The case for block-level cloud storage

Before block storage in the cloud, when businesses needed to provision large amounts of storage – for server data, for example – they’d need to requisition and pay for huge server instances, even if the capacity and compute power far exceeded their needs. 

Organizations now buy storage in "blocks" to exactly fit their needs, regardless of the size of their cloud server. The old way, when after you bought a server you would need to upgrade the entire system if you wanted to add more hard drive space, is over. Now you can just buy space as you go.

But which type of block storage is best for your business? That depends on what type of data you need to store and how frequently and easily you need to access that data. 

There are two options for cloud block storage depending on what type of information you need to store. Standard SATA volumes are the go-to for organizations looking to safely store documents, files, images, and logs. If you need back-end storage for a database server or have a high-performance application that performs random reads/writes, a Solid-State Drive (SSD) option is best. While some organizations will go with a RAID solution, with several standard disks chained together, the option to use an SSD is much more efficient and effective than purchasing several standard volumes and connecting them together as a RAID system.

There’s a third, hybrid option that allows users to attach both SSD and SATA volumes to the same servers, and can work great for businesses who have both types of data in their stores. This setup can accommodate businesses that want to tailor a custom solution to their needs, says Rackspace’s Chuck Thier, and can be much more cost-effective. 

“With Cloud Block Storage, you can attach both SSD and Standard volumes to the same servers. So for the applications that might need faster indexing, you could put those indexes on the SSD volumes while you put your more persistent data (that data that just rests) on your Standard volumes,” he said.

Block storage can be a powerful backend storage solution for data derived from content management systems, email systems, information archiving, or as a storage backend for Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) vendors, adds Thier.

Block storage is also a great option for storing and analyzing the mountains of information – also known as Big Data – too large to be contained and analyzed in traditional storage infrastructure. Transaction records, social media usage information, device usage, and the like, are excellent candidates for this storage type, said Eric Slack, Senior Analyst for Storage Switzerland, writing here for SearchStorage at Tech Target.

Cloud block storage can offer businesses an incredibly secure, cost-effective and easily accessible solution. And as the technology advances, you’re sure to find the exact type of system that will fit your business needs.

By Sharon Florentine

Sharon Florentine is a freelance writer who covers everything from holistic veterinary care to data center technology and occasionally blogs for cloud provider Rackspace Hosting.

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