Storing it All

Amazon S3 is Amazon’s new super-scalable storage service. They say you can store as many “items” as you want with sizes up 5GB each. Items can be access through their SOAP or RESTful web services and I think files can also be downloaded through BitTorrent or something, but I haven’t really looked at that yet.

And what does it cost? $0.15 per GB per month. Additionally you pay $0.20 per GB traffic to and from your item store. That means I can keep my whole music collection (which is approximately 15 GB right now) on S3 for $2.25/month, not bad huh? Most of my songs are encoded on 192kbit, that means that one minute of music is about 1.425 MB big. Assuming I’d want to stream my music from S3 I’d have to stream 85.5 MB/hour, which is 1.67 ct/hour. So if I listen to, say music for 8 hours per day, 30 days per month (which is a lot), that would cost me an additional $4/month. Still, not bad huh?

Do I want this? Do I want to store my music somewhere online? Well I would feel safe if I could. I had a couple of hard drive crashes and my laptop (yes, my iBook) has broken down about 3 times in the past 5 months, which meant it was being repaired for quite an amount of that time, all this time the only way I could access my music was from my iPod, which wasn’t great. I want my music to be safe and accessible from any computer. And not only my music, but also my documents and pictures. I’ve played with different solutions for this.

One of them is MP3Tunes Locker which allows you to upload all your music for $39.95/year and stream it from the web and integrates into iTunes too (although this doesn’t work correctly on my Mac). But I don’t like it much, the web interface isn’t great and my music collection there is a mess after some failed upload attempts, plus it’s not very clear how I can get all my music out of it again in a simple way. And it’s only for music, you can’t store your documents there so it’s only a partial solution.

I’ve also played with Apple’s iDisk, which is a nice thing, but you only get 1 GB of space (for which you pay $99/year), but you can get a couple of GBs more, not the amounts I need and want though. Plus it’s really not meant to store and stream your music from.

My Dreamhost account comes with 20GB of storage and 1TB of free transfer, I can also set up WebDAV access and upload files there. I’ve done this and put all my pictures and a lot of my documents there. Still it’s still not it. I’m not sure how safe my files are there and how flexible it is.

S3 seems pretty nice though, but it’s just a webservice API, you have to build the applications on it yourself and I’m lazy, I see a lot of cool things you could do with it (like online music storage and streaming), but don’t have the time or, how shall I call it, patience to create it.

S3 is really easy to use, I played with a Python module that allows you to easily create items and upload files and such and it’s really nice and easy. Some people already started using this module to backup their Flickr photo collection to S3, and this can be done in about 25 lines of Python code.

And the nice thing is you can sign-up for free, you only get billed for what you use. I played around a bit and it seems I owe Amazon $0.01.

Being the third paragraph in a row that starting with “nice”, it would be really nice if somebody built a synchronization application for this, just to backup a directory or a couple. A web interface that allowed you to browse your ‘buckets’ would also be useful. I think Amazon got a very powerful product here, it’s simple, which is what makes it so attractive. But we need applications that use it!