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AWS Glacier: The Complete Guide to Archival Cloud Storage

Hey there! If you‘re looking for a full overview of Amazon‘s super low-cost archival storage service called Glacier, you‘ve come to the right place. In this complete guide, I‘ll give you all the details on Glacier so you can decide if it‘s the right fit for your data archiving needs.

Cloud storage can get expensive, especially as data volumes grow. But Glacier offers a way to keep those costs under control. I‘ll explain how it works and when to use it so you can save!

Let‘s start with the key facts:

What is AWS Glacier and How Does it Work?

AWS Glacier is an extremely low-cost, secure, and durable cloud storage service from Amazon Web Services used for data archiving and long-term backups.

Here are 5 key things to know about how it works:

  1. Glacier is a storage class within Amazon S3 – This makes it easy to archive directly from S3 buckets
  2. Data is stored in "vaults" – Similar to S3 buckets, vaults organize and store archived objects
  3. Automatically encrypts data – Glacier encrypts all data using AES-256 encryption
  4. Data retrieval options – Retrievals can take minutes to hours depending on requirements
  5. Integrated with AWS services – Simple to use alongside other cloud services from AWS

Glacier integrates seamlessly with Amazon S3 for low-cost archival storage. Simply set an S3 object storage class to Glacier and it is archived automatically!

Now let‘s take a look at what makes Glacier so useful.

Key Use Cases and Benefits

Glacier shines for a few specific use cases thanks to its super low storage costs. According to 2021 research from MarketsandMarkets, the archival data storage market is growing at 13.8% CAGR, reaching $14.5 billion by 2026.

Glacier adoption is driving a lot of this growth. Here are some of its key advantages:

Ultra-Low Cost Archival Storage

For true archive data that is rarely accessed, Glacier offers up to 90% cost savings compared to general cloud storage. According to Backblaze‘s cloud storage pricing comparisons, S3 Glacier storage can cost as little as $0.004 per GB per month.

This compares to $0.023 per GB for standard S3 storage. Over longer terms, the savings add up for large archival datasets.

Regulatory Compliance and Retention

Many companies in healthcare, financial services, and other regulated industries need to retain data for years. Glacier provides inexpensive and secure long-term data retention for compliance.

Cloud Backup

Backups tend to grow continuously but rarely need accessing. Glacier is perfect for affordable cloud backup storage. Backups can be restored rapidly when needed.

Big Data Archives

"Cold" big data archives, logs, and datasets can be moved to Glacier instead of filling up high-performance storage. Access is available when needed.

For all these use cases, Glacier enables drastically lower costs for infrequently accessed data while maintaining accessibility.

How Does AWS Glacier Pricing Work?

Glacier‘s total pricing is based on two factors:

  • Per GB per month storage costs
  • Data retrieval fees

By minimizing retrievals, overall costs stay low. Let‘s break this down…

Glacier Storage Costs

Glacier storage pricing starts at just $0.004 per GB per month in the US East region. Higher durability and availability can increase costs slightly:

Glacier Option Price per GB / month
Standard $0.004
Flexible $0.0045
Deep Archive $0.00099

Regional pricing varies slightly but generally stays around $0.004 per GB monthly.

To visualize how low this is, storing 1 petabyte of data in Glacier Deep Archive for a year would cost about $11,880.

Glacier Data Retrieval Costs

Retrieving archived data incurs additional fees based on how fast access is needed:

Retrieval Option Starting Price per GB Typical Availability
Expedited $0.03 1 to 5 minutes
Standard $0.01 3 to 5 hours
Bulk $0.0025 5 – 12 hours

Intelligent data lifecycle management minimizes retrievals to maintain maximum savings.

Now let‘s see how Glacier compares to other AWS storage options…

Glacier vs S3 Standard vs S3 Infrequent Access

Glacier is one of several storage classes within Amazon S3. The differences come down to factors like access speed and per GB pricing.

Here‘s an overview:

Storage Class Use Case Latency Price per GB / Month
S3 Standard Frequently accessed data Instant $0.023
S3 Infrequent Access (IA) Infrequently accessed data Instant $0.0125
S3 Glacier Archived data Minutes-Hours $0.004

S3 Standard is best for high performance, while S3 IA and Glacier reduce costs for infrequent access.

If your data is rarely accessed, Glacier provides massive long-term savings over Standard or even IA storage classes.

What are the Alternatives to AWS Glacier?

Glacier is a great choice – especially if you are already using AWS. However, there are a few alternatives:

  • Azure Archive Storage – Similar archival storage from Microsoft Azure at $0.0018 per GB monthly
  • Google Cloud Storage Nearline – Nearline archival storage priced at $0.01 per GB
  • Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage – Hot storage for archival use cases, $0.0059 per GB
  • Backblaze B2 – Extremely low cost starting at $0.005 per GB

Competitor archival storage offerings contain similar capabilities to Glacier. Choosing between them depends on your cloud ecosystem preferences and specific needs.

But almost all cloud archival storage will provide huge cost reductions over general cloud storage for infrequent access data.

A Brief History of AWS Glacier

Glacier has evolved quite a bit since its start in 2012. Let‘s look back at some key milestones:

  • August 2012 – Glacier launched with prices starting at $0.01 per GB/month
  • September 2015 – AWS dropped Glacier pricing to $0.007 per GB/month
  • December 2016 – Prices reduced again down to $0.004 per GB/month
  • November 2018 – Vault Lock feature added for control over vault policies
  • December 2020 – Archive2Hybrid feature allows instant access to archives

AWS has continued to drive costs lower through technology improvements. Meanwhile, competitors have spurred innovation in the market around affordable archival cloud storage.

The results are huge savings compared to what companies historically spent storing tape backups and archives.

Key Considerations Before Using AWS Glacier

I‘ve shown you how Glacier can enable super low-cost archival storage. But there are a few key points to consider:


  • Massive cost savings over general cloud storage
  • Integrates closely with AWS services
  • Highly secure and durable


  • Delayed data access compared to S3 Standard
  • Retrieval fees apply when accessing archives
  • Less flexible than general cloud storage

Glacier works best when you truly have infrequently accessed data to archive. Quick access to petabytes will still be very expensive.

Proper use of Glacier requires carefully planning data lifecycles and access patterns up front. But with the right approach, the savings are enormous.


I hope this guide gave you a helpful overview of AWS Glacier for your data archiving needs! The key takeaways are:

  • Glacier provides low-cost, secure, and durable archival data storage
  • Significant savings over general cloud storage for infrequent access data
  • Works by integrating directly with Amazon S3
  • Flexible retrieval options balance cost with access
  • Ideal for backup, compliance, big data archives and more

With the explosion of unstructured data, having an affordable archival storage plan is crucial. Glacier often enables 90%+ savings, making it a game changer for cost-effective data retention.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m happy to help you implement a seamless archival data storage strategy leveraging AWS Glacier.