What was a privilege of enterprises just a few years ago, now becomes a common thing for companies of all sizes – I’m talking about cloud. The number of cloud storage providers grows, delivering various solutions that fit the needs of different organizations in terms of features and prices. Moreover, the competition in the cloud market is getting tougher, making cloud storage providers cut their prices just to stay afloat. Therefore, cloud becomes a really great alternative to purchasing more physical storage or compute resources to maintain data and applications. However, despite there is a wide range of cloud offerings, we still struggle with choosing a cloud provider that offers us storage we need without charging us a steep price in the end of the billing period.
So today, we’ll have a closer look at some public cloud providers to decide on the cheapest storage.
Going from Hot to Cold
As you, probably, already know, cloud providers typically offer three cloud storage tiers: hot, warm, and cold. They all serve specific purposes and may be named differently, but the overall idea remains the same: with temperature fall, the retrieval time increases and the price goes down.
Thanks to its low latency and high throughput, hot tier is great cloud storage option for frequently accessed data where performance is crucial. So if you need a to regularly access you data in cloud, you go for hot storage. It is perfect fit for running dynamic websites, content distribution, cloud applications (i.e., mobile and gaming), and big data analytics. Examples: Azure Blob Storage Hot tier, Amazon Simple Storage Services (S3) Standard, Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage.
Keeping data in the warm tier is cheaper than in the hot one. This type of storage is optimized for long-lived and less frequently accessed data, for example backups and older data where access frequency is lower, but high performance is still a priority. Examples: Azure Blob Cool tier, Amazon S3 Standard – Infrequent Access (IA).
That’s perfect storage to keep data for “damn long time”. It is cheap, reliable, but slow. It may take from several minutes to hours until your data retrieval starts. It’s really good for archival data. But regarding how slow retrieving from this tier is, avoid keeping your recent backups here. Examples: Azure Blob Archive, Amazon Glacier.
The cloud providers which I discuss further offer all these storage classes. The only difference is the price you are to pay. Now, let’s take a closer look at cloud storage vendors and their offerings.
AWS vs Azure vs Backblaze
Amazon Web Services (AWS), industry’s leading cloud service, provides all storage classes. So far, these guys offer Amazon S3 cloud storage which has two types: Standard, Standard – IA, and Amazon Glacier. The first one, S3, is a massively scalable object storage which serves as a hot tier. S3-IA provides some of the S3 features but for a lower price and resembles the warm tier. The last one, Glacier, is cheap but slow cloud storage service for long-term backups and data archiving – cold tier. Sure, Amazon offers not just storage, networking, compute, databases, and other cloud resources are on its list. If you need additional info on these products, check the official website: https://aws.amazon.com/?nc2=h_lg
For ones who want try S3, there is AWS Free Tier which includes 5 GB storage, 20000 Get Requests and 20000 Put Requests and 15 GB of data transfer out each month for one year.
Azure offers a versatile set of cloud storage resources designed for your specific needs: compute, storage, networking, containers and many more. Since in this article I’m talking just about storage to keep your data, I will highlight only the options Microsoft provides on this domain. If you need additional info on other Azure solutions, please visit Microsoft Azure official website: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/
For keeping data, Microsoft provides Azure Blob Storage – massively scalable object storage for unstructured data such as documents, videos, pictures, and backups.
Azure Blob Storage offers three storage tiers: Hot, Cool, and Archive. Additionally, Microsoft offers a free account and $ 200 credit for 30 days to explore services together with 12 months of free access to a set of paid services.
Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage works similar to Amazon S3 or Microsoft Azure, allowing users to store an unlimited amount of data in the cloud. The difference is that Backblaze offers high performing cloud storage with no tiers. It’s just one cloud storage pool for storing your data, no matter how often you need to access it. For more information about Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage, please visit the official website: https://www.backblaze.com/cloud-storage
Also, they provide first 10 GB of their storage for free.
That’s enough words, let the numbers talk!
Further, I’m gonna compare the price for storing data, for moving it between different tiers, and for downloading. At this point, I’d also like to note that cloud providers have different prices on their storage depending on the region.
First, I am going to review the prices of the storage itself. Note that for Azure, I’ve chosen East US 2 region and for AWS – East US (N. Virginia).
|Azure Blob Storage Hot
|B2 Cloud Storage
|First 50 TB
|Next 450 TB
|Over 500 TB
$/GB/month all storage
|Azure Blob Storage Cool
|B2 Cloud Storage
$/GB/month all storage
|Azure Blob Storage Archive
|B2 Cloud Storage
When you have different tiers with different pricing, one day you might decide that data on hot tier is no longer required on a daily basis, so you may want to move it to a cheaper tier. Now that also comes at certain price since you have to pay for operations requests and for the amount of data moved. For example, with AWS S3-IA, you pay $0.1 per 10,000 PUT requests (from warmer tier to cooler), and $0.01 per GB. With Azure Blob Storage Cool tier, you’ll pay $0.1 for PUT operations and zero for GB moved.
Note that deleting is free and shifting data between tiers conforms the early deletion policies. Under “early deletion”, cloud providers usually mean fee for the remaining days. With Azure Blob Storage Archive, for instance, you keep data for 20 days out of 180 days-long early deletion period and then move it to another tier. In that case, you will be charged for 180-20=160 days of keeping data in Archive. Well, that does not sound like a fair play, does it?
Amazon also has its minimum storage duration policies in place: 30 days for S3-IA and 90 days for Glacier.
Want to download your data? Not so fast!
The prices for storing your data in cloud might seem appealing. Seriously, storing 1TB of data in Azure Blob Hot tier will cost 18 dollars, fine, $18.84 per month. Not that much huh? However, we’re coming to the interesting part, namely when you want to get your data back. There’s certain cost to download your data. Well, the idea is quite reasonable — downloading data requires bandwidth, and bandwidth costs money. Eventually, let’s have a look at how much you’ll pay for downloading your data from the cloud. Note that Amazon offers up to 1 GB free download per month for S3 and Glacier, Azure gives first 5 GB /month for all tiers at no charge and Backblaze B2 provides users with the first GB free retrieval every day.
Amazon charges the same price for bandwidth for S3 and Glacier (I’ve found no specific info on S3-IA), and Azure does the same – one price for Hot, Cool, and Archive.
|Azure Blob Storage
|B2 Cloud Storage
As you can see, B2 Cloud Storage asks the smallest download price out of three reviewed cloud storage providers. If you ask me, this should be one of the key points when choosing a cloud storage for your data since you’ll need to download it one day, and you don’t want to break the bank for that.
If you look at the numbers above, the most affordable cloud storage is provided by Backblaze. Storage price – $0.005/GB per month – lower than Azure and AWS hot tier cost. Download price – $0.01/GB – almost nine times less expensive than Azure and AWS. Additionally, B2 Cloud Storage is much more simple to work with. No tiers so no extra efforts on managing your data to reduce costs. And one more note, B2 Cloud Storage gives high performance, meaning it’s basically a hot tier at the price of cold. In this way, I would call Backblaze B2 the most cost-efficient cloud storage so far.