Backing Up VMs to AWS: Choose Your Method

Amazon provides a set of web services that are currently widely in use for cloud computing and are popular among IT companies. Two blog posts from our series on backing up VMs to AWS explained how to back up virtual machines to the Amazon cloud with NAKIVO Backup & Replication by using two distinct methods. With the first method, you can back up VMs to Amazon EBS in EC2 after deploying NAKIVO Transporter on the EC2 instance with further deploying backup repositories on Amazon EBS volumes attached to that instance. The second method allows you to back up VMs to Amazon S3 via storage gateway which is a special VM used for integrating your local virtual infrastructure and AWS storage infrastructure. For first timers, it may be difficult to decide which method to choose. Today’s blog post is the final blog post of the series and covers advantages and disadvantages of each method for helping you select the option that best meets your needs.

Comparing Two Methods

Let’s compare the abovementioned two methods in a set of categories for VM backup to cloud with NAKIVO Backup & Replication. You need to have a deployed instance of NAKIVO Backup & Replication and an Amazon account in order to use both methods.

Ease of Deployment

Ease of deployment is probably the most important parameter. The faster you can deploy and configure your environment, the faster you can recover your VMs in case of disaster.

Backup to Amazon EBS. You don’t need to deploy any additional components or virtual appliances. Configuring an environment is easy and fast. You need to generate an access key in the Amazon web interface, add the AWS account to the inventory of NAKIVO Backup & Replication, deploy the Transporter in the EC2 and create a backup repository which will also be located in Amazon EC2 from the web interface of NAKIVO Backup & Replication. The primary configuration is made in the NAKIVO Backup & Replication web interface.

Backup to Amazon S3. You need to deploy the AWS Storage Gateway virtual appliance as a virtual machine on your VMware ESXi host (or Hyper-V host if you use Hyper-V in your virtual environment). Additional disk space on the datastore attached to your ESXi host is required for this purpose. The primary configuration is made in the Amazon web interface – you need to download a Storage Gateway virtual appliance image, create a bucket, configure the file gateway, and create and configure a file share. In the web interface of NAKIVO Backup & Replication you only need to create a backup repository of the remote NFS share type. Thus configuration for VM backup to Amazon S3 is more difficult.

Security Level

Both methods provide high security that can be managed by you. You can create users and set permissions for them in the Amazon web interface. The access key and secret access key generated by Amazon are strong enough for authentication. You can set allowed IP addresses or networks from which clients can connect to AWS. Encrypted network traffic protects your data that is transferred during VM backup, backup copy, replication and recovery jobs.


Amazon guarantees 99.99% availability for provided services including EC2, EBS and S3 that are used for backing up VMs to Amazon Cloud with NAKIVO Backup & Replication. Hence, both methods explained in the current blog post series are highly reliable. NAKIVO Backup & Replication is a data protection solution that also provides high levels of reliability. You can select the method that you find most suitable and back up your VMs to Amazon EBS or S3.


There are no significant restrictions in working with backup repositories when using both methods, except for a WAN bottleneck. However, while Amazon S3 can be used as a public share, Amazon EBS can be used only within EC2 (similarly to the HDD placed on a PC or server).

Repository Scalability

Amazon EBS is a pretty scalable type of AWS storage. NAKIVO Backup & Replication can create repositories of up to 16 TB using EBS. Think twice, however, before allocating an amount on EBS. If you make a mistake and start using the repo, it can be difficult to allocate more space later.

Amazon S3 is a highly scalable AWS storage. The maximum volume size and number of stored objects is unlimited. That’s why you should be careful with monitoring the amount of data stored in the Amazon S3 based backup repository to prevent unexpected extra charges.


Amazon EBS in EC2 offers efficient I/O (input/output) and high speed. Amazon S3 is not as I/O flexible, as Amazon EBS, and is inferior regarding the data transfer speed. NAKIVO’s team has tested both backup methods by running backup jobs applying each of the two considered methods, as well as measured data transfer speed and time spent on these jobs. Read on to see the test conditions and results below.

Test 1

A full backup of a VMware VM whose size is 2.1 GB. Two identical backup jobs are created with different destination repositories (Amazon EBS in EC2 and S3). The t2.medium EC2 instance that provides 2 virtual processors and 4 GB of memory is used because it meets the minimal requirements for installing NAKIVO Transporter. You may also use more powerful instances that provide more performance as well as higher I/O.

Backup to Amazon EBS in EC2:

Duration: 6min 37 sec.

Average speed: 7.1 MB/s

Backup to S3 via AWS Storage Gateway:

Duration: 14 min 22 sec.

Average speed: 2.6 MB/s

Test 2

Two backup copy jobs are created for making a copy of a VMware backup stored in the CIFS backup repository. The backup contains multiple recovery points and the backup size is 8 GB.

Backup to Amazon EBS in EC2:

Duration: 12 min 29 sec.

Average speed: 5.8 MB/s

Backup to S3 via AWS Storage Gateway:

Duration: 17 min 00 sec.

Average speed: 3.8 MB/s

As you can see, after running all tests, data transfer to Amazon EBS in EC2 is almost twice as fast.

Pricing Policy

Amazon provides a flexible pricing policy where you pay for what you use. Explaining all possible pricing combinations would be out of scope for this blog post. For this reason, two possible cases are explained – one example is shown for each method. The EU (Ireland, particularly) region is used in both cases.

If you want to back up VMs to Amazon EBS in EC2, you also need to pay for an EC2 instance, as an EBS volume must be attached to an EC2 instance. You can see approximate calculation results for each backup method below.

Backup to Amazon EBS in EC2:

  • EC2 instance type: t2.medium (2 vCPU, 4GB RAM)
  • Guest OS installed on EC2 instance: Linux
  • Pricing model: Standard Reserved Instances, 1 year, no upfront cost
  • Storage for each EC2 instance - Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS)
  • Throughput optimized HDD (st1), 1TB capacity
  • 100 GB per month Data Transfer in, 100 GB per month Data Transfer out
  • Approximate price: 63.51 USD monthly.

Backup to S3 via AWS Storage Gateway:

  • Storage Type: S3 Standard
  • Storage capacity: 1 TB
  • Data Transfer Out: 100 GB/Month
  • Data Transfer In: 100 GB/Month
  • Approximate price: 32.47 USD monthly.
  • As you can see, backup to S3 via Storage Gateway costs approximately half as much as the alternative. You can use the Amazon calculator to estimate the price of your particular case. The calculator is available here and here.


Two affordable and reliable methods of backing up your VMs to AWS with NAKIVO Backup & Replication have been compared in today’s blog post. Both of them have unique advantages and disadvantages, which you should consider when deciding which method to use. On the one hand, for creating a backup repository in Amazon S3, you need to additionally deploy AWS Storage Gateway in your local infrastructure, connect it to a S3 bucket in AWS Console, and, finally, add NFS share, which allows you to create a backup repository. On the other hand, to create a backup repository in Amazon EBS volume, you don’t need any additional deployment in your local environment. This means that in case disaster strikes your local environment, you will still be able to restore your virtual machine data without performing additional deployment. Both methods are equally secure and can restrict access to your backup repository via IP address. Expenses related to each method depend on the amount of storage you use and the storage type. Also, AWS S3 Storage Gateway’s cost depends on the number of requests you make and the amount of data you transfer out of AWS. The working speed and I/O are still better on Amazon EC2 with EBS.

No matter which method you prefer, backing up or copying your backups to the Amazon cloud with NAKIVO Backup & Replication can significantly cut your costs and save your time, which you can use to build and maintain an offsite VM backup infrastructure. Moreover, with each method you’ll get all benefits provided by the Amazon cloud, such as high-level security and almost 100% uptime guaranteed by Amazon’s service level agreement (SLA).

Backing Up VMs to AWS: Choose Your Method
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