Amazon Glacier is a new online backup service where you can store your files for as little as 1¢ per GB per month. This is the cheapest storage plan offered by any cloud storage vendor even and Amazon promises 99.999999999% durability which, in plain English, is like a guarantee that your files will always stay safe in their data centers.

Let’s take an example. If your hard drive has 100 GB of data – videos, photos, and other important files – that you would like to preserve forever, you can transfer all these files to Amazon Glacier and the annual bill would just be a little over $10. Amazon S3 would cost $150+ for the same storage space.

Amazon Glacier vs S3 - Price Comparison

Price Comparison – Amazon Glacier vs Amazon S3 (1 file = 10 MB)

How do I use Amazon Glacier?

Amazon Glacier went live today and though the service is available for both consumers and businesses, there are still no software programs (or GUI based apps) available that can help you transfer the local files to the Amazon cloud.

The wait may not be long though and at least one developer, Cloud Gates, has already confirmed that they are adding support for Glacier this week itself.

Is Amazon Glacier a right solution for me?

There are primarily two reasons why we backup our data to the cloud – to access the data from other computers (think Dropbox) and the other reason is safekeeping. Amazon Glacier fits into the latter category.

You can put your important files in Glacier and they’ll stay there as long as you want. If the hard disk crashes, you can send a data retrieval request to Glacier and they’ll have your data backups ready for download in 3-4 hours. Glacier is designed for pure online backups.

How much (or how little) data can I store in my Glacier vault?

You may use the service to store a 10-page Word document or your entire movie collection that may weigh a few terabytes in size.

Are there any hidden fees?

Like Amazon S3, Amazon Glacier is a pay-per-use service where you only have to pay for the storage space that you actually need. There is a one-time data transfer fee that you need to pay for copying your files from the disk to the cloud but that’s pretty reasonable as well ($0.50 per 10,000 files).

Going back to our previous example, if your 100 GB data is made of 10,000 files of 10 MB each, your annual bill would be (100*0.01*12 + 0.5*10,000/10,000) = $12.50

You may also have to pay 1¢ per GB when you are downloading your backups from the cloud though this may be waived off if you only download request is small.

Can anyone at Amazon read my files stored inside Glacier?

This shouldn’t be a reason to worry about but if you want to be extra safe, you can always encrypt your files on the computer before sending them to the cloud.

I am on a slow connection. How can I upload my data to Glacier?

You have an option though an expensive one. Put all your data in a hard disk and ship it to Amazon via snail mail. Amazon staff will transfer your data to Amazon S3 and return your disk. Going forward, you’ll be able transfer data from S3 to Glacier directly in the cloud.

Here’s a more technical overview of Amazon Glacier.