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The Differences Between Cold, Warm, and Hot Storage

It’s clear we’re in the middle of a digital transformation, as traditional file storage systems are being replaced by modern software-defined file platforms, and cloud revenues are increasing 50 percent year over year. But what does that mean for any organization, and how should you think about the different tiers of files and data within your organization?

At CTERA we think about this topic through the prism of edge to cloud and the notion of hot, warm and cold file storage. Here are the key differences between them:

  • Hot storage represents frequently used and critical files stored at the edge for fast local access
  • Warm storage is often illustrated as files stored on a cloud storage gateway or file server/NAS for fast retrieval, most often at a corporate headquarters or remote office/branch office (ROBO)
  • Cold storage doesn’t require fast access. It mostly represents archived materials and infrequently accessed projects and documents. These are increasingly stored in low-cost object and cloud storage tiers

Let’s explore these three categories a little further.

Different types of file storage

Hot Storage – Files at the Edge

Because much of today’s data is created outside the data center, edge storage provides the means to store, access, and edit files locally. This includes hot storage files on desktop computers, laptops, mobile devices, and increasingly on IoT devices. Hot storage is local, so you can access it faster than cloud storage. It can be readily available on your device even without an internet connection.

But having lots of edge files means that data can go dark, siloed locally with no central visibility. If you’ve ever looked at an ex-employee’s laptop and found customer spreadsheets, budget projections and email lists shared nowhere else, you’ve experienced dark data.

Moreover, data protection at the edge can be become extraordinarily expensive. As a result, companies might not back up their edge files as regularly as they should. This can lead to data loss due to lost or destroyed devices, or to malware such as ransomware.

File sharing at the edge can compound the challenges. It can be difficult to share files between users, particularly between ROBOs. For example, it might not be possible (and certainly not secure) to email huge files. These can also be impossibly slow to download from a central server. That’s why organizations in the past have deployed file servers for local users, and why they are now deploying edge filers, or cloud storage gateways. Edge filers provide local access to a global file system that’s redefining what warm storage looks like today.Expert Kit

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Warm Storage – Files at the Filer

Today’s teams collaborating on projects around the globe (such as in media & creative firms) typically need a solution designed specifically for dispersed locations, and one that spans on-premises and cloud infrastructures. Edge filers are one such solution. Combining NAS with cloud storage, an edge filer replaces traditional file servers or NAS devices in offices. The user experience for warm storage remains the same (SMB/CIFS access), but filer capacity constraints become a thing of the past. The object storage backend provides a scalable, cost-effective file repository that effectively ends the file server refresh cycle.

As well, the object store serves as the backbone of a global file system that enables new levels of user collaboration and productivity in the distributed enterprise. Filers at the edge connect to the global file system and allow local users to work seamlessly with remote colleagues. Smart caching technologies allow a user to see all files available to him, even if they are not local.

Improve organizational performance

With a filer it’s no longer a problem if your project manager’s laptop only has 100 GB of storage and the project he’s managing is 200 GB. The manager and his team benefit from fast workstation access to files and data that live on the filer via local network access and provide unlimited space to grow.


Cold Storage – Files in the Cloud

For files that aren’t used all that regularly but need to be stored securely, we recommend cloud or object storage. This offers companies low-cost, infinitely elastic storage suitable for long-term archival. For example, if your business produces video or multimedia, you need a way to securely store but also quickly identify (without downloading) and then retrieve files as needed. This brings us back to the importance of a solution that bridges edge and cloud, allowing organizations to tap into all of their data in a single repository.

ctera cloud global file services

The ability to see file stubs locally with the ability to download as needed works beautifully for archival use cases. (For instance, when an organization wants to offload information to the cloud, but still needs to ‘see’ it locally.)

As well, organizations should look for solutions that deliver end-to-end encryption from edge to cloud. This ensures data privacy when they do need to pull data from the cloud, or when they changes made to a file are replicated/synced to the cloud.

Putting It All Together

Companies need secure enterprise file services that span from edge to cloud. The good news is that all of these features and functionality needed to store and access hot, warm and cold files and data are offered in the CTERA Enterprise File Services Platform. Would you like to know more? Drop us a line today!

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