Best Practices for Cloud Block Storage

In our big data society, having practically unlimited storage is as much necessity as it is luxury. Cloud block storage provides the opportunity for that type of storage flexibility, but there are a few best practices to follow in order to get the most out of your cloud.

One of the first best practices to follow is understanding the differences between throughput and random I/O. Throughput measures the number of bits read or written per second. “Back in the day this was performed using a single computer making a single request for a disk, but in today’s age with large storage arrays that are providing storage to a number of clients we need to measure based on a lot of small read/writes verses a single computer making a large request,” Tim Radney wrote in a blog post.

In a random I/O environment, such as an environment used for databases and general-purpose file servers, all disks should spend equal amounts of time servicing I/O request, according to Oracle. This means that each disk will be equally busy, which generally improves performance.

“Throughput is very important for the general use cases of writing sequential data to your drives, such as having extra space for logging, streaming data or basic file access,” Chuck Thier wrote in a Rackspace blog post. “Random I/O is very important for application, database and NoSQL servers – essentially, it is important for any server that needs to be able to quickly write to random parts on the disk.”

The next best practice involves redundant array of independent disks (RAID) configuration and when to use it for cloud block storage. RAID configuration can provide extra redundancy and durability in cloud block storage when in a high availability environment. This gives the data an extra layer of protection should the drive fail. Data can be easily replaced in this configuration. Thier suggested RAID configuration in the high availability environment is similar enough to the configuration in a dedicated environment, so best practices will overlap. However, RAID array is not a best practice to follow for enhancing performance. In that case, you will want to turn to Solid State Drives.

The third best practice is backup. The additional redundancy provided in the RAID configuration doesn’t substitute for backing up data. “Backing up the system and all the storage will protect everything on that OS instance, which is perfect for when you need to restore the entire environment using bare metal recovery scenarios,” Sharon Florentine wrote in an Aging Tech article.

With big data so prevalent within enterprise today, there has to be a backup system that will scale to the storage needs. How the backup system works will be dependent on the type of cloud block storage system being used. In Rackspace, for instance, there are two options: using the control panel to backup cloud block storage volumes into Cloud Files or to use Cloud Backup to create a file-level backup of the cloud block.

These best practices will get you started on your way to getting the most from your cloud block storage.

This is a guest post by Sue Poremba. Sue is a freelance writer focusing primarily on security and technology issues and occasionally blogs for cloud service provider Rackspace Hosting.

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