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Tarsnap - Why picodollars? (tarsnap.com)
22 points by jacquesm 2009 days ago | 28 comments



I love tarsnap. Its, by far, one of the best tools I've adopted in the last year or two. The service is simple and easy to understand. The tool works great, has great documentation, and makes sense to my unix brain. And the price is fair and straightforward. I prepaid the minimum amount, $5, and have backed up 189 GB of data and still have $2.603332060102213400 available on my account. How can that be? Well, one last reason why tarsnap rocks: it deduplicates the data automatically.

Great job, Colin. I've been recommending it to everyone I know. Keep it up.

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I've been recommending it to everyone I know

Thanks! This is very important to me -- both because such recommendation tells me that I'm doing something right, and because Tarsnap's target user base is a very hard one to reach by any method other than word of mouth.

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When I first looked at tarsnap a few days back, one of the first things I thought was "What the hell is a picodollar?"

So I gave up on the idea.

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Tarsnap is the one service which I log on to once in several weeks and go..Wha! How the hell did I spend so little money in all this time?

ps. Note to cperciva - Speaking as a customer, please don't take this as a sign that you should raise your prices.

pps.: Note 2 to cperciva: Speaking as a fellow entrepreneur, how can you not raise your prices? ;)

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Speaking as a customer, please don't take this as a sign that you should raise your prices.

Don't worry, I have no intention of raising prices. Tarsnap is not wildly profitable, but it is profitable -- and the most feasible way to make more money is to get more customers, not to increase prices and probably lose customers.

Speaking as a fellow entrepreneur, how can you not raise your prices? ;)

As I said above: Raising my prices would probably be a bad business move. That said, I make no guarantees that my prices will come down every time that my costs come down (as they inevitably will over time), so my profit margin might increase in that way.

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It's nice that you shared the reasons for using the picodollar, but I'd never buy your product because it's not blatantly obvious how much it costs. No offense intended.

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it's not blatantly obvious how much it costs

The front page of the tarsnap website says

  Storage:
    300 picodollars / byte-month
    ($0.30 / GB-month)
  Bandwidth:
    300 picodollars / byte
    ($0.30 / GB)
Even if you don't know what the pico- prefix means, I'm not sure how you could be confused by the $/GB pricing...

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It's still confusing and redundant. Just write $0.30 / GB and that's it. Nobody cares if they will be paying 5 cent or 3,789 cent a month for their small-scale backups.

Also a little javascript calculator, right there on the frontpage, would be a nice gimmick.

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It's still confusing and redundant. Just write $0.30 / GB and that's it.

Edit: Okay, $0.30 / GB / month

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Well, $.30 / GB / Month, to be precise. The "storage over time"-part is just very hard to communicate in a single sentence. Hence the javascript calculator. Give them a small box where they can tack in GB's and number of days and see for themselves.

Just avoid confronting your potential customer with terms he has never heard. "Don't make me think" applies here.

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FWIW, I would re-order those terms to show $0.30 / GB on top, with the picodollar equivalent underneath, inside parenthesis.

BTW, since your service is command line only, are you targeting only programmers?

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are you targeting only programmers?

No. I haven't extensively interviewed Tarsnap users, but my impression is that most fall more into the category of "sysadmin" than "programmer".

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Sysadmins are programmers "waitressing" between auditions.

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Any plans to add a gui? The command-line interface is probably limiting the potential market you could reach.

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Any plans to add a gui?

At some point, yes.

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Hrm. That information is useless though... people think in terms of GB, which is indeed also listed on the front page...

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It definitely isn't useless, the billing is in terms of that, so a tiny backup will cost you a tiny bit of money.

Anyway, I thought it was really neat.

It sets a new standard for honesty in business. No rounding required.

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No rounding required.

That's not quite true. Tarsnap does billing computations daily, so -- in months which do not contain 30 days -- there is some rounding.

However, usage costs are computed to attodollar precision, and are rounded down -- so I don't think anyone will object to said rounding. :-)

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I'm really happy I'm not in competition with you, you set the bar rather high :)

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Most people out there need to see some sort of units they can reason with, and for storage, that's probably megabytes or gigabytes. For money, it's dollars or euros, not picodollars or gigadollars.

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Actually, all of the documentation on tarsnap sets a new standard for honesty in business. That's probably the only good TOS page I've ever seen, and, perhaps more importantly, the need for a good TOS page is recognized.

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That's probably the only good TOS page I've ever seen

I probably look stupid asking this, but... what makes the Tarsnap TOS page good?

I didn't set out to create a particularly exceptional TOS page; I just said "gee, I guess I need to write a TOS page" and sat down to write what I, as a user, thought such a page ought to contain.

(I'm sure many people will say that I should have had a lawyer review the Tarsnap TOS page -- but unless you pay a lot of money, a lawyer's advice in such circumstances generally comes down to (a) looking for really dumb mistakes and (b) providing that lawyer's standard block of boilerplate text, neither of which is particularly helpful.)

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As ErrantX pointed out, the "Why" links are a huge part of it.

Most of all, it's readable. Also, the sections are organized based on what the user wants to know, not what lawyers want to say. Where you say "Money," a megacorp would say something like "Terms of payment processing for the client service," or something similarly stupid.

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I think the page itself doesn't necessarily stand out as exceptional (though it looks good); but the [why?] page is definitely a really nice feature.

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the [why?] page is definitely a really nice feature.

That's an innovation which I'm hoping other people will pick up -- I'm sure it helps readers understand the terms, but I also found it very useful as I was writing the terms to write "these are the rules" and "these are the reasons for the rules" in parallel.

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I've made a note to make sure I start doing it. :)

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ARGHHHH I finally decided to use Tarsnap and it happens that it's not available in Canada :/

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Send me an email and I might be able to help you out.

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