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Data Storage

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Data storage is the retention of archiving data in a digital format for use by computers, devices, or applications. Data can be stored temporarily or for an extended time.

Data storage technology is available to meet nearly any use case, from basic to highly sophisticated environments.

Data storage systems often are set up for mirroring, where data is written simultaneously to two drives. It is notable that mirroring and backup are not the same since changes to the primary files are mirrored in the second copy.

Five Things to Consider

  1. 1. Amount of data storage space required
  2. 2. Compatibility with devices and systems
  3. 3. Cost of data storage
  4. 4. Data storage security
  5. 5. Portability for mobile storage

Three Locations

  1. 1. On-premises data storage
  2. 2. Colocation for data storage
  3. 3. Cloud for data storage
  • Public cloud
  • Private cloud
  • Hybrid cloud

Forms of Data Storage

Volatile and Non-Volatile

An important classification of computer data storage is volatile and non-volatile storage.

Volatile storage is memory (RAM) that stores data only while there is electricity powering the system. Computers and calculators are considered volatile storage devices.

Non-volatile storage stores the data even when there is no electricity powering the system. Examples are a hard disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD) that holds all of the data that's saved to a computer, as well as DVDs and flash drives.

Direct-Attached and Network-Attached

The two main data storage options are direct-attached and network-attached.

  1. 1. Direct-attached storage is physically attached to a system—from simple external hard drives to arrays of storage systems.
  2. 2. Network-attached storage is accessible from a network—many machines are on the same network and connected to data storage device(s).

Hierarchy of Data Storage

Also referred to as main memory, main storage, internal memory, and primary memory, primary data storage stores programs and applications currently in use for short periods of time. Primary data storage holds memory and can be classified as volatile or non-volatile. It allows active programs to deliver optimal and efficient performance.

Unlike primary data storage, secondary data storage can only be non-volatile. Secondary data storage holds data permanently until it is overwritten or deleted. It is used when data does not remain constantly accessible. Secondary data storage is also referred to as secondary memory, external memory, and auxiliary storage. 

Tertiary data storage is made up of high-capacity systems designed to store and manage mass storage media, such as optical disks, optical tapes, and magnetic tapes. Robotic mechanisms are used to mount and dismount removable media into a storage device.

Offline data storage refers to any internal or external medium that is non-volatile and must be physically inserted into a system for a user to access or edit data. It protects files from events such as being corrupted by malware or a hardware failure.

Data Storage Devices

Following are several of the data storage devices commonly used by organizations.

Hard Disk Drives (HDD)
HDDs are traditional computer hard drives where data is stored on a circular, optical disk that is scanned by a sensor arm with read-write capabilities. The faster the disk spins, the more quickly the drive can read the data that's stored on it.

Solid State Drives (SSD)
SDDs are more compact and faster than HDDs. Up to four times faster, SSDs are also more expensive. SSDs use flash memory to recall information.

Since SSDs have no “moving parts,” they are more durable and less vulnerable to damage, with a longer lifespan. In the evolution of HDD storage, solid-state drives feature no moving parts.

Hybrid Flash Arrays
A combination of HDDs and SSDs, hybrid-flash arrays offer a balance of cost and performance. Hybrid flash arrays take the best of both data storage solutions, offering the low cost of an HDD and the efficiency of an SSD.

Tape Drives
Decades-old technology, tape drives continue to be used for data storage because they are inexpensive, reliable, and durable. Digital tapes are good media data storage scenarios where large quantities of data need to be saved, but the data doesn't need to be readily accessible for long periods of time.

Five-Dimensional (5D) Data Storage
With 5D data storage, information is stored in three conventional dimensions (width, length, depth) and two optical dimensions—five dimensions. Extremely small, 5D discs can store up to 360TB of data and can be stored at room temperature.

Cloud for Data Storage
While not a physical media unto itself, cloud storage acts as a virtual hard drive, leveraging a variety of other storage media.

Data Storage for Business

Data storage plays a key role in the back-end operations of an organization’s servers, networks, and related infrastructure. The primary function of data storage systems is to securely contain useful data that an organization’s users and applications need both on an ongoing basis and saved as archives.

Security and resiliency are also critical components. Data storage systems must be protected from unauthorized access, damage, and downtime. This is accomplished with a combination of security solutions and redundant systems.

When configuring storage to meet an organization’s requirements, a few basics must be considered:

  • Size
    • How many users
    • How many groups
    • How many locations
  • Computing environment
    • Servers
    • Networks
    • Desktops, laptops, and other devices (including Internet of Things (IoT))
  • Applications
    • End-user productivity
    • Back-office applications
    • Operations-specific applications
  • Cloud services
    • Software as a Service (SaaS)
    • Application development platforms
    • File share-and-sync
    • Storage, backup, or disaster recovery

Four Main Types of Data Storage Used by Businesses

Storage systems or storage arrays are used to provide storage that is optimized for handling specific data types.

  1. 1. File Storage
    This storage system manages data based on its affiliation with specific file types, such as documents, spreadsheets, and PDFs. Network-attached storage (NAS) is commonly used for business productivity software, file-oriented applications, and database applications that are not highly transactional. NAS is a central file storage system that handles the file system protocols associated with Linux and Windows operating systems:
  • NFS (network file system) for Linux
  • SMB (server message block) or CIFS (Common Internet File System) for Windows
  1. 2. Block Storage
    In block storage arrays, the system accesses data in chunks without relying on associations with particular files. Block storage is used in place of NAS arrays when high performance is needed, such as applications that frequently access large amounts of data, such as databases that support online retail applications.

    Block storage is typically deployed as a storage area network (SAN), usually separated from the primary data network. SANs use specialized communications protocols, such as fiber channel (FC) or Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI).
  1. 3. Unified Storage
    Unified storage, also referred to as network unified storage or multiprotocol storage, makes it possible to run and manage files and applications from a single device. Unified storage arrays can function as a file or block device, or both simultaneously.  
  1. 4. Object Storage
    With object storage, data is bundled with metadata tags and a unique identifier to form objects. There is no limit to the number of objects stored, which makes object storage highly scalable. Object storage is often used for archives, because many applications cannot access it.

Data Storage and Data Security

Storage and security have traditionally been separate disciplines within IT. However, there is a trend toward data storage security, a subset of the larger IT security field, which is specifically focused on securing storage devices and systems.

Combining data storage and data security can help organizations to detect, prevent, correct, and recover from data breaches.

“The application of physical, technical, and administrative controls to protect storage systems and infrastructure as well as the data stored within them. Storage security is focused on protecting data (and its storage infrastructure) against unauthorized disclosure, modification, or destruction while assuring its availability to authorized users. These controls may be preventive, detective, corrective, deterrent, recovery or compensatory in nature.”

Storage security as defined by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA)

Among the many drivers for data storage security are:

The Quiet Power of Data Storage

Data storage does not make headlines as the most cutting-edge technology. But without it, applications and systems would not be able to run.

Data storage is absolutely essential. And, data storage technology is available to meet nearly any use case—from the most basic to the most sophisticated systems in the world.

When thinking about data and data storage, it is worth remembering: While not all data has to be stored, what is stored needs to be maintained in ways that facilitate its security and accessibility.

Egnyte has experts ready to answer your questions. For more than a decade, Egnyte has helped more than 16,000 customers with millions of customers worldwide.

Last Updated: 23rd October, 2021

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