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What is Object Storage?
Object storage is a low-cost, scalable storage technology, used by public cloud providers and on-premises. Object storage manages and operates data storage in units called objects. It combines all data that makes up a file, appends all relevant metadata to the file, adds a custom identifier, and packages it as an object.
An object storage system removes the hierarchical file structure used by file storage, and places all content in a flat address space called a storage pool, which makes it much easier to scale and manage the stored data. Metadata is a critical part of an object storage system, making it possible to retrieve data, query data, and analyze data use in the storage pool. Object storage is the storage technology of choice for modern cloud backup systems.
In this article:
- Why Is Object Storage Increasingly Used for Backups?
- How Does Object Storage Backup Compare to Traditional Storage Technologies?
- Considerations for Cloud-based Object Storage Services
- Object Storage Backup with NetApp Cloud Backup
Why Is Object Storage Increasingly Used for Backups?
Object storage is a foundational technology of the cloud. It is a technology that allows public cloud storage providers to easily scale their infrastructure extensively while keeping costs under control.
Object storage solutions, whether in the cloud or on-premises, enable cost-effective and reliable backup that can scale to meet today's growing data volumes, and is also able to meet modern data protection requirements. Unlike NAS and backup devices, object storage offers high availability, extremely high durability, and a low overhead ratio for its backup value.
How Does Object Storage Backup Compare to Other Storage Technologies?
File Storage Backup
File storage allows applications to easily find and retrieve data from the network. The file system provides a namespace for identifying files and managing metadata such as owner, modification date, and size.
However, all of these conveniences come with file access permissions, file locking, copying, and operational overhead. Another disadvantage is that file storage can scale moderately when accessing hundreds of thousands of files on the file system, but not when accessing billions of files.
Block Storage Backup
Block storage works at the block level, not at the file level, using sector addresses instead of file names and metadata. A storage area network (SAN) allows software to retrieve, read, and write data with much lower overhead compared to file-based storage. The low latency of block storage makes it suitable for high performance databases and transactional applications.
A disadvantage of block storage is that in general, block storage is more expensive in terms of cost per GB than object storage. In addition, block storage relies on access to a running server with a file system, and the cost structure is related to the total storage space allocated, whether you actually use all the storage or not.
Object Storage Backup
Object storage is better suited for backup than file storage and block storage for several reasons:
- Objects are used to store and retrieve entire unstructured data blobs rather than single blocks or entire files. An object can include image files, HTML pages, binary files, videos, executables, and user-generated content.
- In an object storage system, objects can reside on multiple servers, whether local or in the cloud, enabling easy scalability.
- Applications do not use namespaces and directory structures, but instead process objects based on their ID and simple HTTP requests like PUT, UPLOAD, GET, and DELETE.
- Applications such as backup software can store and retrieve objects from object storage systems with a simple request, without incurring large amounts of file and block storage overhead.
- In the cloud, object storage is cheaper the less frequently you access it. Because backup data does not need to be frequently accessed, object storage will almost always be the most cost-effective storage option for backup in the cloud.
Considerations for Cloud-based Object Storage Services
Not all object stores are created equal. Although most object storage solutions have the same design standards (high scalability, medium performance, low cost, and manageability), the way vendors implement these features varies considerably. Here are some important things to consider when selecting an object storage service.
All major cloud service providers offer object storage, but prices vary considerably. Pricing from some providers also varies by region. Pay special attention to storage tiers—object storage services provide lower cost archive tiers, but typically charge extra for retrieval.
Related content: Read our guide to cloud backup cost
Consider connecting your backup application directly to your cloud-based object storage. There are two main connection options:
- Using a cloud storage gateway—a gateway is a physical or virtual device that acts as a backup destination by simulating a virtual tape library. Backups are written to the cloud storage gateway and copied to cloud-based object storage. The advantage of this approach is that some gateways are equipped with physical storage, and can store a copy of backup data locally. Duplicate on-site backup copies can speed up restore operations as there is no need to restore large volumes of data from the cloud.
- Using native functionality of your backup software—all major cloud providers have APIs that enable backup providers to directly connect to cloud storage. The main benefit of this approach is that cloud-based object storage support is built directly into the backup application. Keep in mind that the Amazon S3 API has become a de-facto standard in the industry, so it is more likely your backup application or appliance will work with AWS, or any other provider that is compatible with the S3 Storage API.
Consider the available features of the cloud storage service. Each cloud provider has its own set of backup-related features. For example, a provider may offer the ability to automatically replicate backup copies to different regions, dynamically migrate older data to cheaper storage tiers, and lock data to prevent accidental or malicious modification or deletion.
Object Storage Backup with NetApp Cloud Backup
NetApp understands ONTAP better than anyone else, which is why the best backup solution for ONTAP systems is NetApp Cloud Backup. Designed by NetApp specifically for ONTAP, Cloud Backup automatically creates block-level incremental forever backups. These copies are stored in object format and preserve all ONTAP’s storage efficiencies. Your backups are 100X faster to create, easy to restore, and much more reliable than with any other solution.
Cloud Backup simplifies the entire backup process. It’s intuitive, quick to deploy, and managed from the same console as the rest of the NetApp cloud ecosystem. Whether you’re looking for a less expensive way to store your backups, a faster, more capable technology than NDMP, or an easy way to enable a 3-2-1 strategy, Cloud Backup offers the best backup solution for ONTAP.