An Early Look at Cloudflare R2 vs. S3

Published on October 19th, 2021

SimpleBackups founder

Islam Essam

Co-founder, SimpleBackups

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There is a new kid on the block! Cloudflare has recently announced their new cloud object storage platform called Cloudflare R2. Cloudflare aims to syphon off some of Amazon’s S3 customers by providing their service at a lower price point. By providing a lower priced solution that is just as feature-rich and reliable as S3, Cloudflare is putting themselves in a prime position to cut into the S3 market share for cloud object storage. Let's take a look at Cloudflare R2 pricing, R2 vs S3, and more.

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Amazon S3 has been the default online storage solution for developers for some time now. S3 is flexible, allowing for developers to store an object of any type. Whether you’re looking to store a full web app for hosting or simply backup up data, S3 does the job well. There are other similar storage providers such as Google Cloud Storage and Azure Blob storage, but S3 has the largest market share of all.

The biggest problem most developers have with S3—and other providers such as Google Cloud Storage— is the cost. For larger data buckets, S3 pricing can quickly become very costly and lead to unexpectedly large invoices. The storage of data alone is not the only expense either, as transferring data out of S3 makes up a large portion of the cost associated with S3. We wrote a short summary comparing all storage providers if you want to take a look.

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What exactly is R2, though, and how does it compare to Amazon S3? Is it a better solution? How much cheaper is it? Let’s take a deeper look into the potential Cloudflare R2 vs S3 showdown to answer some of these questions, based on the very early information we have on the upcoming cloud platform.

What is R2?

The new cloud storage service is designed to store large amounts of data at a reasonable cost. Because S3 is so deeply engrained in the developer community, R2 will have full compatibility with the S3 API. This will allow for a seamless transition using the same tools you’re accustomed to, and it will allow for an easy transition for applications that are already written with S3 storage as a consideration.

R2 vs AWS S3 Explanation

Any type of unstructured data can be stored on R2 and can easily be retrieved. This part, the retrieval, is the primary pain point that Amazon S3 users suffer. While the storage fees may not be massive, it is the data egress fees that really hit the wallet hard when utilizing Amazon S3 with large amounts of data. This is particularly difficult to manage for data that needs to be frequently accessed.

This pricing structure is where Cloudflare R2 is looking to come to the rescue of frustrated S3 users. Cloudflare is looking to join a couple of other cloud services, such as Backblaze B2 and Wasabi, in attempting to compete with Amazon S3 and combat bandwidth fees at the same time. Due to the popularity of Cloudflare, they may be in the best position of anyone to actually take on the behemoth known as Amazon Web Services.

Cloudflare R2 Pricing

While the R2 storage fee of $0.015/GB is a modest savings over Amazon S3’s Standard $0.023/GB per month for the first 50TB, it is the egress fees that make all the difference. Amazon S3, like many other alternatives, charges for moving data out of S3 storage. This means that with S3, you’ll need to not only pay fees to store data, but then also must pay more to retrieve that stored data.

As of right now the base cost on data transfer out of S3 is $0.09/GB. For large amounts of data this could add up at a shocking pace.

Cloudflare is committed to the bandwidth alliance. This is a group of cloud providers who pledge to discount or completely waive data transfer fees for customers who are shared by members of the alliance. With Cloudflare’s commitment to the alliance, it should come as no surprise that the R2 storage will uphold this low-to-no cost data transfer mindset by not charging for R2 data retrieval.

R2 will provide zero cost infrequent storage operations up to a certain threshold, which is planned to be in the single digit requests per second range. Above this threshold, R2 will charge but the charges will be significantly less than other major players, including S3. This is a cost saving that becomes more substantial as the amount of data you store and access increases.

Specifics are still not fully available as R2 is still in the early access phase. From everything we know based on Cloudflare’s R2 announcement, though, the new platform should result in a non-trivial savings compared to S3, as well as Google Cloud. The savings in bandwidth cost alone will give the edge to R2 for users with hundreds of gigabytes worth of data stored.

Possible Use Cases for R2

There are a number of situations in which R2 is a great solution, especially when you consider that it will very easily integrate with Cloudflare’s other service offerings. This deep integration with their already fantastic offerings is truly the ace up Cloudflare’s sleeve.

For example, CDN asset and media file storage should be good candidates for R2 storage to be used. Because R2 is able to extend cache lifetimes drastically for bigger files, this means speedy retrieval at a low cost due to the cutting of egress fees. This storage, in combination with the Cloudflare Cache API and Workers serverless runtime, means dynamic caching for global access becomes simple and efficient.

In comparison to S3 and most other providers, frequently accessed content storage is the most beneficial. The zero-cost egress bandwidth means the savings will be substantial for this frequently accessed storage.

Using R2 for Backups

Large R2 backups can be restored at a minimal cost due to the waived egress fees, which is a contrast to S3’s fees. This alone could be a very enticing proposition for those considering a switch away from S3. For those who have large amounts of frequently accessed data, Cloudflare R2 looks as though it will present a massive savings.

Another advantage of Cloudflare R2 backups, would be having more redundant backups without additional effort. That would be possible when the announced R2 caching feature is used, which will cache files at R2 in addition to having them stored on other cloud storage providers as well.

Is Cloudflare R2 Reliable?

Cost savings are vital, but it means little if the service is not reliable. According to a post from the Cloudflare blog, R2 will provide 99.999999999% annual durability. In a nutshell, this indicates that if you were to store one million objects in R2 storage, only one will be lost every 100,000 years. This is incredible to think about and is in line with the other big players in the cloud storage space

Furthering the goal of reliability, R2 will have redundancy across many regions. Again, the reliability should not come as a surprise as Cloudflare is a giant in the tech industry and their rise to these heights is a direct result in the reliability of their networks.

Migrating to R2

Cloudflare aims to make it simple for current S3 users to migrate their data blobs over. R2 storage is set to include automatic migration from S3 compatible cloud services. This includes AWS among others. You will simply specify the storage bucket on your existing platform, and R2 will send the requests to the bucket to retrieve the objects. The migrator tool will immediately begin saving you egress costs.

Allowing for easy migration was a prudent decision by Cloudflare. They know that a massive portion of their potential user-base is currently using S3 as their cloud object storage solution, and if they’re going to make any headway in this space, they need to make the migration process as seamless and intuitive as possible.

Thoughts on Using CloudFlare R2

Cloudflare is a major player in the tech game, with its services already connected to roughly 25% of global networks. They have the resources and infrastructure to battle Amazon on the cloud storage front and should still turn a profit even without charging egress fees. The easy integration with other Cloudflare services, such as Workers serverless runtime and their Cache API, certainly could make R2 an attractive storage option.

From a pricing perspective, the storage fees alone are a savings compared to S3. When you add in the additional savings of the waived egress fees, you’re looking at a storage solution that could present a very substantial savings.

Now, there are other options available, such as the aforementioned Wasabi, that also have low storage and egress fees. However, Cloudflare has the brand recognition and the level of trust among developers that they have already gained in the tech world that plays in their favor.

Being in early access, we still do not know exactly how R2 will ultimately stack up against the AWS tech giant, but there is plenty of reason for optimism that they can hold their own in this battle. If nothing else, having additional competition in this space can only be a positive for the consumer. Greater competition, in theory, could potentially see prices decrease among other cloud storage providers in order to try to prevent loss of market share.

If you’re considering giving R2 a try, you’ll need to sign up to be added to their early access wait list.

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