Comparing AWS Snowcone vs Snowball: An In-Depth Analysis

The AWS snow family has several service models tailored for different requirements. The AWS Snowcone is a portable and the most compact device option available, while the AWS Snowball is available as a Storage Optimized or Compute Optimized device. 

This article will discuss the importance of choosing the right data transfer solution, the pros and cons of choosing a storage solution from the Snow Family service models, and more. 

What is AWS Snowcone?

AWS Snowcose is a secure, portable, and rugged device for data transfer and edge computing. The device can be used to organize, process, and move data to the AWS Cloud - either using online AW DataSync or offline by shipping the device to AWS. 

Moreover, AWS Snowcone can also aggregate content by transferring scientific, media, or other content from edge locations to AWS. 

A. Key features 

  • Device types 

    The AWS Snowcone is available in both solid-state drive (SSD) and hard disk drive (HDD). The SSD has 14 TB of usable storage and the HDD version has 8 TB. 

  • Offline Data Migration 

    AWS Snowconce can effectively move data by shipping the device physically to a specified AWS region. The data is stored safely in your specific Amazon S3 bucket. 

  • Small and Light 

    The device weighs about 2.1 kg (4.5 lbs), about the size of a tissue box - 6 inches wide, 3 inches tall, and 9 inches long. 

  • End-to-end tracking 

    The device uses an E lnk shipping label designed to ensure the device goes to the suitable AWS facility and also helps to track the device. 

  • Wired and wireless networking 

    The AWS Snowcone can be connected to wired networks. It provides two ports that auto-negotiate for 1 GB or 10 GB Ethernet networks. 

B. Use cases 

  • To assist in data transfer generated by machines or sensors online to AWS at edge locations or in a factory.

  • The device is widely used in edge computing applications - to collect, process, and gain valuable insights into the data and transfer it online.

  • Snowcone offers a quick and low-cost way to transfer up to 8 TB or 14 TB of data to the AWS Cloud by shipping the device back for one-time data migration scenarios where data is ready to be transferred. 

  • For content aggregation by transferrin media scientific, or other content from edge locations to AWS 

C. Pros and cons

Here are some of the pros and cons of AWS Snowcone:



Data migration is easier with the device 

Requires a reliable internet connection 

The Transfer speed is relatively higher than other devices in the Snow Family

It’s available in limited connectivity options and input/output ports 

The portable and compact design makes it suitable for edge environments with power issues 

Higher cost to maintain per-terabyte cost compared to other devices 

What is AWS Snowball?

The AWS Snowball can be used as a Storage Optimized and a Compute Optimized device.

You choose either of these devices and create a job with an Amazon S3 bucket, then select Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS), and configure options such as a GPY and Amazon EC2 AMIs. 

A. Key features 

  • Fast data migration 

    The Snowball devices have high-speed connections that support 10 Gbps to 100 Gbps links. The encryption is performed on the device, which enables shorter data migration times and a high data throughput rate. 

  • Clustering 

    Users can create storage clusters using Snowball devices when executing edge cloud computing jobs for increased storage durability. The function is available for computing jobs and local storage, but it's not available for data migration jobs. 

  • Kubernetes 

    You can use one or more Snowball devices for Kubernetes deployments to create an Amazon EKS Anywhere cluster. In the features section on the Console, you can choose the number of devices in your Kubernetes cluster. 

  • GPU support 

    The Snowball Edge Compute Optimized has an optional NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPU. It's used with Amazon EC2 instances that accelerate an app’s performance in secluded environments. 

B. Use cases 

  • You can optimize manufacturing data, by collecting and analyzing on-site factory data to refine processes and improve efficiency, productivity, and safety. 

  • Running AWS Machine Images (AMIs) within Amazon EC2 and deploying AWS Lambda Code on Snowball Edge devices with ML (Machine Learning) or other applications.

  • Data migration at petabyte scale is another use case by moving databases, backups, healthcare records, IoT sensor data, analytics datasets, and media to the cloud. 

C. Pros and cons

Here are some of the pros and cons of AWS Snowball:



Easily operates in locations with non-existent connections as you can move offline data or remote storage to the cloud 

There can be prolonged uncertainty around data availability as it can easily take over two weeks to upload data to the cloud 

Tackles data migration by copying large data amounts from a single source into AWS 

Shipping devices to and from recite locations is expensive and difficult. 

Contains a TPM - Trusted Platform Module that helps protect the integrity of the device 

Transfer speeds are limited to the slowest endpoint. 

AWS Snowcone vs. AWS Snowball: Head-to-Head Comparison

The AWS edge infrastructure makes it possible to deploy software and hardware beyond the AWS outposts. This section will compare two devices from the AWS Snow Family - AWS Snowcone and AWS Snowball.

A. Physical characteristics 

The AWS Snowcone weighs 4.5 Lbs. It’s the smallest AWS Snow family member designed to survive in harsh environments and be easily used anywhere. 

In contrast, the AWS Snowball is available in two versions: storage and compute-optimized. It’s larger compared to the Snowcone and more versatile.

B. Data capacity and transfer speed 

The AWS Snowcone offers 8TB capacity. This makes it easy for quick and one-time migrations, but the transfer speed depends on network connectivity. The Snowball scales from terabytes to petabytes and offers faster transfer speeds 

C. Connectivity and compatibility 

The AWS Snowcone suits edge environments with constrained resources and limited connectivity. It supports online and offline data transfers. 

AWS Snowball, on the other hand, has more connectivity options and compatibility for different use cases, such as Kubernetes or cluster configurations, 

D. Security features 

The AWS Snowcone has secure data transfer options that enable encryption, making it suitable for edge computing applications. The AWS Snowball provides secure data transfer for larger data and additional physical security measures. 

E. Cost considerations

The AWS Snowcone is cost-effective for small data transfers and specific edge computing needs. The AWS Snowball offers the best costs for larger-scale data transfers owing to its per-terabyte cost. 

Use Cases and Scenarios

A. Choosing AWS Snowcone 

1. Small data transfer needs 

AWS Snowcone is suitable for small data transfer needs as it enables data generated by machine sensors to be transferred to AWS. It’s a simple and cost-effective solution to transfer up to 8 TB of data into AWS by shipping the Snowcone device to AWS. 

2. Harsh environmental conditions 

Data can be collected and processed for real-time insights and then transferred to AWS via online and offline methods - making it ideal for use in challenging environments. 

B. Choosing AWS Snowball 

1. Large data migration projects

The AWS Snowball migrates huge data into AWS without worrying about bandwidth costs. It also has automated E Ink shipping labels to improve logistics efficiency. 

2. High-speed data transfer requirements

Snowball has tactical edge computing which helps with high-speed data transfer requirements. The devices come with block storage capabilities with 40 vCPUs and an optional GPU, making it ideal for users who want a secure and fast transfer of terabytes to many petabytes of data 

Data Migration Process with AWS Snowcone

A. Step-by-step guide 

  1. 1

    Data Preparation 

    Use the Snowcone device to collect, process, and move data to the AWS Cloud, 

  2. 2

    Device setup 

    Snowone is available in two flavors: Snowcone and Snowcone SSD. The device has two CPUs and terabytes of storage. The device uses a file interface with Network File System (NFS) support. 

  3. 3

    Data transfer 

    The data transfer is done either by using AWS DataSync or by shipping the device to AWS. you request one or more Snowcone devices in the AWS Management Console based on your data requirements. 

  4. 4

    Shipping and tracking 

    The device is shipped by your Region’s carrier and the status of your job changes on the Console. You have a tracking number and a link to the tracking website on the AWS Snow Family Management Console. 

B. Best practices

  • Plan your data migration using the AWS Database Migration Service (AWS DMS).

  • You can ensure a smooth migration by using schema conversions.

  • Familiarize yourself with the AWS DMA public documentation.

  • Run a proof of concept to validate the migration process.

  • Migrate the large binary objects (LOBs) for data transfer.

Data Migration Process with AWS Snowball

A. Step-by-step guide 

  1. 1

    Data Preparation 

    Discovery is the first phase where you identify the data location, how it can be accessed, the consumer, and any access patterns expected during the migration. 

  2. 2

    Device setup 

    Choose between Snowball and Snowball SSD which comes with multiple CPUs and terabytes of storage, using a file interface with NFS support.

  3. 3

    Data transfer 

    Transfer data using AWS DataSync or by shipping the device to AWS. Request devices through the AWS Management Console based on data requirements.

  4. 4

    Shipping and tracking 

    Once your data transfer is complete, the next crucial step is shipping the AWS Snowball device securely back to AWS for data ingestion. Follow these steps for a smooth shipping and tracking process:

B. Best practices

  • Take care of security features and don’t connect to your internal network if anything feels suspicious. 

  • Manage jobs and resources on your AWS Snowball device. For instance, don’t delete your local copies of transferred data until the import into Amazon S3 is successful. 

  • For optimizing performance, don't have more than 500,000 files or directories within each directory. 

  • Improve data transfer speed by using methods like reducing network usage. 

AWS Snowcone vs. AWS Snowball: Data Security and Encryption

A. Encryption protocols 

The encryption protocols move all data to the AWS Snow Family with 256-bit encryption keys managed by the AWS Key Management Service (KMS). The encryption keys are never stored on the device so the data stays secure during transit. 

B. Data protection measures 

The AWS devices use anti-tamper and tamper-evident features that provide a hardware root of trust. Each device is inspected after every use to ensure the device’s integrity and preserve data confidentiality. 

C. Compliance and regulatory considerations

Once the data migration job completes verification, AWS performs a software removal of the device that falls under the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines. 

Performance and Speed Comparison

A. Speed comparison tests 

AWS Snowcone device’s speed depends on your network’s transfer rate. For instance, the transfer time for 8 TB at a rate of 100 MB/s  is 21.17 hours. For 4 TB, it’ll take 10.59 hours at the same rate. 

B. Latency and network considerations

The AWS Snowcone and Snowball devices help users run low-latency applications close to where data originates. You can run edge compute operations using these devices in locations with disconnected, intermittent, denied, or limited (DDIL) network connectivity to AWS. 

Considerations for Future Growth

A. AWS Snowcone vs. AWS Snowball: Scalability options 

Snowcone’s scalability is limited compared to larger devices. For Snowball, the device is designed for extensive data transfers. It provides opportunities for substantial future growth. 

B. Integration with other AWS services

Both these devices easily integrate with other AWS services. It facilitates data workflows to ensure that as your data infrastructure expands, the devices can easily integrate with other AWS services. 

Summary of Key Differences

The AWS Snowcone is the most compact option in the Snow family. It’s available in HDD and SSD options and is rugged, secure, and purpose-built for use outside traditional data centers. 

AWS Snowball is available in two options: Compute-optimized and storage-optimized devices. They’re suited for extreme conditions, are tamper-proof, and highly secure.


What is the difference between AWS Snowball and AWS Snowmobile?

The AWS Snowball is suited for extreme conditions and is available in two options. The AWS Snowmobile is an Exabyte-scale data migration device that moves extremely large data. 

What is AWS Snowcone used for?

The AWS Snowcone is a portable device and is purpose-built for use outside of a traditional data center. 

What is the equivalent of AWS snowball?

The Microsoft Azure Data Box is a ruggedized appliance that is equivalent to AWS Snowball. 

When should you use an AWS Snowcone over a snowball?

The Snowcone has to be used for small data transfer needs. The Snowball is built for extreme conditions that need high security. 

Is AWS snowmobile global or regional?

Snowmobile can be made available for use with AWS services in specific AWS regions. 

How much does the AWS snowmobile cost?

Snowmobile jobs cost $0,005/GB/month based on the amount of storage capacity and the end-to-end duration of the job. 

How much can you expect to pay for AWS Snowball?

You can expect to pay $0.01 per GB per month or $0.12 per GB per year. 


AWS Snowcone and Snowball are both part of the AWS Snow Family service models. The right choice depends on your specific needs. While both devices have their own pros and cons, they'll be best suited to your needs. 

About the author


Youssef is a Senior Cloud Consultant & Founder of

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Related posts