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Estimating cloud storage pricing can be extraordinarily complex. And doing a side-by-side comparison of the leading vendors' prices to determine the cheapest cloud storage is even more complicated.
Most of the leading vendors offer a wide array of different cloud storage services, and the price for each of those services might be affected by any number of different factors. For example, the data center, resiliency level, volume of stored data, eligibility for free tiers, frequency of data access, data transfer fees, data access fees and support subscriptions can all affect the total cloud storage cost.
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This pricing guide examines enterprise cloud storage pricing for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) object storage. For the purposes of this report, Enterprise Storage Forum evaluated five of the most popular providers of cloud storage for business: Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud and Oracle Cloud.
Survey results: Data Storage Trends 2018 provides the most comprehensive portrait of storage today, from technology to hiring trends to budget decisions – including the rise of cloud storage.
Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3)
Amazon Web Services Simple Storage Service (S3) is the leading cloud vendor's flagship object storage solution. It boasts scalability, 99.999999999% durability, advanced security, query-in-place functionality and integration with a lot of third-party and AWS services.
AWS storage pricing varies by region. Prices are fairly consistent among the various U.S. regions, but they can be significantly higher or lower in other parts of the world. Amazon explains the price differences by saying, "We charge less where our costs are less."
The S3 service offers a free tier for the first year after a customer signs up. It includes 5GB of storage space, 20,000 GET Requests, 2,000 PUT Requests, and 15GB of outbound data transfer per month.
After that, Amazon has tiered pricing that provides volume discounts as you store more data. However, the pricing difference is fairly small. In the US East (Ohio) region, the first 50TB are $0.023 per gigabyte, the next 450TB are $0.022 per gigabyte, and more than 500TB are $0.021 per gigabyte. It has bigger price breaks if you use the infrequent access tier or the one-zone infrequent access tier.
AWS tacks on additional charges for data requests (PUT, GET, COPY, SELECT, POST, LIST, etc.), but DELETE requests are free. Data transfer into S3 is free, but transferring more than 1GB of data out of the service per month will incur fees, which vary depending on the amount of data you are transferring and where you are transferring it to. You can also choose to pay extra to accelerate data transfers. Other optional features include storage management, cross-region replication and paid support plans.
For estimation, Amazon has a Simple AWS S3 Monthly Calculator. It's fairly easy to use and allows you to combine a lot of different services and features to calculate monthly costs.
Microsoft Azure Blob Storage
Microsoft Azure's Blob Storage promises massive scalability with tiering for hot, cold and archive data. Other key features include strong consistency, object mutability, multiple blob types and easy-to-use geo-redundancy.
Pricing for Blob Storage depends on a number of factors, including the level of redundancy, the data center region and whether you are using the hot, cool, or archive storage tiers. Azure also has three different account types: General Purpose v2 offers the complete set of features, while Blob storage and General Purpose v1 accounts offer more limited feature sets at a lower price. Like AWS, Azure also tiers pricing to provide volume discounts as you store more data.
Cool and archive storage service charge additional fees for early deletion of data. Read and write requests require an additional fee, but DELETE requests are free. Data retrieval, data write and data transfer to other Azure regions may or may not incur extra charges depending on the level of redundancy selected and the storage tier. Enhanced support is also available for a fee.
Microsoft offers a free account for new users that includes $200 of credit that must be spent within 30 days, plus 5 GB of LRS-Hot Blob Storage with 2 million read, 2 million write, and 2 million write/list operations per month for the first 12 months.
Google Cloud Storage
Google Cloud Storage is a unified object storage solution with tiers for high-frequency access (Multi-Regional and Regional), low-frequency access (Nearline) and lowest-frequency access (Coldline). It's easy to move data across storage classes as your needs change to optimize price for performance. Google boasts that its cloud storage is secure and durable and that it reduces customers' storage carbon emissions to zero.
Google promises customer-friendly pricing and savings compared to AWS S3. Its pricing is flat, meaning that the cost per gigabyte doesn't go down as you store more data, but it does offer reduced pricing on Regional, Nearline and Coldline services as compared to Multi-Regional storage.
Customers will encounter network usage fees when they transfer data. Google also charges fees for operations, but it divides up the possible requests a little differently than the other vendors, so some GET requests and PUT requests cost more than others. DELETEs are free. It also charges extra for data retrieval with Nearline and Coldline storage, and those services also have minimum data retention periods.
Its free tier includes $300 of credit for new users, plus 5GB of Regional Storage in US Regions other than North Virginia with 5,000 Class A Operations, 50,000 Class B Operations and 1GB of network egress. You have to use the $300 within the first 12 months, but the free tier storage continues forever.
Google Cloud cost Pricing Calculator has a very attractive interface but proved to be a little difficult to use in practice. The website also offers the ability to view pricing data via an API, Web page or JSON file.
IBM Cloud Object Storage
According to the IBM website, its object storage service is highly scalable and "designed for high durability, resiliency and security." It boasts 99.999999999 percent durability and integrated high-speed data transfer via the company's Aspera service. It also offers query-in-place capabilities, as well as a REST-based API and SDKs.
Like most of the other major cloud storage vendors, IBM Cloud offers quite a few different options. First are the resiliency choices: Cross Region (data stored in three different regions in the same geography), Regional (data stored in multiple data centers in the same region) and Single Data Center. It also has four different storage classes: Standard (for hot data), Vault (for cool data), Cold Vault (for archive or cold data) and Flex (for mixed hot and cold data).
Pricing is also tiered based on the amount of data stored or transferred. However, IBM has fewer pricing tiers than some of the other vendors.
The website also lists two different pricing plans: Lite and Standard. However, the Lite plan is essentially IBM's free tier. With 25GB of storage for free, it's more generous than most of the other free tiers, and it might be a good option for small businesses that aren't going to need a lot of storage.
Strangely, the IBM Pricing Calculator on the website doesn't include an option for calculating storage pricing. As a result, Enterprise Storage Forum did our own math using the information available on the website to calculate the totals for the chart below.
Oracle Cloud Object Storage
The Oracle Cloud website promises Object Storage with "an unlimited amount of capacity, automatically replicating and healing data across multiple fault domains for high durability and data integrity." Other key features include high throughput to support streaming and big data workloads, integrated identity management, server-side encryption and easy on-boarding.
Oracle has the simplest-looking storage pricing page of any of the top public cloud vendors. It doesn't have tiers or different prices for different data centers or a lot of other add-ons. Instead, the storage pricing chart has just five lines with prices for block volumes, object storage — storage, object storage — requests, file storage, archive storage, and data transfer.
The company does offer two different payment plans: Pay as You Go and Monthly Flex. Pay as You Go is just what it sounds like — you pay for the resources you consume each month with no upfront fees or commitments. The Monthly Flex plan requires users to prepay for a year of service based on the estimate they obtain from the cost calculator tool. In cases where customers are purchasing compute instances as well as storage, the Monthly Flex option might be a good deal. But if you are purchasing storage alone, the Monthly Flex and Pay as You Go cloud storage costs are identical.
The Oracle Cloud free tier works a little bit differently than most of the other vendors' programs. Instead of offering certain levels of cloud services for free, Oracle gives all its new cloud customers $300 to spend in the first 30 days after setting up an account. If you choose to spend that all on storage, it would be enough for 5TB.
Oracle Cloud pricing calculator is tightly integrated into the buying process on the website. However, this calculator is not very intuitive and quite a bit more difficult to use than the other vendors' tools. When researching this piece, Enterprise Storage Forum had to watch the video tutorial in order to figure out how to work the estimation tool. On the other hand, the pricing is so simple that it doesn't really require a pricing calculator to figure out the final price.
So who offers the cheapest cloud storage?
The answer depends on what you need. For the purposes of the chart below, Enterprise Storage Forum used each site's pricing calculator to estimate the charges for 1 TB of storage for a month with a reasonable about of requests and data transfer.
Using services that were as similar as possible, Google Cloud had the lowest overall price, closely followed by Microsoft Azure, and Amazon S3 was the most expensive. However, it should be noted that this price comparison applies to this particular service only, and organizations should run their own comparisons based on their unique needs.
|Amazon S3||Microsoft Azure Blob Storage||Google Cloud Storage||IBM Cloud Object Storage||Oracle Cloud Object Storage|
|Free tier||5GB for 1 year||5GB for 1 year||5GB forever||25GB forever||5TB for 30 days|
|Price per GB||●1st 50TB $0.023/GB |
● Next 450 TB $0.022/GB
● Over 500 TB $0.021/GB
|● 1st 50TB $0.0208/GB |
● Next 450 TB $0.020/GB
● Over 500 TB $0.0192/GB
|$0.02/GB||● 0-499.99TB $0.022/GB |
● 500+TB $0.02/GB
|Data transfer in||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
|Data transfer out||● First 1GB free |
● Next 9.999TB $0.09/GB
● Next 40TB $0.085/GB
● Next 100TB $0.07/GB
● Over 150TB $0.05/GB
|Free for hot data||● 0-1TB $0.12/GB |
● 1-10TB $0.11/GB
● 10+TB $0.08/GB
|● 0-50TB $0.09/GB |
● Next 100TB $0.07/GB
● Next 350GB $0.05
● 500+TB price available on request
|PUT requests||$0.005 per 1,000||$0.05 per 10,000||$0.004 or $0.05 per 10,000||$0.006 per 1,000||$0.0034 per 10,000|
|GET requests||$0.004 per 1,000||$0 004 per 10,000||$0.004 or $0.05 per 10,000||$0.005 per 10,000||$0.0034 per 10,000|
|Cost estimator for 1TB||$34.67||$24.90||$24.08||$26.40||$27|
Disclaimers: Prices came from vendor websites in April 2018. Prices are per month. Cost estimator price assumes 1TB of data, 400,000 PUT requests, 4 million GET Requests, 100GB/month of data transfer in and 100GB/month of data transfer out. AWS S3 prices based on US East (Ohio) region for Standard Storage. Data transfer out prices based on Internet transfer. Azure prices are based on the East US region, LRS redundancy, General Purpose v2 account and hot data. Google Cloud Storage prices based on Regional Storage in the Iowa region. Google cost estimate included 400,000 Class A operations and 4 million Class B operations. IBM Cloud prices based on Regional Standard storage in the US — East region. Oracle Cloud prices based on Object Storage with 4,400,000 requests and no networking services.