Cloud storage is defined as a data deposit model in which digital information such as documents, photos, videos and any other form of media is stored on virtual or cloud servers, hosted by third parties. It allows you to transfer data on an offsite storage system and access them whenever needed.
The idea of having “online storage” was first introduced by J.C.R. Licklider in 1969. His vision was to ensure having one global network that allowed people to access data over the Internet. Today, cloud storage can be categorized into private cloud storage, public cloud storage, hybrid cloud storage, and community cloud storage.
In this article, we delve into the basics of cloud storage.
What Is Cloud Storage?
Cloud storage is a model of cloud
computing which allows its users to save important data or media files on
remote/third-party servers. These servers can be accessed by users at any time
over the Internet. Also, known as utility storage – cloud storage is maintained
and operated by a cloud-based service provider.
From greater accessibility to data backup, cloud storage offers a host of benefits. The most notable being large storage capacity and minimal costs. Cloud storage delivers on demand and eliminates the need to purchase and manage your own data storage infrastructure. With “anytime, anywhere” data access, this gives you agility, global scale and durability.
What Is the Difference Between Cloud Storage and Cloud Computing?
Cloud storage and cloud computing both make use of remote or third-party servers; however, they are used in different ways. Let’s look at how cloud storage and cloud computing differ:
Cloud storage is a system where the user can store data, and access it anytime, anywhere. The information stored in a cloud storage system can be retrieved from multiple devices over the Internet if the user has access. The most popular examples of cloud storage are Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud and many other such systems.
Cloud computing uses cloud storage to store data and information, as well as access that data to process the information for specified projects. The actions enabled for cloud computing can be rerouting servers, networking, data processing, migrating complex data, and other such tasks.
How Does Cloud Storage Work?
How Does Cloud Storage Work?
Cloud storage works as a virtual data center. It offers end users and applications virtual storage infrastructure that can be scaled to the requirements of the application. Cloud storage generally operates via a web-based API that is implemented remotely through its interaction with in-house cloud storage infrastructure.
Cloud storage includes at least one
data server which a user can connect to via the Internet. The user sends files
to the data server, which forwards the message to multiple servers, manually or
in an automated manner, over the Internet. The stored data can be then accessed
via a web-based interface.
In order to ensure the constant availability of data, cloud storage systems involve large numbers of data servers. Therefore, if a server requires maintenance or fails, the user can be assured that to ensure availability, the data has been replicated elsewhere. The Amazon AWS Cloud, for example, currently works across 55 availability zones in 18 geographic regions.
What Are the Types of Cloud Storage?
Types of Cloud Storage
Cloud services have made it possible for anyone to store digital data and access it from anywhere. This means that cloud storage is essentially a virtual hard drive. From saving important data such as word documents, and video files, to accessing the cloud to process complex data and run applications – cloud storage is a versatile system. In order to decide, which is the best cloud storage, the user needs to determine their use case/s first. Let’s look at the different types of cloud storage solutions:
1. Private Cloud Storage
Private cloud storage is also known as enterprise or internal cloud storage. Data is stored on the company or organization’s intranet in this case. This data is protected by the company’s own firewall. Private cloud storage is a great option for companies who have expensive data centers and can manage data privacy in-house.
One of the major advantages of saving data on a private cloud is it offers the user complete control over their data, making it secure. On the other hand, one of the major drawbacks of private cloud storage is the cost and effort of maintenance and updates. The responsibility of managing private cloud storage lies with the host company.
2. Public Cloud Storage
Public cloud storage requires few administrative controls and can be accessed online by the user and anyone else who the user authorizes. With public cloud storage, the user/company doesn’t need to maintain the system. Public cloud storage is hosted by different solution providers, so there’s very little opportunity for customizing the security fields, as they are common for all users. Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure are a few popular public cloud storage solution providers.
The several advantages of using public cloud storage is:
- Easily scalable
- Seamless monitoring
- Zero maintenance
3. Hybrid Cloud Storage
Hybrid cloud storage is a combination of private and public cloud storage. As the name suggests, hybrid cloud storage offers the best of both worlds to the user – the security of a private cloud and the personalization of a public cloud. In a hybrid cloud, data can be stored on the private cloud and information processing tasks can be assigned to the public cloud as well, with the help of cloud computing services.
The advantages of using hybrid cloud storage are:
- Easy customization
- Greater user control
4. Community Cloud Storage
Community cloud storage is a variation of the private cloud storage model, which offers cloud solutions for specific businesses or communities. In this model, cloud storage providers offer their cloud architecture, software and other development tools to meet the requirements of the community. Any data is stored on the community owned private cloud storage to manage the community’s security and compliance needs.
Community cloud storage is a great option for health, financial or legal companies who have strict compliance policies.
Cloud Storage vs. Local Storage: Which Is Better?
Before cloud storage options became available, businesses stored their data on local servers. Local storage drives were generally easily accessed by a user’s computer so accessing information was quick and easy through a computer. In cloud storage, data can be accessed through any device.
Let’s look at local storage vs cloud storage:
Local storage devices such as external hard drives and flash drives are connected to computers, which means the user can save digital data files on one device at a time. This allows organizations to have full control on who can access the data, which keeps it safe from hackers and malware attacks. Local storage can prevent data leaks against security threats. However, with the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and remote workers, organizations are more willing to share information with ease across devices. As a result, local storage is not the preferred and convenient choice of saving data today for organizations of any size.
Cloud storage answers the
shortcomings of local storage. With cloud storage, organizations can share
data, such as documents, media files, videos and more with remote workers by
providing access to specific users. This allows cloud storage users to access
the data from any device, anywhere they are, via the Internet.
For businesses to choose between local and cloud storage solutions, it is important to first determine how much data is being processed. If a business is set up so employees often work from home, or have flexible working hours, then keeping data on cloud storage services is recommended.
How to Select the Right Cloud Storage Provider?
With the rise of the gig economy, cloud storage services are becoming increasingly popular for organizations to store data and allow seamless work processes. Number of factors need to be considered before businesses choose a cloud storage provider. Let’s look at the most critical aspects businesses need to consider:
The amount of data any business processes determines the requirement for storage space. A small organization (around 250 employees) could opt for public cloud storage services, which offers employees storage space of over 15 GB each. It is recommended to compare various public cloud storage pricing plans before signing the deal.
Maintenance & Uptime
Cloud servers need to be maintained to make sure the data stored is secure. However, downtimes and network failures can occur anytime. Therefore, understanding the maintenance and uptime needed by cloud service providers is essential. Organizations should ask their chosen cloud service providers to demonstrate their downtime plans and run checks before buying any cloud solution.
If data is compromised, then cloud storage comes handy as a useful backup. There is no guarantee, however, that cloud storage providers are safe from security threats. Understanding the security measures in place at the cloud storage provider is important. Two main factors need to be considered for security: the physical security of the cloud solution provider’s servers and the level of encryption applied to the data stored.
The speed of downloads from the cloud has a major impact on businesses and their ability to process critical data. If cloud storage providers place a cap on the download speed, retrieving data and running applications will take longer. Therefore, organizations need to gauge the cloud storage download speeds of a provider before buying any storage space.
Closing Thoughts for Techies
Even if the cloud plays a central role in data processing and storage, the future of cloud and data storage is changing rapidly. Data security is one of the major concerns in cloud storage, and in the future mass data breaches will be strong point of concern for businesses that opt for cloud storage.
In such a scenario, will the cloud become obsolete? What are the possible alternatives to store complex data in the future? There are many options on the table, including serverless computing.
Our two essential tips for techies who are looking at optimizing cloud services are: Conduct regular reviews and identify redundant tasks on cloud services. The idea is to enjoy the freedom that the cloud offers, without overspending.
Where do you think cloud storage is headed? Let us know through your comments