Amazon S3 Glacier storage is, in my humble opinion, the most accessible, cost-effective, and trusted choice for storing your photo archive on the cloud. The internationally acclaimed (and feared) retail giant began developing their storage options back in 2006 to help businesses improve their digital infrastructure. Since then, they’ve become the leading name in cloud computing and storage arenas, offering even more cloud services than Google, servicing customers such as Netflix, Unilever, NASA, and Samsung. Their greatest strengths lie in their ability to provide secure, reliable, scalable, and powerful storage options to emerging and large businesses alike. For photographers and those seeking to backup our family photo archives, Amazon offers us an excellent option: Amazon S3 Glacier Storage.
While cloud storage is incredibly important, so are the other factors of your photo backup plan. If you haven’t already, read my 3-Step Photo Storage post to familiarize yourself with proper archiving etiquette.
On This Page
- Costs of Amazon Glacier
- How much will an Amazon S3 Glacier backup cost per month/per transfer?
- Software You Will Need (Download Links)
- Use the most effective compression, backup, and encryption software without spending a dime!
- Setting Up Your Amazon S3 Glacier Backup
- Registering for the AWS Console
- Create a Secure User Key
- Making Encrypted Archives Of Your Files
- Use MSP 360 to send your backup to S3 Glacier
- Recovering Data from S3 Glacier
- More Tips for Using Amazon S3 Glacier
- Minimum data hold charges, bandwidth constraints, and other Amazon S3 Glacier tips.
Similar to their original S3 storage service, Amazon S3 Glacier allows users to backup their data at a reduced rate, providing a robust external storage solution (Why worry about off-site backup?). Data stored on Amazon S3 Glacier’s annual durability is guaranteed to be 99.99999999% redundant, meaning that you have a one in a billion chance of losing your data. Certainly, these are excellent odds to bet on!
On the other hand, if you’re simply looking for a quick option for sharing photos with clients, I recommend using PixieSet, an online application that generates stunning photo collections for your client’s events at the click of a button. Amazon’s S3 Glacier storage, with its lack of customer interface and mandatory minimum storage costs, is much better suited as a backup for your entire archive than a client portal.
Cost of Amazon Glacier
When calculating storage costs for Amazon S3 Glacier storage, there are two metrics to account for. Transfer and monthly storage costs. At the time of writing the costs are as follows:
$0.005USD/GB – Storage | $0.03CAD/GB – Transfer
AWS S3 Glacier Monthly Cost Calculator
Use this AWS calculator to estimate how much you will spend on S3 Glacier depending on your photo archive size and monthly transfer needs.
These rates are cost-effective for data that is not accessed often and only needed in case of local backup failures. For example, my personal and family’s photo archive (from 2008) includes around 400GB of data. This would cost $12 to upload/download these files, and approximately $2 a month for storage. For an annual data insurance policy, $24 is a great deal!
Software You will Need
- MSP 360 (Freeware Version)
MSP 360 (formerly CloudBerry Backup) is available as a free and paid program which integrates with many cloud backup solutions. It also offers local backup solutions just as FreeFileSync does. While you can use MSP 360 as your sole backup program for local and cloud backups, I use FreeFileSync for local backups because it is a speedy and lightweight app.
MSP 360 – Paid Version: The paid version boasts many useful features such as encryption and accessibility but if you’re using MSP 360 for personal archives, the free version should work just fine.
MSP 360 – Download Link
2. 7Zip (Optional)
7Zip is my compression and encryption software of choice, an open source alternative to other applications including WinRar and WinZip.
7Zip – Download Link
How to Start Your Amazon Glacier Backup
1. Organization and Encryption
As mentioned in my 3-Step Data Backup post, organization is key when backing up your photos. Because Amazon S3 Glacier Storage is optimized for storing larger data sets rather than individual files, it makes more sense to compile your backups into archived (e.g., .zip, .rar, .7z) folders by month, year, or event. For example, I have my photo archive from scanned negatives (How do I scan my old negatives?) divided into 10GB archives named “Film-Backup-1.zip”, “Film-Backup-2.zip” and so on.
To do this, I use 7Zip to create encrypted and compressed .zip folders.
2. Setting up your AWS Account
If you haven’t already, sign up for an AWS account by visiting aws.amazon.com and registering with an existing or new Amazon account. If you already have a credit card linked with your Amazon account, skip the next step.
Set Up Your Payment Method
On your AWS Management Console, search and select Billing. On the next page, select “payment method” on the vertical menu on the left side of the page. Add your payment information and continue to the next step.
Create an AWS Backup Bot
Once registered, sign in to the AWS Console (pictured below) and search for and select the service “IAM”.
Select “Users” from left hand vertical menu and select “Add User” button.
Type a username and select “programmatic access”
Select “Create Group” button.
Provide a name such as “MSP360BackupBot” (no spaces) and add permissions “AmazonGlacierFullAccess” to your new group.
Hit next and skip through the “tags” section.
Hit “Create User” button to finalize your new user and permission group.
Once submitted, you will be given an access key (public and secret) which we will use for the next step. Don’t exit the page until we have entered these credentials into MSP360.
3. MSP 360 – Uploading Files
Next, using MSP 360, find the “Local to Cloud” button on the top bar.
Follow the instructions and select “Amazon Glacier Storage” when prompted.
Input your new public and secret hash keys provided by Amazon Web Services.
Next, follow the directions provided in the MSP 360 backup wizard to select your local photo archive. Once set up, press the play button to begin uploading!
While you do not have to set up a scheduled or encrypted backup, these practices will ensure you and your client’s data is secure from prying eyes. These options are only available in the premium version of MSP 360.
4. MSP 360 – Restoring Files
If you need to restore your files, simply click the restore button located on the top bar to launch the restore wizard which will guide you through the process of downloading all your files. Remember that downloading your files will incur transfer charges to your Amazon account.
More tips for using Amazon S3 Glacier Storage
- Avoid uploading files and deleting them before 120 days has passed. Because S3 Glacier is made for long term storage, you will be charged for 120 days minimum, so plan accordingly.
- Organize your backups in a way you can easily retrieve later. Do not unnecessarily clump events and years together if you know you will need to access them separately later on.
- Check your Internet upload limits before backing up your photos to ensure you don’t run out of internet bandwidth.
- Amazon glacier offers 99.99999999% guarantee on the redundancy of their data. Don’t upload multiple copies of data, Amazon already has you covered!
- Ensure your payment information is updated and correct. Although AWS has been fair with me in the past when I didn’t update an expired credit card, you run a risk of losing data you have previously stored.
- Don’t forget to keep local backups as well! Amazon’s S3 glacier storage doesn’t absolve you of your own responsibility to make local backups. It is important to maintain local backups in case of internet outages and for ease of access if a client needs access to photos from a previous event. Learn more about creating a photo archive plan.