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Storage is a process through which digital data is saved within a data storage device by means of computing technology. Storage is a mechanism that enables a computer to retain data, either temporarily or permanently.
Storage devices such as flash drives and hard disks are a fundamental component of most digital devices since they allow users to preserve all kinds of information such as videos, documents, pictures and raw data.
Storage may also be referred to as computer data storage or electronic data storage.
Storage is among the key components of a computer system and can be classified into several forms, although there are two major types:
Volatile Storage (Memory): Requires a continuous supply of electricity to store/retain data. It acts as a computer's primary storage for temporarily storing data and handling application workloads. Examples of non-volatile storage include cache memory and random access memory (RAM).
Non-Volatile Storage: A type of storage mechanism that retains digital data even if it’s powered off or isn’t supplied with electrical power. This is often referred to as a secondary storage mechanism, and is used for permanent data storage requiring I/O operations. Examples of volatile storage include a hard disk, USB storage and optical media.
Storage is often confused for memory, although in computing the two terms have different meanings. Memory refers to short-term location of temporary data (see volatile storage above), while storage devices, in fact, store data on a long-term basis for later uses and access. While memory is cleared every time a computer is turned off, stored data is saved and stays intact until it’s manually deleted. Primary or volatile storage tends to me much faster than secondary storage due to its proximity to the processor, but it’s also comparably smaller. Secondary storage can hold and handle significantly larger sizes of data, and keeps it inactive until it’s needed again.
Storage devices include a broad range of different magnetic, optical, flash, and virtual drives. They can be either internal (if they’re part of the computer’s hardware), external (if they are installed outside the computer), or removable (if they can be plugged in and removed without opening the computer). Storage also includes many forms of virtual and online storage devices such as cloud to allow users to access their data from multiple devices.
Common storage devices that are in use or have been used in the past include:
After a software command is issued by the user, digital data is stored inside the appropriate device. Data size is measured in bits (the smallest unit of measure of computer memory), with larger storage devices being able to store more data.
Storage capabilities have increased significantly in the last few decades, jumping up from the old 5.25-inch disks of the 1980s which held 360 kilobytes, to the modern hard drives which can hold several terabytes.