Chen Cuello
NOV 6, 2023
5 min read
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Snowflake is one of the trending, powerful cloud data warehouse architectures optimized for use in cloud platforms like the Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure. The thing about Snowflake is that it operates on detailed methods for loading and unloading tables, which are different than regular relational databases.

Stay with us as we elaborate on the Snowflake stages in more detail. We’ll answer the question, “What is a Snowflake stage?” and shine a light on the benefits and best practices. In addition, we’ll explain how to integrate different Snowflake stages into your workflow.

Internal Snowflake Stages

An internal Snowflake stage serves as an intermediate storage area inside the Snowflake data platform. These internal stages are crucial for data loading and unloading simply because they enable efficient data movement and optimal transformation within the Snowflake ecosystem.

While loading data into Snowflake, an internal Snowflake stage is practically the first point of contact for the data; it’s where incoming data is primarily stored. Data operators can easily load data from different sources (data pipes, files, or streams) into these stages. After the data has been received into the internal stage, data operators can initiate different optimizations, like automatic compression and parallel loading, to boost the data ingestion process.

One of the key perks of using Snowflake’s internal stages is the close-knit connection to the platform’s data processing abilities.

External Snowflake Stages

One of the features of an external Snowflake stage is the capacity to position data operators and users in control over data transfers. This ensures data is fully protected from unauthorized use and access. An external Snowflake stage delivers a secure data storage environment, allowing businesses to keep their information safe and secure.

Large-scale businesses are empowered to encrypt their data as they see fit, which elevates the security paraments and prevents unauthorized access to data. The external Snowflake stage streamlines the interaction with data outside the ecosystem by bridging the communication gap between the eternal data sources and Snowflake’s data processing abilities.

Snowflake’s processing capacities allow users to load data from cloud storage platforms and other external storing systems directly into Snowflake. Also, users can focus on data ingestion, data transformation, and data analysis within the Snowflake platform. With these options, organizations can rely on Snowflake’s capacities to process and query data from different sources efficiently and seamlessly.

How Internal Snowflake Stages Work

When using an internal Snowflake stage, you load data (a file or a stream) from external sources. Once data is in the internal stage, Snowflake performs automatic compression or parallel loading processes to optimize data. During this part of the process, data is ready to be loaded into Snowflake’s tables for analysis and processing.

Snowflake extracts data from tables and unloads it into an internal Snowflake stage, creating files in the preferred data formats during the data unloading process. Further on, these files can be transferred to an external storage for backup, sharing, or further processing.

How External Snowflake Stages Work

External Snowflake stages facilitate the data movement between external sources—like S3 buckets, for example—and Snowflake. In essence, an external Snowflake stage practically bridges the gap between data, allowing for seamless data loading and unloading.

In addition, external Snowflake stages support major storage platforms like Amazon AWS S3, Google Cloud Storage, and Microsoft Azure Blob storage. Using Snowflake’s external stages allows users to integrate data from diverse sources into Snowflake and retrieve it efficiently. This also expands Snowflake’s capabilities while maintaining its secure and scalable nature.

Benefits of Using Snowflake Stages

Using Snowflake’s stages for data loading comes with an abundant set of perks. The advantages cover streamlining the data loading process while ensuring efficiency. These are some of the benefits of using a Snowflake stage, external or internal:

Storage management: Snowflake’s stages require little storage space. The option eliminates the need to manage or provision external storage resources, simplifying the overall data-loading process.

Scalability and performance: Snowflake’s distributed architecture allows for efficient data loading while ensuring high performance even for massive data-loading ops.

Data security: Businesses can rely on Snowflake’s built-in security features to control access, permissions, and encryption. The features ensure the confidentiality and integrity of data.

Flexibility and integration: Snowflake’s internal stages support many data formats, so data operators are not constrained to a limited number of formats. Snowflake’s data warehousing capacities with SQL querying simplify data transformations, analysis, and reporting.

Error handling and recovery: Snowflake’s data recovery mechanisms can manage errors and retrieve data in seconds. This allows data operators to address the issue immediately without risking setbacks.

Use Cases and Practical Applications

A business’s data is its goldmine. In this context, using the resources to the maximum is very important. A Snowflake stage, internal or external, can help organizations streamline their data storage and transfer processes faster and more securely.

Let’s do a little retail transaction analysis. With massive volumes of transaction data coming in, retailers have to find a way to keep the data fresh and usable. Even if the decision-makers opt for larger and more powerful servers, there is still the issue of potential data loss.

Due to Snowflake’s processing abstraction, businesses were able to scale their computing power and meet the end goal without any change to the data infrastructure. In addition, the healthcare industry is another sector where a Snowflake stage comes in handy. By doing trend research, healthcare organizations enhance their patient outcomes by identifying conditions, behaviors, and environmental factors.

These organizations need a substantial amount of data relating to public health to be able to perform such research. Snowflake offers a few features that can address these challenges, such as data lake reads, data views, stored procedures, JDBC adaptors, etc. The marketing and advertising industry, financial service industry, and manufacturing are some of the industries that can leverage Snowflake’s stages for optimal data-related results.

Best Practices for Snowflake Stages

Efficient table design, data storage, data staging, and data cloning are some of the best practices involving Snowflake. Here are some best practices:

  • Use Snowflake create stage option for each external data source to access and move the data to Snowflake tables easily.
  • Use the Snowflake table staging process. It lets you load data into a temporary table before loading it into the main Snowflake table. This ensures proper data loading without worries.
  • Use Snowflake’s COPY INTO command during the stage table process. It lets you control the data transfer process and protect your data from unauthorized access.

By following these practices, you can efficiently manage data movement between external sources and Snowflake, ensuring smooth and secure data integration.

Integrating Snowflake Stages Into Your Workflow

Integrating both internal and external Snowflake stages into existing data workflows involves incorporating them at different points within the workflow. The following guideline explains how to integrate a Snowflake stage into your workflow:

  1. Determine your data sources;
  2. Create internal stages;
  3. Establish external stages;
  4. Load your data into Snowflake;
  5. Execute data transformations and analysis;
  6. Unload data from Snowflake;
  7. Integrate it with downstream systems.

In the context of data solutions, Rivery is one of the trending data tools to help you tackle your most complex data pipeline challenges. Rivery is a fully managed cloud ELT tool that will help you easily extract data from various sources and load it into Snowflake for analysis and reporting.

Data Unloading, Archiving, and Retrieval

Snowflake supports the unloading of data in bulk from a database table into flat, delimited text files. You can use Snowflake’s UNLOAD command to efficiently export data from Snowflake to either an internal or external stage. Unloading to an internal stage allows for immediate access to the data within Snowflake, while unloading to an external stage enables data to be stored in external storage platforms for long-term archiving or sharing with other systems.

Again, in terms of data archiving, use the UNLOAD command to store data in a secure, cost-effective, and scalable storage platform such as Amazon S3, Azure Blob Storage, or Google Cloud Storage. The data can be easily retrieved for historical analysis or compliance purposes.

In terms of data retrieval, Snowflake lets you enter the COPY INTO command and load data back into Snowflake tables. By doing this, you can access and analyze archived data in Snowflake hassle-free.


In this day and age, Snowflake stages are the perfect assets to utilize and resolve complex data loading and unloading processes.

When using a Snowflake database, data storage emerges as a critical component. Snowflake can access data stored in different cloud storage systems and gain access to local data, which is perfect for businesses handling volumes of different data.

Using an external Snowflake stage allows you to move data from external sources, such as S3 buckets, to internal Snowflake tables. On the other hand, the internal Snowflake stage acts as an intermediate storage location to keep data files before loading them into a table or unloading them.

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