Distributing large audio, video or downloadable files on your web site can take up a lot of your hosting account disk space and bandwidth resources. But there are ways around it: and Amazon S3 is one of those.

Australian hosting costs are high compared to some other places in the world, but if most of your customers are based in Australia, there are definite advantages to using Australian hosting. Using a service like Amazon S3 can really help to keep your hosting bills down.

How does Amazon S3 work?

S3 is a online storage web service from Amazon (yes, the online book store). Your web site, any databases, and email are still hosted on your regular hosting account, with all of the local response time and support advantages that go along with that. Large files, however, are stored and served from Amazon.
The disk space available is unlimited, and you are only charged for the amount of disk space and bandwidth that you use. Storage costs US $0.15 per gigabyte, and all transfers after the first gigabyte (which is free), are another US $0.15 per gigabyte. Regular hosting in Australia can often cost more than 50 times that much.

What sort of cost am I looking at?

Let’s say, for example, that you have 250 megabytes of video on your web site – around 1 hour in total, at high quality – and you have 500 people viewing some of that video each over the course of a month. If you have a number of product videos, presentations or lectures, that’s not an unreasonable amount, but it would add up to over 100 gigabytes of outgoing traffic. Assuming you have an Australian hosting account with a 10GB or 15GB bandwidth allowance, it’s not hard to see that you’re going to be well over quota for the month.

Fasthit, are preferred local host, have one of the cheapest excess bandwidth rates we can find at $10 per gigabyte. Westnet, another local host, charges $0.06 per megabyte, which equals $61 per gigabyte, while Telstra charges $0.08 per megabyte or $81 per gigabyte. It doesn’t take long for those charges to add up – and the last thing you want at the end of the month is an unexpected bill for $1,000 – $8,000 or more.  

Using Amazon S3 to store and serve those files, in comparison, would cost you around US $18.34 – quite a bit less than the equivalent Australian hosting account! Amazon provides a calculator to help you estimate what cost you are facing, based on the amount of disk space you require.

How good is Amazon S3?

The speed and reliability of the service is top-notch. Amazon based the system on the infrastructure they developed to run their own e-commerce empire, and guarantee 99.999999999% durability. While response times won’t be as fast for your Australian-based visitors as for locally served files, on average, for large downloads or video this is generally not a problem. For a visitor with a reasonably fast internet connection, it could mean an additional second or so before the video starts streaming or file starts downloading.

Several Clever Starfish clients are already taking advantage of Amazon S3 to store their large files. Contact us if you’d like to know how it could be used on your site.