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What is Data Storage?

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The modern business world is an increasingly data-driven environment. Businesses collect massive amounts of information from their customers: birthdates, shipping addresses, payment card data, purchase history, and other descriptive metadata. Businesses must also maintain critical internal data such as intellectual property, communications, and strategic operational data.

Establishing strategies to store, manage, and safeguard valuable information is a top priority for successful businesses. These companies rely on the guidance and support of data storage experts and procedures to architect and implement data storage solutions that fit their business models. With data breaches costing companies an average of $3.86 million per incident, effective storage solutions are not merely a luxury—they’re a necessity. 

Data storage is technology that securely records and properly maintains digital information so that it is kept safe and can be easily retrieved at a moment’s notice. This is a critical and growing aspect of business function that has inspired—and continues to inspire—numerous technological innovations. Data storage hardware and software is markedly more powerful and sophisticated than it was just a few years ago. 

Data storage devices play an important role in disaster recovery and business continuity. Selecting the right data storage solution can be the difference between success and costly breaches of sensitive information. 

The Need for High-Quality Data Storage Solutions

Even in our evolving paperless society, storage tends to be limited. While it is true that data has a smaller physical footprint today than it did during the floppy disk era, companies are still struggling to locate sufficient space for their data storage needs. This is an especially pressing issue for companies that use large, cumbersome legacy data centers. However, data storage involves much more than finding a convenient place to store digital information.

Business data must be stored in a way that permits it to be retrieved, transmitted, and manipulated in conformity with a company’s operational requirements; there is a growing demand for technologies that can execute these three functions safely and efficiently.

Consumer-grade solutions, which are generally intended for individual or small business use, often aren’t able to meet these demands. High-quality, enterprise-grade data storage products are therefore essential. 

Characteristics of Effective Data Storage

Determining what kind of data storage solution works best for a particular business largely depends on the needs of the organization. No solution is equally suited to every business. For instance, a small retail business with relatively few customers doesn’t have the same storage requirements as a large multinational corporation that controls personally identifiable information linked to millions of people. Nonetheless, there are certain characteristics that all data storage hardware should have.

Speed – In today’s fast-paced business environment, information must be made readily available for retrieval and downloading. Network-attached storage (NAS) devices, which essentially function as file servers, usually offer the best option for the speedy accessing and transmitting of data.

Security – Data has to be protected from unauthorized access. Failure to establish strong security measures often leads to diminished company reputation and operation. Stolen data can cost companies millions of dollars in settlements and can erode their customers’ confidence in them. Weak security may also cause the business to fall out of compliance with regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which applies to any business that processes credit or debit cards, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which applies primarily to the healthcare field. Infraction of these regulations could result in costly fines, if not a breach of sensitive data.

High-grade encryption—particularly AES 256—has become a best practice for today’s data security hardware. It is also important to have physical safeguards on data security devices, such as locks, encryption keys, and tangible barriers.

Integrity – Related to data security, data integrity ensures that information is preserved in the proper state. This is a paramount concern for any organization that safeguards personally identifiable information, such as financial or healthcare records, and forensics professionals who need to store digital evidence in accordance with the law to ensure admissibility in court. Data containers should not expose information to intentional or accidental deletion, corruption, or data degradation. The data must also maintain its integrity during transmission, avoiding burst errors and single-bit errors.

Reliability – Data storage devices and systems must protect against the threat of internal failure. This is an area where enterprise-grade storage, typically made from longer-lasting materials and components than consumer-grade electronics, do especially well. Building redundancy into data storage systems, where files exist in multiple copies across multiple hard drives, is an important feature. RAID—Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks—configurations save data across drives so that if one drive fails, the rest can correct themselves with no loss to performance or data.

Efficiency – Even small businesses can accumulate massive amounts of data. Therefore, their storage solutions must be capable of storing data compactly and organizing data efficiently to avoid downtime. One useful tool in this endeavor is virtualization, which sharply reduces the amount of duplicated data in a system and optimizes storage capacity.

Portability – Not all businesses require this feature, but a data storage device that can be easily shipped or carried from one site to another provides additional benefits in terms of security and flexibility. For example, film crews can use a portable solution for temporarily storing footage created onsite during shoots that occur far from the main production hub. Similarly, the oil and gas industry has a need for portable devices that can gather drilling-related data in the field. Select NAS devices allow data to be stored on portable servers that can be used as offices on the go.

Customizability – Having the freedom to modify features such as storage capacity, OS compatibility configurations, network environments, software programs, and connection ports allows a business to fully optimize its storage solutions, as opposed to remaining locked into standard pre-configured options that may not be ideal.

Scalability – Data security hardware and software should have the capacity to grow with your business. The expansion of operations should not require a complete overhaul of your existing data infrastructure. The best solutions should be adaptable to increased storage capacity needs.

Customer support – Ideally, a data storage solution should be accompanied by technical support that a business can rely on for troubleshooting. It shouldn’t be a generic help line; you need to have immediate access to a professional who has been specifically trained to solve problems with your brand of hardware.

Types of Data Storage

person using black laptop computer

The best data storage solutions complement an organization’s operational demands and budget. Some businesses require tools that enable quick retrieval of data to serve customers. Other businesses simply need a secure place where old data can be stored long-term. Generally, businesses will end up with one of the following solutions or a combination of two or more:

  • Direct attached storage (DAS) – This type of data storage solution is physically connected to a particular computer—for example, the hard drive next to your monitor. Data stored in this way is usually only accessible from the computer associated with the DAS device(s). DAS is a common and traditional data storage type that includes hard drives, DVD/Blu-Ray drives, flash drives, and solid-state drives.
  • Software-defined storage (SDS) – As the name implies, SDS is intended to offer a storage solution that does not rely on physical hardware. SDS-based infrastructure can utilize industry-standard servers, which provides improved scalability and load balancing as well as enormous flexibility in managing and migrating data.
  • Storage area network (SAN) – This is a type of high-performance computer network that uses block-level storage. When deployed properly, SANs have a high level of redundancy and can enable quick retrieval of data. Because block storage breaks up data and stores it across multiple environments, it can generate more efficient pathways for information access. This is especially valuable in data environments where retrieval speed is essential. 

Storage area networks use a variety of protocols: Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI), Fibre Channel (FC), Fibre Channel over ethernet (FCoe), or Non-Volatile Memory express over Fabric (NVMe-oF).

  • Cloud Storage – This type of solution places data in an internet-based environment and can be accessed through a web-enabled device provided that the user has valid permissions (e.g., a password). It is standard practice to classify this solution into three distinct subcategories: private, public, and hybrid cloud. All three options have their advantages and drawbacks, but hybrid cloud environments are the most popular, deployed by 36% of companies. However, they also leave the most room for hacking.
  • Cloud storage generally relies on object storage architecture, although file and block storage configurations are possible as well. Cloud storage is highly scalable—it’s easy to expand your capacity when needed. When you work with a cloud provider that offers software as a service (SaaS), you usually never have to pay for more storage space than necessary.
  • Network-attached storage (NAS) – This is a file-based storage system that utilizes a hierarchy strongly resembling old-fashioned paper filing systems. It permits multiple computers to store and share digital files over a single network (or intranet), often with the use of multiple hard drives arranged in a RAID configuration.  

Depending on the precise RAID configuration, NAS systems can provide a high level of redundancy, data-recovery capability, and collaboration options, in addition to enhanced system performance. Common RAID techniques for managing data include striping (RAID 0—the simplest configuration, which lacks true redundancy), mirroring (RAID 1), distributed parity (RAID 5), and striping combined with mirroring (RAID 10, or 1+0). The huge variety of storage and back-up options is one of the major advantages associated with NAS systems. Affordably priced and easy to set up, these systems are the go-to storage solution for many types of businesses, large and small.

Advancements in technology have sharply reduced the once-exorbitant cost of enterprise-level data storage and brought these solutions within reach for small and medium businesses. There is no longer a reason to operate without high-performance, secure, and efficient data storage.

Whether you manage a large corporation or a small family-owned shop, Ciphertex Data Security has solutions you can depend on. Ciphertex’s ever-growing product line includes portable NAS servers, encrypted portable single drives, rackmount servers, custom operating system software, and device accessories for transport and connectivity.

We serve several industries, from the military sector to the medical field. For additional information, contact us at 818-773-8989.

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