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How do EBS snapshots back up cloud workloads?

Testing applications is a crucial element of our enterprise's software development effort. How can EBS snapshots keep production environments safe during testing?

Block storage volumes are a crucial part of public cloud because they ensure that the enterprise can efficiently run different types of applications. Amazon Elastic Block Store is a block storage service that complements Amazon EC2 instances, but not all block storage is created equal. It's important to know specific performance and security options to get the full benefits of Amazon EBS.

Amazon EBS can take snapshots of a specified EBS volume. Users can save those EBS snapshots to Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). EBS snapshots facilitate data management as well as backup or disaster recovery (DR).

For example, developers can use EBS snapshots to create new EBS volumes, which start with the same data contained in the selected snapshot. This is useful when testing an application on a desired data set in an EBS volume, as it won't put the actual production data at risk. This also works when moving an EBS volume across AWS availability zones for DR.

Without being able to restore from EBS snapshots, these scenarios would require an administrator to copy data from the working EBS volume to the newly created EBS volume, which could affect performance of the EBS volume in production.

EBS snapshots store data incrementally. After an initial copy, S3 only stores blocks that have changed since the last snapshot. AWS bills for the amount of S3 storage used. Deleting EBS snapshots is also an incremental process; only blocks that are not needed by any snapshot iteration are deleted from S3. The number of incremental changes does not significantly affect the time needed to restore a snapshot, but users can limit the number of snapshots taken for an EBS volume to save S3 costs.

Next Steps

Evaluate and select the right EBS volumes

AWS DR and backup keep resources working

Resize an Amazon EBS volume

This was last published in June 2016

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