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Boost your Data Transition with AWS Snowball

AWS Snowball is a fast, secure and reliable option for your next large-scale data migration

August 05 2021Andrej Maya

Struggling with time-consuming data transfers?

Migrating a data center environment into the cloud is often a complex process that can take months as you transfer your existing software, networking setups, users, and data into a new environment. The data transfer is one of the most critical parts of the migration, since it’s the foundation of your application landscape.The time and effort required for the transition is often underestimated, in the usual rush of a tight project plan.

Why Snowball is the solution

A hand touching a digital, holographic world map

The AWS Snowball is a high-capacity edge computing device that lets you transfer large amounts of data to AWS, quickly and securely. It’s ideal if you’re moving multiple terabytes of data and the upload is likely to take more than a week.

AWS Snowball is designed to accelerate the first bulk upload of data, especially if this is a one-time activity and the continuous data synchronization can be covered by conventional connectivity options later. After the first set of data has been transferred via Snowball, you can set up the continuous data transfer with services from the AWS Transfer Family, using AWS Direct Connect or the public internet.

Since the Snowball Edge is a computing device, you can use it for other use cases where you need AWS computing power at a remote location. However, this blog post focuses on the data migration use case only.

Save time and stop missing deadlines


AWS Snowball enables seamless, secure, and speedy data transfer to AWS Cloud. The exact transfer speed highly depends on the size of the files to be transferred. Small files are transferred slower than large files, which require fewer transactions for the same number of byte units.
In our example, we transferred over 40TB of data in less than eight days using two Snowball devices in parallel. The below diagram depicts how the data filling progressed over that time. For comparison, the transmission time via the internet connection at 50 Mbit/s would have been more than 82 days. This would have led us to miss our project deadline.

AWS Snowball test results

“We transferred over 40TB of data in less than eight days using two Snowball devices in parallel. For comparison, the transmission time via the internet connection at 50 Mbit/s would have been more than 82 days”

Put the Snowball to work

A diagramm that shows the process of ordering a snowball appliance with different icons

When you order your Snowball appliance in the AWS console, it will be delivered within 1-2 days, depending on stock. When the device arrives, plug it into your local network and launch a workstation, ideally one on the same routing domain to keep the hops low. For a faster transfer, start multiple copy jobs from different workstations simultaneously.
Once the data transfer is complete, disconnect the Snowball, turn it off, and have a parcel service pick it up again. You can be confident in the security of your data, since AWS Snowball encrypts all data with an AES-256 bit algorithm using AWS KMS keys. The device also needs to be unlocked before use with a 29-digit code and an encrypted manifest file. To detect unauthorized changes to hardware, firmware and software of AWS Snowball the devices are assembled with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM), providing security and full chain of custody for your data.
After the Snowballs arrive at the sorting facility and have been checked and routed to the Snowball team from AWS, your data will be transferred over 100 Gbps backbone network to your destination S3 bucket.

How to get the most out of AWS Snowball 

If you are moving a large amount of data – in the region of double-digit TBs – or have limited or unstable bandwidth, the AWS Snowball Family is worth seriously considering. It offers a real time advantage over the traditional way of copying data via the internet. To make your data transfer effort the greatest possible success, make sure you have a carefully thought-out plan before you start the migration process. T-Systems can help you every step of the way, including consulting on best practices, planning and ordering, as well as the actual installation and data migration.

About the author
Andrej Maya – Lead Solution Architect

Andrej Maya

Lead Solution Architect, T-Systems International GmbH

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