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In today’s digital era, data is vital for any business. Every piece of data collected is capable of being valuable. Customer information, employee records, financials, and intellectual property are some resources that must be stored in a readily accessible and secure location.
Most firms often keep these records digitally on computers, marking the end of the era of endless filing cabinets and paper file folders.
Optimizing data storage and management becomes critical as businesses embrace a digital transformation strategy.
For data-driven businesses, finding dependable and effective file, block, and object storage solutions to store that data is a top priority. With data storage options for every size, business, and budget, it is challenging and time-consuming to determine which forms of data storage are best for an organization’s needs.
What is data storage?
Data storage is the retention of information via technology that is explicitly designed to store that data and make it as accessible as possible.
Input and output data are the two forms of digital information. Users supply the input data. Computers produce data. A computer’s central processing unit (CPU) cannot calculate or create output data without user input.
Users can directly enter input data into a computer. However, we discovered early in the computer era that manually inputting data is time- and energy-consuming. Computer memory, known as random access memory (RAM), is one short-term option – its storage capacity and memory retention are restricted.
Similarly, read-only memory (ROM), as the name implies, allows data to be read but not modified. They are in charge of a computer’s essential operation.
Although dynamic RAM (DRAM) and synchronous DRAM (SDRAM) have made breakthroughs in computer memory, they are still restricted by cost, space, and memory retention. When a computer shuts down, the RAM’s ability to save data also shuts down.
So, what is the solution?
Users can save data onto a device using data storage capacity. And even if the computer is turned off, the data is saved. Furthermore, instead of manually inputting data into a computer, users can command the computer to get data from storage devices. Computers may read data from various sources as needed and then produce and store output in the same or other storage places. Users can also share their data storage space with others.
Why is data storage important?
To address today’s high-level computing demands, such as big data projects, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and the internet of things (IoT), companies and individuals require data storage. The flip side of requiring massive data storage is protecting against data loss due to disaster, failure, or fraud. Organizations may also use data storage as a backup option to avoid data loss.
Here are some data storage advantages that highlight the impact of an appropriate solution on an organization:
- Secure data preservation
- Data availability and sustainability
- Protection against data breaches or disasters
- Faster and quicker data recovery
- Affordable price points and flexible capacity options
- Complete safeguarding for password-protected files
Forms of data storage
Data can be collected and stored in three ways – files, blocks, or objects.
- File storage, also known as file-level storage or file-based storage, is a hierarchical storage system for organizing and storing data. Data is kept in files, then arranged into folders and structured into a hierarchy of directories and subdirectories.
- Block storage is a technology used to store data in blocks. The blocks are then kept separately, each with its own unique identity. Developers use block storage for computer settings requiring rapid, efficient, and dependable data transport.
- Object storage is an architecture designed to handle massive volumes of unstructured data. This data does not fit into, or cannot be structured into, a standard relational database with rows and columns. Examples include email, movies, images, web pages, audio files, sensor data, and media and online content (textual or non-textual).
Top 5 object storage solutions:
* Above are the top 5 object storage solutions as per G2’s Summer 2023 Grid® Report.
Types of data storage
Users require storage devices to store data in any format. Data storage devices are classified into direct area and network-based storage.
Direct area storage
As the name indicates, direct area or direct-attached storage (DAS) is often nearby and directly connected to the computer equipment used. Often, it is the only machine linked to it. DAS can also provide adequate local backup services, although sharing is restricted.
Floppy disks, optical discs or compact discs (CDs), digital video discs (DVDs), hard disk drives (HDD), flash drives, and solid-state drives (SSD) are examples of DAS devices.
Network-based storage enables several computers to access it over a network, making it ideal for data sharing and collaboration. Its capacity to store data off-site makes it ideal for database backups and data security.
Network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) are two typical network-based storage configurations.
NAS is often a single device with a redundant array of independent drives (RAID). SAN storage may be defined as a network of many devices, such as SSD and flash storage, hybrid storage, hybrid cloud storage, backup software and appliances, and cloud data storage.
Single storage device
Multiple device network
File storage system
Block storage system
TCP/IP ethernet network
Fibre channel network
Limited users and speed
Multiple users and faster performance
Low cost with easy setup
High cost and complex setup
Data storage devices
Numerous data storage systems offer dependable information security. Computer memory and local storage may not be sufficient to preserve private data. Non-volatile data storage is the greatest security option, which does not require constant power to store and retain data.
SSD and flash memory storage
Flash storage is a solid-state technology that writes and stores data using flash memory chips. A solid-state disk (SSD) flash drive uses flash memory to store data.
Compared to hard disk drives (HDDs), a solid-state system has no moving components and hence reduces latency, requiring fewer SSDs. Because most current SSDs are flash-based, flash storage is synonymous with solid-state storage.
SSDs and flash have faster throughput than HDDs, although all-flash arrays can be costly. Many businesses use a hybrid method that combines flash speed with hard drives’ storage capacity.
A well-balanced storage infrastructure enables businesses to choose the appropriate technology for various storage requirements. It provides a cost-effective alternative to moving from regular HDDs to flash drives.
Cloud storage is more cost-effective and scalable than keeping content on-premises on hard drives or storage networks. Cloud service providers help store data and files in a remote place accessible through the public internet or a dedicated private network connection.
The provider hosts, protects, administers, and maintains the servers and related infrastructure, ensuring accessibility whenever needed. This is why businesses looking to improve organizational, operational, and technical capabilities are migrating on-premises workloads and data centers to the cloud.
Tip: Cloud migration software replaces outdated hardware, eliminates expensive upgrades, and puts an end to high-priced data center leases.
Hybrid cloud storage
Hybrid cloud storage incorporates components of the private and public clouds. Organizations may pick which cloud to store data on using hybrid cloud storage. For example, highly regulated data that requires stringent archiving and replication is generally better suited to a private cloud environment.
Less sensitive data, on the other hand, can be kept on the public cloud. Certain enterprises use hybrid clouds to complement their internal storage networks with public cloud storage.
Backup software and applications
Backup storage and appliances guard against data loss due to catastrophe, failure, or fraud. They create periodic backups of data and applications to a different, secondary device, which they subsequently employ for disaster recovery.
Backup appliances range from hard disk drives and solid state drives to tape drives and servers, but backup storage may also be provided as a service, often known as backup-as-a-service (BaaS). BaaS, like other as-a-service solutions, offers a low-cost alternative for data protection by storing it in a distant place with scalability.
Benefits of efficient data storage
Aside from being quicker and more dependable than paper-based storage solutions, digital data storage provides a slew of other advantages.
- Long-term data preservation. Digital data storage makes it simple to pool enormous amounts of information for lengthy periods.
- Easier access. Instead of physically going to a room full of filing cabinets, everyone can immediately retrieve the information they need from their desktop PCs.
- More efficient data recovery. Because stored data may be quickly backed up by producing copies, recovery is faster and easier if a file is lost or damaged.
- Physical footprint reduction and increased scalability. Physical file sharing cabinets, which take up much space over time, are unnecessary, and increasing digital capacity is straightforward.
- Potentially greater data protection. With today’s advanced security tools and features, many more options exist to safeguard and protect particularly sensitive data digitally.
- Collaboration between teams becomes easier. Data stored centrally is accessible to all authorized users and may be viewed and shared among teams as they collaborate.
- Improved document management. Data can be more easily classified and organized digitally, and this can be done from a computer desktop or other linked device.
- Increased productivity and workflow efficiency. It takes less time to save material digitally than printing out physical pages and creating files that must be stored in file cabinets.
Emerging data storage solutions
The data storage and data management field is continuously developing. The most recent network storage developments can provide forward-thinking and comprehensive solutions for enterprises that need to store a massive volume of sensitive data.
Some advanced storage alternatives are available for companies that need more complex big data storage.
Traditional data storage necessitates using hardware and proprietary software. When an increased storage capacity is required, businesses scurry for additional hardware.
On the other hand, software-defined storage (SDS) decouples the software layer between where data is physically kept and how it is retrieved. Separating storage software from its hardware helps increase storage capacity on any industry-standard server or x86 system. It eliminates the requirement to purchase more proprietary hardware and employs storage devices from the same manufacturer.
By abstracting the software layer, organizations may place their data anywhere, with the ability to scale up or down as needed. SDS provides additional benefits such as automated management, cost-effectiveness, and connecting several data sources to create a storage infrastructure.
Storage virtualization refers to the accumulation of storage capacity from several physical devices and their subsequent reallocation in a virtualized environment. It is the consolidation of physical storage from several devices into what appears to be a single storage device controlled by a central console.
Using software to locate available storage capacity, the technology aggregates that capacity into a pool of storage that virtual machines may use in a virtual environment.
Storage virtualization, as opposed to SDS, which separates the software layer from the hardware to establish a storage infrastructure, merely pools storage resources to appear to users as a single, normal read or write to a physical drive.
It hides the storage system’s complexity, allowing users and administrators to perform operations like backup, archiving, and recovery more efficiently and time efficiently. Storage virtualization can also assist in increasing storage capacity without having to purchase additional storage systems.
The next step up from storage virtualization and SDS is hyper-converged storage (HCS). HCS uses the cloud to integrate computing, virtualization, and storage operations into a physical unit that can be administered as a single system.
This is software-defined storage because each node has a software layer that runs virtualization software identical to all other nodes in the cluster. This program virtualizes and distributes the resources in each node, allowing storage and other resources to be used as a single storage or computation pool.
Other emerging storage technologies
The future of data storage is moving away from traditional tiered units and toward combination services. These give enterprises greater control over their data and minimize the need for big IT teams, as many activities can be done remotely.
- Cloud storage that customers can access from many devices is another expanding market that has the potential to become even quicker and more efficient.
- Flash storage and chips within SSD drives are being developed as reliable storage alternatives.
- AI is also becoming increasingly common in emerging forms of data storage to handle repetitive chores like maintaining backup schedules and establishing unique recovery points for specific data sets.
Seize the data
With the evolution of faster computers, our data dependency has increased manifold. However, data loss can occur anytime due to various factors, including ransomware, hardware failure, power outages, natural catastrophes, and human error.
To keep the data center and network running smoothly and without interruptions during regular business hours, businesses must take the time to back up critical data and files. A company’s data disaster recovery plan is like insurance – you hope you never have to use it.
Learn more about data disaster recovery and the different solutions involved in it.