The cloud is a big, fluffy, nebulous place to store your files and applications. But inside the cloud, not all storage space is the same.

In fact, cloud data storage comes in wide range of shapes and sizes to accommodate different kinds of data and different user needs.

On a personal level, you use hard drives, flash drives, memory cards, CDs, DVDs, and other media for different purposes. For example, at your desktop computer alone you may use hard drives for your current working files, CDs for backups, and flash drives for transferring files. In all cases, your choice of technology matches the task.

Cloud storage is no different. An organization may need to keep years of data records offsite to comply with regulations, but also need rapid access to cloud backups after a cyberattack. One storage solution can’t do both.

Microsoft’s Azure Storage solutions can. Like other Azure cloud services, Azure Storage comprises a variety of services enabling you to easily customize and scale your storage infrastructure.

Different Types of Storage

There are different ways to think about storage needs and types.

Hot vs. Cold

This may be the most important distinction in data storage. Basically, hot storage is for data you need to access most quickly or often; cold storage is for infrequently accessed data, like archives.

Hot storage is more likely to employ solid-state drives for lower latency and higher transaction rates than spinning hard drives. It’s more likely to use faster transport protocols and be located closer to the client’s workplace. It must be consistently fast and reliable. All these factors are critical in fast-processing-intensive situations like interactive video editing, messaging, online transactions, or data restoration after an outage.

Cold storage is good for legal and financial record retention, and other uses where you access the data rarely — and you’re not in a rush to get it. Less expensive equipment and slower transport protocols are sufficient. Besides the cloud, a common cold storage medium is old-fashioned magnetic tape, which is usually stored racked in an offsite facility, and must be physically retrieved. You may need to plan for it in advance.

Azure Blob Storage comes in both hot and cold (or “Cool”) varieties — as well as Archive and Premium. It uses an object-based architecture (see below) for massive scalability and deployment, making storage accessible anywhere.

Archive and Premium storage are basically “super cold” and “super hot” storage respectively.

For instance, you’d use Azure Archive Storage for record retention, Cool for data accessed infrequently; Hot for frequently used data like shared working files, and Premium for super-fast mission critical uses like data restoration.

File, Block, and Object-Based

Data itself can be stored in different architectures. File storage is the one most people know: files with their metadata are stored separately from other files in a hierarchical “folder” structure. This is great for environments where people are sharing and accessing the same documents within an organization.

Azure Disk Storage and Azure Files handle file sharing and virtual machine storage for just this kind of usage.

One step up, block storage dispenses with individual file metadata so that the server’s operating system can divvy up and store data as it sees fit. As a result, block storage is known for high performance and efficiency. It’s useful for databases, email servers, and RAID storage systems.

Object-based storage keeps data in isolated containers called objects and assigns each object a unique identifier. Each object can be found by its number, so there’s no need for a hierarchy. With its flat memory structure and great flexibility in its metadata, object-based storage like Azure Blob can be scaled easily to almost any size.

Full, Incremental, and Differential

Azure Backup effectively handles the three basic kinds of backups — full, incremental, and differential — plus a couple modern variants. Each has pros and cons, especially when it comes to restoring data.

A full backup is what it sounds like: everything. An incremental backup includes only data that’s changed since the last incremental. A differential backup includes all data that’s changed since the last full backup.

“Synthetic” and “incremental-forever” backups consist of some combination of full and incremental backups. They reduce restore times basically by making fewer trips to the actual storage media and managing the trips they do make more effectively.

Explore Azure Storage

This isn’t even all. Azure can handle database, table, application queue, and other types of specific storage needs as well.

Many of them you can manage anywhere from a single interface: Azure Storage Explorer is available as a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops.

The Right Storage for the Job

Data loss is the main reason companies go out of business after a ransomware or other type of cyberattack.

But that’s only one reason to make sure your storage solution is right for the type of data you’re storing and how you’re using it.

There are many types of data requiring different types of storage, and your company’s needs are unique.

That’s why it pays to consult with someone who understands the differences. PC Professional is a certified Microsoft Azure partner with experts who can help you configure a storage solution that’s right for your company’s particular data needs. Get in touch with us today.


Cover photo by from Pexels


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