Amazon Glacier for Massive Long-Term Backups, for Cheap

Amazon Glacier is a backup service that trades cost for convenience. It’s built around the concept of archive-files: Upload a single archive to your vault immediately, request the download of an archive from a vault and wait for four-hours for it to be fulfilled, or request an inventory of what you currently have stored in a particular vault (which also takes four-hours to fulfill). You can provide an Amazon Simple Notification Service resource in order to get an email or other type of notification when your inventory or download is ready.

Notes on File Organization

Before proceeding, it’s worth mentioning the advantages of uploading several large archives rather than many small ones:

  • The fast, multipart uploads only work with files that are at least 1M large (because the parts have to be at least 1M).
  • You’ll have to submit a download-request for each file you want to download. You’ll likely not want to submit a request for each file that was on your hard-drive or storage-array.
  • You will generally want to keep track of your archive-IDs. Even if you don’t want to and prefer to just retrieve a list of what you have backed-up, a couple of hours before you’re ready to request the backups, it requires considerably more labor to manage an inventory that has hundreds of thousands of entries in it.
  • It’s not very practical to want to have access to every individual document/image from your hard drive or array when it takes four-hours to gain access to each. This is a long-term backup strategy, not an external hard-drive.

The tool

We’re using a tool called glacier_tool to perform the upload. This is a tool to perform fast, multipart, concurrent uploads. It was written because the author had an issue finding anything that already existed and was still maintained. Most of what other tools were found were either UI-based or didn’t seem to support multipart uploads.


The backend Amazon library currently has issues. One of them is buggy Python 3 support. So, make sure you have Python 2.7 and install via PyPI:

$ sudo pip install glacier_tool



$ gt_upload_large -em 11.33 image-backups /mnt/tower/backups/images-main-2010-20150617-2211.tar.xz images-main-2010-20150617-2211.tar.xz
Uploading: [/mnt/array/backups/images-main-2010-20150617-2211.tar.xz]
Size: (15.78) G
Start time: [2015-07-05 01:22:01]
Estimated duration: (3.17) hours => [2015-07-05 04:32:11] @ (11.33) Mbps
Archive ID: [IEGZ8uXToCDIgO3pMrrIHBIcJs...YyNlPigEwIR2NA]
Duration: (3.16) hours @ (11.37) Mbps

$ gt_upload_large -em 11.37 image-backups /mnt/tower/backups/images-main-2011-20150617-2211.tar.xz images-main-2011-20150617-2211.tar.xz
Uploading: [/mnt/array/backups/images-main-2011-20150617-2211.tar.xz]
Size: (26.66) G
Start time: [2015-07-05 10:07:58]
Estimated duration: (5.33) hours => [2015-07-05 15:28:03] @ (11.37) Mbps

Note that the output of one upload will print the approximate rate at which the upload was performed. This can be fed into subsequent commands to estimate how long they will take to complete.


  • This tool is only useful for massive, multipart, concurrent uploads. A tool will be provided in the near-future for massive, multipart, concurrent downloads. If you struggle with finding any solutions for this, post an issue on the project-website at Github and it’ll help move things along.