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Object storage vs. block storage vs. file storage

There are often questions and discussions about object storage versus block storage and file storage. There’s no common agreement on which one is better since they each have different uses. Still, object storage is usually more popular if you want to store data that you can access anytime, such as media files (images and videos), because object storage typically takes up less space than block storage and file storage. Learn more about the differences and benefits of these cloud storage services.

Object storage features and benefits

Object storage services are object-based, meaning files are broken up into objects that easily can be moved around. Your data capacity is limited only by the server you're using to host your object storage account. Also, object storage has an object versioning system, so if there's a file you want to keep but accidentally delete you can restore it.

There are many benefits of object storage over traditional cloud storage. One benefit is object storage's ability to scale infinitely. Because object storage can store anything from a small text file to terabytes of data there’s no limit to how much object storage can hold.

In comparison, traditional cloud storage services have limitations that object storage doesn’t have. For example, object storage provides write once/read many (WORM) object storage. This means objects can be written to object storage and accessed by the object's unique identifier, whereas traditional cloud storage deletes old data when the storage limit is reached.

Other benefits of object storage include its security and cost savings. Companies can use object storage to lock down critical data and avoid the high costs of storing unstructured data, which object storage does easily since it’s designed for long-term archiving. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Object Storage supports multiple storage tiers that offer cost and performance flexibility.

Block storage features and benefits

Block storage is block-based; this type of storage allocates chunks of data to the server you're using to host your storage account. This means it doesn't matter how much data you're storing: one block could be 15 TB while another block could take up only 100 MB. And just as with object storage, an object versioning system is available in block storage. The two types of block storage offered by public cloud providers are magnetic spinning hard drive disks or solid-state disks.

Block storage offers several benefits. First, it’s more efficient than other types of data storage because it lets you store blocks in a single file. This means there are no separate files for each block, which reduces file system overhead.

Second, block storage reduces power consumption when magnetic spinning hard drive disks are used because the disks don’t spin at the same time; since there isn’t a separate file for each storage block, the disks spin only when requested data needs to be read or written.

Third, storage blocks can be flushed to disks asynchronously, which enables optimized disk I/O operations by grouping them together. This reduces system resource requirements because disk I/O operations are reduced and the CPU is freed for other tasks.

Fourth, when considering block storage, there are far more options for data resilience since block storage can provide self-repair functions beyond the capabilities of current file system-based storage. For example, block storage can provide multiregional replication—redundant replicas stored in as many locations as desired that can provide durability far beyond traditional file system-based storage. Oracle offers Block Volumes that are persistent and durable beyond the lifespan of a virtual machine and can scale to 1 PB per compute instance.

File storage features and benefits

File storage is best used when you want to store documents, spreadsheets, and text files you can open like traditional files that are stored on your computer or smartphone. You typically can’t store larger files with file storage since they will take up too much space.

Oracle’s File Storage service provides a resilient, scalable, and secure network system that connects from multiple technologies.

Conclusion

Object storage is an excellent fit when used for many small files that don't require structure—such as email or a document archive—essentially WORM data. Block storage is best used when you want to store smaller chunks of data that take up less space and when an object versioning system is unavailable in object storage. File storage is great if you want to store data that requires many small transactions, such as a transactional database, time series files, and files with a low concurrency rate—for example, a single user editing a text file, spreadsheet, or document.