amazon glacier

Archiving film photos back in the days usually means having file cabinets full of negatives, slides, and prints. But of course, in the digital age, archiving photos means storing digital copies in hard drives and online cloud storage. For the majority of photographers, having a couple hundred gigabytes of online storage space is fine, but for some photography businesses like Lin and Jirsa Wedding Photography, the online archival demand can exceed a couple of terrabytes.

Amazon.com has a traditional cloud storage solution called S3. It is very reliable, but just like many cloud storage services, they cost around $0.14/GB/mo, or $100+/mo. Now, Amazon has just introduced Glacier for those who are seeking for a long-term, low-cost storage option for photo archival at an amazingly low cost of $0.01/GB/mo, or $10/mo for one terrabyte of data.

This means that if you have all those RAW files from the last several years taking up space in your hard drive, instead of just erasing them, you can store them online. Set it and forget it. The catch of course, is that Glacier is set up for data that you’re not going to be accessing repeatedly, since retrieval is slow. So it’s not for images you are currently working on. For that, you would want to use S3.


Here is how Amazon’s senior cloud computing manager Jeff Barr describes Glacier:

Glacier provides – at a cost as low as $0.01 (one US penny, one one-hundredth of a dollar) per Gigabyte, per month – extremely low cost archive storage. You can store a little bit, or you can store a lot (Terabytes, Petabytes, and beyond). There’s no upfront fee and you pay only for the storage that you use. You don’t have to worry about capacity planning and you will never run out of storage space. Glacier removes the problems associated with under or over-provisioning archival storage, maintaining geographically distinct facilities and verifying hardware or data integrity, irrespective of the length of your retention periods.

Glacier will store your data with high durability (the service is designed to provide average annual durability of 99.999999999% per archive). Behind the scenes, Glacier performs systematic data integrity checks and heals itself as necessary with no intervention on your part. There’s plenty of redundancy and Glacier can sustain the concurrent loss of data in two facilities.

At this point you may be thinking that this sounds just like Amazon S3, but Amazon Glacier differs from S3 in two crucial ways.

First, S3 is optimized for rapid retrieval (generally tens to hundreds of milliseconds per request). Glacier is not (we didn’t call it Glacier for nothing). With Glacier, your retrieval requests are queued up and honored at a somewhat leisurely pace. Your archive will be available for downloading in 3 to 5 hours.

Retrieval requests are priced differently, too. You can retrieve up to 5% of your average monthly storage, pro-rated daily, for free each month. Beyond that, you are charged a retrieval fee starting at $0.01 per Gigabyte (see the pricing page for details). So for data that you’ll need to retrieve in greater volume more frequently, S3 may be a more cost-effective service.


Thanks to PetaPixel for the article.