Amazon Takes Cloud Storage to New Lows

By | Aug 23, 2012

Amazon already sits at the head of the pack when it comes to cloud storage, with its S3 solution still dominating the market share, but Amazon still hasn't found a way to convince companies to use the cloud for archival data. Enter Glacier, a long-term storage solution that includes a new low price, which may just be enough to grab the archiving business from the tape industry. As midsize businesses continue to gather unprecedented amounts of information, the growth of the long-term, cloud-based storage industry is a welcome sign.

Amazon's Glacier

As detailed in a ZD Net article, Amazon's Glacier service is a chance for the company to get a hold on the long-term storage space, which is currently dominated by onsite tape backup solutions. While Amazon S3 may be the biggest player in the cloud storage game, its costs are far too high to be reasonable for long-term storage.

According to a CIO article, Glacier can store information for as low as $0.01 per gigabyte per month, compared to $0.055 for standard storage. Companies do need to store at least 5,000 terabytes to reach this low-cost level.

According to Amazon, customers get to choose which zone the information is stored in, and it is archived both across the datacenter, in different storage devices, and across several datacenters, in case of a significant physical disaster. Amazon claims that objects stored in Glacier have an annual durability of nine nines, making the chances of a company losing a single object significantly slimmer than the odds of winning the lottery on a single ticket.

There are some restrictions to the service. Data retrieval can take between three to five hours, and only five percent of the stored data can be accessed each month free of charge. After that 5 percent, data retrieval fees combine with data transfer fees to start at a cost of $0.12 per gigabyte. Amazon is talking about allowing customers to move data between Glacier and S3 products, but there isn't currently a timetable or a cost table for this process.

Preparing for Data Storage Changes

Glacier's drawbacks ensure that this product is only good for one thing: long-term, rarely-accessed storage. But that's not really a bad thing. Onsite solutions can get expensive, especially the initial costs, and midsize businesses who are using the cloud find that they have an ever-increasing amount of data they need to deal with.

Much of that data simply needs to be archived, either to wait for analytics that can harness its power, or for purely regulatory reasons, and the concept of being able to do this in the cloud is just a big step forward.

Even companies who know that they aren't going to do business with Amazon should be happy with this news. A solution like this, should companies choose to trust their data to the cloud, could significantly bring down long-term storage prices and pave the way for companies to handle even larger amounts of data.

Any IT manager currently reviewing long-term storage solutions should give Glacier a look. Even if the fit isn't perfect, know that Amazon's competitors— including those working in the onsite tape backup side of the equation—will soon have to adjust their prices to take the new realities of the market into account. The world of cloud storage just got more comprehensive and less costly, making this truly a win for everybody.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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