Cloud computing is growing fast and is projected to maintain a strong upwards trajectory for 2021. Public cloud spending increased by 34.4 percent in 2020, thanks to increased reliance on the cloud due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out faster, it will still take some time before we return to anything resembling normalcy, with enterprises and consumers alike looking to the cloud to help keep things running. In fact, the cloud will likely play a vital role in the new normal.
That’s why it’s essential to get educated on cloud storage and what the top cloud providers look like for 2023. We will define cloud storage, how it works, and the most popular providers for the year.
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Let’s dig in.
What is Cloud Storage?
Cloud storage, also called cloud backup, is a computing service model that lets you transmit, store, and access files and data in a remote, offsite location, operating through the internet, all courtesy of a cloud provider. The cloud provider operates and manages the data storage service, taking responsibility for data processing away from the customer. These responsibilities also include hosting, securing, maintaining, and managing the servers and associated infrastructure.
Customers access their cloud storage either via a dedicated private network or the public internet. The host makes sure the client has access to their data whenever it’s required. Clients pay either a per consumption or a monthly rate.
Cloud storage gives businesses of all sizes a cost-effective, scalable data storage solution. It offers smaller companies the same powerful and up-to-date data storage capabilities that larger enterprises enjoy, making the little guys more competitive and leveling the playing field.
It’s not enough to use the term “cloud storage,” we need to specify because cloud storage has three different types:
- Public Cloud Storage: Multiple customers share scalable public cloud storage, hence the name. Providers make it easy for their customers to access data, allowing them to use any device such as desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
- Private Cloud Storage: The private cloud storage model resembles the public cloud storage, but there is a significant difference: the storage system is located within the client’s onsite network. Customers use their physical servers to create virtual servers to expand their data processing capabilities. Private cloud storage services can be built and hosted by a cloud storage provider, offering exclusive private access for the customer. Alternately, the client can handle all the hosting and operational tasks themselves. Financial institutions and major retail companies often use private cloud storage due to the sensitive nature of their data.
- Hybrid Cloud Storage: The hybrid option combines public and private cloud storage attributes. Hybrid cloud is ideal for companies that have a combination of highly personal information and less sensitive data that requires storage and processing. Customers can choose which data gets stored with a third-party provider and which remains in-house. Hybrid clouds are ideal for organizations that want to expand their data storage capabilities without investing in new in-house infrastructure.
Why is Cloud Storage Necessary?
Cloud storage offers scalable, affordable storage. You are now more concerned about running out of space, keeping up storage area networks (SANs), replacing broken equipment, adding infrastructure to scale up demand, or running idle gear when the market drops. Organizations can store data safely online so authorized users can access it whenever and from anywhere.
How Does Cloud Storage Work?
Cloud storage follows the same fundamental principles as regular in-house datacenter storage. Information passes to and from a storage device that securely houses the data for safekeeping — pretty basic stuff.
However, cloud storage has its own set of rules and architecture. Cloud service providers have many large data centers located worldwide. Clients purchase storage from cloud service providers, who in turn assume most of the data storage chores, including security, delivery, capacity, processing resources, and storage servers.
Many popular cloud storage services use large numbers of hard drive storage systems grouped into virtual servers, linked in a mesh-like network structure. This architecture consists of a master control server and any number of storage servers. The cloud host’s physical machines can hold many virtual servers, each one dedicated to a paying customer. Clients can choose from many different devices, including their smartphones, laptops, desktops, or tablets, to access the servers when they want to work with their data.
But the nuts and bolts of how cloud storage works depend on what sort of storage type the host employs. The three principal storage methods are:
- Block Storage: Block storage splits huge data volumes into easily managed smaller pieces called blocks. Each block is linked to a unique identifier then assigned to one of the host’s storage drives. Customers like block storage because it’s efficient, fast, and offers a low latency that works well with applications like high-performance workloads and databases.
- File Storage: File storage organizes information into a file and folder hierarchy, an arrangement commonly found in personal computer drives and network-attached storage (or NAS). Click on the “File Explorer” function on your laptop, and you will see the file storage hierarchy in action. Information goes into files, which in turn get assigned to folders. Folders, in turn, are organized into directories and subdirectories for easy storage, access, and retrieval.
- Object Storage: Object storage classifies data into objects, and each object consists of three components. First is the stored data, then the metadata associated with the data file, and finally, a unique identifier. The object storage protocol employs a RESTful API to store the file and its metadata as one object, and then assign it an identification number. When a user wishes to work with the stored data, they present the identification number to the host system, which assembles the data along with its authentication, metadata, and security.
Types of Cloud Storage
Object storage, file storage, and block storage are the three basic categories of cloud storage. Each has particular benefits and applications.
A data storage architecture for massive amounts of unstructured data is object storage. Information is stored in the format it is received in by objects, allowing metadata customization to make the data more accessible and understandable.
Data is stored in a hierarchical folder and file structure and is commonly utilized by applications as file-based storage or file storage. Network-attached storage (NAS) servers, which use the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol for Windows and the Network File System (NFS) protocol for Linux, are commonly used for this form of storage.
A cloud storage service that saves data as blocks is an option. Each block has a separate, individual identification to protect and retrieve blocks quickly.
The Top Cloud Storage Providers for 2023
Cloud storage is surging in popularity, so it’s hardly surprising that there are many cloud storage providers to choose from, each one determined to grab a share of this fast-growing market. The problem is, which one do you prefer?
Notice that we’re drawing a difference between cloud storage services and cloud computing platforms such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Services, and Microsoft Azure. The former deals with data storage, and it’s the subject of this article. Cloud platforms are virtual environments that provide a selection of different services such as Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS). There is overlap since cloud platforms also include data storage, whereas cloud storage services deal only with storing data.
Here are the five top cloud storage providers taking shape in 2023.
This cloud storage provider is based in Switzerland. It’s more expensive up-front, but that price is a one-and-done lifetime deal that precludes concerns about potentially costly renewal fees. You can get 500GB storage for only $175, and that’s a lifetime subscription! Of course, other pricing plans offer far more storage capacity.
iDrive is a veteran of the cloud storage game and is considered one of the best providers available. You can get 5TB of storage for just $3.48 for your first year. iDrive is ideal for small businesses and personal storage.
If you use Windows, then you already have some idea about OneDrive. It works perfectly with not only Windows but Microsoft’s Office programs. OneDrive comes with 5GB of free storage. If you’re using Microsoft 365, you can access an extra 1TB per user if you begin with a $6 monthly subscription.
Let’s hear it for the original storage provider! Dropbox is the embodiment of simplicity, and the free 2GB storage you get works with any platform. You can get 3TB of storage for just over $16 a month, and there are options for business and team plans. Dropbox is comparatively pricier than some of the other data storage offerings. Still, its ease of use and compatibility with all kinds of tech makes it worth the price, especially if you aren’t very tech-minded and just want a good chunk of data storage space.
We can’t forget the offering from the Internet’s heavy hitter! If you have a Google account, you not only have 15GB of free storage and the Google One office suite. Google Drive features clients for most operating systems except Linux. Like other data storage providers, Google offers you more storage space, like 2TB for $9.99 a month under the product name Google One.
There are even more cloud storage providers to choose from, each one offering something for every taste and need. However, you can’t go wrong with the above five.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Storage
It's not surprising that the system has risen to prominence during the past ten years. The advantages of using cloud storage are:
- Accessibility: You may link to your data from any location in the world using cloud storage, which is quite accessible. All you need is an internet connection.
- Scalability: You can increase storage by raising your payment schedule and requesting extra resources.
- Recovery: Since cloud storage enables you to continuously back up your data to a cloud server, recovering lost files is simple.
- Security: Cloud storage typically provides improved data integrity and is far safer than traditional storage.
While cloud storage has many advantages and disadvantages, here are some you should know.
- Good Internet Connection: For data storage in the cloud to work efficiently, you will need a high-speed internet connection.
- Software: You will need to download the relevant software on every device to order access to the data.
- Physical Storage Devices: You may need to employ additional hard drives to use some cloud services geared for businesses.
Cloud Storage vs. Cloud Computing
Although they sound similar, the two are entirely distinct.
The practice of storing your data, files, and information remotely via data centers is known as cloud storage. A server that stores files utilizes software to view your files and add new ones to the cloud server.
Internet-based on-demand access to IT services is made possible via cloud computing. With this pay-as-you-go arrangement, you may do all your computing tasks online.
It enables you to avoid investing in and setting up onsite high-performance machines. You must tell a service provider how much processing power you require and scale it accordingly.
Cloud Storage Considerations
The main factors that enterprises should take into account are application support, cloud data lock-in, and the cost and speed of data access before implementing cloud storage and backup solutions.
What Cloud Storage Requirements Should You Consider?
There are a few essential needs when thinking about storing data on the cloud.
Durability and Accessibility
Cloud storage redundantly saves data across several devices and one or more data centers.
With cloud storage, you have complete control over where your data is kept, who has access to it, and how much resource your business uses at any given time. Ideally, all information is encrypted both at rest and while being transmitted.
Who Needs Cloud Storage?
Many people and organizations can benefit from using cloud storage, including:
Individuals who want to store and access their data, such as photos, videos, and documents, from multiple devices.
Small businesses that want to store and access business-critical data from multiple locations or devices.
How to Use Cloud Storage?
Using cloud storage is relatively straightforward. Here are the basic steps to get started:
- Sign up for a cloud storage account with a provider such as Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.
- Install the cloud storage software or app on your computer, phone, or another device.
- Sign in to your account using your login credentials.
- Drag and drop the files you want to store in the cloud into the designated folder on your device.
- Access your files from any device with an internet connection by signing in to your account.
Some cloud storage providers offer additional features such as file sharing, collaboration tools, and real-time editing of documents. Be sure to explore the options available with your chosen provider to get the most out of your cloud storage experience.
What are Cloud Storage Use Cases?
There are numerous applications for cloud storage in data management, business continuity, and application management. Consider the following examples.
Software Testing and Development
It is frequently necessary to build out, administer, and decommission distinct, independent, and duplicate storage environments for software test and development environments. Along with the time commitment, significant upfront capital expenses may be necessary.
Moving Data to the Cloud
Data entry into the cloud can be difficult for certain people. The affordability, dependability, and accessibility of cloud storage can be highly persuasive. On the other side, IT staff members who work with networking, security, compliance, storage, and backup administrators could be concerned about the practicalities of moving substantial volumes of data to the cloud.
Is Cloud Storage Secure?
Your data is comparatively safer in the cloud than on your hard disc. Files are also simple to obtain and keep up with. However, cloud services ultimately provide other individuals access to your data. Nothing to worry about if privacy is not a big deal to you.
Where is Cloud Data Physically Located?
The cloud data is physically located in "Data Centre Storage." They are not idly drifting across cyberspace. There is cloud space on individual servers located in data centers and server farms worldwide. Cloud computing server space is available from data centers and colocation providers. Making up a fictitious scenario makes it simple to demonstrate how we address this.
What is Backup and Restore?
The term "backup and restore" describes techniques and procedures for periodically copying data and applications to a different, secondary device, then recovering the data and apps from those copies.
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