I can’t afford to host Balagan.Info any more

If you didn’t know, I use WordPress for my blog. Previously I used a super cheap but really quite awful hosting company. Then I move to WP Engine, who are brilliant but expensive. But now I think I have to move hosting companies because the already expensive prices are going up by three times. So I’m looking for advice. Desperately looking for advice. How could I monetise my site? How could I monetise my wargaming hobby? Or where to look for low cost, but good, WordPress hosting.

WP Engine

I’ve been with WP Engine since 2013. I really like them for hosting WordPress compared to lower priced offerings because of their brilliant service.

Unfortunately, they no longer like me. Apparently, for the account I’m on, I breach their limits for both storage and bandwidth. I guess that is the result of being moderately successful in attracting an audience.

Anyway, this week I got a call from one of their account managers. It was civilised conversation. He explained the problem and outlined some options for me:

  • Delete content until I’m in the limits
  • Pay three times as much

I’m not really keen on either option.

Delete content until I’m in the WP Engine limits

I’m not sure how I’d go about deleting content. I’ve got 1385 posts. That is a lot. Some of my page are, admittedly, transitory and of no lasting interest. But some content generates a lot of interest long after I wrote it. I even have a couple of mini-communities hanging out on particular pages that I created years ago.

And my more recent posts are photo heavy. That is probably what is the real culprit. I’m sure my text only pages have a minimal impact on my storage and bandwidth.

I also have the problem that my content grows. I post once a week but over time that is a lot. 1385 posts, as I mentioned … I’ve been posting since 2001. 20 years.

And I’m way over the limits.

Storage 37 GB from a 20 GB limit
Bandwidth 412 GB from a 200 GB limit

Using incorrect but indicative maths, I’d have to delete half my content. And make sure it was the new photo rich content. Otherwise I’d never get below those limits.

Now there is a chance the clever support folk at WP Engine will be able to help me to optimise my site and get these numbers down. But although very good they are not magicians.

Pay WP Engine three times as much

Actually it is two and a half times as much, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue. Three times as much sounds better.

WP Engine are great, but they start eye wateringly expensive. Already people cannot believe what I pay to run a hobby site. So paying even more is not an option.

Monetise balagan.info

I’d love to stay with WP Engine, but I don’t think that is possible unless I can earn money from my website. I thoughts about some options but nothing jumps out at me.

Ads: I’m anti-ads. Say no more.

Amazon: I tried Amazon referrals and in over 10 years I’ve made US$10 which I can’t even benefit from because it is in the US and I’m not. So either I’m doing something wrong (fair chance) or this isn’t the answer.

Any other bright ideas?

Form a wargaming company

I’ve thought about various wargaming company ideas.

Wargaming figures: I’ve toyed with buying a range of figures. But all the main stream theatres/periods I’m intersted in area well catered for. And my other interests are niche and I don’t expect to make anything from this. How many people would, for example, buy figures for the Rif Wars?

Wargaming rules: I give away my rules e.g. the recent Tilly’s Very Bad Day is available for Download (PDF) and the much earlier Twilight of the Sun King. Ironically somebody else is now making money from Twilight of the Sun King – I guess I dropped a ball there. So I’ve never made any money from my rules. Perhaps I could. It goes against the grain.

Crossfire supplements: I have a plan to write some official and commercial supplements for Crossfire. Arty Conliffe, the author, is supportive. Again, I was attracted to this, not because of the money but because it would be good for the Crossfire community.

What do you think?

Return to the wild west of WordPress hosting

I moved to WP Engine because I was not happy with my previous hosting company. They were cheap. But they found ways to sneak extra fees in. The user interface really really sucked. And their service was non-existant. More or less, “You’re on your own buddy.” That is exactly why I decided to pay roughly 15 times as much and go with WP Engine. At which point I discovered it was also really, really hard to extract myself from the clutches of the previous hosting company. Scarred for life.

But now I have to look again at cheaper options. Anybody got some advice? These are my hosting requirements:

Better interface than cpanel
Location: UK
Storage: 37 GB and growing
Bandwidth: 412 GB and growing
Visits per month: Average 27,000 but peaked recently at 35,000.

Appreciate your help on this.

40 thoughts on “I can’t afford to host Balagan.Info any more”

  1. Hi Steve

    I retired form my wargames business in April but wanted to keep my domains and some web space so I switched to Stratagem Hosting (www.stratagem.host) in the UK and saved a lot of money.

    They are very cost effective for my needs. All three transfers went very smoothly and they have been brilliant in tweaking a few things that occurred since the transfer.

    I’ve contacted the head guy and asked if they can help you. They don’t do WordPress as standard but his reply was “We could certainly work something out”. So I suggest you contact them and see what they can do – https://clients.stratagem.host/contact.php

    I hope this helps.

  2. Hello Steven,
    First I have to say that your web has a lot of useful information.
    Do you think about a small patreon to cover the costs of the hosting? Maybe to could post a poll to know how many people are keen and how much are able to pay.
    Best regards, Fran

  3. I work in webhosting and with digital images and it seems to me that the elephant in the room is that you’re not optimizing your images for use on the internet. Digital cameras these days produce images that have a resolution (usually measured in PPI or Pixels Per Inch) that is far higher than required for a typical web image.

    If you upload unoptimized photos to your website it’ll quickly use up astronomical amounts of diskspace in your webhosting account. And the greater the size of the images on your website, the greater your bandwidth (or monthly data transfer) will be.

    This is compounded by WordPress. If you upload images that are too large to be displayed, then WordPress creates multiple versions of the image, each at a slightly smaller size until it gets to the size that it needs to display your image at a screen appropriate size. So you can quite easily end up using at least 10 times the amount of diskspace for 1 picture, than you would of done, if you’d just optimized it before uploading it to WordPress. Multiply this by the number of over-large images on your website and it’s no wonder that it is using a lot of server resources.

    A lot of the suggestions that you’ve made sound to me like creating more unrelated work on top of an unsustainable foundation, which doesn’t actually tackle the root issue. You need to get to grips with web image optimization. Then your disk space usage will be less, will grow slower, and as a result your bandwidth will be less, and you’ll end up with less expensive webhosting costs.

    I’ve inspected the images in one of your “El Cid crushes the Caliph” post as an example.

    The featured image at the top of the article only needs to be displayed at 740 pixels wide by 278 pixels high. However the associated file is 2048 pixels wide by 768 pixels high… and that’s just the version I can see (its file name suggests that WordPress created that from an even larger image). The large image has a file size of 464KB. I did a test optimization on a 740×278 pixel version and I exported a high quality jpg with a file size of 101KB. That’s less than a quarter of the size of the large version. And if that had been done originally then there would also be less additional WordPress-generated images (as mentioned above).

    Looking at the photos of the battle itself… the 1st image displayed in the article appears to be 630 pixels wide by 473 pixels high. I can then click on it to see a larger version. On my monitor (which is 28″ I think) it opens up at 1198 pixels wide by 899 pixels high. It can then be clicked on again and the full size is actually 2560 pixels wide by 1920 pixels high… around 4 times bigger than it really needs to be!

    Now you might want high resolution images to be viewable on your website, however I would argue that they are needlessly big and therefore needlessly costly to host. Personally I think images of 630 x 473 pixels are big enough (ie how big they first appear on the page).

    Doing some maths… I did another test optimization on a 630×473 pixel image and the resulting high quality jpg was 94KB. Contrast that, with the file size of the 2560×1920 pixel source image… it’s 820KB. Nearly ten times the size! Now when you multiply that by the number of pictures in this article (around 32 pictures) you get a diskspace usage of 26MB. Contrast that with 32 optimized images and you get 3MB. Your “Swedish versus Polish” article has around 53 pictures. So doing the same maths again… it uses around 43MB when it could be as low as 4.9MB.

    So to cut a long story short, you need to web optimize your images BEFORE you upload them to your website! And you obviously also need to reduce the diskspace usage of website at the moment, which will in turn reduce the bandwidth usage. I’d be happy to advise you on how to do that but I think I’ve gone on long enough here for now. Give me a shout through my blog if you want to chat. Cheers!

    • you have a fantastic website ….however, donjondo’s answer was my first thought too and is the definitive answer to your problem…. asking for money via patreon or other is a valid idea but doesn’t solve your ongoing problem of space being used.

    • donjondo, I reckon you’re right. I need to address the elephant in the room and “to get to grips with web image optimization”. I did some experiments and came to the same conclusion as you did.

      Probably 630 pixels is a fine maximum for height/width. I have no clue how to tidy up the 10 years of history.

      The banner images came with the recent website revamp. Rather than my featured images being thumb nails they became full width on the index pages and appeared at the top of the posts. That probably explains some of the uplift in recent bandwidth. But, assuming I stick with them, a 740 pixel limit would still give me a lot of benefit.

      • Hey Steven, if you’re looking for even more bandwidth saving there’s more you can do. Image optimization is not all about size (although it is a BIG part of it), and even with jpgs you can optimize them further without losing much of quality.

        You can use something like tinyjpg.com to pretty easily optimize your images in bulk. Looking at the images on your site now, you can probably cut them by an extra 20% or so just by using that.

        While I am not using wordpress, you should be able to download all images for your site, resize/run through an image optimizer and reupload in the place of the original pictures. If you don’t have an easy access to those, I am sure the customer service will be able to help you with that 🙂

        • Fred, thanks for the advice.

          I did the whole download, resize, upload thing. It was quite an epic. I described what I did in How I am reducing the cost of hosting balagan.info. It wasn’t a beautiful process by any means. And left some broken links because WP hard codes the image sizes into the version names. But storage is no longer a problem. And of course bandwidth has dropped alongside that.

  4. I have two suggestions; 1) money and 2) cost saving

    1) Money

    Have you considered affiliate programs? When you mention a wargame, book or product you link the mention to a retailer prepared to give you a very small percentage of the profit on any sale.

    There are pros and cons, of course.

    I think the most important thing is that if you do this you must be clear to readers that the link could earn you money. It’s ethical and a legal requirement. I have my blog very clear (I hope) about it and have never received negative feedback.

    The next most important thing is that you’ll earn only pennies.

    On the plus side, these aren’t ads (although sometimes ad blockers intercept the click to try and blackmail retailers into joining their white lists) that flash, flicker and annoy. There’s no graphics, no site slowdown, no tracking cookies dropped just by reading your posts.

    2) Cost saving

    Have you looked at something like Cloudflare’s free service. That’ll put the blog behind a anti-hacker/attacker content network (making you part of a collective fight whether you like it or not) but can save you a ton in hosting costs. I took my Amazon S3 hosting bill (for images only) down from ~€50 a month to ~€15.

    On that note, I don’t see many images here but I manage my hosting costs by using Amazon’s S3 just to put images there and do that automatically with wordpress plugins. I don’t use WP Engine, but hear it’s good; I use Pagely which is similar.

    • Andrew, thanks for your suggestions. Product affiliations seems quite high over head for small gains.

      Wow, Pagely are expensive. Even more than WP Engine.

      I hadn’t thought about using S3.

  5. One thought is to use the value for value model. If people think the site is of value to them, give them an opportunity to let them pay what they think it is worth to them. If there is enough interest, the community could subsidize the additional cost and maintain the backlog and current host.

    • Lee, I will explore how the community might subsidise my work. But cost savings also need to happen.

  6. Andrew’s cost saving with smaller pics is a great idea. My only suggestion is to open it up for people to donate? How much is your monthly cost on the current plan? Gives us all an idea what we’d need to aim at. There is so much useful info on your site some of us may be happy to donate to a patreon to keep it available 🙂

  7. Dear Steve, I wish you all the best and hope you continue your blog. I’m also hoping that this pressure financial or otherwise doesn’t start to become a trend for other wargame blogs as well.

  8. My word. I can’t imagine the wargaming world without you as a resourse. I first discovered your site years ago when I first got into 20mm SCW. Now I also do 30yw. The best of luck from a true fan

  9. Hi, if you rule out adverts then your only two options is pay less or get others to help pay.

    You have had a great suggestion re picture sizes and that will help but I have followed the link to WP to see what you are paying at the moment. To help others who have asked…

    If I have understood correctly you are on the start-up package at £240 a year and even if you reduced bandwidth with reduced photo sizes you will still fall foul of 25,000 visits per month.

    The next package up is Professional (you are pretty Professional IMO) and that is an eye watering £470 a year but would cover your needs if the file saving exercise on photo’s work.

    The next package above that which will cover your current bandwidth and file sizes is £900 a year!!!

    I like others would pony up some cash to help but I think trying to get £900 a year is a stretch.

    So I think you really need to shop around and get a cheaper package and put a link on your site for people to bung you a few quid if they think your worth it…

    I know when I think someone’s done a great job I would buy them a beer or a coffee and having a link prominent will help but I doubt cover the whole costs?

    • I think I can make some cost savings (see Donjondo). I have to do that anyway. And then I’ll shop around, before talking to WP Engine again.

  10. Hi Steve – I would gladly support a patreon (Sp?). You may not realize it, but you are the spark of flame that led to the recent upsurge of interest in CrossFire and will be the “go-to guy” for its continued success. It is not wrong to take advantage of that since You are providing an irreplaceable service to the CF Community. A patreon for all the new (and old) fans of the game would be ideal.
    Dick Bryant

  11. I look forward to your posts weekly…
    and you continue to place high in my “troll in spare time” favorites list.

    I’d support contribution.

    Reduce cost (sizes ) and find a cheaper site, and give us a place to help you.

    Keep doing what you do!

    • Typatme … a very good action plan: “Reduce cost (sizes ) and find a cheaper site, and give us a place to help you.”

  12. With respect to people printing and flogging of copies of Tilly’s Very Bad Day – make it Creative Commons and stipulate it can’t be sold for profit.

  13. I use fasthosts. They do WordPress and have unlimited bandwidth and 25gb storage for £5/month. Although you are using more than that at the moment, it sounds as though if you compressed and shrank your images you could get down to about an eighth of current total. You might be able to ftp the images, batch shrink them and then reupload, although would need testing as might upset wordpress if it’s storing pixel/file size separately.

    • Aidan, Fasthosts are definitely on my list. I already use them for my domain name management (which WP Engine don’t do – they are pure play WordPress).

  14. Steve-your contributions have been amazing and we use a lot of what you suggest in CF and other ideas/periods as well.I would happily make a contribution to support your blog/web pages etc. A few people “subscribing” on a relatively regular basis may help. Can’t throw any light on the technical issues that have been commented by those who know a great deal more than me..but the constant issue is upgrading/shifting providers/shiftings

  15. Hi Steve, I have been reading your blog for some time, and I have been using your guides for my DBA armies (I am painting lusitanians at the moment for a Second Punic War in Iberia campaign) and also your posts about Crossfire have been decisive for me to dabble in this awesome ruleset.

    I am a software developer and made some WordPress optimization,. So, if you like I could give you a hand with that.

  16. Hey Steve.

    Your site is the single best resource on Crossfire and single-handedly renewed my interest in wargames in general. I can’t conceive of the internet without balagan in it. And it’s pretty cool that you’ve generously made every article, download and resource on your site available for free. I feel pretty bad that the costs are getting impossibly high for you.

    I honestly don’t have foolproof suggestions (but read on please!) and I think a subscription-based model (Patreon whatever) is not a long term solution, because you can’t count on yearly subscriptions to remain consistent enough to keep the site afloat. And to be even more honest, I don’t believe in subscriptions and seldom pay for them; I believe in supporting authors by buying their rules/books.

    What am I personally willing to do to help? Well, I’d buy any supplement you write, Crossfire related, no questions asked. I’ve read pretty much everything you’ve written on any period, and I’m impressed by your free rulesets even on periods I’m not interested in, like Tilly’s. So Crossfire rules, campaigns, additions? Count me in! And you know what else I’d buy in a jiffy: your Deep Battle ruleset, if you ever publish it. Every time I see an update notification of balagan I cross my fingers and hope it’s about Deep Battle.

    And this is important to me: I’d buy Crossfire supplements and Deep Battle *even* if you also decided to make them freely available for those who can’t/won’t pay for them.

    Hope you find a way to sort this out!


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