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... although we have done fine without one for years and years

Pricing discussion

A basic 'starter' instance is $20 for a month's access and look-around. This gets a permanently assigned fully routable IP (IPv4; IPv6 is also available in our data center, although we are in trialling with its owner on our approach for automatic, and 'bring your own' provisioning matters as of early 2011) both IPv4 and native IPv6, in our Tier IV datacenter, and access to our 'ready to run' images farm.

An active account is charged a monthly maintenance charge of 500 points ($5 US) which is credited against the first machine that 'renews' itself after a month rolls over. This is to mainly to permit identification and to allow us to 'weed out' abandoned or dormant accounts. There is also some minor expense for maintaining the web UI ('user interface') and logging, and for providing some DNS. Each account includes full access to an included DNS services interface, which permit management of all material DNS records including PTR records (so called 'reverse DNS') for IP blocks under our management. We also include support for some relatively rare types needed for VOIP and anti-spam SPF records (TXT and SRV records).

That $20 buys a lot -- but not everything people sometimes think they need, and indeed, not the backups that we think a production usage environment demands. We sell those 'a la carte', including a recommended nightly reoot and level zero backup. Additional RAM, additional hard drive space on one of our RAID-10 back-ends, additional bandwidth, multiple generationed backups, loop mounts of backup images to 'pick through' a backup without losing live production, creation of physical backup media are all available through the web control interface. We also offer managed and web UI manageable co-location services of dedicated hardware at our primary, or one of two other datacenters, when site redundancy is an issue. SLAs and consulting services are available as well. All of this is priced to reflect their relative cost to produce at an enterprise level of reliability, but designed, implemented and operated by systems administration professionals.

Those images and our hosting server farm specializes in providing highly reliable, and thoughtfully designed access to virtual machines, that, mostly, run the community accessible distributions based on the administration model of Red Hat, a leader in the 'Enterprise Software' software distribution market. (We mention the Red Hat firm here as a matter of identification, and as many people are familiar with its offerings). The 'preferred' images as of later 2010 are 'minimal install' CentOS 5 late 2012 are a 'minimal install' CentOS 6, in 32 and 64 bit variants.

There are also specialized 'custom' images, ready to immediately provision for specific customer purposes, already 'built out' to provide, for example, a base for computer assisted high speed electronic securities trading; another customer runs a true "Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6" instance in a virtual machine, for development purposes.

As a matter of marketing, a new customer who does a sign-up and provisiion an instance will receive an on-boarding email, and some 'hand holding' through automated messages and the GUI interface. We also provide a ticket / messaging system to permit a client to ask 'trackable' questions and to provide responses. A lot of additional logging exists, per machine as to important events, financial accounts details, and general client specific 'notifications' -- requests from a client and administration notices from our management of the system (scheduled maintenance windows or such).

The virtual machine product suite does really 'sell itself' during that initial month, compared to some competitive offerings -- think Amazon or Rackspace's offerings, which we also have used, along with some of the other less well known competitors, and so the $20 starter offer. Additionally we will add 'comp' points to an account when there is some support issue which we need to adjust (or sometimes, to thank a customer for pointing out something to us we needed to address).

Our pricing grid starts at 2000 points per month for a fully usable instance (a point is a penny, basically) and gets:

	CentOS 6
	256 MB RAM 
	4 GB HD 
	128 kbps BW

One may add addiotinal resources on a self-service basis as need to a virtual instance, a la carte:

	additional units of 256 MB ram		 	1200 pt
		up to 8 GB ram per instance
	additional units of 4 GB hard drive slices	 400 pt
		up to 500GB hard drive per instance
	additional units of 128 kbps BW 		 900 pts
		up to 3500 mega-bps
	hot backup slices of 4 GB increments		 400 pts
		capacity limits here are in the terabytes range

There is a full but rather dull rate sheet here.

These limits are beyond what one sensibly wants to use in a virtual instance, but we have designed and tested to those points (or had customers do so -- one customer just kept adding ram and HD long beyond reason for a 'sprint project' dropped on him, one weekend, and one instance ended up at 400 Gig of drive in 5 G of ram). We migrated that instance into a dedicated colo box the next week.

There are price breaks in purchasing points in quantity, as for a long term machine, or for a whole collection of several machines for developmental networking testing, or for function separation and isolation. Basically, figure that a payment of 3x funds gets 3.5x points; 10 x funds gets 12 x points. Contact us if you seek a specific use pattern quote.

In specifying a machine, it usually turns out that it is more cost effective to convert from a virtual machine to a colocated unit when one goes over 12,000 pts a month; certain applications (think: database backends) also are not well suited to virtual machines.

Revised 04 Feb 2013

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