In my two previous blog posts on AppHarbor, I’ve whined about them not supporting or caring about a few particular scenarios. These scenarios mainly fall into the “I love AppHarbors features but my site is small/low traffic/doesn’t make money” and this got me thinking.
There are now going to be lots of grumpy .NET developers looking for an alternative with roughly the same features but for less money. Perhaps a startup opportunity just arrived, build a solution to cater for that market. Sure not as profitable as going after the bigger websites but I suspect the market is large enough if done correctly it could make a little bit of cash.
AppHarbor responded to my last few blog posts with this:
We also want to make sure that people trying out AppHarbor on the free plan get full and un-filtered access to what we think are the most important parts of the AppHarbor value proposition: Convinient and quick deployments from source control and fast and reliable hosting. Those are things we will never compromise on.
That statement seems good for customers but as a super small website looking at AppHarbor, having more power, bandwidth and space than I need seems a waste for both of us.
Option 1, a PaaS:
What the solution needs to be a MVP:
- Git push to deployment. I think BitBucket/GitHub could be done later, this is the minimum.
- Decent uptime.
- Custom domains.
- Sleek setup and control panel.
Things small sites like the ones I would want to host, don’t really care about:
- Load balancing, most likely one instances/worker anyway.
- Scaling. I would pitch this solution as the baby brother of AppHarbor. Need scaling/more power? move to AppHarbor.
- Test running. Its a nice to have but I think people to live without this for the short term.
- SSL. Personally for my small projects I don’t need it.
- Addons. For small projects other than perhaps more database space I don’t see the need.
Initial pricing ideas would be to compete with shared hosting but remove the hassle of manual deployment and management.
- Free. Very, very limited bandwidth.
- Paid. Limited bandwidth (1GB). $1/month.
- Additional bandwidth $0.50/GB/month.
The aim would be for people to not over think going to a paid account. $1 a month, $12 a year? A better deal that bothering with shared hosting. I think it would be good to offer multi discounts, kind of like buy 2 get 1 free or discount multiple apps to make it viable for multiple app scenarios where someone is working on several side projects.
Something I haven’t seen with AppHarbor is the idea of referrals, perhaps a month free if you refer someone and they start paying. A good way to build a community.
Databases (SQL Server):
- Free. 5MB space.
- Paid. $1/100MB/month. $0.25/100MB/month after 1GB.
Most of my small projects don’t actually use a database or just use an in memory database that doesn’t need persistence.
Option 2, standalone software:
Whilst looking at alternatives for all my little side projects (6x$10 = $60) a VPS starts to become much cheaper, but I want some of the AppHarbor features.
What about producing a product that people could install to their Windows VPS that lets you push your projects to it and it handles the build, testing and deployment?
This could either be a OSS project or a commercial one. I would defiantly pay a license fee to have that software. Especially for those clients that cannot be moved to the cloud easily as it sucks having to use other methods to update their websites.
Anyone feel free to use these ideas. I want either solution to let me still enjoy the features of AppHarbor for my smaller projects. Else its goodbye .NET and hello other providers like Heroku.