Thanks so much for following up here and below! It really helps to know where customers are at and how they’re using the product.
After talking it over with Eric off and on all afternoon, and reviewing some other feedback we’ve had over the years, I do think we’re going to try a lower cost license, with a very small number of domains, probably not just one domain, but probably not more than 3. I think $4 is as low as we could possibly go…so we’ll probably give that a try. We really do try to keep things as affordable as possible, we’re just not currently making enough to keep the company running with the four people we have, so we need to change some things in the new year or we’ll have to scale back on one or more fronts, and I’ll need to take on more non-Virtualmin work, so we can keep Ilia and Eric on.
It seems like, based on your feedback and that of others over the years, that this small license could also remove the other Pro-only features (I mean, what are you going to do with reseller accounts with only a couple of domains? some of the other Pro features might be missed, though, so we’ll have to try it and see), and just provide the 100+ Install Scripts. I think that is something we can do without a lot of extra code and without too much extra backend infrastructure management cost. In terms of including support, we still hate to not include some kind of support, so we might try some sort of 1 incident per quarter, or something. I’ll have to see if it’s realistic to implement something like that when I get our new shopping cart and ticketing system up and running.
“Then bill the support independently to the ticket ($ 5 or $ 6).”
We would lose so much money! There’s almost never a support ticket that costs us less than $5 to resolve. That’s only a few minutes of a qualified support person’s time. We’re at a point now where a lot of the support issues we do see come up are not simple “how do I do X?” questions…because Virtualmin has been around for so long and has so many active users (~160,000 last time I checked the logs), the simple questions have been answered dozens of times in the forums or elsewhere on the web, so people can google and get them solved without our help. We often get the hard stuff, and it sometimes takes us an hour or two or three of support time to resolve an issue (and we’ve occasionally had users who seemed particularly adept at bringing us many such issues). This is why we can’t afford to keep doing $6/month for unlimited support tickets. It’s literally bleeding us dry, while the more expensive licensees, paradoxically, often need less help, and so are more profitable even though there are a lot fewer of them than the $6 license.
The hope/goal has been that when we see tough issues like that, even if we lose money, we can learn from it and prevent the problem from happening in the future or at least make the solution more readily apparent. That’s where tons of the Validate Virtual Servers tests come from, as well as a lot of things we do automatically during installation that we didn’t in the past. Even those tough issues can be made worthwhile if it means we can improve the product, but we often lose money on them, sometimes a lot…so, we have to be careful about how many of them we deal with and at what price. Especially when they are very specific to one user’s deployment and can’t really be used to streamline the product.
I wish we’d been more slow to add features, in particular in terms of supporting a variety of deployment types and software (like, we support three mail servers!), over the years, because the folks doing oddball deployments are the most difficult to satisfy while also taking the most support time, and we can’t really make use of the things we learn from those deployments because nobody else is doing it exactly the same way. But, we also can’t pull those features out without pissing some people off. We even get pushback on stuff like removing support for unmaintained software! I’ve had to take a hard line approach on this one, and pull stuff despite complaints.
Anyway, I hope folks will be happy with what we come up with. Current high domain users won’t see any pricing changes (and only minor support changes that probably won’t be noticeable, since, on average, they make use of support less than the smaller licenses), while the Virtualmin 10 and 50 licenses will be a tiny bit more expensive and will have new support incident limits, which will only be noticeable to the small number of users that are currently more demanding than we can afford for them to be. Hopefully, with a new tiny license (maybe called “SE” for Startup Edition, or whatever) we can allow the really small home/hobby users currently on 10 to drop down to it to save a little money but keep getting the features they currently use. It pains me to raise prices on anyone, but we’re not on a survival course with current prices and current staff, something has to change, and we’d rather keep being a four person team.