Cloud storage is a model of computer data storage in which the digital data is stored in logical pools, said to be on “the cloud”. The physical storage spans multiple servers (sometimes in multiple locations), and the physical environment is typically owned and managed by a hosting company. These cloud storage providers are responsible for keeping the data available and accessible, and the physical environment secured, protected, and running. People and organizations buy or lease storage capacity from the providers to store user, organization, or application data.
Cloud storage services may be accessed through a colocated cloud computing service, a web service application programming interface (API) or by applications that use the API, such as cloud desktop storage, a cloud storage gateway or Web-based content management systems.
A block storage service like Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) is used for other enterprise applications like databases and often require dedicated, low latency storage for each host. This is comparable in certain respects to direct attached storage (DAS) or a storage area network (SAN).
Cloud storage is:
- Made up of many distributed resources, but still acts as one, either in a federated or a cooperative storage cloud architecture
- Highly fault tolerant through redundancy and distribution of data
- Highly durable through the creation of versioned copies
- Typically, eventually consistent with regard to data replicas
Storage as a Service
Storage as a service (STaaS) is a managed service in which the provider supplies the customer with access to a data storage platform. The service can be delivered on premises from infrastructure that is dedicated to a single customer, or it can be delivered from the public cloud as a shared service that’s purchased by subscription and is billed according to one or more usage metrics.
STaaS customers access individual storage services through standard system interface protocols or application program interfaces (APIs). Typical offerings include bare-metal storage capacity; raw storage volumes; network file systems; storage objects; and storage applications that support file sharing and backup lifecycle management.
Storage as a service was originally seen as a cost-effective way for small and mid-size businesses that lacked the technical personnel and capital budget to implement and maintain their own storage infrastructure. Today, companies of all sizes use storage as a service.
There are many advantages to using STaaS over traditional on-premises storage models:
- Storage costs will typically be lower, especially for SMEs that are unable to afford the hardware required for on-prem storage.
- Files are synced between local and cloud storage easily and frequently, so you’ll always have access to the most up-to-date data.
- Quality STaaS providers will also offer disaster recovery plans and capabilities that will help you get back to business quickly.
- STaaS solutions are also inherently scalable, and you only need to pay for the resources utilized.
- As long as you or your STaaS provider are using a secure cloud data system, STaaS can be a more secure solution than an on-prem storage system. However, the level of security offered by cloud providers can vary significantly, so make sure that you understand the level of protection they will afford your data.
The Disadvantages of StaaS
Though, for most SMEs, the advantages of STaaS will outweigh the negatives, you should be wary of potential downsides to using this model:
- If you exceed the amount of storage that is described in your contract, you could run into extra costs, and these may be significant.
- Potential downtime can also be a problem since you do not have control of the servers which store your data, you will be reliant on your STaaS provider.
- Limited customization, since cloud infrastructure is owned and managed by the service provider.
Advantages of Cloud Storages
- Companies need only pay for the storage they actually use, typically an average of consumption during a month, quarter, or year. This does not mean that cloud storage is less expensive, only that it incurs operating expenses rather than capital expenses.
- Businesses using cloud storage can cut their energy consumption by up to 70% making them a more green business.
- Organizations can choose between off-premises and on-premises cloud storage options, or a mixture of the two options, depending on relevant decision criteria that is complementary to initial direct cost savings potential; for instance, continuity of operations (COOP), disaster recovery (DR), security (PII, HIPAA, SARBOX, IA/CND), and records retention laws, regulations, and policies.
- Storage availability and data protection is intrinsic to object storage architecture, so depending on the application, the additional technology, effort and cost to add availability and protection can be eliminated.
- Storage maintenance tasks, such as purchasing additional storage capacity, are offloaded to the responsibility of a service provider.
- Cloud storage provides users with immediate access to a broad range of resources and applications hosted in the infrastructure of another organization via a web service interface.
- Cloud storage can be used for copying virtual machine images from the cloud to on-premises locations or to import a virtual machine image from an on-premises location to the cloud image library. In addition, cloud storage can be used to move virtual machine images between user accounts or between data centers.
- Cloud storage can be used as natural disaster proof backup, as normally there are 2 or 3 different backup servers located in different places around the globe.
- Cloud storage can be mapped as a local drive with the WebDAV protocol. It can function as a central file server for organizations with multiple office locations.