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Amazon Glacier – Usage, Benefits, and More

Touted to be the most reasonable data storage solution on the cloud, Amazon Glacier is known for its robust data security. Irrespective of the formats, ranging from video and image files to text and zip files, it systematically stores the data and provides significant cost savings.

A Brief Know-How of Amazon Glacier

Before that, why use Amazon Glacier when Amazon S3 is available as an affordable storage solution? Because it is built for long-term storage of the cold data needed less frequently, whereas the latter is more feasible for frequent and quick data accessibility. An organization can store an endless amount of data in Amazon Glacier across different availability zones. Moreover, the data stored is encrypted at rest and immutable by default.

Amazon Glacier fundamentally consists of archives and vaults. Being a REST-based service, it is evidently built on the REST architecture. Notification and job configuration resources are also included in its data model. But what is the main purpose of these vaults and archives?

In archives, any type of data can be stored, including documents, videos, images, and audio. They can either be uploaded directly as individual files or converted into ZIP and TAR formats for multiple files. While an endless number of archives are allowed to be created, the maximum size of each archive cannot exceed 40 terabytes and they cannot be updated post-creation.

On the other hand, vaults are containers used to group and store numerous archives. A single AWS account can host a thousand vaults and every vault can be assigned with access policies and controls. For creating, deleting, locking, listing, tagging, and various other vault operations, AWS SDKs are used.

Key Uses of Amazon Glacier

Being an economical solution for cold data storage, Amazon Glacier has practical applications across different areas.

Archiving for Regulatory and Compliance Needs

Confidential or personally identifiable information is required to be stored for many years so that an organization is capable of meeting the regulatory and compliance needs efficiently. Moreover, in such scenarios, the size of the data can exceed petabytes, where Glacier comes to the rescue. Industries like healthcare and financial services particularly can bank on the Glacier data model.

Deep Archive

Always putting efforts to make improvements in their products, Amazon consistently keeps rolling out new features. A recent example of this can be the AWS Deep Archive, which is the new storage tier of Glacier. Pegged to be an efficacious, very long-term data storage solution, Deep Archive comes with ever lower costs compared to the standard tier of Glacier. It is the best fit to maintain resiliency in data sets for a decade or longer.

Legacy Storage Replacement

It goes without saying that traditional data storage is abundantly costlier than modern storage solutions built with native cloud services. This has further prompted most organizations to move to the cloud, which in turn has increased the adoption of Amazon Glacier. It can be highly attributed to the elimination of upfront costs and the hassles of hardware maintenance.

Disaster Recovery Backup and Restore

Increasingly critical for business continuity, disaster recovery planning ensures that an organization is protected during uncertain events. It has gained the utmost emphasis, whether it is the cloud environment or hybrid environment. Amazon Glacier delivers secure and durable backup at a lower cost compared to other data storage solutions. Consider a situation where an organization has to restore its data. Different data retrieval measures will ensure that everything is up and running, irrespective of the Recovery Time Objective (RTO). When it comes to the hybrid cloud, Volume Gateway or File Gateway are alternatives. While the former provides access to S3 objects through protocols like NFS, the latter allows block storage for applications using iSCSI.

Multimedia Data Storage

Several applications are linked to abundant traffic of multimedia data. Here, Amazon Glacier is the data storage of choice, as most times the data size is close to petabytes. Twitter is a prime example of such a use case.

Interminable Data Libraries

Several libraries mandatorily store voluminous data for the long term. In these cases, the cost is not a challenge but the durability of S3 objects is. Maintaining such voluminous data becomes an increasingly tedious activity. Amazon Glacier is a fully managed data storage service and features self-healing, thereby performing periodical data integrity checks and making sure that unverified objects are repaired automatically.

Archiving Digital Media Assets

Working with digital media inevitably involves handling large files. May it be news footage or a digital asset for a game or a long movie, gigabytes/terabytes of video files are involved, which are required to be stored for a long term and entail a massive cost. Amazon Glacier not only comes with a low cost for such data storage but also helps retrieve the files whenever they are needed. In turn, it allows a simple, affordable, and efficient data workflow.

Key Features of Amazon Glacier

  • Data Retrieval: Provided mainly for different speeds and greater cost-effectiveness. This feature includes 3 different retrieval methods, namely, bulk, standard, and expedited.
  • Amazon Glacier Select: Enables running queries on archives directly, removing the hassle of extracting an entire archive. This significantly ebbs the time-to-access.
  • Vault Lock: Allows implementation of policies to put locks on the vaults.
  • Access Control: Equips for secure access to the management console and Glacier data using AWS IAM. Multiple users can be created and separate policies can be specified for each user for allowing or restricting access based on roles.
  • Vault Inventory: An inventory of archives in each vault containing the description, creation date, and name.
  • AWS Software Development Kits (SDKs): Runs all retrieval and upload functions. Supports multiple frameworks and programming languages, such as .NET, PHP, JAVA, and Python.

Benefits of Amazon Glacier

Quick Data Retrievals

With the above-mentioned 3 retrieval options offered by Amazon Glacier, the data is restored within a few minutes that could have normally taken hours. These options are favorable for active archive uses.

Compliance Capabilities

Integrated with AWS CloudTrail for logging, monitoring, and retaining API call activities, Amazon Glacier supports 3 different types of encryption. In addition, it supports numerous compliance certifications and security standards, such as EU GDPR, HIPAA, FISMA, and PCI-DSS.

Highly Cost-Effective

Considering the categories of object storage, the cost-effectiveness of Amazon Glacier is unmatched, when it comes to storing massive amounts of data. An organization can pay for what it uses, without any upfront cost or commitment. Moreover, the data can be retained for a user to apply in key areas such as media, compliance, analytics, machine learning (ML), data lakes, and the internet of things (IoT).

Better Scalability and Durability

Running on the largest cloud infrastructure in the world and built for absolute solidity, Amazon Glacier automatically distributes the data across at least 3 accessibility zones separated geographically within an AWS region. The data can be automatically replicated to other regions of AWS.

To Sum Up

A top-tier solution for cold storage, Amazon Glacier offers a highly durable, secure, and cost-effective measure for organizations that look to offload the data for the long term. Applicable for various use cases and with the launch of AWS Deep Archive, the capabilities of Amazon Glacier continue to grow and the status quo is expected to prevail in the foreseeable future. Whether an organization is on the AWS cloud or not, their cold storage data requirements can be fulfilled with ease using Amazon Glacier.

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