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What is S3 Object Storage?

Everything you need to know about Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Simple Storage Service, best known as “S3”. We explore the key components of S3 object storage, use cases, resources and more. 

How does S3 Object Storage work? 

S3 object storage operates on a simple yet powerful architecture that revolves around buckets, keys, and AWS regions. Understanding these elements is essential to grasp how S3 efficiently stores and manages data.


Buckets are the top-level containers in S3. Think of them as folders in a file system, but with the added flexibility of being globally unique. Each bucket has a name, which must be unique across the entire AWS object storage namespace. This naming uniqueness ensures that there can be no conflicts when accessing or creating buckets. Buckets serve as the primary organizational unit for objects. When you upload an object to S3, you store it within a specific bucket.


Within each bucket, objects are identified and accessed using unique keys. These keys are essentially the object’s file name within the bucket. Keys can be alphanumeric strings and are not required to follow a specific naming convention, allowing more efficient object retrieval. Objects in different buckets can have the same name, as long as the bucket names are not identical.

AWS Regions 

AWS object storage offers different regions in which to create buckets, which are in effect data centers distributed geographically. The advantages of regions include:

  • Redundancy: each region is independent 
  • Low-latency data access: data can be located in regions closest to where it is most regularly accessed
  • Compliance: data sovereignty can be managed on a more granular level

Who needs S3 Object Storage and Why? 

Organizations of all sizes and industries use cloud object storage, including AWS S3 object storage. Key reasons for doing so are its scalability, durability, and cost-effectiveness. 

Data Lakes

A data lake is a repository that stores huge amounts of data. S3 is often used in data lakes due to its scalability, cost efficiency, and ability to ingest structured and unstructured data. This makes it ideal for the purposes of a data lake, including when it comes to analytics, machine learning, and other data usage applications. Security and access control features add to the appeal of using S3 in data lakes. 

Websites and Mobile Applications

For websites and mobile applications, low-latency content delivery is critical. This makes cloud object storage like S3 ideal for these applications, whether it’s hosting images, videos, HTML or JavaScript files. There are also significant cost savings available when compared to traditional hosting solutions. 

Backup and Restore

S3 is often used when it comes to backing and restoring data. Its reliability, durability and security features offer what most organizations are looking for in a backup and recovery solution. It also offers seamless integration options with many backup software products. 


Archiving is critical to organizations that need to retain data for legal, compliance, or analytical purposes. S3 cloud storage offers flexible storage options for data that is not accessed frequently, resulting in meaningful cost savings. 

Enterprise Apps

Enterprise applications such as CRMs, document management systems, and collaboration tools, all benefit from the advantages that S3 provides. Specifically, the scalability and high availability offered by S3 enables seamless access even as data volumes increase.

IoT Devices

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are constantly generating huge amounts of data. S3 cloud storage is able to efficiently ingest and store this data, enabling effective monitoring and analysis.

Big Data Analytics

With S3, data engineers and data scientists can store, process, and analyze vast datasets using tools like AWS Athena, EMR, and Redshift, which seamlessly integrate with S3. This combination of object storage and analytics tools empowers organizations to derive actionable insights from their data.

CTERA – Unlocking the Potential of AWS S3 Object Storage

CTERA uniquely enables traditional filesystem-based applications and workloads to work with object storage such as S3, so enterprises can enjoy the benefits of object storage without its limitations. 

With CTERA’s object storage solution, applications don’t need to be rewritten and users continue to work with a hierarchical file structure and Microsoft-compatible NT ACL permissions. The Edge Filer caches files locally for fast user access and syncs files across multiple sites, while the bulk of the data is kept for example in low-cost S3 object storage in the cloud.

Benefits of Using CTERA in Combination with S3 Object Storage 

Infinite Scalability

CTERA enables unlimited storage capacity for all sites, caching and storing hot files at the edge while tiering cold files to cloud object storage such as S3. Elastically scale your storage capacity to multiple petabytes, without introducing latency at the edge and allowing seamless migration from your legacy file servers.

Enhanced Data Visibility and Insight

CTERA aggregates and audits every aspect of distributed file systems, sharing and access across the enterprise, eliminating data silos, and enabling organizations to monetize the data at their disposal. Reduce governance and security risks related to Shadow IT and give users full access to data created at the edge in a searchable and analyzable repository.

Reduce Storage Costs

Edge caching, as well as deduplication and compression of files prior to storage, help to reduce egress charges and object storage volumes. Enterprises can reduce storage costs by up to 80% by replacing legacy file servers with affordable object storage.

End-to-End Data Security

CTERA offers military-grade data security for enterprises using cloud object storage services, including S3. Source-based encryption with private key management secures your data before it before it leaves your devices, offices and servers. This means that even in the case of a data breach or cyber-attack in the cloud, your data cannot be decrypted or read. CTERA also provides advanced ransomware protection.

Global Data Management and Control

Managing up to thousands of endpoints, remote offices and applications, CTERA’s Global File System provides centralized management and control over all organizational data, reducing your IT burden. Files are consolidated into a global namespace and use the same file structure as a legacy file server for a familiar and productive user experience.

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Conclusion: S3 and CTERA Provide Powerful Solutions for Multiple Use Cases

To summarize, S3 object storage is a versatile, scalable and cost-effective way to store and access data. Used by organizations of all sizes, it has multiple use cases, from data lakes to archiving and analytics. When combined with CTERA, enterprises can get a powerful and flexible solution for secure, reliable, efficient, and cost-effective data storage.


Is S3 the same as object storage? 

S3 is a type of object storage. While “S3” specifically refers to Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Simple Storage Service, “object storage” is a broader term used to describe a category of storage systems that store data as objects, which include S3 and similar services.

What is blob storage vs. S3?

“Blob storage” and “S3” are terms used by different cloud providers. Blob storage is a term commonly used in Microsoft Azure while S3 is Amazon Web Services’ object storage service. 

Why is S3 called object storage? 

S3 is called “object storage” because it is designed to store and manage data in the form of objects. In the context of data storage, “objects” refer to discrete units of data that typically consist of the data itself, a unique identifier (key), and associated metadata.

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