Most cloud providers charge egress fees — also known as bandwidth or data transfer fees — for taking data out of their system.
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Data egress fees are charges from cloud providers for moving or transferring data from the cloud storage where it was uploaded. These fees, also known as bandwidth or data transfer fees, are separate from the fees organizations pay for cloud storage and computing.
Cloud storage and other cloud technologies have allowed developers and businesses to scale quickly, accelerate innovation, and — historically — lower costs. It is often cheaper to store data and run applications on a third party’s infrastructure rather than buying, maintaining, and replacing on-premise infrastructure.
However, the massive popularity of cloud storage comes with a downside: getting data out. Egress is the process of getting data back out of the service to which it was uploaded — and most cloud providers charge a ‘tax’ for this data transfer.
Data egress fees may not necessarily be a major concern to users that only store and access a limited amount of data in the cloud, and are only interested in using a single cloud architecture. However, egress fees can prevent organizations from taking full advantage of the cloud’s benefits, and — ultimately — increase IT costs.
Getting data in and out of the cloud is somewhat like visiting another country. For example, U.S. citizens with valid passports can enter many countries for free; however, they have to pay a fee in certain countries to exit. As a tourist, they’re stuck unless they pay the departure tax.
In the world of cloud storage, ingress is the data or traffic entering that cloud infrastructure, and egress is the data exiting the boundaries of that cloud infrastructure.
It is usually free for developers or businesses to move their data into cloud storage (such as Amazon S3 object storage or Azure Blob Storage). This is a deliberate business tactic that incentivizes new users to use the service — any associated costs are effectively absorbed within the service’s consolidated cost.
Common ways for data ingress to occur include:
However, to make data stored in the cloud usable for serving back to customers (through a personalized website, for example), or otherwise used or manipulated, it needs to be retrieved via egress. Examples of scenarios where an organization would need data egress (or bandwidth) from their cloud storage include:
Most providers would charge egress fees for this data transfer when it leaves their network. Say a U.S. airline’s ticketing data is hosted in a facility in Virginia, and a user planning to fly from Australia visits their service. Although the cloud provider is using their own global backbone to carry the traffic across the United States and then across the Pacific, they can charge to move the data between the two places.
Egress fees are a subtle way for certain providers to charge more for cloud management over time, while also discouraging customers from leaving their ecosystem. The fees almost always increase over time: as a company grows more reliant on the cloud, the cost of egress rises. When the diversity and sophistication of a company’s IT stack grows, more data naturally needs to travel between more of their applications across clouds.
The egress tax increases because there is more data to move, but at that point, the customer has already invested so much in their cloud infrastructure — ultimately, resulting in vendor lock-in.
The general rule of thumb is that all traffic coming from the Internet (ingress) into cloud storage enters for free, and traffic exiting (egress) is chargeable, if it exceeds the provider’s free tier. Many cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services, will charge up to $0.09 USD per gigabyte transferred from their storage, regardless of use case.
Specific egress fees are not always transparent, and can be difficult to predict. Understanding the line-by-line charges for egress can require some depth of application architecture and cloud infrastructure expertise — which not all organizations have.
The breakdown of egress fees vary by provider, and are based on multiple factors, including:
As noted earlier, there are many scenarios where an organization would need data egress. And some cloud providers will incentivize their customers to transfer data within the same ecosystem; for example, if an organization wants to connect their Amazon S3 object storage service to Amazon’s Elastic Compute (EC2) within the same region, they can move their data free of charge.
However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the cloud. Some developers or businesses that are evolving their cloud strategy (or, are early in their cloud journey) may prefer to use more than one cloud environment, despite egress fees.
Regardless of which infrastructure a business chooses, cloud storage is a game-changer when it comes to deploying, securing, and continuously improving applications at scale.
Cloudflare’s research has found that reducing or eliminating egress fees can save customers between 7.5% and 27% of their total monthly bill.
Cloudflare offers zero-egress fee object storage via a service called Cloudflare R2. R2 allows for fast and free data retrieval, and when paired with Cloudflare Workers' distributed code functions, it is endlessly customizable. Cloudflare aims to help developers and organizations avoid vendor lock-in with this service.
Additionally, in 2018, Cloudflare founded the Bandwidth Alliance, a group of cloud providers that include Azure, Google Cloud, Oracle, Alibaba Cloud, and others. To help customers save on egress fees, Bandwidth Alliance members agree that data being transferred between any of the participating providers can be moved for free or at a discount.
Cache Reserve is another service Cloudflare offers for reducing egress fees. Cache Reserve helps ensure that assets remain cached in the Cloudflare CDN, even if they are rarely requested, so that they do not have to be served from the customer's origin server. This increases cache hit ratio and helps eliminate egress fees.