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Ask HN: How much do you spend on SaaS a month?
63 points by drlaj on Mar 22, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments
I've recently started working on a side project with a couple of friends, nothing crazy, but we're already spending over $200 a month on supporting services. It's nothing to write home about (yet!) but it was a little surprising.

For those of you who have side projects (or a startup for that matter) and don't mind sharing, how many services are you using and what's your total monthly SaaS spend?

Cheers Luke

I spend about $10k a year on SaaS, depending on how you define it. In 2013 I had 175 charges in my accounting software for it.

Prominent expenses and the approximate monthly rates include: Wistia ($100), WPEngine ($250), Sendgrid ($100), 37signals ($100), KissMetrics ($150), and then a large grabbag of sub-$20 SaaSes such as Blinksale, Airbreak, Scout, Dropbox, Google Apps, etc etc.

The smallest SaaS expense: Tarsnap, at $0.60 per month [+]. (Colin, get on the gravy train, you're welcome it it.)

SaaS is a very small portion of my businesses' total expenses. I spend more on hosting and telecomm (largely due to the line of business which is, well, an international telecomm). People are also much more expensive then software, even to the limited extent at which I hire people.

[+] It turns out that a) this had creeped up to $3 per month and b) my account was within literally days of running out of funds, which I only found out because I just happened to check now. grumble grumble picodollars grumble grumble Would happily pay $100 a month to not feel what I'm feeling right now. grumble grumble

I also spent around 50 cents / month on tarsnap, at this rate my account credit will last another 7.5 years! Colin your service is great, I would pay orders of magnitude more for it, please increase your price so that I don't have to worry about it going away!

I just checked out tarsnap. It's $0.30/gb/month. I currently do a backup to S3 which is a fraction of the price. I wouldn't mind having another cloud service. Why did you choose tarsnap if it's so expensive.

Many of us are using Tarsnap for actual businesses, where it is criminally underpriced. Among the many reasons to use it over backing up to S3 is that Tarsnap backups are encrypted and the service is written by a domain-expert in that field. Among many other possible scenarios, I use Tarsnap to back up the MySQL and Redis dumps for Appointment Reminder. These include some data which is covered by BAAs which bind me to restrictions on privacy and security under the HIPAA legislation. Just scp'ing them into S3 would be an automatic compliance failure, where I'd pay $600k or so of fines to save $2 a month on Tarsnap.

At $0.5/month it's pretty cheap in fact. But while the price per picobyte might be higher than AWS, I feel a lot more comfortable using something that has been purpose built for the task by a legitimate genius. The whole point of backup is to be able to sleep at night, I don't want to cut costs here.

my account was within literally days of running out of funds, which I only found out because I just happened to check now

You would have received an email when your account balance hit 7 days worth of storage costs. And another when it hit zero. And another 7+ days later.

But if you're saying I should have a mechanism for automatically re-billing credit cards when a Tarsnap account balance gets low -- yes, that's on my to-do list.

Who are you currently for your telecom services? I'm always surprised about the amount of money businesses spend on their phone system.

Mostly it's Twilio costs. I spend an unconscionable amount on my cell phone bill due to e.g. international roaming or international phone calls for sales/support, but that doesn't even crater the approach to the bridge of what Twilio costs me. (And I rush to say "I'm totally fine with that, and wish I spent 100X as much, because to a first approximation that would imply revenues 100X higher than they are currently.")

re: cell phone bills, have you thought about getting a raspberry-pi or a larger server running asterisk with chan_dongle, and using a prepaid sim card at each country as your "gsm gateway"(1)?

(1) http://blog.carrier-connect.com/raspberry-gsm-gateway/

Don't forget one of Patio11's products is almost entirely leveraging telecom services for it's functionality: https://www.appointmentreminder.org/

So I doubt he is just talking about a generic office phone when mentioning teleco services.

Till the whole NSA thing came out I was spending around $200-$300 for several services. After that I switched to a local server and FOSS alternatives to Dropbox, Github & co.

Now my SaaS spending is $0 or $10 depending on if you count Spotify as SaaS.

What do you use as a Dropbox alternative?

I would recommend BitTorrent Sync [1] for personal usage.

[1] - http://www.bittorrent.com/sync

If you're going to use proprietary software you might as well just use Dropbox.

Not if the transfer is encrypted and the files are stored on your own server.

Sparkle Share.

For http://letscodejavascript.com, I spend about $1000 per month on various services. The biggest expenses go to PayPal, credit card processors, and Recurly, which all charge a percentage of revenue. Other than that, it's SendFaster, which hosts my videos ($200); Heroku, which hosts the site ($66); and Pingdom, which monitors my sites for uptime ($9). I also spend a small amount each year for TypeKit (fonts).

Edit: I should add that Let's Code JavaScript isn't a side project; it's my primary revenue stream.

Our Saas, Pixtulate, is currently in beta and bootstrapped. We have optimized for lowest cost possible at the moment and our traffic is still fairly low.

  1. DigitalOcean - $110/month
  2. Google Apps - $5/month
  3. UptimeRobot - Free (just as good as Pingdom)
  4. CloudFlare - Free (serving under 2 TB/month)
  6. Amazon S3 - $1.40/month
  7. MixPanel - Free
  8. HeapAnalytics - Free
  9. Google Analytics - Free
  10. BaseCRM - Free
  11. MailChimp - Free
  12. Mandrill - Free
  13. Tumblr - Free (our blog)
  14. CloudBees - Free (build, maven repos etc)
  15. Desk.com - $3/month
  16. NewRelic - Free (server monitoring)
  17. GoDaddy - $9/year
I am absolutely amazed over how many services we can get free. On one hand, we would either have to invest more into development or do without, on the other, it doesn't bode well for our own likelihood of making money.

Thanks for the tip on UptimeRobot!

> GoDaddy


Specifically for software as a service, we now spend nothing, for any of my businesses.

We do outsource various infrastructure things to specialists. Hosting and payment collection are the two largest categories.

However, our experience has been that every time we've considered SaaS, it comes down to a balance something like this:


- Saves time.

- Offers a tried and tested solution to some problem.


- Requires effort up-front to integrate it.

- Requires effort up-front to customize it to fit our needs as well as it can.

- Such customization isn't always possible.

- We're allergic to lock-in, and we've seen goalposts moved after our money has been taken in the past.

- May have deal-breaking privacy/security implications.

- Has ongoing costs, which may or may not scale favourably as we grow.

The only areas that tip towards SaaS on that balance for any of our projects tend to be very simple tasks that require negligible effort to integrate or customize, involve no data that is highly sensitive or valuable, and are expendable without causing noticeable harm to our business while we make other arrangements. In other words, they're things where the cons don't really apply because it's not big or important enough to worry about them. Most of those are readily available as someone's free plan anyway at the kinds of scales we're talking about here.

For anything more important than that, we've found that doing things manually at first soon shows up which areas will most benefit from automation for any given project, and we tend to automate heavily once a need becomes clear. We just do it the old-fashioned way using scripting, spreadsheets, and various other software tools that have proven helpful.

Amazon Route 53: $1

Bitbucket: Free with 29 private repositories.

GitHub: Maybe $7 in the future. I would like to test my product against their enterprise version and $7 is the cost to join the developer program but they don't say you are are guaranteed a test license. Obviously if I can't get a test license, it doesn't make sense to pay for a plan.

DigitalOcean: $15 - $50. I really see them as a cheap download service for my products installer which is 225MB. It's basically $5 for 1 TB. This sounds like a good deal, but if somebody could correct me, I would love to know.

Stripe: $0 because my product is in beta and is free.

Google Business Email: $50/year

For everything else, I can do on my own.



I would like to test my OS X installer on as many different versions as I can, so I'm wondering is their a VPS service for OS X?

A few years back I decided to go about minimizing my expenses for my side business (which was more or less website development/hosting at the time) and switched from a dedicated server to Rackspace Cloud Sites (which was a $100/mo at the time) so that dropped my monthly cost from about $250 down to that amount. I think at the time I may have also been paying for an Authorize.net merchant account which I wasn't even using which IIRC cost about another $50 or so.

So I continued to pay the $100/mo with no real income coming in, just to host my own site plus a few others for a few local businesses that I didn't really have the heart to pull the plug on (since I was working, it wasn't too big of an issue for me).

Once I started selling my software on my site in August 2010, I would say in that first month I more or less broke even for the first time in forever and the income rate has remained fairly constant since then (about $200-300/mo).

Current expenses are: $100 - Rackspace Cloud Sites (I'm locked into the old pricing...now it's $150/mo) $6 - AVLUX Subversion Hosting $7 - GitHub Plan $1 and change for Sendgrid's Lite Plan Plus the occasional renewal costs for one of the domains I have.

Honestly, I believe the pricing model deployed by most Sass product is broken. I know they do experiment and that best clients are the ones willing to pay a premium, and that they are indeed the ones to be taken care of.

However, does it not look more like, get the most from the few?

I don't run or own any Sass Products, so I may be utterly wrong, but won't it not be that there is a gradual increase in price along with multiple options instead of the typical (i) free for the not-so-usable one instance (ii) ~$20 for barely yourself (iii) ~100 for cool and hip but (iv) we're keeping the best for the last at ~$500 (v) of course, the mega corps can email us for to talk about their 10,000th employee.

What about a dynamic pricing where I'm not fleeced at $19 per user per month but more of - it starts with $19 but then to support the next user is rather simple and cost-effective, let is be just $4.99?

As I said, just my thought, I'm yet to experiment with pricing and see them for myself.

As for the questions, I run few side projects and a UI/UX Consulting Service and I'm within $100 per month - from invoicing, to hosting to project management to version control.

That's actually what we do with CloudLedger Basic from Efficito.[1]

$7.50/month for your first user. $2.50/month for your second user. In theory you could, if you talk with us, maybe go up to 6-7 users, but really at that rate you are likely to be better off going with our premium service of $30/month which gets you a VM of specific capacity aimed at around 10 simultaneous users (that also comes with it the chance of customization and integration with your business network). That service can scale up and out as needed but with additional cost.

The major differences between the basic and plus offering is that since you get a full VM with the plus offering, you can get direct access tot he database, integrate with your network via VPN, or re-use your LDAP or Active Directory services for single sign-on. Additionally it is possible to customize the offering in ways that are not possible in the less expensive, multi-tenant offering.

We actually thought through that issue. I will admit our site isn't nearly perfect yet but hey we're two geeks trying to make a go of it without as much time or resources as we would like.

[1] http://www.efficito.com

None so far I think. I could be missing something, but looking briefly at what I spend money on, I don't think any of it counts as SaaS.

I do spend money on various IaaS offerings. But none of the services on top of that have come up so far as something I feel I need. But I'm doing mostly research (which is also my job) and side projects, not running a tech business. I need servers, not so much services. There are some vaguely relevant services (like machine-learning-as-a-service), but I generally don't feel comfortable being dependent on an external service for my actual research. So I'd only use these if it was an ancillary need and not something where I might need to publish the results. There's also a move towards asking researchers to ship VMs of their test setup as a replicable archive of the work, and dependencies on external services are a no-go for that.

For my personal life, Dropbox is the closest I came to paying for. But then I realized I was mostly just using it to back up photos, which seemed like a use-case it's not even designed for. So I moved those to a local backup + Flickr.

A little over $1000 per month. I recently did a write up of everything we use here: http://projectidealism.com/posts/2013/12/30/saas-we-use-2013

Great write up, Andrew. Thanks for the link!

Looking at my Expenses Table[1] I am spending about $16.52 a week on SaaS: GitHub, Creative Cloud, IRCCloud, Private Internet Access and Last.fm. In a few weeks I’ll be adding FreshBooks to this table. I don’t host any demanding side projects - really just anything that can be hosted on GitHub Pages - so most of my expenses are to facilitate my design consultancy.


Side project: an automatic roster for evening and weekend emergency duties for groups of dentists. We run on Heroku and most of our saas cost is a dyno ($35), an SSL add-on ($20), and some phone/sms cost from Twilio ($5-10). We use workless to spin up and down a worker dyno when needed.

Since the tool supports an offline process we don't have incredible loads, so we use the free tier of most other services (e.g. SendGrid, etc.)

What are you spending your $200 on?

We are using:

Windows Azure Google Apps GitHub Dropbox Evernote

how reliable has workless been for you?

Has worked pretty good since initial configuration. Only hick up I've had was after a password reset at Heroku, which disabled the ability for workless to start the worker (and failed silently at the time...)

Roughly about $10k a month, though we have cut that down from $30k a month. There are still plenty of cost savings we can make though so I expect that to drop to about half that still, with no loss of capacity, scale or performance.

The simple fact is we couldn't do what we do by purchasing hardware, its so much more cost effective at this scale. Mostly AWS with Cloudant and bits of Rackspace as well as a few smaller suppliers.

These things add up so fast don't they? I think I'm around $200, which is down quite a bit. We had to get rid of New Relic, which broke my heart because it's awesome, and several other things to cut costs. It's all the little things that add up like LastPass, Dropbox, backup space, mail and so on. Sometime the FOSS alternatives aren't worth it, sometimes they are.

I bought a windows 8 licence, but that has no expiration date so I don't think it can be converted into a per month rate. Other than that I have a domain which is hosted for $20 annually. So while server software and domain can probably count as Saas but the (part of the (VPS)) server itself cannot be saas I guess. That's pretty much it.

I have a side project where we spend about $150/month on Amazon Web Services for hosting and $50 on one other SaaS service needed by the product.

Take that with the grain of salt that our total marketing spend is $0. We don't even use Mixpanel or any equivalent to track what our users are doing.

How are you guys managing tens of SaaS? Isn't it a problem to remember, configure, update etc?

I use only one SaaS service e.g. Anturis (http:www.anturis.com, an IT infrastructure monitoring solution and I have to pay about $40 a month. I think that is is not much at all for quality service.

Small, conservative design shop, SaaS is about $60-80 per seat per month, varying by role. The bulk of that is Creative Cloud, which is at least twice as expensive as it should be.

Main work project: Around $500 a month split across 2 services - Mixpanel ($350) and Azure Hosting ($150). Its a 2 man team

Side projects: Around $40 a month split across 2 services - Gtihub, Asana

olark, zendesk, zoho, webex, ringcentral, a couple other minor ones all add up to over $2k/month. this is like a drop in the bucket compared to payroll and rent and colo and equipment which are each well into in the 5 figures/month.

if you're running a business you will have to get accustomed to spending large amounts of money and not let it spook you.

just make sure your per-seat software costs are reasonable and it will track linearly and profitably with your success.

  Digital Ocean $15
  Netflix       $10
  Spotify       $10
  Domain Names  $5  (yearly/12)
  Total         $40

Two servers from OVH is my only expense for side projects, total is around $30/pm

Using quite a few free services like Pingdom, Cloudflare, Analytics etc...

That would be IaaS. It's probably too late now, but it would have been interesting had this asked about IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

I'm around $10/month but I've yet to build anything that anyone has taken a shine to (besides myself of course).

We use Github ($25), Google Apps ($20), Pivotal Tracker ($7) and Enterprise Chef (within free tier). So in total $52.

Around $250 on 5 services - Heroku, WPEngine, Beanstalkapp, Bitbucket, and AWS.


Spent $15000 a year at my old job (mostly on channeladvisor)

Around 300USD/month on close to 15 services.

Which services and whats your breakdown?

$80k/month, SaaS company running on AWS.


$1/mo, sendgrid

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