April Membership Drive: How much does the Archive cost to run?

The Archive of Our Own is growing rapidly! We now have over 145,000 registered users, and about 275,000 unique visitors a day. All these visitors rack up roughly 4.3 million pageviews a day (that’s almost 3,000 a minute on average). It cost more than US$52,000 to keep the Archive up and running in 2012. Our costs will only increase as the Archive continues to grow, and we anticipate spending at least US$70,000 in 2013.

The Archive is funded entirely by donations to the Organization for Transformative Works. As part of the OTW’s membership drive, we’d like to share some details of what we have to pay for and how much it all costs.


The Archive of Our Own is hosted entirely on servers which are owned by the Organization for Transformative Works. This is a key part of our mission: fanworks often disappear from the internet because a site goes down without warning, or because a takedown notice is issued and site owners are unable or unwilling to resist it. By owning the servers, we ensure we’re in a position to protect fanworks and keep them available.

Servers are a one-off cost, although over time they have to be replaced or added to. Over the lifetime of the Archive, we’ve spent US$58,099 in total on hardware. This was spread over several years:


When we launched the Archive in 2009, we started with two servers with upgraded RAM, which cost a total of US$8,165 (including shipping).


In 2011, we expanded our server family substantially, adding four more servers and a switch. The total cost for the new hardware was US$17,234.


By the end of 2012, the extremely rapid growth of the Archive meant that we needed to add more new servers. After some extensive research by our Systems team we settled on three new machines, at a cost of US$28,200. In the same year we upgraded our existing machines by adding some solid state discs — a cost of US$1,650 — and upgrading the RAM — this cost approximately US$2,200.

The size of the Archive codebase and the number of volunteer coders we have working on it meant that in 2012, we also needed to upgrade our testing and development environments. These are used to host web-based coding environments so that our volunteers don’t require very high performance computers to code on, and a test environment where our testers can test the new code before it goes onto the live site. We were lucky enough to have these machines donated, so we didn’t have to pay up front for them, but we bought a hardware-based firewall for these servers at a cost of US$670.

Our total cost for hardware was US$32,720.

Colocation and hosting costs

The servers themselves are only a small part of the cost of running the site. We also have to pay for them to be physically hosted in a colocation facility: we rent the space for them and pay for electricity, bandwidth, and the physical maintenance of the machines (so if we need to add a new disc, for example, our colocation hosts do it for us). We also pay for a managed firewall at one of our colocation hosts.

Our hosting costs are US$1,365 per month, which breaks down as follows:

Hosting costs: US$1,315 per month
Managed firewall: US$50 per month

Additional tech costs

In addition to paying for hardware and hosting, there are a few other ongoing costs in keeping the Archive up and running. We pay a licence for a product which enables us monitor activity on our servers and to identify performance problems. This cost us US$1,400 in 2012 for June-December and will cost an estimated US$3,500 in 2013. (The cost goes up as we add more machines.)

We pay for backups and image hosting (only used for icons and collection header images). This costs an average of US$65 per month. In 2012, we also paid US$835 for cloud hosting to do some enhanced testing of the Archive code, prior to launching our new tag filters.

We currently pay to use a hosted ticket system for our Support and Abuse teams, which is used to keep track of queries from users. This costs US$180 annually.

And the rest

The above costs don’t include smaller sundries such as the cost of our volunteer chatrooms, mailing lists, or other volunteer tools. The Archive is a project of the Organization for Transformative Works, so these costs are rolled into the OTW’s overall expenses and it’s not really possible to break them out as individual Archive costs.

Finally, there’s one big cost which isn’t included above: volunteer time. The Archive is entirely designed, coded, tested, and run by volunteers, who give many hours of their time to develop the site, support users, wrangle tags, and manage the servers. Their work is priceless. <3

Support the Archive!

As you can see from the above, it costs a lot of money to keep the Archive up and running. These costs will increase in years to come as more users join the site, and we expand the types of things we host (multimedia hosting is still very much part of our plans). In the next year, we expect our expenses to grow by nearly 50 percent, to a minimum of US$70,000, and you can help get us there.

The Archive is entirely funded by donations to the Organization for Transformative Works: we don’t run ads on the site or charge people to use it. If you enjoy using the Archive and have a little money to spare, please donate to the OTW to help keep us thriving! A donation of US$10 confers membership in the OTW and the right to vote in organizational elections. At higher donation levels there are some awesome thank-you gifts to choose from, like our AO3 Kudos Water Bottle at the US$75 level.

Thank you to all our donors, past, present and future! We appreciate your support!

Archive of Our Own, Spotlight

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