Types of Cloud Storage Systems

with emphasis on AWS Storage Solutions

Types of Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is the most utilized solution in cloud computing, and it is probably the first thing that comes to mind when the term “cloud computing” is mentioned. For a lot of people, the notion of the cloud is just a place where data is stored and is reachable from anywhere online. And it is partially true, but it is only a fraction of what cloud computing is about and the massive capabilities a public cloud service provider, such as AWS, can deliver.


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This article is part of a series of articles on Cloud Computing for Beginners.



Out of the thousand topics to discuss in the world of cloud computing, I’ve chosen the “Cloud Storage Solutions” and their use cases to be the topic of this article.

The world witnessed exponential growth in the size of data in the past few years. Social media, multimedia, big data, and data replication all contributed to this exponential growth. And to deal with different types of data and data usage, innovators had to come up with different types of storage solutions to optimize budget and performance. A cloud architect now has to select which cloud storage solution is most suitable for the use case.

The three main types of public cloud storage systems are:

File Storage Systems

This is the type of cloud storage we all know. Cloud File-Storage systems are similar to what we know in a windows-based computer. A simple and easy-to-use file storage system where files are stored and organized in a certain way that makes it easy to find what we want from within these files. AWS EFS, Google Drive, and Dropbox are examples of file storage systems in the cloud.

  • File storage use cases include: user home directory and personal media files.


Block Storage Systems

Cloud block storage is a structured type of storage that provides vSAN (Virtualized Storage Area Network) similar to what an on-premise physical SAN would provide. Block storage is a cloud storage area with logical volumes management through a web interface.

  • Block storage use cases include: virtual machines and RAID.


Object Storage Systems

Object storage is optimized for storing large volumes of unstructured data. And it is currently the most popular storage type. Simply because of its flexibility to store different kinds of data types. Most database services are currently leveraging and migrating to object-storage systems rather than initially leveraged block storage. Microsoft Azure Blob storage and AWS S3 are examples of object storage in the cloud.

  • Object Storage use cases include: big data,  backup, and static web hosting.


The following image graphically illustrates the difference between file storage, block storage, and object storage. You can notice the hierarchical structure of file storage, the structured block storage, and the unstructured object storage systems.


Types of Cloud Storage Systems-File-Object-Block
Types of Cloud Storage Systems


Types of Cloud Storage in AWS

AWS offers various types of cloud storage solutions, in this section, I will give you a brief idea of the following: S3, EBS, EFS, Glacier, Snowball, and Storage Gateway.


AWS S3 Object Storage

Amazon S3 stands for simple storage service and it is a durable object storage solution from AWS that can be used for all types of data. AWS S3 stores data objects in containers called buckets and it is designed for the 11 nine’s durability (99.999999999%) which makes it the preferred choice of millions of companies around the world.


AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS)

Amazon EBS is an elastic block storage solution from AWS. Storage volumes from EBS are ideally used with AWS EC2 instances and Relational Database Service (RDS). AWS offers high availability and durability by automatically replicating EBS volumes within their Availability Zones as a protective measure against component failure.


AWS Elastic File System (EFS)

Amazon EFS is a File storage solution from Amazon for use with EC2 as well. Amazon offers two storage classes in EFS a standard class and the Infrequent Access (IA) storage class that is cost-optimized for files that are not for every-day use.


AWS S3 Glacier 

Amazon Glacier is a slow and price-effective storage solution from AWS ideally used as archival storage for infrequently accessed data such as backups. Similar to S3, Glacier is designed to deliver the famous 11 nines durability (99.999999999%), however, availability varies.


AWS Snowball

Snowball is one of the few hardware solutions offered by AWS. It is a data migration tool designed for organizations that have taken the decision to migrate their data-center to AWS cloud but are stuck with tons of data that are impossible to be transferred over the internet. AWS has a solution for that. Amazon will physically ship a Snowball, where clients can upload their data to the network-attached device, encrypt it, and then ship it back to the AWS region where the data will be loaded to S3 buckets. Clients can use a snowball to transfer data of different sizes, as small as 50 GB and as large as 100 PetaByte of data which in this case will require a Snowmobile; a 45-foot long ruggedized shipping container pulled by a semi-trailer truck!


AWS Storage Gateway

AWS storage gateway is a hybrid cloud storage solution that provides AWS clients access to virtually unlimited cloud storage. AWS Storage Gateway use cases include offsite backup, archiving, and disaster recovery use cases.


Final Thought on “Types of Cloud Storage”

Finally, whether you are working on-premise, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment, the type of storage is always derived from the size and nature of data being handled. I hope that this article was useful to introduce the different types of cloud storage systems, particularly what AWS has to offer in this important area of cloud computing.



Nizar Hakeem

Technologist, computer and communications engineering graduate, certified in the governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT), AWS Cloud, and ITIL with 12+ years of solid experience in information technology systems infrastructure and a unique mix of both technical and business skills. Blogging about technology, movies, travel, and food!

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