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Object Storage VS File Storage VS Block Storage: What’s the Difference?

For the last several decades, we’ve been creating data at an exponential pace, and we don’t seem to have any plans to stop. The internet, which was once a novelty used by half a percent of the world’s population, is now pretty much vital to the everyday lives of nearly 60 percent of human beings—4.57 billion of us—to be exact.

With this connectivity and access, we’re communicating, educating and innovating like never before. But this means data. A lot of data.

Whether we realize it or not, we create new data every time we go online. Every click of the mouse and stroke of the key is saved somewhere as a way to document and track your online activity, among other things.

The result is arguably the biggest group project humanity has ever come together to create: 40 zettabytes of data—the equivalent of a billion terabytes. To give you some scale, a single terabyte can hold up to 20 million photos, 200,000 songs or 75 million pages of text.

The data-sphere is unfathomably large and growing every day. And with this amount of information, the question has to be asked, “where is all the data going?” There isn’t a 40-terabyte server farm in the middle of Antarctica, so where does this data live?

The answer is a complicated one. Just as there are different kinds of information, there are also different types of storage. Storage devices save information in three different ways: blocks, files and objects.

Block storage

Block storage file systems are the most basic type of file storage system. Data is stored in numbered blocks, identical in size. This means a single file can take up several blocks of data to write. Information is recalled and organized by a SAN (Storage Area Network).

With block-level storage systems, the SAN is extremely important, because this software maintains a record of where the data lives, knows how to retrieve it and can also organize it in a way the user understands. For this reason, block storage systems are usually used in databases and other performance-oriented applications.

File storage

File storage is the most common type of storage system. As the name implies, data is organized into files. There can be multiple files and/or folders within each folder, and the folders of information can be as specific or as broad as the user likes.

This type of storage system is generally used by a network with a group of users all accessing the same folders and files. The file storage system has worked well for many years because of the security protocols associated with file storage.

File storage systems are often classified as Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems which manage the user access and privilege rights, so only designated users can access, view and alter files in the file storage system.

The security afforded by a NAS system is valuable, and in the case of file storage systems, they are most compatible with networks containing thousands or even millions of files—but not billions. The size limitations of file storage systems make them an unrealistic choice for storing data in the future.

When considering block vs. file storage, a few things stand out. File storage is far more sophisticated than block, yet block is the preferred choice when performance is the most important. Both types have been used successfully for many decades, but neither can work effectively with zettabytes of data. Fortunately, object storage is up to the task.

Object storage

In an object storage system, files and other media are saved as individual objects. Each object is assigned an ID number. The system generates a unique identifier number for each file based on its content and metadata. The ID is very important, because that’s how applications and other software find the objects in the system.

Objects are stored on any and all available disk space. But object storage systems aren’t capable of updating files, so every time a user alters a document, the file is saved as a completely new object. As a result, object storage systems are an ideal choice for archiving.

What’s the difference? Object storage vs. file storage vs. block storage

There are many differences when you think about block storage vs. file storage vs. object storage. But the most important one is the way these systems manage their files.

With block and file storage systems, you need software to manage the information contained within the drive. Without a SAN or NAS, these storage systems are dead in the water, and that’s extremely limiting.

Object storage systems break free from these ties and can operate without an added layer of software. As a result, Object systems are ideal for handling extremely large amounts of data, far more than their block- and file-based counterparts.

What makes object storage superior?

Simple. Size matters.

In a world where humans have created 40 zettabytes of data and, based on some projections, are expected to reach more than 150 zettabytes in the next five years, space to save data is at an absolute premium.

Data managers must take space into account when making decisions about their storage systems. As data continues to be created, the only logical choice is a system cable of handling a lot of data: an object storage system. 

Object storage systems aren’t bogged down by data management software and can quickly, easily recall and save information on a much larger scale than any alternative. They’re also able to scale quickly and on an as-needed basis by adding more disks.

What’s the future of storage?

The use of object storage will definitely increase as more data is created and saved. Object storage is clearly superior to file and block, but this storage medium isn’t without fault. Just like other types of storage, object storage is capable of failure.

No storage medium is perfect and all are vulnerable to data loss. If your object storage system has lost information, contact a data recovery professional right away. They’re well-versed in object storage systems and can help you safely recover your data.


Mike Cobb, Director of Engineering and CISO
As Director of Engineering, Mike Cobb manages the day-to-day operations of the Engineering Department, including the physical and logical recoveries of rotational media, SSDs, smart devices and flash media. He also oversees the R&D efforts for past, present, and future storage technologies. Mike encourages growth and ensures that each of the departments and their engineers continues to gain knowledge in their field. Each DriveSavers engineer has been trained to ensure the successful and complete recovery of data is their top priority.

As Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Mike oversees cybersecurity at DriveSavers, including maintaining and updating security certifications such as SOC 2 Type II compliance, coordinating company security policy, and employee cybersecurity education.

Mike joined DriveSavers in 1994 and has a B.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of California, Riverside.

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