AppHarbor’s new pricing is a turn off

AppHarbor,Cloud 4 February 2012 | 1 Comment

I woke up yesterday morning to see a flood of people Retweeting AppHarbor’s announcement that they have updated their pricing. Interested I read it through on my phone, my face turned white as I realised, I’ve just given a presentation last week in which AppHarbor’s free tier got people’s attention.

Why I think its a bad move.

Ok, $10 isn’t a lot of money and AppHarbor’s service is pretty good, well its damn awesome and it’s brilliant for doing MVP products, side projects and small websites… until this announcement today.

Scenario 1: MVP product.

You’ve got excited about an idea and want to quickly throw together a website to test the waters and see if the idea is viable. You want to make sure you choose a host that can handle scale if the internet loves your idea but equally you don’t want to have to put too much money down in case the idea crashes and burns.

A custom domain is require. Going to my-mvp-product.apphb.com isn’t going to inspire confidence in your idea.

With the new pricing AppHarbor costs you $10 over Heroku, that’s not a lot of money but if you’re doing many of these to find your next startup, it adds up. Would I have chose AppHarbor over say Heroku? Probably not.

Scenario 2: Small public website (for me)

You’ve decided to do a small website dedicated to something. Let’s take for example my poor excuse for a company website, Orange Lightning Ltd. I threw it together over 3 days as I needed something dirt cheap to put my name on the internet as I was giving out business cards.

I’d just started the company using an initial investment that was eaten up many small expenses. A website was shamefully one of the last things I thought about, even though its my businesses area.

With the new pricing on AppHarbor, $10 isn’t a lot but I have friends that could have helped out putting the website on their servers for me, costing me nothing but perhaps a future favour. Would I have chosen AppHarbor? Probably not.

Scenario 3: Private side project

I have been working on a few prototype applications that I’m still trying to decide if the idea works and if its possible with the technologies I use.

With the new pricing on AppHarbor, it doesn’t really effect these projects as its only me seeing the published results and having a non custom domain doesn’t matter a lot. But it would if I wanted to start sharing the idea around like a MVP idea.

Scenario 4: Medium public website

I’m working to move one client away from a VPS onto AppHarbor, there are several challenges to overcome, mostly around file storage processes needing to be rewritten or changed.

The client would probably benefit from having the 2 worker/instance package and the total costs would probably match the VPS. Although one point I need to consider is if the new SSL pricing really pushes it to be too expensive for the client.

Overall, probably would move this client to AppHarbor, but, if I was starting to investigate AppHarbor from the 1st of March I probably wouldn’t be using their service. Mainly as I tend to beta test services/tools on my projects and not having a custom domain name would make me think twice about giving AppHarbor a spin.

Wrap up

In conclusion, the biggest losers in this new pricing announcement are the individuals doing small projects or trying to launch a product. Its kind of ironic being a YC startup that they now are causing startups or individuals to dismiss their services. But mostly, I’m extremely disappointed that I’ll have to go back to shared hosting for the projects that can’t justify the $10 per month as they simply don’t earn it. This post has got long enough but I’m already working on how I would personally go about making money off the “free” tier on AppHarbor.

One Response on “AppHarbor’s new pricing is a turn off”

  1. friism says:

    Hi Phil, great to hear that you like what AppHarbor does and that you care enough about our service to write up your thoughts.

    For the first scenario, our thinking is that most people who think they have a promising idea can either use the .apphb.com domain or would be willing to pay $10/month for the months they want to try out the idea (especially considering that they have already forked over money for a domain).

    For the second scenario, that sounds like an application that you don’t think would ever require the sophisticated continues deployment and scaling features that AppHarbor has. While we would like to host as many .NET apps as possible, optimizing for apps that are never likely to generate significant traffic or revenue is not a priority.

    For the fourth scenario, I want you to know that we’re working hard on trying to bring down the cost of the IP SSL service. I also think that most developers would be content to test out stuff using a .apphb.com domain and could gain familiarity with the platform that way.

    In terms of reverting to dedicated hosting, I hope that AppHarbor’s continues deployment features, add-ons and the fact that you don’t have to configure, update and maintain servers might keep you with is.

    Michael

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