CheapAugust 9, 2005
The first element of COFFEE development is Cheap. In many environments, cheap is frowned upon, but we wear it like a badge of honor. As a church, we measure every expenditure against the highest possible standard. Whereas any sane person would work hard to see their budget increase, I am thrilled when less money has to be dedicated to the web ministry. That means that critical dollars are freed up to meet other needs in the church.
Our switch to open source has had a dramatic effect on our cost of development. Despite Microsoft's generous charity pricing, free still makes a substantial difference. We previously paid for licenses for MSDN, Windows Server, SQL Server, and Visual Studio. We now use Google, Linux, PostgreSQL, and various text editors and free PHP development environments. Total cost: $0. And our speed of development has actually increased.
We recently slashed our streaming expenses in half by moving to a new provider, VitalStream, and are seriously considering reducing that another 50% by hosting it ourselves.
Many times, you simply pay money to outsource knowledge or time that you don't have. For two years, we have outsourced our web stats to a hosted service. The move to AW Stats is saving us thousands of dollars a year.
Knowledge is truly the greatest weapon against unnecessary spending. You have to know which pieces are critical and which ones aren't. This is where our new developer, Brad, has had a dramatic impact. His extensive knowledge of hardware, networking, and hosting has allowed us to host our first two sites on excellent, over-powered hardware in a quality Co-Lo facility for 25% of our projected expense.
We didn't achieve this by being cheap across the board (we invested in outstanding drives for the database server, for instance), but by being strategically cheap. As an example, we bought Dell servers, taking advantage of a free Xeon processor offer, but purchased the memory and hard-drives elsewhere and installed them ourselves. Also, our hosting facility is just a local, medium-sized, high-quality provider. They are located in a non-descript building in an industrial area and have a relatively small staff. But they are great a what they do, provide excellent, personal service, and have saved us hundreds of dollars a month.
I would much rather invest resources in first-class staff. Hire the right people with the right skills, and they will allow you to accomplish more than you could imagine, for less.