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Understanding Block Storage in Securing Your Data

Block Storage: Modern enterprise storage for primary workloads strive for 3 crucial parameters:

  • Quick provisioning of the large-scale storage capacity,

  • Retrieving the data quickly whenever you want; and

  • A faster, efficient, secured, and reliable data transportation.

Luckily, a block storage system, a preferred technology for databases, fulfills all these requirements. Today, more and more businesses have realized its flexibility and versatility in storage for any kind of application or file system. Well, choosing the right storage system solely depends upon your specific enterprise storage requirements and their impact on the speed and performance of IT operations. So what problems does block storage solves? Here’s what you should know about block-level storage architecture, its key benefits, and use cases.

What is Block Level Data Storage?

Block storage/ block-level storage is a type of IT storage architecture that stores data in the form of a file system or application-specific structure. IT pros can store the data files in volumes and organize them through block IDs (e.g., sector number). The data blocks are deployed on NAS (Network Attached Storage) )/ SAN (Storage Area Network) storage systems or on cloud platforms.

But what makes block-level storage widely preferred by developers? Well, in a block storage system, you can break the data into independent fixed-size blocks or pieces wherein each block acts as an individual storage hard drive. Since the block storage devices provide fixed-sized raw storage capacity, you can save data by allocating any size of volume block to a server operating system. Not only that, with block storage technology, you can even partition each block and configure the data to work with any operating system. Block storage can be configured or partitioned to work as a mounted drive volume with any OS platform. This means you can store the block across different systems wherever it is more convenient.

Block Storage | Zmanda

Some of the key features of block storage systems are:

  • Block storage is ideal for structured or transactional information such as databases, transactional computing logs, running VMs, etc. as these are static files that aren’t changed often.

  • The unique identifier (ID) includes an address stored in the object which is limited to basic file attributes. It helps the server operating systems track and manage these blocks of data.

  • You can attach or mount cloud block storage volume on a server running on any operating system. However, you must partition, format, and then *mount it. (*Mounting is the process of attaching a drive or formatted partition to a directory).

  • The NAS or Network Operating System (NOS) can directly access the block storage drive contents once the volume drive is mounted on the server.

  • End-users can access the storage block volume as a mapped drive or a local hard drive on the server’s operating system.

  • Operating systems can access the blocks via high-speed Fiber Channel or iSCSI connectivity.

How Does Block Storage Work?

Unlike object storage, the data stored in fixed-sized blocks are highly structured. This makes it easy to index and search data. Each block is treated as a single unit of data, that can be split across multiple evenly sized blocks on the Storage Area Network (SAN). Since block storage allows decoupling the data from the user environment, you can create multiple paths to the data for the users to access and retrieve it quickly. Based on the users' or application request for retrieval, the SAN system reassembles or merges the data blocks from the appropriate sectors, grabs the chunks, and presents the file to the user or application. The underlying SAN application controls each block to run applications like databases or transactions that demand continuous accessibility, modifications, and security.

Another key point is that block storage technology can be used to constantly read/write operations that are tracked using unique location identifiers. That is to say that you can overwrite the blocks or applications that are changing. While creating various file systems in the cloud servers, even if you delete your cloud instance, the older version is still available.

So, where should your enterprise applications store all the files? Depending on the workload type your organization is running, choosing block storage systems as a storage option covers certain use cases. Let’s take a sneak peek.

Block Storage Use Cases

Block storage makes sense for a wide variety of use cases:

  • Database operations and mission-critical applications are easier to manage with block tech storage that provides consistent performance.

  • Critical application files for databases such as Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange, SAP, and Oracle require block storage.

  • VMware virtual machines such as VMware use block storage as it supports industry-standard hypervisors (VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM, Citrix (formerly XenServer).

  • RAID implementations for block-based storage ensure high availability, data protection, and high performance.

  • Email servers such as the storage of Microsoft Exchange data for email servers must be block-level storage as NAS storage is not supported.

  • Storage can be either locally attached or via a SAN working in conjunction with network protocol such as iSCS.

So you see, block storage works best since the volume storage capacity can adapt with your growing data size. Being the simplest way to store data, block-based storage offers some distinct advantages for most general-purpose workloads. Let’s count upon them.

Key Benefits of Block Storage

Certain areas in which the block-level storage model beats other storage mechanisms in today's storage landscape are:

  1. Rapid IO data access - Block storage provides low latency connectivity for faster access to data. That is to say, the data is accessed using file system protocols such as (such as NFS, CIFS, ext3/ext4, and others). This facilitates faster storage by speeding up the performance of input-output operations per second (IOPS) for database servers (DB Server). E.g, caching, database operations, log files, etc.

  2. Flexible: Data volumes can be extended easily by adding new blocks of volumes when needed.

  3. Modify files frequently: You can easily modify backup media files whenever you want, as you have access to the specific-required blocks in the volumes.

  4. Granular control: A number of applications residing in block storage architecture can perform several functions native to different individual OS platforms. This is because data access and permissions privileges are directly managed and controlled easily by the block storage or server-based operating systems. For example, you can use the third-party supported OS to manage and backup block storage data or make provisions for data storage using third-party tools.

  5. Agility: Block storage file system provides logical data structure of storage volumes that makes transferring the data from one server to the other more easily. Besides, block storage supports the Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI) Protocol. This facilitates file systems to be distributed across multi-client environments to easily export files for remote block storage.

  6. Remove filesystem overhead: Block storage supports most software. With direct access to the storage block to write data, you can remove additional overheads put on the Operating System (OS) filesystem to perform read/write activities.

  7. Bootable: You can boot a server from network-attached cloud block storage volume remotely. This way, you can move the system disk from local to remote.

  8. Cost-effective: Unlike a typical data center scenario wherein block storage might be expensive, cloud block storage is a popular and affordable option in a cloud scenario. This is because you can expand the size of storage block volume capacity by extending the partition as needed.

Types of Block Storage in the Cloud

Interestingly, block storage takes over other storage options when it comes to faster data access. This is because users can achieve a certain amount of input/output per second (IOPs) i.e, faster read-write of data. Block storage ranks higher in terms of access speed, frequent modifications of files, and consistently high performance. But you must choose the right storage strategy that optimizes cost and achieve peak efficiency. So, which storage service type is right for your workload needs?

Amongst the cloud-based blocked storage types, notable examples of AWS block storage types include Amazon EFS, Amazon EBS, Amazon S3 block storage. Again, Azure block storage, and Google cloud block storage are two different service models that provide block storage in standard and premium versions.

Backup Your Block Repositories Securely With Zmanda

To get the best ROI, it's crucial to understand the unique advantages that each block storage service types have to offer. Zmanda offers a wide range of flexible cloud-based block storage backups such as tape, tape libraries, disks (DAS, NAS & SAN, file servers, RAID), & optical jukeboxes.

For quick recovery of databases, Zmanda makes it easier for customers to configure Amazon S3 block storage and validates each block that contains a performance tier residing in Amazon S3. As a result, you can access data faster with locally hosted NAS or direct-attached block storage. As an open-source backup, Zmanda’s DR integration with Google cloud block storage, Azure block storage, and AWS block storage rounds off to cloud-native backup support for major public cloud providers. Nevertheless the cloud data loss scenario, Zmanda can easily retrieve business-critical data and applications in minutes without compromising on downtimes.

For VM projects, Zmanda Backup Appliance (ZBA) facilitates VM backups for disaster recovery with near-real-time RPO for hypervisors. This ensures a lower cost and seamless backup experience. Another key point is that Zmanda automates native snapshots to create applications-consistent snapshots for ultra-low RPOs and RTOs. This ensures enhanced data protection with storage snapshots for VMware VM images that contain only the changed blocks, thereby maximizing the speed for differential backups.

Do you want to know how we can help maximize the backup experience for customers looking for block storage volumes and get hands-on experience, you can visit our backup and disaster recovery solution page.