TurnKey Linux Virtual Appliance Library

Confusion regarding Hub pricing: micro servers, S3-backed vs. EBS-backed instances and Amazon's 1-year free usage tier

I'm confused about the Amazon pricing and am hoping that someone can clear it up for me. My understanding was that I can use the Turnkey Hub to deploy a Micro instance which will be free for a year, however when I go to launch a new server and choose Micro, it tells me I have to choose an EBS-backed server which costs $15/month. Why is this? What is the difference between an EBS-backed server and an S3? Will it still be free or do I actually have to pay $15/month? I chose the 14-day trial for now because it looked like it was going to charge me the $15/month when I thought I would be getting it for free.

Also, as far as I can tell, the server that I launched using the Turnkey Hub does not show up in the AWS Management Console. Is this correct? Maybe I'm just not looking in the right place.

Jeremy's picture

AFAIK free tier includes 10GB EBS

So I would think that it should still be free. See this page. AFAIK TKL are not charging any premium on micro instances (and surely it wouldn't be $15/mth! - That would be too much IMO). I imagine that Hub just mentions that so users (not on the free tier are aware that it's not just a by the hour charge (as it is with small and med instances). Although if you are unclear you probably need to contact AWS to get clarity around that.

As for AWS console, I have never used it (I always administer servers via the Hub) so I'm not sure.

Alon Swartz's picture

Clarifications

The TurnKey Hub provides a 14 day free trial for Micro servers. To get unlimited Micro access you have 2 options. Either invite a friend to the Hub and have him/her complete the invitation, or enable EBS backed instances.

If your Amazon account qualifies for the free-tier then you will not be charged for 1-years worth of Micro hours.

Whats the difference between S3-backed and EBS-backed servers?

S3-backed (ephemeral): This type of server stores the root filesystem on a fast and free partition attached to the server's local hardware. An ephemeral server can be rebooted but can not be turned off, only destroyed.

EBS-backed (persistent): This type of server stores the root filesystem on a persistent network-attached volume (EBS) that is a bit slower and costs an extra $0.10/GB but allows the server to be turned off and on to save usage fees.

EBS-backed servers also support reserved instances, with which you can pay up-to 50% less.

For more information, see https://hub.turnkeylinux.org/amazon/enable/ and related (?) popups.

Why doesn't my server show up in the AWS console?

It does, but the AWS console is region specific - which means it will only display servers running in the selected region (IIRC, you select the region top left). This is unlike the Hub which displays all servers in the dashboard no matter the region.

Jeremy's picture

Correct me if I'm wrong

But micro instances are only available with EBS backing yeah? And as the free tier includes 10GB EBS, assuming that you were eligible for that, there would be no charge for one instance? Assuming thats the case; how does that work with multiple instances? Can the free 10GB be used with multiple micro instances? Ie if you only use 3GB for one instance, could another instance also run free too (assuming the hours weren't exceeded and the 2nd instance didn't use more than 7GB)?

Liraz Siri's picture

The free usage quota counts each resource separately

You can't create a Micro server with less than 10GB of storage so if you launch more than 1 you are going to be charged a $1/month per server (10GB * $0.10) for the extra EBS-backed storage.

Hourly CPU fees are counted separately. If you only run one micro server at a time, you won't pass 750 monthly Micro server hours, which means you won't get charged $0.02/hour for CPU time.

Jeremy's picture

Ok thanks Liraz

Please also see my comments below re clarification of charges.

Regarding the server showing

Regarding the server showing up in the AWS console - I must have missed that drop down for the region, I see it now.

Thanks for your help, I sorted out my pricing questions, see my reply below.


Figured it out

Thanks for your help Jeremy and Alon. I think I figured out where I was getting confused. On the Amazon pricing page they list the free year of service being worth $14/month, while the Turnkey Hub lists it as $15/month. I had been reading it as those being two different charges but they in fact refer to the same thing. If assuming a 31-day month, the service would be worth $14.88 at $0.02/hr. Amazon truncates that number and just advertises it as being worth $14/month, while Turnkey Hub rounds up to $15/month. I think the way that Turnkey Hub presents it is more accurate, but they should change https://hub.turnkeylinux.org/amazon/enable/ to say "Approx. $15/month" since that will fluctuate based on days per month.


Liraz Siri's picture

That's not how it works

Sorry for the confusion. There still seems to be some sort of misunderstanding. The fee for EBS-backed servers is a proposed TurnKey monthly service level fee, not a per-server fee. If you click on the (?) no the left a popup comes up that explains how this works. Maybe you missed it, or we need to clarify the language or something. I say "proposed fee" because it hasn't been activated yet. It's still $0.

For comparison S3-backed instances don't have a monthly fee, but they do have a 10% premium on usage fees. If you run enough servers that can add up. EBS-backed instances don't have any premium on usage fees but you pay a global monthly fixed fee which gives you the option to run as many EBS-backed servers as you want. It's basically a different way to fund development.

Micro servers are EBS-backed servers so if you subscribe to that then of course you also get access to Micro servers but if you just want to run the free tier micro server then you don't want to enable EBS-backed servers. That's why we made it possible for users to get TurnKey Micro servers for free if they invite a friend to the Hub. That way even if you're not contributing anything to the project's funding, you're at least passing the torch along to someone else who might. Get it?

Yes I guess I am still

Yes I guess I am still misunderstanding. The website is not clear at all on this. The TurnKey Hub pricing page https://hub.turnkeylinux.org/pricing/ implies that I can use the Hub with Amazon's free tier and that the TurnKey Hub account is free. Yet now you are saying that there is a monthly service fee for EBS-backed servers. This feels a bit like a bait and switch. Also, you say that Micro servers are EBS-backed, but if I want to use the free Micro tier then I shouldn't enable EBS. Isn't that contradicting? If Micro servers are EBS-backed, then how could I use the Micro tier without enabling EBS?

Maybe I just need to be more clear in my question so here goes: I want to use the TurnKey Hub for one Micro server with my free year of AWS service. Ideally, I do not want to pay anything as that is how this was advertised. Is this possible? Are there any other fees that I will have to pay and what are those fees going towards?

Liraz, would it be possible to have a live chat with you? I went on the IRC channel yesterday but there were only 4 people idling and no one responded to me. I have been using TurnKey's applications for a while now and really love what you provide but I am questionable about using the Hub because it is all explained in a confusing manner and I feel like I am going to be charged for things that were not mentioned initially.


Jeremy's picture

OK I think I've got it now

Alon or Liraz, please correct me if I'm (still) wrong...

Normal AWS charges apply always (ie S3 charges for TKLBAM, Small/Medium/Micro instances, EBS, Route53 DNS).
There is no TKL charge to use the Hub.
There is no TKL premium on TKL DNS (ie Route 53 DNS - you just pay AWS charges for custom domains, tklapp.com is free).
There is no TKL premium on on TKLBAM (ie S3 costs - you just pay AWS charges).
There is a 10% TKL premium on Small and Micro Medium instances usage fees (you pay AWS charges plus 10%).
There is a (proposed) flat rate $15/mth TKL premium on any/all EBS usage (AWS charges + $15/mth). Unless you invite a friend (then the $15/mth TKL premium is waived).

So (assuming I have it right) using the AWS free tier there will still be a (proposed) flat rate charge of $15/mth. That will be for as many EBS backed instances as you desire. The only way to avoid the charge is to invite a friend.

I suspect that because TKL are unable to charge a % premium on EBS/micro instances, the only way they can generate an income from EBS backed instances is to charge this flat rate. I think it's a little unfortunate that it can only be a flat rate as $15/mth is quite expensive IMO if you only have one micro instance and makes the free tier not free ($15/mth). Obviously though it scales well.

Ultimately though I agree that it needs to be spelt out (perhaps something like I have above).

Okay that makes sense

Okay that makes sense. Thank you for clarifying. That information is not at all clear on the website and really needs to be explained better. I'm still confused though about that "proposed" cost of $15/month. Liraz said it is not in effect currently, when will that start? Is it guaranteed to be $15/month? I'm concerned that since it is a proposed cost and has not yet been enacted, the price could change without me knowing. Also, I'm confused why it lists that cost without saying it's only proposed and not in effect yet. If it isn't actually in effect then it shouldn't be listed. Very confusing.

From my understanding, I can use my AWS free tier for a year, but will be charged $15/month for EBS service from TurnKey (I assume I will be billed through Amazon for this). Once my free tier ends, I will be paying approx. $15/month for my Micro instance and $15/month for TurnKey EBS service. If I then choose to add another Micro server, I will pay approx. $30/month for the two Micro instances plus the static $15/month for the TurnKey EBS service. Can someone confirm this for me?


Jeremy's picture

Yes I think Hub changes need to be sent to users via email

I think it would be good if any changes in the Hub (particularly to charges) should be made via email (the address that you have linked to your Hub account). I know that users can sign up to alerts, but I think that it should be an opt-out service (my understanding is that it is currently opt-in) when it comes to important stuff like that.

I agree that ideally proposed charges should be stated as proposed, or put somewhere separately (perhaps as an 'announcement'/'notification' when you log into the Hub?). I also agree that these charges need to be clearly spelt out here on the TKL website (and possibly a link to it in the Hub somewhere). Like I say, something similar to what I wrote above would be good, with perhaps a couple of usage scenarios to confirm certain situations - such as the one you gave.

As to your questions - I'm fairly confident that the $15/mth TKL premium for EBS will be charged by TKL via AWS billing (ie it will all be on your AWS bill - that's how the current 10% on Sml/Med instances works). Also IMO your summary of the monthly charges (assuming the $15/mth TKL premium sticks) would be accurate (although to be 100% confident we probably need confirmation from Alon or Liraz).

Liraz Siri's picture

We can't do silent pricing changes (and we don't want to)

When the pricing you signed up for goes into effect the final price you will eventually pay will either be $15 or less. You will receive two e-mail notifications two weeks in advance of that happening. One from Amazon's billing system and one from us directly.

I can totally understand the unease with anything that looks like unfinal pricing. Based on a wealth of negative experience with unscrupulous vendors, people usually expect the worst. But you have to understand that TurnKey doesn't actually have a billing system to screw up so even if we were shamelessly evil we wouldn't be able to pull off silent pricing changes on Amazon's platform. If you don't trust us, you can at least trust Amazon to know better than that.

On a personal note I hold a firm belief in the power of the Internet to expose any vendor greedy and dumb enough to try and change prices silently. It's a suicidal move that will guarantee nobody ever trusts you with their billing details ever again.

As it stands, nobody has ever paid for any service we have had anything to do with more than they agreed, though many are paying less than they agreed ($0/month instead of $15/month) which I guess is so mind boggingly unusual that it leaves users like Ryan scratching their heads trying to figure out what the hell is going on. :)

Jeremy's picture

Excellent! Thanks Liraz

Thanks Liraz. And I'm not surprised that this is how you guys operate. I have been here long enough to know you guys are very accountable and responsive to concerns.

Liraz Siri's picture

A few corrections

What you wrote is essentially true except for the following, relatively minor corrections:

  • Micro servers don't have a usage fee premium: There is no TKL 10% premium on micro server usage fees. Micro servers are EBS-backed. EBS-backed servers don't have usage fee premiums.
  • How the proposed EBS-backed service fee will work: There is a proposed fixed, global monthly premium for a subscription that lets you deploy as many TurnKey EBS-backed instances as you want, in which case there are no premiums on usage fees. It is currently not in effect yet as we are still collecting feedback on that through the Hub. We don't actually know what the final pricing is going to be. I know that sounds a bit alarming because people assume the worst but we've thought this through carefully and can guarantee that nobody will ever pay for the service more than they signed up for. In other words, if you signed up for $15/month you may end up paying less than $15/month but not more. When I say you may pay less I mean that we guarantee that nobody who signs up for the service will ever pay more than the final pricing. For example, if based on the feedback we are collecting we decide the final price is $10, nobody will pay more than $10. If you signed up for a $15 plan, you will get a discount. Some people may pay less than the final pricing though if the Hub offered them a discounted plan. Currently nobody is paying anything for EBS-backed servers because the actual in-effect pricing is $0.
  • Micro servers are a special case: They're EBS-backed so they're included in the EBS-backed subscription but you can also activate them separately by inviting a friend to the Hub, in which case you can deploy Micro servers without paying TurnKey anything. No service subscription fee or premium on usage fees. If your Micro server usage does not exceed Amazon free usage tier quota you don't pay anyone anything for up to a year. After the year is over you'll just pay Amazon the regular usage fees. If you reserve a micro instance it'll cost you around $5/month, which pretty much anyone can afford right?
  • Inviting a friend: gives you access to Micro servers but NOT to EBS-backed servers in general. If you don't want to pay a monthly fee for the EBS-backed service you can still deploy S3-backed servers and then you pay a 10% premium on usage fees.
  • We try to explain all of this out very carefully when you sign up for the service in the Hub in the /amazon/enable page. I'll try attaching some screenshots.
Jeremy's picture

Thanks Liraz

When I have a little more time, I'll read all this properly, look over your screenies and give you my 2c worth (although knowing me it'll probably be more like $2 worth!)

Whilst I think it's obviously very important that this is spelt out when you are signing up (ie via the Hub). I'd also like to see a standard web page that can easily be accessed by the public. I think often people like to be fairly clear on what they're signing up for before they even start the process. It could be a wiki page or not; each have benefits and drawbacks. A wiki page would need to state that it's a wiki page (ie a 'guide' and not official documentation - perhaps even a note that official documentation is avaialble via the Hub prior to sign up for paid services?). Another advantage is that community members (such as me!) could expand, adapt and update as required. On the plus side for a admin produced web page: presents as more official, can't be altered by anyone but yourselves. On the minus - it's another resource that needs to be managed and updated by you guys.

Anyway I'll get abck to you on all this. Hopefully Ryan is all good to go! :)

Liraz Siri's picture

Hub screenshots

OK, here are a few Hub screenshots I just took that best explainf what kind of interface users are currently interacting with on the Hub. Ideas for how to improve the interface so it better explains what we intend are most welcome.

https://hub.turnkeylinux.org/amazon/enable

Service fee help popup - when you click on (?)

https://hub.turnkeylinux.org/amazon/enable/micro/

Thanks

Thanks Liraz, it all makes sense now. I really appreciate the time you took to explain all of this and make it clear it me.

I think Jeremy's response above is perfect and helps explain why I was confused about the pricing. There needs to be a better pricing page explaining in detail all of these various servers (S3 vs. EBS) and the fees that go along with them. This should be accompanied by common use examples. One example would be my case where I want to utilize the free year of AWS Micro tier and it would lay out the costs associated with that. My confusion began because when I first looked at the pricing page it seemed everything would be free, but then as I began to setup my server I got to the page titled Enable TurnKey Linux on Amazon EC2 and was faced with a $15/month fee that AFAIK had not been mentioned anywhere until this point. That fee should be mentioned somewhere before I even create my Hub account. I like Jeremy's idea of using a Wiki to do this but don't see it as necessary; if the site admins feel competent to explain the various use cases and prices that go along with them then that will be just as good.

One last question and then we can put this issue to rest. In the second screenshot above labeled Service fee help popup, it says "Amazon charges accounts that have enabled EBS-Backed TurnKey Servers a fixed monthly service fee." This makes it sound like it is an Amazon fee, while if I understand you correctly it is in fact a TurnKey Hub fee, is this correct? I realize that the fee is still billed by Amazon regardless but maybe the phrasing could be more clear about who is making money there.


Liraz Siri's picture

EBS-backed instances are optional

The pricing page was designed before support for EBS-backed instances were added to the Hub so there may be room for improvement. OTOH, EBS-backed instances are optional. We didn't take away anything or change the pricing of the existing service. We just added another option. If someone doesn't like the idea of a fixed global service-level fee they can sign up for S3-backed instances instead.

Here's some background to put things in context. Last year, when we asked for feedback on the usage fee premium the most common complaint was that an incremental 10% on usage fees was harder for companies to understand, register in accounting, explain to the boss, etc. They wanted to pay a fixed global fee regardless of how many servers they run and reminded us that we were the only Amazon AMI partner that proposed adding a fixed usage fee premium. Everybody else was charging a global monthly fee, mostly because until you get massive scale a modest premium on usage fees doesn't bring in substantial funding.

We didn't really like the idea of a fixed fee because it would accommodate the needs of companies at the expense of small-time users. In other words, why should a consultant that just wants to run a couple of servers be asked to contribute the same funding as a company running dozens of servers?

But when we introduced EBS-backed instances we figured this would be a perfect opportunity to make both options available and make *almost* everybody happy.

Those who prefer an incremental premium on usage fees can go with S3-backed instances. Those who prefer a monthly usage fee can go with EBS-backed instances.

Granted offering two options requires a bit of explanation and its been tricky to communicate exactly our intentions. We've revised and improved the wording several times already and there may still be room for additional improvement.

Jeremy's picture

Thats a nice explanation

And it puts it all back in context. I guess the only thing that doesn't quite fit right for me is that if the EBS fee was largish (which I thnk perhaps it should be now I understand it all a bit better) then it makes micro servers a bit silly (except for free tier users).

Ideally I still think it'd be great if there could be usage premiums for all usage scenarios, but with capped 'plans' available (for corporate and high end users). For me (and I suspect others too), part of the initial appeal of Micro servers is the price factor and it is unfortunate that the supposedly cheapest server config is possibly going to be close to the next dearest despite considerably lower specs. I don't have any issue with heavy users paying their way (actually I think they should) but it makes entry level harder IMO when users will also have to contend with relatively significant monthly fees. Obviously this is the limitations of Amazon and technical limitations in what their billing system cam/will do.

Ok enough whinging from me! :)

Re: Hub screenshots

Hello,

I'm a bit confused as well.  On the "Enable TurnKey Linux on Amazon EC2" page, it's showing $35/month for the EBS-backed.

Why is this?

Thanks,

Maurice

Liraz Siri's picture

We're still collecting feedback on pricing

As I explained above, the pricing for EBS-backed instances is not final yet. Without seeing how Hub users respond to different price points we would need to pull a number out of thin air. Pricing effects quite a few things from how people perceive the quality of a service to how many people sign up for it. We don't have any experience with this sort of thing yet so we don't trust our instincts and are taking special precautions to avoid screwing things up.

Anyhow, that's one of the reasons nobody is actually being charged anything. We won't actually set the pricing until the data collection phase is over.

The rules we have set for the "data collection" phase are that:

1) Nobody will ever pay more than they signed up for.

2) Nobody will ever pay more than the final pricing.

For example, let's say the ideal pricing is $25. In a few weeks or so, when we finish collecting data you will receive an e-mail from us explaining that according to the "rules of engagement" I just explained above you won't pay $35 but $25, because $35 is higher than the final pricing and nobody pays more than the final pricing.

Jeremy's picture

I'm with Ryan (sort of)

In the second screenshot above labeled Service fee help popup, it says "Amazon charges accounts that have enabled EBS-Backed TurnKey Servers a fixed monthly service fee." This makes it sound like it is an Amazon fee, while if I understand you correctly it is in fact a TurnKey Hub fee, is this correct? I realize that the fee is still billed by Amazon regardless but maybe the phrasing could be more clear about who is making money there.

Firstly I don't grudge TKL charging a premium on AWS hosting. The amount of work Alon and Liraz do and the costs incurred (both financial and personal) as a result of running TKL (development, hosting and not to mention the time and effort providing high level support behind the scenes) must be substantial and I think it is certainly not unreasonable that TKL at least offset some of the costs and help fund future development.

But I think that it would be good if it is completely transparent as to what goes where. Even if you just made the headings something like "Turnkey Linux Service fee ..."

Also should I go ahead and make a page in the wiki for this info? Perhaps a nice table of something? :)

Liraz Siri's picture

BTW, I fixed the wiki permissions

A spammer had registered a user on wiki.turnkeylinux.org and recursively changed permissions on the pages so other users couldn't edit them. I fixed that yesterday.

I'm not against a table listing all fees. If you feel it would be helpful feel free to take the initiative I'm just not sure it would be very useful as the user experience won't go through that page. You have to clarify in a place where you already have the users's attention. Where we need to do a good job explaining all of the various fees and prices and such is on the Hub. That way we can embed the relevant information as close to where the user needs it as possible.

If you think about how to explain everything such that there is no room for ambiguity you'll see this can be a bit tricky. You have to anticipate all the different ways someone might misunderstand what you are saying. My first reaction to that is to make the text more verbose, add clarifications, examples, etc, but you have to strike a careful balance with that as well. As any lawyer knows verbosity can conceal as much as it exposes if the length of a text exceeds the attention span of the average user (e.g., Facebook's privacy policy).

Anyhow, we've already made substantial revisions to the wording since we introduced the service and as this thread shows there may still be room for additional improvement.

Jeremy's picture

Thanks for your careful explanation Liraz

Yes I agree. I often find myself writing mamoth posts to descibe something relatively simple. Partally it's because I have a tendancy to be a bit wordy anyway. But I also think that it's the nature of tech stuff. Ultimately you have to make assumptions on the understanding and knowledge of the audience and I tend to err on the side of over explanation (I like to think of it as newb friendly - although possibly coma inducing to more tech minded people). I suspect I'm mainly like that because when I first tried Linux ~5yrs ago Linux seemed much more elitist and it would often take me days to follow a simple tutorial because the tutorial would say something like 'step 1: do xyz' and I'd have to spend half an hour researching just what x was, how it was 'done', what the expected result was and how it interfaces with yz, etc. Things are obviously much better now but I still think it only takes a few extra minutes to make a newb's early experiences just that little bit easier and/or nicer.

Anyway, I'm rambling way off topic...

Bottom line is that I will consider doing up a wiki page although I'm not quite so motivated about it now. And you are right Liraz, the odd person may come across it it, but perhaps not. I guess at least I could point further questions towards it (rather than point them to this thread which would take some wading through by now...)

Re: We're still collecting feedback on pricing

Ok Liraz,

I reread this entire thread and I think I understand better your plans.  I have some feedback for you:

1) I signed up for the service 15 days ago.  I got the auto-email that my 14-day trial had expired.  So, I logged in to make an adjustment.  I was surprised when I saw the price was now $35/month instead of what I intially saw as $15/month.  I've been investigating VPS services to host my PhD research wiki.  I tried a few things out but ultimately decieded to go with TurnKey on AWS because it was (at least for the first year) cheaper than anything else with the extra bonus of your easy of setup plus the opportunity to experiment with EC2.  When the Amazon charges kicked in at $15-20/month is would still be cheaper than using my earlier choice of using a2hosting.com, which as part of their package also provides TurnKey solutions.  It you add an additional $10-15/month fee, it suddenly boost the cost of this solution and someone like me is probably better off going back to a2hosting, or other service provider.

2) I was surprised I needed to do this at all, because when I was first playing with TurnKey/AWS, using the control panel, I had already set my server to be a micro-EBS.  So it was very confusing why I needed to do this again (or something different).

3) I googled, trying to find an answer to my confusion about this, and found this thread.  After a quick read, I decided to go ahead, I killed my existing EBS backed micro server, and authorize the EBS-Backed server.  It wasn't a big deal for me because I hadn't really done any meaningful work yet on my TurnKey wiki.  Even though I had previously backuped up a snapshot,  this felt very unsettling to be in this situation at the end of the trial period.

4) Further, it was unsettling to have to go thru the amazon purchase process when I had already been thru the process when I first signed up for trial.  I (think) see now that what I had "purchased before was a "vanilla" server agreement, as opposed to an EBS-backed server agreement.  It is confusing and not very clear.

5) Even though I now just signed up at $35/month, please do not consider this a vote for me that this price is acceptable.  I would expect you to honor the price of $15/month (or less) which was originally presented to me when I signed up for the trial.  And as mentioned early in point #1 this price most probably will be to high for a small time user such as myself.

I like your product very much, I hope that you will consider a pricing tier the small time or academic user.

Thanks,

Maurice

Liraz Siri's picture

A couple of questions

Maurice, thanks for explaining how things look from your perspective. If you have the time it would be very helpful if you could help us understand your perspective on a couple of additional questions:

  1. If you just want a Micro server, is inviting a friend who would be interested in the Hub really that difficult?

    Then you get a Micro server for 100% free for the first year and at a really low price afterwards. Note that TurnKey doesn't get any funding when you use a Micro Server, so...

  2. If you want a larger (e.g., Small or Medium) sized server, why not use S3-backed servers? There's no monthly fee there.

Re: A couple of questions

Hi Liraz,

In short, I agree with your points #1 & 2.  I ultimately, did in fact decide to recommend your service to a friend/colleague.  Upon my first read, it seemed as though it required that a person whom I recommended actually go through the process of registering for me to get the free service. (Which is not unreasonable.)  I didn't want to put pressure on my friend to go all the way thru the Amazon process, so I wasn't sure if I would actually get the credit.  This is why I didn't immediately do it.  However, after making the recommendation, it appeared as though I now immediately got the free service, which puzzled me a bit.  Not sure if it was this action or another of the previous actions I took yesterday.  (Do you know?)

As an alternative recommendation model, perhaps so should consider turning the recommendation direction around - instead of a current user recommending a new user, have the new user say who recommended them.  In the signup process, you would ask them with person recommended them and then give the recommending friend "free service" credit.  Leveraging Facebook, that would work very well with me, as I have a large number of friend who follow my posting and "like"s quite closely.

In regard to my earlier posting, even though my points #1 & 5 may be mostly moot, please consider my other points #2, 3 & 4.  Other trial users may share my confusion and frustration at the process, and may needlessly abandon your service and loss you otherwise receptive customers.

Cheers,

Maurice

L. Arnold's picture

On my side I am not sure about the Micro Instances anyway.

I have twice tried to install a Magento Micro Instance and it simply does not work.  It does work as an AWS backed instance (I guess it is called the small install).

I definitely will need to do some reading to better understand the monthly charges.  Is the $35 so one can host the Micro Instances only or does it also tie into more than that?  I did sign up for the 15 day trial, which I am still in but I noticed that the cost of the micro instance was not actually free, but first 2 cents , then 2.5 cents an hour.  The Small sized servers jumped from 9.5 to 10.5 cents an hour.. certainly an amount that can add up.

Anyway, I will do some studying to all this.  It is definitely cool that you can "launch to the cloud" with relative ease.  Speed, stability, long term cost and ease of management all factor into the equation.  For instance, I need to try a Cname rewrite to a tklapp instance to see if it goes easy.  Also, there are subjects of SSL certs (probably updatable from WEBMIN as any TKL Appliance, but how does this work in the case of CNAME rewrites.

All for now on this subject.  Thanks for the efforts!

Liraz Siri's picture

There was no change in pricing, just more accurate presentation

Sorry for the confusion. We pushed out an update to the Hub a few weeks ago to synchronize the exact hourly pricing to the region you selected dynamically using Javascript. Before that the pricing the Hub showed you was sometimes off by up to a cent or so for regions other than US-east.

In case you're wondering where the pricing differences come, Amazon set slight pricing differences between different regions to reflect the costs of running a datacenter on the US east cost vs Ireland (for example).

Jeremy's picture

An idea... Multi-tier pricing?

I don't know how this would work logistically or whether it would just create too big a management overhead but how about something (sort of) like what Google Apps does:

Have a default charge that is relatively high for enabling EBS backed instances, say ~$50/mth but with the option to reduce that charge in certain end user scenarios (and on application with accompanying evidence), but perhaps with certain limitations. I just plucked the numbers out of thin air.

  1. Educational/Academic Institution pricing (perhaps ~30-40%) - A significantly discounted price for institutional educational/academic use only. Legitimate education providers generally have to be registered as such so could provide some documentation of this.
  2. Educational/Academic end user pricing (perhaps ~5%? - with the option to invite friends to get free) - Perhaps just need to sign up with an .edu email account (AFAIK most schools/colleges/unis/etc provide students/employees with an .edu email address & AFAIK .edu domains are regulated - it is heavily regulated here in au land). With a limit of a single micro instance.
  3. Non-profit/NGO pricing (same as 1? or possibly less even?) - Similar to education providers, NGOs & non-profits have to be registered as such and so could provide documentation of this. Limited to micro instances only.
  4. Small/micro IT consultants/providers (~40%? - with the option to invite friends for further discount) - Need to provide some evidence such as an existing webpage or similar. Limited to say 5-10 micro EBS instances.
  5. Low usage end users (~5-10%? - with the option to invite friends for further discount) - For single site owners. Limited to a single micro instance.

I know that you probably won't like the complexity of something like this Liraz and I know that depending on demand the management of applications could be a little painful. But IMO if it's clearly laid out then I don't think it'd be too complex for end users to work through. And surely the Hub could relatively easily be set up to limit the number of micro instances? Or perhaps another way to go would be to limit the number of micro instances (1 or 2) and to have more users would need to apply?

I don't know, just throwing ideas about really...

Liraz Siri's picture

Good ideas but...

The way things work right now micro instances are already available to everyone for free if you invite a friend. We don't consider Micro servers to be a possible source of funding. There's no usage premium or monthly fee or anything like that.

And again, there actually is an option for smaller time users or anyone else who doesn't like the monthly fee. Just use S3-backed instances. That used to be the only option up until a couple of months ago.

As you point out adding multiple EBS-backed plans would add quite a bit of complexity not only at our interface with Amazon's billing system (if it's even possible), but also at the level that we have to figure out how to explain all these different options to users in a way that doesn't totally overwhelm them. That's going to be difficult.

I wouldn't mind waving the fees for non-profit organizations if there was a way to do it automatically. But otherwise I'm wary of a manual verification process that will take away more precious time from development. We're already shifted way too much of our attention away from that in the last year. As I just finished writing in a long winded blog post comment we really need to get back to TurnKey's focus - the appliance library. Preferably before our user base mobs the project with pitchforks.

Jeremy's picture

Watch out for those pitchforks! :)

Yeah sorry I was just thinking aloud really...

I still like my ideas :) but I understand that the time cost is probably not worth the fiscal payment.

But I've been thinking some more... Just let me clarify:
- You have a way to separate the Micro instances from other EBS backed instances from your end?
- You don't expect any/much income stream to come from users on Micro instances?
- You anticipate that most of the funds raised by monthly fees will come from large users/companies/etc?
- You can limit the number of Mirco instances users can launch via the Hub (even if you can't do this now, it could be implemented)?

Assuming that is the case, then why not separate the end user experience of Micro instance vs EBS backed Sml and Med instances? Have a simple 3 tier system:
Tier 1: Commercial - supports EBS backing of all available TKL instance types. Pricing: normal AWS charges + flat monthly TKL fee (I think something like $50/mth is reasonable).
Tier 2: General - allows unlimited Micro instance support for free (after monthy fee), but no other EBS backed instances. Sml and Med instances (if/when required) would have to be S3 backed (unless you upgrade). Pricing: normal AWS charges + small monthly TKL fee (invite 5 friends? or ~$15/mth?) + %10 TKL premium on Sml & Med instances (if used).
Tier 3: Light/Free - allows one (or 2?) Micro instance(s) and unlimited Sml and Med (S3 backed). Pricing: normal AWS charges + very small or no monthly fee (perhaps invite a friend?) + 10% TKL premium on Sml & Med S3 backed instances (if used). If that wasn't easily possible, you could just make it free with no EBS support (how it is now basically).

I think from an end user perspective, Micro instances are about saving money on projects that don't require the 'grunt' of even a small instance. And especially with the free tier; providing an entry point for new users or a hosting possibility for small-time users that want to move from a shared hosting type situation to a VPS without the relatively large costs (in comparison) generally associated with a VPS.

Clutch's picture

Do I Have How TKL Is Making It's Money Correct?

Hi,

I got started with the Backup & Migration registration last night.  I'm getting ready to install an Appliance on EC2 using S3.  TKL is providing a free Niche Service using Amazon Cloud Servers that will produce potential customers for Amazon.  Thus, TKL collects Affiliate Commissions from Amazon for every paying referal.  Am I right?  If I'm right, then the cost for S3 backup, and the use of EC2 will not be any different than if I were to sign up at Amazon directly rather than TKL (an Amazon Affiliate).

The future prices for EBT (monthly service charges) which is being debated is something that depends on Amazon pricing policies for affiliates.  Meaning TKL does not receive commissions (or minimal if any) from Amazon for EBT, but can adjust the pricing structure that Amazon has in place based on the expense level of service it provides; The level of service over and above what Amazon can do itself.

TKL isn't really doing anything for free. It is just working really hard for those chincy affiliate commissions, and Amazon's everchanging commission policies

Everybody has got to make a living somehow.  I hope I'm right, because I would really like to get my project off the ground soon.

If I'm getting it all wrong, then please correct me.

Thank You!

~Clutch

 


Jeremy's picture

If only that were true!

Unfortunately I'm fairly certain you are incorrect. AFAIK Amazon offers no straight affiliate program for its AWS offerings (only it's retail product sales). It does however give volume discounts, ie TKL get a slightly cheaper rate on S3 storage than you or I would (so I guess that's sort of like an affiliate program?). Liraz (one of the core devs) pretty much says as much regarding TKLBAM in a post he made recently. In summary: TKLBAM costs them money because they get charged 30c for each bill a TKL customer gets for TKLBAM (S3). But they get a 1c/GB discount because of volume, thus the big customers (who have more than 30GB backed up) offset the cost of all the little ones.

As for EC2 instances, AFAIK TKL gets nothing from Amazon for TKL EC2 instances, thus the talk of TKL premiums/charges/fees. Adding a fee on top of normal AWS charges (via DevPay) is one of the only (easiest?/fairest?) ways TKL can raise money whilst still being true to the FOSS (free open source software) philosophy.

Liraz Siri's picture

Why the TurnKey Hub is built on Amazon Web Services

No, it's not because there's a lucrative affiliate program, because to the best of my knowledge there is currently no affiliate program for Amazon cloud services. Unfortunately, Amazon's Affiliate programs don't extend to that section of Amazon's business. Not sure why that is. Maybe the margins are too low.

I wish you were right though. We'd sign up for an affiliate program in a microsecond because I'm pretty sure TurnKey is introducing plenty of new customers to their service. But anyhow, we work with what we have.

Right now we're actually losing a bit of money on services like TKLBAM because we didn't add a premium on storage fees and Amazon is charging us 30 cents each time you get a bill. That eventually adds up. It's not exactly fair, but on the other hand, it's our choice. We're hoping we at least stop losing money once usage ramps up enough so we get start getting storage discounts.

The real reason we're using AWS over other cloud services is that it is the most powerful cloud platform. Actually, scratch that. There was really no choice. AWS was and still is the only cloud platform powerful enough to support a service like the TurnKey Hub.

I'm not saying it is technically impossible to use another cloud like Rackspace for this, but rather than it isn't practical if you don't have the resources or willingness to build out your own billing system and access control infrastructure. All the other cloud providers expect vendors to pay directly for the cloud resources their customers consume then (presumably) turn around and charge their users in turn to cover their costs and make a profit. As far as they are concerned you are their customer. Nobody else is willing to handle billing for you. Setting up a reliable billing system for pay as you go cloud services is not exactly within the reach of your typical open source project. We could probably do it if we didn't have a choice but it would take away significant resources from the stuff that actually provides users with value.

Clutch's picture

Page Suggests That TKL Is Being Paid Amazon Commission

The following quote suggests that TKL is being paid Affiliate Commissions from Amazon.  The quote is from  https://hub.turnkeylinux.org/pricing/.

"To enable the Hub to deploy TurnKey Linux images on the Amazon EC2 cloud, the Hub will redirect you to log into your existing Amazon account (or create a new one) and then take you to the following sign up page:

After you sign up, Amazon will bring you back to the Hub and you'll be able to deploy any TurnKey appliance.

Amazon bills you at the end of the month for server time and bandwidth on a pay-per-use basisTurnKey receives a commission of up to 10% of usage fees."

Perhaps where it reads "TurnKey receives a commission of up to 10%" can be cleared up. 

What does "of up to" mean?

 

~Thank You!


Jeremy's picture

No the 10% is on top of Amazon charges

TKL uses the Amazon DevPay system which means that TKL can add a margin to the AWS costs and Amazon bills for it. As I said AWS doesn't give affiliate commisions - they are only available for Amazon retail product sales like books, etc.

Perhaps the wording could be more obvious in that it is a ~10% premium on top of AWS charges. Although technically TKL do get a 10% commision of what Amazon charge you (through DevPay). The TKL premium is added on before you are billed - it is not a separate charge. So TKL receive "up to 10%" (ie no more than 10%) of what you are billed for. Looked at from that perspective the wording is accurate.

Clutch's picture

I realize that.  I meant to

I realize that.  I meant to suggest rewriting the sentence to make it not so misleading.


Clutch's picture

It's not a sales commission

It's not a sales commission from Amazon if TKL is tacking on an extra fee the customer must pay.


Jeremy's picture

But it is a sales commision...

I get what you are saying, but like I say, technically it is a commision as it is a part of the enduser price (which you are billed for). It's not "tacked on" after the fact, it's a part of the bill - not a separate item. So users pay their bill to Amazon and TKL get a commision from that (AWS don't keep it all).

Let me demonstrate by analogy:
Say a shop owner sells a painting for an artist on commision in their shop; and for argument's sake say the shop owner also frames the picture (adds value). The artist sets their price, the shop owner adds a commision (to cover the costs to run their shop, the cost of framing and perhaps a small profit margin) and the price tag is the artist's price plus the shop owner's commision. When the painting is sold the shop owner receives the commision and the artist gets the rest. I guess where the confusion enters is that (in comparing my analogy to the TKL-AWS setup) the artist is also the person operating the checkout! (The shop owner adds the commision in setting the price, but the artist collects all the money, keeps their bit and hands the shop owner their commision).

So the Hub is sort of the shop, TKL the shop owner and Amazon is the artist but also the checkout operator. The EC2 instance is the painting and the TKL AMI (and some of the Hub features) is(/are) the frame!

[update - improved the analogy a little... then corrected it...]

Liraz Siri's picture

The pricing page describes the big picture

It's really hard to define everything precisely all at once without overwhelming users with information. So we start (on the pricing page) by describing the big picture briefly and then gradually zoom into detail to clear up the most important potential ambiguities.

The page where you actually sign up (/amazon/enable) to enable TurnKey images on Amazon EC2 explains the the fee structure in more detail using different popups and a handy comparison table.

Of course, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement but I don't think we'll ever eliminate 100% of potential misunderstandings though.

Liraz Siri's picture

Up to 10% refers to S3-backed Amazon EC2 instances

Many services provided through the Hub don't generate any revenue for TurnKey:

  • TKLBAM (it actually costs us a bit of money)
  • Micro server instances
  • Hub domain management/dyndns
  • EBS volume allocation

Currently EBS-backed instances also generate no revenue but users who sign up for that have agreed to pay a monthly fee which we will eventually activate (2-8 weeks).

L. Arnold's picture

If it is 10% I am OK with that...

I will begin by saying I am a TKL User an nothing more.

The different components of Appliances (that are developed and integrated without a charge) and data storage (which are not at all needed to use the appliances, but which do Make them very easy to use and add a level of reliability that is hard to match) are different beasts.

Amazon fundamentally is charging for the storage.  The Organization that is TKL is creating the link mechanism between the appliances and Amazon.  TKL needs to pay Amazon for their service and they need a mechanism to cover their other expenses.

The thrid component of integrated hosting is another "convenience" level service.  We can all go out and buy and maintain servers -- I do that sometimes to my detriment.  That is its own activity and time and money sink.  If we have the servers we also have power expenditures for them...  everyone in that chain, be it HP or Dell, the Power utility, Seagate, our ISP arehaving costs and expenses, and in turn passing charges along to us in one way or another.

The 10% commission (if that is what it is) to TKL seems to me  to be very very reasonable.  Amazon would be there without tKL and there are many other organizations offering gateways to Amazon's Servers.  What TKL is providing is a way to use them without a whole bunch of maintenance and they also are offering some very real cost savings over what i have seen if one just deals with Amazon directly.  It would be very east to spend $25, $50 even $100 a month with Amazon if you were not careful with what button you activated (this is likely true also within the TKL realm of possibilities).  TKL very clearly, to me anyway, saves me more than they cost me.

Being able to throw up a micro instance of Tracks or VTiger is a very quick way to get into business and to be in control of your own data rather than have Google or whoever try to get you to work through their cloudsphere... which in turn will lead to approaches by all sorts of other "on top providers" who most commonly are wanting $30 per user per month for this or that CRM/Docs implementation.

Anyway, I am not worried about a 10% commission, and more importantly, I am not worried about the integrity of TKL.  It is a really fantastic project and we are all grateful for the work that has gone into it -- particularly but not exlusively -- the work of a handful of really smart, open and honest individuals. And as far as I can see everyone who participates in the project, on whatever level, are really smart, open and honest individuals from whom I have learned a lot.

Thank you guys!

Liraz Siri's picture

Thanks Arnold! I needed that :)

A lot of times it feels like our best isn't really good enough. Maybe because people are more likely to speak out when they're not happy with something rather than the other way around. Which is just human nature I think.

So it's really really nice to get positive feedback from people in the community who seem to understand what we're trying to accomplish.

Thanks a bunch!

Re: Thanks Arnold! I needed that :)

For the record, I agree with Arnold.  10% on top is reasonable.  If you did this for the "unprofitable" services would it then make them profitable?  Speaking for myself, +10% on top of the micro EBS-backed server would seem to be more affordable than an added monthly fee.

Customer support and technical support are largely thankless jobs.  Do get down.  You have a great product, and your replies are thoughtful and responsive.  Keep up the good work. :-)

Cheers,

Maurice

Liraz Siri's picture

On TKLBAM and micro server usage fees

Thanks for the encouragement and suggestions.

Amazon storage costs are so low that a 10% premium wouldn't cover the transaction fees.

The math is simple. Amazon charges 30 cents on each transaction, which is equivalent to 2GBs worth of storage. A 10% premium would only cover costs if the average user stored around 20 GBs worth of storage. Right now the average storage is closer to a tenth of that.

Don't worry about it though. It's not a big deal. As long as cloud server usage grows we should be able to continue to subsidize TKLBAM.

Regarding micro server usage, Amazon doesn't give us freedom to do whatever we want. Micro servers are a special case. They're the only server type supported by the free usage tier and premiums on usage fees are not an option. Which is fine because we don't really like the idea of charging for Micro instances anyhow. We'd rather give them away so people can try out TurnKey more easily...

Clutch's picture

I have been doing my homework

I have been doing my homework for the use of open source for several
years.  Most every provider I come across have been very clear
about how they are being supported, and the different avenues for which
users can contribute to Open Source Initiative i.e. membership fees,
donate buttons, forum posting, improving the code, better forks,
webmastering, content writing, or any other I may have forgotten outside
of the got ya's.

As far as I know, I could be contributing with this post right now.  I
have only gotten quarter way with TKL.  I think it should be considered
on an official page rather than blog/forum discussion threads.  One
method I found exceptional with one of the many web content managers is a
questionaire upon signup of how the user would like to contribute.  This method is very clear right from the get go, and no guessing game is my reason.  It is very clear right from the get go.

P.S.  I think this post deserves better than a canned response.


Liraz Siri's picture

How to help (There are no canned responses)

I think every user that provides feedback is helping in a way, even when the feedback is respectfully negative. Getting your perspective is an important part of understanding the TurnKey community and user base. We don't turn on a dime because one particular user thinks we should, but we do listen to everyone (even when we don't respond) and the perspectives form a collage of the community which we factor back into decisions regarding what stuff to prioritize.

Regarding community involvement, the help page explains all the ways you can get and provide help. We used to have separate pages for each until we realized they were two sides of the same coin. The name Help is purposely ambiguous.

Many people who come to the website zoom straight to the appliance they want, download it and zip away anonymously. We'd rather they stuck around for a bit and said hello but we don't force anyone to participate in the community. We do try to engage users though. For example, when you download an appliance the website directs you to a page inviting you to register for a user account on the website and points you to sections on the website where you can get and receive help.

If you have ideas on how we can get better at that, we'd love to hear them but it would probably be better to open up a separate thread as I think we are getting a bit off topic.

Surprise bill

1 and a half hours ago, I just got this surprise email (spaces removed)

TurnKey Hub summary report for the last month:

* TurnKey Backup and Migration: No backups
* TurnKey Cloud Servers
 Servers: 1 running - $69.56 this month
 Resources: 2 EBS volumes, 0 domains, 0 dyndns
Tip: Pay up to 50% less in server usage fees
    Cloud accounts > Actions > Reserve instance

I have to say, it would have been nice to have some advance notice when the billing was about to start, I haven't even been using the instance, I just forgot to turn it off after I played with it for about 15 minutes when I first installed it.

Jeremy's picture

Bummer :(

I hate that! I accidentally left an instance running when I first signed up to AWS too...

I could be wrong, but I'm fairly certain that would be Amazon charges (not TKL) - normal Amazon charges always apply. AFAIK TKL haven't started charging a monthly fee for EBS backed volumes yet (will be another week at least I would think, perhaps longer). And I'm sure they will let everyone know before they start charging. You could check your Amazon account to get some clarity on exactly what the charges are.

I'm guessing that you ran a Small or Medium instance that was EBS backed? If it was just a Micro instance (especially if you are on the free tier) then I would contact the TKL core devs asap via the Hub feedback (blue button on the left hand side when you are logged into the Hub).

Liraz Siri's picture

More on this unfortunate misunderstanding

People who have logged into the Hub in the last month may have noticed we've programmed it to start tracking approximate usage costs for cloud servers. I say approximate because only the CPU hours of running servers are tracked. Without bandwidth and IO fees which the Hub doesn't know about. Usually CPU hours represent the bulk of costs so this is enough for a ballpark estimate. It's not perfect but it's better than whipping out a calculator or waiting for the bill to arrived in the mail.

The costs are displayed on the server dashboard for each running server. The total costs are displayed on the start page.

Then we figured hey, as long as we have this information, wouldn't it be neat if the Hub e-mailed it to you on a monthly/weekly basis instead of making you come to the Hub to get it.

So we added this feature last week and it was finally triggered today - at the end of October.

Unfortunately, many people seem to be misinterpreting the costs report as a bill. Ouch! I should have seen this one coming.

Will have to think a bit more about the wording used. Maybe add a THIS IS NOT A BILL disclaimer to the bottom.

Jeremy's picture

I think its a great idea

And personally it was clear to me that it was not a bill but I could see how others may have misinterpreted this.

Perhaps it would've been useful to send out an email first letting everyone know what was about to happen? Bit late now though I guess?! Although perhaps you could send one out now anyway? There are no doubt some people that may have not done anything about it yet, but could be turned off by this if they don't understand?

Liraz Siri's picture

Yeah, an e-mail explaining

Yeah, an e-mail explaining the report was an idea we considered and ultimately decided not to do because we didn't want to annoy users by explaining something we thought would be completely obvious (I.e., "the title explains what the message is all about, and even if it doesn't reading the body content should clear up any confusion"). We totally lost the "billing" angle.

Hmmm, we'll decide whether to send out an e-mail tomorrow. So far there have been just a handful of complaints.

Surprise Bill

Nevermind, I'm the idiot who doesn't look closely enough at his statements.  The new TKL statement is just the first to have gotten past my filters since I set it up long ago to auto-file those pesky spammy Amazon emails.  When I would go to the AWS billing console, they told me I was paying 1.50ish.  This application billing is so well hidden within AWS, it's nearly impossible to find if you don't know exactly where to look.

Liraz Siri's picture

Hub monthly report is not a bill

Yeah, that's one of the reasons we added the monthly report. So people don't leave servers on accidentally and get billed by surprise.

What I didn't anticipate is that people are confusing the report for a bill. We're not billing anyone! We're just tracking usage and costs.

I didn't actually confuse the

I didn't actually confuse the email for a bill, I did understand it as a statement/report and am very glad you started sending your own.  Much of it was my own bad for choosing small instead of micro (why I did this I haven't a clue today, I may have had a reason back then).

That being said, I blame Amazon's obtuse wording and hiding details like this, along with the fact that they send so much spam, it's easy to lose their reports or just filter them into oblivion (only go to that folder when you expect something like an activation code, otherwise it's spam).

 

Under Application Billing: 

Amazon EC2 running turnkey Linux on EC2

$.094 per Small instance-hour (or partial hour) consumed 739 Hrs 69.47

Turnkey Linux on EC2 Bandwidth

$.110 per GB of data transfer in     0.093 GB    .01

$.165 per GB of data transfer out    0.095 GB    0.02

$0.011 per GB of regional data transfer in/out    0.000047 GB     .01

Charges Due on November 1, 2011             69.51

 

Under Account Activity for AWS

This Month's Activity as-of October 31, 2011

Amazon EC2 Running Linux/Unix    0.00

$0.10 per GB-month of provisioned storage    14.429 GB-Mo    1.44

Total new charges this billing cycle    $1.44

Amazon Credits applied to Hub deployed instances?

Question: I currently have a large Amazon credit amount in my Amazon AWS account.  Does Amazon credit get applied if I deploy one of my Hub backup instances into Amazon EC2 -- where the running instance appears in the Amazon dashboard?  The reason I ask is that when I use the Hub to backup servers, I get charged by Amazon for the cost on my credit card (the card attached to the AWS account) but the Amazon credit is NOT applied to that cost.

Just wanted to know before I deploy instances via the Hub thinking my Amazon credit would be applied.

Thanks in advance ... Scott T

Liraz Siri's picture

My best guess: the credit will work for EBS-backed usage fees

I can sympathize was your confusion because Amazon used to max out our credit card even though we were in the black on our Amazon Payments account. This was before we set up bank transfers so while theoretically the incoming and outgoing funds should have balanced out eventually they were creating a big cash-flow headache for us that very very inconvenient. Thankfully, they eventually fixed that specific inconsistency.

Anyhow, based on my experience with the peculiarities of Amazon's billing system my best guess is that your credit will apply for the usage fees for EBS-backed servers but not other charges such as backup or S3-backed usage fees.

I also got a weird bill

Hey guys,

Now may be a good time to jump in with this. I just got a weird bill for what looks to be a flat-fee charge of $20/month, but the weird thing is I'm set to owe $40 come February 1st, 2012 - that's January and February I think. It's weird becuase I only thought they bill at the end of the month, and they only bill for what you use - not a flat fee?

It's a micro EBS-backed server, and it says my uptime is "1 day, 22 hours / $0.46 this month".

My total EC2 usage fees so far are $.14.

Can anyone explain what these $20/month charges are for? Are these the "proposed" charges?

Thanks and Happy New Year, all!

Tom

Liraz Siri's picture

Budget plan = $20/month + 0% premium on EC2 usage fees

Hi Tom! Sorry for the confusion and happy new year. Amazon doesn't support adding a usage premium on standard usage fees for EBS-backed servers so we added a new pricing model for the Business and Budget EBS-backed plans. If you prefer a 10% premium on usage fees and no monthly flat-rate fee you can sign up for the Hobby plan, which only supports S3-backed instances. Sorry if that sounds a bit arbitrary but we're doing the best we can within the limitations of how AWS's billing system, which has a few idiosyncrasies.

I think in the end it all turned out for the best though. When we introduced the 10% usage fee premium model last year many of TurnKey's business users complained that the markup model was unattractive to them for internal accounting / billing reasons. Now we support both models, which should make everyone happy, unless by some mistake you happen to be signed up to the wrong plan...

Anyhow, this discussion thread precedes the activation of the monthly fee for the Budget plan on towards the end of November. You should have received a total of 3 e-mails: an email from us on the 21st of November explaining what was going to happen two weeks before the change, an e-mail from Amazon the following day on the 22nd and another e-mail two weeks later on December 6th when the pricing change went into effect. You might want to check your spam folder...

Go to Cloud Accounts -> Plans and Pricing for a full explanation of the pros and cons of each type of service.

In a nutshell, both the Business and Budget plans let you deploy an unlimited number of EBS-backed servers, but the Business plan also includes Priority phone and e-mail support while the Budget plan doesn't.

The Hobby plan which I see you canceled let's you deploy as many S3-backed servers as you want, but instead of a flat-rate monthly fee you pay a 10% premium on Amazon's standard usage fees. It's a different model.

Finally, you can enable micro server support separately for 100% free if you invite a friend to the Hub. Hope this clears up the confusion!

Jeremy's picture

Good question

I just had a look and I can't see how/if you can do this yourself from within the hub. I suggest you use the Hub Feedback feature (blue button on left hand side).

Liraz Siri's picture

Amazon doesn't let us cancel plans on our end

Unfortunately, Amazon doesn't yet provide an API that would allow us to cancel a plan from the Hub's end. I know that's kind of silly but their billing system doesn't work like the credit card company's. When you sign up for the service you got an e-mail with a link that explains exactly how to cancel. If it's missing, check the spam folder...

Jeremy's picture

If you have cancelled EBS backed instances

Then AFAIK you should be on the 'Hobby' plan. When you launch a server just make sure it is an S3 backed.

Kevin Cann's picture

New Guy; a few comments and a couple questions

Comments:

1) Positive:

I really like what you are doing on this site; your backup is rather nice. All your turnkey platforms are
very inviting for someone who likes to learn like I do. I also love to see entrepreneurs in action.. I've
had one powerfully successful startup myself, and I wish you the best on this effort!

2) Not so positive:

My first appliance was a wordpress on lamp appliance, and it drove me crazy. I'll never do that appliance again; I"ll just do a lamp stack and install my own wordpress. The bug that got me,
is that there was this ancient (like 1 year old pre-existing email in your image) stuck in the postfix
server. It kept trying to send to admin@example.com every few seconds, until Amazon warmed me
it was cutting off my email sending priviledges. It took me 2 days of non-stop effort to find this
bug.. On a positive note, I learned how to configure advanced ip-tables (to log and drop packets)
and a lot more command line linux than I already knew.. so that was positive.. but painful.

3) I'm really crabby about my experience with hosting in general, including my early experience
with you guys:

So far this year, I've spent $1600 on dead-beat hosting companies who have sweet-talked me into
laying down serious $$ to solve various issues, and I'm so disgusted with them, that I'm cancelling
those other 2 hosting companies (one a vps and one supposedly "4g") and taking a $1600 loss.

So with you guys, I told myself "ok, no money involved here up front.. I can dip my toes into this
and really see how it works, then decide how much I want to spend.

Of course it didn't work that way.. I know it's just going to be like $35 a month for one micro.. which
may equate to a standard VPS account.. so that's not too terrible.. but my 160 IQ didn't realize
what I was getting myself into.. so my bad I guess. Now yes, I know I could "invite a friend".
Well, being an autistic person who in 50 years has never made a friend.. that just rubs salt in my
wounds...

So, onto my questions:

1) To try to make the best of a sour situation, since I do like aws and turnkey despite the previous
stuff, I did a 3 year reservation on a micro instance.. several of my sites are very low utilization, so
I just stacked them on there with virtual host directives. So far so good. However, now when
I want to make a new on-demand dev instance (of ruby on rails in this instance), it doesn't
give me the option of on demand at all.. it only offers me another reserved instance (micro),
which I'm unwilling to use, as that would be another $85 up front if I click that button, for a
10 minute dev instance? Surely not! but what else am I to think?

2) Would it 'hurt me' to enable the hobby type instance (in addition) to make dev environments? would that trap me into some other fine print of which I'm unaware? or cause other unforseen circumstances?

Thanks,

 

Kev

Kevin Cann

Liraz Siri's picture

Excellent feedback! You obviously know your stuff...

Hi Kevin,

Wow, this is really good feedback. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience, and I'm not just saying that to sound nice.

First, regarding your comments:

  1. Thanks for the encouragement. We really appreciate it.

  2. I just launched WordPress Micro and confirmed the e-mail frozen in postfix queue problem. We'll have that fixed in the next couple of days.

    Other users have occasionally reported issues with Amazon reporting that their instance was sending out weird e-mail but we never got down to the bottom of it. Great to have someone more technically skilled around to keep an eye out for trouble.

  3. It's hard to create a user experience that's perfect for everyone. How about you send me an e-mail to liraz AT turnkeylinux dot org and I'll set you up with free Micro support. No strings attached. If you don't need anything beyond that you can cancel the Budget plan and save yourself $20/month. We want people as skilled as yourself to stick around and feel a part of the TurnKey community even if they don't contribute to the project's funding in any way.

Regarding your questions:

  1. Sorry for the confusion. There's no way you can accidentally reserve an instance by launching an TurnKey cloud server. You have to do that explicitly (e.g., Cloud Accounts > reserve an instance).

    What's actually going on is that after you reserve an instance the Hub updates the usage fees the next time you launch an instance, so you know how much you'll really be paying.

    Imagine if we didn't do that. Then you would reserve an instance an get mad that the usage fees haven't changed before you launch your new cloud server.

  2. No you can sign up to any combination of plans, including the Hobby plan which lets you launch as many S3-backed servers as you want. It's a bit annoying that you can't shut them down whenever you want without restoring them from backup but it's not a big deal for some people. There's no monthly fee and no fine print.

Cheers

Kevin Cann's picture

Thanks Liraz!

What a nice response. You must be some combination of a really nice person and a wise business man. I *could* see myself participating in this community.. I like the feeling of being part of a community.. i don't get to experience that very much.. I can only dimly feel social connections.

It's crucial to bend over backwards a little for customers if you can afford it. positive word of mouth is worth more than $20 a month for a a few months (if things go well inside of a year, I can see myself getting the $140 a month). I might not 'invite any friends' anytime soon, but i'm a principal design engineer for a 2 billion dollar company, and own my own company..that once was very prosperous.

I certainly know a lot of professional contacts.. I just don't call someone a 'friend' very easily.. I want to you understand.. but I can be an accidental butt-head somestimes.. the autism you know. I pretty much never ask anybody for anything.. to avoid accidentally hurting someone.

As for the postfix issue.. it was basic troubleshooting. really easy.. I'm emarassed it . it took me so long this time.. I had the flue.. and I'd never used postfix before.. I am originally a Cisco CCNP/CCDP/MCSE/vmware/iscsi guy who hasn't used that much linux.. but i'm falling in love with linux/lamp/open source.. and it's so easy to learn it now, with all the great tools (turnkey, webmin) and online documentation avaialble now. I'm going to switch the 2 billion dollar company over to a lot of linux in the next year or two.. including moving SAP from windows to linux if I can get it approved..

Anyway.. the one last point i wanted to to make about the interface.. my point #1.. I'm sending you screen shots to explain my perhaps over-anal point.

Thanks.. in fact I'm going to send you like 3 emails.. you have restored my faith in humanity a bit.

:-)

Kev

Kevin Cann

Jeremy's picture

Off on a tangent... Liraz is just a nice person! :)

In fact both of the devs are (Alon is the other core TKL dev). I have never met the guys in person but have found them to be incredibly genuine and lovely people. I can't speak for their business prowess but I figure they must be doing something right to keep the lights on here at TKL central whilst basically giving away the awesome array of appliances!

I've been a community member here for a few years and have found it always a very friendly place to hang out and whilst Alon and Liraz can sometimes be a little slow to respond to forum posts, I know they always make an effort to catchup with the posts when they are online and are usually pretty quick at getting back to you via email - as well as always being responsive to Hub feedback (ie the blue button on the LHS when logged into the Hub).

It's always good to have some new people around to be involved so it'd be awesome if you choose to stick around, or even just drop in from time to time :) Myself and other community members on here often just scratch our own itches and share the results, but I also try to take some time to help others out on the forums when I have time and it's always a case of the more the merrier! :)

Liraz Siri's picture

Coalition of the nice

Gee, thanks Jeremy! I was in a bit of a bad mood yesterday (nothing TurnKey related) and your wonderfully positive comment was just what the doctor ordered.

Plus, I'm hoping we'll get the chance to meet you in person sometime in the not too distant future. A TurnKey "conference" in Australia sounds like it could be a lot of fun even if nobody shows up other than the three of us. I haven't been down under yet. Always wanted to though...

Jeremy's picture

Just telling it like it is! :)

And Yay for TKLCon2012-Australia! That sounds prime! :)

I'll look forward to further details. The more notice the better though cause then I can organise to get some time off work. (I'm all excited!)

Liraz Siri's picture

That's not a business man!

Ha! I'm much too poor to be called any kind of business man, let alone a wise one. We're actually doing the business stuff out of necessity more than anything else. I'm personally much happier when I can focus on technical and technology problems. Walking around the park with my notebook brainstorming ideas for new software solutions is infinitely preferable to having to deal with the seemingly endless variety of mind boggling dull and boring "business-related" tasks.

Unfortunately, you can only ignore real-life for so long before mundane trivialities such as nearly running out of financing begins to rudely intrude on day-to-day affairs. So if you want to be totally independent while being able to work on a project you love full time you need to figure out some way to support it. In an ideal world equitable donations from the people who benefit from the work you are doing would be sufficient but as we've painfully discovered only a vanishingly small minority of people go for that sort of thing.

Now regarding the part about being nice. I used to be a bit of a grouch myself. Being nice is a great deal more fun.

It's a somewhat sad testament to the human race that being nice has to be pointed out as something unusual. I try not to be too critical of others though. Every once in a while circumstances force me to take a close hard look at the "real world", which I am normally happily insulated from, and I can see how the rat race would get to me too eventually if I was in different circumstances. There's something terribly dehumanizing and vicious about being chronically hungry, and I don't mean for food.

OK, got a bit philosophical there for a moment. Regarding your technical skills, troubleshooting or otherwise, you can downplay them all you want. The best people do. That doesn't fool me.

But that sort of humility from someone with a powerful fluid intelligence is endearing and somewhat surprising considering that you are mind-blind. You're either on the very high functioning side of Autism or are brute forcing social intelligence somehow. Anyhow, color me impressed. I'm really hoping you'll stick around and continue sharing your insights with us.

Kevin Cann's picture

charming me / new forum areas

Liraz,

I swear man, you are going to be getting me eating out of your hand like a tame squirrel hopping
out from the underbrush if you keep talking like that.

As a matter of fact, I couldn't even speak until I was 5. I could barely walk either.. I was stuck in
this giant conceptual cloud of pure thought that did not include people until I was 6.

I've just had to work 10 times harder than everyone else.. but that's ok.. I have the spare brain capacity... I don't have all that angsty social conditioning to waste cpu cycles (of my analog electro-chemical meat processor).

Anyway.. I'm really happy to stick around.

By the way.. if you want to put another huge smile on my face... is there any possibility
of having two other forum sections?

1) A suggestion box -- why not solicit good ideas for free?

2) An entrpreneurs corner?

Let me tell you, if you can get a good entrepreneurs corner going.. you'll attract a lot of
good customers.. entrepreneurs love turnkey stuff..

On the internet content is king.. fresh.. interesting content.. people will follow all these
interesting entrepreneur discussion links to here... then see that you have what they
need to launch..

Hell, I'll yack almost daily in a forum like that.. I love discussing creative ideas...

gotta run

Kev

Kevin Cann

Hi I just signed up for a

Hi I just signed up for a free AWS account for testing, I'm still a little confused about the charges.

I use a hobby plan, micro instance (introduced a friend). I had EBS instead of S3. I understand this should not be possible?

After 3 days runing, I saw I need to pay $3 already. So I reserverd the instance, and it dropped to $1.

http://zoddesign.info/download/temp/aws/hub.jpg

http://zoddesign.info/download/temp/aws/aws.jpg

I also see I have 10 day trial of Micro. So now what is my exact charges for operating the instance monthly?

Jeremy's picture

Looks like you are on the Free Trial...

What I think is happening is that you are using the 14 day free TKL Micro trial (hence the 10 days remaining after almost 4 days). Micro servers only run as EBS backed (can't run S3 backed).

So this means no charges from TKL for the next 10 days (AWS charges only). Assuming that your friend also signs up for the Hub then you get the Micro instances free of TKL charges (but no other EBS backed instance - just Micro). Plus you still need to pay standard AWS charges.

If your friend does not sign up (or you don't find a friend that does sign up) - then you have 2 choices. Either go back to a Small S3 backed instance (and lose the money you paid to reserve the Reserved instance - reserved instances apply only to the specific server size and in the specific region that you enable them in). Or move to the TKL Budget plan ($20/mth).

If you were to go to the Budget plan then you would then be able to use as many and any sized instance without any additional charge from TKL.

Just to clarify the other charges are the standard charges from AWS (not TKL).

All these

All these options/restrictions are very confusing. I'm initially wanted to start a 1 year free AWS trial, but now I'm feel like getting trapped in a corner by AWS/Turnkey. So. oh, I need EBS backup too, so there's some more hidden charges here and there. I appreciate that TK needs to make money but these options makes it diffcult to calculate how much it will really cost me to run the servers. Compare to something like Linode, I can see how much it will cost, and I can plan for what I want to deploy.

http://www.linode.com/

This leaves a bad taste, these could be much better communicated.

Jeremy's picture

That sucks! :(

But I can't help but think that you have been a bit 'click happy' without reading properly and ensuring that you understand. I don't mean to be callus but it is explained as clearly as possible along the way. For example, to get where you got to you must have clicked the "Enable 14 day Trial" button. To do that and then not realise that you were on the 14 day trial, it seems to me that you must not have read properly...

Personally I always like to make sure I understand what I am signing up for, especially when I need to provide credit card details...

If I was signing up to a free trial then I would be seriously wondering what was going on if I started acruing any charges!! (If you have never used Amazon before I'm not sure why you didn't get the Free Tier - AFAIK that should have just happened automatically). Surely that must have seemed not quite right!? For me that would have been the time to do some extra research and post here if it was still unclear what was going on (before agreeing to pay more $$$...!)

Don't get me wrong, I agree that the options are complex and not as nice and simple as they ideally could be (more on that below). And I feel for you because you are in a corner, but I think you need to take at least some responsibility for where you find yourself. If you hadn't have been in such a rush and had given me (or someone else here) opportunity to explain to you what was unclear before you jumped in, I'm sure your experience would have been much better. 

And you are right that it would be really nice to be able to offer pricing as simple as what Linode offer. Unfortunately though, unlike Linode (or AWS), TKL is not in the business of hosting. As such they need to 'hook up' with a third party to be able to offer cloud hosting with the (IMO) fantastic interface that is the Hub.

So whilst I agree that AWS offerings (and pricing structures and restrictions) are complex, they are the only VPS provider that offer the global server coverage, the range of options & services, the advanced APIs (required for services such as the Hub and TKLBAM) and the mechanisms to take care of billing (including a premium to allow TKL to make a few bucks to keep the lights on) that I am aware of. So it's a trade off. Like most choices in life - you can't have it all...! That is especially the case for TKL when the bulk of their work they are giving away (premiums raised though servers hosted on AWS is the only revenue stream for TKL - everything else is a free gift from Alon and Liraz to you and I). They are programmers and developers, AWS allows them to focus on what they are good at and leave billing and provisioning to AWS.

And if you are willing to forgo your ~$23 that you paid for the reserved Micro instance then Linode is still an option for you. Although if you still want to use a TKL appliance (completely for free - just pay Linode for their hosting) then that is not so simple (have a read here).

Also for clarity (full disclosure) I am a community volunteer. I have been involved with TKL for many years and consider Alon and Liraz (the TKL core devs) friends (even though we have never met in person). But I am not an employee and don't (and can't) speak for TKL in any sort of official capacity.

Jeremy, you agree the options

Jeremy, you agree the options are confusing, and yet the system allows me to happy click and get into this. I write software, and if there are selection that should not be allowed, the system should give me warning, or don't allowed it. Strangely, how I did enable EBS if that's not allowed on the hobby plan.

As a business owner, I don't have time to try to understand complication options. As this stage, it's still very unclear how much it would cost to deploy on AWS (of I have others, this is just a trial). Compared this to Linode, it's a fixed price, I can budget, and get it approved and everyone's happy. AS TK is moving towards paid audience, making in confusing does not help. I think confusion is not with TK, but what AWS provides, the options user can choose and what TK wants to fit in.

I would just suggest make it simple. for Hobbyist, just allow 1 instance to deploy, on whatever the AWS provide, S3 or whatever, no selections. If user wants more, then move to paid plan.

I think I was charged more than 23, it was more like 60.

Jeremy's picture

I think your argument is with Amazon...

The nature of the TKL offerings comes down to the flexibility offered by Amazon (as the hosting service that TKL have chosen - AFAIK simply because there are no other operators that offer what they do - please see my post above). Yes I did agree that it is confusing, but the trade off is the flexibility (both for the devs and for end users; both directly and indirectly through the additional services that TKL are able to offer - such as the Hub).

Obviously that level of flexibility may be of no use to you - but TKL is not designed to meet all your personal needs and desires... It is a product like any other - it will be great for some, near enough for most, and for some it is just no good for what they are trying to achieve...

The servers themselves are completely free and you can run them on any hardware or virtualisation platform you have access to (including other VPS hosts). So even if you want to use TKL but AWS is too hard, then run them somewhere else...

I'm not aware of you doing anything that you are 'not allowed'!? The system assumes that you won't click on (and therefor agree to) stuff that you don't understand and/or agree to. Personally I tend to be very wary when my credit card details are already in and if in doubt I ask (before I click the button)...

I suggest that if you are trying to figure out what the prices for AWS are, that you consult their pricing page. They also have a calculator. If you run with the TKL Budget plan then you pay $20/mth on top of that for unlimited servers. Or if you get a friend to sign up then you get Micro servers free (except for AWS charges).

As I suggested in my post above, the reason why you have EBS enabled is because you are taking part in the 14 day trial of Micro instances (which ONLY run EBS backed).

I'm not sure what 'utilisation' option you chose when you signed up for a reserved instance (more you pay upfront - the less the hourly charge), I got the $23 figure for the AWS price lists by roughly working backwards from what you said your hourly charges were. 

I'm dizzy.

I read a sentence on the pricing page that sure looked as if I can run a free Turnkey trial on a free S3 server using the 'Free Usage Tier' but I can't for the life of me figure out how.  And following all these convoluted explanations of how it's "really kinda free but maybe also not free" is making my head spin.  I feel like I'm dancing with the devil.

I'd be more likely to just pay $5 per month straight-up rather than goof with these terms & conditions that will somehow have me paying ten times that when I forget to click something down the road, or if I accidentally consume a kilobyte too much data, or who knows what...

This crazy back-and-forth in just trying to explain the pricing has been a deterrent for me, bottom line is now I'm too afraid of the whole thing to even try the free demo!  (If that is in fact what it is, I still can't tell...)

I appreciate what seems to be hard work and committment here on the Turnkey Linux site, but I'm going to look elsewhere for a way to demo an appliance.

I agree

I was excited to try TL but after installing and not being able to even get into the Hub without an Amazon account (I haven't even turned on backups, what the heck?), I'm going to have to move on.  AWS is designed to be confusing and nebulous, and even when you try to cancel your account and billing they still bill you based on some fine print.  It requires intervention from a customer support rep to fully cancel your account.  At least it has the last two times I used it.

If this comment thread is any indication, I'm not the only one with problems or confusion using AWS/S3.  Why does it takes dozens of posts to get a clear picture of billing?

Jeremy's picture

I don't think it's "designed to be confusing"!

I strongly doubt that it is designed to be confusing... That would just be silly! Like I just posted below - the trade off between flexibility, power and range of options and complexity is a fairly common one in the modern tech world.

It sounds like you have had a preety rough run with Amazon. But I don't think that is always how it is... I have been using the Hub for years now and other than a few small backups and an occasional test server I don't actually use it that much (I host all my own servers under Proxmox mostly - but often find spinning up an instance on AWS for pure testing a quicker easier alternative). My AWS bill is usually only cents/month...

I have never completely cancelled my AWS account so I can't speak to that, but at times I have cancelled parts of my AWS/TKL Hub account and haven't had any issues... Although often there will be a final bill after the cancelation (like all other post-paid services with any company...)

I have never been charged for anything unexpectedly, although I have always spent a fair bit of time researching prior to purchase...

Jeremy's picture

AFAIK the free tier is available when launching via the Hub

But TBH I can't confirm that (as I'm not eligible for the free tier). AFAIK the free tier is not available if you launch your appliance via the 

Yes it can be confusing but unfortunately that is how it is with AWS. As has been noted elsewhere though, the reason for TKL to choose AWS as it's base is because of the power, flexibility, range of services and globabl availablity. I am not aware of any other provider that offers what AWS does, especially in some many geographical locations. And like most things, the more power and flexibility the more complex it often is.

But as has also been noted there are many other ways to run TKL appliances. If you are simply wanting to test or demo an appliance, why not install VirtualBox, and install TKL as a local VM? It's definitly free that way!!

Another possibility is ask your preferred VPS hosting company to allow use of TKL appliances. Some already do!

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