Evolution of Storage Media

INTRODUCTION

As technology changes by the day, organizations around the world are faced with the pressure of ensuring that they provide affordable and high performing Information Technology (IT) services continually all day and night. The data and information that an organization has is its most valued asset and it is also an asset that is quite expensive to maintain. As a result, media storage technology has always been evolving in order to support applications far greater Input and Output (I/O) data rates.

It is estimated that almost a third of all spending that is done by IT departments goes to the data centers and their management [1, p24].  Most firms and companies are continually recognizing the importance of ICT in their operations in the area of maximizing efficiency which has led to the growth of Cloud Computing and High Performance Computing facilities being incorporated into the workings of these organizations. This can be attributed to the high growth rate of data and ‘Big Data’ as it is commonly referred to as and this leads to increasing storage demands.  Storage media technology has been evolving and particularly in three main configurations which are the Direct Attached Storage (DAS), Network Attached Storage (NAS) and the last being the Storage Area Networks.

Evolution of storage media technology

  1. Direct Attached Storage (DAS)

The Direct Attached Storage (DAS) is a computer storage that is connected to one computer but not accessible by other computers. This is one of the oldest method of storing data which involved the technique of locally attaching  the various storage devices directly to the servers through a direct communication pathways that ran between the server and the storage devices[3, p187]. Connectivity is usually on a dedicated path that is also connected to the network cable. The storage here could only be accessed through an intelligent controller.

The method of ensuring that the storage could only be accessed via the directly attached server was developed mainly to address the inabilities that were present in drive-bays when they were connected to the host computers. In this method, when a situation arose where a server was in need of more space it a storage unit would be attached[4, p83]. This would then allow one server to be able to mirror another and this same functionality may be accomplished through directly attached server-server interfaces. The hard drive is a form of direct-attached storage that is used for individual computer users.

It was noted that DAS could provide the end users with better results of performance when it was compared to networked storage as the server did not have to pass through the network so as to read and write the data[5, p365].  Most organization chose DAS for applications that require high performance because of this attribute. This form of storage was however criticized by IT experts as being an inefficient form of managing an organizations data as DAS storage could not be shared and did not facilitate what was commonly known as failover if the servers were to crash[2, p186].

  1. Network Attached Storage (NAS)

This a file-level access storage form where the storage elements themselves are attached directly to a Local Area Network. This storage network can be accessed directly by any user with there also being an additional tier added for the storage of shared files. The IP applications that are usually in use here are the Network File System (NFS) and Common Internet File System (CIFS). In this type of data storage there is a separate computer which takes the role of being the ‘filer’ which means it becomes a security access controller for the storage unit [6,p 782]. The individual servers do not need their own personal storage and are able to be more efficient in utilizing the storage capacity that is available. In this form of storage the only requirement for the servers is that they use the IP protocol that is given. This means servers can use different platforms while using the IP protocol.

The reach to data in this type of storage is provided to a heterogeneous clientele. It is important to note that the storage devices in NAS are arranged into redundant storage containers (RAID). NAS was lauded as a convenient way of sharing files between multiple computers while at the same time also being able to serve files leading to faster data access and simple configuration [7, p220].

  1. Storage Area Networks (SANs)

SANs are connected behind the servers to provide what IT experts refer to as block-level access ( specific blocks on a storage device as compared to file level access)  to any form of shared data storage areas. In this form of storage it is common for one file to contain several blocks leading to high availability for data environments [8, p3].

Access in SAN is provided to a consolidated block data storage system and are used to enhance other storage devices such as tape libraries and disk arrays[9, p.8]. They have their own network of storage devices which cannot be accessed through the Local Area Network by other devices.

 

The appropriateness of utilizing hard disk drive storage devices in modern storage solutions

A hard disk drive refers to a non-volatile memory hardware device that stores or retrieves data from a computer permanently. The platters in a hard disk drive are responsible for providing space where the data is written with a magnetic head [10, p.10]. The use of hard disk drive storage has become common in the recent past due to the vast range of benefits and advantages that their use brings.

One of the benefits of using the hard disk drives for storage is that they provide extra space. When the memory in a computer device is depleted or saturated, these hard disk drives come in handy as they provide the much needed space that is required by the user. The additional space is important as files, images and videos can be stored here. Files can also be transferred from the computer to the hard disk drive to create space in the computer that is required for its proper functioning [11, p.50].

Hard disk drives are also important in the storage of old files. There are files that have been in an individual’s computer for months or even years and the user cannot delete them due to their importance. External hard drives can be of benefit as they can be used to sore these old files and thus pave way for new ones [12, p.25].  The performance and speed of a computer can also be improved by freeing up the memory using a hard disk drive

Backing up of important data can also be done using these hard disk drives. The important data is put in these hard disk drives free of any tampering and extra copies of files can also be stored here. This is important in an organization that deals with important data that comes in very large volumes [13, p.340].

Hard disk drives are very convenient and handy. This is due to their small size and weight and also because they can be detached and carried around in a bags and stored rather easily without requiring large amounts of space [14, p.10]. This thus means that the hard disk drives are handy and can be carried around everywhere allowing the user to access information or data stored in it from any computer.

Copying and transferring large files need hard disk drives due to their large storage capabilities. Large amounts of files can be copied from one computer and transferred to another computer using these hard disks in a very efficient way.

There are hard disk drives that allow for encryption so once a file is transferred there no one can access it without permission .This in essence provides security for the files that have been stored here. It is also possible for heavy internet users to keep their files secure as hackers would find it hard to access the information that is in the hard disk drive.

Hard disk drives are also cost effective as they are the cheapest high-capacity storage option per megabyte of the storage space. As compared to solid-state drives of the same capacity, hard disk drives are more economical as they cost ten times less.

In ensuring that data is managed efficiently, Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) which is a practice of implementing policies for management of information is implemented. This is done through the alignment of the organization or businesses value of information with the most cost effective Information Technology infrastructure.

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