Understanding Storage Types and AWS Alternatives: A Layman’s Guide

In today’s digital age, understanding different types of storage and their applications can be daunting. This article aims to break down the fundamental storage types, explain their use cases, and introduce AWS alternatives that offer significant advantages over traditional on-premises solutions.

The Basics of Storage Types

  1. Block Storage (SAN – Storage Area Network)
  2. File Storage (NAS – Network Attached Storage)
  3. Object Storage

Block Storage

What It Is:

  • Structure: Data is divided into fixed-size blocks. Each block has a unique identifier, allowing quick retrieval.
  • Use Case: Ideal for applications needing fast access to data, like databases and virtual machines.

Traditional On-Premises:

  • Hardware: High-performance disk arrays connected via Fibre Channel or iSCSI.
  • Software: Managed through storage management software, handling LUNs and zoning.

AWS Alternative: Amazon EBS

  • Advantages: High performance, scalable, managed service. Reduces the need for specialized hardware and complex management.
  • Visual:

File Storage

What It Is:

  • Structure: Organizes data in a hierarchical file system, accessed via paths and filenames.
  • Use Case: Suitable for file sharing, home directories, and content management.

Traditional On-Premises:

  • Hardware: File servers connected over Ethernet, using NFS or SMB/CIFS protocols.
  • Software: Managed through NAS management software providing RAID, file permissions, and quotas.

AWS Alternative: Amazon EFS

  • Advantages: Fully managed, scales automatically, integrates easily with AWS services. No need for manual provisioning or hardware maintenance.

Object Storage

What It Is:

  • Structure: Stores data as objects, each with data, metadata, and a unique identifier.
  • Use Case: Best for unstructured data like backups, media files, and big data analytics.

Traditional On-Premises:

  • Hardware: Commodity hardware configured into distributed storage nodes.
  • Software: Managed through object storage software, offering features like replication and API access.

AWS Alternative: Amazon S3

  • Advantages: Scalable, high durability, integrates with a broad range of AWS services, and supports lifecycle management policies.
  • Visual:

Hybrid Storage

What It Is:

  • Structure: Combines on-premises storage with cloud storage, providing local caching for frequently accessed data.
  • Use Case: Suitable for businesses needing quick local access and scalable cloud storage.

Traditional On-Premises:

  • Hardware: Local storage appliances integrated with cloud.
  • Software: Hybrid storage management software synchronizes data between local and cloud.

AWS Alternative: AWS Storage Gateway

  • Advantages: Seamless integration with AWS, reduces latency for frequently accessed data, simplifies backup and disaster recovery.
  • Visual:

Technical Concepts: IOPS and Throughput

IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second):

  • Definition: Measures how many input/output operations a storage device can perform in one second.
  • Analogy: Like how quickly a librarian can fetch books.
  • Importance: High IOPS is crucial for databases and applications with many small, frequent read/write operations.


  • Definition: Measures the amount of data a storage system can read/write in a given time, usually MB/s.
  • Analogy: Like the width of a water pipe determining how much water flows through.
  • Importance: High throughput is essential for tasks that involve large files, such as video editing or big data analytics.

Visual Representation:


Conclusion: Why AWS is Better

Cost Efficiency:

  • Traditional: High upfront costs for hardware and maintenance.
  • AWS: Pay-as-you-go model reduces capital expenditure and operational costs.


  • Traditional: Limited by physical infrastructure.
  • AWS: Virtually unlimited scalability, effortlessly handling data growth.


  • Traditional: Requires dedicated IT staff for maintenance and upgrades.
  • AWS: Fully managed services reduce the operational burden.

Security and Compliance:

  • Traditional: Requires significant effort to implement robust security measures.
  • AWS: Built-in security features, compliance certifications, and automated backups.

Further Reading

By leveraging AWS storage solutions, businesses can achieve higher performance, scalability, and cost savings, while simplifying management and ensuring robust security. Whether you’re dealing with databases, shared files, or large data sets, AWS offers a tailored solution that surpasses traditional on-premises storage.

For more detailed insights, check out AWS documentation:

This comprehensive guide aims to demystify storage types and help you understand the benefits of AWS alternatives in comparison to traditional on-premises solutions.