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Amazon Web Services – a brief overview

Need more storage? You could buy a new hard disk, SSD or USB drive. But why not migrate to the cloud and make use of Amazon Web Services (AWS)?

This article originally appeared in issue 88 of Linux User & Developer magazine. Subscribe and save more than 30% and receive our exclusive money back guarantee – click here to find out more.

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Need more storage? You could buy a new hard disk, SSD or USB drive. But why not migrate to the cloud and make use of Amazon Web Services (AWS)?

One of the most popular options in this collection of could services is the Simple Storage Service (S3) that provides web-service-based storage.  Users enjoy pay-as-you-go; the cost depends on the region used and the amount of data stored. Pricing starts at $0.15 per GB for the first 50TB per month, $0.01 per 1,000 put, copy, post or list queries, and $0.01 per 10,000 get queries. Above 50TB usage, the price decreases.

The ‘Simple’ in Simple Storage Service doesn’t mean that using this service is simple for the user; it means that there are just a few features provided. S3 is a simple key-based object store. Each object stores up to 5GB, each accompanied by up to 2KB of metadata. The S3 SOAP interface and especially the REST interface are quite useful for web applications, but make it difficult to use S3 as a replacement for a local storage device. Objects are organised into buckets. Because S3 has a flat namespace, every bucket’s name has to be unique. Bucket names and keys are addressable using HTTP URLs.

Requests are authorised using an access control list. Since the start of the S3 service in 2006, lots of applications have been developed with the aim of making working with S3 easier.
Open source applications like s3cmd, S3cp, s3-bash and yas3b allow to upload, retrieve and manage data in Amazon S3 via the command shell.

You enjoy working with a GUI? Try S3Fox, an extension for the Firefox browser that allows you to work with S3 in an easy way. If you want to store files natively and transparently in S3 the same way you work with any local storage device, s3fs is the open source solution. s3fs is a fuse file system that lets you mount an Amazon S3 bucket as a local file system.

Popular file hosting and online backup services like Dropbox, Jungle Disk, ElephantDrive and ExEasy NetCDP use S3 to store the user’s data. The same is true for websites like SmugMug and Slideshare.
S3 comes with a 99.9% monthly uptime guarantee – far more than a single hard disk or NAS can provide. The price makes it worth a try and lots of handy applications exist that help when using S3 as an everyday tool. Give it a try.

Click here to see what else featured in issue 88 of Linux User & Developer magazine…