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4 Data Storage Methods for Businesses

By: Alan Seal on September 25, 2020

Determining the best data storage method is one of the most important issues a company must resolve. And that data is much more than mere information. Today’s organizations rely on their proprietary data assets to make critical business decisions, utilizing powerful algorithms to derive invaluable insights from the unstructured data they’ve gathered from customers, researchers, and competitors. Determining where to store that data can be a daunting challenge. To make the best decision for storing data, companies need to weigh the benefits of on-premises vs off-premises solutions and various cloud-based options.

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What Is Data Storage?

Organizations gather data from multiple sources, and their ability to collect that information is only increasing thanks to Internet of Things (IoT) devices and social media apps. All of that data has to be stored in ways that are both secure and accessible. Data storage refers to any number of ways that physical recording media are used to retain information read by computer systems so that it can be retrieved when needed. Storage technology has changed significantly throughout the history of computing, ranging from the magnetic drums of room-sized mainframe computers to the latest innovations in solid state drives (SSDs).

Why Is Storing Data Important?

Data plays a critical role in the way modern companies make business decisions, engage with customers, and develop new products and services. In order to use all of that data, however, they need a way to store it in ways that are convenient to manage and access. They must also be sure to protect their business data storage solution from cyberattack and put redundancies in place to ensure that data isn’t lost, damaged, inaccessible due to system downtime. Their data storage systems could incorporate a number of data storage devices or units, but whatever solution is implemented needs to be aligned with the needs and capabilities of the organization’s computing network.

What Are the 3 Types of Storage?

On-Premises

Considered to be the original data storage method, an on-premises data solution typically involves servers that are owned and managed by the organization itself. For larger companies, these servers could be located in a private data center facility, but in many cases, they consist of a handful of machines located in an office’s dedicated data room (or in some cases, “closet”). Whatever form it takes, the defining aspect of an on-premises solution is that the data’s owner takes full responsibility for building and overseeing the IT infrastructure that stores it. This deployment provides the greatest amount of control an organization can have over its network and data, but at the not insignificant cost of having to manage every aspect of it. Outdated equipment needs to be replaced, software needs to be patched and updated, and access protocols need to be strictly regulated. For many companies, full control over data and network architecture isn’t worth the expense of setting up and operating an on-premises solution.

Colocation

While many organizations like the idea of storing data on equipment that they own and control, they don’t want to deal with the ongoing hassle of managing that equipment. Power and cooling needs can be difficult to accommodate on a regular basis, and implementing new services or features into an IT infrastructure can be challenging and time-consuming if they’re handled internally. By colocating equipment off-premises with a data center, companies can gain the benefits of a data center’s versatility and services while still retaining complete control over their data. Rather than dealing with variable operating costs, colocation customers benefit from predictable pricing for power and cooling. The connectivity options of data centers allow them to easily incorporate new features into their network infrastructure while the robust security and compliance protocols of a data center environment provide protections that might be more difficult for a company to implement in-house. When remote hands support is added to the mix to address a company’s IT needs 24x7x365, colocation offers an outstanding business data storage method for many companies.

Cloud Storage

For many small to medium-sized companies, there may not be much sense in investing in expensive hardware for storing data. Migrating the whole of their data operations to a public cloud provider, whether through a lift and shift strategy or a more specialized migration, can deliver tremendous versatility and other benefits. Public cloud solutions are usually quite scalable, making it easy to provision more storage or computing resources as they’re needed. The easy access to the cloud also allows employees to utilize data from almost anywhere, which is a huge benefit for organizations with remote workforces. Public cloud architectures also empower edge computing strategies used by companies in the internet of things (IoT) market, helping them to extend their network reach into otherwise difficult to access areas and minimize latency.

Cloud storage solutions aren’t without drawbacks, however. While public clouds take security seriously, the open nature of the environment makes it difficult to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access. For companies that can’t afford to take risks, private cloud deployments implemented through a virtualized infrastructure offer much greater levels of security, especially when coupled with encryption protocols. In many ways, private clouds are a form of colocation, only no hardware is involved. Virtualized servers can offer companies all the benefits of physical equipment while being much easier to maintain. New approaches to network architecture, such as hybrid and multi-clouds, can store sensitive data in secure private clouds while still taking advantage of the computing power of public cloud services.

What are the 4 Types of Storage Devices

When it comes to physical data storage, there are a few different types of devices organizations commonly use. Each device offers slightly different benefits and drawbacks in terms of reliability and performance, so it’s important to understand how each one works and how they can complement one another.

Hard Disk Drives (HDD)

A hard disk drive is what most people imagine when they picture a traditional computer hard drive. The data is stored on a circular, optical disk that is scanned by a sensor arm with read-write capabilities. Essentially, it works on the same basic principle as a record player or compact disc because the sensor reads the data as the disk passes underneath. By spinning the disk faster, the drive can read the data stored on it more quickly, which translates into better performance.

That performance, however, is limited by how quickly the mechanism can spin the disk. Typical HDDs are rated at 5,400-7,000 RPM, with some more expensive drives reaching speeds as high as 15,000 RPM. An HDD drive typically lasts between three to five years, but they are relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

Solid State Drive (SSD)

The evolution of HDD storage, solid state drives feature no moving parts. They store data using NAND flash memory on a microchip. Since there are no mechanical components, they are capable of reading data much faster than HDDs, sometimes as much as four to ten times faster. They also tend to be much more durable since there are no moving parts to damage or throw out of alignment.

On the downside, they are more expensive to manufacture than traditional HDDs. Each memory block on a NAND chip has a limited number of write cycles, which makes them a costly and potentially unreliable method of storing data for archival purposes.

Tape Drives

A seemingly “low-tech” solution, tape drives are one of the oldest forms of data storage and have been used by organizations for decades to store large volumes of archival data that doesn’t need to be accessed quickly. Modern digital tape drives can last thirty years or longer with very little maintenance, making them an ideal choice for enterprise backup solutions.

While the actual tapes are quite inexpensive, the drive system required to read and write data is expensive to maintain and difficult to manage. Many of the companies utilizing tap drives for their disaster recovery failsafe have had the same system in place for many years and have avoided upgrading to a more sophisticated technology (or cloud storage) because of the migration and implementation costs.

5D Data Storage

An exciting new development in data storage technology, five-dimensional (5D) data storage uses discs of fused quartz that can encode data in three conventional dimensions (width, length, depth) and two optical dimensions. The latter is accomplished by altering the polarization and intensity of the laser’s light during the recording process. This allows small 5D glass discs to hold a staggering 360 TB of data. Often affectionately referred to as “Superman memory crystals,” 5D discs are incredibly durable and could theoretically survive for billions of years at room temperature.

As an experimental technology, however, 5D memory crystals are still not cost-effective or practical for business data storage. There are questions about whether or not the quartz composition will be able to support multiple writings, not to mention what type of hardware will be needed to read the encoded data. Still, the technology holds a great deal of promise as a future long-term archival solution for storing data due to its durability and available memory.

What is the Best Way to Store Data?

Selecting the best method for storing data comes down to identifying an organization’s specific needs. Fortunately, there are so many storage solutions available that it’s relatively easy to mix and match according to need. A cabinet deployment, then, may feature servers that utilize HDDs for general storage needs, but rely on SDDs for data and applications where performance is a factor. It might combine this physical storage with additional cloud-based storage for big data applications.

With data security and availability more important than ever, organizations must make the most informed decisions possible when evaluating data storage methods. By examining their needs and future goals, they can implement data infrastructure solutions that allow them to make the most of their data and ensure that it continues to drive positive business results.

Colocation data centers can play a pivotal role in this process. A versatile colo provider delivers access to expansive cloud storage options while providing the power-efficient infrastructure that makes it easy to incorporate new hardware storage solutions. To learn more about how your data center can transform your approach to data storage, schedule a call with one of our data center experts today.

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