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Daniel Favour for AWS Community Builders

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Cloud Storage in AWS

Cloud storage is a rapidly growing technology that provides users with the ability to store and access their data over the internet. With the increasing demand for cloud storage, the market is flooded with different types of cloud storage solutions, each with its unique set of features and benefits.

In this article, we will discuss what cloud storage is, types of data storage in the cloud, and storage services offered by AWS.

Cloud Storage Defined

Cloud storage is a cloud computing model that stores data on the Internet through a cloud computing provider who manages and operates data storage as a service. It’s delivered on demand with just-in-time capacity and costs, and eliminates buying and managing your own data storage infrastructure. This gives you agility, global scale and durability, with “anytime, anywhere” data access. - AWS

Cloud storage is a form of data storage that entails the use of remote servers, which can be accessed over the internet, rather than relying on local servers or personal computers. A cloud storage provider manages, maintains, and backs up the stored data, making it possible for users to access their data from any device connected to the internet.

This approach to data storage offers several key benefits, such as scalability, accessibility, and disaster recovery, which are attractive to individuals and organizations seeking to store large amounts of data. In addition, cloud storage can be utilized for a variety of purposes, including backups, file sharing, and big data analytics.

Types of Data Storage in the Cloud

Choosing the right type of data storage in the cloud can be a complex task, as each option is designed to serve a specific purpose. To help make informed decisions about data storage needs, it's important to understand the different types of cloud storage available. In this section, we will dive into the 3 main types of data storage used in the cloud, including:

  • Object storage

  • File storage

  • Block storage

Object Storage

Object storage is a data storage architecture that operates by managing data as individual objects, as opposed to the traditional file system or block-level storage approach. Object storage uses a unique identifier, known as a key, to store objects. The contents of an object store can be distributed across multiple servers, which increases availability and durability. Additionally, object storage data may be replicated across multiple data centers, providing easy access through simple web service interfaces.

Characterized by its ability to offer unlimited scalability, object storage is an efficient solution for the storage of vast amounts of unstructured data, such as images, videos, backups, and archives. The utilization of object storage results in cost-effectiveness, limitless scalability, exceptional durability, and heightened accessibility.

File Storage

File storage refers to the process of storing and organizing digital files on a computer or network-attached storage (NAS) device. This system employs a hierarchical file organization, consisting of directories, subdirectories, and individual files, each with its distinct name and the potential to contain a variety of data, including text, images, audio, and video. File storage may be either local or remote and can be accessed through either a file transfer protocol (FTP) or network file system (NFS).

File storage solutions are well-suited for the management of large content repositories, development environments, media stores, and user home directories due to their ability to preserve a folder structure and provide network access. The advantages of file storage are extensive, including organization, accessibility, security, and dependability.

Block Storage

Block storage is a type of data storage architecture that divides data into blocks, as opposed to being organized in a continuous stream of bytes, and then stored across a system that can be physically distributed to maximize efficiency.

Each block operates as a separate unit of storage, enabling independent allocation, reading, and writing. This type of storage is often utilized for holding vast quantities of structured data, including databases, virtual machines, and file systems.

The data is stored on physical storage devices, such as hard drives or solid-state drives, and is either directly connected to a server or accessed via a network. This can be accessed directly through APIs or http/https.

The primary benefit of block storage is its exceptional performance, making it an ideal solution for applications that demand quick access to large amounts of data.


Instance Stores

Instance stores, also known as ephemeral storage, are block-level storage volumes that behave like physical hard drives. They are storage disks that are physically attached to the host computer for example, an EC2 instance, and hence has the same lifespan as the instance. The data stored in an instance store persists only during the life of the associated EC2 instance.

Instance store is ideal for use cases where the data needs to be accessed frequently and quickly, such as for high-performance databases and caching workloads. However, it is important to note that if the underlying host fails, the data stored in an instance store will be lost. Whenever the instance is terminated, the data stored on it is deleted. This makes it unsuitable for long-term data storage.

Storage Services offered by AWS

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a variety of cloud storage options for businesses and individuals. Understanding the different types of cloud storage in AWS is important for determining the best fit for your storage needs. Here are some of the most popular types of cloud storage in AWS:

Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS)

This contradicts the instance store because it stores data for a long time and in a situation that an Amazon EC2 instance is terminated, the data stored on it still remains accessible. It provides block-level storage volumes that work with EC2 instances.
With EBS, you can create virtual hard drives called EBS Volumes, which can be attached to your instance, they aren't tied directly to the host. When you write to an instance volume, data persists.

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)

Amazon S3 is an object-level storage service. It offers the ability to store and access data in the form of objects, which are organized into buckets. These objects can be anything from images, texts, videos, or binary files.

S3 is designed to provide scalable, highly durable, and highly available data storage for a vast array of use cases, such as big data analytics, backup and disaster recovery, and web and mobile applications. The service guarantees data durability through automatic replication across multiple Availability Zones within an AWS region. Additionally, it offers versioning capabilities, enabling users to retain and access multiple iterations of an object over time.

Amazon S3 features different storage classes, each designed to meet specific data retrieval and availability needs. This allows users to choose the best storage option for their specific requirements. These storage classes include:

  • S3 Standard:
    This default storage option for Amazon S3 is optimized for high-performance, low-latency access to frequently used data. It offers exceptional durability and availability, ensuring data is stored across a minimum of three Availability Zones for optimal resiliency. This storage option is ideal for organizations that require quick and reliable access to their data.

  • S3 Standard-Infrequent Access (S3 Standard-IA):
    Amazon S3 Infrequent Access is a good option for storing data that is accessed less frequently but requires rapid access when needed. It provides high durability by storing data across a minimum of three Availability Zones, while also offering lower storage prices and higher retrieval prices. This storage class is ideal for backups, disaster recovery files, and other objects that require long-term storage.

  • S3 One Zone-Infrequent Access (S3 One Zone-IA):
    The S3 One Zone storage option is intended for data that is infrequently accessed and where lower availability and durability is acceptable. This option stores data in a single Availability Zone, offering a lower storage cost compared to S3 Standard-IA while still providing high durability and availability.

  • S3 Intelligent-Tiering:
    The S3 Intelligent-Tiering storage option provides flexible data management by automatically shifting data between two storage classes based on evolving access patterns. For instance, if an object has not been accessed for 30 days, Amazon S3 moves it to the S3 Standard-Infrequent Access storage class. This storage option offers an optimized solution for data with unpredictable access patterns.

  • S3 Glacier:
    S3 glacier is a secure, durable and extreme low cost S3 storage The S3 Glacier storage class is designed for data archiving and long-term backup. This storage option is ideal for organizations that need to store data for several years for auditing purposes and do not require rapid retrieval. It provides a cost-effective solution for preserving data over an extended period of time.

  • S3 Glacier Deep Archive:
    Amazon S3 Glacier is a cost-effective, long-term storage solution designed specifically for data archiving and backup. With retrieval times of 12 hours or more, it is the lowest-cost object storage class for archiving. This storage class is ideal for organizations looking to store large amounts of data for extended periods, with a focus on minimizing cost and retrieval time.

Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS)

Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) is a cloud-based file storage solution. It is a serverless and scalable file system. Because it is elastic, your file system automatically grows and shrinks as you add and remove files.

EFS is specifically designed to support use cases that require shared access to data, such as big data processing, content management, and web serving. It enables multiple EC2 instances to access a shared file system simultaneously, making it effortless to share data between instances.

Amazon EFS offers high levels of availability and durability, as it stores multiple redundant copies of data across multiple Availability Zones within an AWS region. This ensures that the data is always accessible, even in the case of hardware failures or other infrastructure issues.

Instance stores vs AWS Storage classes

Instance stores have distinct characteristics compared to other AWS storage services such as Amazon S3 and Amazon EBS. They are physically attached to the host computer of an EC2 instance, providing block-level storage optimized for rapid access with low latency. In comparison, S3 and EBS are network-attached storage accessed through the internet.

Instance stores lack persistence, meaning that any data stored in them will be lost if the EC2 instance terminates or its host computer fails. Conversely, data stored in S3 and EBS is automatically replicated and can be accessed persistently. The capacity of instance stores is limited to the physical storage of the host computer, while S3 and EBS offer unlimited capacity.

Instance stores are suitable for temporary storage of instance-local data that is frequently accessed, such as caching, temporary data processing, or as a scratch disk for high-performance computing applications. On the other hand, S3 and EBS are best for storing critical data that must be persistently stored and accessed over a longer period.

In summary, instance stores offer fast, low-latency storage for temporary data, and S3 and EBS offer durable, persistent storage for critical data. The choice between the two depends on the specific storage requirements of the application.


In conclusion, cloud storage in AWS offers a flexible and scalable solution for storing and accessing data. It provides a range of storage options, including S3, EBS, and EFS, to meet different data storage needs. It also offers features such as data management, security, and disaster recovery, making it a highly secure and reliable solution for businesses and organizations. The pay-as-you-go pricing model and on-demand access to storage resources make AWS a cost-effective choice for organizations of all sizes.

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