Price cuts, more security and recovery options

We’ve made a few changes lately that we want to make sure everyone knows about.

  • Bandwidth pricing has been radically revamped (downward)
  • Storage pricing has been slightly tweaked (downward)
  • Revamped membership security settings (2-factor authentication, SMS, and more)
  • New options to control how long accounts and memberships are retained.

Read on for full details.

Bandwidth Pricing

Our costs for bandwidth are changing; as we add bandwidth, the average cost goes down but the total cost goes up. So the more we add, the more we need you to use; we pay for it whether you use it or not. So this seems like a great time to drop the price. But as much fun as our declining bandwidth pricing has been, it covers such a wide range ($1.00/GiB all the way down to under $0.20/GiB) that it’s tough to adjust in a way that makes a meaningful difference. It doesn’t help that if you just look at the headline ($1.00/GiB) we look ridiculously overpriced even though basically nobody who uses enough bandwidth for the cost to matter pays that price. So we’re doing something very different.

We’ve dropped the baseline price to $0.25/GiB. And now there are two different ways to bring the price down more, to as low as $0.15/GiB. The first discount is very similar to the old one. The price goes down by the base-10 logarithm of your account’s total bandwidth transferred (in GiB), up to $0.05 after 100,000 GiB (ever, not per month). The second discount is even simpler, the price of bandwidth for all sites on your membership goes down by $0.01 for each year your membership his been open, up to $0.05 after 5 years. As with the old pricing plan, we’re not afraid of fractional pennies, so you don’t have to wait a whole year or order of magnitude to see this take effect.

The net effect is a steep decline in the cost of bandwidth. Now, according to economics, that should cause the quantity of bandwidth demanded to go up. And if that happens, we should be able to bring the price down even more. It’d be pretty cool if we could make a regular thing out of that.

Storage Pricing

We’ve revamped our public site to document our plans that bill for bandwidth, storage, and resource usage to bring them into line with the options we offer. As a result, our resource-based billing plans are now the default, bringing their 10x cheaper storage costs with them. But that left us trying to write “$0.01/10-megabyte-days” all over the place. That’s really awkward. So we decided to make it $1.00/gigabyte-month. Since we’re from the church of 2^20, that means a 2.4% price cut on storage on all of those plans. Don’t worry, if you don’t like those plans, the old plans with their overpriced storage and no resource charge are still around.

Membership Security Settings

Maybe you saw one or two of the recent stories about people losing their domains to social engineering of their hosting companies. We did. And while we can smugly assert that that would never happen here all we want — it just isn’t possible to call us and wheedle information about a membership out of a minimum wage support rep whose job is to provide it. But this sort of thing reminds us of how important peoples’ hosting and domains are to them. And this prompted us to ask what we could improve. We found some stuff.

To start with, we’ve added support for OATH TOTP 2-factor authentication. You can set up, for example with any Android or iOS smartphone, and generate time-sensitive one-use codes to use when you log in. Even if somebody gets your password, they aren’t getting into your membership. To keep this from becoming too onerous, you can optionally mark a computer as trusted for up to a week. And to protect yourself, you can generate one-use recovery codes (to be stored somewhere very safe) to recover your membership if you lose your 2-factor device.

Next, we’ve added SMS support. Configure an SMS number on the profile tab and we’ll be able to use it to help you recover your membership if you ever need to. As an added bonus, we’ll also use it to tell you if your account runs out of funds (or enters suspended animation — see below) and you have the option to set up account balance warnings that use it as well.

We’ve also added support for setting a security question and answer. Although this is a controversial security method — choosing a good security question could be the subject of an entire blog post, like this one — the option is there.

To consolidate all of these new options for protecting your membership, we’ve also revamped our membership recovery process. This process kicks in if you happen to lose your password and access to your member email address at the same time, or if you have 2-factor authentication configured and lose the device and don’t have any recovery codes.

We now offer a total of seven possible ways to prove you’re you. For a newly-created member, three of these methods are enabled and all three are required to recover a membership if the password gets lost. Not only can you configure the additional methods, but we also allow you to determine for yourself how many of them you will have to complete to regain access to your membership if you lose your password or two-factor device. For example, someone who is very security conscious can configure all seven methods and require five of them to recover their membership. Someone more concerned with convenience can leave the default at three and simply add a couple of the easier mechanisms, like SMS and a security question.

Account & Membership Retention

Since our service is pay-as-you-go, if you stop paying, it stops going. If you leave an account unfunded for 30 days, the associated content is deleted so the resources can be reassigned to other members. Then a few days after that, memberships with nothing left on them are automatically canceled. For almost everyone, this is good enough. But we’ve made a couple of changes to offer more options who want them.

For maximum member safety, our membership recovery policy has to apply even to deleted memberships. But once a membership is deleted, we lose a lot of the information that would be needed to prove you’re you. With our new recovery policy, it’s entirely possible to wind up in a situation where content could be recovered from our backups after a membership is deleted, but the hurdle of establishing the member’s identity can’t be cleared. To help avoid that outcome, memberships now persist for 31 days after accounts expire by default, unless explicitly canceled. This timeframe can be adjusted from the profile tab, up to one year. Note that this happens after content has been deleted. It is not a safety net, it is intended as the very last line of defense, e.g. in case you become incapacitated for an extended period of time.

For people who want to extend the amount of time content is retained before it is deleted, we have added a feature consistent with our pay-as-you-go model called suspended animation. This allows you to set a balance threshold for each account. When the account balance falls below this level, everything will stop as if the account was empty, and all nonessential charges will stop. The remaining balance will then be used to preserve the account content as long as possible. Once it is exhausted, the original 30-day grace period will kick in. To use this feature, visit the account info panel in our UI. The system will help you estimate a threshold that will protect your content as long as you want.


To give your membership and its contents the best possible protection against attackers, financial problems, and unforeseen disasters, you can (and should) take the following steps:

  1. Enjoy bandwidth pricing drop. It’s automatic. (Also: Use more bandwidth, so we can lower price even more!)
  2. Set up 2-factor authentication.
  3. Generate 2-factor recovery codes, and put them somewhere very safe (encrypted safe storage, or printed out and kept in an actual safe).
  4. Set up SMS.
  5. Customize your recovery settings.
  6. For your account(s), set a suspended animation threshold that will protect your content long enough for you to feel comfortable in 99% of cases.
  7. Set a retention period for your membership to cover that 1% disaster scenario.


RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Thanks!

    I tried out points 2, 3, and 4 above and it all went smoothly.

    I appreciate the extra commitment to security. Probably like most people, I’ve got nothing to hide from any authorities, but still don’t appreciate snooping. And anything I can do to reduce the risk of identity fraud makes me sleep a little more soundly.

    Well done!

    Comment by cliff1976 — March 1, 2014 #

  2. Excellent! Thanks for adding these extra options. In particular, I particularly like that you used the standard OATH-TOTP. The fact that your SMS verification also supports non-US numbers is nice too.

    Comment by Pete S. — March 2, 2014 #

  3. excellent update! so glad to see my fav hosting site is progressing. Been a member for a long time, perfectly satisfied with your service! keep up the great work

    Comment by matt p — March 3, 2014 #

  4. Are the bandwidth discounts combined, or does the system pick the bigger discount and use that?

    Comment by gbm85 — March 3, 2014 #

  5. The membership and account discounts are combined for all sites on that account. (That’s how you can get down as low as $0.15/GiB – a max of $0.05 from each.)


    Comment by jdw — March 4, 2014 #

  6. Suspended animation looks really useful.

    One potentially useful option would be to opt out of Respect My Privacy in the event that Suspended Animation kicks in. (Obviously not for everyone, but when you’re getting to the stage where you want to try and keep things alive for as long as possible, privacy might not be so high up on the list for some people).


    Comment by Christopher Denman — March 5, 2014 #

  7. In all honesty, I have barely a clue what you’re talking about in most of this page, but that last section – TLDR – looks possibly decipherable. As I’m an exceptionally busy professional person in a discipline notorious for IT ignorance, I will have to revisit “TLDR” when I can find some time in the near future, and see how much of it I can work through. I regret to inform you that not everyone here is a computer whiz. Yes, I program in Ruby, and build all my own websites, and have for years, but when I come here my ignorance really shows. Fair warning. I may have to show up in the forum(s) soon, pleading for help. 🙂

    Comment by Tom Cloyd — March 7, 2014 #

  8. Whew, I was wondering for a while why there was a “Suspended Animation” option around. I tried to view it, and I think it’s a good idea for people who might need more than a 30 day grace period.

    I made a new site just a few moments ago on the same account that I have my other one, and I wondered why I could not find a plan identical to the old one, which did not have any charges for RAU. The only static option I found this time was Static – Stochastic (Static-S), and not the Static — we’ll see how this one compares to the site under Static servers.

    Comment by aru — March 8, 2014 #

  9. There is essentially no one for whom the non-stochastic static type was a benefit, so it is no longer available for new sites. -jdw

    Comment by jdw — March 9, 2014 #

  10. For my tiny sites with almost no traffic (storage and bandwidth costs are measured in single cents) stochastic billing on one static site raised my costs by about tenfold. So I deleted that static site, and just continue using my old non-stochastic static sites.

    Although the numbers you’re talking about are small enough to be random, there may be another explanation, like some aspect of the site that is particularly inefficient, or a resource-intensive scheduled task. The average resource billing for static stochastic sites for the past month is about 2.8 cents and well over half were less than a penny. -jdw

    Comment by vv — April 23, 2014 #

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