Block Storage vs. File Storage

File storage and block storage are both very traditional types of storage, and in this lightboarding video, I’m going to take a closer look at the two options. We’ll be going through an overview of the structure of each, taking a look at the different benefits offered, and I’ll finish up by going through a few different scenarios and explaining whether block storage or file storage would be most useful for the situation.


I hope that you enjoy the video!

Block Storage vs. File Storage


Block Storage vs. File Storage

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Video Transcript

Block storage vs. file storage

Hey guys, my name is Amy Blea, and I’m on the offering team here with IBM Cloud. And today, I want to talk to you about some traditional types of storage: file and block storage. I’m going to give you an overview of what they are and then give you some tips on how to decide when to use one over the other.

What is block storage?

So, let’s get started with block storage. Block storage is storage where data is written in raw blocks on the storage, and it’s accessed by the servers that you have through a storage area network (SAN).

So, you have all of your servers—they can either be on the same network with each or in a different network, but they all connect through the storage, through this storage area network.

Advantages of block storage

Now, some of the advantages of using block storage are that block storage provides the lowest possible latency for your applications, and you can also use it for those applications that require high performance or lots of IOPS.

Another thing you’ll find with block storage is that, in general, it is highly redundant. Most block storage services provide a capability that’s built-in where your data is redundant across the volume. So if a volume should go down or a disk should go away, you can recover your data from another place without having any kind of impact your application.

What is file storage?

Now, file storage is connected to your service a little differently than block storage is. Everything is connected on the same network.

So, you have all of your files or your file share here. Those are all the files. And they can all be accessed on the same network by any of the servers on that network—so it’s network attached storage.

Advantages of file storage

File storage is highly scalable, so you can have multiple file shares on your network and have all of your servers attached to that at one time. It’s accessible to multiple runtimes; so here in this illustration, we have a single file share that has multiple servers accessing it all at once, and you can also have multiple simultaneous reads and writes going to your file share all at one time without having to worry about your data being overwritten.

Choosing between block and file storage in different situations

So, how do you know when is the right time to choose either block storage or file storage for your application? Well, first of all, you need to think about what you’re using it for.

So, for example, let’s say you have a VMware configuration where you have multiple virtual servers with VMware on them, and you need boot volumes. Well, in that case you would use block storage.

If you have workloads, such as transactional databases or relational databases, that require very low latency and high performance, you would choose block storage.

In situations where you have a mix of the structured and unstructured data—for example, a web hosting server—where you have both you know text files as well as media files, then you would choose file storage.

And then if you have a collaborative space where you need to have multiple users accessing it all at one time—working together, doing reads and writes all at the same time—you would choose file storage.

So, like I mentioned in the beginning, block and file storage are very traditional types of storage—they’re not as flashy and shiny and exciting as some of the new storage services that have entered the market—but they are still very relevant and useful for the different types of workloads that you have, whether it’s on-premise or in the cloud.

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