Is cloud storage primary or secondary storage?

Table of Contents

Secondary storage is used to back up primary storage by replication or other data protection methods, which is equivalent to creating an incidental copy of the data.

In an enterprise environment, secondary storage can be a legacy network-attached storage device ( NAS ), centralized storage area network ( SAN ), or tape library. Object storage devices can also serve as secondary storage to take the strain off the primary storage arrays.

The growth in corporate data has prompted many managers to move data to secondary storage, with a dual purpose: on the one hand, to lighten the load on primary storage (and reclaim more expensive storage arrays), and on the other hand, to maintain accessibility to older data following business needs and in compliance with regulations.

Secondary storage can also refer to data that is accessed less often than primary or production data. Since they are rarely accessed, they can be moved to secondary storage devices with lower performance and less cost than primary storage.

In the cloud

Secondary storage can also refer to cloud storage, mostly when it is used for archiving data. Many companies find that cloud archiving is much more economical to store aging data that is relatively static than primary storage locally on a server.

Is cloud storage primary or secondary storage
is cloud storage primary or secondary storage

10 reasons why cloud storage is primary storage

Like many other organizations, you may have plans to transform your primary storage into all-flash storage due to the many benefits of traditional storage.

However, there are several obstacles to application performance, availability, manageability, scalability, investment protection, and disaster recovery, which need to be taken into account first.

Overcoming low performance through fast and reliable data access

Avoiding downtime with predictive analytics

Eliminating management silos with multi-cloud flash fabric

Expanding a mountain of data with all-flash arrays

Simplifying disaster recovery at a lower price

Securing investments with timeless storage

Computer scientists delineate between two classes of data storage, primary and secondary. Two types of storage are required for the operation of a computer. You will find them represented in various forms on modern computers. Primary Storage

Random-access memory (RAM) is the primary form of primary storage. The computer processor uses this RAM to store the code and perform calculations to manage the machine’s operation because it is the fastest way to store bytes of information.

Which means that when the computer is turned off, everything in RAM is deleted? Other types of primary storage include the processor cache and non-integrated graphics cards, the on-board memory that serves the graphics processing unit (GPU).

The cost difference limits the amount of primary storage versus secondary storage. Primary storage has faster access to the processor due to its proximity.

The cost difference limits the amount of primary storage versus secondary storage. Primary storage has faster access to the processor due to its proximity. Secondary storage must transfer its data over a longer distance and through other channels before reaching the processor.

A primary storage device is a computer component that stores information for a short period. A primary storage device should not be confused with a “primary storage drive,” which would be a hard drive that contains the operating system on your computer, such as “Local Disk (C :).” RAM.

10 reasons why cloud storage is secondary storage

Comprehensive data platforms allow companies to transform these junk drawers into organized toolboxes.

In a data-centric world, secondary storage is not that secondary. For this reason, companies should not treat it as a “junk drawer,” but as a toolbox.

For decades, companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies have focused their IT strategy on deploying, managing, and optimizing the infrastructure used to run ERP, CRM, office productivity, and other applications.

The IT infrastructure suppliers are the “stars of the show,” continually seeking to balance themselves concerning the “speeds and feed” of their hardware to guarantee coveted points in the corporate data centers.

In contrast to the primary storage system, secondary storage aims to store less frequently accessed data or is no longer accessed.

Since secondary data has limited immediate usefulness and is rarely accessed, it is often referred to as cold storage or data at rest.

Low-cost SATA arrays and tape libraries are part of secondary storage systems and are the systems responsible for storing backup data, files or less accessed applications. Because they are cheaper than tier 0 and 1 solutions, secondary storage can also be used as a contingency for high availability corporate storage systems.

Having data in secondary storage is not enough if you want to activate it to generate new ideas, foster innovation, streamline compliance regulations, and improve business continuity. To activate this data, companies need to have a platform that allows them to be stored and managed economically and efficiently, to locate and access or move them quickly.

These capabilities may seem simple, but many companies do not have them. Without them, data on secondary storage for digital transformation becomes a much more expensive and difficult task.

Types of primary and secondary storage devices

In addition to RAM, every computer has another storage drive that is used to keep information long term: secondary storage. Files that you create or download to your computer are saved to its secondary storage system. Two types of storage devices are used as secondary storage on computers: HDDs and SSDs. SSDs are poised to supplant older, traditional HDDs and become the technology of choice for secondary storage.

Hard disks (HDD)

The HDD hard drive was the very first hard drive. Created in the 1950s, these magnetic storage devices have evolved considerably over time.

Solid-state hard drives (SSDs)

It appeared in the 90s, SSDs are much newer than traditional hard drives. SSDs don’t work with magnetic drives but with a type of flash memory called NAND.

External storage devices

In addition to the storage media contained in a computer, there are also external digital storage devices. They are usually used to increase storage capacity when a computer is running out of space, improve portability, and facilitate the transfer of files from one device to another.

External HDD and SSD

HDDs and SSDs can also be external. In terms of external storage capacity, these are the best performing options. External HDDs offer up to 20TB of storage, and external SSDs (reasonably priced) offering up to 8TB of storage.

Flash memory devices

We already talked about flash memory when you talked about SSDs. A flash memory device contains trillions of interconnected flash memory cells that store data.

Optical storage devices

CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs aren’t just for listening to music or watching videos – they also function as storage devices. They are known as optical storage devices or optical storage media.

Cloud storage

While not a device per se, cloud storage is the newest and most versatile type of storage for computers today. The “cloud” is neither an object nor a specific place but rather a gigantic collection of servers housed in data centers worldwide. When you back up a file to the cloud, you store it on those servers.

Types of primary storage devices

A primary storage device is a component of your computer that stores information for a short period. A primary storage device should not be confused with the “primary storage unit,” which is the hard drive that stores your computer’s operating system, such as “Local Disk (C :).”


Random Access Memory (RAM) is a temporary space for information about the operating system and applications in use, and when the task is complete, files are moved from RAM memory to be kept on the HD or SSD. This provides your processor with easy access to the essential information to run your programs. 

The amount of RAM your machine has defines how many applications you can use at once and the faster the loading speed of pages and files.

Processor cache

The processor, also known as the CPU (central processing unit), works with your computer’s information. To achieve this, you need a place to store the memory, which is the “cache memory.” It transfers information at ultra-fast speeds so that the processor cores can process it. However, the cache has much less space than RAM. For example, a processor usually has approximately 12 MB of cache memory, while RAM can have up to 4 GB per card. However, the cache makes up for it only with its speed. For example, RAM has a speed of 800 MHz, while the cache can operate at 2.4 GHz.

Processor logs

The processor records are the smallest of all primary storage devices. They can generally store between 32 and 64 bits, sufficient for elementary processes, such as mathematical calculations. However, processor logs are also the fastest primary storage devices. The processor uses them mainly to perform calculations used for the operation of the programs. The largest processes involving operating system files and software are managed in the cache.

Difference between primary and secondary storage

Random-access memory (RAM) is the primary form of primary storage. The computer’s processor uses this RAM to maintain the code, perform calculations, and manage the machine’s operation because it is the fastest way to store bytes of information. However, it is volatile, which means that everything in RAM is deleted when the computer is turned off. Other types of primary storage include the processor cache and non-integrated graphics cards, the integrated memory that serves the graphics processing unit (GPU).

Primary storage: registers

Registers are also considered part of primary memory. They are located inside the CPU itself and are used to load policies. Recorders are the fastest means of storing data. However, they can only store small amounts at a time (32 or 64 bits).

Secondary storage

Disk drives on your computer are the most common form of secondary storage. The disk drive is non-volatile and retains the information written to it after the power is turned off to the computer. Because it is a mechanical device, the disk drive is much slower than primary storage devices. All non-volatile storage devices fall into the secondary storage class, including optical and tape drives.

Secondary storage: flash memory

Users who want to transfer data or store it securely in multiple locations often opt for portable drives that use flash memory. They have many forms, such as flash drives, memory cards, and MP3 players. The flash uses EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory – electrically erasable programmable read-only memory) and erases and programs the memory in large blocks, making the recording and overwriting data faster than other forms of memory secondary.

Other differences

Primary storage generally costs more than secondary storage. The cost difference limits the amount of primary storage compared to secondary storage. Primary storage has faster access to the processor due to its proximity. Secondary storage must transfer its data over a longer distance and through other channels before it reaches the processor.

Types of secondary storage devices

As the name implies, secondary storage devices save data after the primary storage device has saved them, usually called RAM (Random Access Memory). From the moment you type a letter in Microsoft Word, for example, and until you click “Save,” all work is stored in RAM.

Internal hard drive

The internal hard disk drive is the primary-secondary storage device, which magnetically saves all data, including operating system files, folders, documents, music, and videos.

External hard drive

External hard drives are used when the internal drive has no more free space and more data needs to be stored. Besides, it is always recommended to back up all data, and an external hard drive can be very useful, as it stores large amounts of information.

Optical drive

An optical drive uses lasers to store and read data on CDs and DVDs. It burns a series of bumps and dips on a disc associated with ones and zeros.

Pen drive

The storage device called a pen drive is also portable and can be carried in a key ring. This type of secondary storage device has become extremely popular due to its small size and the amount of data it can store (in most cases, more than a CD or DVD). The data can be easily read via the USB (Universal Serial Bus) interface, which is now present on most computers.


There are a wide variety of different secondary storage devices, some of which have become obsolete. One can also remember the tape drives, which used rolls of tape to store data, or the 3.5-inch floppy drives, which could store only minimal amounts of information. However, with the rapid development of USB sticks and SD memory cards (generally used in photo cameras), modern technology does not stand still, allowing more and more data to be stored on increasingly smaller devices.

Similarities between primary and secondary storage

Primary storage is commonly known as simply “primary memory,” which is volatile, like RAM, which is primary memory and tends to lose data as soon as the computer restarts or loses power. It contains data or information that can be directly accessed by the central processing unit. RAM is stored in integrated circuits for immediate access with little or no delay. It is a high-speed data storage medium that connects directly to the processing unit via the memory bus, allowing active programs to interact with the processor. Primary storage refers to internal storage devices that provide fast and efficient access to data or information in simple terms.

Other examples of primary storage include read-only memory (short for ROM), which represents both the computer’s primary memory and non-volatile storage because it can retain data and applications even if the device loses power; PROM (Programmable Read-Only Memory) which is a kind of memory chip that gets programmed after the memory is built.

Secondary storage is another ideal storage solution in the computer’s memory hierarchy that is used to store data or information long-term, more permanently. Unlike primary storage, they are non-volatile memories or commonly known as external memory, that the central processing unit does not access directly. They are also referred to as auxiliary storage, which can be both internal and external, beyond primary storage. Because they are not directly accessed over the I / O channels, they are relatively slower than primary storage devices for data access. However, It is one of the most valuable assets in the data storage hierarchy capable of permanently storing applications and programs. Unlike RAM, it is a long-term storage solution that expands data storage capacity.

A common example of secondary storage includes hard disk drives (HDD), which is the most common data storage device used to store and retrieve digital information.

Secondary storage devices.

A secondary storage device owns the data separately from the processor. Data is kept in storage even when power to the computer is removed. A hard drive and an optical drive are the two secondary storage devices.

USB drives

A USB flash drive, usually portable and rewritable, is a flash memory storage device that connects to a USB port on the computer. These drives are more expensive than hard drives with the same storage capacity.


Floppy disks are a storage medium made of a thin magnetic disk. They were used extensively from the 1970s to the 2000s. On the 3 1/2 inch (8.89 cm) micro floppy disks, familiar from the late 1980s onwards, storage capacities range from the standard 1.44 MB up to 200 MB in some versions.


A CD-R, a type of recordable CD, is an optical secondary storage device invented by Sony and Philips. It is also known as a WORM medium (WORM, Write once Read many).


A DVD-R, a type of recordable DVD that generally has a storage capacity of 4.1 GB. There is also an 8.54GB dual-layer version called DVD-R DL.

Magnetic tape

Magnetic tape has been in use for more than 50 years. It comes in cartridges or cassettes and is used to store data backups, especially in corporate environments. The average amount of storage is 5MB to 140MB for each standard length roll, 2,400 feet (720m).

USB cables are a type of computer data transfer cable. They are used to connect peripheral devices, such as MP3 players, to such equipment. Data is transferred over the cable while the computer and peripherals communicate with each other. There are several different types of USB connectors, which vary from device to device and between manufacturers.

Is rom primary or secondary storage

In computing, when we talk about ROM memory (an acronym for Read-Only Memory, that is, Read-Only Memory ), we refer to a type of storage used in computers and other electronic devices, which is characterized by being only accessible for reading and never for writing, that is, it can be recovered but not modified or intervened.

ROM memory is sequential access, and its presence is independent of the presence of a power source. As has been said, its content cannot be modified, or at least not in a simple and daily way, and it usually contains information entered into the system by the manufacturer of a basic, operational, or primary type.

This type of memory also operates much slower than its counterpart, RAM (an acronym for Random Access Memory that is, Random Access Memory ), so its content is usually dumped into the latter to run faster.

There are, however, versions of ROM memory (known as EPROM and Flash EEPROM) that can be programmed and reprogrammed several times, despite the fact that their operation is governed by the same traditional rules. However, as their reprogramming process is infrequent and relatively slow, they continue to be called in the same way.

Software storage. Commonly, computers in the 1980s brought their entire operating system stored in ROM so that users could not mistakenly alter it and disrupt the operation of the machine. It is even used to install the most basic startup or operating software (BIOS, SETUP, and POST, for example).

Data storage. Since users do not usually have access to a system’s ROM, it is used to store data that will not require any modification in the product’s life, such as look-up tables, mathematical or logical operators, and other technical information.


Despite its critics and drawbacks, cloud computing is here to stay. The current economic situation will force organizations to consider adopting a cloud solution. Universities have started to adhere to this initiative, and there is evidence of a significant decrease in expenses due to the implementation of cloud solutions.

It is essential to identify the particularities of use of the computing cloud to store and manage all the documents that are generated in higher education institutions and to deduce from there the use that may be given to it in the information units, taking into account the risks and the benefits of cloud architecture and discuss appropriate cloud adoption strategies for universities.

Storing digital archival documents in the cloud can benefit information units with or without financial resources. Today, the cloud benefits are numerous, such as flexibility, agility to consult information, and profitability.

Luis Gillman
Luis Gillman

Hi, I Am Luis Gillman CA (SA), ACMA
I am a Chartered Accountant (SA) and CIMA (SA) and author of Due Diligence: A strategic and Financial Approach.

The book was published by Lexis Nexis on 2001. In 2010, I wrote the second edition. Much of this website is derived from these two books.

In addition I have published an article entitled the Link Between Due Diligence and Valautions.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information published on this website is accurate, the author and owners of this website take no responsibility  for any loss or damage suffered as a result of relience upon the information contained therein.  Furthermore the bulk of the information is derived from information in 2018 and use therefore is at your on risk. In addition you should consult professional advice if required.