The Evolutionary Stages of Storage

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September 28, 2011

The storage landscape has changed dramatically in the past two decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, companies struggled with keeping their data secure, accessible, and backed up. It wasn’t uncommon for larger enterprises to have a storage engineer just to maintain storage systems and make sure that important data was safe.

Today, things are very different. We’re no longer limited to local storage options. Hard drives, while useful for providing fast access for applications and operating systems, aren’t nearly as useful for storage as they once were.

Let’s take a look at some of the evolutionary high-points in storage technology:

  1. Local storage. This is how it used to be. You kept your data locally on a hard drive. This phase of storage evolution was only the beginning. The options here are severely limited, as you can only access data from one point. Hard drives are best used for data that doesn’t change, such as operating systems and application files. Even external hard drives, while they offer large volumes of data storage, are susceptible to physical failure or loss.
  2. Removable storage. Pretty quickly, we figured out that it would be nice to be able to take data from one place to another. Accordingly, we developed removable media to do the job. This has taken many forms over the years: tape drives, floppy disks, writable CDs, flash drives, and even SD cards. Each of these media have one ultimate flaw: they’re susceptible to loss. On top of that, they’re only accessible from one place at a time. They are more versatile than hard drives, but only incrementally so.
  3. Network storage. Network storage developed alongside with removable storage. This was the basic idea that you could put something on your network (at first, a server, and then later on a Network Attached Storage device) that would hold data for all of your users. You could then access this data from anywhere, and it would be more secure than other options. You can also apply redundancy and backup policies here. While network storage gives you access to your data from many places on a network, it doesn’t give you access to that data from outside the network. This is a major limitation.
  4. 4. Online storage services. Today, online storage services are taking storage to the next stage. Online storage services combine the best of many worlds. Not only can you access your data from literally anywhere you have an Internet connection, your data is backed up, and it’s protected with security measures that even many enterprises just don’t have access to. On top of that, with many online storage options you can actually access your data from a variety of devices, besides just a computer, such as tablets and smartphones.

Today’s online storage services offer businesses a greater degree of security and accessibility than ever before. While it’s hard to be certain what form data storage will take going forward, it’s most likely to involve some form of online storage capabilities.

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