What is Object Storage?

Posted on by Ronald Caldwell | Updated:
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Object-based storage provides a cost-effective, scalable, and durable storage solution for substantial amounts of data. In addition, it adds levels of scalability and efficiency for vast quantities of data that block storage cannot achieve without sacrificing durability and performance. First, let’s look at what object storage is and how it works. Then we’ll review some benefits and use cases.

What is Object Storage?

Object storage is a cloud-based storage solution that manages data as whole objects stored in a central cloud cluster and is accessible to users via an application programming interface (API). Each object contains both the data and the related metadata. 

Including the metadata increases efficiency and reduces overhead with data that reaches into the petabyte range and beyond. By contrast, block storage becomes inefficient with large amounts of data. 

With Liquid Web’s Object Storage, you have one of the most cost-effective, secure, and scalable storage solutions for your data.

How Object Storage Works

Object storage stores files inside of a resource known as a bucket. Inside this bucket, there can be multiple folders storing various files or other static information. For example, you can use object storage for storing photos on Facebook, songs on Spotify, or files in online services such as Dropbox.

The only downside is that you lose the ability to manipulate files in small parts. Instead, the whole file or object gets edited and re-uploaded. For these reasons, object storage is ideal for the long-term storage of high volumes of data.

Object Storage Features

Accessible via API

While other storage systems are accessed directly through the file system or over a network, your hosting provider manages the object storage cloud cluster. Data is accessed by customers via API at the application level for data uploads. Downloading data can be done via hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP).

Scalable For Limitless Data

Object Storage is also ideal for large data sets due to its flat (not hierarchical) file structure. It is easily scaled up and expanded horizontally with the simple addition of more nodes in a web server cluster. 

Durable & Redundant

A standard feature of object storage is the replication of files. It achieves data protection by storing multiple copies of the data (usually three) across a distributed system. In the case of failed hardware, an object storage system will automatically replicate the data until it creates the required number to ensure constant redundancy.

Cost-Effective

Object storage is highly efficient with vast amounts of data. This is because it uses the much faster sequential I/O (input/output) when reading data instead of random I/O. In addition, the storage of metadata with each object eliminates overhead that might otherwise slow it down. These features allow object storage’s cost to remain very low when your data set is high.

Liquid Web’s Object Storage pricing is a flat, per-gigabyte storage price of $0.08 per GB per month. Best of all, there are no bandwidth or request fees, so accessing or calling data within your code does not incur an additional cost.

Object Storage vs File Storage vs Block Storage

Including object storage, there are three types of storage from which to choose.

Object Storage

Object storage stores data in buckets and designates each piece of data as an object. Each object gets stored with all metadata and unique identifiers for locating and accessing the data via API.

Block Storage

Block storage breaks files into blocks and stores them as separate pieces of data with unique addresses. Thus, standard file/folder structure is not needed, but rather the blocks are stored collectively on a centralized cluster over a network for the most efficiency.

File Storage

File storage is the standard storage used on personal computers (PC), mobile devices, and servers. It stores data via a hierarchical structure using folders. Because of the nested nature of the system, file paths are necessary for accessing data.

Benefits of Object Storage

Scalability

Objects get stored in a flat environment, such as a server. Therefore, additional servers can get added to the object storage cluster in parallel as more space is needed. 

Cloud Compatible

Object storage is a powerful, multi-tenant storage tool with Amazon S3 compatibility. Not only can S3 APIs be used by agencies to store video and image content for their projects, but businesses can make use of it as well.

Affordable

The volume-based nature of the pricing structure makes object storage a more cost-effective solution. In addition, developers, agencies, and business owners do not have to house or lease equipment for storage. Instead, they can take advantage of a hosting provider’s built-out infrastructure already optimized for storage.

Object Storage Use Cases

Here are a few of the use cases for object storage.

Backup Storage

Object storage is a great way to store backups off-server and save your local storage space. And its efficiency with large data sets makes it ideal for backups intended for disaster recovery.

Storage for Web Applications

Object Storage is also ideal for unstructured static files, especially files that might take up a large amount of space, such as images, music, and videos. Not only is an object storage instance capable of quickly scaling up to your storage needs, but it will also ensure your files are available across the web with minimal latency.

Web developers and agencies can store their website and application content in a highly scalable environment. Then, with a few lines of code, they can call those objects and use them as needed, thanks to the metadata and identifiers attached to each package of data.

Centralized Storage for Big Data

Companies developing or making use of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), or the Internet of things (IoT) will find that using object storage to create a centralized repository is both cost-effective and scalable. These platforms get designed to grow continually, and object storage provides what these businesses need.

Conclusion

Object storage operates more like an FTP server, while block storage operates more like an external hard drive. Furthermore, it uses sequential read/writes, which allow it to scale to enormous sizes with excellent efficiency.

Consider using Liquid Web’s Highly Available Object Storage in the Cloud. With its highly redundant 3-copy storage, Amazon S3-compliant APIs, and no hidden fees, it is an excellent option for your storage needs. Our sales and support team is available around the clock to assist you with your needs, so reach out to learn more about Liquid Web’s Object Storage today!

About the Author: Ronald Caldwell

Ron is a Technical Writer with Liquid Web working with the Marketing team. He has 8+ years of experience in Technology. He obtained an Associate of Science in Computer Science from Prairie State College in 2015. He is happily married to his high school sweetheart and lives in Michigan with her and their children.

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