The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.Last week, in Part #1 of this article, I described the very cheap and also very reliable online backup services offered by Amazon. The two services are Amazon Simple Storage Service (usually called Amazon S3) and Amazon Glacier. The prices for these online services are much lower than any other cloud-based backup service I have seen. Amazon also has an excellent reputation for reliability and is used by large and small corporations alike, as well as by thousands of individuals. For details, you should read Part #1 of this article, still available in the Plus Edition newsletter's web site at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=26427.
Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) is the gold standard of online storage, backed by Amazon.com, Inc., a $100 billion company. S3 offers 99.999999999% durability of your data. It's designed to withstand the concurrent loss of 2 data centers without losing your data.
Amazon Glacier is equally reliable while offering an extremely low-cost storage service. It offers the same 99.999999999% durability. However, in order to keep costs low, Amazon Glacier is optimized for data that is infrequently accessed. Initiating retrieval from Glacier typically takes 3-5 hours, and Amazon charges for retrieving large amounts of data from Glacier.
You might choose S3 for fast access or Glacier for low cost; or, you might want to mix and match, backing up some folders to S3 and others to Glacier.
The cost of storing data in Amazon's servers is the lowest of any of the online services I have seen:
- $.01/gigabyte per month for backups to Amazon Glacier
- Retrieving your files from Glacier takes 3-5 hours plus the download time.
- Your initial backup will incur approximately $.05/gigabyte in per-request fees. Subsequent backups will incur very small fees.
- $.095/gigabyte per month for backups to Amazon S3
- No delay in retrieving files.
- Per-request fees are typically insignificant.
- Free Usage Tier: Up to 5 gigabytes free for 1 year
I prefer Amazon Glacier for one simple reason: it is super cheap! I also make backups to a local USB hard drive and simply use Amazon's services for insurance purposes. I feel that waiting 3 to 5 hours for files to be restored on Amazon Glacier is a minor inconvenience when both the original file(s) and the local backup copy on the USB hard drive have failed. However, if your needs are different and you feel you need immediate access to your saved files, you might prefer to use Amazon's more expensive S3 service. It is still cheaper than the backup services provided by other vendors.
In my mind, the biggest disadvantage of using these Amazon services is the complexity. Using the Amazon service alone, there is no easy method of transferring your files to Amazon's servers. Amazon apparently expects customers to either write their own software or to use one of the products from a number of third-party software companies to provide the interface between your computer(s) and Amazon's services.
Writing custom software is a good idea if you are a manager of a large IT department with a small army of programmers reporting to you. I am sure many corporations with terabytes of information to back up do write their own software to transfer data to and from Amazon. However, the average consumer will find that obtaining interface software from a third-party software producer can be far easier and more cost-effective. In this article, I will describe several of the more popular Amazon interface products available for Windows and Macintosh owners.
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