Data Storage In The Cloud

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Written By Alpha J. McElroy

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Data is increasingly stored in the cloud, but not everyone knows that data can be stored in different ways. What’s more, choosing the right architecture can affect the course of business processes. What solutions do we have to choose from? What are block storage and object storage?

Traditional Data Storage

File-based storage is considered the standard data storage format. Although this term may sound vague, practically everyone uses traditional data storage, although not everyone knows that this is the name of the system. What is it about?

File storage can be compared to storing books in a huge library. In order to find a single item, we need to know the way to it (a section, a bookcase, a shelf). A computer that stores data traditionally faces a similar challenge. It collects individual data in folders to which it must know the path in order to run specific files.

Data stored in a file system is organized and arranged hierarchically. Everything “seems to be in its place” in this system. For this reason, file storage is sometimes referred to simply as hierarchical storage. You use it every time you access documents stored on your computer. To access a file, you open one folder, another folder, a third folder… until you find what you’re looking for.

Unfortunately, traditional data storage, while easy to navigate, has its limitations. To increase the capacity of a file system, you have to add new storage space. This is without the scalability that cloud storage provides.

Cloud Storage

Cloud computing has many applications, and data storage is one of them. It’s a solution that stands out for three key features.

  • On-demand access – The use of cloud solutions, including data storage, is in demand. Users access data on their terms. He can do so from anywhere in the world as long as he is connected to the network.
  • Virtualization – The cloud does not require an investment in its own systems. All resources are virtual, which makes the management of large data efficient and fast.
  • Scalability – resources in the cloud are fully scalable, which means that the user can increase disk space at any time. He pays for the power used.

Cloud computing is available in three models: public, private, and hybrid.

A system can store data as files, blocks, or objects. You already know how files are stored. The other two options, block storage and object storage, need more discussion.

What Is Block Storage?

Block storage involves dividing a portion of data of any size into individual data blocks of a standardized size (e.g., 4KB or 8KB). These blocks are stored as separate elements on disks; they have their own identifier, which allows the operating system to place the individual data blocks that make up the entire file in the best environment for them.

Although block-stored data are isolated from each other, the user can put the blocks together at any time using appropriate software—usually specialized to handle block data directly—such as a database.

In contrast, to file storage, there is not only one possible path to the data. Usually, it is not possible to read data stored in this way using common tools built into desktop operating systems.

Block storage works best for enterprises conducting large transactions and those with huge databases. Unfortunately, block storage also has its drawbacks. It is characterized by a limited ability to handle metadata (information about data), which may require the implementation of additional solutions.

What Is Object Storage?

Data stored in the object storage architecture is divided into parts, the so-called objects. They are not stored as files in folders or as blocks on servers. On the contrary, objects are stored in one place, in a flat address space.

Object memory connects data fragments (objects) which then form a file. All metadata and a unique identifier are added to it. The storage system retrieves the data based on this information. For the user who is able to define metadata, it means that he gains more control over the data and is able to perform more effective analysis of its use, including very non-standard ones. The way in which object-oriented data is accessed is also distinctly different—it is usually through the HTTP protocol or software interfaces (so-called APIs) available on the Web.

Object storage ensures full scalability, and thanks to its flat structure, it works well in handling very large amounts of data. For this reason, object storage is especially valued by companies providing storage services. They are used, for example, by our customer, the Fotosik service.

Nevertheless, object storage has its drawbacks. It is slower than block storage, so it will not prove useful where data access should be immediate, e.g., in financial systems. You should also remember that objects stored in it cannot be modified.

Summary

Before deciding to use cloud services, it is worth considering what data storage format will bring your company the most benefits. To do so, it is worth knowing the differences between file storage, block storage, and object storage.

File storage is the most hierarchical, which makes it easy to navigate, but it has limited capacity. Block storage divides data into blocks that are stored in a way that allows for fast processing but requires specialized software. Object storage, on the other hand, provides great control over data and provides virtually unlimited data space, along with a convenient data access interface. By understanding these differences, you can choose the best possible data storage for your business.