Why you should consider Amazon's super cheap, super slow storage

A massively redundant offsite location is one of the safest places to stash your important data. There are lots of services that offer something like this, but they generally cost you tens (or hundreds) of dollars per year for a limited number of gigs. Amazon's new Glacier data vault is slower, but way cheaper, at just one penny per gig.

The service that Amazon is now offering should be familiar to anyone with experience with online storage. You pay some money, and you get access to a bunch of space on a server somewhere that you can fill with whatever crap you want. That crap will be encrypted up the wazoo to make sure that nobody else can access it, and a variety of techniques will ensure that the chances of anything happening to it are on the order of one in a hundred billion or so.

Amazon's Glacier is different than a conventional online storage system in two ways:

  • It's damn cheap. You'll pay just $0.01 per month per gigabyte. That's $1 per month for 100 gigs, or $10 per month per terabyte, which is less than 10% what Amazon charges for its S3 storage service. There are no tiers or set up fees, and Glacier can handle petabytes of data with no problem. Accessing more than 5% of your data costs $0.05 per 1,000 requests.
  • It's damn cheap because it's damn slow. It's easy to put your data into Glacier. Getting it out is also easy, it just takes a while. Instead of responding to a request for data immediately, Glacier puts you in a queue, and it'll take between three and five hours for your bytes to be retrieved and made ready for download.

It's easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to a three to five hour access time and write Glacier off as useless, but think about how much data you have lying around that you don't really want to lose but that you probably never, ever look at. Personally, I've got a bunch of old laptop hard drives in my closet that I don't want to get rid of, and Glacier would be a perfect place to store them: it would cost me less than a buck per month per drive, and it would be vastly safer than my closet is. And if I ever need anything off of them, does it matter that it may take five hours? Almost definitely not.

Glacier even makes sense to use as a media storage service: why not back up all of your pictures and music to it for cheap? Yes, you won't have immediate access to anything, but the Glacier backup is there in case your house gets robbed, burned down, trampled upon, and then sucked into the ninth dimension. All of your data will still be safe, and a five hour wait will be the least of your worries. And yes, it may cost you a couple bucks to get it all back at once, but if you need it happen, a couple bucks is nothing.

Amazon Glacier is up and flowing now, and you can sign up at the link below.

Amazon Glacier, via Lifehacker

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