At the beginning of 2016, we tried an experiment: Lowering initial purchase price across the board, sometimes dramatically so, for all of our products while also introducing monthly licenses and removing the old tiered pricing for initial vs renewal purchases.
In some ways this has been a success; we have more paying customers today than we did when we began that experiment. But, unfortunately, the reduction in price meant that even though we have more customers, we have much higher support burden for lower revenue. We take our responsibility to support you and your business very seriously, and this increase has become unsustainable for the size of our team, and the lower prices have meant we haven’t been able to add more staff.
We’ve always offered unlimited support tickets with our Professional products. When our primary customers were experienced Linux administrators, we could handle the load. But, now that it includes a lot more new system administrators, we’re finding we’re handling queries that go well beyond merely answering questions about Virtualmin itself and how it interacts with the services it manages. The scope of what’s expected of us and the volume of support queries has increased tremendously, while our days have frustratingly remained only 24 hours long and our need to sleep a few hours a day has vexingly remained constant.
Another change we made even before 2016 was to begin rolling new features into both the Pro and GPL version at the same time. No new Pro-only features have gone into Virtualmin or Cloudmin for some time, while GPL has seen many formerly Pro features rolled into the project. Again, we are victims of our own success. This has led to more rapid growth of GPL usage (great!), especially among new system administrators, but also more demand on our time in the forums, and an increase in frustration among users who aren’t getting help as quickly as they’d like. Again, the common theme is we’re drowning in “success”. While we don’t promise any particular level of support for Virtualmin or Cloudmin GPL, we do try to answer questions that don’t get answered by the community, but we aren’t finding as much time to do that.
In short: More new users with less revenue is killing us. We have to make some changes.
In 2018, we will be making some pricing changes to allow us to either increase our revenue enough to hire additional support staff, or to reduce support burden enough to allow us to return to a more healthy balance of new development vs. support roles. We hope it’s the former rather than the latter, of course, but either one will allow us to provide better support and build better products faster.
The changes won’t be very large and we will continue to offer monthly and annual pricing with a slight discount for annual purchases. The cheapest licenses will see the biggest increase, as those are where we spend most of our support time.
We will also be introducing some changes to reseller plans for users with a lot of licenses to insure pricing for our largest customers does not change much; if you’re currently receiving quantity pricing discounts, you’ll likely not see significant changes to your Virtualmin expenses. We recognize that our larger customers actually require the least support per seat, by a very large margin, due to internal expertise from years of managing Virtualmin systems, and so we’ll find ways to keep your pricing the same. If you are not currently receiving quantity discounts but have more than five licenses of any type, get in touch via the issue tracker, and we’ll get you into a reseller plan before these changes take place. If you’re already receiving reseller discounts, you don’t need to do anything. We will adjust your plan to address the changes.
And, we will be introducing some new Pro-only features and benefits throughout 2018. We won’t be neglecting Virtualmin/Cloudmin GPL maintenance, nor will we be removing any current features in GPL, but we will be returning to our previous development model of new features going into Pro first and trickling down into GPL over time rather than performing development on both projects at the same time.
If you are on an annual subscription, your prices won’t change until the license renews, so if you are paying monthly and wanted to lock in the current price for a year, you could switch to an annual subscription by the end of the year and you won’t be effected for up to a year.
As always we welcome feedback on how we should resolve the conundrum we find ourselves in and on how this will impact your business. We’re all in this together, and we can’t succeed if you don’t, so we’ve gotta work together to move forward.
I’ll be sending out an email to all paying customers with details of the pricing changes, and will announce them here, once they’ve been formalized. I wanted to give everyone a heads up about it as early as possible, so everyone has a chance to offer feedback.