In working out how much it will cost to operate a web site there are a number of factors to take into account. Some aspects of running a web site are far more expensive than others. Also there is the option of doing some parts of it yourself rather than paying others to do it for you. Where that applies you need to take your time into account in determining the true cost.
In discussing the cost of the various aspects to running a web site I am going to quote some figures. These are not meant to represent any particular currency but are simply the easiest way I can explain the relative costs of the different aspects. The amounts quoted are only relevant as compared to the other amounts quoted and the exact exchange rate into your real currency will depend both on what currency you use and when you are reading this.
The cost of having a web site basically breaks up into two parts - the cost of setting it up in the first place and the ongoing cost of keeping it live on the web. It is really difficult to put any sort of price on the first of these even as a figure relative to the other prices since it will depend on a number of factors such as whether you design and build it completely from scratch or whether you use pre-written templates and scripts. The number of pages and what those pages need to contain will also be a factor.
Now building the web site is one of those areas where you can either pay someone to do it for you or, if you have sufficient knowledge, can build it yourself. If you do it yourself then the cost of your doing so can be considered to be one of - what it would have cost to have someone else do it for you, what you could have charged if developing it for someone else, or what you would have been paid had you spent that time doing paid work instead.
The setup cost is usually a fairly substantial fee and can run to the equivalent of several years worth of maintenance costs for all but the simplest of web sites. It is however a one off charge and so in working out the cost of running the web site over time you'd need to determine how many years you expect the site to exist for and apportion that cost across that entire period.
Some of the ongoing running costs are often overlooked. Apart from the obvious costs of the domain name and hosting there is the cost of maintaining the site content. In fact maintaining the content is the most important of these since if your site never changes it is as good as dead.
It is in fact the cost of maintaining the site that will be the highest part of your ongoing costs of running the site. Even a simple web site will require a certain amount of work done on it each month (say an hour's worth at least). So the minimum monthly maintenance fee would be say $40 and may be as high $10,000 or even more for a large complex site. This is therefore the most expensive part of running a web site.
The next aspect to running a web site is the cost of the hosting. This can run to anything between say $5 a month and $500 a month depending on what sort of hosting you use and how you pay for it. The "free" hosting generally runs toward the more expensive end of this price range because what you give to the hosting provider in return for the "free" hosting is generally worth around $400 or so.
The cheapest part of the ongoing cost is the domain registration. Depending on what top level domain you want and whether you buy from a cheap or expensive provider this will probably cost somewhere between $0.50 and $10 per month.
When you consider these relative costs it isn't all that surprising tat big companies don't worry about the fact that they are paying $10 per month for their domain when they could be paying $1 instead since the difference is insignificant when you look at their total $10,510 running cost which could be reduced to $10,501 if they made that change.
What is rather surprising though are all the individuals who decide that $440.50 per month (minimal updates + "free" hosting + cheapest possible domain) is a better deal than $46 per month (minimal updates + shared hosting + reasonably cheap but not cheapest domain). O)f course the biggest factor in their making this mistake is in not determining the true cost of the "free" hosting. So let's say that they do manage to take that into account properly and end up with their site only costing $45.50 per month which is just about as cheap as it gets. The saving on the domain name by shopping around for the cheapest deal (assuming we ignore the cost of the time spent to find the cheapest deal) is about 1% of the cost of the site at most. For anything except the simplest of sites the saving will be a percentage so small that it is effectively zero (and if you take the cost of finding the cheapest deal into account it may take decades for you to recover the cost of that time in the reduction in the price of the domain). Despite this the most common query I see regarding people looking to save on their site running costs is where to find the cheapest domain registration.
This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.