How-to: Exporting Data from AWS and Avoiding Hotel California

By | November 10, 2016

It’s easy to migrate data to the cloud, but not as easy to get data out. AWS has eased some lock-in concerns with data export and transfer techniques.

fijx3pjopcew62uiuhhmCloud data lock-in is a perennial concern of IT execs who fear that once they move applications and data to an infrastructure as a service provider, technical constraints will make it hard to switch vendors in the future. In several surveys, IT pros voted lock-in to be one of the top inhibitors to cloud adoption. Fears of a vendor such as AWS obstructing data and resource migration have inhibited the majority of enterprises from taking full advantage of cloud services.

And as I detail in this article, these concerns aren’t unjustified, as cloud providers make it easy to deploy cloud services, but migrating elsewhere is invariably an afterthought. The worry is that migrating data will become a one-way street — easy to get data in, but getting data out requires more effort.

As the leading cloud provider, but also one focused on solving its customer’s problems, AWS is aware of the fears and has addressed some of the objections. Although its marketing and documentation naturally emphasizes inbound migration of workloads, it hasn’t ignored the need for bi-directional data movement and export.


There are several ways to efficiently move large amounts of data to and from AWS including physically shipping disks (the cloud version of sneakernet), on-premise storage gateway appliances and private network connections. This article outlines some techniques, including the S3 Storage Gateway, Direct Connect and AWS Snowball to make sure AWS doesn’t turn into a roach motel for your data. Although AWS has enough options for data export to prevent strict lock-in, egress costs do disincentivize large-scale export and the article concludes with some recommendations to minimize the pain and cost of data migration.