What is file storage?

File storage for organization and collaboration

File storage is a data storage system that puts complete files in a series of nested folders for organizational purposes. Any hard drive on a computer uses the file storage model. For cloud storage, the idea is very much the same—the only difference is that the data is stored on a cloud server rather than a local hard drive.

Choosing file storage for your cloud storage strategy gives IT departments a variety of workload-oriented storage services. This approach can be leveraged to provide the end user with a file storage solution that fits their individual needs. File storage is ideal for data organized with a purpose, as well as any files that need to be easily discoverable and shareable in a collaborative environment.

How cloud file storage works

Cloud file storage works the same way it does on a local hard drive. When writing a file (installing software, downloading, pasting), the user selects the destination folder. If there's a batch installation involved, the process creates subfolders and places the appropriate files there and—unlike in block storage—all files are placed as a whole, not as pieces of data.

Here's a simple way to picture file storage at work: Let's go back to a traditional file cabinet system in a pre-digital era. Your file cabinet is equivalent to a network—attached storage drive (or local hard drive), each with folders. When you want to put a new file in your organization system, you place the paperwork in the appropriate hanging file folder.

File storage has been used for decades and is a system that nearly everyone is familiar with. For shared storage across a network server, file storage makes it easy to create a folder specifically for documents, check in or check out a file with updates, or navigate to a repository of stored media.

File storage benefits

When compared to other cloud storage options, file storage offers benefits that make it the preferred choice in several situations. The following are file storage's most recognized benefits:

Simplicity: File storage has been the go-to method of storage for decades because it mirrors the functionality of traditional storage found on devices. By using a standard process of hierarchical folders and subfolders, file storage makes it easy to sort through and access data with no learning curve.

Access: Other storage methods, such as block storage, break up files into chunks of data. With file storage, files are stored completely in a set location, making them easily accessible on demand.

Collaboration: The simple organizational structure of cloud file storage makes it ideal for collaboration. Multiple users can access the same file structure, making it easy to sort through and find files. Specific folders can be created by project, status, review, creator, and more allowing for an efficient and collaborative workflow.

Security: File locking is a security approach that locks the permissions associated with a file or folder. This limits which users can modify or delete a file, ensuring that accidental updates during a collaborative project don't affect it. Security for file storage mirrors security for traditional devices, making it simple to use with no learning curve.

Limitations of file storage

As with other cloud storage methods, file storage has limitations. Whether it’s the right choice for your enterprise or project depends on your functional and organizational needs. You should consider the following limitations of file storage when making your decision:

Limited scalability: File storage has benefits for organizing, access, and permissions. These benefits are offset by how they limit scalability. Because hierarchical location and permissions are attached to a file, file storage comes with a level of granularity that can eat up resources. When scaling up, these properties can affect performance.

Latency: Similarly, latency can affect usage when file systems become unwieldy in size. This can create problems during performance-intensive workloads, from opening files to search and access.

When choosing your cloud storage strategy, the best approach is to consider the data's size, usage, volume of files, and complexity. These variables will help point to your situation's best fit. For example, file storage is not the best choice for a data lake, but it works well for a user's home directory.

File storage use cases

Here are some use cases where file storage is the ideal choice for your cloud storage needs.

Wide collaboration: The simple hierarchical nature of file storage makes it the preferred storage method when an organization collaborates widely. File storage's folder-based organization enables easy access for users who may have limited technical training.

Archives: Because archived data doesn't usually require regular access, issues with latency and scalability are not as much of a concern when using file storage.

Low-usage files: Like with archives, file storage works well for files that need to be accessible but aren't often used. Examples include stored media images, audio clips, documents, and spreadsheets. File storage makes these files easy to locate, and although there could be latency issues, they probably wouldn't affect productivity.

Why use cloud file storage?

Easy to use for individuals and organizations, file storage offers intuitive and collaborative cloud storage while supporting applications that require scale-out access and capacity. Learn more about Oracle Cloud Infrastructure's File Storage solution.