Why I Started Using Amazon S3

I have been tracking Amazon S3 ever since it was announced back in March. S3 is an innovative, developer-oriented Simple Storage Service with extremely low prices - 15 cents per gig stored, 20 cents per gig transferred monthly. Jeremy Zawodny has written a comprehensive piece on how cost effective S3 is compared to maintaining his own backup server. But it wasn't until Jeremy's follow-up post regarding tools for utilizing S3 that I became much more interested.

The Possibilities

Amazon created S3 with the developer in mind. That means there is a capable REST-based API for people to use the service regardless of the particular application at hand. That means you can establish fast server to server connections such as this handy article that shows how it is possible to backup your Flickr photos to S3.

However, I was more intrigued with a small Windows/Mac/Linux application called JungleDisk. It lets you connect to your S3 account as a networked drive on your computer (WebDAV). JungleDisk adds a bit of user-friendliness to the essentially UI-less S3. Forget paying Apple's ridiculous .Mac prices and setup JungleDisk+S3. It's the perfect solution for backing up important files (it's so cheap, why not backup everything?) and sharing files amongst computers. Just install JungleDisk on each computer and provide it your Amazon S3 access keys. I'm so impressed with this combination that I would consider ditching my external backup FireWire drive if I had a faster Internet connection (Comcast is a little stingy on the upload).

To date, many people have taken note of S3. Web applications harnessing S3's affordability and features are starting to appear, such as Filicio.us. Someone has developed a useful PHP class for S3 while others have discovered how to integrate S3 file uploads with AJAX.

What Have We Established Here?

  • Amazon S3 is cheap.
  • It's scalable - use as much or as little storage and bandwidth as you want. Don't worry when your S3-based web application gains 20,000 users overnight.
  • There are numerous ways of tapping into S3; be it via some custom python script or JungleDisk's WebDAV interface. If you have an idea, S3 can mold around how you plan to bring your idea into reality.
  • Anyone can use S3 - while it's got the features for developers, it is just as potent for the casual or unexperienced user.
  • Your data is safe. S3 is an Amazon service. Amazon's been around the proverbial block several times and they know what they're doing.
  • S3 is more reliable than your homebuilt server or cheap web hosting account at some company with a fancy name.