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on the costs of things

So Ashe Dryden got me off yesterday talking about SSL and internet security, after she tweeted the news that google would start using HTTPS in its rankings, such that sites using HTTPS would rank higher than those without. I noted that part of my fundraising efforts for Biyuti Publishing was to pay for an SSL certificate and @neonacho asked what was wrong with StartSSL’s free certificates. My reply was “The technical know how to properly install them…” and I followed with a comment that cost is rarely just about dollars and cents.

Even the most basic intro to economics tells us that ‘cost’ is almost never just about the price of a commodity. Something like encryption on the internet (or off of it, for that matter) isn’t cheap in terms of education, technical knowledge, and skills. I very much did try and see if I could use and implement one of StartSSL’s certificates. I couldn’t get it to work properly. And now I’m pretty sure I can’t access my account anymore. Most of their docs were geared towards nginx, something I’m still trying to learn how to use properly since I very much would love to stop using apache. I even was trying it with a digital ocean droplet, since they also have great docs for how to install a StartSSL certificate. Still couldn’t make it work. And something like SSL certificates definitely do not ‘work’ if you fail to install/implement them properly.

So, since Biyuti Publishing definitely wanted to be able to start using the Stripe payment gateway (which def. needs HTTPS), we opted to simply buy a certificate via the host, since they would also take care of installation. This, in turn, required paying for a hosting upgrade because SSL certificates require a static IP address. Suddenly… hosting costs increased by something like an extra $100-$150/year. This may not seem like a lot… but it is a non-trivial cost for a small business that isn’t structured to bring in a great deal of revenue1.