What is Cloud Storage

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Written By Alpha J. McElroy

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The cloud storage model is similar to “storage carsharing. Instead of investing time in setting up a data center, and later in regular maintenance, we go to companies that already have it – cloud storage providers.

The vendor companies’ data centers have endless server racks of equipment, monitored by security systems and professional administrators. By doing so, the vendor removes the customer’s concerns about information security.

The model has two parties: the client and the service provider. The client rents space on the provider’s servers, stores documents, applications, static content sites, and accesses them remotely. The provider organizes the storage, maintenance, security and access to the data. This model has several advantages.

Advantages of cloud storage

Savings. You will need: space, racks, servers, cooling, and infrastructure equipment for your own storage. You will need to arrange for backups with the purchase of software and additional drives. And it all has to be maintained by administrators, e.g. periodic preventive maintenance with shutdowns and upgrades.

In the case of cloud storage, most operational costs are reduced and there are no capital costs.

Reliability. Cloud storage is maintained by engineers with specialized experience in operating these types of systems. Institutional administrators regularly update the hardware, upgrade the software and work on security.

At the same time, data is stored “with reserve”: to store 1 Gb of client data the provider usually backs up multiple times (in our cloud storage three times, i.e. instead of 1 Gb, 3 Gb are backed up). Servers are often distributed across several cities or countries, which adds fault tolerance in case of force majeure.

Security. There are two aspects: physical access and data transfer security.

  • The first aspect is provided by the fact that usually data center is a secure building with video surveillance, access control and accounting systems. There are cooling, fire extinguishing, and backup power systems inside, which are duplicated for reliability.
  • The second is account access rights settings, monitoring, encryption during uploading, reading and storing data. Not including additional vendor security services.

Accessibility. Data can be managed through GUIs, console or APIs.

Scalability. Volume increases rapidly with additional servers and storage. It’s also fast in the physical version, but only if you take care of the scaling beforehand. It will also be expensive and “vendor lock-in”. That means you will be tied to the vendor and its platform, technology, software. When you want to change the vendor, you’ll have to build everything from scratch, because all the hardware and software is tied to the vendor.

Management of costs. You have to pay exactly as much as you consume resources. Object storage has classes – standard, cold, ice. The classes help to manage the cost of storage. For example, when data needs to be accessed frequently, you can pay more for storage, but cheaper for traffic (accesses), For archives the opposite – you can pay more for retrieving files, but cheaper for storage, because they are rarely accessed.

Business processes are simplified when cloud storage is available to an employee, for example, from home on weekends. And we also don’t forget about data recovery when business processes are not interrupted by force majeure due to loss of documents or repository.

What cloud storage is used for

  • Massive data storage, such as security videos.
  • As content repositories, such as public databases, distance education schools, or multimedia resources.
  • For storing Big Data, Internet of Things, and machine learning data sets.
  • Large media integrate clouds into content supply chains, e.g., for archiving or storage for later analytics.
  • For data storage of gaming platforms like Google Stadia.
  • Video hostings or photostocks use storage for streaming content.
  • As hosting for online stores, portals, blogs and other static sites.
  • For microservices: Cloud storage supports containerization, process isolation and sharing.

But five scenarios are more common:

Backup and Restore. Most cloud file systems are database compatible, so storage is often used for backups, such as upgrades. Backups in the cloud are easier to set up, with better storage reliability because the service provider distributes copies to data centers.

Software development and testing. Development often requires duplicate environments, which then need to be deleted, and collaboration. Using cloud resources for this is standard practice among software developers. Also, clouds integrate with different applications without additional crutches.

Sharing. For example, for development and testing teams from different offices or cities. If data is stored on a server inside the enterprise network, a VPN is often needed. But you can do without it and move some of the shared files that you usually need access to to cloud storage.

Migrating data to the cloud makes it easier to maintain your infrastructure, but it’s a serious task that requires years of experience on the part of the system administrator. However, there are services that make the process easier.

Big Data and IoT. For example, for Big Data, an array of 100 terabytes of data is not much, but it is expensive to keep such a volume on local servers, so clouds are often used for this purpose. Storing arrays in the cloud is convenient: cloud services usually have high bandwidth, low latency, and the ability to set up queries without extracting data.