Choices: four storage class tiers and a policy-based archive

IBM Cloud Object Storage is a highly scalable, durable and resilient cloud storage service.  It offers four storage class tiers along with a policy-based archive capability, so that you can meet your workload performance needs while managing your storage costs most effectively. These include: 

  • Standard tier for data with active workloads
  • Vault for less-active workloads
  • Cold Vault for cold workloads
  • Flex for dynamic workloads
  • Archive for long-term retention

Graphic illustrating the 4 tiers: standard: vault, cold vault and flex

Storage class tiers

Standard: active workloads

The Standard storage tier is used for active workloads that require high performance and low latency and where data needs to be accessed frequently (multiple times a month). There is no charge for data retrieved (other than the cost of the operational request itself and public outbound bandwidth). Common use cases include streaming mobile and web content, DevOps, analytics, collaboration and active content repositories.

Vault: less active workloads

The Vault storage tier is used for less active workloads that require infrequent data access (accessed once a month or less), but that require immediate, real-time access when needed. A low retrieval charge applies for reading data. Vault offers the same high durability, high throughput and low latency of the Standard class tier. Vault includes a threshold for object size and storage period consistent with the intended use of this service for cooler, less active data. Common use cases include backup and digital asset retention.

Cold Vault: cold workloads

The Cold Vault storage class tier is used for cold workloads where data is primarily archived (accessed a few times a year) but requires immediate, real-time access when needed. A larger retrieval charge applies for reading data. Cold Vault includes a threshold for object size and storage period consistent with the intended use of this service to store cold, inactive data. Common use cases include long-term backup, large data set preservation such as scientific data, or older media content that needs to be stored cost effectively but requires fast access when needed.

Flex: dynamic workloads

The Flex storage class tier is used for dynamic workloads (mix of hot and cold workloads) where access patterns are more difficult to predict. Flex offers a low price to store the data with a retrieval charge based on access patterns. Depending on usage, if the lower price of cooler storage combined with retrieval charges exceeds a cap value, then the storage price increases, and no retrieval charges apply. Common use cases include cloud-native analytics and cognitive workloads and user-generated apps.

Automatically tier data to the lowest-cost archive

The IBM Cloud Object Storage policy-based archive is the lowest-cost option for data that is rarely accessed and requires long-term retention. Customers can manage their data lifecycle by applying an archive policy for objects written to their object storage buckets in any of the storage class tiers (Standard, Vault, Cold Vault, Flex). After the specified duration, objects are archived. Once archived, customers can restore a temporary copy of their objects for access when needed. Restore time may take up to 12 hours. The archive is priced at USD 0.002/GB per month for data storage and USD 0.02/GB for data restore. The archive service is designed to maintain the same high security, availability, durability and scalability as other IBM Cloud Object Storage class tiers.

Graphic illustrating the ability to apply policies to automatically tier data to the lowest-cost archive

Data archive capabilities

Lowest cost

Archive is the lowest cost option (data storage at $0.002/GB/month and restore at $0.02/GB) for storing large sets of archive data. This feature allows you to support use cases that require long-term retention for large amounts of data such as regulatory and compliance requirements, scientific data set preservation, IoT, and backup and archive.

Data transition using archive policy

Archive works with existing IBM Cloud Object Storage class tiers — Standard, Vault, Cold Vault, and Flex — allowing you to apply age-based policies to move objects to a long-term, lower-cost archive to reduce storage costs even further. Once archived, you can restore a temporary copy of the objects for access when needed (restore time may take up to 12 hours).

Simplified API

You can use the IBM Cloud Object Storage API — with support for S3 API constructs — for transition lifecycle and restore. You can also write your own applications using IBM Cloud Object Storage SDKs or the web-based portal.

Compare IBM Cloud Object Storage class tiers + archive


  Standard Vault Cold Vault Flex Archive****

Resiliency choices (Cross Region, Regional and Single Site)






Storage pricing ($/GB/month)*






Restore pricing ($/GB)

no charge





Supported workloads

Active workloads for high performance

Less active workloads 

Cold (Nearline) for seldom accessed data

Dynamic workloads for varying access 

Long-term retention for rarely accessed data

Example use cases

Streaming mobile & web content

Digital asset retention and backup 

Backup, scientific data preservation or older media content 

Cloud-native and cognitive applications

Long-term backup and archiving, disaster recovery, regulatory compliance data, tape replacement 

Frequency of use*

High  (X/day)

Medium (X/month)

Low  (X/year)


Rare (X/years)

Data retention**





Very high

Access time***





< 15 hours

Minimum storage duration





180 days

Transition to Archive







Pricing based on US-South regional offering.

*Data access frequency in order of X times/period determines data retrieval costs

**Data retention time determines storage costs

***Data access latency from this storage tier impacts performance of application

****Supports transition from any storage tier to archive using archive policy

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