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Size of AWS ‘data transfer costs’ revealed in leaked internal documents

Written by Tue 22 Oct 2019

Documents detailing data transfer bills paid by ten of the top AWS customers seen by The Information

While true that corporate customers on the whole find cloud services to be more flexible and cheaper than running their own data centres, it would be an exaggeration to say their cloud journeys have been smooth sailing.

One of the chief concerns CIOs have with cloud services is the unexpected costs that stack up on monthly bills. According to one recent survey, 37 percent of CIOs regard this as their main cloud complaint.

The cost of migrating data from another cloud provider or back on-premises is one particularly eye-watering charge that can take companies by surprise. While the existence of these so-called ‘data transfer costs’ has been long-documented, for the first time the exact amounts charged to some of the world’s leading cloud customers have surfaced.

Documents obtained by The Information have revealed data transfer charges paid by ten of the top AWS customers, including Pinterest, Netflix, Capital One and Apple, between 2017 and 2018.

Apple, which has accelerated construction of its own data centres to reduce mounting AWS costs, was charged almost $50 million by the cloud giant, a fee representing 6.5 percent of the company’s total AWS bill of $775 million that year.

In addition, seven of the 10 companies faced increases of at least 50 percent in AWS transfer bills compared to the previous year.

With a whopping $26.4 million charge, Pinterest paid the most for transferring data out of the top ten in 2018, up 78 percent from the $14.7 million it paid in 2017.

Capital One’s charges rose 181 percent to $4 million in 2018 from 2017, while Snap’s grew 588 percent to around $9.2 million in 2018 from the year before. Lastly, Airbnb saw charges rise 163 percent to $14.1 million in 2018 from 2017, according to the records.

The main public cloud providers, AWS, Microsoft and Google, allow companies to move data into their clouds for free but charge them for moving data out again. They also charge customers when they move data to new geographical locations to accelerate speeds for their local users.

The costs are legitimate, as it takes a range of technology, including fibre optic connections, networking hardware and software, cyber security and network monitoring, to move data from point A to point B.

But the biggest concern for corporate customers is the amount these charges can rise year-on-year. In many respects, this simply represents their success and the incorporation of data-intensive features such as video to their own products.

Written by Tue 22 Oct 2019


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