Free Tier Amazon EC2 for Mumble is (probably) a bad idea

Amazon Web Services offers a free tier that gives you an EC2 micro instance for free the first year of service, among other things. There are no hidden fees or anything like that and the offer is excellent to get a feel for cloud computing. The problem is that using this free tier for your Mumble or Teamspeak server is most of the time a bad idea

I’ve seen this mentioned several times. Use the free version of EC2 to host your VOIP services. The server itself is more than capable of hosting a large Mumble or Teamspeak server, since the CPU and memory usage is very low for these kinds of services. The problem is not power, but bandwidth usage. For this article I will assume that you want to use Mumble, but it applies to Teamspeak as well.

Mumble using the default codecs will use about 60 kbit/s for each person who is listening to someone talking. So if you have a single channel with 20 users and 1 of them is always talking then Mumble will use (20-1)*60=1140 Kb/s or 142.5 KB/s. If you have a channel with an average of 20 people online for 8 hours a day and one person is always talking on average, then you will use 4 gigabytes a day or about 120 a month.

This might not seem too bad until you discover that AWS charges you for every single byte leaving their network. This is by no means unique to Amazon, but they are being used as the example here. They charge you around 12 cents for every gigabyte you use. For this example you will thus be charged $14.4 a month for the server. This is already beyond the price of a totally decent VPS. For comparison reasons, here is a table of how much you get charged for a specific number of concurrent users.

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This table assumes that all users join the same channel and the average number of players are online for 8 hours a day, 30 days a month. The server is not used at all for 16 hours a day. The number of players do not count the person talking. If you have a bunch of channels, then subtract 1 from the results. Amazon does give 15 GB of traffic for free every month, this has already been subtracted from the cost. As a comparison, I’ve added a cheap VPS from BuyVM to the table. You get 1 TB of bandwidth a month from them.

Users Monthly traffic(in GB) Monthly Cost BuyVM Cost
1 6.48 $3.50
5 32.4 $2 $3.50
15 97.2 $10 $3.50
25 162 $17.5 $3.50
50 324 $37 $3.50

As you can see, it quickly becomes quite a lot of money. There are also a bunch of companies that offer Mumble hosting but they are more expensive than a cheap VPS unless your traffic is very high.

Unless you have very few friends, like me, then the Free Tier Amazon EC2 is a bad idea for your Mumble hosting. If you want to try it anyway, then make sure to keep a close eye on the traffic, because they will bill you for every byte you use above the allowed amount. Use billing alerts to warn you when the costs pile up, unless you want to end up like this poor guy.

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