Amazon S3: Now Much Safer for Important Data

A few weeks ago when I spoke at the St. Louis Cloud Computing User Group, one of the possible cloud storage worries I brought up was the prospect of a few misplaced (accidental or malicious) clicks deleting large swaths of data. This applies with both S3 (the market leader) and other similar offerings. If you’ve tried out the various GUI tools for manipulating S3 “objects”, you’ve no doubt noticed that just a few clicks could delete thousands of objects (files) or even a whole bucket. Imagine a naive new employee (or worse) discarding terabytes of customer data; your business could be flushed down the drain in seconds.

Amazon has recently added a couple of features which greatly reduce this risk: Multi-Factor Authentication and Versioning. Using these features, it is now much more reasonable to store important data on S3 – the access needed to delete data can be controlled in such a way that even a malicious user, with access to credentials sufficient to do real work, nonetheless won’t be able to actually delete any data.

As the various cloud offerings mature, I expect all major providers to offer increased “safety” features, and for technical audits to verify and require their use.