Cloud Object Storage – Basics and Examples

Cloud Object Storage. Basics and Examples

Once you have used a cloud storage service, you are most likely going to be faced with its different types: block-, file- and object storage. These types determine how data is stored and used. We are going to explain in depth, one of the most commonly used storage types – object storage.

Types of Cloud Storage – The Basics

Any cloud data storage allows you to store data in a few ways, such as files, objects (for example, virtual machine instances) or as data blocks (let’s call these RAW data access).

Block storage is similar to a personal hard drive: you can install it onto any server and create a necessary file system, in which you store data. When we mention the cloud, we refer to the virtual storage space that you need to connect to any virtual server instance. After that, you can store files, backups, etc. on that storage, as it would be a local drive for the virtual server. Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) – is a typical example of block storage.

File storage is more like a personal folder (bucket) with files and subfolders structured to desire by the user. You can treat it as a remote folder connected to your PC or virtual server instance. In most cases, you will first need to install a client application that allows you to remotely map your cloud file repository. Typical example – Azure File Storage.

Finally, object storage is more like a special data space for custom objects: virtual machines, databases, applications, backup archives etc. It typically consists of data blocks with associated metadata. Using these two components, cloud storage manager presents it to a user as a solid object with a unique identifier across the entire data repository. The greatest example of such an approach is the Amazon S3 product.

Object Data Storage Use-Cases

The main advantage of using object-based storage is the ability to store data anywhere in a cloud data pool, independent of any file structure. So, it is better suited to use with media files, backups, virtual machine instances, databases, apps configuration data, etc. Object storage's flat address space allows you to easily scale it by adding more storage to the pool. This flat structure also simplifies data allocation and makes its administration easier.

Nowadays, the most frequent cases of use for object storage are:

  • Static content web distribution. It is easy to allocate files for unique names for public distribution, so it is not necessary to use folder structure in file storage.
  • Backup, archives and Disaster recovery data. Since any backup represents an archive with corporate data, it is a good example of a unique object for flat data storage. You can also easily scale backup storage without changing the backup tools’ configuration.
  • User files and media sharing. Buckets of files with unique ID’s are far more convenient for remote users, than complex folder structure.
  • Big Data analytics. Since you can allocate data across distributed data pools, it is easy to make a balance of storage costs (for example, by using remote and cheap storage) and a unified access for report generation (remember, that any object stored has a unique ID).
  • Large data sets. Whether you’re storing pharmaceutical or financial data, or multimedia files such as photos and videos, storage can be used as your big data object store.

But as any object consists of associated metadata and an ID, object-based storage is generally slower than block- or file- systems. So, it is not a good choice for high-performance systems.

Object Storage Solutions

There are a lot of object storage solutions on the market, but we will highlight the most popular – below you will find our shortlist of cloud object storage solutions:

  • Amazon S3 is a storage part of a complete Amazon cloud platform with a pay-per-GB pricing model. You can simply integrate it with most AWS solutions, as well as share content with your customers and partners. It has full REST API and SDK support and easily integrates with third-party products. Amazon’s data centers are distributed around the world, thus ensuring in geo-redundancy of the solution.
    Amazon S3 also has a flexible security model, including an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) service for managing user access.
  • Google Cloud Storage is the basic storage service for Google cloud products, e.g Google App Engine. Google also has geo-redundancy across the US and Europe. Google CE supports access using REST API and proposes relatively low prices per GB and a one-year trial period (according to information for 2017).
  • Microsoft Windows Azure Blob Storage. Azure's cloud storage is included in its basic package of services and is accessible from the main dashboard. It has Standard and Premium storage classes, but you can only get Standard for BLOB storage (blobs are storage objects containing any file types). Users also get geo-redundancy, but they have to manually select a replication strategy.
  • Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage is a separate Backblaze service that can store your applications’ content with access through the RESTful API or CLI. It is historically built specifically for backup needs, but now its feature list extends to common data storage and sharing. The object storage service offers much of what others offer, but at a lower price – $0.005/GB/month (actual at the time of publication of article).
  • Wasabi Hot Storage. According to the company, it provides a service with significantly lower prices and better performance than Amazon S3. But more importantly, it is fully compatible with the Amazon S3 API, thus eliminating “vendor lock” for its customers and simplifying the transition. Any application that uses Amazon S3 can also connect to Wasabi without any app code changes. All user data is stored in a Virginia-based data center (actual at the time of publication of the article).
  • Rackspace Scalable Cloud Object Storage – is another OpenStack-based cloud platform. Rackspace’s Object Storage works closely with content-distribution network (CDN) in over 200 global edge locations, thus allowing rapid data access around the world. Users can access the storage via a web interface or desktop clients or programmatically, using API and various developer tools for Java, Python, Node.js, Ruby, PHP, and .NET.

Summary

By using object based storage in cloud, you can easily organize media or backup data and ensure its high availability. You can even try your own disaster recovery strategy for free, using cloud vendors’ test periods and installing CloudBerry Backup with its 15-day free trial. Try complex backup and storage solutions for FREE and find out whether it meets your business needs.

We also have separate comparison articles about Google, Microsoft and Amazon cloud storage solutions.

If you have any questions left – please let us know in the comments section below.

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