Online Presence on a Budget

I have been thinking about this for a bit now, so I thought I would share. A year ago when I set up my blog and professional email address, tools were a bit limited. There was a lot of it was do-it-yourself, which can be rather annoying and intimidating when you do not have years of experience under your belt. Some tools have been streamlined since I started, so without further ado:

Here's a quick guide for getting a professional-enough online presence for less than your monthly Netflix subscription ($15/mo).

What do I need?

This is an easy list, actually.

  1. A domain name
  2. A web page
  3. An email address under your domain name

That's three whole things. The goal here is really to get the email address attached to a custom domain name, but in my experience with G Suite you need to put some code in your web page's header briefly to prove ownership over the domain name.

What are we going to do?

This is another easy list!

  1. Create an email address for management of your online presence
  2. Purchase a domain name
  3. Create a blog on a virtual private server (VPS)
  4. Create a professional email address
  5. Host our resume/CV on our VPS

First step is creating an email address for management. You can use Gmail or Outlook for this. Since our domain name and our blog is important, because it represents us, we are not going to use this email address for anything outside of paying for our domain name, our VPS, and our email hosting service.

Purchase a domain name

Take some time to think about what you want your domain name to be. It's important because you are going to be pretty locked into it once you start using it professionally.

Everyone has a different favorite domain name provider. I won't suggest any, since they all have different prices for different Top Level Domains (TLDs, examples: .com, .ca,. org). Shop around for the domain name you want and see where you can get it cheapest. Most places will offer WHOIS protection nowadays, and I know namecheap offers that for free since GDPR.

Domain names are purchased/renewed yearly, but can be cheap — from $10-$25/year.

Create an account, buy the domain name you want, and then we're ready to get our blog up and running.

Create a web page/blog

I was going to shy away from suggesting specific products, but DigitalOcean has really kicked it out of the park since I last checked. They now have a number of one-click installation templates ready, and two are of particular use for us.

You can get a cheap VPS, pre-installed with Ghost or Wordpress, for $5/month. You will have to do some configuration, but Digitalocean has some good guides associated with their different one-click installs to help you get set up. The updated Ghost One-Click Application guide is particularly good as well.

When you sign up to DigitalOcean you should use the email address you created for managing this stuff. Find the installation guide for whichever one you choose and follow the instructions. DigitalOcean's linux guides are all top-notch for simple administration, and their guides will get you set up with secured SSH access to your VPS and getting an SSL/TLS certificate for your web page.

My personal advice is to use DigitalOcean's Ghost installation. Ghost's interface is pleasant to work with and the installation is easy to update. I wish any of the products mentioned were paying me to promote them.

Get email hosting

So, there are a bunch of email hosting options and they are all quite cheap. I use G Suite, but Microsoft's Exchange Online is also quite good.

If you don't want to be tethered to a large corporation you can also use ProtonMail. ProtonMail has suffered from DDOS attacks, costs a little more (4€ vs $5 USD) a month, and gives you less storage space. They do encrypt your mail and give you the ability to send encrypted emails to other people. If you are okay trading availability for privacy, this would be a good option.

In each case you will have to prove that you are the owner of your domain. G Suite does this by giving you something to put in your website header temporarily, and I imagine other providers do the same. Once you validate your domain name they will give you their mail servers which you will have to add to your DNS records so mail can reach you.

Host your resume/CV

First, read Women in Tech by Tarah Wheeler. Then, read it a couple more times just to be sure. The chapter on making a resume suited for applying to tech jobs is particularly good.

Now all you need to do after making a PDF of your resume is to put it where your web server hosts content (like images and so on). Get the web path to your PDF and put it in a post/page on your blog next to your contact information. Keep your resume updated and in that same spot.

Something else you will probably want to do is set up IP address logging for your resume or other files you are hosting on your web server. You can often associate IP addresses directly with businesses or organizations who are looking at your files. In case you wanted to know when government agencies are reading your draft guide to building virtual machine labs or something.

Now what?

To be perfectly honest, I am still working on the "what next" part of this whole process. Do cool projects, write posts about them, and post them to your web page. Make some business cards and put your cool new website on it. Panic realizing you are probably paying more to watch anime online than to be professional on the internet. Post some cool recipes since cooking is the new cool thing for people working in technology to talk about doing now.

Support the Author

Devon Taylor (They/Them) is a Canadian network architect, security consultant, and blogger. They have experience developing secure network and active directory implementations in low-budget and low-personnel environments. Their blog offers a unique and detailed perspective on security and game design, and they tweet about technology, security, games, and social issues. You can support their work via Patreon (USD), or directly via ko-fi.