TECHNOLOGY

What is Cloud Object Storage?

January 10, 2024By Luke Boland

In today’s increasingly digital world, businesses on a growth trajectory need effective ways of managing and storing large volumes of ever-expanding unstructured data, from online media such as photo and video content to text-based documents, application data and analytics. This is why more and more organizations are turning to cloud object storage, an ideal format and architecture for supporting the growth and management of complex data in a flexible, highly distributed, and infinitely scalable manner.  

However, not all cloud object storage solutions are alike, and it’s critical that businesses take the time to choose a solution that is seamlessly implemented, cost-effective, and well-suited to their unique business model and data management needs.  

In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to understanding cloud object storage and its wide variety of advantages and use cases. Additionally, we’ll cover a number of factors that should be considered when choosing a cloud object storage solution, best practices for implementation, and future trends and innovations, including how cloud object storage may be integrated alongside exciting emergent technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.  

Understanding Cloud Object Storage 

In as simple terms as possible, cloud object storage is a flexible, scalable method of storing and managing large volumes of unstructured data that involves distribution across multiple devices, while still providing easy access to all users from a centralized, virtual repository located in the cloud. In addition to providing an ideal environment for building complex applications with dynamic functionality and utilizing multiple data sources, cloud object storage simplifies the process of importing or archiving external data for efficient storage, management, and analysis.  

As opposed to more traditional block storage or hierarchical models, cloud object storage works by storing data in the form of objects, complete with all relevant metadata, which are then kept in “buckets” consisting of a flat architecture and making objects more easily accessible, regardless of individual file type. Most importantly, each object has its own unique, customizable identifier, or an address that allows the object to be retrieved from anywhere throughout a broadly distributed system. In other words, rather than being dependent on its physical location or operating system, access to objects is made possible through interaction with application program interfaces (APIs), providing added flexibility, scalability, and ease of management across multiple systems and users.  

Advantages of Using Cloud Object Storage 

Cloud object storage provides a wide and diverse range of benefits for businesses, particularly organizations with large or frequently expanding data management and analysis needs. Some of the most common among these advantages include: 

Scalability and durability. Cloud object storage is incredibly flexible when it comes to increasing or decreasing the amount of space being used, and provides steadily growing organizations with the benefit of virtually limitless scalability. Additionally, because data is stored across multiple systems, devices, and data centers, cloud object storage allows for added durability and can significantly reduce the risk of data loss.  

Cost-effective pay structure. In most cases, cloud object storage solutions are available in a cost-effective, pay-as-you-go structure, allowing organizations to only pay for the space that is being used. Moreover, while many providers may charge unpredictable fees for data egress, solutions like Wasabi come with a single pricing tier and no additional maintenance or transaction fees.  

Accessibility and collaboration. Because of its inherently flexible architecture and utilization of the cloud, objects and their metadata remain accessible to all authorized users, regardless of location, file type, or operating system. This allows multiple users to access and collaborate on everything from data analysis and real-time content editing to the development and management of cloud native applications in real-time.  

Common Use Cases for Cloud Object Storage 

Cloud object storage can be leveraged by organizations across virtually all industries, and its effective utilization is not limited to one specific use case or strategy. Here are just a few of the most common uses of cloud object storage: 

Data lakes. The open and flexible architecture of cloud object storage makes it ideal for building and managing data lakes, which provide a secure, easily accessible centralized location to store a variety of data across multiple sources and file types, and most importantly allow organizations to more efficiently analyze and generate real-time insights using the latest innovations in big data analytics, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. 

Media file storage and streaming. Due to its virtually unlimited scalability and ability to preserve the integrity and performance of large media files such as videos, images, and audio files, cloud object storage has quickly become the go-to storage and management solution among media streaming services. 

Archiving, backup, and recovery. As one of the most durable and resilient cloud storage solutions on the market, cloud object storage makes it easy for organizations to secure, back up, and archive large volumes of data for the purpose of record-keeping or protecting against instances of data loss or corruption.  

Factors To Consider In Cloud Object Storage

When choosing whether to use cloud object storage or deciding on a specific solution, there are a variety of different factors that organizations should consider in the unique context of their operation, including:  

Scalability 

Today, most organizations’ data storage needs are constantly evolving and expanding, making overall scalability a critical consideration when deciding on a storage solution. 

One factor that makes cloud object storage ideal in terms of scalability is its utilization of horizontal scaling, or “scaling out.” As opposed to vertical scaling, which involves increasing the amount of processing power to a single server and is therefore energy-intensive and often taxing on hardware, horizontal scaling works by spreading out distribution to additional systems or sources, increasing capacity and improving performance without the risk of overload.  

While vertically scaling storage solutions are sometimes thought to be more cost-effective due to their use of a single source or machine, the horizontal scalability of cloud object storage can be equally beneficial from a cost perspective, as its pay-as-you-go model ensures organizations are only paying for the space being utilized rather than the processing power and capacity of each machine or server in the underlying architecture. Moreover, having the ability to evenly distribute data management tasks across multiple sources allows organizations to scale up without sacrificing overall performance.  

Performance 

While most cloud object storage solutions will provide the benefit of virtually unlimited scalability, it’s important that organizations get a better idea of what to expect in terms of performance, which will also be highly dependent on the desired functionality or intended use case.  

For example, when it comes to critical factors like throughput and latency, organizations will need to understand how a given solution works to optimize the speed and reliability with which data can be transferred. This might include certain data compression mechanisms to improve throughput, as well as caching and integration with content delivery networks (CDNs) to reduce latency.  

There are also geographic distribution and performance differences to be considered between cloud object storage and more traditional solutions such as file and block storage. Generally speaking, block and file storage can be much more challenging and expensive to scale, and their performance will often be highly dependent on the specific area over which data is being distributed. Additionally, most file storage systems are simply not built to accommodate an ever-expanding volume of complex data, and block systems tend to underperform when data is being distributed across long distances. Moreover, while block storage provides the benefit of attaching a unique address to data for the purpose of accessibility, it cannot provide the more granular context gained from cloud object storage due to the lack of corresponding metadata.  

Durability and Reliability  

Durability and overall reliability are also essential factors to consider when evaluating a cloud object storage solution. For example, you’ll want to have an overview of all redundancy and data protection mechanisms being used across the service, such as processes like replication, versioning and erasure coding.  

Additionally, making sure you’ve read through and understood the service-level agreements (SLAs) associated with the solution is imperative, as these will detail the provider’s full, legally-binding commitments to delivering a certain level of performance and are crucial to establishing expectations. Critically, this should also include an uptime guarantee, which by modern cloud storage standards should commit the provider to offering reliable service and connectivity more than 99% of the time.  

Security 

Finally, as with all cloud-based services, ensuring the use of proper security measures is paramount to protect against unauthorized access or a coordinated data breach. In particular, organizations will want to verify that there are robust data encryption processes in place to protect data both in storage or during transfer, in addition to reliable, multi-layered access controls that restrict access and modification to authorized users and applications.  

Best Practices For Implementing Cloud Object Storage

To get the most out of any cloud object storage solution will require following a set of best practices for implementation, including planning and architecture considerations, data migration strategies, and mechanisms for the monitoring and optimization of storage usage. Here is a brief overview of what organizations should plan for on their implementation journeys.  

Planning and architecture considerations 

Maximizing the benefits of cloud object storage will be challenging in the absence of careful planning around concrete goals. Before evaluating different solutions, organizations should first take the time to understand their existing and potential data requirements and clearly define their specific needs around everything from performance, durability, scalability, security, and cost.  

This process will require an in-depth period of assessment, which may include measuring current data volumes and establishing future needs, identifying authorized users and determining which access controls and other security measures will be necessary, outlining expectations around redundancy mechanisms, and later defining the object-naming conventions that will be used to streamline data discovery and retrieval.  

Monitoring and optimizing storage usage 

To ensure a cloud object storage solution remains reliable and cost-effective, it’s essential to implement processes around the monitoring and optimization of storage usage. Put simply, organizations will want to have complete visibility into both the volume of data being stored across sources, as well as the overall performance of the solution.  

Fortunately, storage usage monitoring and optimization can easily be streamlined when working with the right provider. When considering different solutions, organizations should look for a cloud storage provider that offers ultimate transparency around pricing and usage, as well as built-in tools that allow for periodic reviews, performance updates, and cost management and analysis.   

Industries And Use Cases

One of the strongest value propositions of cloud object storage is its overall versatility and list of ever-expanding use cases across multiple industries. In fact, cloud object storage is already being widely utilized for a variety of purposes related to everything from healthcare, education, and finance, to media, e-commerce, and manufacturing, in addition to its extensive application in the broader field of technology and IT. And in terms of real-world use cases, there are virtually countless success stories that highlight the various benefits and transformative potential of cloud object storage.  

Take the story of Boombox, for example, a music creation and collaboration platform that allows musicians to store, stream, and remotely edit their work online. Before switching to cloud object storage with Wasabi, Boombox found itself tethered to a storage provider whose transactional costs and limited scalability could not keep track with their growing user base and media storage needs. After implementing Wasabi, however, they were able to eliminate their data egress problem, offer high-quality storage and media downloads to their users, and scale their operations alongside an affordable, predictably priced storage solution, all without needing to navigate the complexities of the underlying infrastructure.  

Believe it or not, cloud object storage even has a role to play in solving criminal cases. More specifically, the city of Dothan, Alabama’s IT department was recently in need of a way to securely and seamlessly store and retrieve data containing digital evidence from all its various devices. However, due to the growing volume and diversity of information, leveraging a traditional, on-premises storage solution simply wasn’t going to be feasible or cost-effective. After searching tirelessly, Dothan IT finally discovered cloud object storage with Wasabi, and soon after was able to implement its own secure, scalable, and easily accessible storage solution, allowing investigators to search for and retrieve data from the cloud in a matter of minutes and with no additional or complex hidden fees.  

Future Trends In Cloud Object Storage  

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, we are quickly approaching a future in which cloud object storage will evolve to reflect the latest innovations and transformative trends across the modern digital ecosystem. Put simply, in addition to the wide range of existing benefits provided by today’s most advanced cloud storage platforms, businesses across industries will soon have access to more powerful, intelligent, and dynamic data storage and management solutions than ever before. 

For example, as the capabilities of generative AI expand, these tools are expected to become much more easily integrated into cloud object storage’s architecture, leading to the streamlined development of organizational data lakes and much more efficient and robust generation of actionable insights. Moreover, a future of cloud object storage is already being envisioned in which an integrated generative AI system can be used to instantly infer information about stored data and inform operational decision-making in real-time.  

Introducing Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage  

Recognizing both the benefits and limitations of existing cloud object storage models, Wasabi set out to develop its own solution that would not only remove functional limitations but provide a more cost-effective data storage and management option for businesses of all sizes and across industries. 

Wasabi’s Hot Cloud Storage comes with all the advantages of modern cloud object storage with the addition of an affordable and predictable pricing structure. Rather than placing cloud storage solutions in a variety of tiers like many other providers, Hot Cloud Storage is a single-tier platform with speed and security features that match, and even exceed, some of the most expensive and high-priced models on the market.  

Perhaps most importantly, Wasabi allows businesses to avoid one of the most frequent and limiting issues associated with cloud object storage today: the addition of complicated and unanticipated egress fees. Despite the operational advantages of cloud storage, IT departments all around the world and across industries are constantly exceeding their budget due to compounding “transaction fees” that are difficult to understand and even harder to predict. And this is exactly why we decided to remove the pricing complexity from the equation and build Hot Cloud Storage with total transparency in mind.  

But more than simply being affordable, Wasabi’s Hot Cloud Storage is a highly dynamic, durable and scalable solution that remains ideal for a wide variety of use cases, including:  

Backup and recovery. Hot Cloud Storage provides high-performance backup and recovery processes, complete with advanced protection against ransomware attacks with immutable buckets and no egress or transaction fees.   

Active Media Archive. Archived media content has never been easier or more cost-effective to access than with Hot Cloud Storage. Additionally, Wasabi’s solution allows editing teams to seamlessly collaborate through low-latency transfer and retrieval. 

Surveillance Video Storage. Hot Cloud Storage works to cloud-enable and cost-effectively extend the capacity of on-premises surveillance systems in minutes. Moreover, access to immutable cloud backups help disaster-proof your video files and eliminate worries around data loss.  

Of course, the above represents only a brief glimpse into the wide range of capabilities and potential use cases for Hot Cloud Storage, and with optimal performance, protection, and affordability at the center, our solution was designed to be both universally reliable and infinitely flexible to an organization’s unique needs and strategic objectives. 

Ready to see how Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage can help you cut costs and transform your data storage and management capabilities for the digital age? Click here to learn more. 

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