Google Photos will end its free unlimited storage on June 1st, 2021. The difference with premium Google Photos is that the photos are stored RAW (no compression and be 16 times larger)
I was wondering how much did it really cost for Google to store photos per user.
Since I am more familiar with AWS than Google Cloud. Let’s evaluate the minimal cost to store photos on AWS.
AWS S3 (simple storage service) is the defacto choice to store the photos and is object storage service. In addition, S3 is the most cost effective solution (cheaper than EBS elastic block storage, EFS Elastic File System). Our assumptions are:
- losing photos is not acceptable (Redundancy is a must)
- only a few photos will be accessed (infrequent access)
We can therefore select S3 Standard – Infrequent Access
In this post, we only look at the storage cost to build a minimal viable alternative to Google Photos. Regarding S3 pricing, there are three other factors to account (which won’t be covered here):
– request and data retrieval pricing
– data transfer and transfer acceleration pricing
– data management features pricing
Google Photos Cost
|Price (EUR / monthly)||Capacity up to (GB)||Cost to store|
To find the cost of storage per gigabyte (GB), let’s have a look at AWS calculator.
PS: Later, I’m going to mix USD and EUR pricing.
As I’m in Europe, Google Photos show the pricing only in EUR. In whatever regions, AWS pricing is always in USD. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Estimating the cost per GB
I used the https://calculator.aws/#/createCalculator to estimate the costs. The more you consume, the better cost deal you’ll get.
- Press the button “add service”.
- Enter in the search “S3”, “Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3)” will appear.
- At its bottom right corner, click on the “Configure” button.
- Don’t forget to select the region before entering any calculations.
I inputed the maximum storage capacity (99999999 TB) for S3 – Infrequent Access. Here are the following costs in the different Europe regions:
- 0.0125 USD in Ireland, Stockholm
- 0.0131 USD in London, Paris, Milan
- 0.0135 USD in Frankfurt
Let’s take 0.0125 USD/GB as the minimum and 0.0135 USD/GB as the maximum
There are S3 Intelligent-Tiering storage class cheaper. The longer backups and archives are, the cheaper the storage is.
The pricing for Glacier is at 0.004 USD/GB and Glacier Deep Archive is at 0.00099 USD/GB.
Estimated cost of storage
The max storage column was calculate by multiplying the capacity by maximum price per GB. Example: for the capacity of 200 GB, 200 GB * 0.0135 USD/GB = 2.7 USD
The min storage column is a bit trickier. Once you exceed the capacity, the subscription goes to next tiers of pricing ( next row). The formula is (previous_capacity + 1) * min_price. Example: for the capacity of 200 GB, (100+1) GB * 0.0125 USD/GB = 1.2625 USD
(EUR / monthly)
|Capacity up to (GB)||Min storage|
cost for S3 Infrequent (USD)
|Max cost Glacier (USD)||Max cost for Glacier Deep Archive (USD)|
There is an anomaly, the max storage estimated cost is 27 USD for the 2000GB. While Google charges only 9.99 EUR.
To make more cost effective solution is that of object lifecycle management whereby the photos could be transitioned to a cheaper storage class (like S3 Glacier or Glacier Deep Archive ) after a period of time depending the lifecycle configuration .
Obviously at very high volume, AWS pricing scheme is much lower than its calculator showed us.
Cheaper storage but slower access
The photos could be transitioned to a cheaper storage class (like S3 Glacier) after a period of time depending the lifecycle configuration you put in place.
However the cost of data retrieval is more expensive, the longer archives are.
This exercise was only about storage cost.
To make the service complete, we must account for the outbound data transfer, cost to run the software services on top.
The majority of premium customers use less than half a storage and retrieve a few percent of their photos.
For these type of service, the worst case scenario: reach the maximum storage capacity and retrieve all data.
Last, how could Google afford to make storage free under 15GB ?
In one year, the max storage will cost 0.2025*12 = 2.43 USD.
2.43 USD, a meagre sum compared to the 182 USD revenue per user that Google makes (https://arkenea.com/blog/big-tech-companies-user-worth )
I consulted with AWS business support. Special thanks in particular to Nicholas, the support engineer, who re-verified my calculations and brought new light with references.