Object Storage vs. File Storage vs. Block Storage

27. May 2020

What we have learned from past projects is that every company has certain, sometimes very different, requirements for a storage solution. While some companies focus on content sharing, others focus on the availability of huge and complex databases. Whatever your company's requirements are: In order to be able to decide on the right storage solution, an understanding of the different types of storage is essential.

Below is a summary of the three main types of storage: object, file and block storage.

Object Storage

object storage

Object storage is a collection of data with a unique identifier and an infinite amount of metadata.

When the data is added to the object storage, it is usually given an identifier called a Universally Unique Identifier (UUID) or Globally Unique Identifier (GUID). These identifiers are 128-bit integers. This means that the identifier - the "name" of the object - is a kind of complex number. In fact, the identifier is so complex that it allows each identifier to be considered unique. Metadata is any information used to classify or characterize the data in a particular object.

The advantages of object storage
The main advantages of object storage are that it enables the storage of huge amounts of unstructured data while providing easy data access.

  • The flat structure enables the storage of huge amounts of unstructured data.
  • Unlimited scalability by using GUIDs instead of the hierarchies characteristic of file or block storage.
  • The unrestricted nature of metadata allows organizations to easily implement their own policies for the retention, storage and deletion of data.

The disadvantages of object storage
The 128-bit identifier is not user-friendly for some users - and the metadata management approach may prove too complex or inappropriate for certain use cases. As a result, media production companies often use third-party software that layers the organizational schema over object storage.

The use cases for object storage

  • Storage of unstructured data like multimedia files
  • Storage of large data sets
  • Storage of large quantities of media assets such as video material as an archive instead of local tape drives
  • Outsourcing of cold data to save costs

File Storage

file storage

For organizations that require a friendlier user interface but lower storage requirements, file storage is recommended as the storage solution.

With file storage, the data is stored in files. These files are in turn organized in folders, and these folders are then organized hierarchically into directories and subdirectories. To access a file, users or computers only need the path from directory to subdirectory to folder to file.

The advantages of file storage
The main advantage of file storage is the accessibility of file storage. However, using file storage in the cloud adds a key element: sharing. When storing files in the cloud, as on a single computer, an administrator can easily set access and edit permissions on files and trees, making security and version control much easier to manage. This allows for easy sharing of access and therefore easy collaboration.

The disadvantages of file storage
The disadvantage of file storage systems is that there is a point where the hierarchy and permissions become too complex and slow down the system. This happens when data grows in the company.

The use cases for file storage

  • Storage of files for an office or directory in a content repository such as user profiles or group drives.
  • Store files in a small development or data center environment that provides a cost-effective option for local archiving.
  • Storage of data that requires data protection and easy provision.

Block Storage

block storage

Many cloud-based enterprise workloads currently use block storage. In this type of system, data is broken into pieces called blocks and then stored in a system that can be physically distributed to maximize efficiency. Each block is given a unique identifier that enables the storage system to reassemble the blocks when the data they contain is needed.

The advantages of block storage
A block storage system is used when it is important that data can be quickly retrieved and manipulated, with an operating system accessing these data points directly across block volumes.

Block storage also decouples the data from the user environments so that the data can be distributed across multiple environments. This creates multiple paths to the data and allows the user to retrieve it quickly. When a user or application requests data from a block storage system, the underlying storage system reassembles the blocks of data and presents the data to the user or application.

The disadvantages of block storage
The main drawback of block storage is the lack of metadata, which limits organizational flexibility. In addition, compared to object storage and file storage solutions, it is more expensive and more complex.

The use cases for the block storage

  • Storage of databases that require performance
  • Storage for RAID volumes (RAID: Redundant Array of Independent Disks)
  • Storage of data for critical systems that affect business operations

Have you made a choice yet?
Which storage type is right for you? Object Storage, File Storage or Block Storage?

Dario FurigoI hope that this summary has given you a good overview of the different storage solutions. No matter which way you decide to go, we will be happy to support you with our many years of experience and expertise and look forward to hearing from you.

Dario Furigo
Team Leader Virtualization & Storage
+41 31 959 95 19