What is Cloud Storage? Explained by a Cloud Expert

Jonathan Seelig
Web Services
25 Jan 2022

Data is one of the most important assets of an organization. From budgeting records, policies, and SOP documentation to files related to accounts, finance, and marketing, companies have terabytes of data to deal with. Since the world has become digital, companies now have most of their data in digital form. And when you have data, you need someplace to store it.

Although there are many data storage devices, such as hard drives, compact disks, and flash drives, available to companies, most organizations now opt for cloud storage.

But what is cloud storage? In this article, we’ll provide a cloud storage definition and go over related concepts, such as cloud photo storage, cloud file storage, cloud backup storage, and more.

What Is Cloud Storage and How Does It Work?

Cloud storage is an online storage space where your data is stored on remote servers. The data is managed, maintained, and backed up by third-party cloud storage providers, and you can access it over the internet. Another way to define cloud storage is that it’s a virtual hard drive that you can access remotely anytime.

Cloud storage uses off-site data centers with several servers to store your data. Although one server can host multiple companies’ data, the system is secure—only you can access your data via your account. You can upload and store your content remotely and access it online anytime. This means you don’t have to buy your own servers or any other storage device to store your data.

Cloud storage systems come in several different types—some systems are designed for storing only specific types of data such as photos, e-mail messages, or files, while some systems allow you to store all types of digital data.

When you use cloud storage, you usually pay per storage consumption basis. Additionally, cloud storage services are available on-demand, which means you can increase or decrease the storage depending on your requirements.

How cloud storage works
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Storage

Advantages of Cloud Storage

Advantages of cloud storage
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Best cloud storage services offer the following benefits:

Cost Savings

Cost reduction is one of the biggest benefits of cloud storage. With cloud storage solutions, you don’t need to purchase any storage devices or invest in maintaining and expanding your storage capacities. You also don’t have to bear the electricity bills for running the servers or other data center equipment.

Cloud storage is based on the pay-as-you-go model. This means you only have to pay for the storage capacities you’re using.

Quick and Easy Access

With cloud storage, you can retrieve data or information via the internet. You can install the cloud provider’s application on your laptop, smartphone, and tablet and access your data remotely from anywhere, anytime.

Better Collaboration

When you store your files in cloud storage, you can give access to your team members to edit or read files remotely. This allows you to work with your team members on the same document at the same time from anywhere and see the changes in real-time.

Scalability

As your business grows, you have more data, and you need more data storage space.  With cloud-based storage, you can easily add as much storage as you want without the need to buy any storage devices.

Backup and Data Recovery

Since data is a crucial component of any business, it’s important to have a backup. If you use storage devices, such as hard drives to store your data, you can use cloud storage as a backup plan.

Even if your hard drives or storage devices get damaged, you can quickly recover the data from the cloud. Additionally, cloud storage backup solutions allow you to back up your data on several remote servers simultaneously, which is faster than backing up data on hard drives.

Redundancy

Although cloud storage can work with only one data server that you connect to through the internet to store and access your data, it usually uses several data servers to store your data on multiple servers. This way, even if one server goes down or malfunctions, you don’t lose any data.

Disadvantages of Cloud Storage

Security Concerns

When you use cloud storage, your confidential data is on the servers of the third-party cloud storage provider. And not all cloud storage companies have a high level of security—security holes can allow hackers to access your data. However, highly secure cloud storage services are password protected and use encryption for sending data over the internet.

Downtime

With cloud storage, downtime may be out of your control if your cloud storage provider faces internet issues or a power failure. You don’t usually face these issues in professional cloud storage for business providers that keep backup servers running to prevent downtime.

Requires Internet Connection

If you’re using cloud storage, you can only access your data if you have an internet connection. This means if your internet connection fails or it is slow, you’ll experience operational disruptions until you can reconnect to your data in the cloud.

Cloud Storage versus Local Storage

Below are the key differences between cloud storage vs local storage and cloud storage vs external hard drive:

Location

Cloud storage provides online storage space where your data is saved remotely on multiple servers. These servers are located in the data centers of public cloud storage providers or private cloud storage providers. On the other hand, local storage is the process of saving data on-premise. You can store data locally on hard drives, thumb drives, and solid-state drives.

If you want to learn about cloud storage vs data center, check out our guide to cloud vs on-premise.

Accessibility

Cloud storage allows you to access your data from anywhere and anytime, given you have an internet connection. So, even if you’re away from the office and suddenly need some files, you can access them remotely. In contrast, with local storage, you need to have the storage device containing your data with you to access your files.

Cloud storage allows you to easily share files and documents with your teammates and collaborate on them. However, with local storage, it’s harder to share data with others.

Cost

Cloud storage is generally cheaper than local storage.

With cloud storage, you only pay for the storage you use via a monthly or yearly subscription. Better yet, you don’t have to purchase and maintain any hardware, such as servers, cooling systems, etc., or pay for electricity for running the servers.

In contrast, with local storage, you have to bear the heavy costs of purchasing servers and paying staff to maintain them. Not to mention, you also have to spend on hardware upgrades every four to five years.

Risk of Data Loss

When it comes to the risk of data loss, cloud storage is safer than local storage. With local storage, if you don’t have any backup and the storage device breaks or malfunctions, you can lose all of your data. On the other hand, cloud storage providers backup your data on multiple servers, so the risk of data loss is minimal.

Speed

Local storage offers a faster transfer speed than cloud storage because local storage doesn’t require internet bandwidth. You can access data stored on local storage much quicker as compared to uploading and downloading it from the cloud.

Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage Difference

While cloud computing and cloud storage are completely different concepts, they are often confused as the same concepts.

As we have already discussed, cloud storage is essentially a storage space that allows you to store your data on servers of the cloud storage provider and access it online anytime. Some examples of cloud storage include Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud.

In contrast, cloud computing isn’t just about storage. With cloud computing, you can access computers remotely and make use of computing power to run applications. However, cloud storage is necessary for cloud computing as you need someplace (the cloud) to store your apps and data. Cloud computing models include SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a service), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).

If you want to learn more about cloud computing services, check out our article on IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.

Different Kinds of Cloud Storage Structure

There are a number of types of cloud storage structures, including Object Storage, File Storage, Block Storage, and Volume Storage.  For cloud-native computing, object storage is typically recommended. Ridge Object Storage (ROS) is a built-in management layer for secure, scalable, and durable object data storage. For a detailed description of object storage and how it compares with other cloud storage technologies, please see our article What Is Object Storage.

Different Types of Cloud Storage Services

If you’re wondering “what are the different types of cloud storage?” We made this breakdown of private cloud vs public cloud vs hybrid cloud.

Private Cloud Storage

Private cloud storage is the storage that is designed for only one organization rather than the general public. Users of private cloud storage can access it via a private connection, and their data is protected by their own firewall.  Private cloud storage can be on-premise or externally hosted offering high privacy and complete control over data.

Public Cloud Storage

In public cloud storage, companies use the storage capacity of a third-party provider. Many companies can use the same public cloud storage and access their data via the internet. Public cloud storage is maintained by the cloud storage provider, and it is available on a pay-per-use basis.

Hybrid Cloud Storage

Hybrid cloud storage is a mix of both private and public cloud storage services. Hence, companies use hybrid cloud storage to reap the benefits of both types of cloud storage. They can store their highly confidential data in the private cloud and less private data in the public cloud. With hybrid cloud storage, users get better customization and control.

 

Different types of cloud storage services
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Small and medium-sized businesses usually choose cloud storage because of its low costs. Cloud-based storage for business is also scalable, which means you can increase or reduce the storage depending on your needs. Large organizations with global users and large volumes of data usually choose hybrid cloud storage.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cloud Storage (FAQ)

What is storage as a service in cloud computing?

Storage as a Service (STaaS) is a type of cloud storage where users rent storage capacities of a third-party service provider to store their data. It is available through a subscription, and users only pay for the storage they consume. Storage as a Service (STaaS) is great for small and medium businesses with a limited budget.

Is cloud storage safe?

Security is generally a concern regarding cloud storage. However, by choosing a reliable and secure cloud storage service provider, you can get the highest level of security for your data.

Is cloud storage the future?

Cloud storage is becoming more and more popular among both the general public and businesses due to its benefits like cost reduction, easy accessibility, scalability, and disaster recovery. Cloud storage in the future will definitely be the go-to storage capacity for companies and the general public, especially distributed computing with data centers located close to end-users to reduce latency and improve performance.

What are the pros and cons of cloud storage?

Cloud storage helps reduce costs because you don’t have to buy and maintain any hardware or pay for electricity for running the servers—you only pay for the storage you use. Other benefits of cloud storage include scalability, redundancy, and easy access to data from anywhere, anytime. When it comes to the cons of cloud storage, security can be a concern with public cloud storage. However, you can eliminate this issue by choosing the best cloud storage from the most secure cloud storage providers.


Author:
Linkedin Jonathan Seelig, Co-Founder & Executive Chairman | Ridge
Co-founder of Akamai (NASDAQ: AKAM), the first-ever CDN. Former Managing Director at Globespan Capital Partners, Chairman of the board at Zipcar, and EIR at Polaris Partners. Board Member of over a dozen companies and investor in dozens more. Stanford undergrad and MIT Sloan dropout.