I configured Free Radical to use S3 to serve media assets, like images and videos, almost immediately after launching it. There are compelling reasons to use something like S3 instead of serving those files directly from the Mastodon server, such as freeing that server from getting clogged with a zillion media requests. In theory, it should be cheaper, too.


In October 2022, our AWS S3 storage bill was $12.54 for storing about 330GB of media files and serving about 113GB of files to users.

Then Musk happened and a lot of great, excited, new people came to join the party, doing excited new people things like, you know, following a lot of other amazing fediverse users.

In November 2022, the AWS S3 storage bill was $121.58 for storing about 228GB of media files (after I deleted a whole lot of ancient attachments) and serving about 1185GB of data to users.

Because AWS charges for making S3 API calls like “how many files are we storing? How big are they? Can you delete this one?”, the storage costs rose from $10.87 in October to $22.95 in November. That’s an annoying increase, but tolerable. However, AWS also charges an arm and a leg to transfer those files when a visitor wants to look at a cat picture, and the transfer costs alone jumped from $1.20 in October to $97.75 in November. No way. Get bent, AWS.

Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I looked at the S3 pricing page. In the us-west-2 region we use, storage is $0.023/GB/month, or $0.0125/GB/month if you use their “infrequent access” storage tier. Data transfer to other people on the Internet is free for the first 100GB, then $0.09/GB/month for the next 10TB.

I remembered that Free Radical’s cloud hosting provider, DigitalOcean, had something similar to S3: their Spaces product. The Spaces pricing page says that it’s $5/month for 250GB of storage and 1TB of transfer, plus $0.02/GB/month for extra storage and $0.01/GB/month for extra transfer. In other words, if I’d been using Spaces, the October bill would have been $6.60 and in November it would have increased to $6.85, a whopping 3.7% increase. Yeah, buddy.

And that’s why, effective today, Free Radical uses Spaces for all our media storage instead of S3. I don’t have the personal experience to say how its service quality compares to S3, but at its 94.4% discounted price, I’m willing to give it a shot.