Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Explore new AWS offerings for developers and enterprises alike

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is a scalable, high-speed, low-cost, web-based cloud storage service designed for online backup and archiving of data and application programs. S3 was designed with a minimal feature set and created to make web-scale computing easier for developers.

Amazon S3 is an object storage service, which differs from block and file cloud storage. Each object is stored as a file with its metadata included and given an ID number. Applications use this ID number to access an object. Unlike file and block cloud storage, a developer can access an object via a rest API.

The S3 cloud storage service gives a subscriber access to the same systems that Amazon uses to run its own websites. S3 enables a customer to upload, store and download practically any file or object that is up to five gigabytes (5 GB) in size.

Amazon S3 comes in two storage classes: S3 Standard and S3 Infrequent Access. S3 Standard is suitable for frequently accessed data that needs to be delivered with low latency and high throughput. S3 Standard targets applications, dynamic websites, content distribution and big data workloads. S3 Infrequent Access offers a lower storage price for backups and long-term data storage.

Working with buckets

Amazon does not impose a limit on the number of items that a subscriber can store; however, there are Amazon S3 bucket limitations. An Amazon S3 bucket exists within a particular region of the cloud. An AWS customer uses an Amazon S3 API to upload objects to a particular bucket. Customers configure and manage S3 buckets.

Protecting your data

Subscriber data is stored on redundant servers in multiple data centers. S3 uses a simple web-based interface -- the Amazon S3 console -- and encryption for user authentication.

A subscriber can choose to keep data private or make it publicly accessible. A user can also encrypt data prior to storage. Rights may be specified for individual users. When a subscriber stores data on S3, Amazon tracks usage for billing purposes but does not otherwise access the data unless required to do so by law.

This was last updated in October 2016

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