Breaking through the bandwidth barrier

One of the things that we have always wanted to do is deliver bigger bandwidth discounts to our members. Our 1GB/$1 pricing is ideal for sites that don’t use much bandwidth. But we’re painfully aware that as the gigabytes pile up, the costs pile up proportionally.

What if they didn’t?

We have long offered a plan called “bandwidth buckets” designed to let people who knew in advance that they would be using more bandwidth. However, this program was never terribly popular, partly because it’s pretty complicated and partly because it requires a lot of micromanagement and a fair degree of prescience to make the most of it. We’ve killed it. (Naturally we’ll honor all previously-purchased bandwidth buckets.)

As of February 1st (midnight UTC), we’ve begun tracking the total bandwidth used by all the sites in each personal bandwidth account. The 1GB/$1 pricing will remain unchanged. The change comes on the second gigabyte. The short version for nerds like me: from now on, the number of gigabytes you can buy with $1 increases from 1 GB to 5GB proportional to the base-10 log of the number of gigabytes your account has used. If you think logs are for sawing, here’s a breakdown using nice round numbers:

1 GB = 1GB / $1
10 GB = 2GB / $1 ($0.50 / GB)
100 GB = 3GB / $1 ($0.33 / GB)
1000 GB = 4GB / $1 ($0.25 / GB)
10000 GB = 5GB / $1 ($0.20 / GB)

But here’s the cool part: those numbers are examples, not tiers. As soon as you’ve used that first gigabyte of bandwidth, your prices start coming down. As of now, the number of bytes you get for a penny is displayed on your account page. After that first gigabyte goes by, this number starts to climb. And it climbs fast. Take a look at this breakdown, which shows the first few gigs:

1GB = 1GB / $1
2GB = 1.30GB / $1
3GB = 1.47GB / $1
4GB = 1.60GB / $1
5GB = 1.70GB / $1

That’s right, you’re now getting about 30% more for your bandwidth dollar after your second 2GB, and 70% more after just 5GB. This is an automatic discount; you don’t have to do anything to get it. But you don’t even have to get to 2GB. If you’re on your account page and you’ve accrued more than a gig of transfers, you can actually hit reload a minute later and see your bytes-per-penny increase. You can watch your hosting getting cheaper in real time. I’m actually kind of obsessed with watching mine, probably for the same just-a-few-more-points reason I’ll never be allowed to play World of Warcraft.

These discounts aren’t monthly or anything; the more you transfer, the cheaper your service gets, no matter how long it takes. It’s also permanent for the life of your bandwidth account and applies immediately to new sites you create on the same account. We’ll be posting information about this on our public site over the next couple of days.

This is absolutely not designed to compete with the bajillion-gigs-for-$9.95-a-month* plans out there. Those plans are based on overselling, not actual cost of services. We’ll never go down that road. Instead, we’ve been waiting a long time to get the purchasing power and volume discounts needed to make hosting even more affordable for our members, and it’s very exciting that after six years, we’re finally here.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get out there and use more bandwidth. Hey, you can afford it!

*Bajillion-gigs-for-$9.95-a-month offer not available for websites containing graphic files, videos, scripts, large downloads, small downloads, text, HTML documents, or websites that anyone might want to visit.

UPDATE: We’ve added a Bandwidth Calculator to our public site to help you figure out how much certain bandwidth costs. Turns out the formula is given as:

(This entry was updated on January 10, 2009 to use a more accurate formula from our Wikipedia entry.)


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  1. You guys rock!

    No, seriously, next to you: ACDC is lame; Metallica is soft; Pantera is like a little school girl giggle.

    I previously had hesitations about recommending you to places that would have really high bandwidth usage, but now that last objection is moot. Woo! Viva la NFSN!

    Comment by David Symonds — February 1, 2008 #

  2. What I actually want is something like this for storage pricing – so that I can use NFS for backups too.

    We do plan to make some changes in that area soon. Not something like this, but it will more fairly align costs with resource usage. -jdw

    Comment by Sridhar Ratnakuar — February 1, 2008 #

  3. We have long offered a plan called “bandwidth buckets” designed to let people who knew in advance that they would be using more bandwidth. However, this program was never terribly popular, partly because it’s pretty complicated and partly because it requires a lot of micromanagement and a fair degree of prescience to make the most of it.

    Aside from these problems, the savings greatly obtainable from the buckets were much less than provided by the new plan. For example: My site uses 2-3GB/month. Buying a $5 3-month bucket gave me 1.16GB/$, which would never increase. Under the new plan, I’ll be getting that much saving after using just 1.5GB.

    Comment by Daran — February 1, 2008 #

  4. I like this a lot. I’ve been playing with the numbers and it starts kicking in quite quickly, and makes high bandwidth site far less expensive.

    But, is there a way of saying “my next x GB will cost me $y” or “I transferred 5 GB, and that cost me….” ?

    To completely geek out (sorry people) it seems like it would be the integral of (1/(1+log(x)) between your start data transferred and the end data transferred.

    Not the easiest thing in the world to calculate. Must make your accounting a nightmare.

    Yes, it’s true… this stabs our long-running “improve accounting reports” project right in the chest. I was wondering how long it would take for someone to point out that we now have the world’s only calculus-powered pricing plan. We’ll get a page on the site to handle the math for you. 🙂 -jdw

    Comment by Paul Sargent — February 1, 2008 #

  5. Wow, this is great news, and perfectly implemented so there are only benefits to existing members.

    One of my sites has been getting more and more popular, and I was considering switching to a fixed rate hosting company. But now, I think I keep it here!

    Comment by Michael S — February 1, 2008 #

  6. For the mathematically challenged, I believe this formula will correctly calculate the cost for a given amount of bandwidth. Errors are attributable to my current lack of sleep.

    Cost = 1/(log(BW)+1)*BW

    BW = Bandwidth in Gigabytes

    Close… see Paul’s comment above. -jdw

    Comment by bex — February 1, 2008 #

  7. Any reservations I had about moving sites from my existing hosting company to NFS are gone. Screw the unlimited data plans. Your service is amazing and very reliable.

    Keep it up!

    Comment by Jordan Ogren — February 1, 2008 #

  8. This is awesome, you are awesome. I was hoping something like this would be implemented, and bam, here it is. Kudos all around.

    Comment by a different Michael S — February 1, 2008 #

  9. You guys just made me love the internet again.

    Comment by Brett Wiens — February 1, 2008 #

  10. I still can’t believe I found NFSN. It’s as if I found my soul mate in a web service.

    Comment by SEH — February 1, 2008 #

  11. I’ve been concerned lately about my site’s slowly increasing costs. Now I don’t have to worry! You guys really do rock.

    Comment by Jordon — February 1, 2008 #

  12. This is really cool. But a few spots in your FAQ still refer to bandwidth buckets (the one I saw was the Slashdotting question).

    We’re not done with the public site changes yet. -jdw

    Comment by AK108 — February 1, 2008 #

  13. Wow, this is really cool! At first I thought it sounded pretty interesting but wouldn’t really help me much. Once I saw that it was cumulative across the months I realized I was wrong..

    One little issue I do see, though. Will it be possible for a site to be moved to another account at some point and keep some portion of the discount (maybe based on the history of that one site)?

    I’d just worry about for instance a company used a web design firm as a middle-man. It’d be a pain if they wanted to split off and take control of the full account and then had to start completely from scratch price-wise.

    I guess it’s just that I can already envision people trying to take advantage of the system by pooling many sites together under one account. I’m sure you’ve thought of that as well. I just wonder how it’ll be handled?

    BTW: “I’m actually kind of obsessed with watching mine”

    I hope you have some sort of personal site jdw, or else is NFS charging itself for it’s own website? 😉

    We’ll let this run for a couple of months and then look into whether we could let people transfer totals around without causing financial chaos for us. As for my sites, I have about 20. But yeah, NearlyFreeSpeech.NET charges itself for several sites, like the PHP/CGI example sites and this very blog. 🙂 -jdw

    Comment by Shawn Fumo — February 2, 2008 #

  14. woohoo! excellent!

    I was wondering how long it would take for someone to point out that we now have the world’s only calculus-powered pricing plan.

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    Comment by arghman — February 2, 2008 #

  15. Might as well chuck this here as well:
    (a quick graph to illustrate the pricing)

    Comment by David Symonds — February 3, 2008 #

  16. […] As of February 1st bandwidth costs have gone down! Previously the cost was $1/GB. Now it’s $1 for the first GB and the cost decreases incrementally from there. […]

    Pingback by :: NearlyFreeSpeech: excellent web hosting — February 3, 2008 #

  17. It’s a really god idea !
    Best things for long time users !
    great job !

    Comment by pietro — February 5, 2008 #

  18. NFS just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?

    BTW, I just wanted to bring to your attention (I know you are still updating the FAQ) that under “What happens if I get slashdotted?” (, it still mentions the bandwidth bucket.

    Comment by Andrzej Novak — February 6, 2008 #

  19. I think I might love you more than xkcd.

    Use more bandwidth.
    What? Use it yourself.
    Sudo use more bandwidth.
    Okay. -jdw

    Comment by Benjamin — February 7, 2008 #

  20. Thanks guys! This plan is far easier for me to manage and as we were getting set to buy our first bandwith bucket, I was hoping for a plan that works this way. I can focus more on the look and feel of the site and not so much about the cost.

    Comment by Christian and Kate — February 7, 2008 #

  21. I’m not slacking off work, I’m waiting for my bytes per penny to increase.

    Fantastic job guys!

    Comment by Starfish — February 8, 2008 #

  22. jdw, you have once again made NFSN even more freaking awesome than it was. Wow. You guys totally rock.

    Comment by ttuttle — February 11, 2008 #

  23. Maybe it’s just the decent slug of blackberry-flavored brandy I just downed, but dammit, your willingness to go with a clearly and bluntly mathematical formula for calculating a reasonable profit simply rocks.

    Comment by Bumpy Light — February 11, 2008 #

  24. Main screen turn on.
    It’s you !!
    How are you gentlemen !!
    All your bandwidth are belong to us.
    You are on the way to 403.
    What you say !!
    You have no chance to serve web make your time.
    Ha Ha Ha
    Take off every packet !!
    You know what you doing.
    Move packet.
    For great justice.

    Oh hai, I’m in ur serverz upgradin ur RAM. -JDW

    Comment by Alexander Else — February 19, 2008 #

  25. I just set live a site that might get a fair amount of traffic for a short period; so of course I went looking for the bandwidth bucket purchase option. This sounds great. Now if only..

    Comment by ===H — February 20, 2008 #

  26. Thank you… thank you… thank you.

    I’ve been a member for, what, 5+ years. Two things to say:

    1. Thank you for the bandwidth changes — it’s now much more economical to scale at NFSN.

    2. The reliability has been absolutely outstanding since the major datacenter switch. Good move.

    Once again, thank you! 🙂

    Comment by P — February 21, 2008 #

  27. wow, thanks so much – never a doubt this is the best web hosting for personal sites. cheers!!

    Comment by Steve — February 25, 2008 #

  28. Guys this is awesome! As mentioned above, if there was a cheaper disk option you guys would be uber!

    Comment by Tom — March 3, 2008 #

  29. New recruit here… and enjoying your service very much.

    I am curious: what (approximate) level of traffic could a site deal with through this webhost??

    i.e. At any point would a VPS or Dedicated server allow more bandwidth etc. than this? (I don’t mean pricing wise, just in terms of capacity… any limit?)


    And, feel free to just direct to me to the member FAQ instead if necessary 😉 – lol.

    It depends. If all you need is bandwidth, it should be pretty well unlimited. There have been a couple of cases where we have asked people to move on based on CPU usage, but those involved specific situations where they had a poorly-tuned application and couldn’t or wouldn’t optimize it for the load they were getting. Those were also before the days of 8-core cluster nodes.

    A VPS or single dedicated server would definitely not be able to serve more bandwidth. Most of them are capped to 10 or 100Mbps; our load-sharing architecture can serve a single site into multiple Gbps if the site is fast enough (i.e. static content) and you can pay for it. -jdw

    Comment by Monica — March 25, 2008 #

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