What is cloud storage?
Cloud storage is a cloud computing model that stores data on the Internet through a cloud computing provider that manages and operates the physical storage of data as a service. The service is delivered on demand, with just-in-time capacity and costs, and eliminates the purchase and management of your own physical data storage infrastructure. So you get agility, global scale and resilience, with “anytime, anywhere” access to data.
How does cloud storage work?
Cloud storage is purchased from an external cloud provider that has and operates physical data storage capacity and delivers that capacity over the Internet with a pay-as-you-go model. These cloud storage vendors manage the capacity, security, and resiliency to deliver data to applications around the world.
Applications access cloud storage through traditional storage protocols or directly using an API. Many vendors offer complementary services designed to help collect, manage, protect, and analyze data on a massive scale.
Benefits of Cloud Storage
Cloud data storage enables IT departments to transform three areas:
Total cost of ownership. With cloud storage, there is no need to purchase hardware, provision storage, or use capital for future scenarios. You can add or remove capacity on demand, quickly change performance and retention characteristics, and only pay for the storage you actually use. Less frequently accessed data can also be automatically transferred to lower cost tiers according to auditable rules, generating economies of scale.
Deployment time. When development teams are ready to perform their tasks, the infrastructure should never disrupt them. Cloud storage enables your IT department to quickly deliver the exact amount of storage needed, when needed. This allows your IT department to focus on solving complex application-related issues rather than having to manage storage systems.
Information management. Centralizing cloud storage creates a huge advantage for new use cases. By using cloud storage lifecycle management policies, you can perform important information management tasks, including automatic stratification or blocking of data to support compliance requirements.
Cloud Storage Requirements
Ensuring that your company’s most important data is secure and available when needed is essential. There are a number of key requirements that must be assessed when considering storing data in the cloud.
Durability Data should be stored redundantly, preferably across multiple facilities and multiple devices within each facility. Natural disasters, human error or mechanical failure should not result in data loss.
Availability. All data should be made available when needed, but there is a difference between data and production files. Ideal cloud storage will provide the right balance between recovery times and cost.
Security. All data is preferably encrypted, both inactive and in transit. Permissions and access controls should work in the cloud as well as on local storage.
Cloud Storage Types
There are three types of physical data storage in the cloud: object, file, and block storage. Each type offers distinct advantages and has its own use cases:
Object storage – Typically, applications developed in the cloud benefit from the high scalability and metadata characteristics of object storage. Object storage solutions such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) are ideal for building from scratch modern applications that require scalability and flexibility, as well as importing existing datastores for analysis, backup, or archiving.
File Storage – Some applications need to access shared files and require a file system. Typically, this type of storage is compatible with a Network Attached Storage (NAS) server. File storage solutions such as Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) are ideal for use cases such as large content repositories, development environments, media storage, or user home directories.
Block storage – Other enterprise applications, such as databases or ERP systems, typically require dedicated storage and low latency on each host. This type of storage is analogous to directly attached storage (DAS) or a storage area network (SAN). Block-based cloud storage solutions, such as Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), are provisioned with each virtual server and provide the ultra-low latency required for high-performance workloads.