Usage and payment

Here’s how Papertrail calculates usage and charges, plus a bit about how we think.


Papertrail’s fees are based on two things: how much log data is generated, and how long it will be searchable in realtime.

Typical plans cover most common needs. You can also build your own.

Everyone has access to all functionality.

All paid Papertrail plans include 1 year of downloadable archives, permanent archives in your own S3 bucket, and long-term search of those archives, typically for analytics. “Realtime search” refers to the logs which are available immediately from within Papertrail’s interface.

Hosting services

If you access and pay Papertrail via a hosting service, the usage and payment structure may be different from what is described here. Usually that’s because the typical use is different (for example, logging from an app rather than many servers, or preferring a predictable monthly cost) or because the integration or payment functionality is different (for example, not supporting usage-based charges).


And maybe most importantly: be users first. Our goal is not to make as much money as we can, it’s to deliver the most useful service we know how to create, and do so in a sustainable way.

If you see cases where Papertrail can do better at any of these, please say so.

Service options


Billing cycle

For paid accounts, log data transfer is based on a 1-month cycle starting from the date you first purchased any paid service. This is so that the calculation does not penalize you for having, say, a service that is higher traffic on weekdays.

For free accounts, log data transfer is calculated for the most recent 1 month (on a sliding window). This is so that reaching the plan limit does not disable the account for the remainder of a month, essentially forcing you to upgrade.

Most Papertrail plans cost between $0.25 and $1 per 1 million typical log messages, or about 15,000 messages per 1 cent ($0.01). That includes transfer, realtime tail, storage, search, and archive. If a log message is not worth 1/15,000 of a cent (and hopefully 10x or 100x that), it’s not only useless, it’s probably counter-productive since it’s detracting from those that are.

Log data transfer status can be seen in Papertrail’s Settings page or your hosting provider’s equivalent.

For services purchased through Papertrail directly (rather than via a partner, such as an add-on ecosystem), log data transfer allocations reset about 2 AM Pacific Time on the morning following the listed date.

Additional usage

In line with our goals, paid Papertrail accounts include an option to generate up to 200% more log data on a pay-as-you-go basis. Additional usage is charged at a 20% premium above that included with the plan. The premium applies only to the actual additional usage, if any, so there is no charge for enabling it.

Additional usage is entirely at your option. If available, the option is included under Additional Usage on the Payment page within Settings. You can also choose how frequently to receive notifications.

Purging logs

To purge log messages, visit the Purge Events page within Settings and choose a sender or all senders. Purging messages will take a few minutes and will not update the counts on your dashboard. Note that purging logs does not affect the log data transfer (any more than deleting a file on Amazon S3 will eliminate the data transfer used when it was downloaded). Read on for more on why this is.

Log data transfer

Plans are based on the amount of log data transferred and how long it’s searchable, not the currently-searchable logs. That’s why Papertrail offers a way to choose how much log data transfer you want and how long it should be searchable.

Papertrail’s effort is fairly front-loaded. By the time Papertrail has received a message, made it searchable (ingested/indexed it), sent it to tail and search clients, generated alerts for it, and archived it, we’ve expended a fair amount of resources (and hopefully added value, though that’s not what drives this).

Even if that message is immediately deleted, that cost has been consumed.

As an example, imagine that Company A generates 1 GB per month worth of logs and Company B generates 1 GB per hour. If both companies were both able to purchase 2 GB of searchable logs, regardless of log volume, then Company B would generate 720 GB/month (1×24×30 = 720) while Company A generated only 1 GB/month. There would be a massive difference in the cost of servicing the two customers.

While message processing isn’t the only element of providing Papertrail, that 720x volume difference would mean that Company A’s fees would heavily subsidize Company B’s service.

More plan options can be found under Payment. Contact us if you have questions about log data transfer usage.

Usage analysis

To examine log data transfer by sender or time, visit Usage. A CSV of usage by sender and hour is also available for further analysis.

For more, see the blog post.


Changing plans

Upgrades take effect immediately and are pro-rated for the remainder of the 1-month billing cycle.

When an account reaches a log data transfer limit and Papertrail stops processing its logs, upgrade or enable Additional Usage to re-enable service immediately. Service is typically reactivated almost immediately after additional transfer is enabled.

Payment method

Paying monthly with a credit or debit card leads to a more flexible, less expensive, and simpler service. Here’s why:

Do you prefer an alternate payment method or pre-paying yearly? Please tell us more so we can find the right solution for your situation.

Custom receipt data

To include extra information on receipts, such as a VAT number or street address, navigate to Purchases. Under Customize Receipts, provide the information to be included on receipts, then click Update.

PDF receipts are shown on the same page, and all will contain the information provided. The custom text can be more than 1 line.

Receipts can be sent to any user with full access or billing access, or to an accounting alias or other non-user. See Access control for more.

Transitioning account ownership

Because each Papertrail organization can have multiple members with full access, no single “owner” account exists. Anyone with full access is effectively an owner.

To transition a user out of the organization, or adjust their permissions after a role change, just ensure that at least one other member has full access (or invite a new member), then update or remove the departing staff member. All users with full access can remove all users except themselves.