Object storage solutions are designed to store, manage and retrieve large quantities of unstructured data. They are therefore becoming increasingly important to modern businesses, particularly enterprises. With that in mind, here is a brief guide to what you need to consider when choosing object storage solutions.
Traditional file storage systems, such as Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Networks (SAN) identify data by means of memory addresses. This essentially means that each area of storage is given its own unique address. When data needs to be accessed, the system drills down to that address until it finds the data.
This approach works very well for highly-structured data such as databases and spreadsheets. In fact, in that environment, it can be much more efficient than object storage. Unfortunately, it is extremely inefficient at handling unstructured data such as media files. Furthermore, as the volume of data increases, so does the impact of that inefficiency.
Object storage treats all storage as a single, large container. Each data item within that container is treated as an individual object. Each individual object has its own individual identifier. When the object needs to be accessed, the system just calls for the object with that identifier.
When this approach is used on highly-structured data, it is usually somewhat less efficient than the traditional approach. It is, however, more than adequate for most purposes. By contrast, when it’s applied to unstructured data, it’s vastly superior to the traditional approach. Again, as the volume of data goes up, so does the impact of the difference.
The main options for object storage solutions are essentially the same as the main options for most forms of modern IT. Your main decision is between on-premises object storage solutions and cloud-based object storage solutions.
If you opt for a cloud-based object-storage solution, you then need to decide what type of cloud you want to use. A private cloud gives you full control over your data. This does, however, mean that you also have full responsibility for the infrastructure. With that said, you can outsource the actual hands-on work to a managed IT service.
By contrast, using a public cloud means that you are limited to whatever options your provider supports. It does, however, also mean that it’s the vendor’s responsibility to manage the infrastructure.
Here is a quick guide to the main points you should consider when choosing object storage solutions. These points will apply regardless of how you choose to implement your object storage solution. The only real differences will be who takes direct responsibility for them.
Security always has to be the primary consideration for any IT solution. Object storage solutions are no more or less vulnerable to threats than traditional solutions. With that said, the fact that they can contain huge volumes of data does make them bigger targets. It can also make them more vulnerable to non-human threats such as natural disasters.
For practical purposes, there are three key elements to data protection. These are security, compliance, and backup processes. Security has already been discussed. Compliance measures will depend on the type of data being stored and the legal jurisdiction.
If you are planning to use a third-party provider, it can be sensible to look for one that can support multiple compliance programs. Even if you don’t need them in the present, this will give you increased flexibility in the future.
Backup considerations are essentially the same as for traditional file systems. Backup solutions will, however, need to be particularly robust due to the volume of data involved.
What level of support will your proposed object storage solution require and who will provide it? Consider the costs of support, including hidden costs like hiring and training additional internal staff. If you are using outsourced support, make sure the provider you choose sets reasonable SLAs.
Object storage solutions tend to be very easy to integrate with established environments, systems, and applications. This is because they typically support a lot of different protocols. Similarly, object storage solutions tend to be easy to integrate into future developments. With all that said, it’s still advisable to check for integration issues just to be on the safe side.
Scalability is unlikely to be a sticking point with object storage solutions. The fact that they work on the basis of identifiers rather than addresses means that they scale very easily. Again, however, it’s advisable to investigate this just to be on the safe side.
Object storage solutions are inherently more robust than their traditional counterparts. It is, however, still worth looking at strategies to make them as robust as possible. In particular, it’s worth thinking about the amount of network traffic they will generate and how this will be managed.
Object storage solutions tend to be very cost-effective as compared to traditional storage solutions. They can be made even more cost-effective with the right strategic planning. This is particularly important in the public cloud where there is a direct link between use and cost.
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