Amazon offers online storage through the post

Amazon Web Services has unveiled a new scheme allowing customers to ship their drives to the company, so they can be uploaded to its S3 storage service.

According to a post on the Amazon Web Services blog, "hard drives are getting bigger more rapidly than internet connections are getting faster." Indeed, the team reckons that uploading a terabyte of data over a 1.5Mbits/sec T1 broadband line would take more than 80 days.

"It is now relatively easy to create a collection of data so large that it cannot be uploaded to offsite storage (eg Amazon S3) in a reasonable amount of time," the blog noted.

"Media files, corporate backups, data collected from scientific experiments and potential AWS Public Data Sets are now at this point. Our customers in the scientific space routinely create terabyte data sets from individual experiments."

To that end, Amazon has launched its Import/Export service which will allow customers with terabyte and petabyte levels of data to physically ship their drives to Amazon. The data will then be uploaded in a secure facility, and the drive returned to the sender.

The scheme is currently in beta leading to a number of restrictions on drive size and hardware. Amazon Web Services will only accept USB 2 or eSata drives using the FAT32, ext2, ext3 or NTFS file system. Drives will need to fit within an 8U rack, although "special arrangements" can be made for larger devices.

Corrupted files or those over 5GB will be rejected, though encrypted data is supported. According to the blog post, "all personnel involved in the process have undergone extensive background checks".

The Import/Export is only available in the US, but Amazon said it will be opening in Europe "in the near future".