Q: What is a Snowball appliance?

AWS Snowball is a data transport solution that accelerates moving terabytes to petabytes of data into and out of AWS using storage appliances designed to be secure 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: Why should I use a Snowball? 

Snowball is a strong choice for data transfer 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, if you frequently experience large backlogs of data, if you're located in a physically isolated environment, or if you're in an area where high-speed Internet connections are not available or cost prohibitive.

Q: How does Snowball work?

AWS Snowball uses secure appliances and the Snowball client to accelerate petabyte-scale data transfers into and out of AWS. You start by using the AWS Management Console to create one or more jobs to 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. When the transfer is complete and the appliance is ready to be returned, the E-Ink shipping label will automatically update to indicate the correct AWS facility to ship to, and you can track the job status by using Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS), text messages, or directly in the console.

Q: How much data can I transfer using Snowball?

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

Q: How long will it take to move data using a Snowball?

The rule of thumb is about one week, including shipping time and data transfer time. You can use the Snowball client to estimate the time it takes to transfer your data (refer to the user guide for more details). Data transfer speed is affected by a number of factors including local network speed, file size, and the speed at which data can be read from your local servers.

The Snowball client will copy data to the Snowball as fast as conditions allow, (as little as a day to copy 48 TB of data, depending on your local environment). End-to-end time to transfer the data into AWS is approximately a week, including the usual shipping and handling time in AWS data centers. You can copy twice that much data in the same amount of time by using two 48 TB Snowballs in parallel, or you could copy 80 TB of data in two and a half days on a single 80 TB Snowball, which would increase your end-to-end time to about a week and a half.