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Amazon S3 vs EFS vs EBS : Which one to use

Amazon S3 vs EFS vs EBS : Which one to use

Written by Hyojung Yoon

With the cloud computing market growing rapidly, many organizations are turning to cloud storage services to store and manage their data.

Today, we're going to compare and analyze the types of cloud storage and the three main storage services offered by AWS - S3, EFS, and EBS - and identify suitable use cases.

Let's get started!


What is Cloud Storage?

Features of Cloud Storage

Cloud storage has many benefits. It provides scalability, allowing you to quickly increase or decrease storage capacity as needed; it also provides redundancy, creating copies of your data to prevent data loss; and one of the biggest benefits is accessibility. You can access your data anytime, anywhere, from any device with an internet connection.

Types of Cloud Storage

Block Storage

Block Storage

A block storage is a way of storing data by dividing it into "blocks" of a certain size. Each of these blocks has a unique address, which allows you to reconstruct the block to retrieve the data. It's similar to partitioning a computer drive to use space.

Because block storage has unique addresses, it can have multiple access paths, allowing for quick retrieval. It can also be partitioned, allowing access from different OSs. AWS's block storage service is Elastic Block Store (EBS).

File Storage

File Storage

A file storage, or file-based storage, has a hierarchy of folders and files. Each file depends on a folder, which in turn depends on other folders. You can think of it as a Windows Explorer-like structure. You have folders within folders, and you store files in them.

If you have a small number of files, you shouldn't have much trouble sorting and organizing them, but if you have a large number of files, sorting, organizing, and finding them can be a challenge. AWS's file storage service is Elastic File System (EFS).

Object Storage

Object Storage

A object storage can be thought of as logical storage. While both block and file storage operate at the OS level, object storage operates at the application level. Because there are no physical constraints, you can grow your space as much as you want.

Each piece of data is designated as an object and stored as a separate unit of data. Objects can be anything from machine learning (ML), sensor data, and more, as well as unstructured data like photos and videos. It stores data in a flat structure with no hierarchy. It's easily accessible, fast, and highly scalable. AWS's largest object storage service is Simple Storage Service (S3).

To make it a little easier for you to understand storage services, let's use a parking system analogy.

Comparison of Cloud Storage Services

You can think of block storage as a large parking lot, and a block as a space in the parking lot. Just as we park our cars in specific spaces, we store data in predetermined blocks. In block storage, each block has a unique address for where it's stored, so when a file is requested from the server, the data can be retrieved by reorganizing the blocks through this address. This is ideal for fast processing of structured data.

File storage is a parking tower in a city center. The more cars parked in a parking tower, the more it becomes cluttered and the more difficult it becomes to park or leave. File storage can also degrade as the amount of data grows, increasing the resource demands to keep track of files and folders.

Finally, object storage can be thought of as a valet parking service. You don't need to know where you park, just hand over your key, and it will park your car for you efficiently and securely. You also only need to hand over your key to retrieve your car. In object storage, all objects are stored in a single, flat space, unlike file storage, which has a hierarchical structure. This space has a unique identifier and the objects are stored as objects themselves, making them easy to access. Also, if you know the key(name) of an object, you can search for it quickly and easily.

What is Amazon EBS(Elastic Block Storage)?

Amazon EBS is a high-performance block storage service used by Amazon EC2 instances that provides persistent block storage volumes. It is recognized by EC2 instances like HDD and SSD types, and can deliver the performance you want.

Features of EBS

Amazon EBS(Elastic Block Storage)
  • EC2 Instances stay separate when shut down, so no data is lost

  • Each Volume is automatically repeated within the AZ

  • Offers a variety of volume types that can be cost-optimized based on workload

  • EBS volumes can be created and restored from backed up snapshots

  • Ideal if you need access to DB, file system, or ras block-level storage

When should I use EBS?

Use when you need high-performance storage services for a single instance.

What is Amazon EFS(Elastic File System)?

Amazon EFS provides a simple, scalable, serverless file system that can be used with AWS cloud services and on-premises resources. Think of EFS as file storage for your Linux instances, similar to NFS and NAS folders in your company's on-premises environment.

Features of EFS

Amazon EFS(Elastic File System)
  • Quickly and easily create and configure file systems with a fully managed service

  • Accessible from thousands of EC2s simultaneously

  • Automatically and instantly expand or contract storage capacity as files are added or removed

  • Files are stored redundantly in multiple Availability Zones so that if one Availability Zone is destroyed, the service can still be served from another Availability Zone

When should I use EFS?

EFS is ideal for workloads that require a shared file system for multiple EC2 instances, so it's a good choice for file storage for content management systems.

What is Amazon S3(Simple Stoarge Services)?

Amazon S3 is an internet-accessible object storage service. In other words, it's a service for storing data online, like Google Drive or iCloud.

Features of S3

Amazon S3(Simple Storage Service)
  • Highly scalable and stores any amount of data

  • Highly durable and 99.99% available

  • HTTP accessible and provides REST and SOAP interfaces

  • Provides data protection through versioning and data backup and restore through hybrid configurations

When should I use S3?

For internal shared documents that you don't plan to open (read) often, you can store them on S3 at a lower cost than the other two storage services. However, if they are constantly shared and require frequent reads/writes, I recommend EFS

It's also great for storing data that you can run complex queries on. It also supports static websites, so you can use it if you need to host multiple static HTML pages.

AWS Storage Services Comparison & Usage Examples





Low Latency

Low, Consistent

Low, for mixed request types, and integration with CloudFront

Throughput scale

Single GB per second

Multiple GBs per second

Multiple GBs per second


Stored redundantly in a single AZ

Stored redundantly across multiple AZs

Stored redundantly across multiple AZs


One EC2 instance in one AZ

1 to thousands of EC2 instances

On-premise servers

Simultaneous access from multi AZs

Integrating the Web Millions of Connections

File modification




Use case

Boot volumes


NoSQL Database

Data Warehousing ETL

Virtual Machine (VM)

Web Services and Content Management Enterprise Application Home Directory Database Backup Developer Tools Container Storage Big Data Analytics

Web Services and Content Management

Media and Entertainment-Backup

Big Data Analytics

Data Lake

*Amazon EBS Usage Examples

  1. Database: Retail companies can use EBS as the relational database for their e-commerce applications. The high performance of EBS ensures that applications can quickly read and write data from the database, keeping the site responsive even under heavy load.

  2. Enterprise applications: Multinational companies can use EBS for enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that require fast input and output operations.

  3. Data warehousing: Financial institutions can use EBS as a data warehouse to store large amounts of transactional data for business intelligence applications.

  4. Boot volumes: Startups building cloud-based software can use EBS to host boot volumes for EC2 instances. This enables EC2 instances to boot quickly and maintain high performance.

*Amazon EFS Usage Examples

  1. Shared workspace: Software development teams working together on a codebase can use EFS to share code files. All developers can access and edit files at the same time.

  2. Content management systems: News organizations can use EFS as a content management system where reporters, editors, and web designers can access and edit articles and related media files simultaneously.

  3. Machine learning: Machine learning models need access to large data sets during training. With EFS, multiple instances can read training data simultaneously, speeding up the training process.

  4. Web services and content delivery: Popular blogging platforms can use EFS to store blog content. EFS allows you to read files from multiple servers to serve content to users, making it more efficient to handle high traffic volumes.

*Amazon S3 Usage Examples

  1. Media hosting: For video streaming services like Netflix, S3 can efficiently store and deliver large amounts of multimedia content to a global audience.

  2. Data lake: Healthcare analytics companies can use S3 as a data lake to securely store massive amounts of patient data and run machine learning models to gain insights.

  3. Static website hosting: Freelance web designers can use S3 to host client websites. It's simple to set up, reliable, and can handle large amounts of traffic.

  4. Backup and archiving: Businesses can use S3 to back up their on-premises data. S3's durability ensures that backup data is preserved accurately over long periods of time.


In this article, we've covered cloud storage services, specifically AWS's most popular storage services.

The main AWS storage services we've covered in this article - Amazon EBS, Amazon EFS, and S3 - can be chosen based on your specific needs, budget, and desired level of management.

When choosing a storage service, don't forget to consider not only cost and features, but also your needs and how the service fits into your long-term goals!


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