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Amazon Launches Glacier, a Slow Moving Archiving and Backup Platform

Amazon Web Services has launched Glacier, a new low-cost storage service optimized for data archiving and backup.

Glacier can be used for archiving enterprise data, media assets, research, and scientific data, financial and healthcare records, and long-term database backups, Amazon said Tuesday. With Glacier, enterprises can shift their long-term storage backups offsite and into the cloud while phasing out the more costly tape backup and other storage platforms.

Glacier supports secure transfer of data over Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and automatically stores data encrypted at rest using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256, a secure symmetric-key encryption standard using 256-bit encryption keys, Amazon explained. Customers can also control access to data using AWS' Identity and Access Management (IAM). 

Amazon Web ServicesAmazon Glacier customers sign up for data storage starting at just $0.01 per gigabyte per month, but prices vary by region and size of data. Amazon's other storage service, Simple Storage Service (S3) costs customers between $0.055 and $0.125 per gigabyte per month for standard storage, making Glacier particularly attractive for data that is rarely retrieved.

Customers can retrieve up to 5% of your average monthly storage (pro-rated daily) for free each month, Amazon said. Customers that need to retrieve more than that amount of data in a month are charged a retrieval fee starting at $0.01 per gigabyte. Additionally, there is a pro-rated charge of $0.03 per gigabyte for items deleted before 90 days.

"Companies typically over-pay for data archiving,” Amazon said.

Customers generally have upfront fees to set up the storage platform, and then have to guess what the capacity requirements would be, Amazon said. The estimates are generally too high because IT is "understandably" over-provisioning storage to make sure there is enough capacity for data redundancy and unexpected growth, the company said. Overprovisioning results in unused storage and wasted money, Amazon said.

Glacier follows "pay-for-what-you-use" cloud pricing model, as customers are charged only for the space that is actually used. This is in stark contrast to other cloud storage services, where users pay a monthly or annual fee upfront for a block of storage space. With Amazon Glacier, the price tag goes up and down depending on how much data the customer is using at a given time. There is also no minimum or maximum amount of data users can store, Amazon said. The pay-as-you-go model means IT departments don't have to over provision storage at the start, but scale up as necessary.

As its name suggests, the new service is intended for slow storage, as data retrieval make take several hours, according to Amazon. S3 is for frequent access and. Amazon envisions customers using Glacier and S3 in a complementary manner, and other links between Glacier and other Amazon Web Services offerings are in the works. The company will also be introducing a capability that will allow users to transfer data between S3 and Glacier at a later date.

Data is stored as archives, which can store up to 40 TB at a time, and then organized into vaults. The vaults can be accessed using Amazon's Identity and Access Management service, Amazon said.

"Amazon Glacier removes the need for complex and time-consuming capacity planning, ongoing negotiations with multiple hardware and software vendors, specialized training, and maintenance of offsite facilities or transportation of storage media to third party offsite locations," Amazon said on its site.

Glacier is currently available in regions in the United States, including US-East in northern Virginia, US-West in northern California, and US-West in Oregon, as well as EU-West in Ireland and Asia/Pacific in Japan.

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Fahmida Y. Rashid is a Senior Contributing Writer for SecurityWeek. She has experience writing and reviewing security, core Internet infrastructure, open source, networking, and storage. Before setting out her journalism shingle, she spent nine years as a help-desk technician, software and Web application developer, network administrator, and technology consultant.