Object storage, the newest of the three standard kinds of data storage, holds unstructured data in a flat pool rather than in a hierarchy. Storage providers have struggled to match the demand for scalable storage in file storage systems because they’re hierarchical. As more data is added to file storage, categorizing and scaling it sufficiently clogs and slows the storage system.
Object storage avoids this problem because everything is stored in a non-hierarchical repository or on a server. Instead of searching for data through its connections to other files, object storage uses an API through which users can request an object through its metadata or identifier. Each object is tagged with metadata, which provides relevant information about the object (whether it’s a video, document, etc), and also has an identifier, often numerical.
Object storage has become a necessity for enterprises with heavy data needs. The entire world now runs on immense amounts of data processing, and much of that data must be stored somewhere, too. Object storage is the most scalable of all forms of storage, so much so that many storage vendors and tech companies will call it unlimited storage simply because they have yet to reach the end of its range.
Differences Between Object Storage, File Storage, and Block Storage
File storage organizes data in hierarchies through folders and directories. File storage works well for storing very organized data, though as previously mentioned, it’s hard to scale for quickly-growing data storage needs.
Block storage holds pieces of data in blocks, which come back together once they’re removed from storage. Block storage is useful for businesses that need to make a lot of quick changes to their stored data. It doesn’t provide good storage options for unstructured data or raw data, though.
Object storage scales much more readily than file or block. It’s also more suited to the growing needs of enterprises, because of both the volume of data that they need to store and the unstructured nature of a lot of stored data. Object storage works efficiently for data that isn’t accessed very often. If a business needs to store large amounts of rarely-touched data, such as information to keep for compliance or old but important files, object storage is the best choice.
Though it can work well for all types of data, and most providers have options for “hot” (frequently used) data as well as cold or archived data, it’s not as easy to edit in storage as is data stored in blocks.
Object Storage Providers
This list is an overview of some of the top object storage vendors. Many other object storage providers, including promising startups, offer object storage services.
Amazon clearly deserves its mention on any list of cloud storage vendors. It’s one of the top cloud storage providers in the world. AWS offers enterprise-grade archiving and backup for data, as well as three forms of encryption and big data analytics for large pools of data.
Microsoft’s Azure cloud object storage products include three tiers, dependent on how often a business uses their data: Hot, Cold, and Archive. Azure Blob Storage is useful for enterprises that use a lot of other Microsoft products.
Google offers a variety of object storage options, including buckets for redundant data and four different storage classes (which range from standard to archive). It’s a flexible choice for archived and backup data, allowing users to access rarely-used data easily.
Though smaller than the Big Three (AWS, Azure, and Google), IBM offers extremely popular and reliable workload-intensive object storage, with good security solutions, data backup, and data recovery.
Oracle boasts enterprise-grade data backup and protection, also offering encryption for long-term archive data. It’s especially good for businesses that use Oracle databases and other products.
Dell EMC’s Elastic Cloud Storage is designed to be flexible for multiple hardware architectures. It’s software-defined storage that provides its users multiple methods of deployment.
Despite lacking the market share and widespread knowledge of some of the earlier players on this list, Rackspace Cloud Files is an incredibly solid choice for object storage. It offers features such as private containers for holding and transferring data files, web hosting, and third party object storage integrations.
Respected cloud provider Cloudian provides S3 compatibility and support for Kubernetes. It received very high use case scores from Gartner for its hybrid cloud storage in 2020.