While online storage services such as Carbonite, Mozy, and Apple’s iCloud are popular; some people find that Amazon’s Glacier storage service is right for them. However, it is not easy to figure out how to use Amazon’s Glacier service, and this article shares what I learned. I am a judgment broker who writes often.
To use Glacier, you need an Amazon account. Amazon’s Glacier web service will generate a set of keys consisting of your chosen username, an access key ID (e.g., 000000000000000000000), and a secret access key, (e.g.,000000000000000000000),(e.g., 111111111111111111111111111111111111111).
One needs these long Amazon credentials with Glacier, or any glacier software clients they use. The Glacier user name and passwords are not the same as one would use on any other Amazon features or services.
You can use the same Amazon Glacier credentials on several computers. Another Glacier feature is, you can send them a hard drive, and for a fee; they will archive it to Glacier, then send your hard drive back to you.
One drawback of the secret Amazon Glacier access keys, is that they are so long, they probably will not get written down. If your computer crashes and this password combination was on your computer and nowhere else, you may be stuck. Always print out your Amazon glacier keys and store the paper in a safe place, and/or on removable storage media. Perhaps even print an extra copy and mail it (or the USB storage device) to a relative or friend, and/or keep the paper or media offsite.
What is important to know about Amazon Glacier is that it is very different from other cloud storage services. It was created for archival storage, and using it for any other purpose may be a frustrating experience.
Glacier is designed for uploading new files. Retrieving files from storage, or even inspecting what files you have previously uploaded is a much trickier process, that requires waiting from 4 to 30 (or more) hours. It is impossible to download data from Glacier without at least 4 hours of prior notice.
Although there are several ways, and software programs to transfer files to or from Amazon Glacier, I have found (SAGU) SimpleGlacierUploader (http://simpleglacieruploader.brianmcmichael.com/ SimpleGlacierUploaderV0746.jar) to be one of the easiest to use. SAGU is a free Java-based software program. A wish-list item for SAGU is to add a start/pause function that remembers the state of the transfer(s); even if they stop and start after the computer was shut down and rebooted.
To run SAGU, one must install the free Java Development Kit (JDK) on their computer. Being a Java program, SAGU does not look like a regular software program, and by default, it writes logs and other files on your desktop. When quitting the program, most people can toss out the four files SAGU creates.
With Amazon Glacier (and all other Amazon web services) there are several regional data centers you can use. While Amazon may be free at first, eventually they charge reasonable rates (about a penny per gigabyte per month) for storage. The fees vary in each data center, and US West seems to be one of the cheapest. Remember which Amazon data center you use, because you will not be able to access your files if you pick the wrong data center.
For best results, you should upload a few big files instead of multiple smaller ones. For example, if you want to use it for photo storage, start by creating a few archives with all the photos you want to store; one archive file for each year. This will work much better than uploading thousands of photos alone.
Archived files you upload will be transferred to Glacier directly, however you will not immediately see the archives you upload to the folder in your private vault. This is because the uploads take some time to process by Amazon. If your upload to Glacier succeeds, it will appear in Glacier’s archive listings in about a day.
You cannot create subfolders on Glacier, so if you need to upload a directory structure, zip it up to an archive and upload that. If there are any unfinished uploads, after about a day, you will see them on Glacier; and sometimes be able to resume an upload from where it was interrupted.
Once your upload is complete, the file will be “consumed” and disappear from your folder; and reappear in about a day in the Glacier archives. You must export a log to see what files were successfully transferred. You can upload files up to 640 gigs big, as long as your subscription allows it.
The most common archival format is ZIP. Sometimes (especially when you have a bunch of old files) a large compression job on a folder full of files, will eventually give an error message or stop responding. If that happens, compress parts of your folder at a time, to create several smaller archives. Also, if the compression software crashes or reports an error, there is a good chance the compressed file will be corrupt, even if it is gigs big.
It is best to keep your zipped archives under 10 Gigs, so they will not take days to upload. While you are uploading to Amazon Glacier, on the Mac, when you are doing other things, clicking SAGU does not bring up the “progress window”.
So, if you use a simple Glacier program such as SAGU, you just compress your files into a big archive file, add that file to SAGU, and start your upload. An uploaded file will overwrite a previous upload having the same file name.
It is best to name your files with the folder name, the computer name, and the date, and keep deleting old backups from time to time; and keep only the most recent, because with Glacier you pay for total files sizes. Or, skip the dates and just overwrite the same named files.
With simpler backup solutions, why bother with Glacier? One can never be too rich, too thin, or make too many backups. Update, I gave up on Amazon Glacier when Apple came out with Time Machine (I use Time Machine daily, rotating my backup drives), and I use BackBlaze now.