S3 (Simple Storage Service) – Amazon and Libraries

Have you heard of Amazon’s s3 (Simple Storage Service)? From the site:

Amazon S3 is “storage for the Internet” with a simple Web services interface that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the Web.

It’s one of Amazon’s newer web services. At .15 cents/gig of storage, it’s a pretty cheap option. Caveat emptor: S3 is intended for developers as an option for storage that can be queried with SOAP and REST web services, so they also get you for network traffic at .25 cents/gig. I wasn’t able to find anything in the fine print about checksum routines and the integrity of the objects, but I’m assuming backups and error checking are part of the Amazon routine. (Update from the horse’s mouth: found this thread in the forums which talks about Amazon’s data protection routines. It’s reassuring…)

Can the library use this? I think so. Even with the mentioned caveats, in the end you are looking at taking the server management side out of the equation. That’s pretty liberating for the small digital shops that our libraries are. At work, we’re experimenting with using the service to store some of our master digitization objects. I mentioned that this was an experiment, right? We’ve got some objects on the S3 servers and are looking into building a web interface that will allow our Special Collections staff to pull down master files when they receive requests from patrons. We’re also working with a campus entity to store media files on S3 and then building a search interface to query S3 for the data. It’s all a work in progress, but something to consider. I can tell you that my library and university will never have the infrastructure or access to a network cloud like Amazon’s. That’s not a knock; them’s just the facts.

(Sidebar: If you’re interested in web services, think about browsing around the Amazon Web Services Developer Connection. Lots of code examples, “howtos” and discussion to get you thinking about web service applications. Don’t be afraid to get you hands dirty and make some mistakes. It’s the only way to learn.)

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