What is object storage?

Object storage, or object-based storage, is a data storage method for managing large amounts of unstructured data. The growth of unstructured data is driven by the increasing use of both digital devices and the internet. Services associated with social media, search engines, mobile devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are all significant contributors.

To address the challenge of storing and managing the increasing volume of information, object-based storage has become the preferred solution for data archival and backup, offering scalable storage options for terabytes, petabytes, and beyond. Compared with traditional file or block-based storage, object storage provides a cost-effective and efficient solution for storing and managing unstructured data.

Key features of object storage

Metadata and tagging

Cloud object storage provides a way to associate metadata with each object, enabling users to manage, search, and retrieve the data more easily.

Data immutability

Cloud object storage systems provide the ability to retain data for a long period of time, which may be needed to meet compliance and regulatory requirements.


Cloud object storage can be used by multiple tenants, which can be useful for hosting providers or Software as a Service (SaaS) companies.

Data lifecycle management

Cloud object storage can automatically move data from hot to cool or cold storage tiers depending on data access patterns. After a certain period of time, object storage automatically deletes old objects, which can help reduce the overall storage cost.

Archiving and backup

Cloud object storage can be used to store data that is rarely accessed but needs to be preserved for the long term. This can be useful for disaster recovery, legal and compliance purposes.

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How it works

The architecture of object storage

Object storage works by treating each piece of data as an individual object, rather than as a block or a file in a hierarchical file system. Each object is made up of the data itself, as well as a set of metadata that describes the data.

In general, the architecture of cloud object storage is designed to be highly scalable, resilient, and fault-tolerant. The distributed nature of the system allows for horizontal scaling, where more storage capacity can be added by adding more object storage nodes to the system. Data is typically distributed over multiple nodes to ensure durability, and data objects can be accessed from any of the object storage clients. The use of common APIs, such as S3-compatible APIs, makes the system widely accessible to a wide range of clients and applications.

Object storage vs file storage vs block storage

File storage

File storage organizes data into a hierarchical file system, with files and directories. Data is stored in files that are grouped into folders and arranged in a hierarchical structure of directories and subdirectories. Common protocols include Server Message Block (SMB) and Common Internet File System (CIFS) for Windows-based systems, and Network File System (NFS) for Unix and Linux-based systems.

This type of storage works well with a smaller number of users and easily organized quantities and types of data.

Block storage

Block storage, also known as block-level storage, offers an alternative to file storage. It breaks files into equal-sized data blocks and stores these on dedicated block storage, such as LUNs hosted on a Storage Area Network (SAN) storage server. Instead of having to navigate through directories and file hierarchies to access the data blocks, block storage allows clients to access and pull data blocks back to assemble files. Some commonly seen protocols used to access block storage include iSCSI and Fibre Channel.

Block storage is ideal for services requiring higher IOPS, such as virtual machine storage and transaction processing databases.

Object storage

Unlike traditional storage methods, such as file or block storage, object storage does not organize data in a file hierarchy or storage block, but instead treats each piece of data as a discrete unit, known as an object. Object storage is accessible through RESTful APIs, which makes it easy to integrate with modern application architectures.

Object storage is optimized for storing and managing unstructured data, such as video, audio, text, images, and other multimedia files. It is scalable, highly available, and can handle data at petabyte-scale, making it a preferred storage method for enterprises that need to store and manage large amounts of data.

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Benefits of object storage


Cloud object storage is designed to scale elastically, allowing for the easy addition or removal of storage capacity as needed. Its infinite scalability makes it perfect for large scale data storage and analysis, helping break down data silos.


Cloud object storage systems are designed to provide high levels of data durability, typically by replicating data across multiple servers and/or geographic locations.

Cost effectiveness

Cloud object storage systems are typically more cost-effective than traditional storage systems, as they can be used on a pay-as-you-go basis or reserved capacity.


Cloud object storage systems are designed to make data easy to share and easy to access, thanks to support for standard protocols such as HTTP or S3.

Security and compliance

Cloud object storage systems provide granular access control capabilities, which can be used to secure data and ensure compliance with data privacy regulations.

Use cases

Object storage has several common uses, including:

Backup and disaster recovery

Object storage makes it easy to store and retrieve large amounts of data over time, as objects can be added, removed, and modified without affecting other objects. Object storage systems are also useful for disaster recovery because they are designed to be highly available, with built-in redundancy and data protection mechanisms that can help to prevent data loss.

Cloud-native application storage

Cloud object storage is perfect for cloud application development, as cloud-native applications rely on containerization, serverless, and other technologies, and communicate internally by sharing data or state. Users can add any amount of content and access it from anywhere, using cloud-based object storage as a persistent data store. Object storage can be used to store large amounts of unstructured data, such as images, videos, and audio files. The media files can be accessed via APIs or web interfaces, allowing media companies to manage and distribute their content to multiple platforms, such as web browsers and mobile apps. Additionally, object storage can be integrated with content delivery networks (CDNs) for faster and more efficient content delivery to end-users.

Data lakes

In a data lake architecture, object storage is used to store and manage large volumes of data in its native format, without any transformation or preprocessing. Object storage’s unlimited scalability and high durability allow users to store and analyze diverse types of data in a cost-effective and scalable manner. In addition, object storage enables organizations to easily integrate with various big data processing frameworks and run analytics or machine learning workloads directly on the data stored.


Object storage provides a low-cost, scalable, and reliable solution for storing large amounts of infrequently accessed data. Plus, object storage systems are designed to provide high durability and availability, so data can be easily recovered if needed. Organizations that need to store large amounts of data for long periods of time will find using object storage as an archiving solution an attractive, efficient solution compared to drive storage.

Industries that have a strong need for scalable, flexible, and cost-effective storage solutions are likely to benefit the most from using object storage.

Media and entertainment

Object storage is commonly used to store and manage large amounts of unstructured data, such as images, videos, and audio files.

Healthcare and life sciences

Object storage can be used to securely store and manage large amounts of sensitive data, such as patient records, research data, and clinical images.

Retail and e-commerce

Object storage can be used to store and manage large amounts of customer data and product data, providing a scalable and cost-effective solution for retailers and e-commerce companies.

Government and public sector

With the ability to store large amounts of public data for a longer period of time without incurring the high cost of traditional storage systems, object storage is an ideal solution for the government and public sector. Also, object storage can help achieve regulatory compliance by offering features such as immutability.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT devices can produce massive amounts of unstructured data, including sensor data, images, and video, that need to be stored, processed, and analyzed. The metadata that object storage uses can be leveraged to provide insights and drive decision-making, helping teams make better decisions based on the ever-changing and ever-growing IoT data collected.

Synology offers a range of cost-effective, flexible cloud object storage solutions with C2 Object Storage. Take the first step towards efficient data management with object storage by creating a Synology Account today.

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