Distributed Storage Systems

A Guide | CrowdStorage

What is distributed storage?

Each day, over 67 million Instagram posts, 5.9 billion YouTube videos, and 306 billion emails are posted, watched, and sent.

That’s a lot of data!

That’s only a tiny slice of the total digital traffic we see each day. But every single one of those actions is creating bits of data. Each day, 2.5 Exabytes are produced. And for context, there are 1 million terabytes in an exabyte. While very little of that stays on our own devices, those bytes need to live somewhere!

Your business is likely facing the same issues the Twitters and Googles of the world are seeing—an ever-growing need for affordable data storage systems.

Next-gen distributed storage systems are how we’re addressing your ever-increasing storage need without compromising security or performance. In this article, we’ll discuss traditional data storage, its evolution towards cloud storage and then move on to cover distributed storage, its pros and cons, and how CrowdStorage is taking distributed technologies to new levels.

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Storage origins: single drive and RAID.

If you are looking to back up data in a secure, private, and affordable way, one option is to use RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). RAID storage uses multiple disk drives to copy or mirror your primary data across multiple physical disks. It provides excellent data privacy and some improved durability but is insufficient to protect one’s data in situations such as fire, flood, and theft. RAID is a definite improvement from storing your data on a single drive, but both methods still suffer from traditional data storage shortcomings; such as security vulnerabilities, lack of accessibility, and data loss.

Security and Vulnerability
Keeping your own drive safe and secure requires staying up-to-date on security upgrades and patches. Letting your device software go out-of-date means leaving your device vulnerable and insecure.

Accessibility
Without some sort of cloud software, you can only access your files if you’re in the same physical location as the device. Losing, misplacing, or forgetting your computer or drives means your data is entirely inaccessible. This is inconvenient, and often costly.

Data Loss
As an extension of inaccessibility and vulnerability, data loss is common without the cloud. Creating a backup of your data can be difficult, time-consuming, and requires technical skill or software that isn’t available to everyone. Many people lose pictures, files, and work. It can be heartbreaking and, again, quite costly.

Entering the cloud.

To help improve accessibility, many businesses started outsourcing their RAID storage and moving their backups to third-party providers. This meant that the same RAID systems were present and accessible through the internet, but another party maintains the physical drives. This increases accessibility, but is costly and results in diminished privacy.

Anyone using a “RAID in cloud” service with an internet connection can access their data online. But the move doesn’t solve the traditional security or vulnerability problems. Users are doing the same thing they used to do, just on someone else’s servers and drives. In fact, the move to third parties increases privacy concerns and creates outage problems uncommon in the pre-cloud world. With centralized cloud storage, you can access your data from anywhere. But if the centralized location goes down, everyone using that storage platform also loses their access.

When these centralized locations go down, there is nothing that an individual or business can do to access their files. Just like losing the hard drive, the data is effectively gone. During these situations, large storage providers are unfortunately known for their sub-par support and indifference towards the impact on the small business down-stream.

Companies and consumers needed a new storage model that addressed their vulnerability, durability, accessibility, and now their growing reliability and privacy concerns. These problems are, unfortunately, unavoidable with a centralized storage system. Much has been done over the years to improve cloud technology and address each of these issues but to truly solve these shortcomings, a fundamentally new model is required.

Distributed storage: a solution.
Distributed storage systems offer significant advantages over the centralized model. It didn’t take long before several sizable platforms like Amazon S3, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure were offering distributed services.

In the distributed model, instead of storing data in one location, data is stored repeatedly among multiple physical servers called nodes. These nodes can be located in the same region or even across various continents. This type of network is formally called a “distributed data store.”

Distributed data store systems differ from traditional data storage in that your data is copied (in whole or in part) across several servers in a storage network. This creates redundancy for data availability. If a single server is down or lost, the entirety of your data is backed up and distributed across several other nodes.

Unique algorithms are used to distribute and store users’ data across the node network. This method creates two different types of data-primary and secondary data.

Primary data is when a node is given the original, whole data set. Secondary data is when a different node is given only part of the primary data set as a backup. Which nodes receive secondary data sets depends on the platform’s algorithm and method.

No one node holds all of the platform’s primary data, so the risk of holding the data has been distributed across a broader system. If any node was to be lost, along with the primary data, the nodes with secondary data could be used to recover the whole data set quickly.

Distributed storage systems like those offered from Amazon S3, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure have a variety of benefits over RAID storage. These benefits revolve around their high accessibility, durability, and versatility. The platform, however, isn’t perfect as it still has frequent privacy concerns, and is expensive.

The Good
Services like Amazon S3, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure storage provide a higher standard of accessibility. With your data being distributed across multiple servers, distributed storage has been able to ensure consistent and reliable up-time. Most large storage providers guarantee 99.9% uptime for their customers.

Distributed storage also provides superior durability. Your data is stored across several servers. These servers can be spread out across multiple regions to offer multi-regional access. This distribution offers protection against outages, server malfunctions, and maintenance. With the high-availability and redundancy of distributed networks, your data can be much safer than traditional storage options.

Lastly, distributed file systems can accommodate multiple types of data. Throughout this article, we’ve been using terminology most commonly associated with object storage. But distributed data systems also work with other data types, including files and block storage.

The Bad
Distributed data storage has frequent privacy failings and concerns. With so much of our data being held by so few companies, the security and privacy issues they face are unprecedented. Ill-intentioned individuals have more significant incentives than ever to target these large, big-name providers and compromise your data.

The Ugly
Out-of-the-box distributed storage services are extremely expensive. Charging for uploads, downloads, operations, regional distribution, and more; the bill grows at every line. It’s not uncommon to see companies that struggle to remain profitable simply because the cost to have high-availability, durable storage, is so high.

The benefits that distributed storage currently provides are fantastic. But they’re not perfect. CrowdStorage saw that many of the benefits distributed storage offered could be added upon.

CrowdStorage: distributed storage 2.0.

CrowdStorage has created a new class of distributed storage technology that offers enhanced privacy, even higher availability, and improved durability, all at a much lower cost than big-brand storage services.

With our Polycloud technology, users’ data is encrypted, fragmented, distributed among nodes in the distributed storage systems, and secured for storage. Where standard distributed systems manage files across a network, CrowdStorage manages fragments of your data across several storage networks of different providers.

Typically, we break the data into 3 pieces and store each piece with a different provider. In order to access your data you only need any 2 of the stored pieces. This means that even if any one of the providers goes down or loses your data, you still have full uninterrupted access. And the likelihood of two independent providers in different locations being unavailable at the same time is extremely remote.

Additionally, our enterprise-grade distributed data storage solution is more affordable than traditional cloud storage. Storing fractions of your distributed files via multiple cloud providers means more security, privacy, availability, built-in data redundancy, and geographic distribution. With different cloud providers acting as your storage nodes, you have increased protection from events that disrupt data centers and more robust storage for your critical information, without the weaknesses inherent to a standard cloud-based system.

Enhanced Privacy

Your data is encrypted, sliced into pieces, and distributed among multiple big-brand cloud networks. No single provider holds all your data, thus offering best-in-class privacy.

Greater Availability

Most providers promise 99.9% uptime—which equates to roughly 40 minutes of downtime a month. By storing data redundantly across multiple providers, we can deliver even higher uptime.

Improved Durability

The CrowdStorage technology also distributes your data to providers in multiple geographic regions for extra durability and protection—without any additional fees.

Lower Cost

You can pay less, but still use the features your business needs. By distributing your data among a variety of networks, you get better performing object storage and pay less than you would from a traditional cloud provider.
The future of distributed storage.
We all want to keep our data as secure and as available as possible. And distributed storage technologies have made these benefits available to users and businesses worldwide. Building on these technologies, CrowdStorage has been able to find a new way to offer premium distributed storage at a lower cost.

We hope this has been helpful in better understanding distributed storage and the solutions CrowdStorage has available. If you’d like to sign up for Polycloud, please click the link below and send us your information.

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