Storage and Archive Technology and Architecture

PACS Training - IT Basics 101
Let’s Discuss Storage and Archive – The Technology and Architecture

Storage technologies have evolved with the passing years.  Advancements owing to new offerings from storage vendors. Consider internal disk drives as an example. Disk drives have expanded from just a few megabytes to now terabytes in compact forms. Today, organizations, including the healthcare sector, have plenty of storage architectures to choose from.  Options vary, depending on how clients want to store and access their information. Therefore, it’s important for us as imaging informatics professionals to sharpen our concepts of storage technologies and architectures.  Thus having a better understanding of available storage solutions and protocols. Let’s discuss all those elements in detail in this free course module. 

Storage Architectures

Storage architecture is the foundation for data access across the organization. It also plays a crucial role in data transfer and accessibility of vital information. For example, network storage architecture implies the conceptual and physical arrangement of the network to enable data transfer between servers and storage devices. 

A specific storage architecture configuration must be designed based on the organization’s data needs.  A unique architecture that enables personnel to complete their everyday task effectively must be selected. The three common types of storage systems widely used today are as follows:

NAS – Network-Attached Storage

Network-Attached Storage (NAS) is a data storage server that connects to the network. The NAS provides access to stored data for multiple clients via the network. It uses file-level storage, which implies that data is stored in the form of file & folder hierarchy. 

NAS empowers authorized network users to access data and even collaborate on projects with others from different locations. This storage architecture is best suited for small-scale organizations that want to facilitate remote data accessibility and sharing, data redundancy, etc. However, since NAS devices use Ethernet to send and receive data, they are not an ideal pick for those organizations that involve a big volume of data sharing because of the latency associated with NAS devices.

SAN – Storage Area Network

Storage Area Network (SAN) is a dedicated network of storage devices meant to serve as a pool of shared storage.  Multiple servers and computers on the network can access this data. Each connected server is able to access the shared storage as if it were a drive on the server directly. It uses block-level storage, which implies that data is stored in individual blocks where each block comes with a unique identifier. 

Owing to the central data storage, organizations are able to manage storage from one central place and easily apply policies around data protection, security, etc. Moreover, it offers the highest access speed with low latency, thereby making it ideal for organizations that want continuous availability of applications. However, SAN is a bit expensive and complicated, so it is not much suited for small businesses.

DAS – Direct Attached Storage

As the name implies, Direct Attached Storage (DAS) is a storage system that directly connects with the workstation, personal computer, or server, but is not linked to a network. Since DAS is linked with one computer/server, it is not accessible to other computers unless those computers are connected to the host computer in some way. 

DAS is widely used as internal storage in computers and is commonly available in the form of a hard disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD). Similarly, external hard drives or USBs are also examples of DAS. Moreover, it is deployed in organizations when there is a need for large storage capacity and high performance. It is popular in all scales of organizations from small to large-scale organizations. 

Storage Network Protocols

A storage network protocol reflects the set of rules that narrate how data is transmitted among different devices. It empowers servers, applications, and other systems to interface with storage all over the network. Following are some of the common storage network protocols:

SCI – Serial Communications Interface

Serial Communications Interface (SCI) is an asynchronous serial communications bus that is meant to serve as a communication channel between the CPU and peripheral devices, such as scanners, printers, external drives, etc. Being serial, it exchanges one bit at a time and also makes wiring simpler. 

FC – Fibre Channel

Fibre Channel (FC) is a data transfer protocol known for its high-speed data transfer between two computers. It is used to connect supercomputers, mainframes, and general computers to storage devices. Fibre Channel transfers bulk data between end points with a speed from 1 to 4 Gbps. The data transfer in FC is achieved using an FC port on a server/computer and an FC switch (fabric). The connection between port and switch is mostly via fiber optic cables or standard coaxial cables. 

ATA/SATA – Advanced Technology Attachment/Serial Advanced Technology Attachment

Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) is a standard interface meant to connect storage peripherals directly to the motherboard. It is a 16-bit parallel interface, which implies that it can transmit 16-bits simultaneously.

Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) acts as a computer bus interface designed to connect bus adapters of the host with storage devices, such as SSDs, hard disks, optical drives, etc. It transmits data one bit at a time and is less vulnerable to interference, thereby resulting in higher speed. Moreover, its serial nature also makes cabling simple and slim.

Virtual Architecture 

With technological advancements, the concept of virtual storage and server architecture is becoming more and more popular with many facilities implementing virtual environments. Virtual architecture implies presenting a virtual version of something rather than its physical version, such as an operating system, network resources, server, or storage devices. Some of the reputed market names in virtual architecture are as follows:


Citrix Systems is an American-based company known for offering tech products related to virtualization to enable remote working. Its focus is on technology that provides remote access functionality to desktops and applications. For example, Citrix Virtual Apps (previously known as XenApp) separates applications from the linked OS in order to provide access to remote users from any other device. It basically runs applications from a central location into an isolated environment from where they are streamed on targeted devices.  Citrix is commonly used for the Health Information System where end users such as doctors and nurses can log into their citrix desktop from any computer in the enterprise.  Within the citrix virtual session, staff can access their suite of applications such as EMR, PACS, Scheduling system, billing applications, etc.  The configuration of each Citrix desktop is unique to each end-user (log in) so that the user’s desktop remains consistent regardless of which computer they use to sign on with.  Also for user access control so that the user is limited to only the applications they are authorized to access.


VMware is a virtualization and cloud computing company known for being the first to successfully virtualize the x86 architecture. Today, VMware is reputed for offering virtual machines (VMs) that can run on the same physical server. Through VMware server virtualization, the hypervisor is set up on a physical server which then allows multiple VMs to run through it. Each VM has its own OS but shares resources (like RAM and networking) with other VMs. The main use of VM is that it empowers businesses to run an OS that acts as a completely separate computer within an app window.  Some benefits of a VMware server include the ability to quickly allocate or remove resources such as CPU, memory & disk space, increase redundancy and business continuity, save on physical hardware space.

Server Architecture

Server architecture is defined as the foundational model or layout of a server on which it is created and deployed. The architecture reflects how a server is designed, what are its components, offerings, security mechanism, and similar other insights. Consider a web server as an example. The architecture of a web server is such that it hosts multiple websites, where the web server acts as a “server”, while users act as a “client”. The users send requests to access the resources of the website, while the server responds to the request and delivers the resources.

Wrapping Up

The storage architecture and storage protocols of any organization depend on its needs and requirements, as different organizations have different sets of needs to fulfill. Moreover, the setup of such frameworks all depends on what are the organization’s priorities around security, scalability, speed, and cost. Whatever storage architecture and protocols an organization pick, the focus should be to streamline data management and make everyday tasks smoother.

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