How to estimate the server cost for a video platform

By Nikolay S, Andrey P, Nikita S, Andrey D, Max E, Nikita M.

Let’s take a look at how to estimate a video streaming platform after the launch.

The combined cost is based on the cost of traffic, data storing, and the server itself.

  • Traffic — the information that goes through our servers. In general, it’s audio and video streams. As a rule of thumb, services require way more money for the outgoing traffic than for the incoming traffic. So, we will only concentrate on the outgoing traffic here
  • Data storing — storing video conference recordings. You can store them on a rented server if there is not too much data. Otherwise, you will have to pay specifically for storing data
  • The server itself is the computer with the project. Usually, its rent costs a specific monthly amount. When one server isn’t enough because of too many users, people would use many servers instead. More on that later.

Traffic costs

Counting the traffic costs is the first task as it is one of the main expenditures on video streaming services. To complete it, one must calculate the amount of traffic that will go through our server within a chosen period of time. We will use 1 hour.

There is a convenient website to help us calculate the size of video files. How to use it? Insert the video resolution, duration, and FPS. You can compare terms such as 480p or 4k against “real” ones here.

You will see a sheet that might look difficult to understand, but it’s not true. Just search for Video File Size. This sheet has possible sizes that our video will have after using different compressing algorithms. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use the compression YouTube uses. It is easy to realize and WebRTC video compression is close to the one we went with. The price will increase drastically if we decide to go with a lesser compression. Using more powerful compression may result in losing quality. It all depends on what our goal is. We will still be using YouTube-style compression as an example, and the amount of traffic we get in result will correspond to a one-way video stream.

For 1-on-1 chats, there will be 2 streams. If there are 1 streamer and 20 viewers — 20 streams. 2 streamers + 50 viewers — 100 streams (each of the 2 streams is sent to 50 viewers) or 102, if streamers receive streams from one another. Now, since we have the amount of traffic for a period of time, we need to multiply it by the price of our provider set. By the provider, we mean AWS, DigitalOcean, or our telecom provider if the servers are within our reach.

We only look at the outgoing traffic. That’s because the majority of providers offer either free unlimited incoming traffic or set such a low price that it’s not even worth checking here.

So, here is our traffic price. However, it’s just one third, so let’s move on to…

Price for storing data

If you don’t keep your stream recordings, feel free to skip this section, as the price that doesn’t concern storing video content is very low.

So, you need to keep video recordings on your server and you don’t know how much it will cost? Let us help you. Get the video size per one stream from the previous section and multiply it by the number of streamers. Multiply the result by the price for storing data on your server (calculate the price of HDD/SDD if that’s your private server).

So, all we have to do now is counting the price of keeping and supporting the server.

The server itself

Media server price

If the project is going to be somewhat loaded, you will have to pay for the hardware that sends out your streams. The amount of servers depends on the load, and they all have to be paid hourly. If you know the cost, perfect. If not, try adding something like $0,3 per hour (this is an average price for some Amazon EC2 category c5 servers)

Price for a reserved server

It’s more likely that your project will have at least one more central server with the main website on it. One would usually pay a fixed monthly amount for it. It’d be amazing if you knew how much your server cost. If you don’t, feel free to use the market average as of now — $30-$70 monthly. If it’s a simple landing without added functionality, $15 will probably do. However, if that’s a good website with an account room, video conference rooms list, text chat, notifications, and a stable online amount of more than 100 people daily, the server will cost more (from $50).


Take a 9-max meeting room. We’ll go with 640×480, compression algorithm equivalent to YouTube’s, 30 FPS (in the calculator this goes as 29.97), Amazon AWS c5 xlarge servers. Don’t forget to swap seconds for minutes!

Let’s calculate the traffic costs. Use the calculator and fill in the resolution and FPS. Check the result — 1 hour of a one-way video will take 639 Mb. Every user receives 8 streams from other participants. Therefore, we have 9*8=72 streams like that.

We get 46 GB per hour. Since we use Amazon, the traffic cost is $0,09-$0,01 per GB, depending on how much traffic was used up in the current month. In order to get to $0,01, we will have to use an immensely huge amount of traffic (40 TB), so we will use $0,08 for calculation. 46 GB by $0,08 is $3,68/h.

Let’s say we want to store the video; the size of 1 hour is 0,639 GB. We want to keep the video streams of all 9 people. The server will keep one video where other clips will be combined in one grid. Therefore, it will still take 0,639 GB. We use General Purpose SSD by Amazon S2. It costs $0,1 per GB, monthly! Therefore, we have to pay ~$0,06 for each hour of our videos each month they stay on our servers.

Amazon AWS c5 xlarge server costs $0,17 per hour. Add it to the traffic cost. Therefore, we get $3,85 as a cost for each hour of active meetings, and on top of that, $0,06 monthly for storing 1 hour of meetings.

If we want to imagine how much it will take us, we are going to need at least approximate numbers of streams daily and monthly.

Let’s say we have 4 hours of meetings like that in a day. Assuming there are 30 days in a month. we multiply 4 hours by $3,85 to get the service cost per day — $15,4, which we then multiply by 30 to find out the monthly cost with 4 hours of meetings daily =$462.

Let’s assume that we allow storing up to 100 hours of video. Add $6 monthly.

Amazon c5 large is our main server. It costs $45,99 when reserved.

To sum up all our approximate estimations for a month, we’ll pay $513,99.

Webinar with 2 streamers and 50 viewers

We keep the similar parameters: 640×480, compression algorithm equivalent to YouTube, 30 FPS, Amazon AWS c5 2xlarge servers.

The stream will still be 639 MB per hour. Since each streamer streams for 50 viewers, we have 100 streams — 63,9 GB per hour. The average cost of traffic stays at $0,08 per GB. 63,9 GB * $0,08 = $5,11 per hour.

We are not storing this video, but if we were, it would have been just 1 stream (we have 2 streamers, so we store them in the grid as 1 video), so it’s still 0,639 GB per hour. With the price of $0,01 for an hour, we’d get $0,05112 per month, for each hour of stored video.

The final result is $5,11 for an hour of a stream or $0,05112 per month for each hour of stored video, should we ever need that.

We’ll reserve Amazon c5 large as the main server. Its cost is still $45,99. So with the server, the cost is $1599,59.

1-on-1 video chats via p2p

We can tell from experience that one c5 large server can maintain more than 1000 simultaneous 1-on-1 video chats via p2p. We’ll be using that server. In this case, the traffic cost is minimal because we just help two users connect with each other. We don’t send any video streams through our servers. Nor does our traffic go through the server and we don’t need to calculate it. The price is negligible. We don’t store recordings, too.

The servers cost $0,17 per hour. For the insurance measures let’s imagine that we get a new server up each time we get 1000 people.

The approximate price for a month if we have up to 1000 chats every day, and they last for 8 hours. 0,17*8=$1,36 a day. Multiply that by 30 to get $40,8 a month.

The server we reserve is Amazon c5 large. With added $45,99, we have to pay $86,79 monthly.

Video and Multimedia Software Developmet company