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Big Changes at the WunderCounter: Stats Newsletter #42

This Message Originally Sent On: Wednesday, August 13, 2003

If you've logged into your WunderCounter account over the last week or so, you will have noticed that some changes have taken place. The purpose of this message is to inform you of these changes and how they will affect your account. Please read this message carefully before requesting email support. You'll probably find the answers to many of your questions within this document.


Is the WunderCounter Still Free?
Yes and no. The Regular WunderCounter accounts still offer free invisible and graphical counters, but these accounts have been scaled back to offer only very limited stats. However, all of the features that you are used to having in Regular accounts plus a few more are available to Invisible accounts. Even more features are available to Premium accounts, with many to be added in the near future.


Why has the WunderCounter Changed?
For 3 years now, I have been offering free counters and stats to pretty much anyone who signed up for them. It has been a great experience and I've enjoyed doing it. What started as a hobby while I was in school grew into a part-time job and is now something that resembles a full-time job with lots of overtime. I've gone from a 25 MB account with a few dozen subscribers to a dedicated server and over 10,000 current subscribers. If you can consider the logistics of administrating a dedicated server that gets hit around 300,000 times per day and has over 40 GB of data while offering support to thousands of people and trying to add new features as you go along, you can appreciate that there are a lot of days when I don't get much sleep. :-)


Why is the WunderCounter so Popular?
I can't say for sure, but it has to do with the following reasons:
  • the counters are fast
  • more log files (most counters sites show you the last 30 or 40 visitors, but with a WunderCounter Premium account you see all of your visitors). The reports are nice, but most people want to see who is visiting their site as well.
  • support is timely (often within a few minutes to a few hours -- even for free accounts)
  • monthly billing (you won't find this with many other counters)
  • PayPal subscriptions (you don't need a credit card)
  • it's run by one person -- if you have a problem with any aspect of the WunderCounter you can email me and I'll take care of it
  • lots of tutorials and support information already online



Why is the WunderCounter Changing?
The WunderCounter has become so popular that I've had to make a few decisions this month. The machine is starting to get very busy. It's not *too* busy yet, but the point is approaching where I can either invest more in hardware and bandwidth to accommodate more non-paying users or scale back the free accounts so that the server remains fast and effective for everyone. I've added 2GB of RAM this past week and I've redesigned the database to be more efficient, but the number of free accounts on the server continues to be a burden on system resources. The current pricing scheme is quite reasonable -- Invisible accounts are practically free. If you can afford to buy your own computer and Internet access, you can afford to subscribe to the WunderCounter. However, if you can't afford to pay, you won't be cut off -- there is still a free option available to you.

Now, I certainly appreciate all of the feedback that non-paying users have contributed over the years and I've come to know some of you quite well. I'd love to give all of this stuff away, but the fact is that a complex, high-traffic site hosted in a high-end data centre is a costly proposition. Since this site exists and will continue to exist solely because of all the paying customers who have loyally supported it over the years, it makes more sense for me to focus on increasing the quality and value of the Premium accounts as well as maintaining great service for Invisible accounts. Again, this isn't meant to drive free users away. If you have a non-commercial, low-traffic site that needs counters and some basic stats, the Regular account will still work for you. However, if you run a business or are just nutty about web stats, I'd like you to consider becoming a paying subscriber -- either Premium or Invisible.


Free 2 Week Trials
To ease the transition from the old system to the new, I'm now offering free Premium trial accounts. You may now upgrade any Invisible or Regular account to Premium for a free 2 week trial. No credit information will be taken from you. If you want to stay with your Premium account, all you have to do is use the upgrade link on the Options menu of your main stats page at any point during your 2 week trial. After your 2 weeks have passed without an official upgrade taking place, your account will automatically be downgraded to Regular or Invisible, depending on which account you had prior to the free trial. No strings. Just test drive the account. If you like it, become a subscriber. If you don't, you can let me know why. But try to be nice about it. :-)

To take advantage of the free trial, just log in to your account and follow the instructions that appear after logging in.


New Pricing Structures
A significant part of the coming changes is a new pricing structure for Invisible and Premium accounts. By way of thanking WunderCounter users for their support throughout the years I'd like to offer current users the chance to upgrade to Invisible or Premium at the current listed prices for the next 2 weeks. The pricing to be introduced 2 weeks from today will be significantly higher for both Invisible and Premium accounts. This is a result of the increase in overhead that has hit the WunderCounter over the past year. However, if you upgrade before Aug 27, 2003 you will be entitled to the same WunderCounter service at the current listed prices. I'd like to keep every one of you on board as WunderCounter users, so I'd like to offer you this chance to make your membership official and save some dollars at the same time.

Counter services purchased as of Aug 27 will reflect the new, increased prices. All prices currently listed at the WunderCounter are still in effect.


(To see a more visual breakdown of the new account structures, have a look at the WunderCounter Features page).

Now, I'd like to discuss some of these important account changes in detail:


How Many Pages Can I Track?
Premium: 250 pages
Invisible: 25 pages
Regular: 5 pages (1 of these counters must be graphical/visible)


These are "hard limits", which means that they cannot be exceeded. In the past people have been able to track more than the allowed limit of pages, but after finding many accounts over the limit (including one account that had 32x the allowed limit), "hard limits" have been imposed. If your site currently tracks more than 250 pages, just upgrade to Premium and your pages will once again become visible. Regular accounts will be limited to 5 pages as of Aug 27 (2 weeks from today).


Log Files
The "page" log files that you find on the right hand side of your main stats page will no longer be available to Regular accounts. Regular accounts will still be able to see the hit counts for these pages but the actual log of the last 150 visitors is no longer available. Daily log files will also be scaled back to the last 10 visitors in Regular accounts. This change will take place on Aug 27. Invisible accounts will see the last 500 visitors and Premium accounts will be able to scroll through *all* visitors on any given day.


Traffic/Bandwidth Caps -- Who Will be Affected?
A very small percentage of Invisible and Premium accounts will be affected by traffic/bandwidth caps, which will be introduced on Aug 27, 2003.


How do the Traffic/Bandwidth Caps Work?

I spent a lot of time researching what activities burden the system. The main limiting factor is the number of hits that the server tracks per day. Hit tracking is not like serving up a static web page. For each counter that is triggered, a chain of events is set off at the WunderCounter that involves complex calculations as well as a lot of RAM, hard disk space and server CPU (processing power). For this reason, sites that have heavy traffic create the greatest burden on system resources. This is the system of traffic/bandwidth caps:

Regular Accounts: 100 hits/day (about 3,000 hits/month)
Invisible Accounts: 1000 hits/day (about 30,000 hits/month)
Premium Accounts: 5000 hits/day (about 150,000 hits/month)



Any account that exceeds the allotted number of hits from midnight to midnight CST will be capped at that number. For example, if a Regular account gets 200 hits in a 24-hour period, only the first 100 hits will be tracked. Anything beyond this will not increase your counter or appear in your log files. If you are worried that your account may exceed its bandwidth cap, you may upgrade your account at any time -- it just takes a few minutes. Special pricing will be in place for accounts that exceed 5000 hits/day. Please contact me if you need any information on this special pricing.

Bandwidth caps go into effect on Aug 27, 2003.


Daily Stats Email
As of Aug 27, 2003 Regular accounts will no longer be getting Daily Stats summaries via email. These summary emails will continue to be available to Invisible and Premium accounts.


New Features
I've tweaked the Path Report feature and brought it back online. Also, I've added a "Monitor Properties" report that breaks down the most popular screen colours and dimensions of your users' monitors. Both of these reports are available to Premium accounts only.


Coming Soon
The new database structure makes adding new reports much easier than before. Look for reports on entry pages, exit pages and sticky pages (time spent on each page) in the coming month. These reports will be added to Premium accounts.


Special Offer
There were some brief interruptions to Invisible and Premium accounts last week as I was reworking the site. By way of apology I'd like to offer the following to all paying subscribers:

Order any web hosting package and I'll refund you the setup fee (a savings of up to $10.00) OR get the wunderInfo.cgi script (installed) for just $25.00 USD (a savings of $25 USD). More info on that script here:

http://www.wundersolutions.com/web-hosting/Scripts/


Conclusion
I apologize for the length of this email, but I want to ensure that everybody is properly informed of the changes. I know that a lot of people depend on these stats and I don't want to let you down. I want to make clear that these changes don't represent a "bait and switch" tactic but rather a decision that reflects the realities of running such a busy service. I'm confident that those of you who have found this service to be valuable (and often invaluable) will find the transition from non-paying to subscriber status a rewarding one. Please feel free to get in touch with me about any questions which you may have.


To see a more visual breakdown of the new account structures, have a look at the WunderCounter Features page.

All the best,



Olaf Alders
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