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Billing System Update (Launch Initiated)

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puravida
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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:

  1. The lobby area shows "FREE"/"PAID", "BASIC", or "PLUS" for each account type
  2. If you have a "PLUS Account", you will no longer see the daily limit
  3. The "Carryover Balance" was changed to "Non-expiring New Requests"
  4. For the past few weeks, we have been running a new capture prioritization algorithm
  5. Your monthly reset may have changed to help mitigate a first-of-the-month "rush"
  6. Your bandwidth (Gb) may have increased from the default 5Gb
  7. Fetch Limit has been removed since it is no longer a "hard" limit
  8. 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! Smile

GEEK-SPEAK

The goals for investing so much money, time, and energy into a new billing system and pricing model in this down economy are to:

  1. Streamline the upgrade/downgrade process to be as easy as possible
  2. Enable us to more fairly distribute cost to those who use the most resources
  3. Analyze trends (based on #2 above) that will enable us to lower prices by 2012
  4. Add the ability for us to simplify pricing into basic components
  5. 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! Smile

(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!

puravida's picture
puravida
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PLEASE NOTE: The new cart is still not yet live. So the new pricing model mentioned above won't go into effect until we send a follow-up announcement to let you know about changes to the order process and new cart.

zuggi_zuggi
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Hey Brandon,

When will these changes take effect ?
Will it affect users that make use of the STW API ?

Thanks!

Vinny
www.zuggi.com.br

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puravida
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Hi zuggi,

Anfrage:
When will these changes take effect ?

It took affect on 10/03/2011 and was announced in this post.

It will technically continue to work for "Free/Paid Account" level until 11/01/2011. That is when we will begin enforcing the new system. An announcement will be going out Thursday to anyone that has reconfirmed their email with ConstantContact.

Side Note: We have already begun enforcing it for Polish domains/webmasters, as a test and also because we were having issues with multiple accounts with them. Now things appear to be working smoothly, so we will roll it out to everyone on 11/01/2011.

Anfrage:
Will it affect users that make use of the STW API ?

Yes, those who want to use the "Simple Method" (embedded) and the "Advanced Method API" will need to upgrade to at least "Basic Account" level ($4.95/month).

zuggi_zuggi
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Hey Brandon,

What about daily and monthly limits when upgrading to the Basic subscription, will it remain the same as for the FREE accounts ?

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puravida
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Hi zuggi,

It will remain the same for BASIC Accounts (as of 11/03/2011, that's 5,000 new requests monthly and a daily of "about" 161).

However, PLUS Accounts actually bypass the daily limit (meaning you can use up your monthly as quickly as you can request them) and it gets a bump up to 25,000 new requests monthly.

2020media
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Joined: 02/25/2011
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My suggestion to help encourage existing users to spread the word would be some kind of reward system for referring new users.

The way DropBox (www.dropbox.com) does it is that it has a free account, with a certain amoout of space, but if you help sign up other people (even to free accounts), you get a small increase in your amount of space.

All the best

2020Media

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puravida
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Hi 2020media,

That's a very good suggestion. We have tried affiliate systems over the past couple of years but we ran into issues where it stopped working and we didn't feel comfortable with launching it and then having to report it not working. That would seem like we planned it that way.

However, one of the things that this new billing system does is to allow us a simple way to setup an affiliate system. So it is on "the list" and may get done before the year is out. I just assumed we would be giving some sort of financial kickback for referrals but your suggestion to do what Dropbox does is a good one. Perhaps giving some boost in usage (as an option) would be better for some users.

The thought would be that we give more in features than you could buy with the money you would have gotten. If you would already be paying us for that usage, then you would be saving even more than you would if you just got cash.

Thanks for the input. We will keep this in mind when we reevaluate the affiliate system with the new billing system.

MishkaQG
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Joined: 05/12/2008
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Brandon,
Does this mean that the fetch limit of 250,000 is no longer an issue? I've gone over a couple of times this year, at the end of the month, but hadn't upgraded yet. I'm well within the bandwidth limit.
Cheers,
Michele
Quilting Gallery

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puravida
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Hi Michele,

That's right! Fetches are only reported in the stats area now for those who want to know how many individual requests they make per month. However, the only thing that matters as far as whether or not you hit a limit is bandwidth usage.

Since you show all 120x90 images (last I checked), this means that you will be able to have nearly twice the traffic (i.e. image views) before hitting the included, free bandwidth limit of 5Gb.

MishkaQG
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Brandon,
That's fantastic. Thanks!!
Michele

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