A Beginner’s Guide on How Cloud Backup With Amazon S3 Works

obrBy Joseph Gildred — Last Updated: 22 Aug'17 2017-04-20T07:25:55+00:00

Amazon S3 may stand for “simple storage service” but figuring out how to get started with it can seem anything but. That’s mostly due to the fact that S3 was designed to help developers build cloud-computing tools and is just one of about 70 different services included in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform.

During this guide, we’ll give you a quick overview of how storage with Amazon S3 works and how to set it up. We’ll also show you how you can build your cloud storage and backup strategy around S3 with minimal work using friendly integration software like that developed by CloudBerry Labs.

Amazon S3 Regions, Classes and Charges

Among cloud storage services, few have as many data center regions — 14 — around the world as Amazon S3. That’s because Amazon S3 is built on the same infrastructure used by the Amazon.com shopping platform.

The advantage of being able to choose a region near you is that it decreases latency, which translates to faster transfers to and from the cloud. A second key advantage of using S3 is that you’re only charged for what you use. That helps make S3 much more scalable than many other cloud storage options, like Backblaze B2.

Before you get started setting up S3, you’ll want to understand the fees, of course. The nice thing is that you’re only charged for what you use, which helps control costs. At the same time, not understanding how charges are accrued can lead to some unpleasant surprises.

Amazon charges both a flat per gigabyte storage and a usage rate for various transactions. The rates vary by region but not much, except in South America where they’re around double.

Here’s a look at the U.S. East (Virginia) rates:

TierStandard per gigabyteStandard - infrequent access per gigabyte
First 50 TB / month$0.023$0.0125
Next 450 TB / month$0.022$0.0125
Over 500 TB / month$0.021$0.0125

“Standard” and “standard – infrequent access” are two different storage classes offered by S3. Storage classes let you control costs even more by reducing base storage rates for data you don’t need to access often.

There’s a third S3 storage class called reduced redundancy storage which decreases the number of copies of your data stored. Plus, there’s a separate cloud storage service called Amazon Glacier that’s designed for archiving and disaster recovery.

For usage charges, any uploads to Amazon S3 are free. Retrievals are charged per gigabyte per month:

Amazon S3 Data Retrieval Costs

First 1GB per monthFree
Up to 10TB per month$0.090 per GB
Next 40 TB per month$0.085 per GB
Next 100 TB per month$0.070 per GB
Next 350 TB per month$0.050 per GB

Amazon also charges usage for other transactions, although if you’re just using S3 for sync or backup, you’ll never need to worry about them.

 StandardStandard - infrequent accessAmazon Glacier
PUT, COPY, POST, LIST requests$0.005 per 1,000 requests$0.01 per 1,000 requestsN/A
GET, all other requests$0.004 per 1,000 requests$0.01 per 10,000 requestsN/A
Lifecycle transitionN/A$0.01 per 1,000 requests$0.05 per 1,000 requests

Setting Up Amazon S3

With that out of the way, let’s set you up with Amazon S3.

Step One: Log Into the AWS Management Console

To get started with S3, head to the AWS console page and click the “sign in to the console” button.

You’ll be redirected to the login page where you can either sign in or create an AWS account. If you already have an Amazon.com account, you can just login with those credentials.

Now that you’re logged into AWS, you need to find S3 from among the 70 plus services available. You can browse the listings under “all services” to find it under the “storage” heading, or just type S3 into the search bar at the top of the page.

You’ll be sent to the S3 management console, where you can set up your cloud storage by creating a storage bucket.

Step Two: Create a Storage Bucket

With AWS, by default, any account can create up to 100 cloud storage buckets. If you need more, you can submit a service limit increase request.

Click the “create bucket” button to get started.

You’ll be asked to enter a name for your bucket and select a region.

Any name you enter must be unique, meaning accounts held by others can’t have the same name. Also, Amazon enforces DNS-compliant naming conventions in all areas except for the U.S. East region.

Here are the DNS-compliant naming rules according to Amazon:

  • Bucket names must be at least 3 and no more than 63 characters long.
  • Bucket names must be a series of one or more labels. Adjacent labels are separated by a single period (.). Bucket names can contain lowercase
  • letters, numbers, and hyphens. Each label must start and end with a lowercase letter or a number.
  • Bucket names must not be formatted as an IP address (e.g., 192.168.5.4).
  • When using virtual hosted-style buckets with SSL, the SSL wildcard certificate only matches buckets that do not contain periods. To work around this, use HTTP or write your own certificate verification logic. We recommend that you do not use periods (“.”) in bucket names.

The region you select will determine which data center your bucket is kept in. Choose a region close to you for faster speeds.

Once you’re done, click the “next” button to set up your bucket properties.

There are three key properties you can set now or later:

  • Versioning: retain more than one copy of an object so that you can revert back to previous states in case of unwanted changes, corruptions, etc.
  • Logging: create tracking report access to monitor cloud storage events
  • Tags: assign markers to buckets to help with report tracking

Next up, you can set permissions to allow others to read or write to your S3 bucket.

Permissions can be set for both “objects” and “object permissions.” Objects are files or folders. Object permissions enable or disable read and write capabilities of the access control list (ACL), which lets others control permissions, too.

The final step is simply a review of everything you’ve set.

If everything looks good, click “create bucket.”

Step Three: Adding Data to Your Bucket

Now that your bucket is created, you can start storing data in it. Back on your S3 homepage, clicking on your new bucket will let you do that.

You’ll be redirected to an interface for managing your bucket with four tabs at the top: objects, properties, permissions and management. For the moment, we’ll stay on the objects tab.

Click on the “get started” button at the bottom of the tab. A pop-up window will open that will walk you through the upload steps.

The first step requires that you click the “add files button.” You can then browse your file system to find and upload files.

You can only upload one file at a time and can’t upload folders. So, the process is going to be slow going if you manage your S3 cloud storage this way. We’ll address this issue shortly, so stick with us.

The next step lets you set permissions and is identical to step during the bucket creation process. Step three is to set properties.

The storage class property lets you change your bucket from standard to standard-inactive, to reduced redundancy.

Encryption lets you choose whether or not Amazon encrypts your data at rest in the cloud. There are two options: an S3 master key or an Amazon KMS master key. KMS is Amazon’s key management service. For a cost, it lets you created and manage your own encryption keys for added security and compliance reasons.

Click on “next” to review your settings before uploading your content by clicking the upload button. The process should be pretty quick. We measured speeds between 1MB/s and 1.5MB/s, which is better than most cloud storage services.

Back on the main page, you can also create folders under the objects tab to organize your cloud storage space.

Properties, Permissions and Management Tabs

Once you’ve got data stored in S3, you can adjust the properties and permissions you set at any time by visiting the tabs for either category.

The properties tab includes a few additional elements you’ll want to be aware of. These include static website hosting, event monitoring and data copying across different Amazon S3 regions.

A fourth tab called “management” includes options for life-cycle management. Life-cycle management lets you automatically transfer data from one storage class to another. For example, transferring files from standard storage to Amazon Glacier, which is used for archiving.

You can also set data to delete automatically. Both transfer and delete transactions can be configured to happen based on a set of rules you define.

The management tab also has tools for analytics, metric and inventory.

Third-Party Integration Tools for Data Management

While setting up Amazon S3 buckets turns out to be pretty easy, after all, having to backup one file at a time isn’t going to work for most people. Unlike typical cloud storage and cloud backup services, there’s no way from within the S3 console to automatically sync or backup multiple files. That’s where good third-party software comes in handy.

You can find software for both home and office use of varying degrees of cost, performance and features. We’ll use perhaps the most recognized, and a personal favorite, developer as an example: Cloudberry Labs.

CloudBerry Licenses and Pricing

 Desktop FreeDesktop ProWindows Server
CostFree$29.99$119.99
File system backup
Image backup
Encryption and compression
Storage limit (upgradable)200GB1TB1TB

Cloudberry Labs produces two different types of software that integrate with Amazon S3:

  • CloudBerry Explorer: Move and manage files from your desktop. Allows for bulk-management of content instead of uploading one file at a time
  • CloudBerry Backup: Automate backup of your computer hard drive. Set up either file-based or image-based backup

We won’t go into depth on these the capabilities of these tools here, but let’s take a quick look at how easily they integrate with S3 using CloudBerry Backup as an example. If you’d like more information, check out our CloudBerry Backup review.

CloudBerry Backup uses a desktop tool to streamline your backup processes. That tool can be used to automate hard drive backup and send your files or disk image to not only Amazon S3, but Azure, Google Cloud, Backblaze B2 and many other storage services.

Once installed, integration with CloudBerry Backup takes a few steps but should be manageable for most users thanks to a handy backup wizard.

To set up file-based backup, click the “files” icon in the top-left corner of the software. This will open the wizard and walk you through what you need to do.

The second pane of the CloudBerry Backup wizard has an “add new account” button. Click this button to set up a new integration.

You’ll be asked to choose your cloud storage platform. Click on the icon for S3 to upon a connection window.

With Amazon S3, you need to generate keys to activate this connection. Back in the AWS portal, click on your account name on the top-right side and select “my security credentials” from the dropdown menu.

On the next page, click on the line for “access keys.”

Click on the “create new access key” button. This will generate both the access key ID and secret access key you need to connect CloudBerry Box to Amazon S3. Once you close this screen, you won’t be able to retrieve your secret key again. You can download a key file if you want for safeguarding.

Back in the CloudBerry Amazon S3 integration window, input the keys in the respective fields. You’ll also need to create a display name for your integration and select the Amazon S3 cloud storage bucket you want to connect to in the “bucket name” field.

That’s the hard part. The wizard will walk you through the rest of the steps, which include creating a name for your backup plan, setting encryption levels, file-transfer options and notifications, and choosing the folders and files you want to backup.

If you don’t want to backup by checking off specific objects, you can even set CloudBerry Backup to backup files based on file type, which saves times and ensures you don’t miss anything.

You’ll have some decisions to make but the payoff will be worth it. Going forward, your device data will be protected in the Amazon S3 bucket you’ve just set up courtesy of CloudBerry Backup.

Final Thoughts

Amazon S3 probably isn’t going to be the solution most home consumers will want to go with. $0.023 per gigabyte per month for storage equates to $23 per terabyte. Meanwhile, cloud storage services like Sync.com give you 2TB of storage for $8 per month. Cloud backup services like CrashPlan give you unlimited backup for $5.99 per month.

However, S3 has its uses, particularly for entrepreneurs, developers and businesses looking for more flexibility, features and scalability. While the service isn’t quite as easy to set up as some consumer options, the added perks you get by integrating it with powerful third-party software like CloudBerry make it worth the effort.

We’d love to hear about your own experiences setting up Amazon S3 and what third-party tools you use to streamline your storage process. So, feel free to let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.

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