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February 21, 2024

What Is AWS EFS? Features, Use Cases, and Critical Best Practices

What Is AWS EFS?

AWS EFS is a scalable file storage solution for use with Amazon EC2 instances. It's designed to be a simple, elastic, and scalable file system for Linux-based workloads, which can be used with both on-premises resources and AWS Cloud services. The system is easy to use, with an interface that lets you build and configure file systems rapidly and smoothly.

AWS EFS can provide parallel shared access to large numbers of Amazon EC2 instances, enabling applications to achieve high levels of throughput in aggregate and IOPS with low latency. As a fully managed service, it eliminates the need for you to manage a file system or the underlying hardware.

Key Features of AWS EFS


The system has the ability to automatically scale up or down as you add or remove files. This is useful for businesses that experience varying levels of file storage demands. You no longer need to worry about provisioning storage capacity or managing file servers.

AWS EFS supports a virtually unlimited number of files and directories, and each file system can grow to a petabyte scale, providing enough storage space for a growing business. This level of scalability ensures you can focus on developing your applications without worrying about storage constraints.

Flexible Storage Capacity and Performance

The system offers two performance modes: General Purpose and Max I/O. The General Purpose mode is designed for the majority of workloads, offering a balance between performance and cost. The Max I/O mode is for applications that require higher levels of aggregate throughput.

AWS EFS also provides two throughput modes: Bursting and Provisioned. In the Bursting mode, throughput scales with the size of your file system. In the Provisioned mode, you can set the throughput level independent of the amount of data stored, giving you the flexibility to optimize for your specific workload.

High Availability and Durability

AWS EFS automatically and instantly replicates your data over multiple Availability Zones in an AWS Region to protect it from a single point of failure. This ensures that your data is accessible and intact when you need it.

In terms of durability, AWS EFS is designed to sustain concurrent device failures by quickly detecting and repairing any corruption. With its high availability and durability features, AWS EFS can support business-critical applications.

Main Use Cases for AWS EFS

Shared File Storage for Cloud Applications

AWS EFS provides shared file storage for cloud applications. Its scalability and flexibility make it suitable for applications that need shared access to file data. It’s also a good solution for applications that require a file system interface and file system semantics.

Data Analytics and Big Data Processing

AWS EFS is well-suited for data analytics and big data processing use cases. It offers high levels of Input/output operations per second (IOPS) and aggregate throughput, which are important for applications that require high-speed data access. Its ability to scale on demand ensures that your data analytics workloads run smoothly and efficiently.

Content Management and Web Serving

AWS EFS offers high durability and availability to ensure that your data is always accessible, making it a reliable solution for serving web content. Its scalability ensures that as your user base grows, your storage solution grows with it, ensuring a smooth user experience.

4 Best Practices for Using AWS EFS

1. Select the Appropriate Performance Mode

Choosing the performance mode that best suits your needs can significantly impact your file system's performance.

General Purpose mode, as the name suggests, is designed for most file system workloads. It provides low latency and is suitable for latency-sensitive use cases, such as web serving environments, content management systems, and home directories. This mode caters to a wide variety of workloads and delivers reasonably good performance.

On the other hand, Max I/O performance mode is designed for scale-out workloads that require higher levels of aggregate throughput. This means it can handle an almost unlimited number of concurrent connections, making it more appropriate for big data and media processing workloads. However, it's important to note that the Max I/O mode may come with slightly higher latencies compared to the General Purpose mode.

2. Opt for the Right Throughput Mode

Choosing the appropriate throughput mode for a given file system is another crucial aspect of optimizing your AWS EFS experience.

Bursting throughput mode is the default mode, and it allows your file system to burst to higher throughput levels for limited periods of time. This mode is better for workloads with sporadic bursts of read and write operations. Bursting throughput is generally the most suitable for small to medium-sized file systems that don't require a consistently high level of throughput

Provisioned throughput mode is designed for applications that require a higher level of throughput consistently, irrespective of the amount of data stored. If your workload requires a higher level of throughput than what the Bursting mode provides, you should choose the Provisioned mode. However, this mode comes with additional costs.

3. Implement Efficient Security Practices

To ensure that your data is well protected, there are a few security practices I recommend implementing.

First, always use AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to control who can administer your EFS file systems. IAM allows you to create users and groups, assign permissions, and manage roles. This gives you granular control over who can access your file systems and what they can do with them.

Second, use Network Access Control Lists (NACLs) and Security Groups to control traffic to and from your file systems. NACLs act as a firewall for controlling traffic in and out of your VPC, while Security Groups control inbound and outbound traffic to your file system.

Lastly, enable encryption for your EFS file systems. AWS EFS supports encryption at rest and in transit, providing an additional layer of security for your data. Enabling encryption gives you peace of mind knowing that your sensitive data is securely stored and transmitted.

4. Use Lifecycle Management Policies

To optimize your AWS EFS usage, I recommend using lifecycle management policies. These policies automatically move files between the different storage classes in EFS (Standard and Infrequent Access) based on their access patterns. This not only saves storage costs but also optimizes file system performance.

You can set lifecycle management policies on a per-file system basis, allowing you to customize how your files are managed according to their individual usage patterns. For instance, you could set a policy to move files that haven't been accessed for 30 days to the Infrequent Access storage class, reducing storage costs for files that aren't regularly accessed.


AWS EFS is a powerful tool for managing files and data, but to get the most out of it, it's crucial to implement these best practices. By selecting the appropriate performance mode, opting for the right throughput mode, implementing efficient security practices, and using lifecycle management policies, you can optimize your AWS EFS usage and ensure your data is managed effectively and securely.

Author Bio: Gilad David Maayan

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung (News - Alert) NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.

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