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Amazon to businesses: Don’t upload data to the cloud, mail it instead

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Want to move the huge amounts of data from your business to the cloud, but it takes hours or days to do because of slow Internet speeds? Amazon believes it has a product for you.

The company on Wednesday introduced a storage appliance that customers can load with up to 50 terabytes of data and then mail to Amazon. Amazon workers then plug the device directly into its data center, saving time and effort.

The box, called Snowball, can hold the equivalent of 6,400 movie DVDs or five copies of U.S. Library of Congress’ printed collection. It resembles a hefty grey suitcase and weighs 50 pounds. Amazon (AMZN) says it is weather resistant and contains a 10 GB network connection on the back so users can plug it into a server and transfer all the data they want.

Amazon said the device can detect if someone tries to physically break into the appliance and that it encrypts the data from prying eyes. Customers that need to move more than 50 terabytes of data can order more boxes and link them together while transferring their data.

Although high-speed Internet connections are available in many parts of the world, Amazon said that transferring huge amounts of data is still challenging for many companies. For example, companies that want to move huge amounts of data to Amazon’s cloud must upgrade their networking gear to increase the connection speed.

For now, Amazon will only use its Oregon data center for storing customer data from the new appliances. More locations are expected in the future.

The new Amazon device is noteworthy because it signals that Amazon could build more data center hardware in the future, said Paul Miller, a senior analyst at Forrester. Typically, Amazon focuses on data center software services and not hardware.

“Snowball is interesting in what it could lead to,” said Miller. “Actual Amazon appliances in a customer data center.”

Companies can expect to pay $200 to use the box, plus shipping costs. Amazon unveiled the new device at its annual conference for cloud computing.

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