Memory vs. Storage: Choosing a Data Storage Solution

December, 8 2020

Memory vs. Storage: Choosing a Data Storage Solution

Memory vs. Storage: Choosing a Data Storage Solution

Over one trillion megabytes of new data is created daily, and all of it has to be stored somewhere. Choosing how to store it is one of the most critical decisions for an organization in a data-driven world. As your business grows, you'll want to improve your IT infrastructure to accommodate more data or risk impaired performance or, worse, data breaches.

Whether you're ready to toss legacy systems or upgrade modern systems to be more remote-friendly, we're here to equip you with the knowledge to make the best decision for your data storage needs. Finding the best solution starts by understanding one key thing, which many people misunderstand: the difference between memory and storage.

Knowing how to distinguish between the two will save you from wasting loads of money choosing a solution not tailored for your specific business needs.

First, we'll talk about the high-level differences and then delve deeper into what that means to you.

Let's get started.

What's the difference between memory and storage?

When it comes to data storage, the terms "memory" and "storage" hold multiple meanings. Memory often refers to primary storage, most commonly Random Access Memory(RAM), while storage refers to secondary storage. Two popular examples of secondary storage are hard disk drives(HDD) and its newer form, solid state drives(SSD or NVMe).

Retrieving data stored in RAM is faster than retrieving data from storage, but RAM's drawback is that the data is volatile. This means the data stored in RAM is temporary and gets wiped out as soon as the computer is turned off or experiences an outage. On the other hand, data in storage is known for being non-volatile and more permanent since it can last through a power disruption.

RAM comes in handy if your business needs to regularly handle simultaneous tasks on multiple applications or need maximum performance from your database, while storage is helpful if your business needs to store large volumes of data and software.

Let's take a closer look into RAM.

What does RAM do?

RAM is a crucial part of determining the performance of your system. When people talk about computer performance, upgrading RAM tends to be one of the first considerations (although it's not always the answer). Broadly speaking, the more RAM your computer has, the more things it can run at the same time without performance being impacted.

A few of the many times you use RAM is when you search the Internet and click between different open programs. If you notice sluggish performance, chances are that either you have too little RAM or too many programs and apps running. When experiencing slow speeds, you have the option of upgrading to more RAM, among many other solutions.

Now let's clear up a common question:

What does adding more RAM do?

Adding more RAM improves performance, and it's good to have enough in case of a sudden increase in workload. You don't want to get caught delivering a certain level of speed and performance, only to have a sudden increase in demand (such as a spike in users or holiday traffic) exhaust all your available RAM and, in turn, reducing speed and performance for your users or employees.

It's generally accepted that there is no such thing as too much RAM from a performance perspective. If you add more RAM to a computer at its RAM limit, performance won't be impacted, but it can start to waste your money. An increase in RAM is rarely free, and there is a point where other decisions, like getting a new server, are more cost-effective. You may also need to consider whether your software can effectively use all of the available RAM installed in the computer. (Some applications require entire clusters of computers to scale out and function well!)

Now that you better understand RAM let's learn more about external storage solutions, specifically HDD and SSD.

Secondary storage: Hard disk drives (HDD) vs. Solid state drives (SDD)

Traditionally, computer storage has been kept in hard disk drives (HDD), which tends to be slow because it relies on a spinning magnetic disk to store information. Then came SSD, which is up to 10x faster than a HDD at retrieving data because it uses specialized circuits chips (flash memory) instead of a magnetic disk (meaning faster performance!) Although SSD is greater in speed and has significantly decreased in price during recent years, HDD remains the cheaper solution for large data sets.

Some more advantages of SSD include fast read and write times, less power consumption, and in effect, the need for less cooling.

Other forms of external computer storage that you may be familiar with are USB Flash Drives, CDs, DVDs, MicroSD (commonly used in smartphones), MemoryStick, CompactFlash cards, and Flash Hard Drives (commonly used with tablets and laptops).

Now we can't talk about storage without talking about data centers and cloud storage.

Data centers Vs. Cloud storage

All of your business' data has to live somewhere. In the past, your only option would be to keep lots of external storage hardware on-premise, which could get costly fast and put your data at risk, but nowadays, you have more options, which include third party data centers and cloud storage.

Data centers

Put simply, data centers house computer systems and storage systems and are a core part of IT operations. In addition to data storage and data management, data centers house lots of servers, help you with backup and recovery, and provide networking services.

In the past, only large enterprises could afford to maintain data centers, but with the birth of colocation data centers, small businesses can now reap the benefits too.

Here are some things to be mindful of when choosing a data center:

  • Data sovereignty and regulations: A lot of businesses have recieved hefty fines for ignoring location-specific regulations. Data sovereignty deals with regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA. Be sure to choose a trusted third party for your data storage needs.

  • Distance: Generally, the shorter the distance between a data center and end user, the lower the latency. Low latency is ideal for performance and speed. Moreover some applications perform very poorly with high latency like voice or video conferencing. Distance to your data center is especially critical to consider if you live in Alaska, because the location of many public cloud offerings are far enough from Alaska to cause some essential applications to function very poorly.

  • Security: It was recently reported that the average cost of a cyber attack in 2020 was about 8.64 million dollars. Keep in mind that physical security is as important as cybersecurity, when you are selecting your data center you are putting your trust in a third party to maintain the physical security of your IT assets.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is a way of storing data off-site with a third party that is accessible via the Internet or with a private network connection. It is known for its ability to be scalable since you can virtually store infinite amounts of data on them because it's not limited by hardware. Moreover, many Cloud providers offer β€œpay as you go” or β€œpay as you grow” pricing, allowing you to directly scale cost with consumption.

There are three main forms of cloud storage: Public, private, and hybrid.

Public cloud storage: When choosing a public cloud storage solution, you're trusting a third party with your data, which you'll access through an Internet connection. There are some notable pros and cons of choosing a public cloud solution.

Let's first go over some positive factors:

  • Elastic nature: Public clouds allow you to scale costs up and down based on need. With proper governance and automation, this can lead to significant net cost savings. It's important to note, however, that if you're not using these elastic qualities effectively, you can end up paying significantly more (25%+) than a traditional on-premise data center or private cloud solution.
  • Cost transparency : With proper governance and automation, it's easy to attribute costs to specific business activities and to both set and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) that help drive ideal consumer behavior.
  • Remote-friendly: Since it's accessed through the Internet, it's very helpful for companies who work from home or remotely.

Although being able to access the cloud through the Internet is a positive factor, it's also a probable drawback because you become dependent on a reliable, high capacity Internet connection. If your core business is online, you must ensure you have the capacity and redundancy for Internet connectivity, or you could end up running into many problems if you can't connect.

With solutions like Secure SD-WAN and Internet provider failover, along with our AlCan ONE all-terrestrial fiber network, we've helped companies migrating to the cloud address the need for a reliable Internet connection.

Another few possible drawbacks for a public cloud solution include:

  • Compliance risk: You're entrusting a third party to store your company's data, so it's crucial to ensure you're choosing a trusted company.
  • Privacy of sensitive data: The cloud's public nature makes it harder to protect sensitive data (although this has improved greatly in the past few years).

Now that you have a good picture of a public cloud solution's pros and cons, let's talk about private and hybrid cloud solutions.

Private cloud storage: Private clouds offer more security and speed but less scalability than public clouds because of it's closed nature. It is also able to be more customizable and specific to your business needs. A private cloud can either be held on premise or entrusted to a third party.

Hybrid cloud storage: Hybrid clouds offer a nice blend between private and public clouds. It's good for helping you navigate regulatory and data sovereignty challenges. Hybrid allows companies to pick and choose which data needs added security and which data will benefit more from being able to scale.

Some things to look out for when deciding between cloud solutions are hidden and overage fees, data sovereignty issues, and costly bandwidth services. Billing can sometimes be challenging to understand, which is why at Ampersand, we offer an easy to understand billing model for our hybrid cloud solutions.

Now that you have a better understanding of your data storage options, let's talk a bit more about your business.

RAM vs.Storage: Business questions to ask yourself

Here are some good questions to ask yourself when deciding which is more important for your business:

  • Does my business depend more on the ability to provide fast performance, or do we benefit more by being able to store high volumes of data?
  • How many users do we need to support?
  • Are speed and storage capability equally essential for us?
  • Will downtime really upset our customers?
  • How big is our database?
  • How much traffic will our server take on?
  • How many applications and programs are essential for us?

Nowadays, the best answer for your ideal storage needs lies in mixing storage solutions and not going all in on one. Some parts of your business that depend on performance will benefit from RAM or perhaps SSD, while other parts may benefit more from choosing HDD or utilizing cloud-based storage.

Computer performance and employee happiness

In the 21st century, nothing is more frustrating than a slow computer that often crashes. Time is money, and when technology is not performing the best, it affects your employees' productivity. Intel reported that old and slow computers could make an employee up to 29 percent less productive, costing a company about $17k per old computer.

Unreliable servers and sluggish technology due to too much data is not something a business with so many affordable options should experience nowadays. Your employees deserve to be empowered with the technology they can count on. Unreliable technology reduces employee satisfaction, which in turn can affect company culture and turnover rates.

Adopting the best data storage solutions

Every business has unique memory and storage needs for their data. Fortunately, we live in a time where you have many options available. If you need help navigating the best storage solutions for your specific organization, we're here to help.

Some of Alaska's largest enterprises have trusted us with their data storage needs by taking advantage of our data centers and custom-tailored hybrid cloud solutions. Contact us to learn more.