Computer data storage, often called storage or memory, is a technology consisting of computer components and recording media used to retain digital data. It is a core function and fundamental component of computers. The central processing unit (CPU) of a computer is what manipulates data by performing computations. In practice, almost all computers use a storage hierarchy, which puts fast but expensive and small storage options close to the CPU and slower but larger and cheaper options farther away. Often the fast, volatile technologies (which lose data when powered off) are referred to as “memory”, while slower permanent technologies are referred to as “storage”, but these terms can also be used interchangeably. In the Von Neumann architecture, the CPU consists of two main parts: control unit and arithmetic logic unit (ALU). The former controls the flow of data between the CPU and memory; the latter performs arithmetic and logical operations on data.
A data storage device is a device for recording (storing) information (data). Recording can be done using virtually any form of energy. A storage device may hold information, process information, or both. Most often the term is used with computers. Data storage devices can permanently hold data, like files.
Electronic data storage is storage which requires electricity to store and get back that data. Most storage devices that do not require visual optics to read data fall into this category. Electronic data may be stored in either an analog or digital signal format.
A storage device may hold information, process information, or both. A device that only holds information is a recording medium. Devices that process information (data storage equipment) may either access a separate portable (removable) recording medium or a permanent component to store and retrieve information.
Electronic data storage requires electrical power to store and retrieve that data. Most storage devices that do not require vision and a brain to read data fall into this category. Electromagnetic data may be stored in either an analog data or digital data format on a variety of media. This type of data is considered to be electronically encoded data, whether or not it is electronically stored in a semiconductor device, for it is certain that a semiconductor device was used to record it on its medium. Most electronically processed data storage media (including some forms of computer data storage) are considered permanent (non-volatile) storage, that is, the data will remain stored when power is removed from the device. In contrast, most electronically stored information within most types of semiconductor (computer chips) microcircuits are volatile memory, for it vanishes if power is removed.
With the exception of barcodes and OCR data, electronic data storage is easier to revise and may be more cost effective than alternative methods due to smaller physical space requirements and the ease of replacing (rewriting) data on the same medium. However, the durability of methods such as printed data is still superior to that of most electronic storage media. The durability limitations may be overcome with the ease of duplicating (backing-up) electronic data.
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