One of the questions I ask myself most frequently asked is, “Why would I trust an Cloud Storage service instead of backing up my files on an external hard drive?” An external hard drive has many advantages: it is fairly cheap, you can back up your data very fast, everything is under your control, and you can keep it with you at all times.
If you’re reading this article – perhaps on a smartphone, tablet or laptop — chances are you’ve wrestled with how to best protect your digital information on those devices.
That is, with all the important files you likely have, you might be unsure whether to rely on one of the many “cloud” services available today or an external hard drive?
External hard drives
External hard drives have become very cheap, and with the new USB 2.0 devices, connection speeds have increased dramatically. You can get an external hard drive of 1TB as low as NGN16,000 right here in Nigeria. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of using an external hard drive for backup?
Advantages of External Hard Drives
- Lower Cost – As mentioned earlier, storage prices have decreased dramatically, so you can get a 500GB or 1TB hard drive at a very affordable rate. Also, sizes have decreased, making external hard drives extremely portable and lightweight. You can now carry your external hard drive around, making sure you have all the important files you need with you.
- Quicker File Transfer – Newer models of external hard drives use USB 2.0, which makes data transfer to and from your computer very fast. You can now transfer a 2GB photo album in one or two minutes. That makes backup very fast, too.
- One Time Cost – If you’re on a budget, hard drives can be a wise choice since you only have to pay once for huge amounts of data. Besides, there aren’t any hidden fees that will surprise you when your bills come in at the end of the month.
- Customizable Security – Rather than depending on an unknown service to secure your files, you can do that yourself by deciding how to encrypt your files. That way even the NSA won’t be able to access your private documents since they’ll be with you and for your eyes only.
Disadvantages Of External Hard Drives
- Hard drives fail. And your data can be lost – One thing that you have to keep in mind is that an external hard drive is still a hard drive at the end of the day. The problem with spinning discs is that they fail very frequently. You can be lucky and keep the same external hard drive for a couple of years, but in some cases, it takes only weeks until a hard drive says goodbye.
- Fragility –A physical hard drive can fall or slip out of your hands. As a result, your data can be lost forever unless you had a backup plan ready.
- More Trouble for Non-Technical People – If you are very tech-savvy, then this might be an advantage because you can manage all the security options that you’d like your data to have. But for most people, this is an overwhelming task, and they’d rather not encrypt their data at all. This will inevitably expose them to security risks.
- Wire Trouble – To access your external hard drive, it has to be connected to your machine all the time. If you forget to connect it or take it with you, then you have no other way to access your data. Just imagine you have to give a speech but you forgot your presentation on your external hard drive at home. That would be quite frustrating, wouldn’t it?
- Compatibility Constraints – External hard drives don’t necessarily work with all hardware specs or operating systems. Therefore, when buying one, you need to make sure that it’s compatible with all the devices you use.
Online backup services
Online backup and storage has become quite popular in the last couple of years because storage price has decreased dramatically. Therefore, providers can offer online backup at ridiculously low prices; it is even possible for them to offer unlimited online backup for just five dollars per month.
Advantages of Cloud or Online Backup Services
- Easy Access Anytime Anywhere – Cloud storage allows you to access your files using a client or app on your PC or mobile device. If you have a smartphone and internet access, you can also manage your documents from your browser. Therefore, you’re not bound to one location or a single device.
- Better Security – Most cloud storage services boast about their encryption technology. A number of service providers like DrivePop even use military level technology to ensure that your files are secured against third parties. In addition to taking the burden of security off your shoulders, cloud storage will ensure the availability and integrity of all of your files.
- Enhanced Sharing and Collaboration – Gone are the days when you had to wait ages to share your vacation photos or huge documentation files. With cloud storage services, you can select multiple folders and share them with everyone. You can also grant access to others so that they can edit and modify your documents. This is one feature businesspeople and their employees will love as it makes their operations more virtual.
- Value for Money – Cloud storage comes with a range of services and so much flexibility; this makes it worth the money you invest in it. However, you probably won’t need to pay anything at all since most services offer you ample space for free. For example, Google Drive offers 15 GB while Dropbox’s free 2 GBs can be upgraded to 16 GB with referrals.
Disadvantages of Cloud or Online Backup Services
- Slower Speed – The transfer speed of your files can be slow if your internet connection isn’t too fast. So it will take a while for your files to be uploaded and synchronized across different devices. Though it won’t be much of an issue for personal users, corporate ones won’t be able to wait weeks for their huge amounts of data to be uploaded and ready for use.
- The Cost of Additional Data – Some paid plans are heavy on the pocket, especially those targeting businesses. However, you can’t afford skipping a single payment once you sign up for the service or else your data will be inaccessible.
- The Need for Trust – By using cloud storage, you’ll basically be transferring your important files to a service you hardly know. Now you need to trust your provider before you can take this step, so find out as much as you can through reviews and expert opinions before signing up for the service.
What Storage Is Actually Best?
One of the beauties of modern technology is that you can combine as many modes together and avail all their benefits. Therefore, you can easily use both cloud storage and external hard drive storage. However, if you absolutely have to choose one, use the list of advantages and disadvantages to select the best option. Then, do a little research on the best service or model and invest in it without looking back.
Is cloud storage better than hard drive?
On one hand, external hard drives provide a good medium for your backup data – as long as there are no physical threats such as fire, flooding or other dangers. On the other hand, secure cloud storage services provide you, and your data, an extra layer of protection by storing your important files offsite.