Top 3 Practical Use Cases of Amazon S3 Intelligent Tiering

Falak Sher
Falak Sher

August 5, 2022

Top 3 Practical Use Cases of Amazon S3 Intelligent Tiering

Businesses large and small are rapidly becoming cloud-native, leaving on-premise data centers behind. Why? A major reason is no requirement for storage hardware and a much more efficient running of mission-critical workloads and databases. However, many businesses that are new to the cloud, or even those that are already on the cloud, find themselves battling rising cloud costs. As they scale and begin facing unpredictable or undefined workloads, operational inefficiencies are more likely to appear within their cloud infrastructure, which adds to their cloud bill. 

What is S3 Intelligent Tiering & who is it for?

Companies that adopted or migrated to AWS cloud, can easily save on their cloud bill with efficient governance, and intelligent tiering using Amazon S3. This AWS feature is especially suited for businesses that are new to managing cloud storage patterns, lack experience therein; or, are more focused on growing the business and have little to no time or resources dedicated to optimizing cloud operations and storage. S3 intelligent tiering optimizes storage costs automatically based on changing data access patterns, without impacting application performance or adding to overhead costs. 

Before we move on to discuss some of the practical use cases of S3 intelligent tiering, let’s learn a bit about how it actually works. S3 intelligent tiering stores objects based on how frequently they are accessed. It comprises two access tiers, one that is optimized for frequent access, and another for infrequent access. The latter is also known as the ‘lower-cost tier’. S3 intelligent tiering automatically move less frequently used objects – e.g. those that have not been accessed for 30 consecutive days – to this tier, by continuously monitoring data access patterns. 

Let’s talk about the top 3 use cases where cloud-first businesses can cut costs and drive savings using S3 intelligent tiering. 

#1 Understanding Storage Patterns

Here’s a rough estimate of AWS storage costs: if your business requires 1PB of data storage, this will cost you around $300,000 annually in storage costs if you use the S3 standard. If you’re new to the cloud or just starting to experiment with cloud storage options, you may observe a rise in your AWS cloud bill. This usually happens due to a lack of understanding of how and when your data access needs to change. S3 storage offers you lifecycle policies and S3 storage class analysis that tells you when to move your data from one access tier to another, and save on your AWS spend. 

S3 Intelligent tiering helps you optimize your storage automatically by moving data between the frequent and infrequent access tiers. This means you will save money that would otherwise be used to store dormant data. The frequent access tier charges you for data hosting on standard S3 storage, whereas, the infrequent or archive access tier incurs lower costs of storage. In addition, when using S3 standard storage, you won’t be charged extra for transferring your data between access tiers. This also helps in keeping costs low. This means, that if you’re unsure about your access patterns and data use, the S3 standard storage would be the ideal option for you. 

#2 Managing Unpredictable Workloads

Don’t know when your data workloads may increase or reduce? S3 intelligent tier is a perfect way to manage your cloud storage if you need to access assets intermittently from your cloud-based database. With flexible lifecycle policies, intelligent tiering automatically decides which data must be placed in which tier (frequent or infrequent access). This can be helpful in many scenarios, e.g. when building a database for a school,  accessing exam data would be infrequent since it will not be needed for a large portion of the school term. So this data would be moved to the infrequent access tier after consecutive 30 days of dormancy.

Similarly, in many companies, AWS S3 intelligent tiering can help cut cloud costs. Most employees store their data using different applications and more often than not forget about that data until a day comes when they need it. So if you were to use standard S3 storage only, it would incur huge data storage costs without any meaningful ROI. With intelligent tiering, you can manage what data are you actively charged for, and the dormant or infrequently used data can be moved to the lower-cost tier. 

For unpredictable, dynamic, or rapidly changing data workloads, S3 intelligent tiering serves as a powerful tool that helps ensure data availability as needed, upholding performance, and optimizing cloud storage costs. 

#3 Complying with Regulations

When working with clients and partners within the European Union (EU) region, one thing that most providers and companies have to comply with is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

GDPR harmonizes data protection and privacy laws and lists down a number of rules when it comes to handling users’ data. One of those rules talks about data erasure – i.e. private user data should be erased from your databases and websites after a certain period of time or a certain period of data dormancy. 

If you use S3 intelligent tier storage to comply with GDPR, it can save on your company’s AWS cloud bill, and optimize your storage without compromising on performance. 

If a user does not access their data for some time, it will be moved to the lower-cost storage tier, and will not cost you as much as S3 standard storage. S3 also allows you to set your own lifecycle policy where you can decide the duration of active data storage. For instance, you can choose to keep your users’ data in the frequent access tier for six months or up to a year, before it is moved to the infrequent access tier. Moreover, S3 intelligent tiering enables you to control mechanisms like access control lists and bucket policies to you always stay compliant with data security regulations. 

Long Story Short

Cloud storage incurs huge costs to companies that do not have optimized storage in place. As an AWS user, the best choice would be to opt for Amazon S3 intelligent tier storage if you find yourself looking at a high AWS cloud bill each month. With varying data workloads, lack of experience in understanding cloud storage, and compliance to regulations, S3 intelligent tiering helps you optimize s3 data costs and keep cloud costs in check

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