What is data storage?

Data storage is the process by which information technology archives, organizes, and shares the bits and bytes that make up the things you depend on every day—from applications to network protocols, documents to media, and address books to user preferences. Data storage is a central component of big data.

Think about it like this. Computers are like brains. Both have short-term and long-term memories. Brains handle short-term memory in the prefrontal cortex, while computers handle it with random-access memory (RAM).

Brains and RAM process and remember things while awake, and both get tired after a while. Your brain converts working memories into long-term memories while you sleep, and computers transfer active memory into storage volumes when it sleeps. Computers also distribute data by type in the same way brains distribute memories by semantic, spatial, emotional, or procedural.

Types Of Data Storage

Software-defined storage

Software-defined storage (SDS) uses abstraction management software to decouple data from hardware before reformating and organizing it for network use. SDS works particularly well with container and microservice workloads that use unstructured data, since it can scale in ways hardwired storage solutions simply can’t.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is the organization of data kept somewhere that can be accessed through the internet by anyone—given the right permissions. You don’t need to be connected to an internal network (that’s known as NAS) and aren’t accessing the data from hardware directly attached to your computer. Popular cloud storage providers include Microsoft, Google, and IBM.

Network-attached storage

Network-attached storage (NAS) makes data more accessible to internal networks by installing a lightweight operating system onto a server that turns it into something called a NAS box, unit, or head. The NAS box becomes an important part of intranets because it processes every single storage request.

Object storage

Object storage breaks data into discrete units and pairs them with metadata to provide context about what’s contained within it. The data stored in these objects are uncompressed and unencrypted, making them accessible at massive scale to quickly moving workloads—like containers.

File storage

File storage arranges data as hierarchical files that users can open and navigate from top to bottom. Since files are stored on back ends and front ends the same way, users can requests files by unique identifiers such as names, locations, or URLs. This is the predominant human-readable storage format.

Block storage

Block storage splits storage volumes into individual instances known as blocks. Each block exists independently, which gives users complete configuration autonomy. Because blocks aren’t burdened with the same unique identifier requirements as files, blocks are a faster storage system—making them ideal formats for rich media databases.

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