The strengths of object storage have made it a very popular choice for long-term enterprise storage. Rather than storing data in an organized, hierarchical file system, object storage holds data objects in a flat pool with no hierarchy.
These objects, which are pieces of data with their own metadata and unique ID, are stored in enormous quantities in these pools, such as a data lake. Object storage has gained popularity for two main reasons:
- It’s ideal for unstructured data, such as emails, multimedia content, and other information that isn’t packaged neatly in files or folders. In some enterprises, the majority of their important data is unstructured.
- It allows much larger amounts of data to be stored easily than do file or block storage, the other types of enterprise storage. Businesses need enormous quantities of data to stay competitive, and object storage allows them to store it in one location and to apply data analytics when needed.
Object storage is also a good choice for data that needs a disaster recovery solution: if the object pool is cloud-based, it’s stored on multiple servers in different locations. If one location is compromised, the data will still be available.
The following sections explain what business sectors benefit from object storage. It isn’t ideal for all situations, which we’ll explain briefly at the end, but object storage helps businesses manage the demand for data and long-term storage. These are just a few of its top use cases.
Intensive Data Storage and Analytics
Businesses that need many databases’ worth of customer or other enterprise data stored, especially for big data analytics, benefit from object storage. Because it’s stored in one pool, the data isn’t siloed—it’s all there to be analyzed. Advanced analytics tools can be applied to object stores, such as a data lake.
Object storage is extremely scalable—one of its top advantages—so much so that organizations haven’t yet managed to reach its limits. Many storage companies call their object storage unlimited because they haven’t reached its capacity yet. For enterprises that need to store decades’ worth of important data, object storage is the best solution.
Sensitive Client Data
Healthcare institutions such as hospitals and clinics not only need to store large amounts of data but also must keep it secure and compliant with customer data protection regulations. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are the two primary examples. They apply to any business with UK or California customers or employees, which includes many major enterprises.
Data retention regulations often require that healthcare providers or government agencies keep personal data for a minimum amount of time (often six years). Object storage is ideal for large stores of customer information that may not be accessed for months or years at a time. Specifically, cold data storage—data that’s accessed infrequently—is the best choice; it’s less expensive. Object storage helps these organizations stay compliant with storage regulations without spending as much money as they might have to otherwise.
Internet of Things
Connected smart devices can’t operate properly without data. And because the data comes from customers’ phones, smart watches, speaker systems, and home security, it’s largely unstructured. Object storage for IoT data allows organizations to manage information that they can analyze and use to train their machine learning platforms. With object storage, enterprises can see the connections between applications, devices, and users better than they would if that data was distributed between different stores.
Media and Entertainment
Object storage can hold large numbers of multimedia for audio and video production. Visual content creation requires a vast amount of data, and an object store is a good location for the pieces that comprise media content. One of the major storage providers, Cloudian, offers an object storage platform specifically for media editing and asset management programs. It’s disk-based, but it’s scalable through storage nodes that customers can add as their cluster of objects grows.
Deployments Not Well-Suited for Object Storage
Two instances where object storage may not be ideal:
- Data that needs to be accessed very quickly and very regularly. Some storage enterprises are working to change the speed of object storage access, including by using flash. But in many cases, object storage is better suited to long-term storage.
- Organizations that mostly have their data stored in file or block systems already. A good method of transferring file or block data to objects hasn’t been popularized yet.