A Comprehensive Guide to Cloud Object Storage

Cloud object storage is best used for storing vast amounts of structured or unstructured data, but it may not perform well for high-performance workloads.

Brien Posey

April 21, 2023

5 Min Read
Cloud computing and online storage symbol with natural shadow

Table of Contents

What Is Cloud Object Storage?

Cloud-based object storage is a method of cloud storage in which data is stored as objects rather than as files or blocks. These objects reside in a flat address space, wherein each object is individually addressable and contains file data, plus any additional metadata. Cloud object storage is known for being massively scalable.

What Are the Different Types of Cloud Object Storage Providers?

Most of the major public cloud providers offer cloud object storage. Some of the popular choices include Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure Blob Storage, Google Cloud Storage, and IBM Cloud Object Storage.

Many smaller providers also offer cloud object storage, such as Wasabi’s Hot Cloud Storage and Seagate’s Lyve Cloud.

How To Choose the Right Provider for Your Needs

With so many different cloud object storage providers out there, it can be difficult to know which one to choose. The decision involves more than just looking at the cost. Using the following steps can help.

Step 1: Research the various providers and their offerings

The first step is to research the available providers and determine how each provider’s cloud object storage service differs from others. This means evaluating the service’s features, capabilities, and cost structure. Make sure to note any ancillary costs, such as network bandwidth charges or data egress fees.

Step 2: Explore and learn about the available S3 compatibility options

While no rule exists that says the object storage you choose must be Amazon S3 compatible, it’s worth considering that S3 is quickly becoming an industry standard. In other words, if you need to access your cloud object storage from a third-party application, you may have an easier time getting everything set up when you use S3-compatible storage.

Step 3: Try out a few options to see how they work

Before you make your final decision, take your top storage picks for test drives. Most providers offer free trials, so you can set up an account and see what the service is like. A test drive will often reveal whether a provider will truly meet your needs.


What are the benefits of cloud object storage?

The main benefits of using cloud object storage are its nearly limitless scalability and pay-as-you-go pricing. Another benefit is the durability of data since most providers use redundancy to help protect against data loss.

Related: Cloud-based Object Storage Pros and Cons for Data Management

What are the different types of cloud object storage?

Each cloud storage provider has unique offerings, which often focus on object storage. Besides object storage, however, most providers have block storage. Some also offer file storage.

It is worth noting that most providers’ object storage is available in various classes, or tiers, each with varying costs and performance characteristics.

What is the difference between object storage and file storage?

From a cloud storage perspective, object storage is a scalable storage solution in which data is stored as objects in a flat format. Regardless, cloud providers often offer file storage as a serverless alternative to file servers. Like conventional file servers, file storage stores unstructured data in a hierarchy of folders.

What are the features of cloud object storage?

Cloud object storage is usually offered in tiers. Some tiers are more suitable for frequently accessed data, while other tiers are designed solely for seldom accessed archive data. This means that organizations can reduce their overall storage costs by choosing the most appropriate storage tier. 

Additionally, the data stored in cloud object storage is kept secure while being accessible from anywhere in the world. Countless applications have begun natively supporting S3 and S3-compatible storage, making it easier than ever to integrate cloud object storage.

What are the use cases for cloud object storage?

Cloud object storage is best used for storing vast amounts of data. This data can be structured or unstructured. However, object storage tends not to perform as well as other storage types, such as block storage. As such, it’s best to avoid using object storage for high-performance workloads.

How is cloud object storage priced?

Cloud providers typically price object storage on a per-gigabyte, per-month basis.

The cost per gigabyte of data stored can vary widely from one storage tier to the next. Archive storage, for example, is usually less expensive than hot storage.

Cloud providers will also charge ancillary fees related to cloud object storage. For instance, when accessing stored data, an organization might incur fees related to network throughput or storage IO. Most cloud providers also penalize customers who try to move their data out of object storage by imposing a data egress fee.

How is cloud object storage different from on-premises storage?

Most on-premises storage is based around a file system such as Network File System, New Technology File System, or Resilient File System. Object storage does not use a file system in the traditional sense. You can make the data appear like it is organized in a hierarchical folder structure, but all object data is in fact stored in a flat format.

About the Author(s)

Brien Posey

Brien Posey is a bestselling technology author, a speaker, and a 20X Microsoft MVP. In addition to his ongoing work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years training as a commercial astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space.


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