What does it cost to run Travelfish?

Start a website! It’s free!


I came across a post a week or so ago that detailed what it cost an “online company” to remain online. I found it to be astoundingly high, but it did make me wonder just how much it costs us to keep the hamster-wheel at Travelfish spinning. How much do all those $5 monthly charges add up to in the end?

Here’s what I put together. Obviously, the tech side is a small portion of our expenses — the vast bulk of our earnings goes to our writers — but I’ve kept it technology focused. I also haven’t included Upwork costs, which are related to when I occasionally use a contractor to assist with a server management task or programming/inputting drudgework.

As a couple of the charges are traffic based (Mapbox, Amazon S3) and as our traffic is somewhat seasonal, there is a little bit of variance month to month. I’ve also included services that are free for the level of use we use them at, but which have paying tiers.

Lastly, I’ve included a brief on each after the list, explaining why we use each item and if whether I’d recommend them.

Essential to keep the site up
Server hosting with Server Beach (now Cogeco Peer) $274 per month
Amazon S3 $160 per month
Mapbox $215 per month
Google site search $750 (annual) 150k queries, lasts almost a year
SSL Cert $99 annual

Chartbeat $9.95 per month
Google Analytics Free
Google Webmaster Tools Free

Security & making my life easier
Sucuri $89.99 annual
Akismet $50 per month
Bugsnag Free
Mailchimp $30 per month
Dropbox Pro $100 per year

Aweber $149 per month

Moz $99 per month

Payment processing

Productivity/management etc
Asana Free
Toggl Free

Pinboard $11 annual

Prefer all the above in a chart? Here you go.

Cheque please!

A few more thoughts

Server hosting
We signed up for a dedicated server with ServerBeach years ago and have been through probably a half dozen servers with them over the years. No complaints. Very proactive support with a decent turn around on support queries and hardware failures. Have had one significant stretch of downtime in the last decade.

Amazon S3
We use S3 for image hosting and other storage needs and desires. There is a significant performance uptick in doing this rather than hosting the images locally. Would recommend it for any website with a lot of images.

We use Mapbox throughout the site and in the PDF travel guides. Very comprehensive documentation for their API and we’re a big fan — though the costs do add up. A free alternative is Google Maps, but we vastly prefer Mapbox.

Google Sitesearch
Having a 40,000-page website means you’ll be needing a search tool. We pay Google in order to be able to use their search tool free of ads. We buy it in chunks of 150,000 search queries, which lasts us almost a year, give or take.

SSL Cert
Essential if you’re running a https:// site. There are cheaper means to this and we’ll probably stop using Comodo next year.

Site analytics with a social tilt and with a site uptime side service. We were put onto Chartbeat by a friend at a newspaper who gets a lot of social traffic. As social isn’t a large traffic source for us, this isn’t so much fun and I keep meaning to cancel it. Maybe this month. If you do have a significant amount of social traffic, Chartbeat is worth a look.

Google Analytics
Essential if you want to keep on top of what is happening on your website.

Google Webmaster Tools
An imperfect tool for keeping an eye on the overall health of a site from Google’s perspective.

This is a WordPress monitoring service which we use for the sole remaining WordPress install on the site. If you use WordPress, this is well worth considering.

While you can use a single Akismet API key for free, we upgraded when we were using a bunch of WordPress installs. Now they’re all gone I could probably reduce this to the one-off fee ($5 per month from memory) as we still use the API for spam control on the forum, but Akismet is a great product and we’re happy to keep supporting its efforts to keep comment spam under control.

Handy tool for monitoring the site for PHP and other coding errors. Free for up to 250 errors a day.

We use these guys for transactional email delivery (password resets etc). Every month when I get the invoice my teeth grate as we previously used their associated service (Mandrill) but then it got rolled into Mailchimp and you were forced to pay another $10 for a mailing list you don’t want. Penny pinching or what? We went to switch to another company but they refused service because we are in Indonesia – never ceases to amaze me when companies thumb their noses at a country home to the fourth largest population on the planet.

We use Dropbox Pro (not business) for image management between us and the writers and while we pay for their licenses too, we’re just listing the one account for the purposes of this piece. Avoid their enterprise product.

You do get our newsletter right? Aweber isn’t free and it isn’t perfect, but it works. We have more than 10,000 subscribers and the inertia involved in moving to another service (which would never, ever be Mailchimp – see above) keeps us here.

I want to love Moz but I don’t and having been with them for a year will cancel this month. The product is good, especially the initial period when you first sign up and the site audit was very useful for fixing glaring errors, but as time goes on, at least in our case, we’ve logged in less and less. We don’t take a particularly competitive SEO position — we follow the rules and concentrate on content — so some of this was definitely a bit of information overload for us.

If you’re into SEO and particularly if you want to get into competitor analysis, then this is worth the money, but if you essentially just want to check you’re not doing anything especially stupid, then perhaps use it for a month or two then cancel, or pass on it and just follow the founder on Twitter, as he links out to a lot of very interesting stuff and his “Whiteboard Fridays” are reliably interesting.

We use this for payment processing for Travelfish premium members and for travel planning consultancy. Stripe is awesome and better than Paypal in pretty much every single way imaginable. Their fee base is percentage based per transaction.

I wrote about Asana when we first started using it way back when here. The more they added features the less I used it, to the point now where I don’t understand what is going on anymore. Sometimes simplicity is an asset. We don’t use it anymore.

This is a personal time manager which I can sync from laptop to phone. I love it. Very simple to use. If you want to get on top of what you spend time on, in a very simple format, this is great.

What we don’t use and what we do instead
Any kind of social networking management accounts (Hootsuite etc etc etc and etc). We do it old school — though I am taking a break from all of them for now.

We don’t use Slack for team collaboration and communication (I find Slack infernally confusing and counter-intuitive to use), instead using a private Facebook group and email and Skype.

No accounting or budgeting software. Instead budgets, GST, accounting, payments etc are all in a single excel sheet which we send to the accountant annually.

Oh, I almost forgot Pinboard
I signed up for Pinboard solely because the guy who runs it is one of the funniest tech people I follow on Twitter!