Amazon S3: A Cheap Podcast Host?

Podcasts are fun to create, but they can be expensive to host. Typically they’re larger than 10 megabytes, and when you have a thousand plus people downloading each of your weekly episodes, your bandwidth bill can get pretty large. (They can also eat up a lot of your server’s disk space.)

Many podcasters, rather than pay for ever-increasing amounts of bandwidth, use podcast syndication services like Libsyn to host their shows. Libsyn charges $12/month for unmetered bandwidth, and a monthly upload quota of 250MB. (There are a few other pricing tiers they offer, but the “libsyn250″ is probably the one most weekly hour-length podcasts will require.)

There’s another option, though.

Amazon S3 is a neat service that allows you to “pay as you go,” and host your files on Amazon’s speedy cloud servers. They charge $0.15 per gigabyte in bandwidth, as well as a monthly $0.15/GB storage fee.

I’ve been using Amazon S3 for off-site storage of my server backups for awhile, and it recently occurred to me that would be a great place to host podcast files.

If your subscribers were to download 20GB worth of podcast files in a month, for example, you would pay a mere $3. (You would technically have to pay a little more for the storage of the files, but it probably wouldn’t even be another dollar.)

If you coupled it with Amazon’s CloudFront service, a CDN that pulls from your S3 account, you could help speed up your subscribers’ downloads. (A CDN, in case you were wondering, is a service that mirrors your files across servers in different geographic locations, to ensure that your users are downloading from a nearby server.) It costs the same $0.15/per gigabyte, minus the silly “thousandth of a cent” HTTP request charges.

I wonder how many podcasters are using Amazon Web Services. It seems like a fairly affordable, and certainly reliable, option.

  • John W. Furst

    Hey Matt,
    I am using S3 for videos. But haven’t used CloudFront yet.
    When using cloudfront the bandwidth is charged for cloudfront and not for S3. So I only pay one-time 0.15 per GB? Correct? Not on both ends?

    • Matt

      Yes, it’s only once. (I think they might even add it to the S3 bill now, but I’m not sure.) You might get some small “origin fetch” charges where CloudFront, occasionally, updates its caches from S3, but it only does that once in awhile.

      The best way to look at CloudFront is like a middleman between S3 and the clients. Requests pass right through CloudFront the first time, but if people keep requesting the file, CloudFront keeps a copy and sends its instance of the file instead of S3’s. The pricing ends up being about the same. (At least, that’s how I understand it. I haven’t actually used it for myself yet, though.)

  • Timothy Sakach

    There was a strange anomaly with libsyn for which I have no explanation. But it does concern me. I have a radio show that broadcasts once per week. The shows are about 1 hour long and are saved in two formats. One is a high quality stereo feed. The other is a low quality mono feed. These are published on libsys.

    Here is the anomaly: each month during the first week I get an across the board hit for one or two days that is 100 times greater than my daily average. This is growing geometrically each month. I received no explanation for this. But I consider this to be someone who is downloading multiple copies of each program and republishing them on a web site, or is simply adding a HOT-link to their website. Even though I think it is great that someone likes my show so much, but that only takes people away from my site.

    So I am in the process of moving all new files to Amazon S3 and using Cloudfront as the CDN. In addition to that I am using EasyVideoPlayer 2.0. This gives me the power to force the playing of the broadcast from my site, and at the same time preventing HOT linking of my files.

    Because I am lacking information about what is happening on libsyn, has anyone identified or experienced the possibility of easy HOT linking from libsyn?

  • Chris

    Is hosting your files with Amazon still working out for you? I’m looking into this as an option now. The only issue I have is that I’m wondering if it creates any problems by not having the files hosted on the same site as the website for the podcast itself? Are there any downsides from that perspective?

    • Matt

      Right now, I use S3 to back up the entire contents of my web server daily, and I also host some individual files on it, such as a Mac application I wrote a few months ago. Pricing is very affordable. If I got back into podcasting, I would surely host my episodes there rather than on my server. Amazon is very fast, and their storage is much cheaper than paying my host for additional disk space would be.

      I can’t think of any downsides to having them hosted on a different server. You can easily set up a subdomain, and point it to Amazon. (e.g. could point to an S3/CloudFront bucket.) I don’t think Google would know/care, and it would free up your web server to do what it’s best at: serving web pages.