Today large and small companies, and even freelancers, manage data volumes that grow year by year. For many organizations, it is hard to think of having their own infrastructure on which to store data efficiently and safely, respecting all data protection and privacy obligations, not to mention keeping it adequate for ever-changing needs. This is why people are talking more and more about cloud storage.
What is cloud storage
Cloud storage means storage of data in the cloud: a virtual space created by a multitude of servers connected through a network. In fact, online data is stored on servers, computers with much higher computing capacity than PCs, accessible through public or private networks and capable of serving thousands of users at a time.
This is possible thanks to an IT infrastructure usually managed by a provider who makes it available to users on-demand, ensuring the conservation, security and continuous availability of stored data.
Online archiving is an efficient and scalable alternative to the more traditional storage of documents on corporate servers or NAS. In fact, since the capacity of memory disks is limited, these systems require careful management and continuous investments in hardware, which must anticipate the necessity of ever-larger storage.
On the other hand, with the cloud, data storage is no longer a material cost for the company but becomes a service. Furthermore, the available space can be enlarged or reduced at any time according to the requirements, avoiding having to incur expenses for oversized servers. You pay only for the amount of space you really need, with a lot of flexibility and cost control.
How cloud storage works
As for more traditional NAS, cloud storage implies keeping data on servers, but located off-site, usually in large data centers. In most cases, archiving takes place on virtual machines – or virtual servers – which create storage space in the cloud by relying on dozens of physical servers.
The cloud, if powered by renewable sources, also saves energy, contributing to the green cloud.
Depending on the chosen cloud service, the uploaded data is saved on machines placed in one or more data centers. Within the infrastructure, they will be replicated several times so that no type of accident can cause their loss. In fact, redundancy is an essential feature of a secure cloud.
Suppliers can allocate two types of disks for storage: SDD (solid-state drive) and HDD (hard disk drive, or simply hard disk or hard drive). SDDs offer faster reading and writing speed than HDDs, but are more expensive. However, thanks to virtualization, today providers are able to combine the use of the two types of disk.
The cloud is accessed through the internet or through a private network. Much depends on the type of storage you choose.
Types of cloud storage
Storage in the cloud can take place on a public or a private infrastructure. What are the differences between these two types?
Public cloud storage
In the case of public cloud storage, the data is located on an infrastructure shared between many users. Most services include both plans designed for individuals, and for professional paid plans. Each user can purchase a certain amount of space and expand it at any time.
To access the public cloud storage, you just need an internet connection. There is no need for intranets – such as for a NAS – or direct connections with hardware (DAS, Direct-Attached Storage). So the documents will always be available through the browser, and in some cases also via clients for PCs and apps for smartphones and tablets.
Private or corporate cloud storage
Private cloud storage works similarly to public cloud storage, but in this case the data is saved on dedicated servers, which can be placed both in the company headquarters (on-premises) or in external data centers.
Companies can independently manage their cloud storage or rely on an external supplier, taking advantage of the infrastructure as a service.
Cloud storage methodsOn user devices such as computers and tablets, data are stored as files. Cloud storage, instead, is based on objects or blocks, much more efficient methods when it comes to managing billions of documents and metadata.
Block storageIn block storage, files are divided into blocks of equal size, stored separately and completely independently, with different addresses. This ensures a high level of safety.
Object storageObject storage contains files in the form of uniquely addressed objects, which include metadata. It provides scalability and speed of access and is ideal for storing structured data.
What can you do with cloud storage?
Cloud storage allows:
- Online backup,
to create copies of the contents of physical devices that guarantee recovery in the event of file loss. It is done through clients or apps capable of saving and periodically updating the content of the devices;
- Synchronized online archives,
on which you can upload files from different devices with the certainty of always having them updated with the changes made locally;
- Unsynchronized online archives:
folders in the cloud containing documents copied but independent from the source files, which means that changes made on the device have no effect in the cloud.
Not all platforms allow you to make real cloud backups of mobile devices, connect infinite fixed and mobile devices to the storage and synchronize data to the cloud in real time.
Advantages of cloud storage compared to keeping data on local servers
Compared to NAS storage systems, cloud storage offers many advantages:
- Costs distributed and controlled
Cloud storage solutions enable an organisation to save on the purchase and management of the IT infrastructure, which the supplier takes care of, and to pay only for the space actually needed.
If the service is outsourced, the provider is responsible for data retention and infrastructure maintenance while the company’s employees are able to take care of their work.
In a secure cloud, data is protected from damage, loss and external attacks, because it is redundant and encrypted. It is also unreachable by viruses, that could instead compromise a NAS and all its content forever.
- Continuous availability of data
Documents in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere: an internet connection is enough. If the supplier also provides an app, files can also be saved and opened from mobile devices.
The size of the cloud archive can be expanded, without the need to program – and invest for – the upgrading of the hardware. Particularly useful for companies, but also for professionals who work with photos and videos and need constantly growing storage space.
- Easy document sharing
Several cloud services make it easy to share files and folders saved online with other users, or send documents via links.
At Babylon Cloud, we provide companies and freelancers with a secure, scalable and GDPR-compliant storage space – choosing between public cloud, private cloud and on-premises – without initial investments because we take care of everything.