The reality of cold and hot data is they both require much different storage systems. Companies need to follow a couple steps in order to setup their information storage correctly. They first determine the data type, then sort it into dedicated storage. If you’re unsure of cold storage vs hot storage, here’s an easy-to-understand guide to sort the two correctly.

What Is Cold Storage?

The easiest way to think of cold data is imagining it’s frozen. It would take a lot of de-thawing to read any of it. Cold data is simply information that remains isolated for long periods of time. Cold data storage is how companies choose to store the information – usually on cheaper, slower servers.

This type of storage is still useful as it typically contains valuable records, information and legal documents that could come in handy someday. Useful as it may be, it needs minimal access. It also requires its own storage servers to avoid slowing down the hot (active) data.

A picture of blue wires plugged into a server.
Cold data storage is like information frozen into a location.

What Is Hot Data Storage?

Companies access hot data very often. Hot data storage necessitates powerful, reliable and fast servers with minimal access delay. It is often things like web content which require constant editing and usage.

Hot data storage (different than warm data storage, which is accessed less often than hot but more often that cold) is important because the information stored requires fast recall and frequent access. Hot storage requires expensive, fast servers that house a higher volume of data than cold storage. A lot of companies utilize cloud data storage from third party businesses rather than host their own dedicated servers.

A picture of red servers.
Companies access hot data often and store it on fast servers.

How Are Cold and Hot Data Storage Different?

Cold and hot data hold different types of information. They’re categorized as hot and cold by how often a company accesses them. The more one is accessed, the hotter it is. The less, the colder. This is important because it makes it easy to track which information belongs in specific servers. So what type of server should house the cold and hot data?

The cold data belongs in cheap, slower servers. You wouldn’t buy a new computer with high-end graphics card, processor and RAM only to play Solitaire on it. The same goes with cold data servers. Keep them inexpensive, as they’re rarely used.

Hot data belongs on the fastest, most reliable servers. They should cost more because users access them a lot more often. The reason we have to separate cold and hot data is the more data on a server, the slower it becomes. Check out the table below to get a visual understanding of how the two compare.

Cold data Hot data
Expenditures Very cheap, economical Expensive
Overall usage Rarely accessed Accessed often
Data quantity Small amounts Large amounts
Drive hardware quality Flimsy, sluggish. Offline servers Quick, dependable, lasting
Server speed Slow Fast

Future Outlook

Data is growing drastically, especially for large companies (though businesses of all sizes are feeling this effect). Each year, this growth increases, adding to the already-stored data. Though this seems like a problem, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, with these changes came technological improvements that compensated. For example, companies no longer have to balance increasing data with extremely expensive storage and flexible systems. The new tools allow for, as shown above, inexpensive data storage for files that don’t need scheduled retrieval.

The question for companies is no longer do we need cold data and hot data storage? It is now a foregone conclusion that both are necessary for strong digital data storage. The best way to optimize is with temperature-specific data organization. Make sure your hots and colds don’t clash.

Casey Schmidt – Content Manager and Industry Expert

Casey Schmidt – Content Manager and Industry Expert | Canto

Casey is a content management and branding expert who enjoys taking complex subjects and making them easy to understand for readers.