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Object Storage Explained: A Modern Approach to Data Protection

In an era where data is the lifeblood of organizations, safeguarding it has become paramount. The need for modern, resilient backup and recovery systems is more significant than ever, especially in the face of rising cyber threats like ransomware.

Unlike traditional file and block storage, object storage not only provides a robust backup system but also offers scalability, immutability, and flexibility. Discover how object storage can transform your backup strategy and fortify your organization against the evolving challenges of the digital age.

What Is Object Storage?

Object storage (also known as object-based storage) is a storage solution that manages data as “objects.” It operates across various layers, such as the device, system, and interface. Object storage stores vast volumes of unstructured data, ensuring accessibility for each object, including data, customizable metadata, and a unique identifier. Users can break down large volumes of data into objects and store them in a single repository, allowing for efficient distribution across multiple physical devices. Anything can be an object, including audio, video, emails, health records, or documents.

How Does Object Storage Work?

Object storage implies sorting out and designating each particular piece of data as a separate object. In practice, all data is structured as self-contained units stored as objects at the same level in a flat environment. Simply put, information is kept in separate storehouses without files and folders, and every single piece of data contains associated metadata and a unique identifier to form a storage pool. 

A user can either set the value for fixed-key metadata or create both the key and value for metadata associated with each separate object. Moreover, each object storage volume works as a self-contained repository that owns the data with a unique identifier applied, making it possible to find an object in the distributed system. Metadata within each object is extremely important concerning the storing process itself because it preserves valuable information such as age, privacies, securities, or access contingencies. 

Object storage technology uses metadata and identifiers to find any detail you search for, allowing you to access every bit of information, no matter how specific. It utilizes HTTP-based RESTful APIs for data access, using common HTTP commands such as “PUT” for upload, “GET” for retrieval, and “DELETE” for removal, enabling access from any device connected to the internet. Object storage instances store numerous static files for API calls, with evolving RESTful API standards enabling advanced features beyond basic CRUD (create, read, update, and delete) operations. 

Let’s say you’re storing a massive inventory of historical documents with information about authors, dates, categories, and ownership rights. A conventional hierarchical database would struggle to handle the sheer volume. In contrast, object storage excels in managing unchanging data like historical records. The flat structure and streamlined API retrieval make it a perfect fit. As your archive grows, you can easily scale by consolidating storage resources into larger pools.

Object-Based Storage Architecture

Discover the object-based storage architecture, a paradigm that revolutionizes data handling. Dive into three key pillars: storage abstraction layer, custom metadata, and programmability, each unlocking new possibilities in data management and accessibility.

Storage Abstraction Layer

One main difference that sets object storage apart is data volume. Data volumes are maintained and managed as objects, not blocks or files. The descriptive properties of those objects make the format easy to use. Each object has a unique identifier, making addressing and identifying separate objects more manageable than other data formats. In particular, the object-based storage architecture separates the responsibilities of a system administrator from manual management operations such as the construction of logical volumes. You can achieve it by applying the design principle built on abstracting the lowest storage level away from the applications.

Custom Metadata

Another vital characteristic of object storage is the capacity to utilize metadata fully. Other storage types usually employ fixed metadata. It is often limited to properties like names, dates, or file types. On the other hand, object-based storage strictly separates file metadata from data, opening the door for additional functionalities. For instance, object storage uses custom metadata within the object for data-management policies or to centralize storage management across multiple locations. More specifically, an object-based storage device can manage and maintain data at its level by using interface commands to create or delete objects, write/read to and from individual objects, and set attributes (metadata).

Programmability

Within object storage systems, apps can manage and manipulate data to query the required objects wherever they are stored. It is possible thanks to programmatic interfaces, often an HTTP-based RESTful API. Most implementations are limited to essential read, write, and delete operations. Some extended the functionality to object replication, life-cycle management, etc.

Pros & Cons of Object Storage

Object storage naturally has a definitive list of pros and cons, as with any other technology. 

Let’s look at some of them.

Pros

Optimized Resources

Object storage technology is set apart from file or block storage because its approach to storing and managing data applies the hierarchical model in organizing information. When expanding a block or file storage system, you expect to encounter certain limitations at one moment or another. The growing environment gets cumbersome, and the system can not handle large amounts of unstructured data without dropping the ball regarding performance. Within a flat hardware environment with equal access to all units, storing large volumes of unstructured data becomes infinitely more manageable, which has already proven invaluable in fields such as artificial intelligence or machine learning.

Infinite Scalability

Every organization butts up against the scalability challenge when they need more storage space. In an object storage environment, you can easily add and configure new hardware to keep up with your growing requirements. When storage runs out of space, you only need to add another array, and the problem is solved. Plus, you can add as much storage as you need. This practice has been streamlined for cloud object storage, creating near-infinite scalability for the end user without hardware management.

Rich Metadata

Object-based storage manages and manipulates data storage as separate units in a single storehouse. Instead of ingraining data in files inside other folders and building a hierarchical structure, object storage adds all metadata relevant to the file to separate pieces of data within the object, with a custom identifier attached. Comprehensive metadata capabilities enable us to store everything in a flat and accessible storage pool.

Simple to Use

Metadata allows users to gain value from data and retrieve anything they need without setbacks. Every single piece of data has a unique identifier attached to the associated metadata. That means the data is not only easy to access, but you can also search and find every bit of information you may ever need tied to an object, however obscure it is.

Object Lock

A much-requested feature often showing up regarding the backup and recovery use case deals directly with preventing users from being able to change or delete their data. In simple terms, make data backup immutableObject lock is a component of object storage versioning, a feature that ensures that when objects are overwritten, a version of them is kept in perpetuity. Object lock takes this to a further extreme by providing the complete immutability of objects at the software layer, kept unchangeable for however long the user sets the immutability window.

Data Protection

Object-based storage solutions usually strip data across numerous nodes to get ransomware protection for a specific data type by utilizing or erasure coding in software. It means that instead of employing one single level of data protection within the whole storage environment, it is possible to adjust the protection level according to your needs in each specific case. Together with data replication, this makes for a reliable yet flexible data protection architecture.

Cons

Low Performance

In most standard configurations, the object storage system cannot rival the other storage types’ performances. Object-based storage needs more processing time than block and file storage, often generating increased latency.

No Customization

The uniqueness of the object storage architecture has its downsides, too. For example, you can do whatever you want with the metadata but not with the objects as they are. Once it is created, there is no room for adjustments. The only way to get around that is to replicate or overwrite the object through API commands.

Price

Many object storage instances are found in cloud service providers, which offer low ingestion pricing on entry and charge multiple times the amount coming back. While object storage is straightforward to adopt and allows users to take advantage of near-infinite data storage, the price often becomes a sticking point when it becomes time to disengage.

Object Storage vs. File Storage vs. Block Storage

To understand what sets object-based storage apart, you must look more closely and examine the main features the alternative storage types can offer. Each storage type brings unique capabilities and strengths to the table, catering to various use cases and addressing specific storage needs. Comprehending these distinctions is crucial in making informed decisions about data storage in today’s digital landscape.

Block Storage: Overview and Use Cases

Block storage is all about precision and control. It operates using high-speed transport protocols such as NVMe-oF, NVMe over TCP, Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), or iSCSI. However, what truly sets block storage apart is its unwavering focus on performance. This storage type requires a Storage Area Network (SAN) to function effectively. While it demands additional infrastructure, it rewards with low latency, making it the top choice for scenarios where data access speed is paramount:

  1. Storing Databases: Databases thrive on quick and efficient data retrieval. Block storage’s low-latency design ensures databases operate seamlessly, delivering the rapid response times needed for data-driven applications.
  2. Server Storage: Block storage excels in server storage, distributing data across multiple volumes. Its versatility in creating and formatting block-based storage volumes makes it ideal for running as backend storage for virtualized systems.
  3. Email Servers: Email servers handle vast amounts of data and require robust performance. Block storage provides the reliability and speed needed to manage email communications efficiently.

File Storage: Overview and Use Cases

Often regarded as the most user-friendly option, file storage operates using common transport protocols like Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or IP. Its interface relies on well-known file-level protocols, including Network File System (NFS), Common Internet File System (CIFS), or Server Message Block (SMB). File storage’s strength lies in its simplicity and ease of use, making it an excellent choice for various scenarios:

  1. Managing Local Files: For individuals and small organizations, file storage simplifies the organization, sharing, and access of files spread across a limited environment. It’s the go-to solution for straightforward, efficient file management.
  2. Documentation Collaboration: File storage streamlines collaboration by allowing real-time changes and comments on shared documents. It eliminates the need for endless emails and folders, keeping everything in one organized library.
  3. Backup & Disaster Recovery: Regarding safeguarding critical data, file storage offers a reliable solution. It allows users to create, manage, and secure backups efficiently, ensuring data recovery in case of unexpected events.

Object Storage: Overview and Use Cases

Object storage, with its reliance on Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or IP, offers a unique approach to data management. Its interface is driven by HTTP or REST APIs, simplifying accessing and managing objects within a storage pool. The standout feature of object storage is its unparalleled scalability, coupled with accessibility through LAN and WAN networks, making it a perfect fit for a range of applications:

  1. Video Surveillance: Object storage excels in handling vast amounts of video data, making it the backbone of video surveillance systems. Its scalability ensures that surveillance footage can be stored and accessed effortlessly.
  2. Backup & Recovery:Data backup and recovery rely on accessible and reliable storage. Object-based storage provides the infrastructure for secure data backup and efficient recovery procedures.
  3. Media & Entertainment: In the world of media and entertainment, where large files and content libraries are the norm, object storage’s scalability becomes invaluable. It allows for the efficient management of multimedia assets, ensuring quick retrieval and distribution.

Key Features of Object Storage Backup Solutions

Explore the key features of object storage backup solutions that enhance data security, provide flexibility in policy management, and enable proactive defense against evolving threats.

Immutability Through S3 Object Lock

In data security, immutability and versioning hold immense significance, particularly in ransomware defense. Criminals often target backup systems to thwart data recovery efforts. Integrating S3 Object Lock technology ensures that backup data remains immutable, fortifying the organization’s resilience against such threats.

Bucket-Level Policy Setting

Recognizing that not all data requires the same level of protection or retention, organizations can optimize their backup strategies by implementing bucket-level policies. This approach allows them to categorize data based on criticality and establish distinct backup tiers. Additionally, it lays the foundation for future automation efforts, ensuring efficient data management.

Robust APIs

As data protection evolves, organizations must anticipate emerging security requirements. Object storage solutions with robust APIs facilitate the seamless integration of advanced data security features. It includes integrating security software for malware scanning within backups and leveraging access patterns to detect potential compromises of admin accounts. This forward-thinking approach ensures that data remains secure in an ever-changing threat landscape.

Showcasing Object Storage Excellence with Ootbi by Object First

Object First presents a new chapter for object storage. Ransomware-proof and immutable out-of-the-box, Ootbi by Object First delivers secure, simple, and powerful backup storage for Veeam customers. Built on immutable object storage technology, Ootbi is designed and optimized for unbeatable backup and recovery performance, providing ingest speeds up to 4GB/s and allowing you to move large amounts of data to a single place rather than little bits of data to many different places. 

Ootbi ensures immutability through S3 Object Lock and restricts unauthorized access by heavily securing the appliance’s contents, including the storage software and operating system, while offering scalability by supporting up to four nodes and up to half a petabyte capacity.

Conclusion

Each storage format comes with distinct pros and cons. Block storage offers high reliability and performance for large data volumes but can be costly. File storage provides a user-friendly interface with robust searchability via metadata but becomes complex to manage and incurs growing costs as storage arrays expand. 

Object storage offers many benefits, including its capacity for rich metadata and limitless scalability, standing out as a cost-effective solution. However, its traditional configurations may lag in performance compared to other options, which remains its primary limitation. 

While object storage is not often used as a primary backup solution, at Object First, we’ve meticulously fine-tuned our unique object storage to leverage our hardware configuration, achieving an optimal blend of immutability, simplicity, and high performance! 

Request a demo to learn more about how we leveraged object storage technology and how it can make your backup ransom-proof!

FAQ

What Is Object Storage?

Object storage is a data management solution that stores information as distinct objects, each with its unique identifier and metadata. This method simplifies data access and retrieval by organizing it into manageable, self-contained units.

How Does Object Storage Work?

Object storage organizes data into self-contained objects stored at the same level, using metadata and unique identifiers for efficient retrieval, eliminating the need for complex file structures and making data management more straightforward and scalable.

What Are the Advantages of Object Storage?

Object storage offers several advantages, including scalability, rich metadata support, and immutability, making it a cost-effective and secure solution for data storage. Its ability to handle vast amounts of unstructured data efficiently differentiates it from traditional storage methods.

How Does Object Storage Compare to File and Block Storage?

Object storage excels in scalability and its ability to manage unstructured data, making it ideal for scenarios where flexibility and accessibility are paramount. In contrast, file and block storage prioritize performance and precision, making them better suited for applications with specific speed and control requirements.

What Is S3 Object Lock in Object Storage?

S3 Object Lock is a crucial feature in object storage, ensuring the immutability of stored objects. This protection prevents unauthorized changes or deletions, providing robust data integrity and security, particularly against threats like ransomware.

What Is the Difference Between S3 and Object Storage?

S3 (Simple Storage Service) is a specific implementation of object storage provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). On the other hand, object storage is a broader category of storage solutions that includes various implementations like S3 but with different features and providers.

How Can Object Storage Enhance Data Security in Backups?

Object storage backup solutions enhance data security by offering immutability, robust APIs, and policy management capabilities. These features fortify data against evolving threats and ensure reliable backup and recovery processes.

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