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it really depends. there are, essentially, two related costs here: bandwidth and storage. the storage costs should typically be fairly negligble, but then, that honestly depends on how much space the rest of the site uses. occasionally, the difference between two tiers of storage space can be several hundred dollars per month.
the bandwidth costs are usually more scalable, but on a dedicated server, that shouldn't necessarily be the issue.
The storage cost of having avatars would be negligible. Storage space is extremely cheap when it comes to webhosting, and images hardly take up any space.
As for the cost of bandwidth, I doubt it would make much of a difference. I would personally get rid of images in signatures and just go with avatars.
NFLDC doesn't deserve my Bree Olson goodness anyway. ;)
The whole world loves neophyte athletic tight end Jimmy Graham from Miami with the 95th pick. "Best pick in the draft,'' one AFC coach told me. "Give him time, and in that offense, he'll be better than [Jeremy] Shockey by the start of next year.''
“We know that no matter the adversity, be it the lockout, be it the suspension or be it a hurricane, our men will pull together and defend the honor of this city. We’ve shown we’ve been able to do that.” - Jabari Greer
*shrug* you're probably in the minority. further, sigs are not stored on the server, and are thus not really a relevant part of the discussion.
for the record, one of the web servers i trust the most tends toward per-client quotes, but all start with relatively small 73-80 gb drives. adding more adds a large additional cost if the user asks for the back-up service (which tends to be pretty much essential in a server environment). allowing users to add 100x100 images at whim (and especially when they use animated crap) will fill up a drive faster than you think, especially when you remember that people will sign up for the site, add an avatar, then never post here afterwards when they forget about it.
for instance, via networks prices additional storage as:
SATA HD 80 GB $50 setup / $40 monthly
SATA HD 160 GB $50 setup / $60 monthly
SATA HD 250 GB $50 setup / $90 monthly
SCSI HD 36 GB $50 setup / $60 monthly
SCSI HD 73 GB $50 setup / $100 monthly
SCSI HD 146 GB $50 setup / $130 monthly
those are not really negligible fees. moresp when you consider they don't cover the back-up fees:
further, the difference between an account that's limited to 40 GB per month in bandwidth and one that's unlimited (at Via, those are the two distinctions) was $130/mo. or $230/mo. if you were upping from the low end dedicated. if you consider this forum and scott's main site, 40GB is not a whopping amount of data transfer.
There is no way you would need a 40 GB hard drive to store the avatars for this website. Restrict the size of each avatar to 500 KB or so and you won't even come close to reaching 1 GB of space.
you're forgetting that there's a website attached to the board that will require most of the drive space. the size is then dependant on how many archives scott keeps, layout changes, manual backups, etc. further, the size of the board will also adversely affect that number, as some seldom used boards have reached 3gb (granted some are still under 100mb).
even then, we're still talking about the transfer of those avatars, which will occur across every single page a user views at least once per day (depending on their personal data cache preferences).
regardless, there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason so far for scott to spend more money so that users can have pretty little animated things next to their name that, currently, couldn't just go in their sig space.
There is no way this website uses even close to 40 GB of hard drive space. I guarantee Scott has a ton of extra hard drive space sitting there unused.
Obviously bandwidth usage would increase but this server can obviously handle the load. The cost would be negligible.
Signatures are intrusive and take longer to load than avatars. Plus, they don't serve the purpose of quick identification of who is posting as well as avatars do. I've rarely seen a forum on the internet that doesn't have avatars so I just can't understand the logic here.
i've already shown the bandwidth cost isn't really negiligible, and that was on a completely random host i wouldn't typically use. i'm quite sure rackspace's fees are much higher (they used to be, though that may have changed).
if you'd rather have an avatar than a signature, replace one with the other. realistically, that's no different than hosting the avatars off-site to begin with and will take the exact same amount of time to load (meanwhile hosting avatars off-site and letting users have both would take longer to load). i'm also not entirely sure how vbulletin caches old avatars (as far as i can tell, the images are NOT deleted, which then requires scott to log into the web server and manually delete old ones. this is based strictly off reading the manual and not actual experience, so again, there may be hidden settings to limit this).
I would have no problem with adding off-site avatars and getting rid of signatures. Signatures serve no real purpose. Avatars make it easy to identify who is posting.