E-commerce Bandwidth Fees Too High? Store Data in the Cloud.

Some e-commerce hosts offer very little bandwidth transfer per month for their customers. In the same way that wireless phone companies used to depend on overages for steady revenue (I would know, I because I worked in wireless back when no one had a phone), Volusion, for example, now depends on massive customer overages as a steady and reliable stream of revenue.

Now, I can’t disclose the monthly bill for my company’s site, but I can say that it’s well over five times the base price point and it’s all due to overage fees. Volusion’s published plans price overage at $7 to $5 per gigabyte, depending on your plan. Their unpublished enterprise-level plans, like the one Allparts is on, prices bandwidth overage at $4 per gigabyte. Not much of a price break is it?

To put that into perspective, that’s 1 gallon of gas vs. 1 gigabyte of data transfer. Get real!

Enough is enough. Check out the steps below and follow along as I migrate key content on Allparts.com to Amazon’s CloudFront CDN service.

NOTE: These links have changed because I have moved my company’s site.

Step 1: Identify High-Bandwidth Content

First thing’s first – the files that are responsible for the most bandwidth are going to get migrated first. I identify those by logging into the website stats page provided by my host. I run a report that displays my most requested files (which could be images, CSS, javascript, etc.) and sort by bandwidth usage.

This file was involved in over 3 gigabytes of bandwidth in a short period of time.

My number one drag on bandwidth turns out to be part of the image slider that I recently installed on the home page. In the small date range that I chose, “mootools.js” was involved in over 3 gigs of bandwidth usage. At $5 a gig, that’s $15 gone – poof – and it will turn into much more after traffic ramps up through the rest of the month. For comparison, consider serving that file through Amazon’s Cloudfront service at 12 cents per gig.

Those numbers are correct – $15 on Volusion vs 36 cents on Cloudfront.

Unfortunately, the remaining files in my top 5 list are either index files or files that are inaccessible and necessary. There are undoubtedly a large quantity of files that you can migrate to CloudFront to save bandwidth, but we’ll focus on this single file for now.

Step 2: Create an Amazon S3 Bucket (optional)

This is optional – if you skip directly to creating a CloudFront Distribution, you can start using that CloudFront URL immediately. But if you’re like me and already have data stored on S3, you’ll want to serve that data through your CloudFront distribution, like so…

Amazon’s S3 stands for Simple Storage Service. It is exactly that, a simple way to store your data online. After signing up for S3, you’ll want to create a bucket to store things in, and then create subfolders within that bucket to organize data. This bucket becomes part of your Amazon S3 URL. For this exercise, I’ll store data in Allparts Music Corporation’s APMC bucket, and then I’ll create subfolders within that bucket. Next, I upload my data.

My S3 bucket, with subfolders, and finally my high-bandwidth file

I can now access my file through its S3 URL at https://s3.amazonaws.com/apmc/data/slider/engine/js/mootools.js (be sure you’ve set the permissions properly). I could stop here if I wanted to, and simply edit the HTML and code on my website so that this file (located on S3) is utilized instead of the one located on Volusion’s server. I’m going to take it a step further and utilize another Amazon web service – CloudFront.

Step 3: Create a CloudFront Distribution

First a preface: CloudFront is a CDN, or Content Delivery Network. The purpose of a CDN is to serve your information from different servers in different locations so that your visitors can have the fastest access to your site. For example, if someone visits your site from the west coast, data may be sent out from a server in California, or it may come from a server in Dallas or Austin if you’re in Houston – and the same is true for other parts of the country and the world.

Now I create a new CloudFront distribution. I choose “Download” as my delivery method, because I’m not streaming out videos. For the origin of my data, I choose either the S3 option and select my APMC bucket that I created in the previous step or, if not utilizing S3 buckets, I choose a “Custom Origin,” which is simply my website URL.

Amazon then gives me the CloudFront URL of d1e41orfkrjn0h.cloudfront.net. This URL can now be used for my S3 bucket. Let’s revisit that:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/apmc/data/slider/engine/js/mootools.js

where…

s3.amazonaws.com/apmc is my bucket, and

/data/slider/engine/js/mootools.js is my subfolder structure leading to my file.

So to serv my javascript file through the CloudFront CDN, I use this address:

https://d1e41orfkrjn0h.cloudfront.net/data/slider/engine/js/mootools.js

If I chose “Custom Origin,” I simply use my new CloudFront URL as my root directory in my template coding.  In a Volusion store, for example, I could use the following code to display a cat image hosted on my Volusion store:

<img src=”/v/vspfiles/images/cat.jpg”>

To pull the image from CloudFront instead, I’d change that to:

<img src=”//d2iypz22vd7n8h.cloudfront.net/v/vspfiles/images/cat.jpg”>

Step 4: Update Your Website Template

Now that I have my files organized into buckets, and have those buckets set up into distributions, I can now go back to my template and update my links with the CloudFront URL.

With this single change, I will have brought at least $100 a month in savings to my company. By moving additional high-bandwidth content away from Volusion, not only do our savings become very large, but we also deliver that content to our customers much faster.

I have no doubt that you can see how fast, easy, and cheap this process is. Don’t let bandwidth overage fees cut into your profits – reclaim your earnings, give your host the finger, and deliver content quickly and securely by migrating your data to a CDN.

About Dean Peckenpaugh

Dean offers small business consulting services at DeanP, LLC - specializing in e-commerce and operations. Visit the contact page to request a consultation.

Comments

  1. Craig MillerNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Dean,

    Have you considered Shopify?  It offers unlimited bandwidth on all plans, and plans start at just $29/month.

    Maybe something to think about if you are paying hundreds in bandwidth each month.

  2. DeanPnetNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Craig – I have not looked into Shopify in great detail.  It looks like a solid platform for basic stores, but I don’t know that it has the robust feature set of some of the other e-commerce providers.

    That said, I can’t imagine running an enterprise-level e-commerce store with millions of pageviews and thousands of products for $179 a month. I’m also wary of the free unlimited bandwidth; even Amazon Web Services charges for bandwidth.  So, I’m concerned that it may be one of those “you get what you pay for” and/or “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” type of things.
    Nevertheless, I’ll definitely look into it.  It may turn out to be the perfect setup for a client or friend one day.

    Thanks for the recommendation and for reading.

  3. DeanPnetNo Gravatar says:

    Uh, Craig – I can’t approve the comment that you just made in response to mine.  My blog isn’t the place for you to advertise your company or its product.

  4. DeanPnetNo Gravatar says:

    Uh, Craig – I can’t approve the comment that you just made in response to mine above.  My blog isn’t the place for you to advertise your company or its product.

  5. Craig MillerNo Gravatar says:

    Not sure I follow..? 

    Your post is all about how Volusion is overcharging for bandwidth and offering a solution.  I was simply saying try Shopify out if you don’t want to pay for bandwidth.  I was completely open and transparent about a different solution to your problem – I am not spamming your website.  Anyhow if you aren’t interested, don’t use it.

  6. What is it you don’t follow?

    You posted links to pages on Shopify and included your “at shopify dot com” business e-mail address.  I didn’t say anything about “spamming;” rather, I asked you not to advertise – which is clearly what you were doing.

    Please don’t post here any more – you’re making your company look bad.

  7. Ben PuseyNo Gravatar says:

    Sweet, I’ve been meaning to do this for a couple of months and a step by step guide is just what I was looking for. Thank you.

  8. DeanPnetNo Gravatar says:

    Right on, Ben. I’m glad I could help – and thanks for reading.

  9. Sergio DeSotoNo Gravatar says:

    Do you think the same is possible with digital downloads, I am paying over 1000 per month to volusion in bandwith overages. 

  10. Dean PeckenpaughNo Gravatar says:

    Hey Sergio. There’s no way to offload your downloadable product unfortunately. They need to be located within your Volusion storefront in order to operate as protected downloadable products that only become available after purchase.

    You could host your files on AWS of course, but anyone with the link would be able to download them and there would not be a way to tie that file into the purchasing process.

  11. pjones1010No Gravatar says:

    Great write up, been waiting to do this for a while, but didn’t know where to start.

    Can you do a quick write up on what changes need to be made to which template files? That would be awesome!

  12. Dean PeckenpaughNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Pjones – Most of your changes would be made on your main template file. You may also want to serve your CSS, some javascript, and other files to speed up your site and decrease bandwidth usage as well.

  13. This is amazingly helpful, thanks so much!

    Do use this for your product photo’s as well (utilizing the PhotoURL_Large field)?

  14. Dean PeckenpaughNo Gravatar says:

    As of a about a week ago, I don’t use Volusion any more. When I did though, I didn’t use the photourl_large / small fields – but you certainly can.

    One of the drawbacks in doing so is that you will only have those two product photo sizes (large and small) to use throughout your site. This is different from using Volusion’s built-in product photo system, which automatically creates several different sizes of your product photos for use throughout your site.

    3D Cart offers the best of both worlds – not only can you specify external URLs for your full size and thumbnail product photos (which thereby permits you to use CloudFront), but the software will also resize those photos throughout your site. 3D Cart does product photos the right way while, in my opinion, the Volusion system is antiquated.

  15.  Thanks for the insight.
    Another one bites the dust. I’ll have to check out 3d cart. I tried out Magento, but was very unimpressed

  16. Dean PeckenpaughNo Gravatar says:

    Sure thing – let me know if I can help, and please keep me updated on your progress.

  17. Linda BurlisonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi there – thanks for motivating me to get going on this! :)  Just one question – this is great for template related files where the template code can be modified, but how about for product images and option photo files (when NOT using the PhotoURL_Large field)…. any ideas on if it is possible to host these images outside volusion? 
    thanks so much,
    Linda

  18. Dean PeckenpaughNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Linda. I’ve been over this several times with other Volusion store owners, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to host product images externally without utilizing the field you mentioned. And because Volusion doesn’t allow access to the product page template, you can’t even hard-code your own image addresses into the page. Product image freedom is a limitation of the Volusion platform at this time, and I don’t think that will change any time soon because, as you can likely tell, I suspect that they make too much money from bandwidth overages right now.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 59 Regardless of what plan you're on you should move as much static content over to cloudfront as possible. the bandwidth charges are $0.12/Gb. Move any js files, background images and css files over and you'll notice the difference. Here's how: http://deanp.net/2012/04/e-commerce-…-in-the-cloud/ [...]

  2. [...] how do you think Volusion pays for all that office space and all those employees? My guess – bandwidth overage fees. Filed Under: Commentary Tagged With: marketing, social media, social sharing, Volusion /* [...]

  3. [...] paying out three times our monthly plan allowance in bandwidth overage fees to Volusion, I wrote a guide to offloading content to Amazon’s Cloudfront CDN. While this method has saved e-commerce store owners a ton of money, there is still more to be done [...]

  4. [...] that with Volusion in October the store had less pageviews and more content served from the cloud, but used more bandwidth. How can that [...]

  5. [...] the big image. Here is an article by Dean about using Amazon to store off-site images and files: http://deanp.net/2012/04/e-commerce-…-in-the-cloud/ Moving to a new provider may not only make your experience easier, but also your customers. [...]

  6. [...] off of V's servers and on to a decent CDN like Cloudfront. Deanp has a good guide on this here: http://deanp.net/2012/04/e-commerce-…-in-the-cloud/ Look at moving your CSS, JS and template images, not only will it speed things up you'll save on [...]

  7. […] to those who good instructions to make this happen (Dean?). You're probably referring to this post on cloud migration, right? But yes – you're very welcome. Everyone I've helped transition to CloudFront has been very […]

  8. […] file offloading. Overage fees are getting ridiculous. Im planning on following deans guide: http://deanp.net/2012/04/e-commerce-…-in-the-cloud/ It looks like according to deans guide and others I have seen that you can not set up external CDN […]

  9. […] Can't find the thread here. Here's a link to Dean's blog: http://deanp.net/2012/04/e-commerce-…-in-the-cloud/ […]

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