Cloud

Cloud storage: How do Amazon, Google and Microsoft stack up?

With AWS this week giving users a wider choice of storage services, we look at the costs of competing options from the major cloud providers.

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A tray of hard drives in a cold storage rack.
Image: Facebook
Storing data in the cloud has been getting cheaper and more flexible for years.

The major cloud providers offer various options for storing data, with prices reflecting how often data is accessed, how much is stored, its availability and how it is backed up.

The world's biggest cloud infrastructure service provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS), has just broadened its storage options - revealing a new storage class for infrequently-accessed data.

The addition to AWS Simple Storage Service (S3) is called Standard: Infrequent Access storage. It provides a middle ground between the standard AWS storage offering for frequently-accessed data that needs to be available on demand and its Amazon Glacier service for data that is rarely touched - sometimes referred to as cold storage.

So how does this new AWS offering fit into the landscape of services offered by other cloud providers?

Here's a comparison of the standard, reduced availability - for less-frequently accessed data - and cold-storage options from the major cloud service providers.

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The storage offerings on each cloud platform differ but we have selected the closest options. In the chart we chose to use pricing for Azure Zone Redundant Storage (ZRS), which is closest to the other platforms' standard offerings. Azure doesn't really have a good equivalent for a reduced-availability or cold-storage option to use in the comparison. For most options, the price per GB falls as the data stored increases.

The storage costs don't tell the whole story. Each service charges differing amounts for accessing data and moving it out of storage. For example, the new AWS reduced-availability storage option has a lower per gigabyte storage cost compared with standard storage, but a higher cost for data retrieval.

Because Glacier and Google's Nearline cold storage offering are intended for rarely-accessed data, users will be charged extra if they retrieve or delete more than set quantities of data in a specific period. More details on these charges for Glacier are available here and for Nearline here.

Performance of each offering also differs. While AWS Glacier storage can take a maximum of five hours to make your data available, Google says Nearline makes it available in seconds.

The availability of data varies according to the class of service, with AWS standard storage offering four nines (99.99 percent) availability, while Google Standard Storage and Azure ZRS are on three nines (99.9 percent). For Google's Durable Reduced Availability Storage, AWS' Standard: Infrequent Access Storage and Google Nearline Storage availability falls to two nines (99 percent).

Standard storage options on AWS, Azure and Google copy data to multiple devices across multiple datacenters within a region.

Earlier this year analyst house Gartner ranked AWS, Google and Microsoft as the leading cloud storage providers for public cloud storage.

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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