What are storage services?

Natasha Ong
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4 min read

What is cloud storage?

Let's think about your computer’s storage.

  • Think about the way you save a photo, a document, or any other file on your computer.
  • Normally, this data is stored on your computer's hard drive (the physical part in computers that stores and retrieves data).
  • If your computer gets damaged or lost, you might lose those files since they're all in your physical hard drive - unless you've made a backup on an external drive (e.g. a USB) or another device.

Now, think of the internet as a huge computer.

  • Instead of saving your photos or documents directly on your computer's hard drive, you can now save it on the "Internet's hard drive" - a place where you could access it from any device (your phone, tablet, or a different computer), as long as you have an internet connection.
  • This is cloud storage!

Cloud storage lets you save your files (like photos, documents, videos) on the internet, rather than just on your computer's hard drive. You can think of cloud storage as renting a little piece of the Internet's storage space, where your files can live.

Who uses cloud storage?

Cloud storage is versatile and offers benefits for a wide range of users, both individuals and organisations. Here's a breakdown of some uses of cloud storage:

  1. Individuals: Many people use cloud storage to store photos, videos, and documents – think of iCloud and Google Photos!  
  2. Businesses/Organisations
  3. Small businesses: Cloud storage helps small businesses protect their data without the need for a complex IT infrastructure. They can also share files with employees and clients seamlessly.
  4. Large corporations: Larger entities utilise cloud storage for storing their big amounts of data, collaboration between teams, and data backup and recovery. For example, hospitals might use cloud storage to save patient records for easy access and sharing. Platforms like Netflix and Spotify rely on cloud storage to host vast libraries of content and stream it to users worldwide.
  5. Developers: Cloud storage is used for version control, code sharing, and even hosting applications.

Storage types

AWS storage services are grouped into three categories: file storage, block storage, and object storage.

  • In file storage, data is stored as files in a hierarchy. For example, your computer's file storage system (Windows File Explorer, Finder on MacOS).
  • In block storage, data is stored in fixed-size blocks. Data is split into the fixed-sized blocks, and each block is treated as their own piece of data storage.
  • In object storage, data is stored as objects in buckets. Like file storage, data does not get split up and can be stored in all kinds of sizes. But, unlike file storage, data does not stored in a hierarchy - you can't have 'folders' within buckets!

Block vs object storage

  • Let's say you have a file with 1 GB of text inside.
  • If you're using block storage, the file is split into fixed size chunks of data and then stored. If you want to change a single character in your file, you can simply update the one block that contains the character you want to change while leaving the rest of the file alone.
  • If you're using object storage, the file is stored entirely without splitting it up. If you want to change a single character in your file, you will have to update and upload the entire file.
  • That's why block storage is best for data that changes frequently (e.g. apps that have software updates). Object storage is best for data that rarely changes (e.g. photos and videos), backups and archives.

Are there any storage services in AWS?

Oooh absolutely! AWS offers a wide range of storage services to suit different data storage and management needs. We'll be exploring these AWS storage services in the next few topics, but here's a quick preview:

  • Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) is like a digital warehouse where you can store all your photos, videos, files, and more. It's perfect for securing and managing your data in the cloud. S3 is an object storage solution.
  • Amazon EBS (Elastic Block Store) lets you attach storage to your Amazon EC2 instances, providing a reliable way to store data and access it as needed. EBS is a block storage solution.
  • Amazon EFS (Elastic File System) lets people and devices access/share files stored in a central location in the cloud. EFS is a file storage solution.
  • Amazon Glacier is ideal for cost-effective data archiving and backup. Use Glacier for data that you don't access frequently but need to retain for the long term! Glacier is an object storage solution.