Cloud storage is a model of computer data storage in which the digital data is stored in logical pools, said to be on “the cloud”. The physical storage spans multiple servers (sometimes in multiple locations), and the physical environment is typically owned and managed by a hosting company.
These cloud storage providers are responsible for keeping the data available and accessible, and the physical environment secured, protected, and running. People and organizations buy or lease storage capacity from the providers to store user, organization, or application data.
Cloud storage services may be accessed through a colocated cloud computing service, a web service application programming interface (API) or by applications that utilize the API, such as cloud desktop storage, a cloud storage gateway or Web-based content management systems.
Cloud storage is based on highly virtualized infrastructure and is like broader cloud computing in terms of interfaces, near-instant elasticity and scalability, multi-tenancy, and metered resources. Cloud storage services can be utilized from an off-premises service (Amazon) or deployed on-premises (ViON Capacity Services).
Cloud storage typically refers to a hosted object storage service, but the term has broadened to include other types of data storage that are now available as a service, like block storage.
Object storage services like Amazon S3, Oracle Cloud Storage and Microsoft Azure Storage, object storage software like Openstack Swift, object storage systems like EMC Atmos, EMC ECS and Hitachi Content Platform, and distributed storage research projects like OceanStore and VISION Cloud are all examples of storage that can be hosted and deployed with cloud storage characteristics.
Cloud storage is:
Made up of many distributed resources, but still acts as one, either in a federated or a cooperative storage cloud architecture
Highly fault tolerant through redundancy and distribution of data
Highly durable through the creation of versioned copies
Typically eventually consistent with regard to data replicas
Companies need only pay for the storage they actually use, typically an average of consumption during a month. This does not mean that cloud storage is less expensive, only that it incurs operating expenses rather than capital expenses.
Businesses using cloud storage can cut their energy consumption by up to 70% making them a more green business.
Organizations can choose between off-premises and on-premises cloud storage options, or a mixture of the two options, depending on relevant decision criteria that is complementary to initial direct cost savings potential; for instance, continuity of operations (COOP), disaster recovery (DR), security (PII, HIPAA, SARBOX, IA/CND), and records retention laws, regulations, and policies.
Storage availability and data protection is intrinsic to object storage architecture, so depending on the application, the additional technology, effort and cost to add availability and protection can be eliminated.
Storage maintenance tasks, such as purchasing additional storage capacity, are offloaded to the responsibility of a service provider.
Cloud storage provides users with immediate access to a broad range of resources and applications hosted in the infrastructure of another organization via a web service interface.
Cloud storage can be used for copying virtual machine images from the cloud to on-premises locations or to import a virtual machine image from an on-premises location to the cloud image library. In addition, cloud storage can be used to move virtual machine images between user accounts or between data centers.
Cloud storage can be used as natural disaster proof backup, as normally there are 2 or 3 different backup servers located in different places around the globe.
Cloud storage can be mapped as a local drive with the WebDAV protocol. It can function as a central file server for organizations with multiple office locations.