What can I use AWS at Emory for?

The Emory Community may use AWS at Emory service to support their education, research, and service work. This includes workloads for the analysis of big data, classroom exercises in qualitative analysis, or hosting of data for a broader collaboration.

Based on the work to date, the most common research use cases are in the areas of compute and storage. If your research project requires a lot of compute power, you may consider using AWS Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances which are virtual servers in the cloud that come in all sizes and capabilities. You may also consider the Simple Storage Service (S3) which is an unlimited as well as durable cloud storage solution, and is priced very competitively.

AWS at Emory is relatively new. We have partnered with a number of faculty to help us design the service and have listed their use cases in the faculty use case page. We will continue to add to the use cases as we collect them. 

In order to ensure the success of your work, we encourage you to work with a technical partner to help assess the feasibility of your work and what steps we can take to ensure the transition to AWS at Emory is as successful as possible.

What can I NOT use AWS at Emory for?

To store or process any data that must comply with:

  • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).These are connected withfederal contracts.
  • Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standard. These regulations are associated with the credit card data.

Electronic protected health information (ePHI) and individual identifiable health information (iihi) may be processed and stored in AWS at Emory as long as the appropriate data authorizations from compliance are acquired, you have indicated your AWS at Emory account should be categorized as HIPAA,  and the services are used in conjunction with the AWS at Emory terms of use.

In addition, any sensitive data owned by another institution, such as Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, or Grady Healthcare System in which you do not have written permission to store the data in AWS at Emory.

Finally, the service is only available for appropriate Emory business, as outlined in the AWS at Emory Rules of Behavior.

Who can use this service?

Please refer to the eligibility section of the service overview.

Can my collaborator in another institution access the resources in my AWS at Emory Account?

Yes. If you are an Emory faculty or staff, you can request a sponsored account for your collaborator. The process is documented in the Sponsored Account article. Once the sponsored account is approved, you can log onto the VPCP application to add the collaborator to your account. For further information about this, visit the VPCP information page.

Do I have to use AWS at Emory if I want to use a cloud provider?

Technically you do not have to use AWS at Emory. You may create your own AWS account or an account with another cloud provider. However, please be aware that many of the benefits that have been optimized by AWS at Emory will not be available in a personal account.

If you are using ePHI data, you must ensure all of the security and technical controls are in place in order to use the cloud provider. AWS at Emory currently has these controls in place.

Can you come to my department to conduct an AWS training or seminar?

Yes, we would be happy to provide an overview presentation on the AWS at Emory service. Feel free to email us at: aws.help@emory.edu.

We are also offering day long, half-day, and lunch-and-learn style sessions throughout the year. For more information, please see our training and events page.

Tools and Software

Do you have tools that are already available in AWS at Emory for me to use?

OIT maintains an Amazon Machine Image which has been pre-installed with a few bioinformatics and data science tools, e.g. R, GCC, etc.You can email to aws.help@emory.edu to request access to the image and learn how to use it.

As the service continues to evolve, we will be adding additional images bundled with frequently requested software and tools to help you manage your workloads. 

I have heard that I cannot use SPSS in AWS with the Emory licenses. Is that correct?

Not all of our commercial site license software allows us to use the software through our existing site license on any of the cloud providers, not just AWS. Although we have discussed this with these vendors, we have not been able to come to an agreement with SPSS at this time. (Using an Emory SAS license in AWS is permitted)

Other open source tools, such as R, can be used in AWS at Emory. In addition, Amazon does have a 'marketplace,' where you may find software optimized for the AWS environment. Please visit the following link for the AWS Marketplace. Also note, some wizards and installation scripts may not work due to AWS at Emory service configurations. If you need assistance, please contact us at aws.help@emory.edu

Research Compliance

I have heard that the IRB protocol must explicitly states the use of AWS, before I can store or process the research data in AWS. Is the correct?

If your protocol requires that you identify where you store your data, which typically happens in IRB protocols, you should state that you are storing your data in AWS at Emory. If you have an existing protocol where you specify where you are storing the data, you should submit an amendment with updated information.

Can I store or process identifiable health information collected from healthcare organizations in AWS at Emory?

To store or process electronic protected health information (ephi) or identifiable individual health information (ihii) owned by another institution, you must have the appropriate data use agreements, IRB protocol approval, and/or compliance documentation.

Data owned by the Atlanta VA Medical Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory Healthcare, and/or Grady Healthcare System cannot be stored or processed within AWS at Emory without the appropriate approvals.

Are all AWS services considered HIPAA compliant?

No. There is a two-step process of ensuring the AWS service can be used with Emory ePHI or IIHI. First, Amazon must designate the service as HIPAA eligible. Second, Emory Information Security must assess the risk and, as appropriate, remediations must be created. There are some services, though designated by AWS to be HIPAA eligible, have been determined to be too great of a risk as currently implemented by AWS for Emory to use


What is the upload/download speed to/from my computer plugged into the Emory network to an EC2 using AWS at Emory? 

The upload / download speed depends on the location of your computer, your internet connection (wired or Wi-Fi) and the type of the EC2 instance.

View a list of EC2 instances and their network bandwidth.

  • Upload from Emory PC (wired) to EC2 (c5.large) : 9 MB/s or about 18 minutes for a 10 GB file
  • Download from EC2 (c5.large) to Emory PC (wired) : 5 MB/s or about 33 minutes for a 10 GB file

What is the upload/download speed to/from my computer plugged into the Emory network to S3 using AWS at Emory? 

The upload / download speed depends on the location of your computer, your internet connection (wired or Wi-Fi), and the mechanism you use to perform the operation. 

  • Upload from Emory PC (wired) to S3: 13 MB/s or about 13 minutes for a 10 GB file
  • Download from S3 to Emory PC (wired): 12 MB/s or about 14 minutes for a 10 GB file

There are some ways to improve the upload speed to S3 for larger files. Please contact us at aws.help@emory.edu for assistance.

Connectivity and API

I seem to time out every 12 hours or so. What is the issue?

Based on security requirements, the time out session is 12 hours. 

Okay, the time out session is 12 hours, but it's going to take at least 20 hours to transfer my data. What can I do?

There are a couple ways to solve this problem:

  1. Make sure your data is compressed before uploading it to AWS
  2. Make use of a file transfer application that can transfer your data in parallel in order to accelerate the file transfer process
  3. Make sure you are uploading your data to S3 first. Once in S3 you can transfer your data  to other AWS services without a session limit
  4. Make use of multipart uploads when uploading data to S3. If you need assistance with using multipart uploads you can send a request to aws.help@emory.edu . Find more detailed information about performing multipart uploads.

I cannot connect to an EC2 in my AWS at Emory Account even when I am on campus. What might be the problem?

We have created more details instructions on how to troubleshoot this issue. Please see this knowledge base article.

I cannot connect to an EC2 in my AWS at Emory Account when I am at home. What can be the problem?

We have created more details instructions on how to troubleshoot this issue. Please see this knowledge base article.

How can I obtain an API Token to connect to my AWS resources such as EC2 and S3, via command line interface?

We have created more details instructions on how to troubleshoot this issue. Please see this knowledge base article.


I heard that cloud computing is more expensive than traditional onsite computing. Is that true?

It really depends on the scenario. There are some instances where there is a clear cost savings and there are others where it may be less cost effective. As such, it's important to get an estimate and ensure that you have a good understanding of the cost right up front.

Do I have to use a credit card for AWS at Emory?

No, as you sign up for the service, you will be prompted for an Emory Speedtype.

I'd like to change my Speedtype. How do I do that?

Please visit the AWS Account Management knowledge article.

Are there any additional charges for using AWS at Emory?

No. It is a straight cost pass through from AWS to the Emory SpeedType. If you would like additional help in implementing or managing the service, there may be charges associated with those services, depending on your technical partner.

Will I get a discounted rate by using AWS at Emory?

Through our agreement with Amazon, there is a discount on the data egress charge for those individuals that use AWS at Emory. There is a potential for discounts across the board based on the volume of AWS use, but, at this time, we have not met the initial threshold.

For more detailed billing frequently asked questions, please check out this Billing FAQ page.


Where can I find a list of services that are available through AWS at Emory?

You can see the latest services available on the AWS at Emory home page.  Please click on the Products button in the top left corner.

Why are some of these services not available?

In order to ensure the services meet the needs of the community and not introduce risk, all AWS at Emory services have to be reviewed by security first then determine whether or not any risks can be remediated.

What if the service that I would like to use is not available?

Please let us know and we will add it to our list to review. Please contact us at aws.help@emory.edu

Can I see what controls are in place for each of these services?

Yes. We request that these controls are treated as sensitive information and not shared broadly. They can be found on the AWS Security Controls page.