How to use the AWS Pricing Calculator – The Ultimate Guide

Amazon’s Web Services’ S3 pricing is competitive and cost-effective, but budgeting for it can be difficult to predict. Let’s take a look at how to use the AWS S3 pricing calculator for your business.

When I started my first online course back in 2010, almost all of the content consisted of video. And when I launched I knew I needed to address three specific issues right off the bat…

  • Since I was bootstrapping the business myself, I needed something affordable.
  • Since I was presenting the lessons in video format, I needed a powerful and robust cloud storage provider.
  • Finally, since I was going to have students from all over the globe, I needed an efficient content delivery network (CDN) so that my students didn’t experience playback issues.

Not only did I need affordability and efficient video playback speeds, but I also wanted to protect my videos from being shared all over the internet. After all, I’d put in over 200 hours creating the video lessons for the course, so I wasn’t about to share that content without being paid for what I’d created.

This obviously ruled out a platform such as YouTube where anyone with the link to a video can view or share it with someone else.

After quite a bit of analysis of my various options, I finally settled on using Amazon Web Services’ S3 cloud storage platform to host my videos and their CloudFront CDN to ensure that the videos were delivered from a global data center closest to my end user with blazing fast speed.

This was when I had an idea to create a secure media player plugin for WordPress which would not only embed my videos within my WordPress website pages and posts, but to deliver Amazon S3-hosted videos with a unique expiring and encrypted link to prevent file sharing.

And so I created a new plugin to solve the challenges I faced with my own course creation process and later made it available to other WordPress users…

Enter S3 Media Maestro

However, I did face a couple of challenges along the way!

  • First, the Amazon Web Services’ user console (which is where you upload and manage video files) is really designed for developers to use and that makes it pretty intimidating for the average WordPress website owner. This issue was resolved with S3 Media Maestro which allows users to manage all of their Amazon S3 storage directly from the WordPress admin interface.
  • Second, when setting up an Amazon Web Services’ account to use the S3 platform for storage, you basically enter a credit card for payment and then just have to sit back and wait to see what you’re going to be charged for hosting and delivering content from their service. This is obviously not ideal for membership site or online course creators who are on a tight budget.

Fortunately, a few years ago the team at Amazon Web Services’ recognized this “leap of faith” approach to monthly billing wasn’t going to fly and they implemented a detailed pricing calculator for all of the services they offer (there are many).

And since this is one of the primary questions I receive when answering pre-sales inquiries regarding S3 Media Maestro, I wanted to provide a summary of how to utilize the Amazon Web Services’ pricing calculator so that S3 Media Maestro users can better forecast their cloud storage and delivery costs in advance.

That being said, S3 pricing is extremely cost-effective to use for hosting membership site or online course videos. For example, I have years of video content (several hundred gigabytes) stored within my S3 account and my average monthly bill is around $42. Considering that Wistia Pro charges $99 per month plus $0.25 per video and Vimeo’s Premium plan is $75 per month, that’s a pretty cheap date.

Using the AWS Pricing Calculator

Once you’ve accessed the calculator, you’ll need to click on the Create estimate button.

Next you will need to add and configure a service. Be sure that location type is set to Region and then select the region closest to you. Next type in “s3” in the Find Service field and once Amazon Simple Storage Solution pops up, click on Configure.

Next you will want to ensure that S3 Standard and Data Transfer are set to the on position.

Now it’s time to calculate your estimated monthly usage. Begin by estimating how many Gigabytes of video you will be storing on AWS S3 on a monthly basis. A rule of thumb is you will have a 1.5GB for every 1 hour of 1080P video you will upload.

For this example I will assume I have 20 videos. 20 videos at 1.5GB per video is 30GB. Obviously this may increase over time, but this will give us an idea of what it looks like to start with 20 videos.

Next we will configure the how data will be handled in S3 standard. The first drop down tells S3 if the data we are estimating already exists on S3 or if it will be moved into S3 as new data. For our estimate we will simply use the option data that is already stored on S3. The next two fields are estimates for put, copy, post, list, get, select which simply calculates requests made while in the AWS Console or API calls to S3 from S3 Media Maestro. The cost for these queries are very minimal. It’s almost impossible to know how many requests will be made, but for our example we will use 5,000 for each.

Ok, now its time to see how much storing data on AWS S3 will cost. To see the total, click on the Show Calculations accordion.

The total cost for storing 30GB worth of video is a whopping $0.78. The cost for requests made by the AWS S3 console or the S3 Media Maestro API is an additional $0.03 for a total of $0.81 which is less than $1.00 USD. Not to bad right?

Data Transfer

Data Transfer is a separate calculation from video storage. When someone accesses one of your files stored within S3 (such as watching one of your videos), you are also charged a monthly fee based on how much data is sent out to an end user from Amazon’s servers.

However, data transfer is a little tricker to calculate than a simple total of how big all of your files are. If you’re storing and delivering video for a membership site or online course, it’s likely that you’re going to be recording those videos with an HD quality of 1080p.

Your data transfer total will be based on the quality and length of your videos as well as how many people are accessing them from your membership site or online course. As already mentioned videos recorded at 1080p will require 1.5 gigabytes for evey hour of video watched.

So let’s look at an example…

Let’s say I have an online course which consists of 10 hours of video content which I’ve recorded at a quality of 1080p. And I also assume that I am going to have, on average, 25 students per month taking my course in its entirety and all 25 students are going to watch all 10 hours of my course content at once.

Here’s the math…

  • 1080p = 1.5 GB of data transfer per hour
  • 10 hours of video x 1.5 GB = 15 GB of data transfer per month per student
  • 15 GB of data transfer x 25 students per month = 375 GB of data transfer per month

Now we can apply a number into the calculator for the Data Transfer To section. I’ll enter 375 GB in order to get our total cost for transferring 375 GB outbound.

Simply click on the Show Calculations accordion, and notice we have $33.75 in S3 pricing data transfer costs. If we turn this into a real life example, we can take each of these 25 students who has paid me $199 to enroll in my course, spending $33.75 to ensure they can watch the course content which I’ve just been paid $4,975 for…well, it’s a no-brainer.

Calculation CloudFront

As I previously mentioned, one of the primary reasons we chose to use Amazon S3 for my own course videos was the ability to leverage their very powerful worldwide CDN called CloudFront. Essentially, versions of your content are cached on servers around the world so that they can be accessed easily by a global customer base without data transfer delays.

CloudFront is completely optional and if the majority of your customers or students will be in one specific geographic location, you likely don’t need to pay for it. However, S3 Media Maestro has been designed to integrate with CloudFront as the large majority of my customers have a global audience.

To calculate CloudFront cost, we simply use the same AWS Pricing Calculator.

First you simply need to select a region. For this example we will select US West. Next type in Cloudfront in the Find Service field. Once Amazon CloudFront appears, click on Configure.

Now you will need to estimate where your students will geographically be accessing your content. For our example, I will assume my students are all in the United States. Under the United States calculator I will continue with the example of utilizing 375GB of data transfer. I will input 375 in the Data transfer out to internet. We will leave Data transfer out to origin blank as well as Number of requests as these will not need to factored into the calculation.

Now you can click on the Show calculations accordion to see the CloudFront total.

As you can see, 375GB of United States data transfer from CloudFront will cost $31.88.

When adding up the entire cost we are looking at the following:

$0.81 S3 Storage Cost
$32.75 S3 Transfer Cost
$31.88 CloudFront Transfer Cost
$65.44 Total Cost

Here is a quick easy to use reference chart for CloudFront Pricing.

As you can see, using a powerful global CDN adds up quickly. But it also costs a great deal in infrastructure, management, and maintenance to service data centers all around the world. And it also prevents your global student/customer base from waiting 8 seconds for a video to load and possibly asking for a refund of your membership or course.

Hopefully this tutorial on How to use the AWS Pricing Calculator has been helpful.

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