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Q. What is AWS Import/Export Snowball?

AWS Import/Export Snowball is a data transport solution that accelerates moving terabytes to petabytes of data into and out of AWS using secure storage appliances for physical transport. Using Snowball helps to eliminate challenges that can be encountered with large-scale data transfers including high network costs, long transfer times, and security concerns.

Q. How does Snowball work?

You start by using the AWS Management Console to create a job, request one or multiple Snowball appliances (depending on how much data you need to transfer), and download and install the Snowball client. Once the appliance arrives, connect it to your local network, set the IP address either manually or with DHCP, and use the client to identify the directories you want to copy. The client will automatically encrypt and copy the data to the appliance and notify you when the transfer job is complete. Once the transfer is complete and the appliance is ready to be returned, the E Ink shipping label will automatically update and you can track the job status via Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS), text messages, or directly in the Console.

Q. Who should use Snowball?

Snowball is the right data transfer choice if you need to securely and quickly transfer terabytes to many petabytes of data to AWS. Snowball can also be the right choice if you don’t want to make expensive upgrades to your network infrastructure, frequently experience large backlogs of data, are in a physically isolated environment, or are in an area where high-bandwidth Internet connections are not available or cost prohibitive.

Q. How much data can I transfer using Snowball?

You can transfer any amount of data with Snowball, from a few Terabytes to many petabytes. You can typically transfer 50TB of data to each Snowball appliance. Transferring data sets larger than 50TB can be accomplished by using multiple Snowballs either in parallel, or one after another. For example, you could transfer 100TB of data using two 50TB Snowballs in parallel, or you could transfer the data using two 50TB Snowballs one after another.

Q. What is the Snowball client?

The Snowball client is software you install on a local host computer and use to efficiently identify, compress, encrypt, and transfer data from directories you specify to a Snowball.

Q. How long does it take to transfer my data?

You can use the Snowball client to estimate the time it takes to transfer your data (refer to the user guide for more details). It can take as little as 13 hours to copy 50TB of data from your data source to a Snowball appliance via a 10 Gbps local connection assuming 80% network utilization. In this case, the end-to-end time to transfer the data into AWS is approximately a week, including default shipping and handling time in AWS data centers. Copying 100TB of data can be completed in same amount of time by using two 50TB Snowballs in parallel.

Q. What are the specifications on the Snowball appliance?

Check this Snowball documentation page for the complete list of hardware specs, including interfaces, thermal and power requirements, decibel output, and dimensions.

Q. What network interfaces does Snowball support?

Snowball supports data transfer at up to 10Gb speeds over RJ45, SFP+ copper, or SFP+ optical network ports.

Q. In what regions is Snowball available?

Snowball is currently available for transferring data into AWS US EAST 1 (Virginia) and US WEST 2 (Oregon) regions.

Q. What is Snowball’s default shipping option? Can I choose expedited shipping?

Snowball uses two-day shipping via UPS by default and you can choose expedited shipping if your jobs are time sensitive.


Q. When should I consider using Snowball instead of the Internet?

Snowball is a strong data transfer choice if you need to securely and quickly transfer terabytes to many petabytes of data to AWS. Snowball can also be the right choice if you don’t want to make expensive upgrades to your network infrastructure, frequently experience large backlogs of data, are in a physically isolated environment, or are in an area where high-speed Internet connections are not available or cost prohibitive.

As a rule of thumb, if it takes more than one week to upload your data to AWS using the spare capacity of your existing Internet connection, then you should consider using Snowball. For example, using the table below, if you had a 100mb connection that you could solely dedicate to transferring your data and needed to transfer 100TB of data, it would take over 100 days to complete. The same transfer could be achieved by using two 50TB Snowballs in approximately one week.

Available Internet Connection Theoretical Min. Number of Days to Transfer 100TB at 80% Network Utilization When to Consider AWS Import/Export Snowball?
T3 (44.736Mbps) 269 days 2TB or more
100Mbps 120 days
5TB or more
1000Mbps 12 days
60TB or more

Q. When should I consider using Snowball instead of AWS Direct Connect?

AWS Direct Connect provides you with dedicated, fast connections from your premises to the AWS network. If you need to transfer large quantities of data to AWS on an ongoing basis, AWS Direct Connect may be the right choice.

Snowball can be a strong alternative to Direct Connect if you need to transfer data in large batches or as a one-time transfer, potentially from distributed locations. For these workloads, Snowball can be a simpler, more cost-effective option when compared to setting up a new AWS Direct Connect connection to transfer your data and terminate the connection upon completion.

Q. When should I consider using Snowball instead of AWS Import/Export Disk?

Snowball will provide a faster, simpler, and more cost-effective experience for most use cases when compared to AWS Import/Export Disk.

With Snowball, you don’t need to purchase any hardware or write any code to transfer your data. Each Snowball appliance can transfer up to 50TB of data and multiple appliances can be used in parallel for larger workloads. Snowball uses tamper-resistant enclosures, 256-bit encryption, and an industry-standard Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that is designed to ensure both security and full chain-of-custody for your data, as well as reduce management overhead involved with transferring data into or out of AWS.

Transfer jobs are created right from the AWS Management Console. Once the transfer is complete and the appliance is ready to be returned, the E Ink shipping label will automatically update to the correct AWS facility, and you can track the job status via Amazon SNS, text messages, or directly in the Console.


Q. Does Snowball encrypt my data?

Snowball encrypts all data with 256-bit encryption. Encryption keys are managed with the AWS Key Management Service (KMS) and they are never sent to, or stored on the appliance.

Q. Does AWS have a way to tell if the device was tampered with during transit?

In addition to using a tamper-resistant enclosure, Snowball uses an industry-standard Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that uses a dedicated processor designed to detect any unauthorized modifications to the hardware, firmware, or software. AWS inspects every appliance for any signs of tampering and to verify that no changes were detected by the TPM.

Q. What happens to the data on the appliance once it has been successfully transferred to AWS?

Once the data transfer job has been processed and verified, AWS performs a software erasure of the Snowball appliance that follows the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines for media sanitization.

Q. Is there a way to easily track my data transfer jobs?

Snowball uses an innovative, E Ink shipping label designed to ensure the appliance is automatically sent to the correct AWS facility and also aids in tracking. Once you have completed your data transfer job, you can track it using Amazon SNS, text messages, and the Console.


Q: How do I get started with Snowball?

To get started with Snowball, please visit the Getting Started page.

Q: How do I transfer my data to the Snowball appliance?

Once you connect the Snowball appliance to your network and set the IP address using the E Ink display, you'll need to download three things from the AWS Management console:

1. Snowball client: The software tool that is used to transfer data from your on premises storage to the Snowball appliance. Please see the Tools page for more information on the Snowball client.

2. Job Manifest File: An encrypted metadata file that is used to uniquely identify your data transfer job.

3. Job Manifest Unlock Code: A 25-character code to unlock the job manifest file.

Once you have downloaded these files, Launch the Snowball client, provide the Snowball appliance's IP address, the manifest file path, and the unlock code. Refer to the sample Start Command below:

snowball start -i {Snowball IP} -m path/to/the/job/manifest} -u {Unlock code}

The client is now connected to the Snowball appliance and ready for use. Next you'll need to identify the file directories you want to transfer to the appliance and wait for the transfer to complete. Refer to the sample Copy Command below:

snowball cp /path/to/data/on/source/storage/device/directories Snowball/bucketName

Q: What do I do once the data has been transferred to the Snowball appliance?

Once the data transfer job is complete, the Snowball appliance E Ink display will automatically update the return shipping label to the correct AWS facility. Just drop off the Snowball appliance at the nearest UPS shipping facility and you're all set. You can track the status of your transfer job via Amazon SNS, text messages, or directly in the AWS Management Console.


Q. How much does it cost to transfer data using Snowball?

Each Snowball data transfer job costs $200 for device handling and import and export activities occurring at AWS data centers. Snowball is free for use for 10 days at your site. The day that the device is received and the day that the device is shipped are not counted towards these 10 days. Beyond that, Snowball costs $15/day for each extra day that it is at your site. The cost for transferring data into AWS is $0.00/GB and transferring data out of AWS is $0.03/GB.

The following example illustrates Snowball pricing.

Example:

Assume you transferred 30TB of data into AWS using one Snowball and you kept the Snowball for 14 days (received the Snowball from the shipper on day 1 and returned the Snowball to the shipper on day 14).

Service charge per job:

The service charge per job is $200.

Extra day charge:

Snowball is free for use for 10 days at your site. The day that the device is received and the day that the device is shipped are not counted towards these 10 day, meaning day 1 and day 14 are free in this case. There are 12 days left in between and 10 out 12 days are free, therefore you took 2 extra days to transfer your data. The total extra day charge is:

2 days x $15/day = $30

Data Transfer:

In this example, you transferred data into AWS, so the data transfer cost is free.

Shipping:

Shipping charges are based on your shipment destination and the shipping option (e.g. overnight, 2-day).

Q. How am I charged for S3 usage?

Snowball will transfer your data on your behalf from Snowball appliances to AWS services, such as Amazon S3. Standard AWS service charges apply. In the case of transferring data into S3, standard S3 request and storage charges apply.

Q. Can I purchase a Snowball appliance?

Snowballs are only available on a per job pay as you go basis, and are not available for purchase.