The new billing system and pricing model launch is underway. It should have been fully implemented by now, but we hit a snag with the new billing system vendor and they are working on a resolution.
However, several changes have already been implemented and we need to announce those changes so that everyone understands the changes and the reasons behind making them.
Some of the changes which you may have noticed, are:
- The lobby area shows "FREE"/"PAID", "BASIC", or "PLUS" for each account type
- If you have a "PLUS Account", you will no longer see the daily limit
- The "Carryover Balance" was changed to "Non-expiring New Requests"
- For the past few weeks, we have been running a new capture prioritization algorithm
- Your monthly reset may have changed to help mitigate a first-of-the-month "rush"
- Your bandwidth (Gb) may have increased from the default 5Gb
- Fetch Limit has been removed since it is no longer a "hard" limit
- Fetches per month are reported under the "View Stats by Month" link
(1) To limit confusion, if you upgrade at all to an active subscription (not one-time new requests) then it will show "PAID" instead of still showing "FREE." If you upgrade your account level, it will show "BASIC" or "PLUS", respectively.
(2) Since PLUS accounts have no daily limit, it won't show. If you use "Advanced Method," then you will also notice that the XML reports remaining requests as your total monthly remaining new requests + non-expiring new requests. Now, you may use these up as quickly as your server can request them.
(3) Since we no longer support carryover balances, this field is used to show how many "Non-Expiring New Requests" (or one-time new requests) you have on file. These do NOT reset each month and these cost significantly less than they used to.
(4) Aside from the storage array issue, you may have noticed quicker capture response times. Our new prioritization algorithm essentially gives 30-second captures for all requests, except under extreme load. The purchase of a "Dedicated Generator" is no longer an option because those were really just intended to increase one's limits and yield a 30-second guarantee. Since we give that level of service to everyone now, we broke it down to just 5,000 new request blocks. In the event that you require an absolute guarantee on 30-second capture times, then you may still lease dedicated generators under an Enterprise plan.
(5) Your account reset date will change again if you place an order in the new system. This is done so that we can easily pro-rate upgrades and credit back unused portion instantly. To do so, it must know when you originally started your first subscription.
We really hope you enjoy our efforts and hard work!
The goals for investing so much money, time, and energy into a new billing system and pricing model in this down economy are to:
- Streamline the upgrade/downgrade process to be as easy as possible
- Enable us to more fairly distribute cost to those who use the most resources
- Analyze trends (based on #2 above) that will enable us to lower prices by 2012
- Add the ability for us to simplify pricing into basic components
- Add the flexibility for premium account levels that offer major benefits
(1) One of the biggest headaches for us has been billing. When users want to upgrade, downgrade, switch plans, update billing information, or get a monthly invoice; it has been a nightmare trying to accommodate everyone. We relied on a widely respected billing solution, but it was not really capable of handling our subscription based billing model like it claimed. As we grew, this caused more and more problems for us. Eventually, we began spending all of our time on billing issues and not on the service itself.
Now the plan is to have an order process where you can see at a glance what you have and easily and quickly make changes to your account with a few clicks. More than a year has gone in to design of the user interface and we hope you like it as much as we do!
(2) Since there is a growing number of users who use a LOT of bandwidth (costly for us) and/or who have bad code that constantly bombards our service, it became necessary to find a way to avoid raising costs for everyone just to cover the rising costs of the few.
(3) Some prices are already lower and you will see that once the new cart is live. It has been a tough battle over the past two years to NOT raise prices. In fact, none of our staff have ever taken salaries just so that we can continue providing the prices that we were. Yes, we have been providing the level of service you have come to expect and all while working for free! We really wanted to keep giving back to the community and find a plan to continue doing so. We have recently had to hire some outside help for support and development, and that was all the more reason we needed to raise prices. But we all still voted against it.
Instead, we voted for the new pricing model to lower prices (causing us to suffer in the short-term, even in a tough economy) but paving the way for lower prices to a larger audience. With your continued support to spread the word, we hope to quickly get back to a point of covering all costs and maybe have enough to start getting paid for all of our hard work and efforts... lol!
(4) After more than a year of gathering statistics on usage and feedback from customers, we determined that a new pricing model would be required for our industry. It took a long while to refine the new pricing model to be as fair as possible and then integrating with a powerful, flexible billing system took even longer and a LOT more money than we anticipated.
(5) One way that we saw to lower costs for "Power Users" was by separating out the service into classes. By doing so, we can better control costs and identify cost-saving measures. Therefore, we have added Basic Account and PLUS Account upgrades. Basic will get several benefits and PLUS will get even more.
We had to launch the "Preview Verification Page" (PVP) for all free users to combat a growing misuse problem, and that has been working well. However, many complained because their use was too small to justify $9.95/month or more but they needed to bypass the PVP for their users. To help these users, the new pricing model will introduce the "Basic Account" upgrade for only $4.95/month and should make it easier for more users to access more useful features, such as being able to bypass daily limits (PLUS only), bypass the PVP (both), bypass the "Lock to Account" feature (both), etc!