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What is cloud storage?


The past few decades have seen human civilization grow exponentially in two of its aspects. The first one is fairly obvious: the population. And the second aspect is the data produced by this population. As humans, we are afflicted with a unique need to keep a record of our actions, our environment and by extension, our lives. Our tools to record have evolved greatly over time. We have gone from wall paintings in caves to state-of-the-art servers big enough to fill up those caves. But here’s the thing, as vast as our planet is, it has its limits. Thanks to the unmitigated population burst of modern times, we barely have enough space for the people, let alone their burgeoning amount of data. Naturally, we have had to find efficient and feasible ways to store this mountain load of data. And we have.

What is cloud storage?

Before we go any further – No. We haven’t figured out how to store data on actual clouds. Not yet, at least. In tech lingo, when we say ‘cloud’, we are actually talking about a data-server that is situated in a remote location. The data-server, or the ‘cloud’, that holds your data could be hundreds of kilometres away from you and still make that data available to you in seconds.

How? Simple, via the internet. With the move to cloud computing, organisations are no longer so dependent on physical storage devices. Gone are the days of carrying around hard disks or flash drives – and sourcing secure spaces to keep them. Storing data in the cloud is much simpler, bringing you a solution that is more secure, affordable and flexible than traditional storage. Cloud storage means you can upload files, images and videos from anywhere – and access them from any location too.

A cloud storage system can mean anything from a single data-server holding all the data or to linkage of hundred data servers monitored by one control server. But almost all the cloud storage systems are typically housed in vast warehouses where their security and physical maintenance is supervised by the companies providing the cloud storage service. They ensure utilities like a backup power source and a powerful cooling system are ever-present so that the data-servers are in an optimum state of functioning at all times. Most cloud service providers have multiple such warehouses, also called data centres, where additional copies of the data are stored as a contingency.

The actual geographical location of these data centres is a matter of concern only when the data it holds is of highly sensitive nature — government documents, banking records, etc. For personal and business data storage, it doesn’t make a lot of difference where the data is physically stored as the clients can access it remotely, any time they want.

How does it work?

Cloud storage works in a somewhat alike fashion to local data storage systems. In on-premise data storage systems, the data is either stored on hard drives that are in-built into the computer itself or on data servers that are connected to computers through cables. Cloud storage systems do the same thing, except for one small distinction. Instead of connecting the client PCs to data servers physically, cloud storage technology connects the computers to data servers virtually i.e. using internet connectivity or a private online network.

At the fundamental level, a cloud storage system constitutes just two things: a data server to store data and internet connectivity to transmit that data. But for users to access this data through the internet a web-interface or portal is required. These interfaces allow the users to store, retrieve and modify the data present on the server from their individual computers. There are various levels of authorisation on the interface that determine what different users can and cannot do. So in a typical use-case, clients send data files to data servers over the internet, the server then copies this data and stores it safely for future use. Later, when a client requests to access that particular data file, the server retrieves it from the storage and allows the client to access and operate on the stored data. If the client makes changes to the data then the updated copy of that data is stored on the server.

However, most cloud storage systems employ hundreds of data servers rather than just one. This allows for multiple copies of the data to be stored separately so that the users can access the data from a different location if the original copy gets corrupted or damaged.

Different types of cloud storage

Today, there are various types of cloud storage systems available and based on their applications, they have different architectures. Based on their internal-storage methodology, there are three distinct models of cloud storage system that are commonly used:

  1. File-based storage

    The earliest and simplest form of cloud storage, a file-based system is based on a fairly straightforward approach. It employs a standardised naming system where individual data files are stored in a hierarchical manner, each with a unique name. This makes data-retrieval considerably simple for all users. File-based storage is generally used for file archiving, safe-keeping and sharing purposes. The biggest shortcoming of this type of cloud storage is its constant need for cache clean-up and that it cannot be up-scaled feasibly.

  2. Block-based storage

    A major development on the file-based storage system, this type of cloud storage is based on blocks rather than files as its fundamental unit. In block-storage, the entire storage memory of the server is divided into separate blocks and each of these blocks consists of equal-sized files of data. Imagine it as a server composed of multiple hard drives, each storing data separately. Although more complex in its approach than the file-based storage, this system provides better performance and is also more efficient. Databases, email servers, and virtual machines are the most common applications of block-based storage.

  3. Object-based storage

    The object-based storage system is the latest advancement in the domain of cloud storage. Unlike the previous two variations, this mechanism allows for storing unstructured data like photos, audio files, videos, etc. In object-based storage, data is stored collectively in random-sized buckets or cloud containers. This allows us to store a huge amount of related data together and also share it easily with other users. Compared to file and block-based storage, object-based storage has greater scalability, flexibility and ease-of-use.

Advantages of using cloud storage

Some of the most prominent advantages of using cloud storage are:

Different types of cloud storage

Today, there are various types of cloud storage systems available and based on their applications, they have different architectures. Based on their internal-storage methodology, there are three distinct models of cloud storage system that are commonly used:

  1. Easy to implement:

    Setting up your cloud-storage is a quick process as it is mostly automatic and once set-up, providing data-based services becomes much easier.

  2. Economical

    When using cloud storage, you only need to pay for the storage space that you are actually using. This means that you can start storing your data with much smaller capital than what you would require to set up your own on-premise data-server.

  3. Scalable

    Increasing your data-storage capacity is much easier with cloud storage than on local data storage. With cloud storage, you can scale up as little and as much as you want.

  4. Security

    Storing your data in a remote location keeps it safe from any disaster or attack directed towards your actual premise.

  5. Low liability

    Since your data is stored on the data-servers belonging to the cloud storage providers, it takes away all responsibility of maintaining and protecting that data off your shoulders.

Cloud storage for business

As delineated in the previous section, cloud storage has a wide variety of inherent perks. These advantages seem considerably more significant from a business point of view. In any business set up, the capital needs to be managed efficiently for the profitability and continue growth of the enterprise. And since we are living in the age of data and analytics, a big chunk of business revenue is spent in various operations pertaining to data. Cloud storage provides a huge respite here by allowing for flexible investment in your storage capacities. Newly formed enterprises can buy limited storage space as per their initial needs and then gradually upgrade as the business grows further. Even for well-established and much larger companies, cloud storage is an ideal option as the amount of memory you can store there is virtually limitless.

Another vital edge that cloud storage brings to your business is the ease of scalability. For fast-growing businesses, it is imperative to upgrade their data storage rapidly in tandem with their blooming consumer base. This is not always feasible with on-premise data storage, as that would require buying additional servers as well as renting more space to keep them. Not to mention the maintenance cost for them would also increase. Cloud data storage makes scaling your business much easier as all you need to do is buy more storage space with your existing cloud storage providers. Similarly, at times when businesses need to scale back, they can do it with cloud data storage systems with much greater ease. Whereas it can be nearly impossible to achieve with on-premise data storage as you would have already bought the servers. Using cloud data storage solutions will also make the life of your IT team much easier, as they no longer need to worry about the data maintenance and administration part of things anymore.

When leveraging a managed cloud storage system for your business, you must consider the aspects of your business that it will enhance. A well-managed cloud storage system facilitates better utilisation of your capital as well as IT resources, which eventually translates to greater overall productivity.

Is hybrid storage the way to go?

Most enterprises have some type of a hybrid storage strategy that involves a combination of on-premise and cloud storage. Given the vast amount of data that enterprises have to manage, it simply may not be feasible or cost-effective to store it all on-premise. On the other hand, it might not make sense to store all data in the cloud if some of it relates to end customers or is needed within the enterprise’s perimeter.

More and more organisations are solving the conundrum by classifying their data as hot, warm and cold and then arranging their storage accordingly. Data that needs to be readily accessible is immediately available, while data that needs to be kept for legal reasons but is not otherwise used can be stored more affordably.

Why choose TATA communication’s cloud storage services-

Tata Communications is an industry leader in providing digital infrastructure to its clients. We excel in creating data ecosystems by offering efficiently managed cloud storage solutions. Tata Communications’ IZO™ Cloud Storage is an integrated and unified cloud storage suite which provides complete control over your data while sufficing the unpredictable storage needs of your growing organization.

Tata as a brand has always been the epitome of reliability. Not to mention, the assortment of cloud solutions provided by Tata communications make it a perfect choice for all types of professional enterprises.

In the present times, your data — personal as well as professional — is one of your most valuable possessions. Naturally, deciding who handles this data is a crucial decision for all of us. Even more so when that data holds significant insights to your business. So if you have decided to embrace the future by migrating to cloud storage, Tata Communications will stand by you with all its resources and solidarity.



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What is cloud storage?