With an explosion in data, many organizations are reaching a point where they have to evaluate their data storage options. Take Netflix, for example. According to The Verge, the entertainment website has more than 209 million subscribers in over 130 countries and 5800 titles on its platform. Netflix’s success cannot be solely attributed to the type of content it delivers but also how seamlessly its platform functions. You rarely have to face the dreaded buffering wheel on the streaming site. So, how does Netflix manage that? What goes on behind the scenes? Is cloud storage the recipe for its success?
In 2008, Netflix was reliant on relational databases in its own data center, until one of its data centers broke down, halting Netflix’s operations for three days. Now, this was when Netflix was a small organization, but Netflix had the foresight to see it was growing fast, and it had to come up with a way to deal with exponential growth in data. So, it decided to move to the cloud. The migration has given Netflix the scalability and velocity to add new features and content without worrying about potential technological limitations.
Netflix is one of the many organizations that are increasingly opting for cloud storage. In 2020, Etsy moved 5.5 petabytes of data from about 2,000 servers to Google Cloud. According to Etsy, the migration allowed it to shift 15% of its engineering team from daily infrastructure management to improving customer experience.
Why are more businesses abandoning On-Prem Storage for Cloud Storage?
According to 451 research, 90% of the companies have already made the transition, which begs the question, what is pushing these companies to move towards the cloud and has on-premises storage been rendered obsolete?
Let’s explore some benefits that cloud storage has to offer to modern-day businesses:
1. Security and Data protection
Deloitte surveyed 500 IT leaders, out of which 58% of them considered data protection as the top driver in moving to the cloud. As hacking attempts get more sophisticated, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to protect data in-house.
Third-party cloud vendors such as Amazon S3, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure come with extensive security options. Amazon S3, for example, comes with encryption features and lets users block public access with S3 Block Public Access.
2. Data modernization
Simply put, data modernization is moving data from legacy to modern systems. Since most companies are just moving to the cloud, cloud migration is often used synonymously with data modernization. Why is data modernization important, and why do companies opt for it?
Data modernization allows an organization to process data efficiently. Today, organizations rely heavily on data for making decisions, but this becomes a huge hassle when data is stored in legacy systems and is difficult to retrieve.
Growing fast with on-premises storage solutions means incurring costs for adding new hardware, software, and increased computing power. On the other hand, cloud storage makes it easier to scale up or down with a few simple clicks. The flexibility allows an organization to cut down on overhead costs drastically.
4. Operational efficiency
The beverage giant, Coca-cola has 500 brands in over 207 countries, and it runs hundreds of promotions every year. In 2014, the company ran a promotion during Super Bowl in which customers were encouraged to vote online. The company’s data infrastructure, at that time, was on-premises, which led to poor user performance and delays.
The incident led the company to realize the issue with its on-prem systems, such as its inability to handle high amounts of traffic, high cost, restrictive technical environment, and lack of visibility in environments. To tackle the issue, the company decided to move to AWS and realized 40% operational savings.
Choosing a Suitable Cloud Storage
The idea of cloud storage seems simple, and there is no doubt that there are various advantages a company can realize with incorporating cloud in its infrastructure. However, before jumping on the bandwagon, it is important to understand different types of cloud storage, and then select the one that matches the best with business needs:
1. Object Storage
Object storage is one of the most common forms that most cloud providers offer. In object storage, data is added to an object with a unique identification number, making it easier to retrieve. Object storage allows users to store a massive amount of unstructured data without compromising accessibility.
Improved accessibility can be attributed to metadata, which users can deeply customize. Metadata allows users to create their own rules and policies for data retention, deletion, and preservation.
Object storage is ideal in situations when a business needs to store large amounts of unstructured data that it accesses periodically. The scalability and flexibility that object storage offers make it a go-to choice for many businesses thinking of transitioning to the cloud.
Some common object storage examples include Amazon S3, Azure Blob Storage, and Google Cloud storage.
2. File Storage
File storage divides data into files. These files are then stored into folders and then subdirectories and directories. Unlike object storage, file storage is a hierarchical storage system, which makes it ideal to name, manipulate and grant access to. However, as data grows hierarchies can become quite complex. File storage is ideal for businesses that want to store structured data with better accessibility.
3. Block storage
Block storage breaks down data into blocks, and then these blocks are stored across a system to improve efficiency and retrievability. Each block gets a unique identification number. Whenever a user needs data, these blocks combine again.
With block storage, data is spread across various environments, creating multiple paths to data, which increases the data retrieval rate. The only disadvantage of block storage is that there is no metadata, which makes it difficult to understand the context of what a particular block of data is for. Block storage is ideal for databases or applications that require service side processing such as Java, .Net, or PHP.
AWS Elastic Block Storage, Azure Premium Storage, and Google Persistent Disks are some popular block storages.
Object Storage Vs. Block Storage: Which One is Better?
Considering unstructured data is growing at an exponential rate, hence storage solutions must grow at the same pace. However, when you try to scale block storage beyond a hundred terabytes, you run into issues with durability and flexibility. On the other hand, object storage is easier to scale because of metadata. It also works best for unstructured data such as website backups and archiving of videos and images. This type of data is usually written once but read many times.
There are pros and cons associated with block and object storage. Their usage mostly depends on an organization’s specific needs, so it’s recommended to understand objectives before finalizing the solution.
Is Cloud Storage Used for Backups Only?
Now that we have understood different types of cloud storage, let’s explore some common usages for cloud storage. It may seem that cloud storage is meant for backups only, but that is not the case anymore. There are multiple uses for cloud storage, especially object storage.
1. Backup and disaster recovery
With hackers becoming more notorious, it is imperative for every organization to backup data so that it experiences minimum downtime in case of a cybersecurity issue. On average, downtime can cost a company a whopping $11,600 per minute.
Sometimes, organizations have to maintain data backups for compliance purposes, and this can translate into petabytes of data, which can become difficult to maintain and secure. The Pay-as-you-go model, high durability, availability, and scalability are some factors that make it easier to store and retrieve large amounts of data on cloud storage.
2. Building data lakes
A data lake is a centralized repository that allows users to store massive amounts of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data in its raw form. A data lake is different from a data warehouse because it stores non-relational data from unconventional sources such as IoT and social media without defining any hierarchy or schema at write.
Sysco, a global food supplying company, realized 40 percent cost savings by building a centralized data lake on Amazon S3.
Object storage such as Amazon S3 is perfect for data lakes because of its unlimited scalability, allowing users to go from gigabytes to petabytes and pay as they go. Moreover, metadata allows users to conduct selective extraction and analysis.
3. High volume file transfers
Cloud storage is also useful in situations where an organization deals with high-volume file transfers. For example, a retailer that receives thousands of invoices every day from different branches globally will quickly run out of storage space with on-premises legacy systems, or it would have to incur high costs to maintain a data center.
Cloud Data Integration: Utilizing Data in Cloud Storage
There is no doubt that cloud storage has become a go-to choice for many organizations. Some organizations use cloud storage in combination with on-premises databases, while others employ a multi-cloud storage strategy. Some organizations also use cloud storage along with other cloud databases and cloud applications. . So, every organization follows a different data storage strategy as per its needs.
However, every organization wants to seamlessly integrate cloud storage in its pipeline. Cloud data integration allows businesses to leverage all cloud data sources. The process integrates data between various cloud and on-premises systems to create a unified data source that users can access efficiently. With cloud data integration, organizations can create a single source of truth, automate workflows, and introduce flexibility and scalability in a data pipeline.
Cloud Data Integration Challenges
Cloud data integration is a simple concept, but it comes with its own set of challenges:
- Time-consuming data movement: Extracting and transferring data from on-premises to the cloud or between clouds can be time-consuming. The process can sometimes become quite complex with a high dependency on IT teams.
- Lack of standardization: Each cloud storage provider has a different protocol, making it difficult to incorporate them in data pipelines.
- ETL might become complex: Before data can be extracted from cloud storage, integrated with other sources, and loaded into a destination, it needs to undergo certain transformations to convert it into a desirable format. Extracting data from diverse sources can become difficult and slow down integration.
Cloud Data Integration and Astera Centerprise
Organizations need to opt for a tool that simplifies integration and automates most tasks. Astera Centerprise is a code-free data integration tool that expedites data integration projects and makes data available to business users without high dependency on IT teams.
Astera Centerprise’s features simplify cloud data integration:
- Built-in connectors: Built-in cloud connectors for sources and destinations eliminate the need to reinvent the wheel and make it easier for users to upload data to cloud storage or extract data from cloud storage and integrate it with data from other sources.
- Code-free environment: Astera Centerprise’s intuitive interface makes it easier for users to move data from on-premises to the cloud and between two clouds within no time.
- Easy configuration: Astera Centerprise comes with a standardized configuration for all cloud storage connectors, making it easier for business users to connect to any cloud storage without relying on the IT team.
- Quick access to data files: Astera Centerprise makes it easier to view and access data stored in a cloud.