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Cloud Object Storage Vs. File Storage

When it comes to cloud-based storage, the economy of the solution is tied into the underlying storage type to a great extent. Organizations should look for a solution that provides the right feature set to achieve their goals while strictly managing the cost factors involved.

The storage type for a typical cloud-based operation is often a choice between object storage and file storage, depending on the use case. Each storage type has its own feature set and can influence the overall cost of the solution implementation and management. But which comes out on top when comparing cloud object storage vs. file storage?

This blog post will explore the different features of file and object storage available in cloud today, and look at which solution, along with NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP, can help further decrease your costs.

Cloud-based Object Storage Features and Popular Use Cases

In simple terms, object storage focuses on storing large amounts of unstructured data at scale. It can be used by enterprise workloads as well as for backup solutions. Many backup solutions depend on cloud-based object storage due to the built-in resiliency, scalability, and literally unlimited storage capacity it offers. Cloud object storages such as Azure blob service, Amazon S3, Amazon Glacier, and Google Cloud Storage fit the bill for many other requirements.

Cloud object storage is popular with application developers who might be looking for a storage option in the cloud to store huge amounts of data. It is very convenient as well, since data is transparently made available to your customers using REST-based access methods, even if the data size is in the range of petabytes.

Big data analytics applications that need access to huge data sets can also use object storage owing to its ability to quickly scale and provide the bottomless storage capacity required for that use case. It is also useful for long-term secure data retention, say for archival data or backup data. Another popular use case is leveraging cloud object storage for disaster recovery.

Object storage systems can take advantage of data tiering capabilities, where frequently accessed data (hot data) can be stored in a more expensive tier and less-frequently accessed data (cold or cool) can be stored in a less expensive tier. The cold tier targets archival or backup data that can be used in recovery scenarios. This cold tier is provided at a cheaper rate by cloud providers, thereby bringing down the cost considerably.

Cloud-based File Storage Features and Popular Use Cases

Cloud-based file storage solutions are aligned with the traditional concept of storage. It caters to the storage requirements of structured data often neatly arranged in volumes/folders in a hierarchical manner. Many organizations opt for migrating data to the cloud to avoid CAPEX investments in on-premises storage solutions and that makes cloud-based file storage relevant for multiple use cases.

Cloud-based file storage can be used for direct migration of legacy applications to the cloud which would need a file share over protocols such as NFS or CIFS. It can also be used for replicating data between hybrid or multicloud environments for purposes such as data sharing, data collaboration or CDN (Content Delivery / Distribution Network).

Along with the native file storage capabilities available in public cloud, integration with third-party service providers such as NetApp increases the value proposition in such use cases. For example, NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can be used to provision NFS or CIFS shares that can be consumed by multiple users and applications in a hybrid and multicloud environments.

Object Storage Vs. File Storage: Picking the Best Format for Effective Cloud-Based Deployment

So which is better for effective storage in the match up of cloud object storage vs file storage? The answer depends on your use case, the type of system that you have in use, the required performance and costs.

An effective use of cloud storage should be able to minimize costs by reducing the underlying storage usage. Many cloud service providers use a pay-as-you-go model for storage, where billing is based on the actual amount of data stored in the underlying storage and not on a provisioned storage amount.

A key factor to be taken into consideration here is the ability of the storage solution to reduce the size of the data that is sent over to cloud storage. This can be done using various methods such as thin provisioning, data compression, deduplication, data tiering and intelligent delta snapshots tracking, all of which are key features of NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

File storage options are costlier when comparing object storage vs. file storage, but if you have stringent RPOs and RTOs to meet then it could be a best fit use case. In either case, by leveraging solutions such as NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP you can also reduce the cost of cloud storage involved.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP’s storage efficiencies include thin provisioning, deduplication, data compression, data tiering, and inline data compaction. These will greatly reduce the storage costs incurred for implementing a cloud-based storage whether using Azure storage or Amazon storage in the backend. Combine this with the ease of data restoration and file management support, and it becomes a feasible candidate to be used in cloud-based storage.


The question of leveraging object storage versus file storage boils down to the target use case and the associated storage access speed, optimization and cost management. If the data retrieval SLAs are not stringent and the focus is long term data retention, the object storage options in cloud makes it more cost effective.

The lower cost associated with object storage is a key factor that should be taken into consideration by organizations. In either case,  you can integrate with a solution such as Cloud Volumes ONTAP, where the major benefit is the ability to use storage efficiencies to significantly bring down the associated storage costs.

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