Amazon Reduced Redundancy Cloud Storage

Cloud computingGoogle’s recent entry into the cloud storage market has only spurred Amazon on to compete harder.

Amazon responded quickly to announce a new form of storage for its S3 product. But it’s an oddball plan.

The cloud is supposed to provide reliability and redundancy, yet this new Amazon storage is inherently less reliable. Reduced redundancy storage is designed to be cheaper, and it will offer fewer backup and security benefits.

Is it possible to justify signing up for a less reliable cloud?

Understanding Durability

According to Amazon, its regular S3 storage has a durability of 99.999999% (also known as ’11 nines’).

The idea is this: if you host 10,000 files, Amazon might lose one in every ten million years or so. In short, your data is safe. In fact, Amazon’s system can survive a complete, simultaneous failure at two locations.

Reduced redundancy is different.

With reduced redundancy storage, Amazon offers durability of 99.99%; that same account holding 10,000 files might suffer one loss per year. It’s nowhere near as good a service, but for some users, it won’t matter.

Twitter avatars are a good example of non-essential data that could suffer a few losses without problems. You’d probably place more value on your company’s accounts, though.

Is It Still a Reliable Backup?

In mathematical terms, yes.

One of the classic uses of Amazon S3 is for backups of local data, such as a hard drive. You’d probably store this data on a reduced redundancy plan. Why?

Your local hard drive probably doesn’t offer 99.99% durability, so reduced redundancy is an improvement.

In addition, you’d probably store more than one copy of the backup. You might take a snapshot every day, for example, so if one disappears, you’ll still have the others. It’s more certainty than most users ask for.

And the cost saving is massive. At the lowest redundancy level, the price for storage drops from 15 cents per GB to 10 cents.

Cost savings like this only kick in for massive sites and services, but if you run an online backup company, you’ll quickly save thousands of dollars. Backupify, for example, could see its storage costs drop by one third. Now we’re starting to see the appeal.

Is Reduced Redundancy Worth It?

Amazon is doing the right thing by adding a new pricing tier and letting users decide how important their data is. In turn, this should bring down the cost of the cloud.

So far, price has not been a major obstacle for users, but this new pricing plan could open it up to smaller businesses.

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