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Amazon Glacier Lets You Back Up Your Entire Photo Library on the Cheap


The number one reason for data loss is human error, and one of the other major reasons is the failure of storage mediums. When examining ways to store digital photos for a lifetime back in 2009, we noted that entrusting your data to the servers and engineers of major cloud companies (e.g. Amazon and its S3) was a better option than trying to back up your data yourself. Even though Amazon’s S3 has long been an attractive option — after all, many online photo sharing services use it for storing your data — its pricing of around around $0.14/GB/month means that storing just a terabyte costs $100+/month.

That changes today with the introduction of Amazon Glacier. It’s a new uber-low-cost storage service for people who just want a place to dump their data without having to worry about it. Pricing starts at a crazy-low $0.01/GB/month.

If you have 5 terabytes of data you need to back up, you’ll only be paying $50 per month instead of the $550+ you’d be paying with S3.

The tradeoff of the whole thing is that the service is geared towards long term archiving and infrequently accessed data. Reading the data is extremely slow, so it’s great for keeping your data safe long term but not for you if you need to constantly work with the images.

Here’s what Amazon’s senior cloud computing manager Jeff Barr says about the service:

Glacier will store your data with high durability (the service is designed to provide average annual durability of 99.999999999% per archive). Behind the scenes, Glacier performs systematic data integrity checks and heals itself as necessary with no intervention on your part. There’s plenty of redundancy and Glacier can sustain the concurrent loss of data in two facilities.

[…] S3 is optimized for rapid retrieval (generally tens to hundreds of milliseconds per request). Glacier is not (we didn’t call it Glacier for nothing). With Glacier, your retrieval requests are queued up and honored at a somewhat leisurely pace. Your archive will be available for downloading in 3 to 5 hours.

Until some consumer-oriented apps are available, using the service might be a bit difficult for non-techie folk. Once they are, however, this looks like it will be one heck of an option for making sure your digital files live as long as you do.

Image credit: Glacier, South Shetlands by Alistair Knock