Amazon Glacier stores your data for centuries

Ok. I admit it. We were curious about this claim as well. After looking over the materials, here’s what we found.

Amazon Web Services has always been about delivering IT on demand. Spin up a virtual server, or a few thousand, anytime you’d like. Store and access as much data as you need to your heart’s content.   But even in a Web-driven world, there is need for services that don’t offer instant results, but will be around for eternity (or as close as possible). So today, Amazon introduced Glacier, a data archival service that will store data for one penny per gigabyte per month. As befits its name, Glacier is designed to last for a long time, but is slow: accessing data will take three to five hours. Amazon hasn’t detailed exactly what technology is storing the data, but massive tape libraries are a good bet given the lengthy retrieval windows.

The official statement is as follows:

“Glacier is built from inexpensive commodity hardware components,” and is “designed to be hardware-agnostic, so that savings can be captured as Amazon continues to drive down infrastructure costs.”

We also don’t know exactly how Amazon measures the reliability of its storage, but the company is promising 11 nines of annual durability (99.999999999 percent) for each item, with data stored in multiple facilities and on multiple devices within each facility.

While Amazon says Glacier can sustain the concurrent loss of data in two facilities, there is still risk data could be lost forever. If you store 1TB, Amazon’s promised durability rate suggests you can expect to lose an average of 10 bytes per year. Amazon is betting that will be an acceptable risk for the service’s low price.

As mentioned, pricing is one cent per gigabyte per month, although that can go up to a whopping 1.1 cents if you store in Europe rather than the US, and up to 1.2 cents for storage in Japan.

There is no cost to transfer data into the service over the Internet, but some customers transferring large amounts of data may end up paying for Amazon’s import/export service, which involves portable storage devices shipped from the customer to Amazon.

Retrieval of storage is free if you’re only grabbing 5 percent of your data per month. After that, retrieval fees start at 1 cent per gigabyte, but vary widely based upon what region you’re in.

Glacier is really for the data you can’t delete (perhaps for legal and regulatory reasons) but will hardly ever need. In that sense, Amazon is trying to displace the giant tape libraries enterprises build, or offsite archival vendors. While the service has quite a different purpose than Amazon’s traditional cloud businesses, Glacier can be managed from the same console as S3 and Amazon’s database services.

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Windows 8 vs. Windows 7

Now that Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system has hit the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) stage, it’s time to see how it stacks up against the incumbent Windows 7.   A number of people have released benchmark testing. After reviewing a couple of these, here’s what we can determine:

The first and most obvious is that Microsoft has obviously worked hard to cut system boot times, as Microsoft previously promised.

We don’t reboot our PCs anywhere near as often as we once did, but a fast boot up time is still appreciated, and a PC that arrives at the logon screen or desktop quickly makes a good impression on both Microsoft and OEMs.

Hybrid boot, UEFI firmware and better use of sleep will make startup under Windows 8 even faster.

Next there’s the fact that, as far as the synthetic and gaming benchmarks go, the differences between Windows 7, the Windows 8 RTM, the Consumer Preview and the Release Preview are negligible. It usually takes AMD and NVIDIA some time to optimize and perfect their drivers for a new operating system, with drivers having to mature for several months before we see similar performance between the new operating system and the old one.

This time around it seems that things have settled down quickly and that we’re seeing performance that is on a par with a mature operating system. We can assume that as time goes on the graphics card makers will be able to squeeze more performance out of the operating system.

This is good news for anyone who is planning to make a swift switch to Windows 8 but also for those who want the best performance possible from their hardware.

We’re also seeing quite an improvement when it comes to audio and video transcoding. It’s an area that Microsoft seems to put effort into improving, and that trend continues with Windows 8. As we take more photos and video and handle more content, the ability to process them faster is welcome all round.

From a performance perspective, I’ve very pleased with the way that Windows 8 has turned out. While there are no major performance differences between the Windows 8 Release Preview and the newly released Windows 8 RTM version, performance seems solid, and in areas where the platform lagged behind Windows 7, Microsoft seems to have put in the effort to close the gap.

21 Million Medical Records Exposed Since 2009

The U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has revamped its health information security breach data and now is reporting that there have been more than 21 million medical records exposed over the past three years.

The OCR, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, collects breach data under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, an extension of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which protects the privacy of patient medical records.

The OCR’s revised report of HITECH data breaches involving 500 or more individuals offers details on all of the breaches reported to it since Sept. 2009. In total, the report shows 477 breaches of 500 patients or more, affecting 20,970,222 medical records.

The OCR said it has also received about 55,000 breach reports involving fewer than 500 records during this time period, bringing the total lost data to more than 21 million records.

Theft accounted for 54 percent of the breaches. Twenty percent were unauthorized access or disclosure; 11 percent were lost records and devices; 6 percent were hacking; 5 percent were improper disposal of records; and the remaining 4 percent were other/unknown.

The data contains information on six breaches that each involved the compromise of more than a million records. The largest breach was TRICARE Management Activity, the Department of Defense’s health care program, which reported the loss of 4.9 million records when it lost several backup tapes.

Wow. Backup tapes lost. That should have been easy to avoid.

 

Goodbye Hotmail.com Hello Outlook.com

Microsoft on is replacing Hotmail, the company they bought over 15 years ago, as Outlook.com. Gone is the racy suggestive name hotmail and it is being replaced by the corporate look and feel of Outlook.

By the end of their first day, over 1 million people signed up for the service.

For Hotmail users, here are the most common answers to your questions:

I use Hotmail now. What happens to my email?

The next time you open Hotmail, you may see the new interface.   If you don’t, you can switch by choosing “Upgrade to Outlook.com” from the Options menu in the upper right when you’re at your inbox.

How do I get one of the new Outlook.com addresses?

For a brand new account, go to Outlook.com. (You may need to log out if you’ve already used the new site, then return to Outlook.com.) Start the process by clicking the “Sign up” button on the left. Fill in the form, which includes a field for your new xxxxxoutlook.com address, complete the CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”) and click the “I accept” button at the bottom.

What does it look like?

Very Metro. The user interface (UI) has the same flattened, color-subdued look as a Metro app in Windows 8. By comparison, the traditional Hotmail UI looks like a carnival … busy, garish, loud, cheap.   Obviously, Outlook.com’s UI will mesh well with Windows 8. Depending on your opinion of that UI, however, it may seem jarring on older or non-Microsoft OSes, including Windows 7 and OS X.

Can I keep my old address and still use Outlook.com?

Yes, you can.   You can keep Microsoft-related addresses ending with hotmail.com, msn.com and live.com while switching to the new UI.

I want to ditch my hotmail.com address. How do I do that?

Start at Outlook.com. If you’re not automatically pushed to the new UI, switch by choosing “Upgrade to Outlook” from the Inbox’s Options menu — and select “More mail settings” from the gear icon’s menu. Click on “Rename your email address.”   Enter your existing hotmail.com address — the portion to the left of the @ character — and click Save while “outlook.com” is visible in the drop-down list. If the address is already taken, you’ll see a message to that effect.

Does Outlook.com show me ads?

Yes, it does. Text-based ads, to be specific.