Amazon Glacier Backup Storage – Is it really worth it?

The one thing that everyone can agree on – keeping costs down is always a good thing. A quote resonates with me is ‘you make your money when you buy, not sell’.  When it comes to MSP’s – the margin is made when buying IaaS and SaaS solutions; bundling them up and on-selling at a fixed cost to the client. One that we hear a lot about is using Amazon Glacier as backup storage.

Amazon Glacier Backup Storage

What’s the appeal of Amazon Glacier?

Amazon Glacier has one simple point on appeal – cost. The overall cost of 1TB of Amazon Glacier storage is around US$5.12 which is around 20% of the cost of standard AWS S3 storage (approx. US$25.60 per TB).

It’s a pretty simple equation – buying storage from the same provider for 20% of the cost puts those savings directly into the bottom line of a client’s account.

Done and dusted…or is it? Let’s see.

The ‘Forgotten’ Costs of Amazon Glacier

Data Transfer

While the actual storage cost is rather appealing; there are additional factors when it comes to AWS storage. There are transfer costs involved which Amazon calls Transfer Out Pricing.

It’s a fairly simple idea; you’re charged for the data that’s transferred from AWS. Now when transferring from Glacier storage; to restore 1TB of data will start at a cost of $92.16.

You read that right – you’ll be charged nearly $100 per TB to restore your data. Talk about potential bill shock!

Data Retrieval

To add insult to data loss; there is another question you’ll be asked. How fast do you want your data back?

Data retrieval tiers have different access times with AWS and are outlined as follows:

Expedited – Access to the data is within minutes.

Standard – Access provided between 3 – 5 hours later.

Bulk – Data will be available for access after 5 to 12 hours.

The price for each of these tiers can be found here.

To summarise the potential pitfalls

As our parents used to tell us ‘if it looks too good to be true, it usually is’. The same goes for using Amazon Glacier for backup storage. While it’s great to save on storage costs; when it comes to backup data – it’s usually required:

  1. During a time when someone (either yourself or your client) is spending money on downtime and lost productivity.

Being charged higher rates to access and transfer data back in a recovery situation can just make an already bad situation worse.

What Amazon Storage is a better fit for backup data?

Amazon offers an AWS Standard-Infrequent Access storage tier is perfect for storing backup data. Its cost is around half of Standard S3 storage; a little higher when it comes to access but nowhere near as high as Glacier.

You also have access to your data at the very moment that you need it.

This means that it’s:

  1. Still lower cost than standard S3 storage.
  2. No delay in being able to access your data when you need it.
  3. No large bill shock for transferring the data back compared to Glacier.

Alternatives…

If you’re looking at cutting storage costs, as well as trying to work out (and avoid) additional charges then there are alternative cloud storage providers out there that cater for your needs.
Two of these that we’ve had great success with are BackBlaze B2 and Wasabi.

You could also enlist the services of a Managed Backup Service provider like Test My Backups; who have a wealth of knowledge and spend their time helping MSP’s sort out and stablise their backup offerings to their customers. Needing a full consultation; or just want someone to pass your ideas by before pushing forward – contact our team today.