AWS File Services: What Are the Options?

What Are Cloud File Services

Cloud file services are essentially a category of cloud storage services that provide scalable, elastic, and secure file systems. These services are designed to be used and managed remotely over the internet, thus eliminating the need for maintaining physical servers. As businesses move their operations to the cloud, these file services become vital tools for storing and managing an organization’s data.

We should distinguish between file services and object storage services. File storage services, like Amazon Elastic File Service (EFS) are similar to traditional hard disks—they allow you to store files in a folder hierarchy. Object storage services, like Amazon S3, allow you to store files as objects. They are cheaper than file services but typically offer lower performance, and are not compatible with many traditional applications.

Cloud file services are not just about storage. They enable collaboration, such as file sharing between team members, synchronization of data across multiple devices, and integration with various apps and services. This way, they provide a comprehensive data management solution that goes beyond mere storage. By combining file services and other types of storage services for different needs, organizations can optimize their use of the cloud.

One of the leading providers of cloud file services is Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS offers a variety of file services tailored to different needs and use cases.

AWS File Services: What Are the Options? 

AWS offers a suite of file services to cater to different data storage needs. These include Amazon EFS, Amazon FSx for Lustre, Amazon FSx for Windows File Server, and Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP.

Amazon EFS

Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) is a fully managed, cloud-native file system that provides scalable and elastic file storage for use with AWS Cloud services and on-premises resources. It is designed to be highly available and durable, providing the capability to concurrently share file data with thousands of EC2 instances and on-premises servers.

EFS automatically scales to meet the storage requirements of your applications, meaning you only pay for the storage you use. With its built-in lifecycle management, you can automate cost-saving practices by moving infrequently accessed files to a cost-optimized storage class.

EFS also offers strong security and compliance features. You can easily manage access controls using AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), and monitor file operations with AWS CloudTrail.

Amazon FSx for Lustre

Amazon FSx for Lustre is a fully managed file system that is optimized for compute-intensive workloads. These include machine learning, high performance computing (HPC), video processing, and financial modeling. It provides sub-millisecond latencies, up to hundreds of gigabytes per second of throughput, and millions of IOPS.

FSx for Lustre seamlessly integrates with Amazon S3, enabling you to process cloud data sets with the performance of a high-performance file system. It also allows you to write results back to S3, ensuring your data is readily available for further analysis or archiving.

Furthermore, FSx for Lustre offers robust data protection features, such as automatic backups and file system snapshots, ensuring your data is safe and recoverable.

Amazon FSx for Windows File Server

Amazon FSx for Windows File Server provides a fully managed, highly reliable, and scalable file storage that is accessible over the industry-standard Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. It is built on Windows Server, delivering a wide range of administrative features such as user quotas, end-user file restore, and Microsoft Active Directory (AD) integration.

FSx for Windows File Server makes it easy to migrate your enterprise applications to the AWS Cloud, without changing your existing Windows-based applications. It offers SSD-based storage that can deliver fast performance, with single-digit millisecond latencies and millions of IOPS.

In addition to this, FSx for Windows File Server provides strong security features, including encryption of data at rest and in transit, and compliance with key industry standards.

Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP

Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP is a managed file service that offers popular features of ONTAP data management software. It provides rich data management capabilities, including data deduplication, compression, and thin provisioning, helping you optimize storage costs.

FSx for NetApp ONTAP supports multiple protocols, including NFS, SMB, and iSCSI, enabling you to run a wide range of applications without requiring modifications. It also offers seamless integration with AWS services, making it easy to build, secure, and scale your applications.

Moreover, FSx for NetApp ONTAP provides robust data protection and security features, such as SnapMirror data replication, SnapVault backup, and encryption of data at rest and in transit.

How to Choose the Right AWS File Service? 

Choosing the right AWS file service depends primarily on your application requirements, performance needs, and budget constraints. Each service has its unique strengths and is designed to cater to different types of applications and workloads:

  • If your applications require shared access to files, Amazon EFS is a great choice as it provides a simple, scalable, elastic, and fully managed shared file system. 
  • If you’re running Microsoft Windows-based applications, Amazon FSx for Windows File Server might be the more suitable option as it provides fully managed, reliable, and scalable file storage. 
  • For web-scale applications requiring object storage, file services might be less suitable, and you can use Amazon S3, an object storage service.

Optimizing Storage Costs on AWS 

Optimizing storage costs is an important part of AWS cost management

Utilize Appropriate Storage Classes

One key to optimizing your AWS storage costs is to utilize the appropriate storage classes. AWS provides a variety of storage classes designed for different access levels, longevity, and pricing. For example, Amazon S3 offers several storage classes, each designed for specific use cases.

The S3 Standard storage class is ideal for frequently accessed data, while the S3 Intelligent-Tiering is perfect for data with unknown or changing access patterns. For infrequently accessed data, S3 Standard-IA (Infrequent Access) and S3 One Zone-IA offer cost-effective options. For archival purposes, S3 Glacier and S3 Glacier Deep Archive offer the lowest cost storage. By understanding your data usage patterns and selecting the right storage class, you can significantly reduce your storage costs.

Implement Data Lifecycle Policies

Another effective strategy is to implement data lifecycle policies. These policies allow you to automatically move your data to more cost-effective storage classes or delete them after a certain period. For instance, you might decide to move data that hasn’t been accessed for 30 days from S3 Standard to S3 Standard-IA, and then to S3 Glacier after 90 days. After a year, you might choose to delete this data altogether. By automating these transitions, you can ensure that you’re always using the most cost-effective storage for your data.

Delete Unnecessary Data Regularly

Regularly deleting unnecessary data is another vital practice for cost optimization. This might seem obvious, but in the cloud, where storage can seem virtually unlimited, it’s easy to accumulate data that you no longer need. Regular audits of your data can help identify what can be deleted. Remember, every byte stored incurs a cost, so keeping your storage lean can lead to significant savings.

Compress and Deduplicate Data

Lastly, compressing and deduplicating your data can help optimize your storage costs. Compression reduces the size of your data, which directly translates into lower storage costs. Many AWS services, like Amazon Redshift, automatically compress data. However, you can also manually compress data before storing it in services like Amazon S3.

Deduplication involves removing duplicate copies of data, thus reducing the amount of storage needed. Several AWS services, including Amazon S3, support deduplication. By compressing and deduplicating your data, you can further reduce your storage costs.


In conclusion, AWS File Services offer a range of options to cater to different application needs. By selecting the right file service, utilizing the appropriate storage classes, implementing data lifecycle policies, regularly deleting unnecessary data, and compressing and deduplicating data, you can significantly optimize your storage costs on AWS. As with any cloud service, the key to cost optimization lies in understanding your usage patterns and aligning them with the most cost-effective options.

Author Bio: Gilad David Maayan

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.




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