What storage method is best for handling data storage in management?

With the exponential growth of data in the modern digital era, organizations are faced with the critical task of finding the optimal storage solutions to handle their data storage needs. The choice of data storage method can have significant impacts on performance, scalability, costs, and other aspects of data management. For management, identifying the best storage approach is key to enabling effective analytics, decision-making and smooth business operations. This article provides an in-depth look at the key data storage methods applicable for management and an analysis of their relative pros and cons.

On-premises storage

On-premises storage refers to storage infrastructure that is deployed within an organization’s own data center. This includes storage devices like hard disk drives (HDDs), solid state drives (SSDs), tape drives, etc. that are connected to the company’s servers and network. Some benefits of on-premises storage include:

  • Full control – organizations have complete ownership of their storage equipment and data
  • Lower latency – data access is quicker since storage is close to compute resources
  • Enhanced security – sensitive data remains within the organization’s firewall
  • Compliance – meets regulatory requirements for in-house data retention

However, on-premises storage also comes with sizable upfront costs for purchasing and managing storage hardware and staff. Scaling capacity can be challenging and expensive. Routine maintenance and upgrades add to the overhead.

Cloud storage

Cloud-based storage solutions provide organizations with scalable and flexible storage capacity that is hosted by third party cloud providers. Popular options include:

  • Object storage services like Amazon S3 and Azure Blob Storage for unstructured data
  • Block storage volumes like AWS EBS and Google Persistent Disks for structured databases
  • File storage services such as Dropbox and Google Drive for user files and shared storage

Benefits of cloud storage include:

  • Cost efficiency – pay only for used capacity on demand
  • Scalability – easy to add more capacity
  • Accessibility – data available from anywhere with internet connection
  • Durability – built-in data replication and redundancy

Downsides of cloud storage revolve around data security concerns, vendor lock-in, and network bandwidth constraints for large data transfers. Regulatory factors may also limit adoption.

Software-defined storage (SDS)

Software-defined storage decouples the storage software from the underlying hardware via a virtualized storage architecture. This enables greater flexibility, automation and centralized control for storage administrators. SDS solutions allow businesses to:

  • Pool together different storage devices into a unified system
  • Automate routine storage tasks like provisioning, snapshots, replication etc.
  • Improve scalability and reduce vendor lock-in

SDS can be deployed on commodity hardware on-premises or on the cloud. Leading SDS vendors include Dell EMC ScaleIO, Hedvig, DataCore and IBM Spectrum Storage.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI)

Hyperconverged infrastructure combines storage, compute and networking into a single unified system deployed on-premises, providing simplicity and tight integration. HCI nodes are modular building blocks comprising x86 servers and software-defined storage that can be clustered together to form flexible shared resource pools. HCI benefits include:

  • Accelerated deployments – HCI systems are fast and easy to implement
  • Scalability via modular nodes with linear capacity and performance growth
  • Improved resilience with distributed architecture and redundancy
  • Platform for modern workloads using technologies like containers and microservices

Nutanix, Dell EMC VxRail, Cisco HyperFlex, and HPE SimpliVity are among the top HCI solutions.

Direct-attached storage (DAS)

Direct-attached storage refers to storage media that is directly connected to a server, unlike networked storage accessible over a SAN or NAS. DAS options include:

  • Internal hard drives inside a server
  • External hard drives connected via USB/Thunderbolt/eSATA
  • Enclosures of SSD/HDDs linked by SAS/SATA cables

DAS offers excellent performance and simplicity for single server use cases. Downsides include lack of shareability and inability to scale capacity separately from compute.

Storage Area Networks (SAN)

SAN provides access to consolidated block-level storage (disks, flash) over high speed dedicated networks separate from LANs. This enables shared access from multiple servers for large scale deployments. SAN systems consist of:

  • SAN switch infrastructure built on Fibre Channel or iSCSI/Ethernet
  • SAN storage arrays that hold capacity disks, SSDs, etc.
  • Cables and adapters connecting servers to switches

Benefits of SAN include scalability, high throughput and availability. However, SAN can be complex to deploy and manage.

Network-attached storage (NAS)

NAS systems provide file-level shared storage access over standard TCP/IP Ethernet networks. NAS arrays contain HDDs or SSDs and an embedded operating system to serve files using network file sharing protocols like NFS, SMB/CIFS:

  • Ease of setup and management compared to SAN
  • Ability to share files cross-platform between Windows, Linux, macOS
  • Centralized pools avoid storage silos and duplication
  • Integrated data protection and security features

NAS scale and performance is limited by network speeds. High-end NAS can rival SAN but is more expensive.

Object storage

Object storage manages data as abstract objects instead of files or blocks. Objects consist of the data itself, metadata and a globally unique ID. Object stores are optimized for cloud-scale capacities and access:

  • Massive scalability into petabytes of data
  • Built-in metadata enables easier searches and organization
  • Resilient architecture with replication and erasure coding
  • Cost efficiency from commodity hardware and no network bottlenecks

Drawbacks include poor performance for small objects and lack of standard protocols compared to NAS/SAN. Object storage suits large unstructured data workloads like media archives and genomic data.

Cold/Deep storage

Cold or deep storage refers to economical long term storage used for data that is infrequently accessed and can tolerate higher latencies. This allows organizations to shift rarely used data off more expensive primary storage tiers. Common cold storage media include:

  • Magnetic tapes – used for backups and archives due to portability, longevity and low cost.
  • SATA hard drives – cheaper than enterprise HDDs if performance needs are low.
  • Cloud archives like Amazon S3 Glacier – very cheap but difficult to retrieve data.

Virtual storage

Virtual storage abstracts the logical storage environment from the physical storage hardware using virtualization. This allows administrators to provision, resize and move storage capacity dynamically without disruption. Benefits include:

  • Location independence – virtual storage can be relocated as needed
  • Improved utilization – capacity can be allocated from a shared pool as required
  • Greater agility to adapt storage as needs change
  • Standardization by decoupling from vendor-specific hardware

All-flash arrays

All-flash arrays contain only SSDs instead of spinning hard disks for maximal performance. Ultra-fast access times below 1ms allow flash storage to handle intense transactional and real-time workloads. Other advantages:

  • 10-20x faster than HDD arrays for read/write operations
  • Reduced data center footprint with higher storage density
  • Lower power consumption costs
  • Advanced data reduction features like deduplication and compression

Downsides of all-flash storage are the higher costs and lower capacities compared to HDD-based options. Leading AFA vendors include Pure Storage, NetApp and HPE Nimble Storage.

What is the best storage method for data management in an organization?

There is no universal “best” storage solution for all use cases. The optimal data storage architecture for an organization depends on factors like:

  • Amount of data that needs to be stored – capacity requirements
  • Frequency of data access – I/O performance needs
  • Number of users and applications accessing data concurrently – scalability needs
  • Security, compliance and governance requirements
  • Existing IT infrastructure and skillsets
  • Budget constraints

Most enterprises employ a hybrid multi-tiered approach combining multiple storage platforms to match the right solution to each workload. For instance:

  • Transactional databases on all-flash SAN storage for optimal performance
  • Unstructured file shares on on-premises NAS
  • Large media files in cloud object storage
  • Backups and archives on cold deep storage
  • Virtualized shared storage for flexibility

The key is to assess the storage needs, demands and constraints to architect the optimal blend of storage capabilities.


Selecting suitable data storage infrastructure is a crucial consideration for IT management seeking to build high performance and scalable data management platforms. The myriad options available including on-premises storage, cloud storage, software-defined storage, virtualized storage, all-flash arrays and more each carry their own advantages and disadvantages. Organizations must thoroughly evaluate their workload requirements, cost constraints and business objectives to determine the ideal storage technologies for their specific use cases. Often, the best approach combines multiple storage mediums and tiers tailored to different applications and data profiles. With careful planning and testing of storage alternatives, management can deploy storage solutions to effectively support business-critical data now and in the future.