Today’s enterprises, from small local businesses to international online retailers who generate a large amount of data, are looking to move to the cloud for increased data availability, better data security, and a smaller financial footprint.
However, when it comes to choosing where to store data in the cloud, there are many choices. One of the simplest yet most powerful options is Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).
Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) is a popular cloud storage service with critical features like encryption, access control, and high availability.
First deployed in the US in 2006 and Europe in 2007, Amazon S3 from AWS services is available in all AWS regions where Amazon Web Services provides cloud solutions, and can be accessed worldwide through a web interface. The service itself is plugged into the wider Amazon Web Services (AWS) data ecosystem.
Using reliable, scalable infrastructure and a key-based object storage architecture, Amazon S3 is well suited to host massive amounts of structured and unstructured data in the form of data lakes. AWS S3 also offers powerful functionality with minimal complexity.
Companies like Airbnb, Netflix, Pinterest, and Reddit use S3 to host their web content, images, archives, backups of on-premises data for disaster recovery, and systems of record. Makers of apps can also store the data they collect. Even Amazon itself relies on S3 to store critical project data.
The four main AWS use cases are:
To start using this AWS cloud service, you simply need to sign up for an AWS account. AWS resources, including S3, are managed through a web application known as the AWS Management Console. This customizable home page provides a single place to access everything you need to manage AWS tasks.
Amazon S3 objects are organized in buckets. Buckets are the main containers in S3, and every object must be stored in one. All of S3’s main features, such as the interfaces and APIs, can act either on buckets or individual objects.
When users upload data, they create bucket and bucket name first, then move however many objects they need into it. AWS S3 uses an Object Key, along with a version identifier, to uniquely identify objects in a bucket. This helps users to organize data.
Organizations may use naming conventions to identify data owners, improve access control, and make the store more navigable for end users.
Amazon S3 users can work with the console or web-service interfaces to access raw objects or buckets.
Amazon sets no cap on the total volume or number of items that can be stored in S3, but individual objects can’t be larger than 5 gigabytes, which is the limit on a single upload. S3 provides tools for uploading large objects in parts and migrating big data into storage.
AWS S3 is a key-value store, one of the major categories of NoSQL databases used for accumulating voluminous, mutating, unstructured, or semistructured data. Uploaded objects are referenced by a unique key, which can be any string. This high-level and generic storage structure affords users near-infinite flexibility.
S3 is capable of storing diverse and generally unstructured data, but it's also suited for hierarchical data and all kinds of structured information. Features such as metadata support, prefixes, and object tags allow users to organize data according to their needs.
The REST API for managing Amazon S3 buckets allows developers to connect stored data to other web applications and services. Objects are available to HTTP clients (S3 can be used as a static website host), and URLs can point directly to stored resources.
File-sharing users can employ BitTorrent protocol for downloading data, leveraging peer-to-peer bandwidth savings instead of HTTP GET requests.
Developers can query and manage data in S3 using built-in features such as S3 Select. Beyond the ability to run simple SQL on stored objects, users can turn to Amazon Athena for fast, interactive querying, and employ Redshift Spectrum for more complex data retrieval.
S3 integrates with AWS analytics services — no additional data migration or processing is required. Analysts can perform data mining directly on stored objects, metadata, tags, and S3 log information. Amazon also recommends third-party tools such as AWStats, Splunk, and S3Stat for users who wish to manage and analyze their logs with external software.
S3 offers several storage classes for different use cases and expected volumes, including a free tier. The standard storage class guarantees 99.99% availability, but several other options are available:
S3 pricing scales with usage. Price is typically reduced in regions where Amazon’s infrastructure is less costly to maintain.
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Cloud computing offers several advantages over on-premises systems, including low latency levels and scaling functionality that allows loads to be spread evenly to avoid the impact of traffic spikes on any one application. The S3 Standard storage class, for example, is designed for 99.99% availability, while the S3 Glacier Flexible Retrieval and S3 Glacier Deep Archive classes offer an SLA of 99.9%.
Amazon S3’s simple underlying architecture and web service interface make initial deployment and configuration easy.
Management of AWS S3-hosted stores is straightforward yet flexible. From a graphical console, customers can work directly with objects. The platform provides a REST interface that lets developers manage stored information at the account level, within buckets, or within individual objects. S3 also supports batch operations across all levels, and a related service, AWS Lambda, can allow these operations to perform arbitrarily complex tasks.
S3 is intended to handle a high volume of requests with no interruptions, and also guarantees uptime during traffic spikes. The service level agreement (SLA) makes promises regarding uptime depending on a user’s chosen pricing tier. Users are also insured against AWS site-level failures, and Amazon makes guarantees of durability similar to those for availability.
AWS S3 includes a version control system to protect against unwanted deletions or accidents. Users can also turn on logging, which saves detailed information about interactions with stored data for troubleshooting and repair.
Amazon S3 keeps stored data secure with the aid of several tools. Built-in support for user policies and bucket policies regulates who and what can download or upload data and prevents unauthorized access.
More sophisticated access policies, as well as several encryption options, are available:
Finally, Amazon follows all data privacy regulations and states that it tracks data in S3 for pricing purposes only.
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Data lakes store massive (terabytes and even petabytes) amounts of raw, mostly unstructured documents and objects. They can hold copies of all of an enterprise’s business data, whether original and unique or replicated from other functional systems. The data is safely stored and easily accessible for reference or for downstream data analytics.
Because Amazon S3 is designed for securely holding data in any format and built for maximum scalability, it is an ideal data lake hosting platform. In fact, AWS is currently developing a Lake Formation service specifically for creating and managing data lakes in Amazon S3. AWS S3’s features align well with the benefits of setting up and administering a data lake, including:
In fact, a data lake optimizes data pipelines, enabling a modern approach to ETL. With Amazon S3, it’s easy to replicate data to a safe storage destination where it can be accessed by data analytics tools.
Even though it's one of the most straightforward cloud object storage services — “simple” is in the name, after all — customers can choose among dozens of options to get data into S3. However, bringing your data into cloud storage is easier than ever using the right tool. With Stitch, you can replicate data from 140+ sources to an S3 instance. Stitch also supports Amazon S3 as a data source, with tools to extract CSV file data from buckets. Best of all, setup takes just a few minutes and incremental updates ensure you're always working with the latest data.
Analysts can build business intelligence processes immediately on top of the data store, while any authorized user can access information for reference or ad-hoc analysis.
To remain competitive, businesses must choose powerful and performant destinations for their data. Sign up for Stitch today for free and leverage your AWS account’s Amazon S3 data lake to its fullest potential.
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