Amazon EBS vs. EFS: An 'elastic' comparison

Elastic Block Store and Elastic File System are two of Amazon's most popular storage types. Compare how they store data before deciding which one to use.

Amazon Elastic Block Store and Amazon Elastic File System have more in common than similar names and more differences than the storage type. Consider the benefits and uses of EBS vs. EFS.

EBS is block-level storage designed for Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances. Storage volumes can only connect to a single EC2 instance at a time, which enables quick file access.

EFS is an elastic serverless file system that users can share across multiple resources and systems, whether that's another AWS system or on premises. It automatically grows and shrinks depending on file storing needs, without provisioning or management.

Similarities between EBS and EFS

Both storage types offer low-latency, consistent connections and high availability (99.999%). They can also scale as needs dictate.

EFS automatically scales as users upload and delete files. EBS volumes can scale vertically by reconfiguring volume types and horizontally by managing additional EC2 volumes.

Both storage types offer low-latency, consistent connections and high availability (99.999%). They can also scale as needs dictate.

Both EBS and EFS are secure storage options. EBS uses AWS' built-in security features. EFS enables integration with third-party security and identity and access management.

They encrypt data in transit and at rest, which helps customers meet industry and internal compliance guidelines.

Both EBS and EFS enable endpoint connections through virtual private clouds, which helps to connect programmatically to the stores.

Key differences between EBS and EFS

As this chart illustrates, EBS and EFS have differences across such key areas as management, cost and performance.

Chart of Amazon EBS vs. EFS differences

Top uses for EBS vs. EFS

Amazon EFS manages content and web applications well because it mimics the file structures web developers often use. Many companies use EFS for application development and testing, web server support, big data analytics and digital transformation projects that migrate entire applications. EFS' elasticity, high availability and high scalability help to efficiently handle all of these workloads.

Amazon EBS and its block-level storage work for transactional and NoSQL databases because of its low latency and enterprise-wide applications. The block storage aids its use in file systems, databases and applications that require fine, granular updates and access to raw, unformatted storage. In addition, AWS manages EBS, so it automatically creates data backups.

Pricing options for EBS vs. EFS

Both Amazon EBS and EFS offer pay-what-you-use options that depend on storage classes, read and write access, provisioned throughput and more.

Amazon EBS charges monthly based on the provisioned volume type, until the storage is released. Volumes that support additional IOPS and throughput beyond baseline performance may cost more. EBS storage includes a free tier with 30 GB of storage, 2 million I/Os and 1 GB of snapshot storage that shows how it would work for a given company and workloads.

Amazon EFS bills monthly based on the average storage class and space. EFS offers four storage classes -- EFS Standard, EFS Standard-Infrequent Access, EFS One Zone and EFS One Zone-Infrequent Access. Infrequent Access storage classes are for files that users don't access every day. Most data is not in frequent use, so Infrequent Access storage classes can offer savings. EFS provides a free storage tier with its overall AWS Free Tier package, which includes 5 GB of EFS Standard storage for 12 months.

Next Steps

How to create and manage Amazon EBS snapshots via AWS CLI

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