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Explore Amazon S3 Storage Classes and Lifecycle

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain the features of the Amazon S3 storage classes.
  • Describe Lifecycle policies.

You’ve learned how to store and secure your cat photos in Amazon S3. As you store new cat photos in Amazon S3, you find that you access the old cat photos less and less. You don’t want to delete them, because you still access them sometimes, but you also don’t want to continue paying the same price for them. What do you do?

To solve this problem, you can use Amazon S3 storage classes. You can move your old cat photos to different storage tiers and reduce your overall cost of storage. 

What Are Amazon S3 Storage Classes?

When you upload an object to Amazon S3 and you don’t specify the storage class, you’re uploading it to the default storage class—often referred to as standard storage. When you learned about Amazon S3 in previous units, you were learning about the standard storage class without even knowing it!

S3 storage classes let you change your storage tier as your data characteristics change. For example, if you are now accessing your old cat photos infrequently, you may want to change the storage class those cat photos are stored in to save on costs.

There are six S3 storage classes. 

  1. Amazon S3 Standard: This is considered general purpose storage for cloud applications, dynamic websites, content distribution, mobile and gaming applications, and big data analytics.
  2. Amazon S3 Intelligent-Tiering: This tier is useful if your data has unknown or changing access patterns. S3 Intelligent-Tiering stores objects in two tiers, a frequent access tier and an infrequent access tier. Amazon S3 monitors access patterns of your data, and automatically moves your data to the most cost-effective storage tier based on frequency of access.
  3. Amazon S3 Standard-Infrequent Access (S3 Standard-IA): S3 Standard-IA is for data that is accessed less frequently, but requires rapid access when needed. S3 Standard-IA offers the high durability, high throughput, and low latency of S3 Standard, with a low per-GB storage price and per-GB retrieval fee. This storage tier is ideal if you want to store long-term backups, disaster recovery files, and so on.
  4. Amazon S3 One Zone-Infrequent Access (S3 One Zone-IA): Unlike other S3 storage classes which store data in a minimum of three Availability Zones (AZs), S3 One Zone-IA stores data in a single AZ and costs 20% less than S3 Standard-IA. S3 One Zone-IA is ideal for customers who want a lower-cost option for infrequently accessed data but do not require the availability and resilience of S3 Standard or S3 Standard-IA. It’s a good choice for storing secondary backup copies of on-premises data or easily re-creatable data.
  5. Amazon S3 Glacier: S3 Glacier is a secure, durable, and low-cost storage class for data archiving. You can reliably store any amount of data at costs that are competitive with or cheaper than on-premises solutions. To keep costs low yet suitable for varying needs, S3 Glacier provides three retrieval options that range from a few minutes to hours.
  6. Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive: S3 Glacier Deep Archive is Amazon S3’s lowest-cost storage class and supports long-term retention and digital preservation for data that may be accessed once or twice in a year. It is designed for customers—particularly those in highly regulated industries, such as the Financial Services, Healthcare, and Public Sectors—that retain data sets for 7 to 10 years or longer to meet regulatory compliance requirements.

Automate Tier Transitions with Object Lifecycle Management

If you keep manually changing your objects, such as your cat photos, from storage tier to storage tier, you may want to look into automating this process using a lifecycle policy. When you define a lifecycle policy configuration for an object or group of objects, you can choose to automate two actions: transition and expiration actions. 

  • Transition actions are used to define when you should transition your objects to another storage class.
  • Expiration actions define when objects expire and should be permanently deleted.

Transitioning a cat photo from Amazon S3 Standard to Amazon S3 Standard - Infrequent Access after 30 days, then Amazon Glacier after 60 days, then delete after 365 days

For example, you might choose to transition objects to S3 Standard-IA storage class 30 days after you created them, or archive objects to the S3 Glacier storage class one year after creating them.

The following use cases are good candidates for lifecycle management. 

  • Periodic logs: If you upload periodic logs to a bucket, your application might need them for a week or a month. After that, you might want to delete them.
  • Data that changes in access frequency: Some documents are frequently accessed for a limited period of time. After that, they are infrequently accessed. At some point, you might not need real-time access to them, but your organization or regulations might require you to archive them for a specific period. After that, you can delete them.

Wrap Up

If your access patterns are changing, consider changing S3 storage classes to take advantage of a potential cost reduction. You can manually move your objects from tier to tier or use lifecycle policies to automate the process. In the next unit, you learn how to use the right storage tool for the job.