What is enterprise storage hardware?

Enterprise storage hardware is where most of the data you don’t use every day goes.

Depending on the type of data you’re storing there, these are either solutions that focus on minimising how long it takes to access the data, or cheaper offline solutions that take you a while to access your information.

While lots of companies are looking at cloud storage as a cheap option these days, we’re going to quickly take you through the most typical types of enterprise storage hardware you’ll find on the market.

Tape storage

The oldest kind of storage hardware, putting data on tape is a cheap and popular but slow option. Used in most medium and large data centres, tape isn’t as cheap as disk these days and also requires a long time to pull up data. This is because it has to wind an average of one-third of the length of the tape to move from one block of data to another, meaning it’s not great for quickly locating random requested data.

However, generally it is considered a good option for smaller businesses, where performance requirements are lower and the amount of data is smaller (say, 20TB).

Disk storage

If tape meets the needs of smaller businesses, large enterprises should be looking at disk, at least. That’s because disk meets higher performance requirements: it offers faster data recovery, and makes backup a cost-effective option.

Disk and tape are both block storage devices, which means each disk is divided into blocks of data: the reading of data from disk or writing of data to disk happens on the levels of these blocks.

An easy way to think about it is like chapters in a book: you know that in a travel book all the information about England will be under the chapter of the same heading.

The hardware on the disk drive dictates where on the disk the data should be stored, and it will quickly locate that block. The data is then written to the block either optically or magnetically. Because a disk can spin quickly to the correct block, it is not a linear method like tape, and so it’s quicker to retrieve data.

Disk’s downsides are its shorter lifespan than other storage options, and its reliability: the relatively fragile medium can be damaged easily, rendering the data useless.

Solid-state drive storage (SSD)

SSDs contain no moving parts, and so are pretty robust when compared to magnetic methods like tape and disk. Instead, they rely on semiconductors and electronics for storing data, meaning they use less power than their alternatives, too.

Because there is no moving parts, access time is far quicker than tape or disk, but they’re also a lot more expensive as well.

SSDs either rely on RAM or flash (the first offers fast access, while the second retains data without power) and are highly portable, but the storage space on offer is generally smaller than traditional magnetic hard drives.

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