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Hot Storage vs. Cold Storage: What’s The Difference?

May 25, 2024


The cloud has significantly changed our understanding of data storage. Ever since its inception and boom in popularity, we are no longer constrained by the physical space in our data centers or workplace.


Although, some difficulties come along with this newfound freedom. Not all data is created equally when it comes to storage, so you start asking questions like “How do I choose which information should be kept where?” and “How am I going to keep track of all my data?


It can get pretty confusing, especially if you’re new to how this all works.


No worries though—that’s why we’re here! In this article, we’ll let you in on everything you need to know about hot and cold storage.



Hot storage vs Cold storage


What Exactly Is Hot Storage?


When we talk about “hot storage,” we’re talking about files that are accessed often and kept on the edge for immediate access. In case you didn’t know what “on the edge” means, it’s basically files that you keep, access, and change locally on your device. Some examples of these devices which store data on the edge are digital cameras, tablets, cellphones with external storage such as a micro-SD card, computers, and laptops. In short, hot storage is just local data storage, like a hard drive or a portable flash drive.


What makes hot storage data easier and faster to access?


Well, this is because hot storage is local and sometimes, you can even access your files without needing an internet connection. Data kept here is typically kept in a tiered or hybrid storage setting in order to achieve the quick data access hot data storage is known for. And, the hotter a storage is, the more likely it is to utilize the newest drives, and the quickest transfer protocols.


But, hot storage isn’t perfect


The first thing that you’d notice is how expensive hot storage is. Because hot data storage requires a lot of resources, cloud data storage providers charge more for it. For example, if you were to look at both Amazon AWS and Microsoft’s Azure Hot Blobs services, they are pretty pricey (~$0.10 per GB to $0.17 per GB).


Aside from that, if you have an excessive number of files on the edge, you are going to generate dark data, which is exclusively local and has no central visibility. While this doesn’t seem like much, it’s incredibly risky to have this on your system, especially within an organization. This can be used to commit crimes such as identity theft and identity fraud, putting you and your business in a very sticky situation.


Files on the edge are also at risk of threats such as malware installed on a host device, as well as damaged or missing devices. This can heavily affect your data, and you could lose most if not all of it.


Hot storage

Hot storage is used for data that needs to be accessed often and quickly. (Credit: Red8)


Basically, hot storage is used when you need data that needs to be accessible immediately. Any information that is essential to you or your organization and must be often retrieved is considered suitable for hot storage. But, as we mentioned earlier, it isn’t perfect and has its downsides.



What Is Cold Data Storage?


On the other hand, cold data storage refers to data that is accessed less frequently and doesn’t require the same level of speed as warmer data. That includes information that isn’t presently being used and might not be for months, years, decades, or perhaps forever. Things like old projects or documents that need to be kept for record-keeping are practical examples of data that is suited for cold storage.


Cold data storage is basically everything that hot storage isn’t. So, in comparison to hot storage services that are intended for active data changes, quick data retrieval, and blazing fast response times, cold cloud storage systems are often substantially slower. Services like Amazon Glacier and Google Coldline are great examples of cold cloud storage in action.


The pricing ($0.004 – $0.023 per GB per month) for cold data storage services is also different. As you would guess, it’s a lot cheaper since getting access to the data takes time and preparation. But, they frequently have higher per-operation costs ($0.0025 – $0.03 per GB per data retrieval) than other types of cloud storage.


In other words, if you’re retrieving your data often with cold storage, it’ll be a lot more expensive compared to hot storage. This is because you’re paying for every time you’re retrieving your data as opposed to paying for a set time.


Cold storage

Cold data storage is for files you don’t have to access regularly.


With that said, cold storage data can be kept on inexpensive hardware that may not have the performance requirements for constant usage or access. Businesses who want to save data for the long term but won’t be accessing it frequently might consider this a great option.



Which Storage Temperature Is Best For Me?


Your needs will decide which storage temperature is optimal for you. Ideally, both of them should be utilized since different types of data have their own needs and requirements. So, it’ll ultimately boil down to how much you should use.


To give you an easier time on when to use which data storage, we’ve compiled everything we just talked about. Let’s take a look at them in the table below:


Hot Storage Cold Storage
Key characteristics Data access from hot storage is reliable and quick Data access from cold storage is very secure and takes a lot of time to process.
Speed Data transfer speed is mostly influenced by how many paths the data must take to reach its destination.   Data processing can go swiftly for hot storage since it is done close to the source. When compared to retrieving data from hot storage, retrieving cold data often takes longer.   The time it takes to retrieve data usually varies, and can range from minutes to hours.
When to Use Any information that needs to be quickly retrieved and regularly modified should be put in hot storage.   Dynamically changed data, user-queried data, and data needed for use in ongoing workflows are some examples of usual use cases for hot storage. Any information that is rarely used should be put in cold storage.   Archival data, compliance data, and data that cannot be accessed due to legal restrictions are examples of usual use cases for cold storage.


Now that you know the scenarios when it’s best to use hot and cold storage, it’s now time to choose a reliable cloud storage service.


But if you’re kinda overwhelmed right now after looking up the different ones you can choose from, well, you’re in luck, because we’ve compiled the best cloud storage services so you don’t have to!



Get the Most Out of Your Data Storage


Keeping crucial documents in the cloud is now more practicable than ever as digital files take the place of the filing cabinets of the past. With that, the preservation of digital data can be defined in a number of distinct ways, two of which are hot and cold.


These two process data differently and are both used for different situations. Fortunately, our guide is here to help you, so you wouldn’t have to worry about choosing the wrong type of data storage. By selecting the right one for your needs, you’ll get to process information better by getting the most out of storing your data.