It's all about the bandwidth: why many network-intensive services run on DigitalOcean

Posted 2020-04-15 
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For many developers, network transfer is something of an afterthought. While you undoubtedly spend a great deal of time developing your application, cloud computing means you don’t have to build network infrastructure to connect your application to the Internet. These days, you sort of take a high-speed Internet connection for granted, and assume that you’ll have the bandwidth when you need it.

Consequently, it’s easy to fall into a trap: you’re liable to think that the bandwidth portion of your cloud computing bill is simply just the cost of doing business.

However, it’s important to recognize that, especially for network-intensive applications – e.g. video and audio streaming, real-time communication, IoT, web crawling – bandwidth costs can be substantial, perhaps even making up a majority of your cloud computing costs. And since you’ll often see bandwidth costs phrased as pennies per GB, you might dismiss this cost as negligible. You’re liable to overlook bandwidth costs until your app has reached a consequential scale, when you suddenly find that all those pennies really add up.

DigitalOcean has proven especially popular with companies developing network-intensive apps because we charge only ~10-20% of what other clouds do for bandwidth. The savings can easily add up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for apps that require large scale.

How DigitalOcean bandwidth pricing works

Here’s a quick summary of how our bandwidth pricing works:

  • data transfer into DigitalOcean and within your private networks is free of charge.
  • the more Droplets you have, the more free transfer you get. Each Droplet includes a quota for outbound data transfer. All the Droplets in your account together form a bandwidth pool.
  • your account can utilize outbound transfer up to your bandwidth pool quota, and you’ll incur no additional charge.
  • any excess transfer beyond your quota costs just $.01 per GB, regardless of region or amount transferred.

To get a better idea how this works in practice, check out our recently launched bandwidth pricing calculator.

Understanding the bandwidth pool

Let’s say you’re building a video chat service, and that after significant viral growth, your app grows to 50 million monthly users.

In our rough and deliberately simple estimation, you might need something like 500 CPU-Optimized Droplets, each with 4 vCPUs, 8GB RAM, and 5000GB transfer. By the time you reach 50 million users and 500 Droplets, you’ve accrued a total of 2.5 million GB in your account’s bandwidth pool. As you scale up, here’s how your bandwidth pool grows with your Droplet count.

Comparing bandwidth costs on DigitalOcean vs other clouds

Now, suppose that, on average, your users download 250 MB in live video chat from your app each month. At 50 million users, you’re going to end up needing 12.5 million GB in outbound data transfer.

So, how much will this 12.5 million GB in transfer cost you on DigitalOcean vs other clouds?

On DigitalOcean, you’ll pay just $.01 / GB for the 10 million GB not included in your bandwidth pool. At 50 million users, your bandwidth costs $100,000.

If you think that’s a lot, just try figuring out how much that bandwidth will cost you on other clouds. Their bandwidth pricing is remarkably complex, often depending on the source region and amount transferred. But, publicly quoted rates are typically tiered to range between $.05 - $.12 per GB transferred.

You should expect that on other clouds your bandwidth will cost several hundred thousand or perhaps even more than a million dollars.

Bring your network-intensive app to DigitalOcean today

These days we’re all using the Internet more than ever. Don’t let a big bandwidth bill surprise you.

If you’re running a network-intensive app on another cloud, we invite you to contact us to learn more about how you can save with DigitalOcean. To get a sense of things, try our new bandwidth pricing calculator; it’s much easier to use than such calculators from other clouds.

In the meantime, if you’re ready to spin up, we invite you to sign up for a free account.