What is the contemporary meaning of primary storage?

What is the contemporary meaning of primary storage?

I believe it now depends on the context that term is used in.

In the context of computer architecture, your understanding of "primary storage" is correct and still used. There is a hierarchy of storage systems in every computer and it still makes sense to use these well established names when speaking of the entire computer's storage systems.

There is also the context of persistent storage systems, like a data center or a NAS. It also makes sense to classify the drives into a hierarchy based on how they are used and what data they contain. The drives that are used more often (aka the "hot" storage) can be referred to as "primary storage", while the drives containing backups would be considered "secondary storage".

Think of it this way, a computer may have:

  • Primary Storage (RAM)
  • Secondary Storage (Persistent)
    • Primary "secondary" storage (actively used data)
    • Secondary "secondary" storage (backups of the "primary" drives)
  • and so on...