Cloud Storage Definition & Meaning

 

By Vangie Beal

Cloud storage refers to the storage of online data in a cloud environment, which can include multiple connected computing resources. The term cloud to describe computing networks first came into common use in the 1990s, but it did not become popular until Amazon used it in 2006 to describe EC2.

A few benefits of cloud storage include:

  • Data protection, backup, and recovery protocols
  • Greater accessibility and reliability for large amounts of stored data
  • Rapid deployment so that a business can more quickly move data to a cloud environment
  • Lower public storage costs because a provider manages the hardware and infrastructure

Many cloud storage providers offer pay-per-use plans, which can help businesses better afford cloud storage. Although storing large amounts of data can become expensive, it’s still a valid investment for large organizations, especially if they are only paying for the specific amount of data they have actively stored. That saves organizations the upfront costs of purchasing hardware and any wasted storage space that is unutilized.

The growing popularity of object storage also allows businesses to store enormous amounts of unstructured data in a pool with no hierarchy or organization. Object storage is one of the most flexible and affordable methods of storing large quantities of data. Block storage is more accessible if businesses need to make regular edits to their data. However, it’s not as scalable as object storage. Neither is file-level storage, which requires data to be structured and organized. Different cloud storage providers often offer different storage options (whether object, file, or block) from which businesses can choose depending on their data and needs.

Types of cloud storage

There are four general categories of cloud storage within cloud computing.

Personal cloud storage: This service is available to individuals through platforms such as Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive, through Gmail or Google Workspace. It is also known as mobile cloud storage. Personal cloud storage allows a user to access their data from any location and sync and share from multiple devices. Users can back up files in their personal cloud in addition to their primary method of computer storage.

Public cloud storage: This typically refers to storage as a service (STaaS) offered by cloud providers, where businesses rent public cloud space to store their software and application data. The cloud provider manages all of the hardware from their own data centers or virtual infrastructure. Different providers offer different kinds of data storage. One possible problem with public cloud storage is that providers may store the data in any location, which could cause high latency as data must travel farther across networks. Where data is stored can also raise compliance issues with regulations such as GDPR.

Private cloud storage: A private cloud is typically hosted on-premises in an organization’s physical location. Private cloud storage allows companies’ IT teams to manage the cloud and provides added security because they control all aspects of the network. Private cloud storage will have lower latency because the servers are right there, not hundreds or thousands of miles away. A few risks do come with having only a private cloud, though: backing up data can be more challenging, especially if it’s only hosted in one location. And disaster recovery is much more challenging to plan without multiple locations to store data.

Hybrid cloud storage: A hybrid cloud environment includes an organization’s private cloud storage and one or multiple public cloud environments. Because workloads can be deployed either in a distant public cloud or on the premises, hybrid cloud environments are often more flexible. Businesses can decide in which cloud to store their data depending on their needs. Hybrid cloud storage is a good option for businesses that need low-latency, on-premise data storage as well as storage for large amounts of data that they don’t use as frequently.

Disadvantages and advantages of cloud storage

In a business environment where ever-increasing amounts of data must be stored and processed, the cloud is extremely helpful and important. Businesses are able to store large amounts of data and access it more readily. Cloud storage also provides backups and disaster recovery, assuming you choose a good provider.

The biggest disadvantage of cloud storage is the network slowdown it may cause. Internet networks may struggle with bandwidth if a user is accessing large amounts of data in the cloud. Cloud storage can also be expensive, depending on the provider, the services they offer, and the specific type of storage chosen. Cloud storage security can also be a concern, since data is spread so widely across networks and servers that it can be challenging to manage.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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