set up the new system and then run it in parallel with www.biketas.org.au into the future.

At some stage in the future we could drop one or the other depending on how we want to represent ourselves to the world.

The cost of this would be $30 for two years.

(In any case I think we should do this if only to prevent someone else from using this name and confusing the world.)

Any Risks? (worth speaking about)

1. Service Continuity
Google at any stage can refuse service or change the service conditions. Whilst this is very unlikely there has been cases were there have been misunderstandings between Google and users resulting in service refusal.

What should we do: make regular offline backups and be prepared to relocate if necessary.

2. Managing the Service
The person managing the accounts could fall ill, disappear or not have enough time so the system would gradually lose its capability ... it can't depend on only one person.

What should we do: We need three volunteers to maintain an involvement in the site.

(Administering the Google sites and accounts takes time and some knowledge ... but it's getting easier ... I knew nothing about this 3 months ago! Also it's a good opportunity for someone who wants to learn.)



Summary of Proposals
  1. Relocate email and site hosting services to Google Apps .......... free
  2. Accept a limit of 10 email accounts associated with domain name.
  3. Register domain name www.bicycletasmania.org.au  ...............$30
  4. Find a team of 3 volunteers to work on it. (I can be one)
  5. Do it all forthwith.
Austin 
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