How Amazon S3 Works, Costs, and More

Amazon S3, or Amazon Simple Storage Service, is streamlined object storage that can help you store and recover valuable information within your device. Learn how.

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Amazon S3 is used by some of the world’s largest companies to store and manage data. Explore what this storage service is, how it works, and how it can partner with Seagate® Lyve Cloud to optimize data storage.

What is Amazon S3?

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is a scalable cloud storage service designed for online backup, data archiving, and applications on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Data, files, and objects can be transferred to Amazon S3 using the public internet and S3’s API. You can also use AWS Direct Connect to create a private and consistent connection between S3 and your data centers.

What is S3 Used For?

AWS S3 is used to store and protect large volumes of data with a simplified feature set to make things easy to use. It’s primarily built for enterprise businesses, but small- and medium-sized businesses use it as well. Users can store and protect various types of data and use S3 in a variety of ways, including:

  • Data analytics
  • Application hosting
  • Deployment, installation, and management of apps
  • Mobile apps
  • Data warehouses and data lakes
  • Media storage or hosting
  • Website hosting

Amazon S3 Features

Storage Classes

Amazon S3 comes in several different storage classes for different use cases with different pricing models.

  • S3 Standard: Best suited for data that is accessed frequently, such as apps, websites, content distribution, or big data workloads.
  • S3 Intelligent Tiering: Used when your data usage is unknown or changes. This storage class offers four different tiers where data is moved to the most cost-efficient tier automatically based on usage.
  • S3 Standard IA: A lower-cost option for data that is needed less often, but still needs quick accessibility. Used for backups, disaster recovery, and long-term storage.
  • S3 One Zone IA: Used for data that is needed infrequently but still requires high availability when needed.
  • S3 Glacier: Designed for archival storage that doesn’t need rapid access. Costs vary depending on the length of time it takes to retrieve data for your needs. There is also an S3 Glacier Deep Archive option for data that only requires access a few times annually. These are the lowest priced options for data and object storage.
  • S3 Outposts: Accommodates S3 object storage features and APIs to on-premises AWS Outposts environment. Used to comply with data residency requirements or when data needs to be stored near locally hosted applications.

Storage Management

After you have created your S3 buckets and uploaded objects, you can manage them using several tools. One of the most valuable ways to manage your storage is by configuring the S3 Lifecycle module, a set of rules that govern how S3 treats groups of objects to help you manage costs.

For example, you can set transition actions that automatically move data from a higher-cost tier to a lower-cost tier after a preset time, such as a month or a year. You can also set automatic expiration dates.

Other options for storage management help protect your data, such as:

  • S3 Object Lock, which uses a write once, read many (WORM) model to prevent data from being overwritten or deleted.
  • S3 Replication, which provides automatic copying of objects across S3 buckets.
  • S3 Batch Operations, which enable bulk actions such as copying objects, setting object tags, or access-control lists.
  • S3 Versioning, which lets you save all previous versions of objects (if desired).

Access Management

By default, buckets and objects stored on Amazon S3 are private. Only resource owners have access. You can, however, assign access policies to users at the bucket, object, or individual-file level. AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) is built in to help you manage and control access at the user level.

Access management tools help you audit the way you store your data and organize your buckets.

Data Processing

S3 Object Lambda lets you add your own code to requests to modify and process data as it is returned to a specific application. Your code runs on the AWS infrastructure and is managed by AWS and automatically processes data. For example, you can filter rows, redact confidential information before allowing access, automatically resize images, and more.

This mitigates the need to make multiple copies or derivative copies of data. AWS handles the requests per your code requirements and provides event notifications for any file-based actions.

Storage Logging and Monitoring

Logging and monitoring your storage is an essential part of managing your data. S3 provides several resources to help you keep an eye on things or respond to potential issues.

  • Amazon CloudWatch allows you to specify thresholds. If you exceed a threshold, notifications are sent.
  • AWS CloudTrail provides an audit trail based on actions taken at the user or role level. Any action can be traced back to the IP address to determine who made the request, when it was made, and what actions were taken.
  • AWS Access Logs record requests made to buckets. This can be especially helpful when conducting security or access audits.
  • AWS Trusted Advisor recommends ways to improve security and availability or reduce costs. Enterprise plan customers get access to a suite of trusted advisor checks.

Amazon S3 Pricing

Many cloud storage providers require an upfront commitment for a predetermined amount of data storage and transfer capacity. If you exceed capacity, there are overage fees. As such, enterprise users typically overprovision and have excess capacity they pay for but don’t necessarily use.

S3 pricing works differently. You are only charged for what you actually use.

S3 Bucket Pricing

You pay only for the objects you store in S3 buckets. Rates are determined based on storage class, the size of your objects, and the length of time they are stored. There are also variable fees, depending on the storage class and your retrieval, request, and ingest.

One big advantage of S3 is that when you create an account, you are automatically signed up for all the services but only pay for the ones you use. This supports organic scaling and data life cycle management.

Learn more details about pricing options in our guide: Essential Factors of S3 Pricing.

How Does Amazon Simple Storage Service Store Data?

S3 leans on buckets, objects, keys, versioning, and policies as terminology for understanding how to not only store but also organize data.

S3 Buckets

Buckets are essentially a container in which an object is stored. Similar to a traditional file, it stores data or metadata (objects). A single bucket can store any number of objects, and you can have up to 100 separate buckets.

S3 Objects

Objects serve as the fundamental entity that is stored within S3. The object is data or metadata and is organized within buckets for easy access. To further organize objects, use keys and version IDs to uniquely identify them.

S3 Keys

Keys, also referred to as object keys or key names, are identifiers of an object within a given bucket. Every single object has one key, which helps you easily understand what the object is about.

S3 Versioning

Versioning, also referred to as a version ID, helps users understand which variant of the same object they are looking at. Applying versioning IDs to objects in addition to key names can help you apply a cleaner organization to objects and quickly retrieve specific versions of a single object.

Bucket Policy

Bucket policies, such as IAM policies, help you set permissions to a particular bucket or the objects within it. This can provide an added layer of protection to your data.

Note: Only the bucket owner can create a policy for a bucket and its objects. Additionally, bucket policies are limited to 20 kilobytes in size.

Enhance S3 With Lyve Cloud

Create a strong foundation for your cloud storage strategy using S3 and enhance it for efficient multicloud performance.

Lyve Cloud deploys mass storage by complementing existing hybrid and multicloud environments with an always-on data approach. This means data is always accessible when you need it and is readily available to move between storage tiers.

When partnered with S3, Lyve Cloud positions enterprise data for successful backup and recovery use cases.