This blog is Part 2 of a three-part guide to cloud storage, originally published in June 2018 and recently updated. In Part 1, we examined the basics of cloud computing. In Part 3, we will discuss how to leverage cloud computing for your business.
Diving Deep: The Different Types Of Cloud Storage
Recently, we asked ‘What is cloud storage? If you don’t recall, cloud storage is the process of storing digital data in an online space that spans multiple servers and locations, and it is usually maintained by a hosting company.
After going over the high-level mechanics of cloud storage, we decided there were likely some lingering questions, such as:
- What is cloud storage architecture?
- What are public vs. private vs. hybrid clouds?
- What are object, file, and block storage types
We will explore these different types of cloud storage and explain cloud storage architecture. This review can help you determine which cloud solutions might work best for you and your business.
What Is Cloud Storage Architecture?
Definition: Cloud Storage Architecture refers to the relationship between the components needed to form a cloud computing network. Think front end platforms, back end platforms, cloud-based deployments, databases, applications, software capabilities, etc. These different elements work together to form the fundamental architecture of “the cloud”.
These different components work together in various ways to form the fundamental building blocks of any cloud service. Cloud-based services, such as Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), each have their own distinct cloud architecture.
For example, SaaS provides applications to users through the web, so data, middleware, servers, and storage are fully managed by the SaaS provider (like MS Office 365). At the other end of the spectrum, IaaS allows businesses to manage the applications, OpSys, middleware, and data. This self-service model offers a flexible, consumption-based cloud computing solution.
In both cases, the relationship between the different infrastructure components of the cloud computing services defines each service’s cloud storage architecture.
If you’re considering a cloud migration, start with our Cloud Insights report.
What Are Public Vs. Private Vs. Hybrid Clouds?
The different kinds of cloud storage architectures lend themselves to different types of cloud solutions. These various deployment options include the public, private, and hybrid cloud. Your individual business has its own unique needs, and these different types of cloud storage solutions offer similarly unique benefits.
You’ve likely heard about Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. These are all examples of public cloud providers. Practically, these providers own and manage all the cloud architecture – hardware, software, and other infrastructure – and deliver it as a cloud service over the internet.
As an analogy, using the cloud is like living in a large apartment complex. The provider is the landlord, and you and any other businesses or people using their service are the “tenants”. Shared resources enable the provider to offer lower prices. You benefit from sharing the resources of other businesses, since regulation compliance and infrastructure investments are likely a better quality than the typical SMB could secure. The public cloud has several other advantages:
- Highly scalable
- Highly reliable
- Expert monitoring
- No maintenance
Unlike the public cloud, the private cloud is used by only one organization. Larger enterprises with mission-critical data requiring additional security (think government agencies, financial institutions, or healthcare organizations) are more likely to use a private cloud solution. The private cloud infrastructure can reside either on-premise or with a third-party vendor. Regardless, the hardware and services are dedicated. The private cloud offers numerous advantages:
- Highly scalable
- Highly efficient
- Better security
Like the name suggests, a hybrid cloud converges the public and private cloud solutions into a unique type of cloud storage that offers the advantages of both. Data and applications can move between public and private clouds as needed, offering increased flexibility. Most businesses can use the public cloud for certain aspects of their work – such as webmail – but might need a private cloud for storing secure data logs. A hybrid cloud solution combines both public and private clouds to create a unique solution. The hybrid cloud offers many advantages:
- Greater control
- Highly customizable
What Is File, Block, And Object Storage?
The different types of cloud storage are based on the architecture of these systems. But how is that data then stored internally?
Fundamentally, the different types of cloud storage architectures are grounded in an understanding of data storage. Perhaps you recall a time when saving individual files to local file systems on individual desktops was the norm. My, how things have changed! Let’s review the three levels of storage architecture: File, Block, and Object based storage.
File-based storage is a simple, straightforward approach to data storage.
Retro or not, file-based storage works well for organizing data in a hierarchical, simple, and accessible platform. The key to successful file-based storage is a documented nomenclature (naming) strategy and regular clean-up. Also known as shared filesystem, file storage is good for file sharing, archiving, and data protection. The architecture has its drawbacks, though; unlimited scalability means an unlimited number of files to comb through when searching for something you need.
Primarily deployed in SAN (storage area network) architectures, block storage references the individual block of raw storage that is then filled with files of equal size. Block storage allows a server-based operating system to use the blocks as individual hard drives. Although it may be a little less straightforward, the system’s management of metadata enables more efficient storage, making block storage a high-performing system. Block storage is typically used for databases, email servers, and virtual machines.
The new kid on the block (get it?), object-based storage is deployed to solve for unstructured data (videos, photos, audio, collaborative files, etc.). Basically, when data is big or shared, object storage works by storing data in containers or “buckets”. Collaborative software utilizes object storage because it works across multiple levels, from the device level to the interface.
With the explosive growth of data highlighted in the news practically every day, it makes sense a new kind of storage that allows for greater flexibility and scalability would flourish. Object-storage’s reliance on REST APIs enables access to objects via HTTP, creating a greater ease of access for authentication, permissions, and properties.
Now that you understand cloud computing basics and have a deeper architectural view of the different types of cloud storage, what’s next? How can you leverage this information for your business? We know these lingering questions are vital to applying the theory into a meaningful practice that results in wins for you and your team.
Stay tuned for the final part of our ‘What Is Cloud Storage’ series, where we’ll be answering the following:
- How can you protect your data in the cloud?
- What does a cloud migration strategy look like?
- How can you leverage cloud services for business strategy?
- What is the right cloud solution for you?
In the meantime, you can contact Mindsight to discuss how cloud storage can work for your business. We’re happy to answer any questions and begin planning a roadmap for your business with the help of our solution architects.
Contact us to learn more.
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About The Authors
Mike Czerniak is the Vice President of Project Servicesat Mindsight, an IT Services and Consulting firm located in the Chicago area. With 20 years of experience in information technology and the cloud, Mike has helped hundreds of organizations with architecting, implementing, and deploying cloud solutions. For the last 5 years, Mike has focused on providing Mindsight’s customers with guidance in approaching – and managing – the cloud. Mike is AWS, Microsoft Azure, VMware certified, and remains deeply invested in providing an agnostic, consultative voice for organizations on their cloud journey. In his free time, Mike enjoys biking with his 9-year old son, recently completing a 50-mile bike ride!
Siobhan Climer, Science and Technology Writer for Mindsight, writes about technology trends in education, healthcare, and business. She previously taught STEM programs in elementary classrooms and museums, and writes extensively about cybersecurity, disaster recovery, cloud services, backups, data storage, network infrastructure, and the contact center. When she’s not writing tech, she’s writing fantasy, gardening, and exploring the world with her twin daughters. Find her on twitter @techtalksio.