Dropbox, OpenSimulator, Zmanda, Ubuntu One and SmugMug are some of the best known names in online business. They all have at least one thing in common: Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3). In addition, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) runs its business on S3. If you need storage that's scalable and highly available at a very low price point, Amazon's S3 might be your solution. If marketing-style promises don't convince you, there are six other reasons to choose Amazon's S3 for your critical business storage needs.
1. Pay-As-You-Go Pricing
With no monthly minimum costs, you pay only for what you use. If you use a lot of storage, as in 500TB or more, you'll pay less than $0.10 per GB per month. You'll pay less than 10 cents per gigabyte per month for all Reduced Redundancy Storage, regardless of volume. There are also fees for data transfer, but if your volume stays relatively constant, your actual costs could be very low.
Amazon has purposely made its S3 difficult to compete with. For example, SmugMug uses approximately two petabytes of S3 for storing 1.3 billion photos. On its own, it can't use and service that much storage for twice the price of S3.
Amazon also offers a free version of its service. If you run a small business with light storage needs, each user could sign up for 5 GB of free S3 storage. Five gigabytes might provide you with all the storage you'll need at a cost that's easy to swallow. Fortunately, you can easily transition into a paid S3 user and change nothing except how much you store.
2. Regional Storage
If your business has multiple locations, you can selectively store your data for better upload and download efficiency. Currently, Amazon has five worldwide storage locations that it refers to as "regions" to better serve your needs. You may choose from U.S. Standard, U.S. West (Northern California), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Singapore) and Asia Pacific (Tokyo).
Be aware that if you select certain regions (Northern California and Tokyo), your prices increase significantly. The difference in price probably originates from a combination of real-estate prices and power costs for the regional data center locations.
3. Unlimited, Tiered Storage
Amazon offers two storage tiers: Standard and Reduced Redundancy Storage. The standard tier sets the bar very high for its competitors and would-be competitors at 99.999999999 percent durability and 99.99 percent availability. The standard tier also provides versioning for your objects so that you can restore an older version of a stored object.
The Reduced Redundancy Storage (RRS) tier provides 99.99 percent durability and 99.99 percent availability. Reduced redundancy does not mean there's no redundancy built into your stored objects. Amazon still does its due diligence in maintaining redundant copies of data across data centers. The system's designed to prevent the loss of data in a single data center disaster or incident. How much better is Amazon's RRS than no redundancy? 400 times better.
Simplicity. It's in the name of the service: Simple Storage Service. The service is minimalistic and has few features by design. Why is that a positive selling point? Fewer features means less complexity. You may store objects in your bucket ranging in size from a single byte up to 5 terabytes.
Don't confuse simplicity with reliability. Amazon's service is reliable, secure, flexible and designed to work with a wide range of protocols and technologies.
5. Disaster Recovery
Could you really use S3 for data disaster recovery (DR) for a single or multiple site for your business? Yes, you can. S3 provides the correct mix of durability, scalability, availability and security for a DR solution. With unlimited storage, versioning and Amazon's AWS Import/Export for large data clumps, it's an excellent DR solution.
Let Amazon handle your DR and emergency backup needs. You'll have to compare its pricing with creating your own DR site, maintaining hardware and verifying backups. For a few cents per gigabyte, it's a big worry off your shoulders.
6. Virtual Private Cloud
What's better than building your own virtual private cloud with a few mouse clicks? The answer is "Nothing." Using Amazon's Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) offering, you can set up an entire infrastructure complete with a private IP address range, public and private subnets, and store your data in S3. It's your very own data center in a box with enterprise-level storage to use at will.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.