secondary storage

Learn about the role of secondary storage (also known as secondary memory or auxiliary storage) in modern storage environments.

Disk drives

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Secondary storage, sometimes called auxiliary or external storage, is non-volatile storage that is not under the direct control of a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) or does not directly interact with an application.

Typically, secondary storage is used to back up primary storage through replication, which involves holding a secondary copy of the data. To choose an effective secondary storage media, one must first understand the data's value, how often it's used and how it will be accessed. External hard drives, portable USB flash drives, CDs, DVDs and cloud backup are often used for secondary storage.

In a business environment, an older network-attached storage (NAS) box, storage area network (SAN array) or tape library may be used for secondary storage. Object storage devices can also be used as an inexpensive way to implement secondary storage and lessen the demand on primary storage arrays. The growth of corporate data has prompted many storage managers to move data to secondary storage to ease the strain on primary storage systems, reclaim more expensive storage arrays and maintain older data in an easily-accessible form to satisfy business and regulatory compliance requirements.

Secondary storage is usually asynchronous; as a result, the data in secondary storage may not be as current as the data in primary storage, especially when backups are not policy-driven or automated. Generally, secondary storage devices perform at a lower level than primary storage and are less expensive. For many companies, placing a second class of storage between their primary storage and archival storage is the first step toward a tiered storage environment.

This was first published in August 2014

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