Could Cold Storage Solve the Growing Data Problem?

The sheer amount of data that businesses have to store today, including for SMEs, is astonishing. In fact, most businesses now have to dedicate a portion of their budgets to data storage alone. 

As you can imagine, the sheer complexity and cost of managing and storing data — including engagement data, behavioral data, personal customer data, data from vendors, etc. — is a major challenge. On the one hand, it would be convenient to delete as much data as possible to avoid clogging up servers. On the other hand, that same data could have strategic value at a later date. 

Ultimately, it’s less about choosing which data to keep and which to eliminate, and more about which data to put into cold storage and which to keep ‘hot.’ What is cold storage and how can it help solve the growing data problems that companies are facing? 

What is Cold Data?

Cold data, or cold storage, simply refers to data that is no longer actively used or accessed by a business. 

Most of the cold data that is retained by companies is done so for compliance purposes or to access information if necessary at a later date. It’s the kind of data that your company probably needs to have on hand at some point in the future, but that isn’t relevant in the present or the near future.

Most of this kind of data is stored in cold storage ‘archives’ that are intended to be infrequently accessed. Typical forms of inactive data placed into cold storage archives include media files, data stored as a backup, or data that is required to maintain compliance such as the PCI-DSS standards that require businesses to store cardholder data, for instance.

This stands in stark contrast to hot data, or data that needs to be accessed quickly, such as financial transactions or data utilized in marketing campaigns. However, whereas hot storage requires more expensive and high performing servers, cold data can be stored on repositories that have slower data retrieval and response times, but that are also much cheaper.

This is especially appealing to businesses with smaller budgets, and it’s one of the reasons why cold storage is now the fastest growing data storage segment. In fact, the cold data storage industry, which is currently evaluated at $8 billion, is projected by Research & Markets to have a collective $19 billion evaluation by 2027. 

Also read: What Is Cold Data Storage? Storing Cold Data in the Cloud

How is Cold Data Usually Stored?

There are a variety of ways to effectively store cold data, including through the cloud or on physical, on-premise HDDs or SSDs. On-premise storage devices are dependable, but also need to be regularly tested and will have a definite lifespan. This could put your cold data, and especially data that needs to be preserved, at serious risk. 

Cloud storage options are likely to be a more convenient option for SMEs than an on-premise solution. Cloud storage services are cheaper, more easily accessible, and come with a variety of security and compliance controls

Furthermore, many cloud providers allow you to set service level agreements in regards to how long it will take to retrieve the data. As a general rule, data stored in cold storage will likely take a matter of hours to retrieve, while data stored in a warmer storage tier should be available immediately or in a matter of minutes. 

The exception to this principle is if you are required to utilize on-premise devices in order to meet any compliance requirements. It’s also wise to perform annual evaluations of your cold data where end user employees or contractors working for you can evaluate which data is necessary to keep. It’s unlikely that all the cold data you store will be kept permanently. 

How is Cold Data Storage the Solution for Today’s Data Problems?

It’s a fundamental rule that the more data you store, the more expensive it will be. That’s why businesses, and especially those that need to store a lot of digital media or that are scaling fast, are always searching for the most cost-effective and efficient solutions for storing their cold data. That’s also why companies in the data storage industry are always focused on how they can ‘reinvent’ how cold data is stored.

When it comes to both the affordability and accessibility of storing data, it’s likely that cold storage will prove to be critical in the long term. This is because as the amount of data businesses need to store exponentially increases combined with budgetary restrictions, cold storage is emerging as the only viable solution for most businesses. 

The total volume of data consumed worldwide rose to over 64 zettabytes last year, and the overwhelming majority of this data is either infrequently retrieved or completely inactive. If this kind of data is stored in a high performing storage solution usually meant for active data, it consumes resources: both actual storage space and the power required to keep the data stored. These are resources that would be best reserved for data that needs to be accessed quickly.

Then there’s the fact that many businesses are required to hold onto data for long periods of time.To avoid legal consequences, companies are choosing to switch to cold storage solutions that enable them to store important but unused data. Data storage solutions that are low cost, durable, and high capacity.

Cold storage solutions simply provide a much more cost effective storage alternative than hot storage. Companies don’t need to be confronted with the choice between which data they want to keep. 

Especially as increased data storage is becoming a fundamental reality of digital transformation, companies can instead decide which data they want to keep easily accessible, and which data they want to be placed into a cold storage tier solution to be accessed at a later date.

Read next: Public Cloud vs. Private Cloud For Data Storage: Can We Have The Best of Both Worlds?

Nahla Davies
Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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