Why charge a deposit on a free cloud trial?

By: Thatcher Peskens - November 18, 2021 ~ 4 min read

It’s very common to offer a free trial for online services. You see it for anything from a Netflix subscription to business services like a CRM.

A service typically asks the user to enter a valid credit card, but only makes a verification charge. It establishes that the service will continue if you don’t cancel. Often times this is also what a user wants.

The reasoning from the business perspective is simple: If we make the barrier to start using a service as low as possible and we get people using it, then they probably won’t cancel.

So, what’s the problem?

This all has to do with cryptocurrency mining. Unlike watching Netflix (I wish!) you can actually earn money mining crypto. And we’ve found that some people abuse our free trial to do just that: mine crypto. What we see is that people make large numbers of anonymous accounts and start using our servers for mining. Scroll down to learn more about why people mine crypto.

These people never intend to pay

The problem is that they never intend to pay for the servers they use. As the calculation below shows, the earnings are less than what we normally charge. So, if they continued beyond the duration of the free trial, they would lose money. It is also important to understand that, unlike many SaaS services, servers use a significant amount of electricity. Especially if they are running at 100% for mining. — We re-use our server heat to reduce overall energy use (and CO2 emissions), but even then this mining is super wasteful!

It also takes our time and resources to maintain these accounts and to deal with nonpaying users. Valuable things we would rather spend on honest people.

Our solution is:
To require a refundable deposit. The idea is simple: Ask people to put in a deposit larger than what someone can earn mining in a month. If the user then does not pay his/her next bill we subtract the deposit from the amount due.

Why not check that people don’t create more than one account?

This is something that is becoming harder and harder to do. With the rise of Virtual Credit Cards such as Revolut and Privacy, services that allow a user to create unlimited disposable, and anonymous credit cards, and other sites offering temporary phone numbers just for SMS validation. As a result, our options are increasingly limited to verifying a users’ uniqueness. It’s a cat-and-mouse game. The more characteristics we check, the more ways the fraudster will find to look like a legitimate user.

In addition, Apple’s announced iCloud private relay makes it more likely that legitimate users are blocked if we check too broadly.

Why do people do crypto mining?

As you probably know, crypto mining, best known for Bitcoin Mining, is a process where computers solve complicated equations to ‘find’ the next valid coin. Each cryptocurrency has its own type of equations. Because a lot of people do it the difficulty of the equations has gone up, and for most currencies is not worth the hardware + electricity cost to invest in your own hardware.

That’s where free cloud trials come in. — If someone does not have to pay for the electricity or hardware that (s)he uses then you can mine coins for “free” –> without cost to the user that is.

So how much can you earn? We have actually done the math. Let’s assume the user is mining Monero, one of the currencies which is supposed to earn the most $ / hr for generic CPU hardware.

  • Depending on the benchmark our hardware does around 4000-6000 Hash/second per chip, a chip has 20 vCores, which is then up to 300 Hash per second per vCore.
  • A big Leafcloud instance (xLarge) has 6vCPU = 1800 Hash/sec
  • If you then use a mining calculator like monerobenchmark’s mining calculator (fill in 0 for the energy price)
  • At the time of writing this article; the result is at most 0.012132 XMR or 3.483 USD per month

Well, that’s not a lot…

So, to avoid an extensive cat-and-mouse game that can cause additional problems and to continue offering a free trial period, we’re asking new users to make a refundable deposit into their Leafcloud account. This allows us to offer new users the opportunity to try our truly green cloud with free trial credits while preventing our resources from being tied up and importantly, lots of energy being wasted on cryptocurrency mining. 

We hope this explains the situation adequately and that our reasoning is clear. Feel free to contact us about this, or any other questions you might have here.

Thatcher Peskens

Thatcher Peskens

Thatcher is co-founder and Business development lead at Leafcloud

More articles by Thatcher Peskens