20 Cost Questions

In the Spring of 2015, the MetaArchive Cooperative issued 20 Cost Questions to the digital preservation community. APTrust responded in November 2015 and revised its response as needed from 2016-2018. Largely, APTrust's responses have held true since 2018, the questions are presented here with minor updates in March 2024.

APTrust Note: The questions involved appear focused on uncovering hidden costs and other surprises that might be part of solutions for digital preservation.  APTrust is a collaboration between institutions of higher education founded on principles of complete transparency, so some of the questions are not precisely tailored to our type of organization. If you’d like any further details on any answer or any other aspect of APTrust, please contact us at info@aptrust.org.

1. What are the solution provider’s licensing, subscription, or membership fees?

$20,000 per year for each member institution. Includes participation in governance activities, no-registration-fee member meetings, and 10 TB of preservation storage.

Have these fees increased or decreased over the past three years, and why?


How often is the fee structure reviewed?  And how are fees set?

Continuously. The APTrust Governing Board (comprised of members) sets fees.

How are customers/subscribers/members consulted during such reviews?

Through the Governing Board, they review and set them.

2. Are additional memberships required to participate in the solution?


3. Is there a minimum licensing/subscription/membership term?

Minimum and maximum are currently the same: one year.

4. What are the solution provider’s storage fees?

The first 10 TB of content to be preserved is included in membership fee.  Additional storage is charged at $420 per TB per year. 

Have those fees increased or decreased over the past three years, and why?

The costs for “extra” 5 TB blocks was reduced from $4,250 to $2,750 early in 2016 because our experience with greater volumes of content justified the reduction in rates. It was further reduced on April 11, 2017, to $2,100 per 5 TB block.

How often is the fee structure reviewed? And how are fees set?

See response to the first question.

How are customers/subscribers/members consulted during such reviews?

See response to the first question.

5. Are there limits on the numbers or size of collections that can be deposited?

No limit on collection size or numbers.

Is there a maximum amount of storage that can be utilized?

Our storage environments are Amazon Web Services and Wasabi, we do not have a limit.

6. How does the solution provide for increases in storage capacity?

As noted in 5, we can flex storage as needed by any depositor.

And how do these increases affect fees, if at all?

If we receive reduced per-volume pricing for Amazon as a result of increased total storage, that reduction will be passed to the depositors via reduction in rates.

7. Do any fees paid (licensing/subscription/membership/storage) include geographically distributed copies of content?


If so, how many copies and in what geographic locations?

We store copies in AWS’s S3 service in Virginia and in Glacier in Oregon for our standard service.  We conduct APTrust fixity checks on the content in the S3 service every 90 days (in addition to the AWS built-in fixity checking on both services).

If not, what’s the additional cost for this option?

Included in the base cost.

8. Am I responsible for obtaining any additional hardware or software at my own expense to work with the solution?


9. What are a few specific examples of tasks, services, or resources that my fees for this solution are supporting (e.g., staff salaries, infrastructure upgrades, research and development, etc.)?

APTrust is a consortium of higher education institutions, governed by those institutions. All costs are publicly reported in categories (such as revenues from memberships and any other sources, including the beyond-allocation storage fees noted above), AWS costs, staff compensation, staff travel, event costs (for the two face-to-face meetings held per year), and all others.

10. On what schedule are customers/subscribers/members billed?

Standard membership fees are billed in late spring; storage beyond the allocated amount is tracked on a monthly basis—if it persists, billing for the extra-storage fees commences.

11. Does the solution charge a one-time setup, implementation, or initial ingest fee, above and beyond any ongoing fees?


12. On average, how long does it take to begin using the solution once a contract or service license agreement (SLA) has been signed?

In our experience, APTrust has been ready to accept deposits long before the institutions have completed their processes of selection and technical preparation of the content for deposit.  But because technical preparation for ingest is a depositor responsibility in our environment (and because we can scale the AWS components to the demand rapidly), deposit can commence as soon as the institution has accounts created (that takes place within one or two business days after the institution provides identity information on appropriate staff).

What steps are involved?

Provisioning accounts as noted above, along with discussion between staff actually doing the deposits to ensure good understanding of the technical specifications of the ingest format (Bagit) and the accompanying data that APTrust needs with the deposit (minimal).

13. Does the solution provide basic documentation and instructions on getting started?

Yes, in multiple formats.

14. Does the solution provider prepare content for ingest?

No, although APTrust has developed and released a tool (DART) that allows for drag-and-drop ingest.

If so, do any fees being paid cover tasks like verifying inventories, performing fixity checks, and/or repairing any files that may get damaged in the process of sending content to the solution provider?

As worded, this question is a little difficult to answer.  Certainly no additional fees are charged for any functions that APTrust does in this regard. We have automated processes that detect failures in various steps of the deposit and that verify checksums on packages deposited, etc. If deposit mechanisms fail, the system detects the failure and automatically queues the material for re-deposit. Early in our process, our system checks the deposit for conformity with requirements, and notifies the depositor if the deposit was rejected because it doesn’t conform.

If not, does the solution provider cover/defer any costs to train or outsource?

APTrust, as a consortium of institutions collaborating on preservation solutions, is founded on the notion that all participants help each other.  Peer sharing of information is common and very effective, and it is cited often as one of the reasons that members value their participation in APTrust. We offer a combined team of staff and member-specialists to provide help to an institution in the early stages, but that depends on availability of the resources, most of whom would be volunteers. In any case, there is no cost to the depositor for these support activities.

15. To what degree are the steps related to ingest, description, preservation, etc., automated?

In APTrust, many of these steps are automated (although the term “description” in the question needs clear definition to ensure we’re addressing that question). We are happy to provide much more detail on this to any interested parties.

16. If the solution is a non-profit (or run by one), are copies of the annual operating budget and financial statement shared with the members.

Yes. See our budget reports webpage.

17. In terms of sustainability, does the solution provider have a strategic plan, succession plan, or disaster recovery plan?

Yes, we have a strategic plan and a succession plan. We are currently working on a disaster recovery plan. See the policies webpage for the lastest version of each.

Has the solution provider engaged in any audits, or risk assessments?

APTrust has a Certification Working Group dedicated to maintaining the required documentation for a self-audit of TDR, ISO 16363. At this time, we are not considering an external audit.

Are any of the plans or audit/assessments publicly available?

Yes, all TDR documentation is available on our website.

18. Is there a charge for retrieving content from the solution?

Not anticipated at present because we don’t anticipate that this will be a frequent request.  If it becomes a frequent activity that generates significant unanticipated cost, we will reconsider this stance.

If yes, how much is it?

No charge at this time.

How is this charge calculated and what does it cover?

If a fee is ever considered in the future, it will be designed to cover the actual costs of providing that function, proposed by staff for review by the member Advisory Committee, which will forward its recommendation to the member Governing Board for approval.

Under what terms?  Are there any restrictions and limitations?

See above.

19. Is there any charge for deleting content from the solution?


20. Am I, as a customer/subscriber/member, also paying for local backups above and beyond the preservation service costs? Recognizing that both preservation and backup are important and have their own unique and important places in an overall strategy, how can I best balnce both costs.

This question is for you to answer.