Amazon's 'Snowball' Might Be the Best Way to Back Up or Transfer Large-Scale, Critical Projects

With a slightly more enterprise-solution twist, Amazon has announced a new 50-terabyte "Snowball" drive that ships itself to your address, gives you ten days to load it with as much data as you can, and then gets picked up by UPS to transfer the data back to Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud storage — all for $200 per job. The process works in reverse, too; so, you can import or export a job between any AWS product more quickly and at less cost than alternatives.

Some of you must be thinking: "How does this help me?" That makes perfect sense and it just might not. But many photographers, videographers, and other artists have petabytes (millions of gigabytes) of data to backup and potentially transfer. Those same artists also often have many terabytes of data per project, as they're working on sets that produce massive amounts of footage (think 3D, 4K, high frame rate, etc.). In each of these scenarios, the newly announced AWS Import/Export Snowball allows these users to back up petabytes of data across even more than one Snowball in a matter of days instead of literally years.

That last part is key: Snowball is scalable and can be used in parallel with multiple devices to create larger bandwidths both on and offsite at AWS headquarters. So, 20 Snowballs (each with a 10Gb connection) could transfer via the equivalent of a 200Gb connection. That's huge for high-volume shooters of any kind. And for the rest of us, once we get to dozens of terabytes, we now have an affordable solution to transfer large amounts of data in very little time.

The entire process can be likened to a power-user version of CrashPlan's Restore-to-Door program, which will send you your already backed up data on a hard drive, although CrashPlan charges $299.99 for this service and it's limited to a measly 3.5TB. Moreover, the AWS Import/Export Snowball allows you to work in the other direction to seed your online backup more quickly from your original files. And any one job with the Snowball costs just $200 plus shipping. That's not too shabby for a first attempt at this kind of service.


Adam Ottke's picture

Adam works mostly across California on all things photography and art. He can be found at the best local coffee shops, at home scanning film in for hours, or out and about shooting his next assignment. Want to talk about gear? Want to work on a project together? Have an idea for Fstoppers? Get in touch! And, check out film rentals!

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50TB of Amazon S3 storage: $1650/mo. UPS 2nd Day Air: $130. AWS Snowball does NOT let you "Back up your film for $200"

via @Ben_Brainerd

Actually you don't have to pay for the storage only for outgoing transfer. Still a cost, but much less than you calculated. It would be great if you could use it with Unlimited Amazon Cloud Drive ;)

It already looks antiquated. 50TB will fit in your hand in a few years.

But it doesn't right now and I think that's the point, right?

And who cares how it looks... It's built 100% for function. And since it isn't a tool you hold in your hands, it's okay to be a bit awkward if it's secure, protected, etc...

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.


Or in this case, a bunch of 50Tb Snowballs... SneakerNet tends to beat the Internet when it comes to transfer speeds unless you live on a backbone.

For those for whom this might matter, Amazon's data centers are notoriously dirty energy consumers. Many are even powered by coal burning power plants. If your carbon footprint is a concern to you, don't forget to include your computing power and data/website storage and bandwidth in the mix. There are many clean and cleaner alternatives out there.

Not really how the power grid works and also -