Definition

Amazon EBS (Amazon Elastic Block Store)

Contributor(s): Katherine Wiley

Amazon Elastic Block Store is an AWS block storage system that is best used for storing persistent data. Often incorrectly referred to as Elastic Block Storage, Amazon EBS provides highly available block level storage volumes for use with Amazon EC2 instances.

To begin, create an EBS volume (General Purpose, Provisioned IOPS or Magnetic), pick a size for it (up to a terabyte of data) and attach that to any one of your EC2 instances. An EBS volume can only be attached to one instance at a time but if you need to have multiple copies of the volume, you can take a snapshot and create another volume from that snapshot and attach it to another drive. A snapshot file is equivalent to a backup of whatever the EBS volume looks like at the time. For every snapshot you create, you can make an identical EC2 instance. This will allow you to publish identical content on multiple servers.

Amazon EBS is ideal if you’re doing any substantial work with EC2, you want to keep data persistently on a file system, and you want to keep that data around even after you shut down your EC2 instance.

EC2 instances have local storage that you can use as long as you’re running the instance, but as soon as you shut down the instance you lose the data that was on there. If you want to save anything, you need to save it on Amazon EBS. Because EC2 is like having a local drive on the machine, you can access and read the EBS volumes anytime once you attach the file to an EC2 instance.

For an additional level of security there is EBS encryption which allows you to encrypt data that is on the EBS volume. The benefit is that only the person that has access to the key pair, that was used to do the encryption, can read that data. To use this feature you would go through the Amazon Console to define the data that is being encrypted and specify what the key pair is to do the encryption. Once you encrypt an EBS volume and attach it to an instance type, the data on the volume and the snapshots created from the volume will all be encrypted.

With Amazon Elastic Block Store, you pay only for what you use.

This was last updated in October 2014

Next Steps

How do EBS snapshots back up cloud workloads?

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