Today Amazon announced Glacier a new component of their AWS (Amazon Web Services) Solutions. Glacier is billed as an “extremely low-cost storage service that provides secure and durable storage for data archiving and backup.” Glacier is specifically designed for data that is infrequently accessed and in the event the data did need to be retrieved, a wait of several hours is acceptable.

In the media and entertainment space, Glacier wouldn’t be a suitable solution for projects currently in production, where recovery would need to happen as quickly as possible, but as an archive for completed projects it could serve as a nice option.

If you’re like me you probably have a few hard drives sitting in a closet. Old projects you’re likely never to touch again but still need to keep around incase a client asks to pull some old footage. Or perhaps it’s the original project files from your short film that you uploaded to Vimeo a number of years ago. Or all of the original camera files from a major motion picture captured digitally. What ever form it takes, we all have data sitting on hard drives that are only meant to have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years. So what do we do? Some just keep moving data from one hard drive to another every few years. Some backup to LTO tape, but even LTO Tape, which is suppose to have lifespan of 15-30 years needs to be rotated. I’ve even heard people say LTO needs to be rotated as frequently as every 5 to 10 years. If you’ve got a lot of data, those hard drives and LTO tapes can add up quickly and let’s not forget multiple copies for redundancy, plus offsite storage incase disaster strikes.

While the cloud can mean different things to different people, it really isn’t that new. The iTunes Music Store, which opened in 2003, is basically just a record store in the cloud. All those photos you uploaded to Facebook or flickr, all hosted in the cloud. There are various definitions for “the cloud” but for me, the cloud just means stuff (data, applications, whatever) stored/hosted on a server connected to the internet that I can access anywhere.

The promise of The Cloud has become a topic of great discussion in the media and entertainment industry. There’s talk of editing in the cloud with Avid working on Interplay Sphere. Digital Dailes are being hosted in the cloud. Technicolor offers cloud based solutions. Aframe offers a complete cloud based production management platform. The list grows every day. Amazon Glacier certainly isn’t the fist cloud storage option but is is one of the cheapest.

Storing data in Amazon Glacier costs as little $0.01 per GB / month. (Glacier has servers in different regions which some costing $0.011 or $0.012 per GB / month.) There’s no per GB cost to upload data to Amazon Glacier and the only additional costs are when you would transfer data out of Glacier. There are various pricing tiers depending on how much you transfer out per month, but the fist 1 GB / month out is free and up to 10 TB / month is $0.120 per GB. The price per GB out goes down as you pull out more.

Let’s get down to brass tax. A bare 1 TB hard drive costs in the neighborhood of $80 to $100. To store 1 TB of data in the least expensive Glacier region it would cost you $10 / month or $120 / year. Is it worth it to store your data in Amazon Glacier? For some, no, it might not be. Take that Glacier storage cost out to three years (the warranty period for most drives) and it has cost you $360 to store 1TB of data, not counting additional costs if you needed to retrieve anything. Where as you could have spent $80 on a hard drive, put it in your closet and had no additional costs if you need to retrieve the data. But, what happens if that single copy on the hard drive fails? Data recovery is awfully pricey. Now, let’s consider the cost to keep multiple backups. Three copies is my magic number, so $240 for three 1 TB drives. I need to store one of those copies off-site in a safe deposit box or other type of secure storage and that will probably cost about $10 month. That’s the cost to store 1TB on Glacier right there. Not to mention that I’ve got to pay for those drives up front.

I feel Amazon Glacier is a great option as part of a well-rounded backup and archive plan. I had previously looked at Amazon S3 but with costs for the 1st TB at $0.125 per GB it was too costly. I see Glacier as a great off-site archive option that can help keep my upfront storage costs down. I’ll have a fixed monthly storage cost that I can bill to clients as well as set pricing to retrieve data if the need arrises.

What’s your backup and archive strategy? Could Amazon Glacier have a place in it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

VIA Tech Crunch

Update: Wired has a good article on Glacier and the confusion over the retrieval fees. Read it here.