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What’s the Difference Between Block, File and Object-based Data Storage?

Object storage takes each piece of data and uses it as an object, file storage stores whole data in a folder to help organize, block storage breaks down a file into blocks and stores them as separate pieces.


Let’s talk about how, why and which type of data storage is right for you or your data center.

Topic: What is block storage vs. file storage vs. object storage?

We’ll get back to basics and discuss how object-based storage devices and software-defined storage compares to traditional network storage technologies, and when it is the right solution for you and your organizations goals.

What are the Most Common Data Storage Technologies?

What is object vs. block vs. file storage? Comparison to traditional data storage including custom metadata, http remote access, scalability, multisite, fixed system attributes, transactional data, performance, smb or nfs, single site

What is Object Storage?

  1. Object storage data is based on key value addressing (store an object and get a key, just like a car valet giving you a ticket).
  2. The client or access method is usually an application over HTTP and custom information about the file is stored in its metadata.
  3. Object storage is Ideal for shared files which can be stored as-is or deleted and for highly scalable, multi-site deployments.

Object storage data is submitted and stored using a key or universally unique identifier (UUID) which is returned to the application so it can easily access the file when needed. When that file is later requested for retrieval, the object storage interface software application passes the key back to the object storage system and the file is retrieved.

Metadata makes data storage object playable, searchable, displayable, actionable, executable

What is Block Storage?

  1. Block storage data is organized through block IDs (e.g., sector number) and can be organized as a structure (called a file system) or an application-specific structure.
  2. The client operating system accesses block storage through Fibre Channel or iSCSI or using a direct-attached storage device (DASD).
  3. Block storage is ideal for transactional or structured information like file systems, databases, transactional logs, swap space, or for running VMs.
  4. Optimized for block-level performance measured in IOPS (Input/output operations per second).

Using traditional file systems on block storage places explicit or practical operational limits on scaling beyond the petabyte range.

What is File Storage?

  1. File storage data is accessed as file IDs (server name + directory path + filename) over a shared network and the storage server manages the data on disk.
  2. NFS and SMB are the common network protocols used for file access over a network.
  3. The storage server or array uses block storage with a local file system to organize these files, and clients only deal with the protocol and the file path. Fixed file attributes like type, size, date created and date modified are stored in the file system.

File-based storage is good at shared files and shared directories over a LAN (local area network) or WAN (wide area network). The areas where this kind of network-attached storage (NAS) runs into problems is with the scaling limits of their underlying file system and with their inability to spread workload across multiple file servers.

How To Start Migrating to Object Storage?

Whether you fall into the category of novice or expert object storage user, we’ve developed an extensive library of data storage resources so you can find the right information when you need it.
Object storage vendors like Caringo can solve many of today’s object storage challenges. Watch the video Best Practices for Object Storage Installation & Management. Where Caringo delves into object storage design and usage patterns, high-performance metadata and how to configure object storage to maximize benchmark performance.

Object Storage for Advanced Users

Why Shouldn’t I Use Object Storage?

  • Risk of data loss, data growth and limitations in traditional technologies (which start to stutter at the petabyte capacity range).
  • Users expect always on and accessible storage from new web-based applications.
  • Inefficient data silos or locking data into a single location, limiting the ability for reuse and analysis—particularly in big data, life sciences and medical imaging use cases where sharing information literally can be a matter of life or death.
Tony Barbagallo
Tony Barbagallo

About The CEO

Throughout his 30-year career, Tony Barbagallo has leveraged his extensive experience to establish and grow hardware, software and service organizations. He has held a mix of leadership roles at small and large companies, including VP of Marketing and Product Management at Skyera, WildPackets (now Savvius), and EVault, VP of Marketing and Sales at Dantz (acquired by EMC), and senior management positions at Microsoft, Mentor Graphics, Sun, and GE. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Syracuse University and has also completed the Stanford University Executive Program.

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