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What websites are charged?

All websites that Mass.Gov hosts will be charged, including portalized and nonportalized websites.

When does this charge start?

Customers that host websites on Mass.Gov began incurring charges July 1, 2009.

During FY 2009, we wanted to let customers see what their cost would be as their usage fluctuated. To show you this, Mass.Gov line items started to appear on your chargeback bill in FY 2009, but these charges were fully credited on each bill so that there was no net effect on the total amount of the bill. Beginning in July 2009 (FY2010), normal billing started and the costs are no longer credited on each bill.

Why is Mass.Gov starting to charge customers?

Mass.Gov has been funded in the past from two separate funding sources: direct appropriation (40%) and chargeback overhead revenue (60%). Rates on all ITD-provided services are marginally higher to fund the chargeback overhead cost pool. This cost pool is designed to fund items that can not be billed directly, such as administration, security, policy and planning, as well as new services that are not yet mature enough to be billable. It was appropriate to use chargeback overhead funds when Mass.Gov was first formed and developing, but now that Mass.Gov is a mature service, costs need to be allocated according to usage through a direct charge. Mass.Gov will continue to receive a portion of its funding from direct appropriations.

How is the chargeback cost for each website determined?

A Chargeback Working Group of the was formed to make a recommendation about the chargeback method. This group was comprised of representatives from customer agencies. The group recommended a chargeback consisting of a $50 monthly fee per website, plus usage based costs for bandwidth and disk storage. The recommendations of the group were adopted. Monthly rates were calculated based on the working group recommendations. The chargeback is designed to recover only actual costs incurred by Mass.Gov.

For the purposes of chargeback, what is considered a "website"?

Only websites that are hosted by Mass.Gov will be charged. You can tell that a website is hosted by Mass.Gov by navigating to the web content and looking to see if "" is at the beginning of the URL. Mass.Gov will not charge for friendly URLs that immediately redirect to content not hosted on Mass.Gov.

A website is defined as a unique authentication structure within our content management system that has a single group of people with identical permissions to update content. It also has a single web analytics report and unique primary contacts for technical, management and billing purposes.

For websites that are integrated into the portal architecture, it is the entire portal website owned by the organization named in the banner of the website. Any sub entities that have content within a portal website are not considered to have their own website for chargeback purposes. For portal sites, you will see a unique site ID which is visible in the URL of HTML pages as "sid=something".

For nonportal sites and for non-html documents of portal sites, a site is determined based on the text immediately to the right of but before the next slash. Example: The site is "MainOrg" and it will receive a single monthly $50 charge. The "SubOrg" is part of "MainOrg" and is not considered a site. There is no custom authentication in the content management system for "SubOrg" authors. All "MainOrg" authors can manage and update "SubOrg" content. There are no statistics reports for "SubOrg" outside of reports for the whole "MainOrg" site.

How was the estimated cost for my website determined?

Each customer received a chargeback forecast in early August, 2008 which estimated your annual cost based on June, 2008 usage metrics. You should have used this information to budget for this chargeback for this FY. You were also able to see the costs for your website on an ongoing basis from your FY 2009 chargeback bills. This was designed to let you see what the cost was as your usage fluctuated throughout that fiscal year. The costs were fully credited monthly on the same bill, so they did not affect your total monthly costs in FY 2009. Your bill, in FY 2009, showed three line items for your website: fixed cost, storage cost and bandwidth cost. The total of these three is/was/and will continue to be, the full cost for a month. You were advised to use both this forecast and the monthly billing information to budget for FY 2010.

Who receives the bill for each website?

In FY 2009, ITD entered the chargeback and credit line items on what we believed to be the appropriate customer bills. If the account number that ITD used for your chargeback was not correct, please let your Service Account Manager know the correct account so that it can be corrected. We wanted to ensure that we had the correct account numbers so that you were able to understand your costs early and plan accordingly.

This FY, ITD will issue one bill per website. If your website contains the content of any sub entities, you may want to use internal accounting methods to distribute costs to various accounts. Because web content is organized with a focus on usability rather than organizational ownership, content from any sub entities is intermixed on portal sites, and there is no standard way to determine usage for each sub entity. Website owners will therefore need to develop their own methods to allocate costs internally.

provided by Mass.Gov can assist executive offices to gauge the use of content related to specific agencies and determine fair cost allocation levels for their sub-entities. Mass.Gov cannot do this type of analysis centrally because content is organized differently for each website and content constantly evolves over time.

What were customers advised to do in FY 2009?

ITD began to include the charges and credits on your chargeback bill during FY 2009 for your review. We did this in the form of a simple bill for those organizations that did not currently pay any chargeback. Customers were advised to verify the information on the bill to ensure that we were using the right account number and to let us know if a change was needed.

Will costs for other ITD services go down as a result of this new chargeback?

There will be a downward influence on ITD costs in FY 2010 as a result of $1.5 million being removed from the ITD overhead cost pool and being billed directly. Because there are a number of other factors included in overhead costs that vary from year to year, we cannot accurately estimate the net effect.

Why does Mass.Gov cost more than external hosting vendors?

Mass.Gov is not simply a hosting service. Mass.Gov provides a number of services that standard hosting services may not provide:


  • Full disaster recovery site [anticipated in fall 2009]
  • Maintenance of operating systems and middleware
  • Industry leading content management tool, customized for the Commonwealth's needs
  • Redundant Google Search Appliances
  • SAN storage for expandable content capacity
  • Fully redundant web servers, portal servers and network switches
  • Triple redundant high speed internet connections
  • Daily backup and offsite storage with Iron Mountain
  • 24x7 security and uptime monitoring
  • Extensive security infrastructure

Valued Added Services

  • Support for top level friendly URLs
  • Accessibility and usability guidance and best practices
  • Search "Best Practice" creation and management
  • Special search collections
  • Percussion Content Management Tool with multiple users allowed per website
  • Monthly generation of web statistics
  • Information architecture services
  • Broken link reports
  • Highlighting of content on the main Mass.Gov web portal which gets several million visit per month.
  • Form to email processing
  • Increased findability on external search engines through highly disciplined use of Mass.Gov brand
  • Formal training in the use of tools

Portal Technology

  • Minimizes HTML work for content authors while maximizing accessibility.
  • CMA navigation building tool for portalized websites
  • Continuous product enhancements and upgrades. We are evaluating additional features such as an enterprise event calendar, dynamic recommendation module, a "Share This" widget, website archiving to fulfill public records requirements, support for mobile devices and support for multilingual content. Recent enhancements include: Feedback modules and automatic RSS for News and Updates and Archive modules.
  • Virtual directory friendly URL service in which content authors can directly manage a group of friendly URLs
  • Page structure is designed to maximize search engine indexing and placement
  • Staging environment for previewing content prior to publication
  • Centrally managed CSS for rapid, efficient global design changes which eliminate the need for content authors to use manual formatting on their pages.

How can agencies reduce costs?

There are several ways agencies can reduce costs. The following options should be discussed with the staff that maintains your web content:

  • Reduce disk storage by deleting unpublished files that are still stored in the web content management system
  • Publish in HTML format as much as possible since this format uses much less storage and bandwidth than formats such as PDF and Word
  • Do a full review of your website to eliminate any redundant and obsolete content
  • Evaluate the use of images on popular pages and reduce their size or constrain their use. Images can use significant amounts of bandwidth.
  • Consider using an external storage and hosting provider for audio or video files which use large amounts of storage and bandwidth
  • If application data is being stored on Mass.Gov you may want to consider moving that data to the application platform and serving it directly from there

Please keep in mind that web publishing is almost always the lowest cost way to reach your customers when compared to telephone, email, paper based publishing and walk-in visits. Because of this, you should be careful that you do not reduce or eliminate content that will cause your customers to use other ways to interact with you.

Is there any chargeback for a query application on

This read-only query application service is being re-evaluated from a variety of perspectives and will not be included in the chargeback at this time. This may change in the future.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

Please talk to your Service Account Manager.

Updated August 5, 2009; created August 4, 2008 with information provided by the Mass.Gov Office