Cloud Storage or External Hard Drives. Which is better?
Both systems have benefits and weaknesses—here are a few
Likely you’ve been using an external hard drive to back up your files for many years. Note to reader: if you are not backing up your files in a physically separate location from your computer’s hard drive, it’s time to get on board so you can protect your photos, work and other important files.
Then there is “The Cloud,” backing up files via the internet by remote storage services, which is growing in popularity. So which is better? The answer: it depends.
First, let’s look at the basic arguments.
External hard drive advantages
The number one advantage of a physical drive over the cloud is far less vulnerability for hackers. You are in control of security or encryption. Because it is a physical device in your possession, you are the only one to have access to your files. This may be especially important if you maintain confidential client information on your computer.
+ External hard drives are affordable
Storage prices are decreasing. You can get an external drive to back up the bulk of your files for a few bucks. Need more storage? Add another device. For business, you can have separate storage for clients, work groups or business sectors, making it a very flexible solution.
+ Much faster transfer times
Whether you’re backing up an HD video, photos or large groups of files, the transfer rate is far superior to current cloud services, even with fast internet speeds.
+ A one-time investment
An external drive is a one-time…or at least a periodic purchase. And you can buy a drive that suits your needs without signing up for a service.
External hard drive disadvantages
+ External hard drives are vulnerable
Any physical device, including your removable hard drive, can be lost, stolen or damaged. Even if you have a large-capacity drive connected to your home network that you don’t carry around, it might still be susceptible to damage by power surges, and should be protected like all of your electronics. Sometimes external drives just fail. Unless it is a solid-state drive, it has spinning parts that will wear out over time.
+ You have to take care of security
Because your external drive connects to your computer’s internal hard drive, you have to be concerned about security and viruses. If you’re not a very technical person this could be a headache. If your computer is infected, you could transfer the virus to your external drive. Second note to reader: if you are not using antivirus software on your computer, you should start now. Two great free ones are Spybot Search and Destroy and Malwarebytes. If you’re carrying around an external drive, you also want to encrypt sensitive files in case the drive falls into the wrong hands.
+ You need a physical or WiFi connection
To use an external hard drive, you need to connect it to your computer either physically via a USB or firewire cable, or wirelessly via your wireless router. That can be impractical if you carry your laptop to a remote location and don’t take your removable drive along.
Cloud storage services
Cloud computing refers to the on-demand delivery of resources and applications via the Internet. Cloud storage is becoming more sophisticated, allowing you to sync files across multiple devices and share folders with friends, family or colleagues via the Internet.
Cloud Storage Advantages
+ Cloud storage allows you to access your files anywhere
Clearly, the top advantage to the cloud is accessing your files no matter where you are in the world via the internet on your phone, PC or tablet.
+ Cloud storage services and encrypt your files securely
Cloud storage services employ their own security measures to keep your data safe from third parties so you don’t have to take these measures.
+ File sharing friendly
Most cloud storage services allow you to select files or folders and share them with colleagues, friends and family. That means you can share photos of Aunt Lulu’s birthday party with family or office files with your work team on an upcoming presentation across an unlimited geographic area.
+ Cloud storage can be cheap
If your storage needs are minimal, there are some free services.
Cloud Storage Disadvantages
+ Cloud storage transfer speeds can be slow
Depending on your Internet connection speed it might take a while to upload files to your cloud storage provider. If you have videos, folders of high-resolution photos, or other large files, you likely will be waiting many hours to back-up your files to the cloud.
+ Registration and on-going subscription needed
While several services offer some free cloud storage on the basic level, you will need to pay a fee to have larger amounts of storage and more features.
+ Security is still an issue
Encryption, firewalls and other strong security measures are built in to cloud services. But as recent history has shown, data breaches have happened to even the largest and most sophisticated companies.
While the competition between on-site storage and cloud storage has been going on for about a decade, it should be noted that Cloud computing is growing at an incredible rate.
Don’t toss your external hard drive yet. A hybrid solution might give you the best of both worlds.
For individuals who have small to moderate storage needs, an external drive for sensitive documents or large files you want to transfer quickly, along with free cloud storage services for file sharing might be a good solution. Google Drive offers up to 15GB free, and allows file sharing.
For business, Arvig has a variety of Cloud solutions, but also offers a hybrid solution in partnership with Carbonite, a company that employs industry-leading encryption technology to keep data secure. There is an option for on-site back-up at your physical location, while your files are encrypted and also sent to Carbonite’s state-of-the-art offsite data centers. With this solution, you have a local device for quick recoveries, and your data is backed up via the cloud, giving you an all-in-one backup solution. Perfect.