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Amazon just recently announced their new Amazon Glacier product, an extremely low cost cloud-based storage service.
At $.01 per Gb per month this is significantly lower any backup or storage service out there, but what exactly is it and is it right for you?

Well, let’s start by saying what is is not. Glacer is not like Dropbox or Mozy or other cloud-based file storage services. It’s also not like Carbonite, Crashplan, or any other cloub-based backups.



If you read it carefully, Amazon does a good job of describing the service on their home page (emphasis mine): “Amazon Glacier is an extremely low-cost storage service that provides secure and durable storage for data archiving and backup. In order to keep costs low, Amazon Glacier is optimized for data that is infrequently accessed and for which retrieval times of several hours are suitable.”

To reduce that down to a few words, Amazon Glacier is a data archival service.


Why Data Archiving?

amazon glacier data archivalAll traditional forms of data backup and storage will fail over time. The floppy disk didn’t last long, hard drives fail, backup tapes fail, usb sticks fail, even CD’s and DVD’s fail over time.
If you are an organization that needs to store large amounts of information for a long time then you need a storage medium that will allow you to go back and retrieve that information after a few years and it is still there, still available.
Think about it; if you had important information on a 5.25″ floppy disk right now how would you get to it? Do you know anyone that has a 5.25″ floppy drive? Even if the information is still good you can’t get to it because that technology has become obsolete. The same is true for Zip drives and old colorado tape drives.

Will Glacier Last?

Amazon says that the durability of information stored on Glacer is at nine nines, that is; 99.999999999% durable. They can say this because your data will be redundantly stored on multiple devices across multiple facilities, over multiple locations. That’s distribution! Glacier also does regular data integrity checks and is “self-healing” – that is, it will rebuild any data deemed corrupted from other data at another location so that it is always correct.

What Does it Cost?

The news media has been saying Amazon Glacier costs $.01 per Gigabyte, per month, however that is only the lowest price and that is only the storage price. Northern California, Ireland, and Tokyo pay a little more.
There’s also a cost every time an electronic request is made to Glacier for an upload or download or other requests.
Finally, there’s an additional cost for the transfer of your data from Glacier. This would occur when you need to restore some data from the Glacier archive. The first Gigabyte is free and then pricing starts at $0.12 per Gigabyte per month.
Even when you add these up Glacier is still much cheaper than anything else out there right now.

What’s The Downside?

how long to uploadIn a word – time.
To upload 50Gb of data to Amazon Glacier will take a LONG time! iCalc online calculator says 50Gb on a standard upload connection of 1.5Mbps will take over 77 hours, that’s just over three days nonstop!
Businesses will of course have higher speeds but keep in mind it is the upload speed you need to look at, not the download speed.


So, is Amazon Glacier for you? Only if you require very long term storage that you potentially access very infrequently – and you have a fast Internet connection.
You would not want to use Glacier as a standard online backup service as the costs could escalate quickly. For online backups you’d want something more like You also wouldn’t use Glacier to swap or make available files for download or sharing as request and transfer costs would add up.

For most of us, especially in the Small Business market, Amazon Glacier is unlikely to come into play.