What is Data Storage and How is it Used?

avcontentteam 12 Sep, 2023
9 min read

As modern companies rely on data, establishing dependable, effective solutions for maintaining that data is a top task for each organization. The complexity of information storage technologies increases exponentially with the growth of data. From physical hard drives to cloud computing, unravel the captivating world of data storage and recognize its ever-evolving role in our daily lives.

What is Data Storage? 

Data storage, or data keeping, is storing information and making it as readily available as possible via technology designed particularly for that purpose. It constitutes a simple method of storing data in digital form on computer devices, and keeping data on hand makes many digital processes more effective.

Storage devices may use electromagnetic, optical, or other media to keep the data safe and recover it when necessary. File recovery and backup procedures become simple by data storage in the case of an unforeseen computer failure or cyberattack. 

While setting this up, every organization should consider these factors: dependability, affordability of the storage structure, and safety features. 

Different data storage devices
Source: vectorStock

Also Read: Understanding the Basics of Data Warehouse and its Structure

Why Do We Need Data Storage? 

Innovative technologies like data analysis, the Internet of Things, and AI produce and utilize enormous amounts of data. Therefore, data storage plays a major role in the growth of any organization now more than ever. Some of the benefits are as follows:

  1. It is simple to gather large amounts of records for a longer time using electronic data storage.
  2. Making duplicates of stored data makes it simple to back it up, enabling file loss or corruption recoverable more quickly and easily. 
  3. With today’s cutting-edge security technologies and capabilities, plenty of techniques exist to safely store and safeguard particularly sensitive data digitally.
  4. Every authorized individual has access to centralized stored data, which can be viewed and shared between teams whenever they collaborate. 
  5. Digital data can be more easily categorized and organized, and the process can be accessed using a desktop computer or similar connected device. 
  6. Digital data storage is faster than producing files that must be kept in file cabinets by printing out hard copies of data. 

Types of Data Storage

There are three major types- primary, secondary, and tertiary.  

Primary Storage

A computer system’s primary data storage serves as its primary storage. The primary storage is temporary memory, also referred to as cache memory. Primary memory is invariably smaller than secondary memory and comes with comparatively lesser storage. It is the only storage form readily available to the CPU, unlike RAM and ROM (Read-only Memory). The CPU always accesses primary storage-stored commands and processes them as needed. All data that is actively worked on is kept in an organized manner. 

Secondary Storage

A secondary storage system can keep data longer and has additional storage space. External or internal computer components include hard drives, USB drives, CDs, and other media. One computer typically accesses secondary storage through its input/output channels and transfers the needed data utilizing an intermediate space in primary storage.

Tertiary Storage

It is an extensive electronic storage system that is typically quite sluggish; hence, it stores components that are retrieved occasionally. This method often incorporates a robotic device that mounts and dismounts removable drives into computer storage units following the system requirements. It helps access extremely massive databases without the assistance of any human controllers.

Forms of Storage

Data storage comes in three primary forms:

  1. File Storage: Data is organized into files and directories in file storage. It is suitable for storing structured data and is accessible through network protocols like NFS and SMB. File storage is commonly used for documents, media files, and user data.
  2. Block Storage: Block storage breaks data into fixed-sized blocks and is often used in scenarios where raw storage volumes are needed. It is highly efficient for database systems and can be accessed via protocols like iSCSI. Block storage provides low-level storage access.
  3. Object Storage: Object storage stores data as objects, each with its unique identifier and metadata. It is ideal for unstructured data, scalable storage, and cloud-based applications. Object storage is accessible via RESTful APIs and is well-suited for backup, archival, and content distribution.

Choosing the right storage type depends on the specific requirements of your application and data.

Traditional Storage Technologies

The conventional data storage systems are as follows: 

Magnetic Storage

A magnetic memory, such as an HDD, comprises circular drives composed of non-magnetic components and coated using a thin film of magnetic material, where data is stored. The magnetized face of such disks goes inside a rotary drive, with a read-write unit of a magnetic yoke and a magnetizing coil that spins in close range of the disks.

Optical Storage

An optical drive is a device that uses optical storage techniques for data processing functions such as read/write/access. Laser light helps in reading and storing data on an optical disk. An optical disk is a resin similar to polycarbonate, and the electronic data is maintained in tiny openings on the polycarbonate layer.

Modern Data Storage Technologies

The modern data storage systems are as follows: 

Flash Storage

Flash storage uses solid-state drives (SSDs) with flash memory for large-scale data or file archiving. It substitutes HDDs and other forms of storage. A multi-terabyte dataset can be kept “in memory” using an all-flash array, which offers read/write speeds four times faster than HDDs. Compared to HDDs, flash storage has a higher density. 

Cloud Storage

By replicating the capability of physical storage devices, cloud storage enables you to save or retrieve various content types whenever you need to from a virtual setting. Any data uploaded to the cloud is kept off-site in reliable data centers, and an on-site operator or an off-site third-party service often handles it. Users can access cloud storage using a computer with an internet connection, web portal, intranet, cloud storage apps, or additional application programming interfaces (APIs). 

Object Storage

Object storage is a technique that manages data storage in distinct components or objects. A framework on which data analytics software can run queries on objects is known as an object store. By adopting a flat address space, object storage removes the need for the hierarchical structure that different systems need. This enables easy scaling up or down to accommodate storage workload variations and accommodate quick expansions and contractions.

Software-Defined Storage

SDS is a storage system that separates the hardware and software used for storage. Unlike conventional NAS or SAN systems, SDS runs on any x86 or industry-standard system, eliminating the software’s reliance on specific hardware. Software-defined storage is a method of managing data that makes data storage resources more flexible by abstracting them from the supporting physical storage hardware. 

How Does Data Storage Work?

Whenever you upload digital data to a personal computer, it gets saved to a device, which stays there until it is damaged. Storage is fundamentally different from computer memory: While anyone can swiftly retrieve information from your computer’s RAM, such data is only accessible in RAM when your computer is off. 

Modern computers or devices may connect to storage devices directly or via a network connection. Users give computers instructions for accessing data stored on and retrieved from various storage devices. On a basic level, data storage depends on two principles: the form it takes and the hardware that it is captured and stored on.

Data Storage Architectures and Concepts

The distinct data storage architectures and concepts are as follows: 

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks)

RAID is a method that uses several drives in tandem rather than just one to boost performance, provide data redundancy, or both. It is a method for securing data during a drive crash by maintaining the same data in different places on many hard drives or solid-state storage devices. It has two or more parallel-operating disks, and RAID level is how disks are arranged. 

Redundant Array of Independent disks (RAID)
Source: Steemit.com

NAS (Network-Attached Storage)

A network-attached storage (NAS) server is a specific storage platform that links to devices over a LAN. The server’s connectivity features allow for the retrieval and storage of data from many external devices, and NAS storage also offers extensive sharing capabilities. The system utilizes the features of a file-storage technology and the clustering of a redundant array of drives (RAID). 

Network-Attached Storage
Source: Phonixnap

SAN (Storage Area Network)

A storage area network (SAN) is a network-based storage that can access data at the block level. This kind of storage consists of several data storage units connected by a network. The storage format is an amalgam of NAS and DAS. The storage type transfers data across a server and storage using specific networking protocols, like Fibre Channels.

Storage Area Network
Source: Phoenixap.com

Object Storage vs Block Storage

The differences between object storage and block storage are as follows:

Object StorageBlock Storage
Data is held in flat-file systems as different, distinctive, and recognizable components called objects.Fixed-sized blocks divide the data into sections and rearrange it when necessary.
Cost-effective Expensive
Unlimited Scalability Limited Scalability
A single central or decentralized system that maintains data in the private, public, hybrid, or cloud.A centralized system for on-site or private cloud data storage. If the program and its data storage are located far away from one another, latencies could pose a concern.
Suitable for large amounts of raw data. Large files yield the greatest results.Best for storing databases and data related to transactions. It performs best with compact files.

Best Practices for Data Storage Management

Some of the best practices for data storage management are as follows:

Data Backup and Recovery

After you transfer your data from regular, operational systems for immediate and future storage, a reliable data backup and recovery plan will ensure it is constantly kept secure. Backup copies enable data to be recovered from an earlier date, enabling the organization to recover from unforeseen circumstances. Maintaining another copy of the data on another storage device is important for protecting against original data loss or corruption.

Data Deduplication

There are instances where similar data is produced due to repeated operations. You can improve data management and reduce storage costs by setting up a human or automated procedure that constantly evaluates data and eliminates duplicates. Your data will remain clean and prepared for evaluation and questions.

Data Compression

Data compression makes files take up less room on a hard drive and takes less time to transfer or download. The decrease in distance and time could lead to major savings in expenses. It makes it possible to transport data objects and files quickly through networks and the Internet while maximizing the use of physical storage space.

Data Security and Encryption

It enables you to identify sensitive data and essential assets, and establish robust security measures that monitor and protect every stage of data sorting, thereby maximizing your data security. Encryption converts the data you store into nonsensical codes; only the owner’s key can decode it. This ensures the data won’t be used, even when unauthorized people gain access to it.

Data Storage in Mobile Devices

The physical storage capacity of mobile devices is limited and ranges typically from just a few gigabytes up to a few hundred gigabytes. Data file sizes have grown considerably in bandwidth as technology has advanced. High-resolution images and movies, graphically demanding software, and resource-intensive games take up an extensive amount of disk. Privacy and security are key factors to consider because the data kept on mobile devices could contain personal and sensitive data. Malicious attacks, unauthorized access, or information theft entail considerable challenges, highlighting the significance of having robust security measures.

Internal Storage

The internal memory space of the device is the internal storage. The files you maintain here are restricted to the application itself, so no matter their permissions, other applications cannot access those. Android OEMs and app developers utilize internal storage to store private data, app data, user settings, and additional system files. 

External Storage

Any storage not part of the device’s internal memory, including an attached SD card, is called external storage. Any app with the appropriate permissions could have access to this region, which serves as a free-for-all area. There are two kinds of external storage: SD cards, commonly called memory cards, which represent the secondary external storage, and built-in external storage, which is the primary external storage. 

How Can Businesses Use Data Storage?

Businesses employ storage in diverse ways to manage data effectively:

  1. Data Backup: Businesses safeguard vital data and backups on storage devices or in the cloud to ensure data recovery during hardware failures or unforeseen disasters. A comprehensive data backup strategy is essential to prevent data loss and maintain business continuity.
  2. Inventory Management: Warehouses utilize storage systems to optimize inventory management. These systems help maximize space utilization, minimize storage costs, and streamline order fulfillment processes. Efficient inventory management is crucial for meeting customer demands and reducing operational expenses.
  3. Application Hosting: Companies leverage storage infrastructure to host applications and databases, ensuring secure access and reliability for employees and customers. Robust storage solutions underpin seamless application performance, data availability, and scalability.
  4. Cloud Storage: Cloud storage services offer scalable and cost-effective data storage options, enabling businesses to securely store and access data from anywhere with an internet connection. This flexibility enhances data accessibility, reduces infrastructure costs, and supports remote work arrangements.
  5. Collaboration and File Sharing: Businesses employ storage systems to facilitate team collaboration. They securely store and share documents, presentations, and media files, enabling employees to work together efficiently, whether in the office or remotely. Secure file storage is essential for protecting sensitive business information.

What’s Next?

Data storage is an essential component of our digital life. Increasing storage capacities, cloud storage options, and strong security protocols are just a few of the challenges involved in data storage that are being addressed by innovative technologies and enhanced storage administration approaches. As technology advances, it becomes increasingly important for producers and customers to be cautious and flexible in data storage management.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are some examples of tertiary storage?

A. Magnetic tape, optical discs, and optical tapes are a few examples of tertiary storage. These gadgets have distinctive portable storage components and are made up of fixed drivers.

Q2. What is the most popular type of storage?

A. A conventional hard disk (HDD) is one of the most widely used media storage systems.

Q3. Where is SDS used?

A. Software-defined storage (SDS) is a technique for managing data storage that carefully divides the operations responsible for allocating resources, securing data, and managing and placing data from the hardware needed to store data.

avcontentteam 12 Sep, 2023

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