Frequently Asked Questions
We're doing the best job we can to ensure that there is no catch. But of course, there's always fine print. Ours is a pay-for-what-you-use infrastructure, and in order to convey your deposits into your account and then keep track of them, we have to maintain our billing infrastructure, do our accounting, file our taxes, and deal with payment compliance issues and fraud. All that adds up, so we have to charge you a small deposit fee.
We do not profit from deposit fees.
The base deposit fee is exactly the same for all members and payment methods. However, before charging you this fee, we offset it as much as we can by applying a variable instant rebate. This helps ensure that small deposits remain cost-effective and helps us tweak the system to make sure deposit fees are distributed fairly without overcharging anyone.
If the deposit fee and instant rebate system seems unnecessarily complicated, it is and we apologize. It is unfortunately necessary in order to provide you with the best possible pricing without running afoul of the conditions imposed upon us by our payment processors. We're constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce (or simplify!) these administrative costs, because they don't help us and they don't help you.
We currently accept these forms of payment:
Credit card, PayPal, and most Dwolla payments are processed immediately. Bitcoin payments, mail-in deposits, and some Dwolla transactions take longer.
Some prepaid credit cards work with our service and some do not. Whether an individual brand of prepaid card will work is at the discretion of the card issuer, not us, so although some do work, we don't recommend using them.
We do not accept cash payments for the simple reason that cash sent through the mail all-too-frequently does not reach its destination. Even the US Postal Service acknowledges this and officially discourages the practice. You may use cash to obtain money orders from the United States Postal Service, Western Union, and many other vendors in the United States. Internationally, we recommend the use of American Express worldwide money orders denominated in US Dollars.
We do not accept any forms of payment not listed here.
If you wish to pay us anonymously, see this FAQ entry for more information.
A member may easily request cancellation of their service at any time from within our member interface. When a membership is cancelled, we will return the money remaining in your account. All of it.* Since we provide a pay-as-you-go service (for pretty much everything but domain registration and privacy) you're only responsible for the cost of services that you actually use; there's no "OK, but your cancellation won't be effective until the beginning of the next billing cycle." or "OK, we'll cancel you right now but you agreed to pay for a zillion years of hosting in advance, so you don't get a refund." We'll process your cancel request as soon as we can, and return the entire unused balance to you at that point.
If you try out our service and figure out the same day (by early evening) that it is not right for you, let us know right away. Sometimes, but not always, we can void your transaction so that you will not only get a refund, but it will be as if you were never even charged. We can't promise that, but if you let us know fast enough, we will do our best for you.
Please note that we cannot issue a partial refund of your balance; we can only issue a full refund, and only in conjunction with the close of your membership. Also, if you have any domains registered through us, ICANN requires that you must transfer them to another registrar or abandon them before requesting cancellation. (Fees paid for domain registration are typically nonrefundable.)
*If we have to mail you a check, there will be a small charge, and we won't issue a refund for a balance less than the charge. See our Terms and Conditions of Service for complete details.
Please review our Terms and Conditions of Service.
Our primary requirements in this area are as follows:
If you have questions about whether your proposed site is legal, you need to consult an attorney. Under no circumstances can we give a legal opinion or advice, nor can we make binding statements about hypothetical sites and circumstances.
*You must obey all applicable local laws unless you get our prior express consent in writing. We do provide anonymous hosting of content that violates local government censorship laws at our sole discretion in cases outside the United States where we feel government censorship is contrary to the cause of freedom.
If you have questions about our willingness to put up with controversial or unpopular sites that are nonetheless legal, we invite you to review our Abuse @ NearlyFreeSpeech.NET page.
In addition to all of the options available to baseline members, people who have opted in to subscription membership are eligible for individual private support via email and our ticket system. Our individual private support option is informed by our own support experiences:
Baseline membership reflects that our do-it-yourself service is designed to be used without individual support. Consequently, support options are limited, but typically unnecessary.
When members need a little more help, they generally turn to our community support options. We have a member forum populated by some very, very smart people (including our staff), and members can view and contribute to a wiki that provides a rich variety of perspectives on tips, tricks, and how to get various things to work.
We also offer a specialized type of support, called assistance requests, for specific predefined actions that you need us to perform on your behalf. These are very limited in scope, highly automated, and are often designed to smooth over features that don't have a UI in our control panel, because they are specialized or rarely used. Baseline members also have the ability to report perceived problems with the system, although that channel is one-way; it is not a way to obtain help or support.
Your services will be automatically disabled. As soon as you add more, it'll come back, but that can take a few minutes and that often feels like the longest few minutes of your life, so we recommend using the account balance warning system to keep track of things before they go that far.
If you don't add more funds right away, things will hang around for 30 days. You can add more funds at any point during that period and get it all back.
If you haven't added funds after the 30 days, we'll start cleaning things up. Services paid for by that account, including all hosted content, will be removed. If you don't have any registered domains on that account, the account will be removed a few days later. And, if that was your only account, your membership will be closed shortly thereafter. If 30 days is not a long enough grace period, we offer a feature called "suspended animation" that can help you extend the retention of your content when your balance runs low.
If you do have one or more registered domains, they will persist until they complete the expiration/deletion process or are transferred elsewhere. That will keep the relevant account and your membership open so that you can continue to manage them.
You can also configure how long your membership is retained after your last account expires. As long as your membership continues to exist, we can attempt to recover deleted content. (A fee applies for this service.) Recoveries of this type are generally successful if requested within several months of deletion.
Once your membership is deleted, however, that's it.
The same thing that happens if your site uses less than $0.01 in a day, in a week, or in a year: it keeps going until it does.
We aren't really interested in months. The amount of bandwidth you use is carried over as long as it takes until you accumulate a penny's worth of usage, even if that takes a month or more.
Yes, we are happy to host sites like this.
No. The costs of such a program would be more than the actual interest produced. (Especially these days where interest earned is vanishingly small.)
We periodically reevaluate this situation, because we think a web account that runs forever purely off of its own interest is a pretty cool idea.
No, that would be silly. Since we bill primarily based on resource usage, if most of our services go down, you'll never be charged for them in the first place! We charge you primarily based on the bandwidth and resources you use. If the service is down... well, you aren't using much bandwidth or resources!
This business model has another profound consequence. In the event of a service failure, our revenue craters on the spot until it is fixed. The technical term for that is "motivation." For this reason, we do not offer any service level agreements or uptime guarantees other than "you will get the very best we have to offer."
By way of disclaimer, the above applies only to bandwidth and resource charges. Storage and other charges have always continued to apply during network outages. We don't know what we would do if we ever had a storage outage that resulted in data loss, since it's never happened. If it ever does, we'll try to do the right thing.
A "membership" represents you as an individual person (not a company, group, club, or organization). It's how you identify yourself to us, and how you access our services. If you're a US worker, it's like your social security number except, you know, less social and more secure. And, in most cases, less number-y.
An "account" is how you pay for our services. It contains the funds that you use to purchase hosting. You'll need at least one. You may create more, if you want, but you don't have to. Accounts also hold hosting-related assets, like web sites, domains, and database processes. Just as one membership can have several accounts, one account can fund several different assets.
Accounts also contain contact information about their owners, which may or may not be the member who manages the account. A web designer managing an account for a client would be a good example of a case where the member who manages the account is not the owner. Similarly, a company might own an account, even though it's managed from the company's webmaster's membership. Keep in mind that from our perspective, regardless of account ownership, the member is the only representative of the owner authorized to access the account. (There's no point in having any other policy, since the member can change the account's contact information at any time.)
People use accounts to group related stuff together, to separate business and personal expenses, or to keep track of multiple clients. All sorts of reasons. Other people are perfectly happy to jam everything into one account and have only one balance to keep track of.
It's a little like a bank. You are one person, but you might have two savings accounts: one for college, and one for "rainy days." The bank (if they know you at all these days) knows that you are just one person, and you have your social security number (membership) to prove it.
Unlike accounts, you may not have more than one membership. That would be like opening an account at your bank, then going out to your car, putting on a fake moustache, and going back in to open a second account.* Even if you could, why? Likewise, you cannot go into the bank, give them someone else's social security number, and open an account in their name.** So please don't open memberships for other people here.
*At least, I assume it's like that, but I've never actually tried it. My bank has a pretty good sense of humor, but why push my luck?
**Sense of humor or not, I'm pretty sure that's a felony.
No, of course not. That wouldn't really be your site.
Your site will have on it exactly what you put there, and nothing else.
Naturally, if you want to put banners or ads on your site, you're welcome to do so, what with it being your site and all.
Yes. CGI processes and individual ssh commands are limited to two to five minutes of CPU time, and PHP requests are limited to three minutes of wall-clock time by default.
These restrictions are designed to catch runaway processes, not to interfere with ordinary usage. "Stock" web applications, specifically including phpBB and WordPress, simply do not use enough resources to encounter these limits. Who would wait three minutes for a web page to load anyway?
If you have a need for longer-running processes (e.g. for non-interactive use), there is usually a way to make that work or adjust our system settings to accommodate it.
Although we do not impose an overall specific per-site CPU limit, ours is a shared hosting service. We try to accommodate individual needs, particularly on plans where you pay for the resources you use, but we do reserve that right (and responsibility) to limit anything that causes disruption to others. If you have a site on one of our older plans that does not include a resource-billing component, attempts to use large amounts of resources are more likely to encounter limits depending on total available resources.
Yes, but. Because of the ever-present threat of spam, we monitor email usage very closely. Therefore, you should expect an amount of scrutiny directly proportional to the volume of email you send.
It is also very important to be aware of potential vulnerabilities introduced by email-enabled web pages. In particular, generic PHP "feedback" form scripts have proven to be very popular targets for spammers, who can find and exploit them automatically. You should be extremely cautious, and make sure that any email-enabled web sites you create are safe from exploit.
We will hold you responsible for email activity caused by your site, whether you intended to allow it or not. If a spammer exploits a script on your site to send spam, we will have to clean up the mess. At a minimum, that will probably entail temporarily disabling your site, and it may result in additional charges for you.
Please be aware that when we address questions of this nature, we cannot speak to hypothetical situations, nor can we guess what we would have done in a situation where we were not involved. Nor we can offer you legal advice.
In the United States, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) defines the process by which a copyright holder can request that material be removed. In such cases, a provider is legally obligated to remove the allegedly infringing material without judging the merits of the claim. It is essentially done on the copyright holder's sworn say-so.
However, the DMCA also governs the process for restoring material, and that process is similarly rubber-stamp on the part of the service provider. Once that's done, it becomes a matter for the courts, not the service provider.
In this regard, the DMCA is a good law for us and for you. (Although it can and does suck in many areas, this isn't one of them.) The DMCA is, in part, supposed to protect you from capricious decisions made by the service provider based on some subset of the facts. At no point does or should an Internet service provider investigate or make judgment calls about complex copyright law and questions of what might be infringing. (We specialize in server processes, not process servers.) The DMCA gives us (and you) a certain (non-perfect) confidence that the copyright owner's claim has at least some legitimacy, and provides decent protection (once you get over the initial take-down hurdle) against the use of false claims of copyright infringement to suppress legitimate content.
If you wish to host a controversial site in the US, it behooves you to know the law, particularly this one, and how to use it to your advantage in the event of a dispute. You should also be prepared for a downtime of some or all "allegedly infringing" material for a couple of weeks if the copyright owner wants to fight.
We adhere to the entire law very closely. We do not generally pull the plug on an entire site if, for example, someone claims that a single graphic is infringing. We do our best to remove only the content that the copyright owner specifically identifies as allegedly infringing -- usually by allowing you to handle it yourself unless you decline or fail to do so. We allow and encourage the use of the "putback notification" process when material is incorrectly identified as infringing. But we do not automatically terminate a member's service merely for receiving a complaint alleging infringement. (However, actually infringing someone's copyright does violate our TACOS and will generally result in immediate termination.)
Keep in mind that while we aren't lawyers, neither are we idiots. We can tell the difference between people harassing our members via the DMCA and cases where our service is genuinely being misused, and we can adjust our attitude accordingly. Fortunately, both of these cases are very rare.
In most cases, we do not allow our members to remain anonymous to us.
At NearlyFreeSpeech.NET, we believe that with great power comes great responsibility, so we take a dim view of such behavior. For that reason, our TACOS require our members to provide complete and correct contact information, and requests for anonymous hosting are typically denied.
However, we do make one important exception. If you live outside the United States and can demonstrate that the site you wish to host would put you at significant, legitimate risk of retaliation from a government with a documented track record of reprisal against people who speak out against it, we may be able to help. Anonymous hosting is serious business; it can be one component of a coordinated plan to protect you and your family from torture and murder. It's absolutely not an option you can use to dodge lawsuits or unpopularity arising from hosted material.
If you feel you need this level of protection, please contact us, taking appropriate privacy precautions with respect to your correspondence. Be sure to explain where you live, what you want to host, and why you feel hosting the material anonymously is the only way to guarantee your safety. Be very specific; you will need to explain your situation in enough detail so we can make an informed decision. We may, in our sole discretion, decide to waive the contact information requirement in exchange for periodic reviews of your site content by NearlyFreeSpeech.NET personnel to verify that your usage of the service is consistent with your claims. Please be aware that even if we approve your request, paying anonymously is extremely difficult.
We regret we are not able to provide anonymous hosting to residents of the United States under any circumstances.
Please don't attempt to circumvent our restrictions on anonymous hosting by using fake contact information. Sooner or later we'll figure it out and terminate your membership. And, since you gave us fake information, we won't even be able to give you a refund.
Not directly. We are a shared hosting provider. The credit card issuers impose security requirements on the acceptance of credit cards that prevent you from accepting or storing credit card information on any shared server unless very specific criteria ("PCI DSS requirement A.1") exist and have been audited. We have not been audited for compliance, as it is our opinion that the criteria can only be met by VPS-type services, which we are not.
Therefore in order to accept credit cards and most other payments, you will need to use a third-party secure checkout service. Examples that are known to work include Stripe, Authorize.Net Server Integration Method and PayPal.
By default, we do not allow:
What these types of sites have in common is that they will be abused within minutes of discovery. It just saves time to say "no" up front rather than wait and shut it down later after there's a problem.
There aren't any circumstances where an IRC proxy or bot is allowable, and you will find most common IRC ports firewalled on our network.
If you need to set up a CGI or PHP based private web proxy on your site for your personal use that is appropriately access-limited, that is typically no problem as long as your use of it is legitimate. (This does not include using our ssh server as a socks or HTTP proxy. Doing so is strictly prohibited by our Terms & Conditions of Service.)
URL shorteners are, unfortunately, a lot more fun to write than they are to maintain. If you want to set up a URL shortener for your own use, that's fine. If you let the general public submit URLs to it, expect us to shut it down the first time it gets exploited. (And it will get exploited.) Properly-run URL shorteners aren't successful because they have the shortest or cleverest URL, they're successful because they have a team of people working 24x7 both proactively and reactively to prevent and mitigate abuse. If you have such a team, and you want to run a public URL shortener on our service, please contact us for special arrangements. If you don't have such a team, you'll have to find another host that's less concerned about the Internet's welfare.
Memberships represent individual people. (The law calls this "a natural person." At NearlyFreeSpeech.NET at least, corporations are not people.) A company, club, or organization (we'll go with "company" for the rest of this FAQ entry, but it applies just as well to clubs, organizations, or other types of groups) has no arms, fingers, and eyes and cannot read our Terms and Conditions of Service or complete our signup form. If you're signing up to host stuff for any kind of organization in which you're not the sole participant, you still have to create your membership as yourself, at which point you, personally, agree to adhere to our Terms and Conditions of Service. This is not too different from opening a company bank account; you still have to give them your own ID and sign the signature card and checks with your own name, not "President" or "Company Name, Inc."
It is very important to understand that once you create a membership for yourself, it's yours. (To reiterate the above, your membership represents you as an individual.) Although you can cancel your membership, or it can expire if you don't have any accounts or services for awhile, you can never give it away, nor ever let anyone else access it, just like you can't give away your personhood, nor allow other people to pretend to be you. This means we do not allow multiple people to simultaneously manage one membership. We are simply not equipped to handle disputes where multiple people are claiming to be in charge and giving us conflicting instructions. There must always be one person with the final say, and that is the person who, in the event of a dispute, can produce photo ID matching the name on the membership.
After you create your membership, using your own name, you will then have the opportunity to create an account. (Actually you can use your membership to create as many accounts as you want, just like you can have multiple accounts at the same bank.) This is the step where, as the representative of a company, you should be very cautious. You should fill out the account contact information to reflect that of the company, not yourself. This indicates that while you manage the account, the company owns it. We also recommend that if the company involves more than one person, you include an emergency contact. This can be very valuable if the account runs out of funds or a domain expires while you're on vacation.
After you fund the company's account, you will be able to set up whatever funds, sites, domains, and other services we offer that the company needs. All of those things attach to the account to make up a neat little package of related stuff. That becomes important if you ever need to transfer control to someone else, because it makes that very easy.
While managing the account, if you need some help editing the content of a site hosted here, other people from the company can set up memberships of their own. Then, you can give them "adjunct access" to individual sites, which will allow them to log in to those sites via ssh/SFTP and help work on the content. Likewise, you can create credentials for them to help manage a MySQL process hosted here, either from the command line or our phpMyAdmin installation. We regret that at this time, we don't offer a similar feature for management of DNS or domain registrations; those can currently only be administered by the member managing the company's account. We apologize for any inconvenience, this is definitely an area we would like to improve in the future.
If/when the day comes that you need to hand over management of the company's stuff to someone else, it's a very straightforward process. The person taking over simply creates a membership for themselves (again, as an individual, in their own name), at which point they read and agree to our Terms and Conditions of Service. (That part is really, really important.) Then, the company's account has a 12-digit account number like A1B2-C3D4E5F6 you can use to identify it. Give the other person that number, and then each of you should send a free assistance request to us through the member interface asking to move the company's account from the old manager's membership to the new one. The account, and all the sites/domains/databases it contains get moved over in one easy step. It's very easy to do, and can be handled in a few minutes without any downtime or interruption of service. If you have other stuff hosted in a separate account on the same membership, it won't be affected.
Usually. However, we do handle these issues on a case-by-case basis, considering a number of important factors.
First, we look at who is the target of the court order. Some court orders are directed at you as the site owner, and some are directed at your service provider.
If the court orders us to take the material down, and that court has jurisdiction over us, the material comes down. We uphold United States law at all times, end of story. If the court does not have jurisdiction over us, we will typically request that the order be domesticated before implementing it.
If the court orders you to take the material down, it's a bit more complicated. We will then consider whether the court has jurisdiction over you, either due to citizenship or residency. If they do, then we will typically prohibit you from using our service to violate the court order. If there's a court order against your content, you need to fight the order, not try to use the Internet to evade it.
We will also consider the free speech implications of the order. However, many people don't understand how limited this is. Typically, we will only consider free speech based arguments when the subject of the material is the government issuing the court order, or if the content is primarily political in nature. I.e. we would be very likely to disregard an Elbonian court order requiring removal of content critical of the government of Elbonia. We would be significantly less likely to disregard an Elbonian court order requiring you to remove material that the Elbonian court found to be defamatory of an Elbonian citizen, particularly if you are also an Elbonian citizen or resident.
While we will give some consideration as to whether a foreign court order is a travesty of justice, it is definitely one of the least influential factors and, as a practical matter, it rarely comes into play.
One important factor we do not consider at all is your opinion. This includes your opinion of how messed up your country's laws are, how easy/unfair/one-sided you feel it is to get such an order in your country, what an ignorant jerk you think the judge was, or how sure you are that they're all out to get you. If you agreed with the order and the process, you'd take the material down yourself and we'd never hear about it. Beyond that, your opinion ceases to have any probative value. Sorry if that's hard to hear.
When dealing with foreign court orders, it is often helpful for you to make your attorney available to us to answer questions about the matter. If you got a court order issued against you but you don't have qualified legal representation, it will be somewhat harder for us to take you seriously.
To reiterate the most important statement at the top, all situations are handled on a case-by-case basis. We will definitely not guarantee any specific response, nor will we even guarantee that all cases will be handled as described here. However, we have been at this for many years, and the guidelines above have served our goal of staunchly defending legitimate freedom of expression in good stead.
In all cases, the indemnification provisions of our Terms and Conditions of Service require you to pay any legal expenses we incur in responding to court orders related to your services with us.
No. We are entirely focused on web hosting and our Terms and Conditions of Service expressly forbid the use of our ssh server for any purpose other than maintaining content hosted here. That prohibition definitely includes using our ssh server as any kind of web or SOCKS proxy for accessing the Internet.
We try to run an open system that provides our members with the most powerful tools for managing their content. As a result, we allow outbound network connections from the ssh server for people who need to move content from/to elsewhere, and we allow ssh port forwarding so people can access their MySQL processes from offsite and so that they can securely access their own sites hosted here.
However, we can and do check for outbound network connections that use our ssh subsystem as a proxy, and our system automatically kills them. Furthermore, we may be forced to take appropriate action if we observe repeated or blatant attempts to misuse our system in this way, including but not limited to revoking ssh access (which will require you to use our paid support to regain) or, in extreme cases, terminating a membership.
Our Terms and Conditions of Service require that accurate contact information is provided for all memberships; free speech is a responsibility as well as a right and part of that responsibility is that you may be held accountable for what you say. Supplemental verification is any step we take to verify your contact information above and beyond our usual policy of trusting what you enter when you sign up for and use our service.
There is a huge correlation between people who provide fake contact info and problems like payment fraud and illegal content. So if during the ordinary course of providing service we find a clear and specific reason to question whether accurate information has been provided, then we get into supplemental verification. To give an extreme example, if you tell us you're John Smith from Ontario, Canada, but pay with Bob Jones' credit card with a billing address in California, and you're logging in from Nigeria, we're probably going to give that a second look.
Depending on the situation, we may inquire about some or all observed discrepancies. That's usually enough to take care of it. In a handful of very rare cases -- about 0.01% of members -- we wind up asking for ID. In those extreme cases, generally any government-issued ID, like a driver's license or passport, is suitable for that purpose, but that comes up so rarely that we're very flexible in handling it on a case-by-case basis.
Typically any problem in this area is easily resolved. If not, it's for one of two reasons. Most of the time the membership was blatant fraud (stolen credit card, illegal content, etc). But sometimes the person involved says something to the effect of "I know your policy, but I don't agree with it, so I won't follow it." The nature of our Terms and Conditions of Service is that if someone refuses to abide by the Terms and Conditions, we will refuse to provide the Services, so that is not an ideological position that is compatible with use of our hosting. Importantly, it may also impair the ability to get a refund. (So if you're thinking about signing up with fake contact information, please don't. It'll eventually end in tears. Yours.)
Supplemental verification is also triggered anytime someone claims they are a member of our service but has neither the login information nor access to the contact email address. In those cases, we skip straight to asking for ID to establish the rightful member. (And naturally anyone who provided fake contact info and winds up in that situation is pretty much out of luck.)
We cannot process any instructions with respect to a membership via email. This includes, but is not limited to, requests to cancel, to accept payments, to renew, transfer, or abandon domains, to disable content, or to remove anything.
Email is not secure. Anyone who knows your email address can send an email that appears to be from you. Some people don't even bother using your email address when pretending to be you. We routinely receive emailed requests to do stuff that clearly aren't from the member. But the scary ones are the ones that look like they are from the member but turn out not to be.
Even when we're pretty sure you're you and we believe there would be little risk in doing so, we cannot process an email request. After all, we could be wrong. And even if we're not, we also need to take reasonable steps to protect not only you, but also ourselves.
So, on our system, the way you prove you're you is to log in with your member login name and password (and, optionally, a two-factor device).
If you need help logging on, check out the Login section of our FAQ.
If you need our help with something else, the best way to obtain it is via the support tab of our member site.
If you have a subscription membership, you can submit requests via email if you want, but you'll still have to click a link, log in, and confirm that the message really came from you. (Which basically copies it into our support system as if you had submitted it from our site.) That does introduce delays, so you'll generally get faster response if you send such requests directly from the support tab. Please note the option for individual email-based support is only available to subscription members. Baseline members should check the support tab for community support and self-support options.
No. Once a membership has been closed, nothing can be recovered.
Closing a membership also entails removing enough of your personal information that even if recovery were possible, we would have no way of proving you are the right person to recover it for.
As such, once a membership is closed it is permanently gone and any associated content, domains, or other services cannot be recovered. (You are, of course, welcome and encouraged to re-create things from your own backups if you choose to set up a new membership with us.)
This applies regardless of whether the membership was closed by request, due to running out of funds for an extended period of time, or for violation of our Terms & Conditions of Service.