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Cloud storage beginner’s guide

What is cloud storage and why do you need it?

What is cloud storage? To understand cloud storage, you first need to understand the cloud. The cloud is the colloquial term for cloud computing, which is a way of accessing network applications, services, features, and files via remote servers. Most of us have likely used cloud storage at some point, whether backing up a photo online or storing documents and files through Google or Apple cloud platforms. Any platform that allows the user to upload a file and access it later over the internet is a form of cloud storage.

While cloud storage is a valuable tool for individual users, enterprise cloud storage offers a broader scope of features and functions, including

  • Archiving
  • Backup and disaster recovery
  • Databases
  • Email servers
  • Unstructured data from Internet of Things devices

To grasp how your organization can best get started with cloud storage, you should weigh several key factors, including

  • Storage and access needs, including latency and scalability needs
  • Security and compliance requirements
  • Required functionality and types of data to be stored
  • Budget, including availability standards for service level agreements

Once your organization defines your criteria, you can determine which type of cloud storage best fits your needs.

Types of cloud storage

The following guide to different types of cloud storage offers information to help you choose the right fit for your enterprise. Each type of cloud storage comes with pros and cons related to variables such as latency, scalability, security, and more.

File storage

File storage stores data as individual whole files nested in a hierarchy of folders and subfolders. If this sounds familiar, it’s exactly like what’s used on desktop and laptop hard drives, only in the cloud.

  • Easy to use
  • Expedited collaboration through accessible folders and files
  • File locking for user- and file-specific security
  • Limited scalability due to the hierarchical nature of file storage

Object storage

Object storage puts files and their associated metadata into containers known as buckets for efficient storage. When a file needs to be accessed, a query is sent through a management system known as a router, which identifies the location of the buckets containing the requested data.

  • Easy and cost-effective scalability
  • Compatible across architectures and operating systems
  • High levels of redundancy
  • Limited browsing capabilities
  • Does not handle regular or rapid file updates well due to the way files are broken up into pieces of data in disparate blocks

Block storage

Block storage uses set storage volumes known as blocks to store fragmented pieces of data. Because every block used for storage is the same size, management is simple, and blocks are spread across the entire network for performance efficiency.

  • Flexible
  • Highly efficient
  • Scalable
  • Easy to update files as only the individually affected piece of data needs to be overwritten
  • Limited scope and searchability
  • Higher cost than other methods of cloud storage

Benefits of cloud storage

Cloud storage offers numerous benefits over using a local data center for storage, including the following:

Access: With cloud storage, users can access their data regardless of their physical proximity to their local data center. In many cases, users can also access their data from a range of mobile devices in addition to laptops and desktop computers.

Collaboration: Authorized cloud users share equal access to the same files, making collaboration easier and more efficient. Users always have the latest versions of files and can easily download supporting media for a project.

Management: Cloud storage minimizes the effort required for maintenance and management by putting these responsibilities in the hands of the cloud provider. Not only does this create more stability in terms of resources and planning, but it also allows IT staff to focus on more-critical projects and tasks instead of overseeing local data center issues.

Cost: Monthly service level agreements for cloud storage enable predictable budgeting. Local data centers require investments in hardware and other resources, which can impact their ability to scale quickly. Cloud storage providers are built to support a steady level of availability with the ability to scale, ensuring predictable budgeting.

Get started with cloud storage

Now that you understand the basics of cloud storage, it’s time to dig deeper. A free trial of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) provides hands-on experience so you can explore the many features and benefits of cloud storage. Start your free OCI trial today.