Storage Types

  • Volatile storage: Information residing in volatile storage does not usually survive system crashes. Examples of such storage are main memory and cache memory. Access to volatile storage is extremely fast, both because of the speed of the memory access itself, and because it is possible to access any data item in volatile storage directly.

  • Nonvolatile storage: Information residing in nonvolatile storage survives system crashes. Examples of nonvolatile storage include secondary storage devices such as magnetic disk and flash storage, used for online storage, and tertiary storage devices such as optical media, and magnetic tapes, used for archival storage. At the current state of technology, nonvolatile storage is slower than volatile storage, particularly for random access. Both secondary and tertiary storage devices, however, are susceptible to failure which may result in loss of information.

  • Stable storage: Information residing in stable storage is never lost (never should be taken with a grain of salt, since theoretically never cannot be guaranteed—for example, it is possible, although extremely unlikely, that a black hole may envelop the earth and permanently destroy all data!). Al- though stable storage is theoretically impossible to obtain, it can be closely approximated by techniques that make data loss extremely unlikely. To implement stable storage, we replicate the information in several nonvolatile storage media (usually disk) with independent failure modes. Updates must be done with care to ensure that a failure during an update to stable storage does not cause a loss of information.

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