A Guide to Data Storage Terminology - Computer Disposal Limited
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A Guide to Data Storage Terminology

Even when you’re well versed in data storage, the sheer number of terms, jargon and abbreviations can be confusing. If you don’t know your SAS from your elbow, then not to worry; we’ve come up with this list of data storage definitions to help. Think of it as a cheat sheet to keep on hand next time you’re in a bind.

What is data storage?

Data storage refers to retaining data in electromagnetic, optical, or other media forms through a computer or other device’s storage system. The information within the data is kept in a digital format, where it can be retrieved and accessed at a later time.

There are many different methods and technologies used to store data, the main examples of which we’ve detailed below.

What are the different types of data storage?

Before we begin defining some of the more technical terms associated with data storage, it’s worth considering the most common forms of storage themselves.

What is file storage?

As the name suggests, file storage involves storing data in files and folders. Inexpensive and comparatively primitive, it’s typically found on hard drives, meaning files look the same to the hard drive as they do to the user.

laptop and external hardrive

What is block storage?

Here, data is stored in evenly sized and separated blocks, each with its own unique identifier. Pricier and more complex in its design than file storage, block storage is also less scalable. But for data that needs to be routinely accessed and edited, block storage is the perfect storage scheme.

What is object storage?

Offering unlimited scalability, object storage is a method of storing data as distinct units (called ‘objects’) in a flat indexing system. Faster at retrieving data and more cost-effective, it’s been said that it will replace regular file storage in the next few years.

A glossary of data storage terms


Or Hard Disk Drive. HDDs are the traditional spinning drives that we’ve had for decades. Coming in either 3.5″ or 2.5″ diameter media, they read and write data to spinning discs and are the most basic non-volatile storage on the computer.


Or Solid-State Drive. Increasingly replacing HDDs as the primary storage tier, SSDs have no moving parts, instead storing data on flash data chips. This makes them less prone to mechanical failure and allows them to transfer data between one hundred and one thousand times faster than HDDs.

solid-state drive


Or Solid-State Hybrid Drive. As the name suggests, these combine a traditional HDD with a small SSD into one storage device. The SSD element is used for quick access to commonly-used data while the HDD element is used for more long-term storage. Apple users should note: the company’s take on the SSHD is known as the Fusion Device.


Or Serial AT Attachment. SATA is a cable used to connect an SSD or HDD to the motherboard in order to transfer data. It’s also typically used in modern hard drives, where it can reach speeds of up to 6Gb/s.


Or Serial-attached SCSI. The high-end version of SATA, SAS are used on enterprise-class HDDs, offering options for dual-port connections for redundancy. Otherwise, they share many features with SATA; most SAS connections can connect to SATA drives but not vice versa.


Or Peripheral Component Interconnect Express. PCIe is both a physical connector and a standard for high-speed components such as SSDs and GPUs (aka graphics cards). Every desktop PC has a motherboard that features a number of PCIe slots that can be used to add such components to them.

IT engineer replacing solid-state drive


Or Non-Volatile Memory Express. NVMe is a new storage access and transport protocol host that allows modern SSDs to optimise their read and write speeds, delivering the highest throughput and fastest response times for all types of enterprise workloads.


Or Redundant Array of Independent Drives/Discs. RAID is a means of combining multiple hard drives into one system for data redundancy, improved performance or both! If one disk fails, then the information on the other disk(s) can usually replace it – without users knowing there was an interruption in the first place.


Or Network Attached Storage. NAS is a storage device that’s connected to a network, which allows users to access data and files through the Internet anywhere, at any time.


We’ve all heard the term, but how exactly is a cache defined? Also known as the disc buffer, a hard drive cache acts as temporary memory for the hard drive so that websites, browsers and apps can all load faster.


Or Input/Output Operations Per Second. IOPS is a common measurement of performance that determines how quickly a given storage device or medium can read and write commands in every second.

the cloud


The Cloud refers to the location where data is sent by users over the Internet, which is then stored and made accessible to other users through web-based interfaces like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple iCloud.


Or storage area network. An SAN is a dedicated, high-speed network that provides access to block storage. Any computer that is then part of this network can access storage on the SAN like they were local disks connected directly to the computer.

Universal storage

A combination of all three access methods, universal storage is a single storage system that is fast enough for primary storage, scalable enough for large datasets and affordable enough to use for the full range of a customer’s data.


Or Remote Direct Memory Access. RDMA allows computers in a network to exchange data in main memory without the need for the processor, cache or operating system of either computer. This can speed up transfers and also significantly reduce the computer overhead for transactions. It can also be applied to many storage protocols.


The process of modifying, encoding or converting the bits structure of data in such a way that reduces the number of bits and consumes less space on the disk.

digital data flow


A similar process to the above, deduplication allows for the elimination of redundant data, saving huge amounts of storage in the process. It can also be applied to network data transfers to reduce the number of bytes which must be sent during these transfers. It’s often confused with compression, but the process for deduplication is slightly, and yet noticeably different.


Encryption is the method by which readable data is converted into secret code, hiding the information stored within, which is then unlocked using the right key to decrypt the data.


The process of looking at a PC’s files, email messages and other content and then cataloguing their information based on certain words and metadata within. After the indexing process has taken place, the PC looks at this collected index of terms to find results much faster – which is why it’s popularly used to locate legal and medical records


Or Software-Defined Storage. A new concept that involves separating the processing of storage data from its actual storage devices. This separation then allows storage devices to be virtualised and scaled as necessary, benefitting operational agility in the process.

CDL is one of the UK’s leading IT disposal companies, working to help private and public businesses and organisations safely retire and recycle their outdated IT assets. To find out how we could help your business, or more of the latest tech news and advice, visit our homepage or call our team today on 0333 060 2846.


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