AWS 101: What is Amazon S3 Glacier Storage?

Posted by Gerald Van Guilder, Senior Cloud Architect

Aug 05, 2020


Are you holding off on moving to the cloud because you think it will cost more to pay a service provider to store your infrequently used data than having an on-premise environment? Many companies do overpay for archival storage, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

AWS offers low-cost options that offload IT burdens on managing archival data and backups. You can store any amount of data and pay only for what you use with no upfront costs. You also get reliable data backup, too, when you use Amazon S3 Glacier storage.

Sounds good, right? Let’s take a look at what it is and how it works in this latest installment of AWS 101.

What is Amazon S3 Glacier Storage?

The service I described above is Amazon S3 Glacier. It gets its name because it manages your “cold” data, the files you don’t always need but want to keep just in case you need them down the road.

Amazon S3 Glacier delivers flexible, long-term storage for the archived data you don’t need to access frequently. And it will help you cut your budget in the process. As AWS notes, you get reliable data storage with a 90-day minimum for as little as $0.004 per gigabyte per month with upload requests for as little as $0.05 per 1,000 requests.

There are no restrictions on the kind of data you can store using Amazon S3 Glacier storage. Virtually every storage format works with this service. You can retain this data for months, years, or even decades, meaning it’s always available at the ready when you need it for future analysis or reference. 

cost optimizationAccording to AWS, this long-term storage solution is designed to “provide average annual durability of 99.999999999% [also known as 11 9’s] for an archive.” It stores data redundantly but not just on multiple devices within each facility but also in multiple facilities across multiple regions increasing its durability and availability in the event of a disaster.

And you don’t have to add maintaining archival databases to your IT team’s workload. AWS manages all of the administrative tasks of keeping your data secure and accessible. No more traditional capacity planning, provisioning or fears of on-premise hardware failures.

What’s the Difference Between Amazon S3 Glacier and Amazon S3?

We’ve already answered the question, “What is Amazon S3?” in a previous blog, but you might want a quick refresher on what it is. This service is designed for low-latency data that you frequently need to access. It’s simple, secure and fast.

Unlike Amazon S3 Glacier, this service is not meant for long-term archival storage of data that you don’t access regularly. It’s pricier, so if you don’t need lightning-fast access to data, opt for Amazon S3 Glacier storage instead.

How Does Amazon S3 Glacier Storage Work?

Amazon S3 Glacier stores your infrequently used data as an archive. An archive can include only one file or a combination of files. While individual archives are limited to 40 terabytes max, there’s no limit to how much data you can store in S3 Glacier as a whole. 

Each archive has a unique ID so you can easily locate and retrieve it later from its storage location in what’s known as a vault. A vault is simply a container for storing archives. You can create and configure up to 1,000 vaults per region using the AWS Management Console. You can tag each of your vaults to define them to better utilize filtering capabilities.


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Gerald Van Guilder, Senior Cloud Architect

Gerald (Jerry) Van Guilder specializes in GCP and AWS architecture, deployments/implementations and migrations. One of the many things that he enjoys is enabling clients to feel empowered not only by technologies but also in the skill/knowledge transfer that transpires during the course of an engagement. Jerry lives (and works) in Syracuse, New York, with his wife and two pups.

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