Secondary storage refers to internal or external storage devices used to store non-critical and infrequently accessed data for long periods of time. It differs from primary storage e.g. RAM, cache, which stores data, applications, and instructions that are currently in use by the computer.
Unlike primary storage, which loses data when there is no power source, secondary storage is nonvolatile i.e. does not require power to retain stored data and can be used as a permanent method of storing, archiving, and backing up data.
Storing infrequently accessed data on secondary storage devices frees up space in primary storage and increases performance.
Secondary storage can be used for:
High-performance is a key feature of primary storage because data stored is frequently accessed by the processor, operating system, and applications. But higher performance equals higher costs.
Moving infrequently used data to secondary storage immediately lowers costs since secondary storage comes in higher capacities and is less expensive than primary storage. This is important if you are using secondary storage for backup purposes which requires having large amounts of storage capacity for duplicated data.
Secondary storage can provide an additional layer of security to prevent data loss. There are many external and removable secondary storage options available that can store data off-site and disconnected from the main network for extra protection from cybercriminals.
Air-gapping, a backup strategy developed and used by government organizations, uses secondary storage to ensure that one copy of critical business data is always disconnected and inaccessible via the internet or internal network.
Some types of secondary storage have been around for decades while others are the result of new and improved technology. The secondary storage type you choose will depend on your business needs.
85% of enterprises keep their sensitive data in the cloud. Cloud storage, a relatively new virtualized storage model, allows users to store, access, and transmit data using remote storage systems. The adoption of cloud-storage solutions by businesses is increasing due to benefits like lower costs and greater accessibility.
Cloud-based storage solutions are managed and maintained by third-party providers and data can be stored on-premises (private cloud), in multiple data centers managed by a third-party vendor (public cloud) or using a combination of the two.
With cloud storage businesses can scale storage capacity up or down based on current needs. Other advantages of cloud storage include a flexible pay-as-you-go model, easy accessibility, and greater security.
Magnetic disk drives are one of the most widely used types of secondary storage. The hard disk drive (HDD), the most common form of magnetic disk storage, uses a magnetic process to read, and write data. Data is stored as tracks divided into sectors that contain blocks of data. Read and write operations are performed on the sectors of the hard drive.
Hard drives can be installed internally, or connected via a USB kit, or firewire as external storage and support fast data access and easy retrieval. HDDs are commonly used as backup storage solutions either stand-alone or as part of a storage array that creates data redundancy to protect against data loss.
Magnetic disk storage is less expensive than other physical storage solutions, provides fast access to data, and is available in high storage capacities.
An optical storage device reads and writes data using a laser that burns tiny pits into the reflective disk as it spins. To read data, the laser moves over the surface of the disk using a light sensor to detect reflections caused by the pits. Reflected light represents the binary value of 1 and pits (no reflection) represent the value zero.
Optical storage is best used for long-term storage and backups. Advantages include easy portability, faster read speeds, and greater durability, however storage capacity is considerably lower than magnetic disk storage.
The capacity of optical drives is not as high as HDDs and the cloud, but costs have remained low, and they remain a viable option for secondary storage. Examples of optical storage include CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs.
Flash memory is also known as flash storage or solid-state storage. It is a high-speed, electrically programmable memory that uses electrical circuits and memory cells to store data. A high circuit represents the binary value of 1 and a low circuit represents the binary value of 0. Cells containing data must be erased before new data can be written.
Flash storage is used in enterprise data center servers, storage, and networking technology as well as a wide range of consumer electronics including USB flash drives, SD cards, mobile phones, and tablets.
Solid-State Drives (SSDs) are a form of flash memory that is overtaking HDDs due to higher performance. Unlike magnetic storage devices, solid-state drives do not contain moving parts and are less likely to fail. They perform at faster speeds and use less power generating less heat. Solid-state drives are still slightly more expensive than HDDs but as technology advances and adoption increases, they are becoming more affordable.
Floppy disk drives, one of the first types of secondary storage, were invented by IBM in the 50s and were the primary form of secondary storage for decades. They were also the main method of transferring data from one computer to another, as they were inexpensive and small enough to carry around.
Floppy disks initially came in 8-inch but decreased to 5.5-inch as technology advanced and finally to 3.5-inch drives. Floppy disk drives were used to read floppy disks and came standard in PCs until around the mid-nineties when the use of floppy disks declined.
For the most part, floppy disk drives have become obsolete and have been replaced by the other storage methods mentioned above.
Secondary storage is the foundation of your backup and recovery plan. Otava offers several cloud-based backup and recovery solutions to keep your critical business data safe from natural disasters, hardware failures, and cyber threats. Contact us to find how we can help you.
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