AWS Storage Blog

Optimizing AWS Backup costs

The threat of ransomware has placed data protection front and center as a top priority for all businesses. The Sophos State of Ransomware Report 2023 reported that 66% of organizations were impacted in 2022 with a median ransomware payout of $400,000 (average pay out of $1.54 million). With the median recovery cost of using backups being half that of ransom payments ($370,000 as opposed to $750,000), having reliable backups is not a luxury, but an imperative for organizations.

Simultaneously, organizations are looking to optimize cloud costs, such as the cost of cloud data protection. The Flexera 2023 State of the Cloud Report shows managing cloud spend as the top priority for 82% of all organizations using the cloud. AWS users consistently provide us feedback about needing to balance a comprehensive defense-in-depth strategy with a cost-effective data protection strategy.

AWS Backup is a native cloud solution that provides users with a cost-effective, fully managed, policy-based service that simplifies data protection at scale for your hybrid resources. To help our 130,000 AWS Backup customers (as of September 2023) optimize their data protection spend, we are publishing a series of posts that outline AWS Backup cost optimization best practices, gathered from working with thousands of users. In this post, we review the definition of cost optimization, how AWS Backup is built to optimize cost, and the principles to consider when optimizing backup costs.

What is cost optimization?

Cost optimization is about spending “smart,” not necessarily spending less. Gartner defines cost optimization as “a business-focused, continuous discipline to drive spending and cost reduction, while maximizing business value.” Similarly, AWS defines costs optimization as “the ability to run systems to deliver business value at the lowest price point.” Managed cloud services, such as AWS Backup, can help you get more value from your IT infrastructure by reducing costs, accelerating innovation and modernization, increasing operational efficiency and business growth, and reducing business risks.

How AWS Backup optimizes your data protection costs

There are three key ways that AWS Backup can help you gain economic and operational advantages while protecting your data:

  1. AWS Backup helps you lower your overall backup and recovery infrastructure spend. You do not need to provision and mange backup servers or storage. You do not have to manually scale up capacity as your resources grow. There are no annual software licensing costs for using AWS Backup. You can immediately access AWS Backup, without capital expenses or operational overhead, and paying only for what you consume.
  1. AWS Backup simplifies backup operations so you can spend less time and cycles on backup operations and focus instead on innovation and modernization. You can use AWS Backup to centrally protect supported AWS services. You do not have to manage multiple solutions, bought or built, to managed backup of native AWS services. As a managed service, AWS Backup removes the need for you to spend time and cycles on undifferentiated tasks, such as resource provisioning, software patching, and capacity planning.
  1. AWS Backup provides you with management tools to monitor and to optimize your backup costs across your organization. You can use tools such as cost allocation tags to track the costs of your backups. Using the AWS Backup policy engine, you can control the backup data retention and lifecycle of supported services, to make sure data is not retained beyond when it is needed. Through integrating with AWS Organizations, you can centrally apply these policies across multiple AWS accounts.

Cost optimization principles to consider

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for optimizing backup costs. Instead, you should take a holistic approach and consider how to spend efficiently while meeting your business objectives. We dive deeper into the following themes in this series.

1. Assess and understand your current cloud backup costs

Calculating backup costs involves more than just knowing the price of storage. You can better compare and optimize cost if you know how much you are paying for your current solution, including infrastructure, software, and operations costs.

Understand the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). We recommend that you consider the TCO of your current backup solution, not only the cost of backup storage. To evaluate your TCO, you should consider additional costs, such as software licenses, compute, and operations.

Track spending. You can’t optimize costs if you don’t understand your actual spend. AWS Backup provides tools to help you track and optimize your backup costs. You can use cost-allocation tags to track the costs of your backups. You can filter tagged resources, using AWS Cost Explorer, to view backup costs by different criteria, such as departments or projects.

2. Understand how your costs are calculated

Backup costs vary by supported resources and are documented in the AWS Backup pricing page. You can optimize cost by understanding each resource’s cost model and configuring your backup polices based on those policies.

Understand the cost impact of incremental forever backups. Legacy backup solutions used schemes that needed periodic full backups, along with incremental backups. Backups in AWS are based on incremental forever snapshots that only need a single full snapshot to be taken. For example, a 100GB Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volume with a 2% daily change rate would accumulate ~160GB of snapshot data over a single month of daily backups, with a 30-day retention. Using a legacy approach with weekly full backups, the same volume would accumulate ~600GB of snapshot data.

Understand how different resources charge for backups. AWS Backup supports backup management of 20 resources/AWS services, such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), VMware vSphere, and SAP HANA on Amazon EC2. There may be different cost models for different services and understanding those cost models will help you to predict and control your costs. For example, Amazon RDS offers continuous backups through AWS Backup. These backups can be retained for up to 35 days and backups taken during that retention period are offered at no cost to you.

3. Use lifecycle management for your backup storage

You have control over your backup frequency, lifecycle, and the granularity of resource selection for your backup plan. You can choose what to protect and for how long. You can change those settings at any time.

Control backup frequency. Backup costs are directly related to how frequently you back up your data. We recommend classifying your workloads and configuring backup frequencies, based on the recovery time and recovery point objectives for each class of workloads.

Dictate retention policies. Similarly, we recommend classifying your workloads according to your retention requirements. For example, you may have a requirement to retain daily backups for one month only but retain monthly backups for one year. To control costs, you may not want to retain backup data for longer than is necessary.

Tier backups to cold storage for long-term retention. Some resources, protected by AWS Backup, support tiering to cold storage. We recommend classifying your workloads according to your retention requirements and tiering them to cold storage when appropriate.


Protecting your data, using solutions such as AWS Backup, is a must at a time when data is valuable and under attack. But that requirement has be balanced with the need to optimize cost. AWS Backup has tools and best practices to help you manage your backups, with the ability to run systems to deliver business value at the lowest price point. Look for additional AWS Backup cost optimization posts throughout 2024. Meanwhile, learn more about AWS Backup on our product page and read this Amazon Storage post to learn how to use cost-allocation tags with AWS Backup. As always, reach out to your account team if you have questions or please leave a comment.

Kenneth Hui

Kenneth Hui

Kenneth Hui is a Senior Solutions Architect on the AWS State and Local Government team. He has 20+ years of experience in enterprise technology and has led or participated in multiple migration projects. Ken lives in New York City where he enjoys eating from different restaurants and sampling different cuisines.