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Understanding Cloud Object Storage in Securing Your Data

As per the research firm IDC’s prediction, “unstructured data will represent 80% of data worldwide by 2025.”

A majority of the data is unstructured in the 21st century. As your business grows, imagine the continuous explosion of unstructured data with no particular schema. A potential storage headache, right? Think about the massive Petabyte-scale applications. So you think Scale-Out File Server (SOFS) storage is an option that might save you a fortune. But think again. What if you run out of capacity? Adding a new shelf of commodity drives (disks) will only increase the storage costs. Besides, it also requires extensive planning as it gets more complex to support. Then there are maintenance and raw disk performance concerns. This approach is labor-intensive and no doubt way too expensive.

Some organizations rely on public cloud storage. Though, it’s a good choice for smaller data sets but can turn out to be the costliest approach while dealing with petabytes of storage and massive file transfers. Similarly, traditional storage systems such as NAS and SAN don’t seem to fit easily as the data is largely unstructured.

Now, the question is which flexible and low-cost data storage format should enterprises rely on to store unstructured and mountain data at scale?

You can find many storage solutions. Cloud object storage format as an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution is one of them that leverages cloud storage capabilities.

So, what exactly is object storage? Let’s find out.

What is Object Storage?

Object storage, also known as object-based storage, is a structurally flat file system to aggregate storage across locations. In this format, the file space composes an unlimited amount of metadata tags that use HTTP APIs to describe and locate the object. In other words, you can directly access the data kept on object storage devices through APIs or HTTP(s) protocol. Such metadata tags include unique identifiers that facilitate better identification and classification of data. Forget complex hierarchies. This approach is capable of scaling to petabytes of data by aggregating storage into grid storage structures that undertake load distribution. This makes it highly resilient and a viable option for public cloud storage.

Another key point is that these metadata tags are highly customizable that lets you easily organize, access, retrieve all of the data by tracking and indexing files whenever required. Object storage service can be implemented at the device level, system level, and even the interface level. The data is stored as objects in one repository but distributed across multiple nodes instead of dividing them into files and folders. This ensures data availability, searchability, and enhanced data security as it protects the data against accidental deletion or corruption.

Some of the popular use cases of object-based storage system that require data to scale up to petabytes and beyond are:

  • Unstructured data that includes music, videos, images, and multimedia files,

  • Pharmaceutical and financial data,

  • Backup, database dumps, and log files,

  • Archived files, media assets,

  • Historical data sets of diverse nature; and,

  • Sensor data.

How Object Level Storage Works?

Unlike traditional relational databases with rows and columns, object-based storage architecture stores units of data in a structurally flat data environment. Each object stored includes metadata (description and unique identifiers), data attributes, and the stored data itself linked across geographically dispersed nodes. The system can scale out endlessly by adding nodes. This facilitates automatic routing of data to the right storage systems which lets you locate objects even if it is not stored in the same physical location.

Since the object storage platform is designed to be “eventually consistent,” any app can find the updated data across the entire Object Store over time. So now, finding the latest content without searching through the file systems is just at your fingertips.

How Object Storage Works? | Zmanda

Object Storage Options in the Cloud

The major contributors of cloud object storage systems are:

Amazon S3 object storage - Amazon’s S3 object storage is one of the best open-source object storage media and a distributed service for on-premise and private cloud deployment that provides 99.999999999% durability. Interestingly, the AWS object storage stores data as objects within resources that are called buckets. Since, each object in S3 is identified by a bucket, a key, and a unique version ID, you can easily organize data on the right storage tier that can be accessed and retrieved anytime from anywhere. Also, you can store any type of unlimited data in a native format and manage storage in one place.

Amazon Glacier - AWS Glacier is a widely supported AWS object storage solution that provides S3’s scalable storage infrastructure in the cloud to scale up much faster. Apart from providing robust and comprehensive security, Amazon glacier is perfect for storing long-term data so that you can access archives whenever you need. However, it’s not a good option for frequently accessed data. The best part of AWS glacier is that this solution satisfies all the compliance standards to meet the most stringent regulatory requirements.

Azure object storage - Microsoft Azure is another popular cloud provider of object storage services. It is also known as blob storage that supports hot (frequently accessed data), cool (infrequently accessed data), and archive (rarely accessed data) access tiers. Since Azure object storage supports multiple storage account types with unique features, objects in blob storage are flexibly scaled up with tiered storage. Such storage is ideal to build powerful cloud-native and mobile apps. Azure storage analytics lets you trace, monitor, and diagnose data of storage accounts to perform log analytics for workloads.

Google cloud object storage - Another alternative is to store data in the cloud with Google cloud object storage that supports the terabyte size of data on individual objects. Four types of cold storage tiers are available: Standard (frequently used data), Nearline (infrequently used data), Coldline (rarely used data), and Archive (long-term storage data).

Now that you know some of the best cloud object storage services in the market and their different use cases of object storage, let's take a look at the top benefits of object-based storage.

Key Benefits of Object Storage

The important benefits of the object-based storage architecture include:

  1. Robust accessibility - Since all of your data is self-explanatory with custom metadata that describes the contents, you can easily add metadata tags, track and index files across locations to manage unstructured data without the need for any additional software or databases. With simpler HTTP API metadata access, it's a huge technical advantage for developing major operating systems and programming languages, and for analytics, the new possibilities are endless!

  2. Infinite storage - Distributed storage systems have an infinitely scalable flat structure with no dependency on hardware or software i.e., not restricted to a single server or NAS. Keep adding nodes to scale up to any number of custom attributes. There are no limits. This way, you can build massive unstructured data stores without any administrative overhead.

  3. Cost-effective solution - Unlike other storage environments, object-based storage device provides a distributed geo-spread model scales out unlimited data with high data accessibility. The result is pretty much guessable! This lowers the equipment costs and management of multiple racks of storage within one entity. In addition, you don’t have to compromise on security and data integrity. Furthermore, you pay for what you use which makes it a great choice for public cloud storage. Plus, if you have private cloud object storage or space, the cost is even lower!

  4. Long-term data protection - Object storage services such as Amazon S3 and Azure Blob store objects in cloud tiers that support erasure coding and replication. This ensures long-term data protection most cost-effectively.

  5. Faster data retrieval - Data retrieval is faster with unrestricted metadata and ID numbers. This makes the life of storage administrators much easier because the search through metadata is faster. So now, you can implement your policies for data retention, preservation, and deletion without the need to sift through file structures.

Note: While object storage system surely has its distinct advantages, it’s not well-suited for traditional databases as writing objects is a slower process. Moreover, you cannot modify object-based modular units as it is designed to write files to object storage only once.

So, which Object Storage Open Source platform should you choose?

Well, you have plenty of choices for open-source platforms that implement cloud object storage software in the company data center. But, before you invest in a third-party object storage platform, conducting extensive research on these questions is worth any administrator’s consideration:

  • Do the features and benefits of various object-based storage systems fit your organizational needs?

  • Should you deploy hardware, or software-based object storage, or a combination of both?

  • Which type of data encryption protection should enhance security for the cloud and on-premise?

  • Which is the best cost-effective storage for static retrieval of unstructured data?

The answers to these questions can make a difference in the long term. This is because every object storage type is different based on its complex setup procedures. But for a greater object storage efficiency, backup, and recovery without impacting RTO and without surprising costs, you need to sit back and relax! Because Zmanda is here to solve businesses' common storage pain points.

Zmanda Helps You Make a Better Choice

To do it right, Zmanda delves deeper into object-based storage architecture to integrate data protection solutions that simplify your data backup and management.

How Zmanda Enterprise Backup Works | Zmanda
  • Built on proven layered security architecture, Zmanda offers the most cost-effective solution that maximizes backup performance without breaking the bank.

  • As an open-source and enterprise backup software, you have enough opportunities to leverage integrated cyber protection to backup, archive, and retrieve petabyte-scale data at any time, anywhere.

Planning for your enterprise terabytes to exabytes? Get in touch with us to know how we get the best possible mileage for all your enterprise storage needs.