AWS S3 Getting Started: Understanding Storage Classes

published on 29 December 2023

When getting started with AWS S3, most people would likely agree that understanding the available storage classes is critical for optimizing performance and costs.

Well, by learning the differences between S3 Standard, S3 Infrequent Access, S3 Glacier, and S3 Intelligent-Tiering, you can select the ideal storage class based on your specific data access patterns and budget.

In this post, you'll get a comprehensive overview of S3 storage classes, their respective use cases, pricing models, and data retrieval options. You'll also learn best practices for cost optimization, ensuring data resilience, and automating transitions between classes with lifecycle policies.

Introduction to AWS S3 and Its Storage Classes

AWS S3 (Amazon Simple Storage Service) provides scalable object storage in the cloud. Understanding the different S3 storage classes available can help optimize costs and data access needs.

Exploring Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3)

S3 enables storing and retrieving any amount of data over the internet. Data is stored as objects in buckets. Buckets are containers that hold objects.

S3 storage classes allow picking cost-effective storage based on access frequency and durability needs. Storage classes differ in features and pricing.

Understanding AWS S3 Storage Classes

S3 Standard offers high durability and availability with frequent access. It has low latency and high throughput.

S3 Intelligent-Tiering moves data between access tiers based on usage patterns. This automates cost optimization as access needs change.

S3 Standard-Infrequent Access (IA) is for data accessed less frequently, but still quickly when needed. Costs less than S3 Standard per GB.

S3 One Zone-Infrequent Access stores data in a single AZ and costs 20% less than S3 IA. Data resilience is lower.

S3 Glacier (Flexible Retrieval) offers lowest costs for archiving data rarely accessed. Retrieval times are slower.

Identifying Use Cases and Data Storage Considerations

Frequently accessed data suits S3 Standard. Infrequently accessed data suits S3 IA or S3 One Zone-IA. Archived data suits S3 Glacier.

Consider data importance, access frequency and budget when deciding storage classes.

Strategies for Cost Optimization with S3 Storage Classes

Analyze access patterns over time and transition between classes with S3 Lifecycle policies to reduce costs.

Use S3 Intelligent-Tiering to optimize costs automatically instead of manual transitions.

S3 Lifecycle policies transition objects between classes on schedules. This automates cost optimizations.

S3 Intelligent-Tiering monitors access patterns. It moves data to optimal access tiers to reduce costs.

How do I get into S3?

Getting started with Amazon S3 is straightforward with just a few steps.

Step 1: Create a Bucket

The first thing you need to do is create an S3 bucket. A bucket is a container for objects stored in S3. When creating a bucket, you can choose options like the storage class, access controls, and region. Some best practices when creating a bucket include:

  • Give the bucket a unique, descriptive name
  • Enable versioning to easily recover from unintended overwrites and deletions
  • Set an encryption method to protect data at rest

You can create buckets through the S3 console, AWS CLI, SDKs, or CloudFormation templates.

Step 2: Upload an Object

Once your bucket is created, you can start uploading objects. Objects are the files you store in S3 such as images, videos, documents, etc. You can upload objects through various methods like the console, CLI, SDKs, etc. Some tips:

  • Organize objects into folders using a key name prefix
  • Set metadata like content-type so objects display correctly
  • Use multi-part upload for large objects

Step 3: Download an Object

Downloading objects allows you to retrieve files stored in your S3 bucket. You can enable public access to give anyone download permissions or require authentication for private data. To download objects, use the console, CLI, SDKs, or pre-signed URLs if public.

Step 4: Copy an Object

S3 allows you to easily copy objects between your own buckets or buckets owned by other accounts. This prevents having to download and re-upload when duplicating data. You can use the console, CLI, SDKs or set replication rules to regularly sync objects.

Step 5: Delete Objects and Bucket

You can delete versioned objects or delete marker to remove specific object versions. To delete a bucket, first empty all objects and object versions inside before removing it. You can also set lifecycle rules to expire old object versions automatically.

Next Steps

From here you can expand your S3 skills:

  • Set up static website hosting
  • Enable access logs and analytics
  • Build applications with the S3 API
  • Replicate objects across regions

Getting started with core S3 storage functionality is easy. As you build experience, you can leverage more advanced features for building cloud-native applications.

What is S3 used for?

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. You can use Amazon S3 to store and retrieve any amount of data at any time, from anywhere.

Some common use cases for Amazon S3 include:

  • Static website hosting - Store static assets like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and images to host a static website on Amazon S3. It's a cost-effective and scalable solution.

  • Backup and archival - Store backups, archives, and disaster recovery files in Amazon S3 for durability and availability. Data is stored across multiple facilities and servers.

  • Application hosting - Distribute content to end users via Amazon S3 by storing static and dynamic resources for web or mobile apps. Media distribution and software delivery can leverage Amazon S3.

  • Big Data analytics - Store and analyze vast amounts of data for analytics using Amazon S3. Data lakes built on Amazon S3 enable real-time analytics.

  • Storage for compute - Provide storage for EC2 compute instances and Lambda functions via Amazon S3 integration. These serverless options can directly access S3 assets.

In summary, Amazon S3 is a versatile storage service catering to various data storage needs - from media assets to analytics data to compute resources. Its scalability, security, and cost-efficiency make Amazon S3 suitable for most cloud storage use cases.

How do I create an AWS S3?

Creating an S3 bucket in AWS is straightforward with just a few steps:

  1. Sign in to the AWS Management Console and navigate to the S3 service.

  2. Click the "Create bucket" button.

  3. Enter a globally unique name for your bucket in the "Bucket name" field.

  4. Select the AWS region you want your bucket to reside in under "Region". For example, us-west-2 for Oregon.

  5. Under "Settings" configure additional options like enabling versioning or setting lifecycle rules if desired.

  6. Click "Create bucket" to complete the process.

That's the basics of creating an S3 bucket. Some key points to remember:

  • Bucket names must be globally unique across all AWS accounts
  • Choose the closest region to optimize latency and cost
  • Review the storage class options to match your access patterns
  • Configure bucket policies, CORS, encryption etc. as per your security needs

With just a few clicks you can start storing objects in S3. But additional configuration of access controls, data lifecycles, and performance tuning may be required for production workloads.

What is a S3 bucket in AWS?

An Amazon S3 bucket is the fundamental container used to store objects in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). Here are some key things to know about S3 buckets:

  • Buckets are the container and objects are the files stored inside buckets. You can store unlimited objects within a bucket.
  • Buckets must have a globally unique name across all existing bucket names in Amazon S3.
  • Buckets are defined at the region level. You create a bucket in a specific AWS region.
  • You can control access to buckets using access control lists and bucket policies.
  • Buckets can be configured for object versioning to keep multiple versions of objects.
  • Amazon handles underlying infrastructure for scalability, durability and availability.
  • There is no limit to the number of objects you can store in a bucket. Maximum object size is 5TB.
  • AWS offers different storage classes from frequent access to archival storage to optimize costs.

In summary, an S3 bucket is a container used to store objects in Amazon S3. Choosing bucket names wisely and configuring them appropriately is important to get started with S3 storage.


Getting Started with S3 Standard: The Default Storage Class

S3 Standard is the default storage class in Amazon S3, offering high performance and frequent access to data. It delivers low-latency and high throughput, making it optimal for hosting dynamic websites, content distribution, mobile apps, gaming, and big data analytics.

Evaluating S3 Standard Performance and Access Speed

S3 Standard provides frequent and rapid access to your data. With S3 Standard:

  • Data is stored redundantly across multiple devices and facilities.
  • Amazon commits to 99.999999999% durability and 99.99% availability.
  • You can expect access times averaging 3-5 seconds for files less than 1MB.
  • Larger files may take longer based on network conditions.
  • Access speeds are faster than S3 Infrequent Access or Glacier storage classes.

This combination of high speed and availability makes S3 Standard ideal for data requiring millisecond access times.

Real-World S3 Standard Use Cases

Common use cases well-suited for S3 Standard include:

  • Hosting dynamic websites and web apps
  • Storing content for streaming and downloads
  • Frequently accessed data analytics
  • Mobile and gaming apps
  • Hot data requiring rapid access

For data requiring millisecond access, S3 Standard fits the bill over other storage classes optimized for less frequent access.

Ensuring Data Resilience and High Availability with S3 Standard

With S3 Standard, Amazon replicates data across a minimum of three Availability Zones, providing durable storage with high availability. Key capabilities include:

  • 99.999999999% durability for redundancy against data loss
  • 99.99% availability over a given year
  • Automatic recovery from failures
  • Versioning support

Together, these S3 safeguards help ensure your data remains resilient and accessible.

Understanding S3 Standard Pricing Model

With S3 Standard you only pay for what you use. Pricing considerations include:

  • Per GB storage rates ($0.023/GB in US East)
  • Data retrieval and transfer charges
  • Number of requests made

Cost optimization tips include bucket lifecycle transitions to Infrequent Access or Glacier for aging data.

Creating an AWS S3 Bucket: A Step-by-Step Guide

Follow these steps to create an S3 Standard bucket via AWS Console:

  1. Login to AWS Management Console
  2. Navigate to S3 Storage Service
  3. Click "Create Bucket"
  4. Enter unique bucket name
  5. Select desired AWS region
  6. Accept default settings for S3 Standard
  7. Review and confirm bucket creation

You can now upload and access objects in your S3 Standard bucket for high performance data storage and retrieval.

Leveraging S3 Infrequent Access Classes for Cost-Effective Storage

S3 Standard-Infrequent Access (S3 Standard-IA) and S3 One Zone-Infrequent Access (S3 One Zone-IA) are two storage classes optimized for data that is accessed less frequently, but still requires high availability and fast access when needed. These infrequent access tiers can provide significant cost savings over S3 Standard for workloads like backups, disaster recovery files, and older data that is still actively used.

Determining Use Cases for Infrequent Access Storage

S3 Standard-IA and S3 One Zone-IA are well-suited for:

  • Long-term file backups and archives
  • Disaster recovery files needing rapid restore capability
  • Older data that is still actively accessed but less frequently

For example, a 3-month old backup file may only need accessing once a quarter. By moving such backup files to an infrequent access tier, costs can be reduced while still retaining rapid availability when restores are required.

Comparing Data Availability in Infrequent Access Classes

Both S3 Standard-IA and S3 One Zone-IA offer high durability and availability:

  • S3 Standard-IA stores data redundantly across multiple geographically separated Availability Zones (AZs) to provide 99.9% availability and 11 9's of durability.
  • S3 One Zone-IA stores data in a single AZ and has slightly lower availability at 99.5%, but matches Standard-IA's exceptional durability.

So while S3 One Zone-IA carries marginally higher risk of disruption if an AZ goes down, it offers maximum cost savings for archived data. S3 Standard-IA provides higher availability for mission-critical data at slightly higher costs.

Maximizing Cost Savings with Infrequent Access Options

Cost savings from using infrequent access tiers instead of S3 Standard can be significant:

  • S3 Standard-IA pricing is $0.0125 per GB - around 68% cheaper than S3 Standard.
  • S3 One Zone-IA pricing is $0.01 per GB - 76% less than S3 Standard.

For a 100 TB archive, S3 One Zone-IA would cost $1,000 per month - saving $3,000 compared to S3 Standard.

Automating Data Transitioning with S3 Lifecycle Management

You can leverage S3 Lifecycle policies to automatically transition objects between storage classes without administrative overhead. For example:

  • Transition backups to S3 Standard-IA after 30 days
  • Then to S3 Glacier for archiving after 365 days

This automates cost-optimization as data ages.

Breaking Down Infrequent Access Pricing Structures

Beyond lower per GB rates, infrequent access tiers include:

  • Per GB retrieval fees (to offset lower base storage pricing)
  • Minimum storage duration of 30 days

So while providing big cost savings, you need to budget for data retrieval fees and meet 30 day minimums. Tuning Lifecycle policies to balance costs and access needs is key.

Understanding S3 Glacier Storage Classes for Data Archiving

S3 Glacier and S3 Glacier Instant Retrieval are designed for data that is infrequently accessed and can tolerate slightly slower access times in exchange for lower storage costs. These storage classes are well-suited for archiving use cases.

Archiving Use Cases: When to Choose S3 Glacier

S3 Glacier storage classes are ideal for data that:

  • Needs to be retained for months or years due to regulatory compliance or internal policies
  • Is considered "cooler", meaning it does not require frequent access
  • Includes digital assets, media files, health records, or scientific data sets that need durable long-term storage

By archiving infrequently accessed data in S3 Glacier, storage costs can be reduced substantially compared to S3 Standard while still providing high durability.

Exploring Data Retrieval Options in S3 Glacier

Retrieving archived objects from S3 Glacier involves a retrieval fee plus data transfer charges. There are three retrieval options:

  • Expedited - data accessible in 1 to 5 minutes with higher fees
  • Standard - data accessible in 3 to 5 hours with lower fees
  • Bulk - large data sets retrieved over days with lowest fees

Choosing Standard or Bulk retrieval optimizes costs but planning ahead is required due to longer access times.

Calculating Long-Term Cost Savings with S3 Glacier

While S3 Glacier has retrieval fees, the extremely low storage pricing results in significant long-term savings for infrequently accessed data:

  • Storage is $0.004 per GB/month for S3 Glacier and S3 Glacier Instant Retrieval
  • This represents over 90% savings compared to S3 Standard IA storage classes
  • Retrieval fees only apply when data needs to be accessed from the archive
  • For cooler data that won't need frequent access, S3 Glacier offers extreme cost efficiency

Guaranteeing Data Durability with S3 Glacier

The S3 Glacier storage classes provide the same high level of data durability as S3 Standard, with an astonishing 99.999999999% durability:

  • Data redundancy and checksum validation ensures durability
  • Versioning can further protect against accidental overwrites or deletes

You can archive data for decades with confidence it will remain intact. The extreme low cost over time makes S3 Glacier very compelling for long-term data retention.

Archiving Data with AWS CLI: A S3 Glacier Tutorial

The AWS CLI provides a simple way to archive data into S3 Glacier without writing any code. Follow these steps:

  1. Configure an S3 bucket with S3 Glacier or S3 Glacier Instant Retrieval storage class
  2. Upload files to the S3 bucket using aws s3 cp
  3. Set a lifecycle policy to transition objects to the archive after 30 days using aws s3api put-bucket-lifecycle

Now uploaded files will automatically be archived to Glacier after 30 days in an cost-optimized way!

Using the AWS CLI with S3 Glacier allows automating backups to durable long-term archives while significantly reducing storage costs.

Optimizing with S3 Intelligent-Tiering for Dynamic Access Patterns

S3 Intelligent-Tiering is an AWS S3 storage class that automatically optimizes costs by moving data between two access tiers based on changing access patterns. This capability makes it well-suited for data with unpredictable or evolving access needs.

Benefiting from Automatic Tier Transitions in S3 Intelligent-Tiering

S3 Intelligent-Tiering monitors access patterns of objects stored in the bucket and moves them between two access tiers:

  • A frequent access tier with slightly higher storage costs than S3 Standard for high performance
  • A lower-cost infrequent access tier similar to S3 Standard-Infrequent Access

Objects that have not been accessed for 30 consecutive days are moved to the infrequent access tier. This automatic transition between tiers removes the operational overhead of monitoring data access and manually moving objects between storage classes to optimize costs.

Applying S3 Intelligent-Tiering to Diverse Use Case Scenarios

With its automated tiering capability, S3 Intelligent-Tiering can suit many use cases where access patterns are likely to change over an object's lifetime:

  • Long-term storage of scientific data, media assets, genomic data where access patterns shift
  • Backup data with partial restore needs over time
  • Any data with unpredictable access requiring resilient first-tier storage

For such evolving access patterns, Intelligent-Tiering eliminates the need to predict changes and choose the most cost-optimal storage class.

Balancing Resilience with Cost in S3 Intelligent-Tiering

The frequent access tier in Intelligent-Tiering has high durability (99.999999999%) and availability (99.9%) similar to S3 Standard. However the infrequent tier has slightly lower durability (99.99999999%) and availability (99%) comparable to S3 Standard-IA. So while Intelligent-Tiering optimizes costs, it balances resilience by keeping one tier at a higher level.

Analyzing S3 Intelligent-Tiering Pricing for Budget Management

The frequent access tier pricing is slightly higher than S3 Standard. And objects transitioned to the infrequent tier are billed at Standard-IA rates. So Intelligent-Tiering data storage costs typically fall between Standard and Standard-IA. The increased costs from automatic tier transitions may need factoring into budgets.

Enabling Intelligent-Tiering on an AWS S3 Bucket

Intelligent-Tiering can be enabled on an S3 bucket using the AWS CLI:

aws s3api put-bucket-intelligent-tiering-configuration --bucket my-bucket  
--intelligent-tiering-configuration Status=Enabled,TransitionDays=30

This enables the automated storage class transitions in the bucket after 30 days of no access.

Conclusion: Selecting the Right AWS S3 Storage Class

In closing, a recap of the essential points on selecting appropriate S3 storage classes aligned to access patterns, resilience needs, and cost tolerances.

Summarizing Data Storage Properties and Class Selection

Here is a summary table relating data access frequency, criticality, and lifespan to suitable storage classes:

Data Access Frequency Data Criticality Data Lifespan Recommended Storage Class
Frequently accessed Critical Short-term S3 Standard
Infrequently accessed Non-critical Long-term S3 Glacier
Unknown Varies Unknown S3 Intelligent-Tiering

Best Practices for Optimizing S3 Storage Costs

Follow these tips for storage management using S3 Lifecycle policies and automation:

  • Enable Intelligent-Tiering to let AWS automatically optimize across access tiers
  • Set Lifecycle rules to transition less critical data to Infrequent Access tiers
  • Archive unused data to Glacier for long-term retention at lowest cost

Resources for Further Learning and AWS S3 Documentation

To learn more about getting started with AWS S3 storage management:

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