5 Reasons not to use AWS Glacier for Data Backup & Archive
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5 Reasons not to use AWS Glacier for Data Backup & Archive

Before diving into each of the points below, I want to clarify that this is not an attack on AWS Glacier and Glacier Deep Storage. Rather, since Assurance IT is a trusted cloud storage provider, with a lot of expertise in protecting and securing data, this blog was designed to describe important items to consider, before storing your data in AWS Glacier.

What is Glacier & Glacier Deep Archive

Let’s start with a quick overview. AWS Glacier is an online data storage service provided by AWS. Glacier provides you with simple, cloud-based data storage that can be consumed in a scale up or scale down method. Amazon Glacier is positioned as long-term storage for data that is infrequently required. In other words, it is for data that will not need to be accessed or retrieved quickly. This long-term, slow-moving method is known as cold storage; hence the reason AWS named their service Glacier.

AWS Deep Archive is a subset of a storage class in Glacier. Deep Archive is a very long-term storage solution that offers even lower prices than Glacier’s Standard tier and meant for keeping data sets for 5 to 10 years and sometimes longer. Depending on the type of business, these storage requirements are often designed to meet regulatory compliance needs, etc. So, let’s look a little closer and review some of the reasons you should question Glacier Storage.

1.Don’t know what type of media your data resides

This may not sound like a big deal, frankly, it may not be. Given the lack of transparency by AWS to provide details on where and on what type of medium the data resides on, (spinning disks, tape, external hard drives) a lot of questions come to mind. Many blogs online speculate on how the data is stored and where it ultimately resides. Yes, AWS does publish their data center “locations” so we can assume we know where the data is located. However, I ask…does that data remain there, or does it move around. Is it on tape, on drives, external USB drives that get plugged in when needed? This does not give that layer of comfort many individuals and organizations need, especially when referring to an organization’s second most valuable asset. Their data!

2.Difficult to budget your yearly offsite storage costs

We all know that IT budgets are sacred and, in many situations, diminishing. Budgeting for an invaluable topic like data protection is not something to put on the back burner. It is still important to understand the costs associated with both protecting / storing and restoring your data. Have you visited the Glacier site to understand storage and retrieval costs? There is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to the retrieval costs and frankly the speed of retrieval. No organization wants to get caught off guard especially when disaster strikes. When it comes time to restore/download 10s or 100s of terabytes, do you really want to be waiting impatiently and worried about an exorbitant bill? When budgeting for something as important as data protection and restoration, not being able to calculate costs could cause added stress when disaster strikes.

3.Time to access and retrieve your data (RTO is important!)

What’s your business’s RTO? Does Glacier meet that? Thestorage classes of Amazon S3 Glacier stand to be cheaper because it is mostlikely lower performant. Below are the 3 “retrieval options available and thetypical time they can get “access” to their data. This ‘means that the datawill not be digitally available and a time delay is to be expected.

For the time of access and retrieval, users are providedwith 3 options by storage class of classic S3 Glacier. These are:

Bulk: Retrieving bulk requests stands to be the slowest option and the data is accessible after the duration of about 5-12 hours. For the purpose of restoring data in huge amounts that are not immediately in demand, it stands to be the most affordable option available.

Standard: Customers get access to the data in thespan of 3 to 5 hours with the option of standard retrievals.

Expedited: Accessing the data is possible in expedited retrieval within minutes. This option is the fastest option of all 3, however can get rather expensive as well.

4.As data grows, so does uncertainty around retrieval cost

Data retrieval costs are clearly available on the AWS website; however, we have not seen where these costs are guaranteed to remain the same throughout the term of the contract. The entire goal of AWS Glacier storage is to allow organizations to store data for cheap, with the hopes of never having to access or retrieve it. Rest assured there will be a time when that data will need to be retrieved. What will it cost you? Assurance IT recommends several data retrieval exercises yearly to confirm data integrity. Don’t all businesses do these restore exercises?

Here is a helpful tool available online helping to identify the costs of AWS Glacier Storage. UNOFFICIAL AWS Glacier Calculator to help with costs. http://liangzan.net/aws-glacier-calculator/

S3 Glacier & S3 Glacier Deep Archive Comparison Table

 Parameter    S3 Glacier    S3 Glacier Deep Archive    Retrieval Speed

  5 to 12 hours for bulk

 4 to 5 hours for standard

 Minutes for expedited    48 hours for bulk

 12 hours for standard

5.Glacier & Glacier Deep Archive is not part of a comprehensive DRaaS plan

It’s important to note that data protection is part andparcel of an organization’s Disaster Recovery (DR) strategy. Data sitting inGlacier Storage doesn’t inherently provide the ability to use that data in a DRsituation. Having data stored offsite is only one component of a comprehensiveDR strategy. Having data with a provider like Assurance IT can increase theability to augment your DR and Business Continuity strategy seamlessly.

In summary.

If you are looking for a quick, easy, and “dirty” way to store data offsite, AWS Glacier is an option. However, Assurance IT has proudly built a trusted business on the basis of storing and protecting an organization’s data and providing a failsafe option for the client’s critical infrastructure. Assurance IT not only provides a “cold storage” solution but we differentiate from the competition especially when it comes to AWS Glacier and Glacier Deep Archive. Assurance IT provides comprehensive short- and long-term storage solutions for companies of all sizes integrated into your DR strategy. The goal is not to provide a simple “storage repository”, but rather a comprehensive solution to properly tier your backups based on retention requirements to match your organization’s Restore Point Objectives (RPO) and Return Time Objectives (RTO) requirements.


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