How To Reduce S3 and CloudFront Video Hosting Costs

How To Reduce S3 and CloudFront Video Hosting Costs

By Ravi Jayagopal | S3MediaVault

How To Reduce S3 Video Hosting Costs

If you're read the article How and Why to use Amazon S3 to Deliver Audio, Video and PDF on your WordPress website, you already know that using S3 to securely deliver members-only content is the best option for you as a course creator or membership site owner.

But because of Amazon Web Services's (AWS) pricing structure, it can be pretty confusing and complicated to figure out how much your AWS bill is going to be (S3, CloudFront, storage, usage, encoding, etc.).

And that's why we've created a spreadsheet (further below) that can will you a rough idea of what to expect in video hosting costs.

Here are some tips on how to reduce video hosting costs:

1) Use Streaming Videos (Instead of Standard Videos)

Very little bandwidth is wasted with Streaming videos, because the video is downloaded only as far as your members/viewers continue to watch them. But with Standard videos, even if they watch for a few seconds, the entire video is fully downloaded to their browser.

E.g., you have a 10-minute long video that is 50 MB in size. If you deliver it as Streaming video, and your member only watches 2 minutes, then only 2 minutes worth of video is delivered. So, AWS will only charge you for 2 minutes worth of data transfer.

However, if you deliver the same video as a Standard video (which is also secure, by the way), then as soon as the viewer hits play, the video starts downloading to the user's browser (temp folder). So whether they watch 5 seconds or 5 minutes, the entire 10-minute video is downloaded to their browser (even if they hit pause after watching just 5 seconds and never watch the rest of the video).

So the 3 biggest reasons why you should use Streaming videos instead of Standard videos are:

  • Super-fast loading and playing of the video.
  • Lower AWS fees in the long run.
  • Ability to dynamically lower or increase the resolution of the videos based on the viewer's internet connection speed (one of the reasons video streaming services like YouTube switched to streaming video many years ago).
  • Ability to deliver Impossible-to-download encrypted videos that can only be played on your website and cannot be downloaded (not easily, for sure). So if you are in a niche where piracy and illegal sharing of your content is a major concern, then that's a big reason why you should consider using S3MediaVault, which can do Standard Videos & Audio, as well as Impossible-to-download Streaming Videos and Streaming Audio.
  • Using both S3 & CloudFront together, will be less expensive - and way more faster for the videos to load - then using just S3 alone.

2) 1080p is Not Always a Must-Have

Encoding your videos in 1080p HD is the best optimal option. But depending on your niche, your content, and the geolocation of the majority of your audience, 720p could be more than good enough in terms of quality. 720p is pretty high quality, even though it's not full HD like 1080p.

And if a majority of your audience is from a location where internet speeds are not very fast or is expensive, then do your viewers' limited bandwidth quotas a favor and start with 720p as the highest resolution.

You can do this with S3MediaVault by unchecking the 1080p option in the Settings page before you prepare a video for streaming, and your users can watch in 720p and lower resolutions (360p, 240p and 144p) in case their internet connection speed doesn't permit. The S3MediaVault streaming video player can dynamically lower the resolution of your videos if the viewer's internet connection is slow. They can also manually change it to a lower resolution to save their bandwidth.

3) Don't Put Too Many Videos On A Page

It might distract or even overwhelm your members, could cause them to click on multiple videos just out of curiosity, loads all the videos on the page even if they watch only a couple, and thus increase your bill. We recommend 3-5 videos on a page. If you have a course module that has 10 videos, you could split that module into, say, 3 pages - 4 videos on page 1, 3 videos each on pages 2 & 3.

4) Don't Make The Videos Too Long

I've written and podcasted about this: There's No Such Thing As Too Long, Only Too Boring. But that doesn't necessarily mean you should just deliver one massive course video that's 14 hours long.

Keep your course- and training videos short. 5-10 minutes is ideal. The article 25 Video Course Creation Tips For Online Course and Digital Creators goes into a lot more detail about the research behind video length.

Most people won't watch a 30- , 60- or 120-minute online course video in one sitting (unless you are a streaming platform with shows and movies). So if they end up hitting play on a large video and end up watching only a part of it, then you're wasting bandwidth, and thus get a bigger AWS bill. So break it up into smaller chunks.

5) Compress & Optimize Your Videos

Don't use the .mov format, which can cause really massive file sizes and cost you a lot in bandwidth. Instead, convert your videos to .mp4, which will give you great quality at much smaller file sizes, which are also web optimized.

Use the free tool to do the conversion, as well as optimize your videos for the web . Make them 720P instead of 1080p. 4K is overkill for membership videos, unless your niche demands it (e.g., jewelry making). 30 Frames Per Second (FPS) is good enough - no need for 60 FPS. 

Most video editors don't have advanced settings for configuring the encoding and making it optimized for the web. Handbrake can do that, while also massively reducing your file size without sacrificing quality.

Run all of your premium videos through Handbrake, and just that alone will save you a tremendous amount in bandwidth fees over the long term.

Of course, If you're uploading videos to YouTube, then you don't have to worry about any of the tips on this page, because YouTube will do the compressing, optimizing and streaming for you. These tips are for premium videos that are part of your membership site or online course, and videos that you are delivering from Amazon S3, because you want to secure them and allow only authorized members to view or download them.

Check out this article I wrote about videos - you can also listen to it.

S3 & CloudFront Video Hosting Calculator

Check out the calculator that we've created (embedded Google Sheet) below. It is only meant to give you a rough estimate about video hosting costs, both in terms of storage as well as usage. There are some tiny additional charges that have been left out in order to make the calculations simple. But it's not going to be too different from what is shown in the calculator.

You can view the full Google Sheet here: Video Hosting Costs Calculator.

You won't be able to edit it directly, but you can download it and edit it to match your own numbers from your membership site or online course. And that will give you a pretty good idea as to what your own video hosting costs will be.

Live Google Sheet Embed


About the Author

Ravi Jayagopal is a Business Coach, 8-time Author, Speaker, Podcaster, Entrepreneur, Digital Marketer, WordPress Developer and also an Amateur Ventriloquist :-). Read more about him at

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