Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Amazon backup service: That was quick

The Singularity makes it hard to keep speculation in the future. Recently I was bemoaning the pitiful decline of Dantz Retrospect (my SOHO backup solution) and the dearth of alternative backup software. I noted that the looming prospect of Google offering free online backup was probably depressing the marketplace.

The surprise today was Amazon announced their storage solution first:

Amazon S3 Functionality

Amazon S3 is intentionally built with a minimal feature set.

  • Write, read, and delete objects containing from 1 byte to 5 gigabytes of data each. The number of objects you can store is unlimited.
  • Each object is stored and retrieved via a unique, developer-assigned key.
  • Authentication mechanisms are provided to ensure that data is kept secure from unauthorized access. Objects can be made private or public, and rights can be granted to specific users.
  • Uses standards-based REST and SOAP interfaces designed to work with any Internet-development toolkit.
  • Built to be flexible so that protocol or functional layers can easily be added. Default download protocol is HTTP. A BitTorrent (TM) protocol interface is provided to lower costs for high-scale distribution. Additional interfaces will be added in the future.


  • Pay only for what you use. There is no minimum fee, and no start-up cost.
  • $0.15 per GB-Month of storage used.
  • $0.20 per GB of data transferred.
S3 is not a backup service of course, it's a data service. Someone has to lease/sell the software that would do the backup work, storing the encrypted files on S3. It's not cheap though. I figure at least a $130 a year fee for a meager 50GB of backup. The economics may be wrong for use as a pure backup solution.

One wonders how S3 will survive Google's pending storage service. It would be surprising if Google were to cost more than 5 cents/GB/month.

What about the wisdom of storing one's files on an online server like Google's? Online backup is now commonly used by corporations, so it may simply be inevitable. In theory one could put sensitive files into encrypted disk images (but ANY change would likely mean a new full backup of the entire image); but I recently wrote about the limitations of that approach. Even the best of today's encryption might be no defense against a quantum computing code cracker of 2030. So encrypting an image would buy one at most a few years of protection. Maybe that's all we'll get. (Of course if the image file were subpoenaed one would be obliged to provide the key to break the encryption. Such a key might be hard to remember however ...)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I want my sensitive data kept with a book store or search engine. I prefer Data Deposit Box for my online backup. It's similar but w-a-y easy to use for us non techies.