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Google Cloud Storage now accepts data on disk

Google Cloud Storage follows Amazon and Rackspace with an offline import feature that lets customers mail large data sets on disk to speed the process.

If you want to put data into the cloud but are worried about bandwidth issues, you can always mail it in.

Google this week launched a hard disk drive shuttle service as part of its Google Cloud Storage. The offline disk import feature lets companies move large data sets into the cloud more quickly via the mail instead of transferring terabytes over the Internet.

The service is aimed at companies looking to store hundreds of terabytes in the cloud. They can load up a hard drive and mail it to Google at a flat rate of $80 per drive. Google will upload the data into a Cloud Storage bucket at a cheaper cost and faster rate than if the customer moved the data by using a network.

Following its usual practice for new features and services, Google is offering offline disk import as an "experimental" feature in a limited preview before making it generally available. There will be no service-level agreement guarantee until it's generally available. Currently, only customers with a return address in the United States can use the service.

"It's a very early feature for us," a Google spokesperson said. "Once it's in Google's cloud, you will be charged for what you store or do with the data. The pricing will differ depending on if you just use Cloud Storage or take action on that data with App Engine or BigQuery, our respective PaaS [platform as a service] and analytics services."

Google isn't first with this type of feature. Henry Baltazar, a senior analyst for infrastructure and operations at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, pointed out that Google "is playing catch-up" with disk import.

Cloud provider Amazon Web Services has offered a similar service, called AWS Import/Export, since 2009 for its Amazon S3, and Rackspace has a bulk import service. Amazon charges $80 per drive, plus a per-hour fee for importing the data. Rackspace charges $90 per drive, with an additional fee of $15 to destroy the drive instead of mailing it back.

According to a chart in Amazon's online FAQ for AWS Import/Export, it would take 82 days to move 1 TB over a T1 line at 80% network utilization; three days to move it via T3 connection; and at least a day to move it with a 100 Mbps link. Amazon suggests using AWS Import/Export for 100 GB or more of data for companies with a T1 line. It recommends using AWS Import/Export even on a blazing 1,000 Mbps fiber connection for data sets of 60 TB or more.

According to an Amazon blog post announcing AWS Import/Export, "Customers with AWS storage requirements at the terabyte and petabyte level often ask us if they can sidestep the Internet and simply send us a disk drive, or even a 747 [aircraft] full of such drives."

The most popular use cases for this service are data migrations, and when a company is starting a relationship with a cloud provider and needs to move data into the cloud, said Connor Fee, marketing director at Nasuni.

"Data has gravity. It's hard to move. There's something to be said for moving data physically rather than moving it over the wire," Fee said. "It's dirt-cheap and you don't have to wait six months for data to travel over the Internet."

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