User Tools

Site Tools


partnerships:articles:costs

Differences

This shows you the differences between two versions of the page.

Link to this comparison view

partnerships:articles:costs [2017/06/12 10:20] (current)
Line 1: Line 1:
 +What does it cost to get on-line?
 +=================================
 +
 +\
 + by [Mark Walker](mailto:​coreteam@pact.org.uk%28Mark%20Walker%29)
 +coreteam@pact.org.uk\
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +##### [Home](../​index) | [Community](../​community/​index) | [Internet](http://​www.partnerships.org.uk/​internet/​index) | [Communities Online](../​comline/​index) | [Join in](../​joinin/​index) | [Index](../​sitel)\
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +\
 +
 +Mark Walker, Communications Officer for PACT Community Projects in
 +Sussex, investigated the costs of getting online for his organisation.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +**[What does it all
 +cost?​](costsl#​anchor2553771)**\
 +\
 + a) [Initial costs](costsl#​anchor2553771)
 +
 +-   **A computer**
 +-   **A telephone line**
 +-   **An Internet account**
 +-   **A modem**
 +-   **At least one person interested in the Internet!**
 +-   ​**Software**
 +-   ​[Summary of initial costs](costsl#​anchor2558699)
 +
 +[b) On-going costs](costsl#​anchor911743)
 +
 +-   ​**Staff training**
 +-   ​**Staff time**
 +-   ​**Telephone charges**
 +-   ​**Internet account**
 +-   ​[Summary of on-going costs](costsl#​anchor2574486)
 +
 +[c) Conclusion](costsl#​anchor1077527)\
 +\
 +\
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +What does it all cost?
 +======================
 +
 +
 +Every charity, whether small, medium or large, has a variety of demands
 +on its resources. We don't have large sums of money to invest in new
 +ideas, but we can look at ways of building our expertise in a
 +progressive and affordable way. Developing the use of Internet is no
 +different - it requires a planned approach, with realistic goals and
 +regular review.\
 +\
 + When looking at the potential benefits, therefore - which are outlined
 +elsewhere in this book - there are a number of costs to consider:
 +
 +
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +Initial costs
 +=============
 +
 +i) At least a 386 computer or equivalent - generally Macintosh or PC
 +--------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +Other systems can be made to work but you have to face the fact that the
 +average user wants the fastest access, on the fastest machine, with the
 +best graphics. Slower machines can be used for e-mail and other
 +text-based applications,​ perhaps freeing up a faster machine for other
 +users. But even the most committed net-head is going to lose interest
 +waiting for the graphics to download from a web page, and new users are
 +more likely to be turned off by time spent staring at an empty screen.\
 +\
 +\
 + If you have a computer which doesn'​t seem to be up to the job it may be
 +cheaper to upgrade: most computer shops will advise you on this. If not,
 +a second hand 486 machine will start at about £500 - it's worth finding
 +friendly techies (who speaks English) to check out what you're getting
 +and how easy it would be to upgrade in the future.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +ii) A telephone line
 +--------------------
 +
 +
 +The Internet doesn'​t necessarily need a dedicated line. Many people use
 +it from home without the need for an extra line (TOP TIP: BT's Call
 +Minder will take messages when the line is engaged and costs just £5 per
 +quarter) whilst in the office sharing the fax line is usually adequate.\
 +\
 + The need for an extra line increases with the amount of time being
 +spent connected to the Net, and the number of people using the
 +connection. It can be relatively expensive to install a new line (as
 +much as £90) so it's worth trying other options first. Don't forget to
 +budget for extra wires and new plugs!
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +iii) An Internet account
 +------------------------
 +
 +
 +You need to be connected to the superhighway - and there are very few
 +toll-free routes! There is no definitive answer to the '​best'​ or
 +'​cheapest'​ provider - you have to do a bit of research - or just take a
 +chance and plunge in. The worst it can do is cost you more than you can
 +afford - it should be easy to leave a provider and switch to another. If
 +it isn't you're probably being ripped off!\
 +\
 + A good provider provides high quality service to its customers -
 +including:
 +
 +
 +-   ​plenty of lines so they'​re never engaged;
 +-   ​friendly,​ knowledgeable technical staff who can be reached when you
 +    need them;
 +-   an easily understood charging system;
 +-   ​additional resources, especially software, as part of their basic
 +    package.
 +
 +
 +So the cheapest option may not be the best, especially as there can be a
 +steep learning curve if you're unfamiliar with the technology. It took
 +me seven weeks to realise that our phone system didn't support modems -
 +the Internet Service Provider was very helpful and even came in to the
 +office to try to work what was wrong.\
 +\
 + ​Almost every Internet magazine - of which there are now a lot -
 +provides basic information for beginners, as well as up-to-date listings
 +of Providers. They are also a good source of free software, especially
 +if you have a CD-Rom.\
 +\
 + A sensible budget would be around £100 - £150 per year. Some providers
 +charge a low flat rate for a certain number of hours each month, and
 +then add on an hourly rate for your use over and above this. Others
 +simply charge a flat fee for unlimited access.\
 + Some providers also charge an initial fee for signing up with them -
 +ostensibly to pay for their administration in creating you an account
 +and the software they give you. This can be anything from £10 - £30. It
 +may be worth haggling over this, especially if you are a charity.\
 +\
 + There are cheaper rates available for charities and community groups,
 +but they'​re often related to providing free disk space to store your web
 +pages, or they'​re special introductory offers. It would seem that for
 +the foreseeable future we're all going to have to pay for our access, so
 +it's sensible to budget for it. Shop around for a service which suits
 +you and ask for recommendations from people you know.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +iv) A modem
 +-----------
 +
 +
 +A modem is the translator between your computer and your connection to
 +the Internet. There are different speeds of modem, which relates to how
 +quickly it can send and receive information,​ and therefore how quickly
 +you can perform certain tasks. The speed is measured in Bits Per Second
 +(bps). At this point my technical knowledge fails me, except to say that
 +a 28,800 bps modem is probably twice as fast as a 14,400 bps modem
 +(surprise surprise) and that, touch wood, you are probably never going
 +to need to know anything else about modems!\
 +\
 + Costs vary with speed and whether or not the modem is internal (ie
 +fitted inside your computer) or external (generally more expensive).
 +Costs also vary dramatically with time as new speeds are introduced, so
 +it can be well worth shopping around in Internet and computer
 +magazines.\
 +\
 + The general rule is to decide how much you can afford - £100 - £200
 +would not be far off - and get the fastest possible modem for your
 +money. Some look nicer than others, including more flashing lights/​fewer
 +flashing lights, and some have software built in which compresses the
 +information before it sends it, which makes them slightly quicker. It's
 +up to you how much you go into these sorts of things.\
 +\
 +\
 + In terms of running costs, the faster your modem, the smaller your
 +phone bill (in theory) because the information comes down the line more
 +quickly. In reality I suspect that you won't spend less time on the
 +Internet - you'll just see more while you're there!\
 +\
 + A 14.400 bps modem is considered a good starting point, but 28,800 bps
 +now only costs around £100 and speeds are now being claimed of 57,600
 +bps. This is actually faster than most telephone lines can handle - but
 +if you can afford it you're protecting yourself for the future.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +v) At least one person interested in the Internet!
 +--------------------------------------------------
 +
 +
 +It won't just magically appear, it will break down and it does take a
 +while to get the hang of. Even a small organisation will have to plan
 +it's development and work out who's going to lead it. This person will
 +have to be a champion of the cause, so will need some knowledge before
 +they start.\
 +\
 + Local groups, such the Sussex Community Internet Project which I belong
 +to, are starting to spring up and offer a place to go to ask for advice
 +and help. Finding someone else who is on line is a very definite
 +advantage, especially if they don't mind you phoning them up with odd
 +questions.\
 +\
 +\
 + The person'​s time is the main cost, and will be heavily weighted
 +towards the early weeks and months. (TOP TIP: When budgeting remember to
 +point out that you if you aren't already then you are about to become
 +worth your weight in gold!)
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +vi\) Software
 +
 +Perhaps the smallest cost will be software. Internet software is usually
 +provided free with your account, your modem, a magazine and in your
 +breakfast cereal (probably). There is lots of it around but you will
 +soon decide whether to constantly upgrade and search for better
 +software, or get on with what you've got.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +vii) Summary of initial costs
 +-----------------------------
 +
 +You could spend:
 +
 +-   £ 2,000 on a new, fast computer, with CD-Rom, colour printer and
 +    57.600 bps modem included
 +-   £ 100 on a new telephone line
 +-   £ 30 to set up an Internet account, (plus a further £200 on
 +    registering your '​Domain Name' so that your e-mail address is me@my
 +    company.co.uk,​ instead of me@my Internet provider. co.uk)
 +-   £ 100 on books such as '​Everything you need to know about the
 +    Internet'​
 +-   £ 300 on advertising a new position of Internet Officer
 +
 +Or you could spend
 +
 +-   £ 200 upgrading your computer a 486/pentium equivalent
 +-   £ 120 on a 28,800 bps modem
 +-   £ 3 on a double adaptor for your phone socket
 +-   £ 10 on "The Rough Guide to the Internet'​ and the latest issues of a
 +    couple of magazines
 +
 +Or,\
 +\
 + you could arrange to use a friend'​s computer and come to some
 +appropriate arrangement.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +On-going costs
 +--------------
 +
 +Your initial costs may be relatively easy to meeting through
 +fundraising,​ but what other costs should you budget for?
 +
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +i) Training for staff
 +---------------------
 +
 +Some national charitable bodies offer introductory courses tailored to
 +specific needs, or conventional commercial courses will help with
 +general skills. Local colleges, adult education providers and resource
 +centres may offer cheaper options.\
 + ​Training will need to include both basic skills for regular users and
 +specific skills for the person leading the work, especially if they have
 +only limited technical skills in the first place.\
 +\
 +\
 + The biggest hurdle is finding time for staff to build this work into
 +their schedules. We have tried to include this in training time, but
 +rely upon their enthusiasm to really get going on it. As with so many
 +other technology-based initiatives the best way to learn about the
 +Internet is to be given access to it, the support to make it work when
 +it breaks down AND the time to '​play'​ with it and see what it can do.
 +
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +ii) A person to manage the work - possibly an existing IT support worker
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +Adopting the Internet can (and probably will) start with someone doing
 +it in their own time, or squeezing it into their work on the back of
 +something else. To be taken seriously, and implemented appropriately,​
 +requires long term commitment, however, so it is worth looking at how
 +you think it will be used and how much time might be needed. An hour a
 +day to collect and send e-mail is a good start - with several hours a
 +week on top to build and maintain a web site and help other people.
 +
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +iii) Telephone calls
 +--------------------
 +
 +You should be calling a local number: if you're not you've signed up
 +with the wrong company.\
 + ​Telephone calls are still the major unknown in budgeting for the
 +Internet. They relate directly to the amount of time you spend on-line,
 +so you need to make an educated guess about the amount of usage you're
 +going to have. Tight controls can keep it down to a five minute calls
 +every day to exchange e-mail, with a couple of hours a week surfing the
 +web. During office hours this could cost £10 - 20 a month.\
 +\
 + ​Heavier usage, including several people checking mail and surfing will
 +push this up more or less incrementally.\
 +\
 +\
 + It is always safest to over estimate, especially at the beginning when
 +people will spend a lot of time funding their way around and looking for
 +sites of interest. A safe bet is therefore probably £30 - 40 per month.
 +If you can't afford that you need to look at ways of controlling who has
 +access when, including accessing off-peak.\
 +\
 + Free calls would clearly be a bonus in terms of costs, and some cable
 +companies offer this, although usually in return for a flat monthly fee
 +and only for off-peak calls. Their local call rates may generally be
 +lower than BT, however.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +iv) Internet account subscription
 +---------------------------------
 +
 +Typical flat rate is £10 -15 per month, which is usually cheaper if paid
 +a year in advance.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +v) Summary of on-going costs:
 +
 +\
 + You could spend:
 +
 +-   £ 50 a month on additional telephone charges - this would cover a
 +    couple of people on-line for a few hours a week.
 +-   £ 17 a month for an Internet account
 +-   £ 1000 a year on a staff training programme
 +-   £ 20,000 a year on an Internet Officer (my e-mail address is below!)
 +
 +Or, you could spend
 +
 +-   £ 10 a month on additional telephone bills
 +-   £ 10 a month on your account
 +-   £ 150 on staff training, including '​Internet for Idiots'​
 +-   £ 20 on a subscription to an Internet magazine of your choice to
 +    keep up with what's going on.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +c) Conclusion
 +=============
 +
 +Adopting the Internet requires an organisation to consider a variety of
 +costs, and to assess the potential benefits against these costs. As a
 +bottom line, if you already have a computer the minimum cost of setting
 +up is about £200, with on-going costs of around £250 - 300 per annum.
 +You will also need to consider where the time comes from to support the
 +work - whether paid or unpaid - and training needs of other staff. This
 +lump sum should insure you against additional costs for at least a
 +couple of years - allowing for upgrades of computers which you might
 +budget for anyway.\
 +\
 + Not everyone can afford it, but a larger organisation could consider
 +going the more expensive route and could look at initial costs of around
 +£2,500, and on-going costs in the order of £ 25,000 - 30,000 per annum.\
 +\
 +\
 + This is, by necessity, a limited view of what is a rapidly changing
 +situation. Until telephone calls are free, however, and Internet
 +accounts supplied free with your cable TV subscription,​ you will need to
 +budget for extra monthly costs. This money could be found by savings in
 +phone calls, postage and free information currently paid for, or raised
 +as a lump sum as a fund-raising task.\
 +\
 + The decision about whether to invest in the Internet can only ba
 +answered by examining your own circumstances. It can be a cost-effective
 +means of communication,​ promotion and fund-raising,​ amongst other
 +things, and it can enable people to share information and ideas. The
 +costs can be, however, so be prepared to approach it pragmatically.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +-   [What use is the Internet?​](pactl)
 +-   [Back to the Guide to Community Internet](../​pubs/​guide)
 +
  
partnerships/articles/costs.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)