AWS Cost Optimization: How to Choose the Right S3 Storage Class

5 Min Read

In a previous article, we shared the seven factors that affect Amazon S3 pricing, with one critical factor being which storage class (or tier) that your data is stored. Amazon offers several different storage classes and pricing depending on how frequently the data will be accessed, how long you need to store the data, and the redundancy and availability required. 

With all the options to choose from, it can be difficult to know which S3 storage class is best for your business, and for the best price. In this article, we explain the different Amazon S3 storage classes and how to choose the right one for your business needs.

The Ultimate Guide to Amazon Cloud Storage Pricing

Amazon S3 Storage Classes

Amazon S3 currently offers six storage classes, each designed for different use cases and available at varying prices. 

General purpose

  • Amazon S3 Standard: S3 Standard offers high durability, availability, and performance object storage for frequently-accessed data. Key features include low latency, high throughput performance, and near 100% durability of objects across multiple Availability Zones (AZs). 

Infrequent access

  • Amazon S3 Standard-Infrequent Access: S3 Standard-IA is for data that’s accessed less frequently, but requires rapid access when needed. Like S3 Standard, S3 Standard-IA offers high durability, high throughput, and low latency, but with lower per GB storage prices and GB retrieval fees. Customers generally use S3 Standard-IA for long-term storage, backups, and as a data store for disaster recovery files. 
  • Amazon S3 One Zone-Infrequent Access: Like S3 Standard-IA, S3 One Zone-IA is for data that’s accessed less frequently, but requires rapid access when needed. Where they differ is that instead of storing data in a minimum of three AZs, S3 One Zone-IA stores data in a single AZ and costs 20% less. S3 One Zone-IA is good for storing secondary backup copies of on-premises data or for data that’s replicated from another AWS region. 


  • Amazon S3 Glacier: S3 Glacier is a secure, durable, and low-cost storage class for data archiving. AWS offers three data retrieval options with varying access times and costs: Expedited, Standard, and Bulk retrievals. The table below shows a high level comparison of the different retrieval options.

    Standard retrievals allow you to access your archived data in three to five hours and cost $0.01 per GB and $0.05 per 1,000 requests.
  • Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive: S3 Glacier Deep Archive is Amazon S3’s lowest-cost storage class that supports long-term retention and digital preservation for data that may be accessed once or twice a year. It’s designed for customers in highly regulated industries that retain data for long periods of time to meet regulatory requirements. With Glacier Deep Archive, you can access data within 12 hours using the Standard retrieval speed. You can also reduce retrieval costs by selecting Bulk retrieval, which will return data within 48 hours.

    One thing to keep in mind is that objects archived to S3 Glacier Deep Archive have a minimum of 180 days of storage, and objects deleted before 180 days incur a pro-rated charge equal to the storage charge for the remaining days.
Common Culprits: Unexpected AWS, Azure, and GCP Service Cost Spikes

Unknown or changing access

  • Amazon S3 Intelligent-Tiering: S3 Intelligent-Tiering automatically transfers data to the most cost-effective access tier without management overhead. S3 Intelligent-Tiering applies to Standard S3 and Standard Infrequent tiers, and most recently announced at AWS re:Invent 2020, between the Archive and Deep Archive storage tiers as well.

    S3 Intelligent-Tiering is ideal for data sets with unknown or frequently changing storage access patterns, such as new applications. However, keep in mind that the service incurs a charge of $0.0025 per thousand items monitored, so costs can rack up if quickly if the service goes unchecked.

How to choose the right S3 Storage Class

We’ve just outlined the different Amazon S3 storage classes by general purpose, infrequent access, archive, and unknown or changing access, but we want to make it even easier to know when to choose which cloud storage class for the best price and performance for your needs. Below is a step-by-step workflow you can follow to help you make the right choice.

amazon s3 storage class decision flow chart
An AWS management solution to consider

As organizations scale their cloud usage, or increase complexity with hybrid or multi-cloud environments, managing cloud costs and performance can become too overwhelming for individuals and teams. It’s here that the appreciation for cloud management platforms like CloudHealth begins.

CloudHealth provides complete visibility across all your environments, including private, hybrid, and multi-cloud. You can visualize and analyze cloud costs, usage, performance, security, and configurations in a centralized location, and segment this data by project, team, or department to hold teams accountable for their cloud usage. For example, the below shows a business’ S3 costs broken down by days and accounts.

amazon s3 cost management in cloudhealth

You can quickly identify opportunities to improve performance and proactively reduce spend with custom workflows and automated policies. To learn more about how CloudHealth can help save your business time and money managing cloud storage costs, book a time with one of our experts here

For more detailed information about Amazon cloud storage pricing, including Amazon S3, EBS, and EFS, see our eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Amazon Cloud Storage Pricing

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Lauren van der Vaart, Senior Content Marketing Specialist

Lauren is a member of the Digital Marketing team at CloudHealth by VMware. She focuses on delivering valuable, relevant, and actionable content for customers on their cloud journey. Before joining CloudHealth, Lauren held various roles across digital and field marketing for global technology organizations.

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