A couple of months back, I was asked to be a guest writer for Visionz, which is a Digital publication dedicated to serving news and other content to HyperGrid and other OpenSim users.
I figured this would be a good time to try to educate new users and grid owners so I wrote an article, submitted it for their approval and they accepted and published it.
You can view it here:
I’ve also included a copy here.
This is the entire article as posted on their website:
We are all human. In the real world we want to find the best deal we can with everything. The more money we can save, the more money we’ll have to spend on other things. The virtual world is no different. When shopping for land in virtual worlds one must consider many things, including:
All of these can make or break your satisfaction with a virtual world. A grid owner has to find ways to attract new users to his/her grid. Every Grid owner knows that users attract even more users. The more users a grid has, the more content they have to offer new users. The more users they have, the more events other users will have to choose from. The more users they have, the more socializing opportunities users will have to choose from. It’s no secret…. USERS ATTRACT USERS!
Grid owners will go to great lengths to “Dangle the carrot” in front of you to convince you to choose them. Some of these owners are ethical and trustworthy, while others not so much.
I have been around long enough to know what I’m talking about. I’ve been through the school of hard knocks on this issue. Many know that I currently am the grid tech on 3 different grids and I have helped many others. Some are still around, some aren’t.
Price seems to be one of the biggest targets of all new grids.
New grids think they have to have the lowest price to attract new users. It always seems there are grids out there promising “Huge” land sizes with unlimited prims for less than $5/mo in some cases. While for the buyer, this seems like a great deal, right? I mean what could be better? You can get a 10×10 region with unlimited prims for $4/mo. What a deal!!!
You can have your dream region… lots and lots of builds, invite all your friends, maybe you can rent some of it out to other users, life will be grand, right? WRONG!!!
Let me explain to you why this is not a good deal, why you should run as fast as you can from any grid offering such a deal.
Servers cost money. Servers have a limited amount of resources available. Grid owners will not “Pay You” to be part of their virtual world.
Let’s take an imaginary grid run by an imaginary guy named “Dick”. Dick has started a grid and called it “Dick’s Wonderful, Low Priced Grid”. This grid has a single server which costs them $80/mo. For that $80 the grid has to run a database, a robust instance and then all of the regions. Let’s say this server has 1tb hard drive, 64gb ram, and dual quad core processors.
In OpenSim, a good general rule is that scripts and users use CPU, content uses ram and storage. and users also consume ram. To start out with, the operating system will consume some of the resources. The database will need approx 2gb ram for a small grid. Let’s just say, that at an idle with the grid running and a single welcome region on it it will be using around 3gb ram.
Let’s say Dick decides to attract users with an unlimited prim deal for $5/mo. The grid quickly sells 35 regions. Being the savvy business person Dick is, he thinks all is well… my marketing ploy worked I have 35 new “Paying” users. I’m now bringing in $175 and the server is only costing me $80… WOW! That’s a $95/mo. Profit! Dick decides to keep running his deal and sells another 20 regions. Now they are up to 55 regions all running on the same server, bringing in $275/mo and paying out $80/mo in server costs. Now Dick “thinks” they are making a $195/mo profit… things are going great… right? *WRONG* DANGER AHEAD!
Dick thinks all is well, but they better get another server as this one is starting to lag… we have plenty of ram left though… and so far plenty of CPU left over. Dick Wonders why it is lagging?
They buy another server, they load it up the same as the first… now they are making $390/mo profit.
They have lots of new users running about the Hypergrid and bringing things back to build up their regions, they are starting to have events, things are looking great.
Support tickets start rolling in… just the usual stuff… change my region name, change the name on a group, oops.. wrong prim count on my land… etc… just the usual stuff. As the regions continue to build up, the amount of resources they need continue to grow. Server lag gets much worse, but we still have plenty of ram and we still have plenty of cpu… and plenty of storage left on the hard drive…. must just be all the traffic.
You as the user are now one of many… you pay your $5/mo. and you expect to have a great experience, and get help when you need it. You expect to be able to have your HyperGrid friends over to show off your new land. You expect to be able to explore all the great new creations everyone is building. Your Virtual Life so far is good… all of this for only $5/mo… what a deal.
Now the grid has gotten busier, regions are starting to really blossom with some really cool, huge builds, malls and stores are going up all over. But you notice that lag seems to be getting worse. Sometimes your TP attempts fail, sometimes it takes a bit longer for you to load all your inventory, sometimes there is very bad chat lag, sometimes your region just crashes for no apparent reason… it was fine yesterday. You decide to ask for help. You send in a support request. Time goes by while you wait for a response… why you wonder, am I not getting an answer.
Dick is starting to realize more help is needed, they are getting more and more support requests, so they recruit some helpers. Like many grid owners, they aren’t making a lot of money, so they can’t afford to pay much so they offer land in trade for help. Now they have 4 new helpers. This will help lighten the support load a bit. We have lots of new users, lots of new regions, 4 new helpers and we are still putting almost $400/mo in our pocket.
What the grid owner does not see coming is that there is a very bad “storm” brewing. One which will destroy the grid’s credibility, reputation, and will upset many users. What could that be you might ask? All is good, I’m paying only $5/mo. for unlimited prims, way more land than I really need… what could go wrong?
What some new grids don’t seem to realize is that at first, many regions will fit on a server and run well. As these regions build up, the disk traffic increases and while you may still have plenty of cpu and ram… and even storage left… you find your servers are getting very laggy. You realize that as you move regions off of a laggy server it gets better… so you buy another server to spread the load. Now you are down to only putting $300/mo in your pocket. As time goes on, you have to keep doing this to keep the lag at bay… so you buy another, now you are up to 4 servers @ $80/ea. Now you are paying $320/mo. and your profit has shrunk to only $220/mo.
Now you realize that you better start thinking about backups… and you realize you don’t have a slave database to fall back on in case your core database goes down. You buy another server… now your profit has fallen to just $140/mo.
Now, you need to start looking for tech help as you can no longer do it all yourself. You have several servers to look after, but only about $150/mo profit… where can you find someone to help with your technical issues for that small amount? You can’t… at least not anyone worth their “Salt”… so, you have to continue doing it all on your own. Who in their right mind would want to assume the responsibility for all these servers for that amount of money?
Dick finds himself tied to the grid taking care of support issues, making and checking backups, trying to implement new features, attending grid events… it’s starting to get crazy. Dick is now spending 8 hours each day on grid related stuff. Let’s check the economics here… 8 hours each day times 30 days in a month… that’s 240 hours per month you spend on grid related stuff.
Why? Because Dick’s users expect his grid to run great, have great features and great support. That’s Dick’s job, remember?
Meanwhile, Dick’s regions continue to grow… remember, Dick has promised all of his users unlimited prims, so Dick has to keep buying more servers to spread the load. Suddenly, Dick realizes that he’s barely breaking even, but yet as he grows, he has to put in more time taking care of things.
Let’s say Dick is still putting $60/mo in his pocket as profit… he worked for 240 hours this month… how much did he earn per hour? Easy enough to figure out… $60 divided by 240 hours = $ 0.25/hr. Yup, that’s right… Dick making 25 cents per hour… or so he thinks.
Guess what? The storm isn’t over yet… as Dick continues to grow, he will need to keep buying more servers to spread the load… eventually he’ll be paying out of his own pocket to run his grid. Dick starts to lose his “drive” as he sees this is not going to work… so he recants his unlimited prim deal. He goes around to his largest users of resources, those he thinks are good friends and will understand… and he asks for more money.
Dick’s reputation starts to erode.
Meanwhile, Dick’s grid continues to grow… and guess what, he now has so much traffic that he needs to upgrade his grid’s “Core” to handle all of it. Now Dick decides 1tb isn’t enough space… he now needs 4tb and SSD drives to help… and… he has to multiply this by 3 as now he will need to load balance his core… so now he will need 3 more expensive machines to do what is needed.
What? I can’t afford that, say Dick… I’ll just have to make due with what I have for now until I can make some more money.
Now Dick’s grid really starts performing poorly because his current servers cannot handle the load. Dick’s reputation is being dragged through the mud, his users are upset about his performance, he is losing users at a crazy rate. Dick begins to lose interest since things are failing, he doesn’t feel like spending all that time on the grid anymore. Tech support can wait… he’s done enough today, right.. time to get away… get a breather!
Now, you the user are having issues… you can’t login… you lose grid presence, your support tickets are going unanswered, this grid sucks now… right? Now you’ll have to find a new home… and all the time you wasted building up the old region has been wasted.. but it was good practice, and really… how many prims did you end up using after all?
On to the next great deal!!
To you the user, I would advise you to do some research.
Ask yourself what is important, do you want support when you need it? Do you want to make sure you have backups available if something goes wrong? Do you want to have a home you can be proud of… and bring your friends to Do you want to have to go and do this all over again soon?
Shop around, find a grid which offers a great deal, has great performance, has great support, and you’ll be happy.
Remember, with the Hypergrid, you can shop almost anywhere now and bring the stuff back to your grid. Get land on a grid who knows what they are doing, knows how to support their users, and is going to be there for you when you need them. The money you pay each month should buy you all of these things and more.
To the new grids… You owe it to your users, yourself, and your helpers to create a platform which can sustain any growth. You should plan ahead for when the grid does begin to grow. Your expenses will only increase, and if you don’t have the cash reserves available to pay for additional servers and help on issues you can’t handle on your own because you weren’t charging enough for your services, you are going to fail.
Your users and helpers are counting on you to make the correct decisions, they have not only spent money to buy your services, they have also purchased an insurance policy of sorts.
So… Don’t be a “Dick”!