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Amazon EBS vs EFS vs S3: Picking the Best AWS Storage Option for Your Business

The storage strategy you choose plays a major role in the performance you receive, as well as the costs you’ll expend. To achieve peak efficiency, you must match your computing, application, and processing needs to the appropriate storage technology. But which option is right for you?

To answer this question, we’ll explore the differences between Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). We'll explore each solution’s unique benefits and uses. This will make it easier to pick the best solution to support your business objectives and storage needs.

What’s the Difference Between Amazon EBS vs EFS vs S3?

Amazon EFS, Amazon EBS, and Amazon S3 are AWS’ three different storage types that can be applicable for different types of workload needs. Let’s take a closer look at the key features of each option, as well as the similarities and differences.

AmazonEBS delivers high-availability block-level storage volumes for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances. It stores data on a filesystem which is retained after the EC2 instance is shut down. Amazon EFS offersscalable file storage, also optimized for EC2. It can be used as a common datasource for any application or workload that runs on numerous instances. Using an EFS file system, you can configure instances to mount the file system.

Finally, Amazon S3 is an object store good at storing vast numbers of backups or user files. Unlike EBS or EFS, S3 is not limited to EC2. Files stored within an S3 bucket can be accessed programmatically or directly from services such as AWS CloudFront. This is why many websites use it to hold their content and media files, which may be served efficiently from AWS CloudFront.

So how can you choose between Amazon EBS vs EFS vs S3? That depends on what benefits you’re looking for, and your use case for your workload. Let’s take an in-depth look at each one to understand their benefits and use cases.

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Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS)

Use Amazon EBS to provide storage for your virtual machine drives. It stores data in equally-sized blocks and organizes them into a hierarchy similar to a traditional file system. The volumes are provisioned in size and attached toEC2 instances in a way that’s similar to the local disk drive on a physical machine. Here are EBS’ benefits and use cases:

Amazon EBS Benefits

  • Performance optimization: Increase throughput by devoting network capacity and minimizing the network contention between your instances and EBS.
  • Low-latency performance: By using SSD EBS volumes, it offers reliable I/O performance scaled tomeet your workload needs. If your application requires high performance but nota large amount of storage, you can provision performance separately from storage capacity.
  • Highly available and secure storage: EBS volumes offer redundancy within its Availability Zones while access control and encryption bolster security.
  • Geographic interchangeability: With EBS, you can duplicate snapshots throughout AWS regions and place resources and data in multiple locations. This makes disaster recovery, data center migration, and geographical expansion simple.
  • Easy data backup and restoration: Point-in-time volume snapshots safeguard data.
  • Rapid up- or down-scaling: EBS can quickly scale volumes, ensuring you get the right performance and capacity for changing computing needs.
  • Potential cost savings: Although you must pre-allocate your entire disk upfront, if you know how much space you need and only access your storage from one EC2 instance at a time, EBS costs about a third as much as EFS per GB.

Amazon EBS Use Cases

  • Testing and development: You can scale, archive, duplicate, or provision your testing, development, or production environments.
  • NoSQL databases: EBS offers NoSQL databases the low-latency performance and dependability they need for peak performance.
  • Relational databases: EBS scales to meet your changing storage needs. This makes it a great choice for deploying databases, including PostgreSQL, MySQL, Oracle, or Microsoft SQL Server.
  • Business consistency: Copy EBS Snapshots and Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) to run applications in different AWS regions. This reduces data loss and speeds recovery time by backing up log files and data regularly, across geographies.
  • Enterprise-wide applications: It can meet a variety of enterprise computing needs through powerful block storage that can support your most important applications, such as Microsoft Exchange, Oracle, or Microsoft SharePoint.

Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS)

EFS is the best choice for running any application that has a high workload, requires scalable storage, and must produce output quickly. It scales automatically, even to meet the most abrupt workload spikes. After the period of high-volume storage demand has passed, EFS will automatically scale back down. EFS can be mounted to different AWS services and accessed from all your virtual machines. Use it for running shared volumes, or for big data analysis. You’ll always pay for the storage you actually use, rather than provisioning storage in advance that’s potentially wasted.

Amazon EFS Benefits

  • Performance that scales to support any workload: EFS offers the throughput changing workloads need. It can provide higher throughput in spurts that match sudden file system growth, even for workloads up to 500,000 IOPS or 10 GB per second.
  • Energetic elasticity: Automatically scale your file system storage up or down. Remove or add files and never disturb applications. Once you make your EFS file system you can add files without worrying about storage provisioning.
  • Accessible file storage: On-premises servers and EC2 instances can access shared file systems concurrently. EC2 instances can also access EFS file systems located in other AWS regions through VPC peering.
  • Serverless architecture support:Unlike EBS, EFS works with AWS Lambda serverless functions to easily share data from function to function.Lambda functions can read large files from EFS, such as code libraries, andwrite output to EFS for storage and sharing.
  • Comprehensive managed service: EFS is a complete managed service, meaning your firm will never have to patch, deploy, or maintain your file system.
  • Cost savings: The only storage you’ll pay for is exactly what you use, as there’s no advance provisioning, up-front fees, or commitments. Moreover, you can use Lifecycle Management to transfer files that have been unused for a month to a more cost-effective storage class, which can lower expenses up to 85 percent. However, keep in mind that EFS costs about three times as much per GB as EBS.
  • Tighter security and compliance: You can securely access the file system with your current security solution, or control access to EFS file systems using AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), or POSIX permissions. And, EFS can encrypt your data, whether it’s in transit or at rest. This gives you dependable security and makes regulatory compliance easier.

Amazon EFS Use Cases

  • Lift-and-shift application support: EFS is elastic, available, and scalable. It enables you to move enterprise applications easily and quickly without needing to re-architect them.
  • Analytics for big data: It has the ability to run big data applications, which demand significant node throughput, low-latency file access, and read-after-write operations.
  • Content management system and web server support: EFS is a robust throughput file system capable of enabling content management systems and web serving applications, such as archives, websites, or blogs.
  • Application development and testing: Only EFS provides a shared file system needed to share code and files across multiple compute resources to facilitate auto-scaling workloads.

Amazon S3

Amazon S3 provides object storage. Each object has its own unique identifier or key, for access through web requests from any location. S3 also supports static web content hosting that can be accessed from the S3 bucket or from AWS CloudFront. And S3 is notably secure, providing. “eleven nines” — 99.999999999 of data durability.

Amazon S3 Benefits

  • Robust performance, scalability, and availability: Amazon S3 scales storage resources free from resource procurement cycles or investments upfront.It keeps your data safe from errors, failures, and threats. It makes it available when you need it.
  • Cost-saving storage classes: Storing data throughout S3 storage classes saves costs and maintains high performance levels. Storage class analysis lets you locate data that may be moved to a lower-cost storage class. Then you can make the transfer using an S3 Lifecycle policy. Finally, S3 Intelligent-Tiering enables storing data that has changing or unknown access patterns by tiering objects, which cuts storage costs.
  • Easier security, compliance, and audit features: S3 can store data and protect it from unauthorized access using its powerful access management and encryption tools. S3 has features that make it easy to comply with regulatory requirements, and Amazon Macie can deny irregular access requests to your sensitive data. Plus, S3 works well with AWS’ many auditing features.
  • Exacting data control: An array of management tools enables you to classify and report on data. S3 has storage class analysis that monitors access patterns, while S3 Lifecycle analyzes object transfers to lower-cost storage. S3 Object Lock assigns retention dates to objects to prevent deletion, and S3 Inventory offers visibility of stored objects and their encryption and metadata. Finally, S3 Batch Operations can run storage management maintenance for billions of objects while AWS Lambda can be used to automate workflows, define alerts and log activities without added management of infrastructure.

Amazon S3 Use Cases

  • Data lake and big data analytics: S3 can create a data lake to hold raw data in its native format, then use machine learning tools, query-in-place, and analytics to draw insights. S3 works with AWS Lake Formation to create data lakes, then define governance, security, and auditing policies. Together, they can be scaled to meet your growing data stores, and you’ll never have to make an investment upfront.
  • Backup and restoration: Secure, robust backup and restoration solutions are easy to build when you combine S3 with other AWS offerings, including EBS, EFS, or S3 Glacier. These offerings enhance your on-premises capabilities, while other offerings can help you meet compliance, recovery time, and recovery point objectives.
  • Reliable disaster recovery: S3 storage, S3 Cross-Region Replication and additional AWS networking, computing, and database services make it easy to protect critical applications, data, and IT systems. It offers nimble recovery from outages, no matter if system failures, natural disasters, or human error cause them.
  • Methodical archiving: S3 works seamlessly with other AWS offerings to provide methodical archiving capabilities. S3 Glacier and S3 Glacier Deep Archive enable you to archive data and retire physical infrastructure. There are three S3 storage classes you can use to retain objects for extended periods of time at their lowest rates. S3 Lifecycle policies can be created to archive objects at any point within their lifecycle, or you can upload objects to archival storage classes directly. S3 Object Lock meets compliance regulations by applying retention dates objects to avoid their deletion. And unlike a tape library, S3 Glacier can restore any archived object within minutes.

Getting Started

When weighing the merits of Amazon EBS vs EFS vs S3, there are many nuances. If you need help deciding which technology is the best fit for your unique business challenges and goals, let Mission help. Our team of AWS Certified Engineers and other experts can advise you on which storage solution may be best for your organization. In fact, Mission can tailor the level of support you need, even taking over the implementation and management of your storage solution, entirely. And by engaging our knowledgeable team you can get the most value out of whichever solution you choose.

Mission frees your firm to focus on its primary business objectives, enabling you to fulfill your true purpose. Helping you fully leverage your AWS storage solution is our Mission. Let us help you achieve yours.



How do data transfer costs compare between EBS, EFS, and S3, especially when data is moved frequently between these storage options and other AWS services?

Understanding the nuances of data transfer costs across AWS storage services is crucial for optimizing cloud expenditure. When considering EBS, EFS, and S3, each service has its pricing model, particularly regarding data transfer. EBS charges for the data transferred between an EC2 instance and the EBS volume outside of the first availability zone, highlighting the need for strategic placement of resources to minimize costs.

On the other hand, EFS introduces costs for data read from or written to file systems, with additional charges for data transferred across Availability Zones if using EFS One Zone storage classes. S3 pricing is more intricate, involving charges for requests, data retrievals, and data transfers out of the S3 service, especially to the internet or different AWS regions. Navigating these costs requires a comprehensive understanding of data movement patterns within your AWS environment and leveraging tools like AWS Cost Explorer to identify and manage expenses effectively.

Can you implement hybrid storage solutions that leverage the strengths of EBS, EFS, and S3 simultaneously, and if so, what are some common architectures or patterns?

Hybrid storage solutions within AWS offer a strategic advantage by combining the unique strengths of EBS, EFS, and S3. Such architectures allow businesses to tailor their storage strategy to the specific requirements of each workload. For example, an application might use EBS for its database to leverage the high IOPS performance, EFS for shared file storage accessible by multiple instances, and S3 for durable, scalable object storage for backups and static content. Implementing a hybrid approach often involves using AWS services like Storage Gateway, which facilitates seamless integration between on-premises environments and AWS storage, or DataSync for efficiently transferring data between storage services. Architects must design these solutions with both performance and cost in mind, ensuring that the right data is stored in the most appropriate service without incurring unnecessary expenses.

How do AWS's newer storage solutions or enhancements, such as S3 Glacier for long-term archiving or EBS io2 Block Express volumes for high-performance workloads, fit into the decision-making framework for choosing the right storage option?

Adding newer AWS storage solutions, such as S3 Glacier for long-term archiving and EBS io2 Block Express volumes for high-performance workloads, presents additional considerations in the storage decision-making process. S3 Glacier offers a cost-effective solution for archiving infrequently accessed data, making it ideal for compliance and archival purposes. However, EBS io2 Block Express volumes cater to the most demanding I/O intensive workloads, offering sub-millisecond latency and up to 256,000 IOPS. When evaluating these advanced options, businesses must assess their specific needs, such as regulatory compliance, data retrieval times, and performance requirements, to determine the best fit. Incorporating these solutions into an AWS storage strategy involves careful planning and a deep understanding of each option's performance characteristics and cost implications, ensuring that the chosen storage solutions align with both technical and business objectives.

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Brian Yung

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