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GitHub has introduced a flat rate structure for unlimited private repos and I wanted to understand how it compares to the Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS – previously Visual Studio Online (VSO)) pricing where you get that already. I drew up a quick picture and tweeted it:

I have had mostly positive feedback for it, however there has been some confusion in it.


Yes, it says 2017. I’m too lazy to change that to 2016, really. If it bugs you, just look away. Or pretend I’m a time traveler.

VSTS is cheaper yet more confusing

The title is my summary for the pricing difference and people have interpreted that to mean so many things. Including that I mean VSTS is a more confusing platform and ignoring the fact this is about price. I only meant the pricing is confusing. For example here is the math for GitHub vs. VSTS at 10 users:

Price $70 $30
Math ((10-5)*9)+25 (10-5)*6

At this point it seems simple – GitHub is $25 for the first five users, so we subtract 5 from the total number of users and multiply by 9 for the remaining and add that to the $25 for the first five users. VSTS is even easier. Your first five are free, so we subtract those from the total and multiply the remaining by 6 which is the price for that tier.

The problem is VSTS is a tiered pricing, where GitHub is a fixed pricing. At 1500 users the math for GitHub remains the same but VSTS is way more complex.

Price $13480 $5350
Math ((1500-5)*9)+25 (5*6)+(90*8)+(900*4)+(500*2)

You’ll note the VSTS math is way different. First I’m not even bothering with subtract 5 for free, so the total users is 1495. The first five are charged at $6 a month, the next 90 at $8 a month, the next 900 at $4 and the remaining 500 users are charged at $2. Once added up you get the total.

And it gets more complex, because if you have an EA (Enterprise Agreement – something your company signs with Microsoft to pay differently & pay less for licensing), then none of that applies – it is a flat $4 per user.

GitHub is also easier in user types – there is one. In VSTS there is three (note, these are my names for the user types – not official):

  • Dev: This is the paid ones we have been talking about.
  • MSDN: This is the same, except they have a TFS on-premise CAL (i.e. you have a user license for local TFS) or they have a MSDN subscription which includes VSTS.
  • Stake Holder: These are free – but really are about work item management only. This is what you give your customer who needs to prioritize the backlog but doesn’t need code or build access.

How would these types impact the cost? Lets see an example


Let us pretend that we have a dev team of 40 people, split into 5 feature teams of 1x PM, 1x Tester, 6 x devs. In each feature team 2 of the devs are outside consultants and the tester & PM do not have MSDN cause the company only has MSDN for devs. Your gut might be you need 40 licenses, so $270 according the calculator. The reality is you won’t pay for the 5 PMs as they use stake holder licenses. You get 5 free licenses which you assign to your testers. Your 20 devs have MSDN so they don’t need anything extra. That just means the 10 consultants need licenses – so the price is $70 not $270 i.e. (5*6)+(5*8).

For GitHub, that would be $315 per month i.e. (40-5)*9.

Platform Confusion

To answer the trolls about is VSTS a more confusing platform? If you coming from GitHub, yes I think it might be more confusing as VSTS offers more, there is more to learn and it will be a bit off from what you know. The core, Git repos, remains the same. If you can learn Git, you can learn VSTS so in the medium term it is not more confusing at all.