When it comes to backing up old digital data there are a lot of various options to storing data in different formats.

This could vary between different medium types, disk setups, connectivity etc.

The two main types of data setups include Hot (or) Active data storage, and Cold data storage.

What's the difference between hot and cold storage mediums, and why does it matter ?

Difference between Hot and Cold storage mediums:

Hot data is active information that changes and is used daily. That means it has to be agile and on standby.

Cold data is inactive data that retains mostly static information. For example bulk data that only gets read on infrequent intervals.

This information (cold data) is considered valuable when inactive, as the speed of access is not a priority, but managing where it is kept is.

Hot and cold data both have their advantages but are defined by their differences. The benefits that come from separation have a big impact on the success of business operations.

Hot storage mediums are usually always online and network connected for quick and fast access.

Cold Storage mediums can consist of offline or offshore data storage for security and controlled accessibility.

Choices for Hot and Cold Storage Mediums:

Hot Storage Mediums:

Rack server for hot data storage

A simple and effective hot storage medium can consist of something like a cloud data storage or, a local storage server.

you can purchase a cloud server from popular storage providers like AWS, Google or Azure.

If you plan to construct your own local enterprise storage server, take note it will require a lot of components and software to setup.

what's the difference between a local and online cloud host for data storage ?

Cold Storage Mediums:

Cold storage mediums are usually based on local storage mediums that are offline and not readily accessible.

Typical hard disk for offline storage
Typical USB drive used for local offline storage

Bulk data storage is usually done with cold storage mediums.

This would include storing data for long terms and aren't meant to be touched and modified.

Cold storage's are quite similar to local hot storage's, but differ by being offline most of the time.

Cold storage needs to be impermeable to data loss and corruption over long time periods.

Its typically driven by redundant disk arrays or RAID storage solutions to reduce possibilities in case of an awry situation.

Comparison Between Hot, and Cold storages:

Parameters:Hot StorageCold Storage
Access SpeedFastSlowest
Access FrequencyRegularRare/Very Less
Data Exchange VolumeHighLow
Storage MediaStandard hard drives, solid state drives, portable flash memory, easy-access cloud storageOff-site archival cloud storage (Amazon Glacier, Google Coldline), unplugged & encrypted hard drives
SecurityLowerHigher (physical access required in some cases)
Ideal UserEveryone (Enterprise or Personal Usage)Enterprise or Personal with large backup data to be offloaded.
comparison chart of storages

When should one use a particular Data Storage ?

Depending on your needs and use cases, a hot or cold storage system may or may not be applicable to you.

If you are looking for something that requires:

You might want to consider hot storage solutions that are online, or offline.

Otherwise cold storage options or maybe "warm" storage.

It is similar cold storage but exhibits the accessibility and available state of hot storage.

Just not as fast considering it is much more larger in comparison.


Thus if you are looking to create a hot or cold data storage for your data, consider between the options available and chose accordingly.

Not every business has the same needs, and different data has to be split in between hot and cold storage options.

the choice is based on the various parameters like ease of accessibility and size.

Modern technology has bought us a variety of storage technologies. Evolving from magnetic media to super-fast solid-state drives with no moving parts.

Flash media has become the staple for storage options everywhere from mobile phones, to portable computers, to enterprise servers.

But not all flash storage is the same, let's see the difference:


Basics of flash storage media:

Flash storage works on the principle of holding data with transistors, and keeps the data on the transistor in a non-volatile manner by holding the charge floating.

flash transistor

Electricity flows from the source to the drain. When data to be written, current is also applied at the control gate. This causes the electrons to get trapped in the floating gate.

writing operation

For erasing, the control gate potential is reversed.

erasing operation

These transistors are used in combination to store larger amounts of more useful data.

The common technologies used are nand flash, which uses a combination of transistors that form a nand gate and store data on it.

Typically, 1 bit of data is present in a single data cell, this is termed SLC, or Single Layer Cell. but many more bits can be there in a single cell as well, such as MLC or Multi-Layer Cell (2 bits per cell).

TLC which is Triple Layer Cell (3 bits per cell), and QLC which is Quad Layer Cell (4 bits per cell).

Each one of these has a cost, as well as speed and durability factors.

From SLC to QLC the cost reduces, but so does the write speed and the durability.

Flash storage being solid state technology, has no moving parts and has none of the issues associated with things such as mechanical failure.

Different flash storage technologies:

Flash storage comes in a variety:


SD or Secure Digital is a proprietary technology that utilizes Flash memory in a compact standard package that communicates to the host via SDIO (Secure Digital Input Output).

Typical SD card.

SD cards are cheap and reliable for long term storage. their speed of communication is dependent on the specific communication revision they are based on.

In increasing order of speed there is SD-HC, SD-XC, SD-UC, and the fastest SD cards can almost reach 1 GB/s.

A lot of the speed and various parameters depend on the spec of the SD card's protocol, you can find more info about the parameters here.

SD card's best applications include photography storage, some Industrial applications which use them as ROM storage.

SD cards have relatively average durability for a flash storage medium, usually using TLC flash which can be the reason for their overall lower write speeds. Best used for long period storage which doesn't involve writing to it often.


Multi-Media Card is a technology that is widely used for media storage. As of today, the most common form factor of MMC is eMMC or embedded MMC.

standard eMMC module found on an electronic device

eMMC is a standard maintained by the JEDEC association

It's more durable than SD, and is much faster in comparison.

However, since it is soldered to the motherboard of the device, eMMC cannot be replaced by end users.

It's used in a number of places such as smartphones, tablets, portable computers etc., Mostly applications range from portable device storage as it has better read and write endurance.

There have been many improvements and successors when it comes to a compact flash storage module, one of which is UFS (Universal Flash Storage) which comes with greater improvements too such as faster read and write speeds.

eMMC has the advantage of having an integrated controller that can do things such as wear leveling, to make sure that memory corruption doesn't become prevalent with constant writing.

This does make them more durable than SD cards, but they are still not as durable over the long run.


Solid state drives are the flash memory-based counterpart of spinning hard drives (or) HDDs, they are very power efficient, have very high storage density.

standard PCIe NVMe SSD

There are many types of SSDs, mostly differentiated by their protocol of communication,

The main protocols include:


SATA SSDs use the older protocol that hard disks used for communicating with the CPU.

Some SATA protocol based SSDs use the SATA3 connector and the m.2 connector.

Modern SSDs are fast enough to saturate the bandwidth offered by that protocol.

These SSDs have all the features offered by flash storage technology, like longer endurance and high storage density, and are slightly more expensive typical hard disks.

These primarily target replacing hard disk drives.


PCIe SSDs are part of the NVMe standard or (Non-Volatile Memory express), which uses high bandwidth PCIe lanes on your computer and is the fastest storage option when it comes to SSDs.

Modern PCIe SSDs use around 2x PCIe Lanes, but their speed can vary depending on the flash used and the controller bottlenecks.

Some PCIe SSDs use some extra DDR memory for caching, (the same kind your PC has) to offer a boost to speeds.

Another speed deciding factor can be the variant of PCIe generation. PCIe Gen 4 is the current fastest generation that is widely prevalent. However, the cost of the technology has it yet to be accessible to everyone.

As of now PCIe gen 3 SSDs are the sweet spot as of now when it comes to fast SSDs and reasonable cost.

SSDs overall have the best endurance when it comes to any type of storage medium, and are the fastest when it comes to reading and writing.

Other Flash Storage packages:

There are a lot of storage devices that use flash technology, for example USB flash drives.

assortment of USB flash drives

These are the most popular portable version of flash media, Used for mass exchange of offline data.

These come with the same kind of flash technology as SSDs but in a small form factor, and communicate in a different way.

Similar to an SSD, these flash drives operate based on what version of USB they use such as a slower USB 2.0 flash drives vs a much faster USB 3.0 flash drive (which can almost be as fast as a SATA SSD).

Another common thing to note about both SSDs and USB flash drives since they use similar technology, is that the durability is proportional to their storage size, so a 16 GB flash drive has 2x the Durability compared to an 8 GB flash drive.

Applications of various media:

Different flash media have their applications in various places, from handheld electronics to powerful data centers and home computers.

eMMC and UFS power mobile smartphones, and small laptops. SSDs power most laptops these days. They also have started to become more popular in the datacenter space for high storage density, and Low power consumption.

For the daily user, you will most likely look into having SSDs for large local storage. If you need a large amount of storage prioritizing over speed, you might want to look into purchasing SATA based SSDs.

If you need a fast disk for your personal computer or desktop, an NVMe PCIe gen 3 SSDs should be suitable and provide the speed needed.

Wrap up:

In total, flash media is a technology that has had a warm welcome and has changed computer technology for the better.

making computers faster, more power efficient, and has more improvements for years to come.

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