A snapshot is a copy of the data stored on a cloud disk or on Shared Block Storage (hereinafter referred to as disks) at a specified point in time. A snapshot is commonly used to back up data, recover disks, replace instance OSs, and create custom images.

Note When you create a snapshot, the I/O performance of block storage will be degraded by less than 10%, resulting in an instantaneous I/O speed decrease. Therefore, we recommend that you create snapshots during off-peak hours.


You can create snapshots in the following scenarios:

  • Disaster backup: Create a snapshot for a disk and use the snapshot as base data of another disk.

  • Version rollback: Roll back a disk by using the disk snapshot if a system error occurs after an upgrade.

  • Environment duplication: If you want to purchase an instance that has the same environment as an existing instance, create a custom image by using the system disk snapshot of the existing instance, and then create an instance by using the custom image.

  • Data development: By creating a snapshot of production data, you can provide near-real-time data for data mining, report query, and development, and testing applications.

  • Data recovery and restoration:
    • Use a snapshot to recover and restore the data on your disk even if incorrect data is mistakenly stored in the disk, your ECS instance is mistakenly released, an application error results in a data error, or your disk data is hacked.
    • Use a snapshot to regularly back up your critical service data on your disk to eliminate the risk of data loss resulting from incorrect operations, attack, or virus.
    • Create one or more snapshots when you replace your OS, update your applications, or migrate your service data. This way you can use the snapshots to recover your system data if any failure occurs.

Snapshot types

Snapshots can be divided into two types:

  • Manual snapshots: Snapshots that you manually create for a disk.

  • Auto snapshots: Snapshots that are created automatically according to an automatic snapshot policy. You can create an automatic snapshot policy and apply it to a disk. Then, ECS will create snapshots automatically for the disk at specified points in time.

Billing details

Currently, the snapshot service is provided free of charge.

Service advantages

The Alibaba Cloud snapshot service provides higher snapshot quotas and more flexible snapshot policies. The following table describes the user benefits and typical scenarios of the service.

Item Description User benefit Typical scenario
Snapshot quota Each disk has a quota of 64 snapshots. Longer protection cycle with a finer granularity.
  • A non-critical service data disk creates a snapshot at 0:00 every day. The snapshot can store backup data of more than two months.

  • A critical service data disk creates a snapshot every 4 hours. The snapshot can store backup data of more than 10 days.

Automatic snapshot policy You can customize when a snapshot is created, how often a snapshot is created in a week, and how long a snapshot is stored. You can also query the number and other details relating to the disks associated with automatic snapshot policies. More flexible protection policies
  • You can select up to 24 specific hour intervals (from 00:00 to 23:00) at which an automatic snapshot is created in each day.

  • Snapshots can be created automatically on multiple days during a week.

  • Snapshots can be stored for a specified period of time or stored permanently. When the snapshot quota is reached, the system deletes the oldest snapshot automatically.

Technical advantages

Alibaba Cloud ECS snapshot service has several advantages over traditional snapshot services in terms of capacity, scalability, cost-effectiveness, and usability, and having less impact on storage I/O performance. The following table describes these advantages.

Metric ECS snapshot service Traditional snapshot service
Capacity Unlimited capacity, allowing you to protect all of your service data. Limited capacity. Only the initially purchased storage capacity is available and only critical service data can be protected.
Scalability Support for Auto Scaling. You can quickly scale in or scale out the number of storage devices in one click. Lower scalability. Storage scaling is limited by the storage performance, available capacity, and vendor support. It takes one or two weeks for a scaling operation.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Free of charge. You do not need to pay for snapshot storage. Incurs charges. You need to spend a large upfront investment and pay for software licenses, reserved storage space, upgrade, and maintenance.
Usability Multilingual GUI and 24/7 online after-sales support. Several complicated operations are required, which heavily rely on the response of the vendor.
Security Encryption available. You can set ECS disk encryption whenever necessary to encrypt all of you disk snapshots. However, a non-encrypted snapshot cannot be converted to an encrypted snapshot. Similarly, an encrypted snapshot cannot be converted to a non-encrypted snapshot. For more information, see ECS disk encryption. Encryption attributes and policies rely on the underlying storage logic. Therefore, if the storage architecture has a security design defect, snapshots may be insecure as a result.
Impact on performance Redirect-On-Write (ROW)
  • The impact of snapshot tasks on storage I/O performance is reduced.
  • Snapshots are invisible to users and can be created at any time without affecting user experience.
Copy-On-Write (COW). Snapshots preempt resources against data I/O.