How to Utilize EFS?

What is EFS?

Amazon Elastic File Service (EFS) is the latest of the three main storage options provided by AWS. EFS is a shared, elastic, and cloud-based file system which can be mounted on multiple Amazon EC2 instances. It offers a conventional file storage model, with content organized into directories and subdirectories.

Let’s have a look at the main features of EFS.

Main Features

Shared Storage

EFS can be mounted in multiple EC2 instances, can be used as shared network storage. Unless EBS, it can be accessed by multiple instances concurrently from multiple availability zones in the same region. It provides simultaneous read-write from multiple servers.


EFS is scalable, but unlike S3 and EBS, there is no need to scale up EFS manually. The capacity of EFS grows and shrinks automatically according to the workload added or removed.

Pay only for what you use

There is no need for pre-provisioning of storage because the capacity scales automatically. The user needs to pay only for the storage being used.

With these exceptional features, EFS is widely being used by various industries nowadays.

Use Cases

Machine Learning and Big Data Analytics

Amazon EFS is best used for large volumes of data, such as large workloads for analytics. While non-scalable storage like EBS cannot process this large scale data as the user need to split it up and disperse it in various EBS instances, Amazon EFS provides the scale and efficiency needed for big data applications with high throughput and low latency operations. EFS provides simultaneous access to thousands of EC2 instances in different availability zones, offering the opportunity to seamless process and analysis of huge amounts of data.

Media and Entertainment Workflows

The large media files which need access from many servers strongly rely upon the need of having a shared storage. EFS provides high data consistency with high throughput and scalable performance. Shared access to large media files provides huge support in media processing by distributing the workload between multiple servers.

Home Directories

Amazon EFS provides users a file manager interface that uses standard file system semantics such as locking, renaming, and modifying files. It uses a hierarchical structure which is similar to standard premises-based systems. In the scenarios like a data set having multiple users, the administrator or the owner of the data set can have access control facilities from Amazon EFS. The owner can set access and updating permissions for users and groups at the file or directory level.

Content Management and Web Serving

EFS is specifically designed for the enormous amount of data produced by big data workloads and analytical applications, particularly the big data that is impossible for an EBS to access for processing and analysis. Amazon EFS offers a durable,high-throughput, and scalable file system for content management systems that can serve static files for a variety of applications such as websites, online journals, and archives quickly.

Large Content Repositories

The shared file system with high throughput reduces the time to perform jobs on various repositories and integrates multiple local file repositories into a single location.

However, EFS is not suitable for workloads that require frequent modifications. It is very important to remember that when many small files are modified often, the performance of Amazon EFS might degrade.

Database backups, Database dumps, and Log Files

The scalability of Amazon EFS provides facilities to store large database backups, dumps, and log files. Many businesses take benefit from the flexibility of storing database backups in the cloud either for temporary protection during updates or for development and test.

Development and Testing Environment Data

The storage needed for testing data and development data required for the last stages of development is not needed to be forecasted at the beginning of development when using EFS. In that way, EFS helps to reduce the capital investment cost for the overestimated storage.

Confused? If you compare the three main AWS storage options, you will see some common use cases. So when and how exactly we should use EFS?

The Best Out of EFS!

EFS is designed for low latency applications with IOPS and throughput scaling with the usage and the number of EC2 instances attached. When the storage size is increased, performance is increased. At peak performance, EFS offers a throughput of 10GB per second and a 500k IOPS.

Amazon EFS is not designed for small, general-purpose, and frequently accessed workloads such as version control systems, and frequently accessed repositories. For workloads requiring snapshots, EBS would be a better solution than EFS. In addition, EFS cannot be accessed from Microsoft Windows Operating systems as it does not support the Server Message Block(SMB) protocol used by Windows. Applications that require high IOPS( Input Output Per Second) such as OLTP databases will not efficiently perform in an AWS EFS, especially in an EFS running in General Purpose Performance Mode.

Performance Modes

Amazon AWS provides two performance modes.

  • General-purpose Performance Mode
  • Max I/O Performance Mode

General Purpose Performance Mode is the default mode for EFS, it is advised to move to the Max I/O Performance Mode when the applications need higher throughput, however, this higher throughput is provided with a trade-off of higher latency. Max I/O Performance Mode is optimal for applications that are accessed by a very large amount of EC2 instances.

When Should You Use EFS?

  • When you need a cloud-based file system.

You can work with the files and directories in EFS just like you would with a local file system.

  • When you need large shared storage with concurrent access.

EFS is best for large quantities of data that cannot be connected with a single EC2 instance.

  • When you need a scalable and elastic file system.

As EFS automatically scales up or scales down as data moves in or out, it fades away the fear of running out of storage in the middle of your work and putting an additional effort into the scaling.

  • When you don’t need to pay additionally for what you do not use.

When using EFS, you only need to pay for the current storage you are using.


EFS is the most expensive of the main AWS storage options, therefore it is very important to take the maximum use for what you afford.

The advantages obtained from Amazon EFS depend on how it is being used. First, identify your storage needs carefully, and decide whether it is worthy to go with EFS. When it comes to a shared, scalable and large file system, good to go with EFS!

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