Cloud storage provides a truly transformative experience for developing and running software; it frees webmasters from the grinding concerns of continually getting new hard drives and eliminates the nagging doubt that a hard drive will fail, resulting in downtime data loss.
Economies of scale mean that most providers offer cloud storage on a pay-as-you-go model, which is often just as cost effective as basic hard drive usage. The big benefit? It is usually cheaper than hard drives when the total cost of ownership is calculated.
Of course, with cheap storage, you would expect affordable bandwidth. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Unfortunately, despite the manifest good of cloud storage, many top cloud providers have designed pernicious pricing models that secretly nickel-and-dime customers, lock them into services and cruelly penalize anyone who tries to leave.
To understand the hidden cost of quitting, we need to discuss the inner workings of file storage briefly. Generally, we think of hard drives as a place to store data — like a box stuffed in the back of the closet. A given box can hold a few large items, like VHS tapes or many small things, like photographs. For most of us, a box in a closet is a pretty good analogy for a hard drive. It fits our mental model. A hard drive of a given size can hold many photos or other small objects, or somewhat fewer videos or other large objects.
Of course, as with anything that has to do with computers, there’s a bit more complexity in reality. In addition to having a finite amount of storage, hard drives also have limited throughput. Imagine having a giant box with a tiny opening: no matter how much it can hold, you can only take a few things in and out at one given moment. Similarly, each act of saving or fetching data from a hard drive is restricted by the drive’s physical parameters. Each input or output from the drive consumes a finite resource at a given moment in time. In computer science terms, these are called Input/Output Operations, or IOPS. In a traditional hosting environment, you own your hard drive, so you can do as many IOPS as your hard drive can physically support.
Naturally, a storage service is useless if you cannot read and write your files. And thus one of the first hidden charges: IOPS charges. Unlike in a traditional hosting environment, some cloud storage providers track and charge extra fees for each IOP. Even though the cost for storing data may be meager, you get smacked with additional hidden charges for actually doing anything with your data. Why would anyone knowingly agree to be charged just for reading your data or saving to your cloud storage? Most people only discover these charges after signing up and finding their bill is quite a bit more than expected.
Even worse than these IOPS charges, however, are outbound bandwidth charges. These are merely the charges for bandwidth that goes from the cloud storage to the internet. Of course, with cheap storage, you would expect affordable bandwidth. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case; many cloud storage providers charge many times more to transfer your data out than they do to leave your data at rest in their system. These are awful forms of lock-in, which can make it cost-prohibitive to leave. Cloud storage providers like Amazon AWS and Google Cloud trumpet the fact that you can transfer your data around inside their services for free. When you transfer your data out, whether to take it into your own hands or to send it to your customers, the sky-high bandwidth charges kick in, and things very quickly get hairy.
So let’s sum this all up: a typical cloud storage provider might charge just a couple of cents per gigabyte (GB) to store your data every month. Many providers charge 8 cents, or more, per GB to transfer it out. Others charge a penalty if you outbound transfer more data than you inbound transfer.
One of our customers was considering switching to MojoCloud for their object storage to save on their monthly storage cost. Unfortunately, due to these high outbound bandwidth charges, it cost this customer more than four times their average monthly bill to be able to have access to their data.
Worst of all, many cloud providers aren’t transparent about these extra charges. Their marketing and online cost estimators only focus on the cost of keeping data with them and make it difficult or impossible to determine what it will cost you if you decide to take your data elsewhere. Of course, in the digital economy, your data is crucial. We’ve seen many customers forced to make the difficult decision to pay this ransom to the big cloud providers to get their data out and take control of it themselves.
Seek out a company whose storage is competitively priced compared to other cloud providers, costing the same or less to store static data. More importantly, they should have pricing that is transparent and straightforward. Ideally, they don’t charge for IOPS and encourage customers to use their data; after all, what good is your data if you cannot do things with it? We aim to do this ourselves, with cost-effective bandwidth pricing that is up to 32x less than the pricing at AWS and others, to ensure data is always readily accessible to clients and their customers over our network, and without having to pay a terrible price to use it.
Brad Mitchell is the founder of XBIZ Award-winning adult web hosting company MojoHost, the trusted choice for tens of thousands of sites. Known for his dapper style and charismatic wit, Mitchell is a regular fixture at trade shows, where he frequently shares hard-won wisdom while striking profitable deals. He believes in earning his client’s loyalty because “That’s Good Mojo.”