Reduce Volusion Excess Bandwidth Fees

Although Volusion is decent software, there are a few complaints I hear from customers, and one is the cost. Volusion’s pricing is based on number of individual product codes in a store’s database, (see chart below).

In addition to the monthly fees, there is an initial setup fee… and then you have the typical merchant account fees you’d pay no matter which ecommerce software you use, (even if you use “free” software, you still pay transaction fees, discount rate and statement fees when you make a sale — that is a “given” cost of online sales).

The pricing is all explained, and there are no hidden costs — but on large sites that have a lot of image files, videos, or other media that uses a lot of bandwidth, you can get a surprise bill from Volusion for excess bandwidth, (yes, they tell you about it when you sign up, but most people never do the math or consider how much bandwidth modern websites actually use).

A month or two of these bills, and you start thinking of ways to cut down on costs. While some stores can either reduce the number of images, or make them physically smaller, (in pixels), or apply greater .JPG compression to reduce the file sizes, at some point you start thinking there has to be a better way.

There is…

Volusion charges “$0.01 per MB” for excess bandwidth. (Which reminds me of how carpet stores now list prices by the square foot — carpet used to always be sold, advertised and quoted by the yard… but saying “Only $3.89 per square foot!” sounds a lot cheaper than saying “$35 per yard“)…

There are 1024 Megabytes in a Gigabyte. At a penny per MB, that’s $10.24 per excess GB of bandwidth. Considering the paltry amount of included bandwidth in the volusion packages, many store owners go over every month.

The chart below shows Volusion’s hosting plans and the amount of disk space, SQL data storage and bandwidth included with each package.

PACKAGE STEEL BRONZE SILVER GOLD PLATINUM
Number of Products 20 100 250 1000 unlimited
Hard Disk Storage 50MB 100MB 200MB 300MB 1000MB
SQL Data Storage 25MB 50MB 100MB 150MB 250MB
Bandwidth 1GB 2GB 3GB 5GB 15GB
Pricing $29.95/mo $49.95/mo $79.79/mo $97/mo $197/mo

I use Westhost for hosting any non-ecommerce websites, and their $10/month hosting plan includes 1000 GB of bandwidth… If I were to actually use all that bandwidth at Volusion’s rates, it would cost $10,000.00 per month… something has to be wrong — and it is… Volusion has always charged far in excess of industry standards for bandwidth.

So, what’s the answer?

 

It’s simple: setup your own image server, (on Westhost or another economical hosting provider).

The trick to making it manageable is to mimic Volusion’s directory structure on the file server site.

Typically, images on Volusion, (version 5), are stored in one of many different folders depending on what the image is used for and how it got uploaded into the store. Images uploaded with the Easy Editor end up in the /vspfiles/assets/images folder. Images used as category headings, manufacturer logos, color or size option related swatches and photos, and other types of images are in other folders. The product photos themselves are in the /vspfiles/photos/ folder.

Once your store is built and you have uploaded all the product photos and designed your store, you can use an FTP program like FileZilla and download the entire /vspfiles/ folder with all it’s subdirectories with a single click. You can then drag and drop the folder onto your new file server.

Let’s say you run a store at www.mystore.xyz and you setup a file hosting site on Westhost named www.myserver.xyz, now what you need to do is go through your Volusion store’s HTML and edit the (absolute AND relative) URL’s in the image tags — replacing the domain name, or in the case of relative URL’s adding http://www.myserver.xyz/ before path if any, and filename.

If you find a tag like:

<img src=”http://www.mystore.xyz/vspfiles/assets/images/myfile.jpg”>

You would edit it to read:

<img src=”http://www.myserver.xyz/vspfiles/assets/images/myfile.jpg”>

If you find a tag like:

<img src=”/vspfiles/assets/images/somefile.gif”>

You would edit it to read:

<img src=”http://www.myserver.xyz/vspfiles/assets/images/somefile.gif”>

 

Done! Those images will now be pulled from your file server, and not count towards your Volusion bandwidth.

Since you do get some bandwidth included in all hosting plans, you may decide it’s easier to have only some of the images served by your file server – and leave others to Volusion. If you’re frequently changing certain images, it may be better to leave those on Volusion. You can use the Smarter Stats program (on my.volusion.com), and run a report on the image files your store serves. Be sure to specify a bandwidth column as the primary sort, and you can get a list of the worst bandwidth hogs and move them off first.

There are other methods. For instance, instead of manually editing the HTML, you could use Javascript getElementsByTagName(“img”)and replace the src=”" value in your image tags.

If you have large .SWF / .FLV video files, you could setup IFRAME tags to pull the video content into the Volusion page. The user would never know the difference, and you could do all the setup as if the file were being viewed on the file server domain, (this way you would not have edit the paths for the SWF player in the embed code or end up having half the solution on one domain and half on the other).

While this article speaks mostly of image files and video, you can’t forget about any type of file; sample MP3 audio tracks, large .PDF documents, downloadable software and other files that use a lot of bandwidth. You can use the same method for hosting them on your own low cost server and save a tidy sum. How much? Let’s say you;ve been using 40GB per month of excess bandwidth — In a year’s time that translates into roughly $5000.00 in excess bandwidth fees — isn’t that a good enough reason to do this sooner than later?

If you would like me to setup an image server for you, let me know. If you can do it yourself and don’t have a good host in mind, I’d appreciate if you’d use the link below and setup a hosting account at WestHost, (I get a commission, and it’s doesn’t cost you anything). The WestHost  Business  plans are only about $10 to $15/mo and will give you plenty of Disk Space and Bandwidth!  They also have very good 24/7 Toll Free 100% U.S. Based support, (which you’ll rarely need because everything works the way it’s supposed to!)

www.westhost.com

If you do sign up at Westhost, please enter my name, (Randy Harris), and my website, (lexipixel.com), in the referred by section of the sign-up form.  (It helps me afford to be able to help people like, say — someone who might be reading this article right now!

*** BE SURE TO READ THE COMMENT BELOW — I HAVE POSTED MORE HELP AND ANSWERED SEVERAL QUESTIONS — QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE TOO! ****

 
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Posted in eCommerce, Volusion
34 comments on “Reduce Volusion Excess Bandwidth Fees
  1. Catherine says:

    Randy,
    This is a great article on suggestions for Volusion bandwidth. Thank you!

  2. Kit says:

    hi this sounds handy. i’m currently going over about 150.00 a month. can you tell me where to find the html files? i’ve logged in to the admin area of the store and have been poking thru the ‘Design > LiveEdit File Editor’ area for the better part of an hour and can’t seem to find any mention of my image URLs.

  3. Randy Harris says:

    Hi Kit,

    I took a look at your site, (www.prettybitter.com), is this the site that is going over by $150/mo ?

    The best thing to do is look in your stats and see what the worst offenders are.

    For instance, the image: /v/vspfiles/photos/categories/1.jpg is 138.38KB, (141700 bytes). If that image is loaded 1000 times a day, (times 30 days in a month), that image alone would account for 4GB of data transfer.

    Another category image, /v/vspfiles/photos/categories/3.jpg is 55.73 KB (57064 bytes), if viewed 1000 times a day (times 30) days it’s another 1.5GB…

    Rather than use the (default) “Category Image” feature of Volusion, you can code those images into the Category Description field on their respective Admin > Inventory > Categories > [records #].

    You would simply host the images on another server, and edit an IMG tag into the Category Description field.

    If you want to serve your Product Photos from another server, you would need to use Javascript and DOM to substitute the default Volusion product photo URL and path in the HTML and code that into the main template file — but this takes more consideration and testing… but the category images are easy to offload — and are usually hit pretty heavy compared to individual product photos.

    Randy.

  4. Sandra says:

    Randy,
    Very impressed with the detail in your instructions but I can’t locate the html in the template files to re-direct my product photos. Does it have to be done from a javascript? Thanks for your assistance.

  5. Randy Harris says:

    Hi Sandra,

    I am working on the Javascript, but I am afraid it is not getting at the IMG tag soon enough in the DOM tree. The tag that needs to get manipulated is the IMG tag marked up with id=”product_photo” when viewing ProductDetails.asp

    Here’s the Javascript… I’m working on a VBscript or ASP solution to do the replacement sooner in the content generation, but here’s the general idea, (this goes in the bottom of the template file, just before the /BODY tag).


    <!-- START: javascript to manipulate product photo URLs -->
    <script type="text/javascript">
    if(location.href.indexOf('ProductDetails.asp') != -1) {
    var ThisPhoto=document.getElementById('product_photo').src;
    var ImgServer='www.example.xyz';
    var ThisDomain=document.domain;
    var NewImgSrc = ThisPhoto.replace(ThisDomain,ImgServer);
    document.getElementById('product_photo').src=NewImgSrc;
    }
    </script>
    <!-- END: javascript to manipulate product photo URLs -->

  6. Sandra says:

    Thanks for the instructions Randy.

    Are you saying that it’s not possible to set-up these re-directs at this time?

  7. Randy Harris says:

    Hi Sandra,

    The “redirects”, (as you call them), can be used. The problem lies in how Javascript is processed. Javascript is a client-side scripting language which means the page needs to load before the script is executed. In some browsers, the script for pulling the PRODUCT PHOTOS may start to load the image files from the Volusion site, and then replace them with the images from the image file-server site.

    NOTE: THIS COMMENT ONLY REFERS TO THE “PRODUCT PHOTOS”, the other solutions for pulling images for CATEGORY pages, for additional photos used on PRODUCT pages and other images on the site which are coded with URLs to pull from the image file-server will work fine.

    Here are a two methods I’ve worked out to make even the script for replacing product images useful:

    1. Load low resolution images on the Volusion site, (they can even be “zero byte” files named to match the image files, or highly compressed .JPG images. What this will do is load the zero byte or otherwise very small images from Volusion, then immediately replace them with the proper image from the image file-server.

    2. Code in some VBscript or ASP code (which are server-side scripting methods) in the HEAD section of the file to prevent the Volusion hosted images from ever loading, (I am working on this and hope to have code ready soon).

    Finally, you need to analyze your own situation. For some sites, simply off loading extra product images, category page images and other files which use a lot of bandwith will result in significant savings and keep the site easy to maintain.

    Randy.

  8. Sandra says:

    Thanks for the helpful comments Randy.

    I have a five week development window for the site as I’m moving from another system. I wanted to put all my product images in the alternate server right from the get go as I have thousands of products and don’t want surprises in a bandwidth bill.

    I do understand that there is another method for the category images that I will use.

    I’ll try experimenting with some zero byte images and hope for your code solution.

    What a tremendous service you’re providing for this – I’m humbled!

  9. Randy Harris says:

    Note: if you have the search friendly URLs turned on, you’ll need to change one line in the Javascript from:

    if(location.href.indexOf(‘ProductDetails.asp’) != -1) {

    to

    if(location.href.indexOf(‘/product_p/’) != -1) {

  10. Taylor says:

    Hi Randy,

    I have to say that your information here is top notch.

    I have spoken with Volusion numerous times regarding their bandwidth issue as well as their disk space. I really need to choose a host for my webstore and I have gone through volusion’s free trial and it is wonderful. I am just very concerned with the bandwidth and that I am going to have all of these major issues because of it.

    I am just a little disappointed that I have to use another provider along with volusion to host my images. For such a great package that volusion has, I am surprised that they would not do something about this.

    -Taylor

  11. JM says:

    Wouldn’t this be way easier if volusion just stopped using tables and started to use div’s with css classes in them, then we could literally modify anything we wanted….

    Anyways, preventing the image loading all together? I want to actually replace the product_image photo completely which I can try to get the parent element and replace it’s inner html…shall see.

  12. Randy Harris says:

    Yes — it would be much easier. It appears from viewing the source code of the generated content they are starting to move in this direction. For several years I’ve complained about the fact that Volusion code does not validate.

    The problem is more complex than simply adding some classes to div tags… Volusion needs to move from a table based layout to a more CSS friendly format. Considering the cross browser compatibility issues, (e.g.- MS-IE does not handle CSS styled TABLE, TR, TD tags in regards to padding, borders, fonts, etc.. the same way as FireFox — so the cross-browser issues would be as bad or worse with CSS/div styling compared with inline CSS style in table elements).

    But, as I said — it appears Volusion is working on moving towards more user defined CSS styling)… They have thousands of customers, so they need a solution that is backwards compatible for those who are happy with a stock template and table based layouts yet can be styled with CSS for those who want to customize.

  13. Vicki says:

    Hi,

    I’m totally floored by the knowledge of all that has posted here, and unfortunately, I, am not that literate in html. I have been with Volusion for 3 years and for the 1st time, have just had an image of mine stolen from my /vspfiles/assets/images folder and linked to a blog in Brazil. Needless to say, my Volusion bill was over 300 last month and on the way higher this one. Support has been NO help, although, someone must have a backdoor to get to these files right? The image in question, I deleted and replaced with a “Stolen – Action being taken” in english & portuguese. It’s great and on their Blog, however, I foot the bill. I would love to do the Westhost, but unsure I’m smart enough to do it. Any idea’s? Thanks.

  14. Randy Harris says:

    Hi Vicki,

    There is no way I know of to prevent image hotlinking on a Volusion server. The steps you took were the right ones, (put up a replacement image for the blog to display)… But I do have one suggestion…

    The next time you find a site using one your images contact them with a friendly email and offer to “let them have a copy of the image”, so long as they provide a credit and link back to your site. Inbound links with appropriate anchor text are invaluable in SEO terms, and by “giving them a copy of the image”, (you can email them one), they will no longer hotlink, and you’ll have made an enemy into a friend. It’s a win-win situation.

    One of my Volusion customers had the same problem, except the hotlinking was done by a competitor who was pulling a rather large image into an eBay listing… so I created a display ad with “READY TO ORDER? CALL TOLL FREE 1-800-###-####” and put it in place… now the eBay seller was paying listing fees to run my customers ad.

    Of course, some people are just plain jerks — for these people, your tactic of public humiliation is nice.

    BTW – if your images are on the “image file server” as I’ve suggested, you can prevent image hotlinking. I primarily work on LAMP servers, (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl or Php), and there are very well documented ways to configure the web server to prevent the image files from being served, (or automatically display a “warning” or something else to potential hot-linkers and to do so “site wide”… one fix for all images, (e.g.- as described in this article from AListApart.com)

    Randy.

  15. Sapan Jain says:

    Thanks for the great advice Randy. I have loaded every single photo to a third party host and replaced all the URLS. The bandwidth usage is down significantly however it seems that I am still using a few hundred megabytes per day. I don’t see how this is possible though when all of the image are on a different server. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

  16. Randy Harris says:

    If you check the “Smarter Stats” program you can see what files are being served.

  17. warren says:

    Randy have you ever compared Volusion to a company called Website forge
    I’M tring to compare each to see what one is better.Im intrested in cost and seo.Thanks ,Warren

  18. Randy Harris says:

    Hi Warren, I have never reviewed Website Forge. I just read through some of their marketing material, and then decided to do my “5 minute drive by review”… I visited 3 stores from the WF “portfolio page”. A few quick impressions:

    1. Checkout process is multi-step (5 steps of clicking “Next” after completing part of the process – volusion has “single page checkout”). The checkout process is where most “abandoned carts” occur… keeping checkout as easy and fast as possible is a major factor.

    2. Code bloat. I took a look at the source code of some of the WF pages I visited. It seems there was a lot of unneeded Javascript and CSS in the file, (stuff that would have been better off in separate files so they would only be retrieved from the server once, then reside in the browser cache to speed up the store). Volusion has a lot of bloat too — so this is not a deciding factor.

    3. The deal breaker: SUPPORT. I dialed the toll free number for WF’s support… they never answered, a recorded message told me the best support was online on the website. I found the “Online Support” (chat icon) on their website which said, “Offline, please leave a message”. (WF only offers live online or phone support from 9:30am EST to 7pm EST). You can’t run a business on a software platform that does not offer support. I will not deal with any eCommerce software provider that does not offer 24/7/365 support.

    Based on the support issue alone, I could not recommend WF…

    Randy.

  19. nick says:

    thanks for the help, gonna save $500 a month with this. Had a question though. How do I outsource the product thumbnails within the categories and search results? Thanks

  20. Randy Harris says:

    You may find that you can’t offload 100% of the image file bandwidth (easily). My approach has always been to go through the stats and offload the worst offenders first, and to leave the images that are more difficult to program around to be served using the [included] Volusion bandwidth.

  21. nick says:

    I’m still going over bandwidth quite a bit even after taking away the top files. I only have images on my site but I do a fairly high volume of traffic so even if it is a little difficult to work around it will still probably be worth doing. I’m pretty decent with working with code so if have any sites or techniques that you could recommend that would be great. Thanks.

  22. Randy Harris says:

    You’re pretty much limited to Javascript and DOM manipulation technique to work-around the generated code, (see my Volusion 5 – Custom Javascript DOM Tip article). But even that leaves a lot to be desired.

  23. Sepehr Sadighpour says:

    Maybe I’m missing something in this discussion, but there are actually two fields in the Advanced options of each product, one called “Photo URL Small” (for product thumbnail) and the other “Photo URL Large”.

    If you’re just setting up your site, use Irfanview to batch-resize and rename the photos, then upload them to your external host and call them using those fields.

    If you have a lot of products already and want to overhaul everything, download all your product images and upload them to the new host.

    Then export your product ID’s, photoURL, photoURL_small, and photoURL_large fields to a CSV file, then use an excel formula to generate the new photoURL_small and photoURL_large fields, delete the PhotoURL column (because it can’t be imported in anyway), and import the CSV file back into Volusion.

    The external URLs in the advanced option section actually overwrite the internal URL of the photo set in the Image Management section of the product creation page, so you’re all set!

    Hope that helps!

  24. Randy Harris says:

    Welcome, and thanks for posting Sepehr.

    The photoURL_small and photoURL_large fields are useful for only the simplest Volusion stores, (which aren’t usually the ones worried about excess bandwidth fees).

    It becomes very complicated if the store uses alternate views, swatches, and effects photo rendering in several of Volusion’s image related functions.

    With that said, if a Volusion store owner plans to only use (1) photo per product, and they are willing to either turn off some image related features, (or work around some of the issues), the product photoURL fields is another way to reduce bandwidth.

    Thanks again for posting — sometimes I get very tired of trying to work around Volusion’s anomalies… I appreciate anyone willing to share info here.

    Randy.

  25. Al says:

    I can’t believe how user UNfriendly Volusion is. It is a joke. And if you call them or chat with support they have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
    Basically, the tables format with inaccessible .asp files is really limited to work with.

    It’s rally surprising that they get as much business as they do.

  26. Randy Harris says:

    I agree. The tables are terrible, and the lack of ability to customize things makes it “challenging”. The back-end functionality is all they have going for them. Got any suggestions for something better? I know a lot of people who would switch in a minute — if they could find something that does what Volusion does AND has more and better customization options.

  27. Rupart says:

    Switching your images to another site will make some browsers and browsing ad blocking software block the alternate site, thinking the other URL is an advertisement or a tracking image. So your customers end up with no images. Is that what you really want? Why not just switch to a store and cart company that doesn’t take advantage of you for “excessive” bandwdith, and which is using modern web design instead of old ASP pages?

  28. Jake R. says:

    Our first month using Volusion they charged us over $800 for extra data transfer on what should have been a $100 month plan. Our second month they tried to charge an extra $1100. The more we spent on marketing, the more traffic we got, the more Volusion charged us. We had to pause my Google ads until we could figure it out. Volusion nearly drove us out of business. I complained and they knocked off a couple hundred dollars and suggested we reduce the quality of our images and make them smaller to save money. Save money????? They were ripping us off and telling me to use crappy photos for my high end products. Someone suggested we contact BrandLabs about reducing our bandwidth. Brand Labs wanted to charge over $5000. Luckily I found this site and hired Randy. For $1200 he did his magic and now we use even larger higher resolution images and haven’t had any over charges from Volusion since. He was a pleasure to work with and explained everything he did so we can manage our own store going forward. Shame on Volusion and Brand Labs. You can trust Randy to do anything in Volusion. While he was working on our site he helped solve a few other issues. Thanks again Randy and feel free to use us as a referral, we would recommend you to anyone!

  29. Randy Harris says:

    NOTE: Anyone using this fix on Volusion v.11 will need to disable the new CDN (Content Distribution Network) feature.

    Go to Settings > Maintenance > Disable CDN.

    We have done this on several Volusion sites with absolutely no impact to the speed that pages or images display, (in fact we’ve had customers who say the images appear faster without CDN in general). So long as you use a quality hosting company for the image server, (one with fast connections to the internet), you and your customers should have no problem.

  30. Rob says:

    Nice post, thanks for the useful javascript rewrite code! What about using a CDN with Volusion?

    [NOTE:promotional text about specific cloud service removed]

  31. Randy Harris says:

    Volusion has “free” built in Akamai CDN… but I question if it’s effective (or even free). I turned off CDN on the last remote image serving job I did. It seems to me that updating 9,500 servers with images, all to save the backbone traffic of serving the images directly [from the origin server] is more of a waste of bandwidth… and I am not sure that Volusion isn’t charging customers for the bandwith required to feed the CDN. The customer felt the images actually displayed faster with no CDN, (and they have offices on both sides of the Atlantic).

    FWIW — that customer was charged +$500 in excess bandwidth fees the first month his store went live — and he wanted to clone the store for two additional markets. The work I did will save him ((+$500 * 3) * 12) per year .. or roughly +$18k/yr that he never anticipated being charged when he signed up with Volusion.

    I got a call this afternoon from another Volusion store owner — they are using 200GB excess bandwidth and being charged $4.00/GB, (+$800/mo). Volusion is clobbering store owners with the bandwidth fees.

    It seems adding CDN and other “features” is just a way to complicate the image hosting and put more profit in Volusions pocket.

    *** NOTICE TO ANYONE CONSIDERING USING VOLUSION: Make sure you know what your bandwidth usage will be before investing a lot of time and money into building your business on Volusion’s platform!!!! ****

  32. KJ says:

    Randy,

    Thoughts on Amazon CloudFront?

    The CDN doubled our bandwidth and we’re a brand new site, with little traffic. I’m so glad the store owners on the forum directed me to you, before launching a Adwords campaign. I shudder to think how much in the whole we could have been. Contacting you for an estimate.

  33. Randy Harris says:

    KJ — Feel free to call to discuss what you need. (I’ve already looked at your site).

    Randy, 508-371-8822 (cell)

  34. Chris says:

    Honestly with as many server errors as Volusion has they should actually credit some bandwidth back to us. Our website is down quite a bit and Volusion can’t say it is the way the servers are pointed because I go on volusion.com immediately and it does the same thing.

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