Data storage technology has transformed completely since the initial models from the 1920s. Today, the cloud is not just making data storage easier and more convenient – it’s providing a platform for the businesses and services building the next era of computing. It’s time we take a look at the future of memory. Improvements in internet bandwidth and the falling cost of storage capacity means it’s frequently more economical for businesses and individuals to outsource their data storage to the cloud, rather than buying, maintaining and replacing their own hardware. Cloud data storage offers near-infinite scalability, and the anywhere/everywhere data access that users increasingly expect.
What is Cloud Data Storage?
Cloud storage is a service model in which data is maintained, managed, backed up remotely and made available to users over a network (typically the Internet). Users generally pay for their cloud data storage on a per-consumption, monthly rate. Although the per-gigabyte cost has been radically driven down, cloud storage providers have added operating expenses that can make the technology more expensive than users bargained for. Cloud security continues to be a concern among users. Providers have tried to deal with those fears by building security capabilities, such as encryption and authentication, into their services.
How does Cloud Storage Work?
There are hundreds of different cloud storage systems. Some have a very specific focus, such as storing Web e-mail messages or digital pictures. Others are available to store all forms of digital data. Some cloud storage systems are small operations, while others are so large that the physical equipment can fill up an entire warehouse. The facilities that house cloud storage systems are called data centres.
At its most basic level, a cloud storage system needs just one data server connected to the Internet. A client (e.g., a computer user subscribing to a cloud storage service) sends copies of files over the Internet to the data server, which then records the information. When the client wishes to retrieve the information, he or she accesses the data server through a Web-based interface. The server then either sends the files back to the client or allows the client to access and manipulate the files on the server itself.
Cloud storage systems generally rely on hundreds of data servers. Because computers occasionally require maintenance or repair, it’s important to store the same information on multiple machines. This is called redundancy. Without redundancy, a cloud storage system couldn’t ensure clients that they could access their information at any given time. Most systems store the same data on servers that use different power supplies. That way, clients can access their data even if one power supply fails.
Free vs. Paid
Many cloud storage services have a free account that usually comes with some limitations, such as the amount of storage they provide or a size limit on files you can upload. One of the benefits of paying for an account is that it usually comes with additional support from the provider, so if anything does go wrong, you can get someone on the phone to help you resolve the issue.
There are many other reasons to pay for cloud storage, from getting a lot more space (nowadays, storage capacity tends to be relatively cheap) to being able to upload really big files. That last benefit is relevant to graphic designers, video editors, and other visual artists who often host enormous files. Other perks of paying for your cloud storage often include increased access to file-version history (which basically means you can restore a file or image to the version you had before you made a bunch of erroneous changes), more security or more features for collaboration and working with teams.
Advantages of Cloud Data Storage
- Companies need only pay for the storage they actually use, typically an average of consumption during a month. 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 greener business.
- Storage availability and data protection is fundamental 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 as natural disaster proof backup, as normally there are 2 or 3 different backup servers located in different places around the globe.