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Digital Transformation

What Is Storage as a Service (STaaS)?

January 15, 2023

Topics: Cloud Volumes ONTAP 7 minute read

Storage as a service (STaaS) is a managed service offered by cloud service providers (CSPs), which provides a managed data storage platform. Typically, the storage equipment is hosted in the public cloud, but it can also be hosted on-premises, and managed remotely by the CSP. The service is typically billed based on storage consumption, or on a subscription basis.

STaaS solutions provide one or more of the following: object-based storage, file storage, and block storage. The storage services can be accessed through standard storage protocols or application program interfaces (APIs). In addition to raw storage, STaaS provides value-added features such as file sharing, backup management, and high availability with a guaranteed service level agreement (SLA).

Common uses of STaaS include backup storage, separating storage into tiers to conserve costs, application data storage, and file sharing.

This is part of a series of articles about Digital Transformation.

In this article:

How Does STaaS Work?

Some STaaS products can be leased on a per-volume basis, while others can be leased with a service level agreement (SLA). SLAs help establish and enforce data storage usage conditions, such as uptime and read/write access rates. 

The storage service or service tier you choose usually depends on how often your data is accessed: 

  • Cold data storage is data that is placed separately or accessed infrequently. 
  • Warm or hot data storage is accessed regularly and repeatedly. 

Quantity-based pricing tends to be more cost-effective, but it is not designed to support fast and frequent access for day-to-day business productivity. For hot or warm data, SLAs are essential to support your ongoing business processes.

Many CSPs let you easily upload data to their STaaS infrastructure with little or no upfront cost. However, there can be hidden costs, and the overall effort needed to migrate or transfer data to another cloud platform can be very expensive.

Types of STaaS Solutions

Here are the main types of STaaS solutions offered by CSPs:

  • Object-based storage—can be useful if your organization has a lot of cold data. This type of storage is elastically scalable, and metadata is attached to every file for easy retrieval of information.
  • File storage—organizes information into navigable hierarchies, such as file directories. Although this type of storage is more difficult to scale, it is suitable for integration projects and legacy systems, and is compatible with cold or hot storage.
  • Block storage—segments and partition data into blocks to ensure fast access. It mimics the process of writing data to a solid-state drive or standard hard drive. The higher the efficiency, the more expensive it is. This type of storage is usually best for warm or hot data.

Related content: Read our guide to block storage, file storage, and object storage

What Are the Main Use Cases of STaaS?

Here are some of the primary use cases of storage as a service:

  • Backup storage - providing a scalable resource for storing backups and enabling easy retrieval of backups to their systems, more flexible backup scheduling, and a guaranteed service level agreement (SLA) for durability and retrieval time.
  • Storage tiers - creating several types of storage, each providing different levels of performance and storage, to accommodate different workloads.
  • Data storage for applications - storing and managing data for applications, such as databases, file systems, and object stores.
  • Data storage for analytics - storing and processing large amounts of data for analytics and business intelligence purposes.
  • Collaboration and file sharing - storing and sharing files with colleagues, partners, and customers.
  • Data archiving - storing and managing data that is no longer actively used but needs to be retained for compliance or regulatory purposes.

STaaS Benefits and Drawbacks 

Here are the main advantages of STaaS:

  • Shifts costs to operating expenses - this storage delivery model eliminates the need to install physical infrastructure and the overhead that comes with this setup. You can pay only for the storage space you use and leverage subscriptions and discount offerings.
  • Scalability - STaaS provides a high level of scalability, enabling you to host more data and address higher loads. You can leverage STaaS to quickly increase storage by adjusting your SLA terms. There is no need to upgrade servers and maintain equipment - the vendor takes care of that.
  • Security - CSPs typically apply high-end security to their infrastructure and provide security capabilities that enable customers to protect their data. Most CSPs understand the importance of security and prioritize it to maintain a good reputation. Essential security features include encryption for data in transit and at rest, backup, and disaster recovery.

Here are the main disadvantages of STaaS:

  • Higher cost over time - using STaaS for long durations might result in subscription costs that exceed the costs of physical infrastructure. However, when considering the cost of physical infrastructure, it is important to take into account hardware costs, software costs, and ongoing maintenance costs.
  • Limited customization - STaaS does not always allow customization, leaving you with limited functionality. However, it is typically more affordable to use limited STaaS customization than to create a fully customized on-premises infrastructure.
  • Challenges with provider partnerships - the STaaS delivery model enables you to access scalable storage, but it means you work with a provider as your partner. It can be challenging if your organization cannot accommodate potential downtime or migrate between providers. You might also encounter hidden fees for exceeding bandwidth limitations, but you can avoid many issues by choosing a reputable vendor that prioritizes transparency.

What Is the Difference Between Leasing On-Premises Equipment and STaaS?

Before the advent of STaaS services, IT departments had another option for transferring storage costs from capital expenditure to operating expenditure - they could lease storage equipment from the vendor. However, there are a few important differences between leasing on-premises equipment and STaaS.

Leasing storage equipment:

  • Pricing based on the infrastructure’s value
  • Typically, with fixed monthly payments
  • Does not include service-level objectives (SLOs) or service-level agreements (SLAs)
  • Equipment is managed by the customer

Storage as a Service:

  • Pricing based on the service’s value
  • Typically, consumption-based purchase model
  • Usually includes SLOs or SLAs
  • Vendor-managed

STaaS Management with BlueXP Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Cloud computing is at the core of digital transformation, elevating it from the adoption stage of digital technology to include also the tools, rebuilding process, and the experience of a virtual environment that is accessible from anywhere. In order for an organization to achieve its goals and secure future viability, it needs to adopt a cloud-first or hybrid cloud management strategy.

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the leading enterprise-grade storage management solution, delivers secure, proven storage management services on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP capacity can scale into the petabytes, and it supports various use cases such as file services, databases, DevOps or any other enterprise workload, with a strong set of features including high availability, data protection, storage efficiencies, Kubernetes integration, and more.

NetApp and Cloud Volumes ONTAP play a key role in the cloud transformation process, helping enterprises move workloads and data to the cloud securely, manage them efficiently, and integrate them with modern cloud technologies. This frees the organizations from the burden of managing large-scale storage infrastructure and allows them to focus on their core business.

In particular, Cloud Volumes ONTAP assists with cloud migration in digital transformation projects. Learn more about how Cloud Volumes ONTAP helps with lift and shift cloud migration.

Read how Cloud Volumes ONTAP helps customers in these Cloud Migration Case Studies.

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Yifat Perry, Product Marketing Lead

Product Marketing Lead