A cloud storage provider is a third-party company that offers organizations and end users the ability to save data to an off-site storage system.
Instead of storing data to a local hard drive or other local storage device, such as tape backup or flash drives, the data is stored on a system in a remote data center. Customers can access their files from anywhere with an Internet connection.
Both individual and corporate customers can store unlimited data capacity on the provider's servers at a low price point. The key to a cloud storage model is flexibility, so the user has the advantage of not worrying about storage limitations. Typically, they only pay for what they use, much like a utility. The key to storing data in the cloud is availability, and the level of availability can impact the price.
Companies can use cloud storage providers as an offsite vault for backups, thus eliminating the need for tape backups, or they can use cloud storage as the primary destination for backups. It can also be used for primary storage.
There are numerous cloud storage providers, including but not limited to Nirvanix, Rackspace, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), AT&T’s Synaptic Storage and Mozy.