‘Storage’, one of the most important factors associated with IT infrastructure setup for a business or individual. With time there has been a shifting trend till this day where we have the choice of choosing from a list of portable storage equipment such as the external hard drives to a universally accessible cloud storage platform.
Though the cloud storage mediums are the latest entry in this segment, it’s still been embraced well considering the remarkable demand. Despite this fact, many organizations still get caught up in a dilemma of choosing between the storage platforms i.e. a physical portable hard drive and a cloud based service.
Well, both have their respective gains and disadvantages associated. Let’s consider the good and the bad sides of having your data stored over a hard drive and a cloud storage service.
We all agree to the fact that both allow you to store data and make it available whenever required. Though some IT experts and managers responsible for data security and risk mitigation, do not advise having mission critical data stored over portable storage mediums. It’s the smaller firms that do not have dedicated IT departments would usually go that path until some sort of disaster strikes.
The most common reason for choosing an external hard drive to store crucial data is usually the cost associated with it. Because external hard disks are cheaper and easily available, firms tend to be inclined towards this choice. But industry experts consider it as a risky choice for the reason that the disks might fail OR get robbed leaving them with nearly no option to recover the business critical data. It may even give rise to a chain of complications thereafter. Hence they rather rely on a cloud based server solution due to its ability to create multiple instances over the storage cluster.
Portable External hard disk drives
Let’s try and evaluate why small firms prefer an external drive over a cloud based solution. Well the reason is pretty straight forward, ‘the cost’ (usually). Firms are able to save on the costs to some extent by choosing an external storage medium such as portable disks to secure copies of their data. Also, easy availability is one of the reasons for it to be so popular.
Let’s consider the benefits and disadvantages of an external hard disk drive:
Benefits of External Hard Drives for Data Storage
The Cost Factor
Hard drives are inexpensive now-a-days. Users find good deals over popular sites, especially during festive seasons. Moreover, with the advancing technology, the hardware size of external storage devices is shrinking. Somewhere over the web I came across an offer that flashed 1 TB flash/pen drive. Now that’s amazing!
So if you ever come across a situation where you need extra space for storage, all you need is procuring a new device and get going. Though a user doesn’t get a choice of scalability but they do have a lot of flexibility with it.
The Processing Power
With an evolving technology with better advancements being introduced every day, consumers today have USB 3.0 at the disposal. Devices compatible with USB 3.0 technology get to leverage higher transfer speeds reducing the time required to take secure a backup of crucial business data.
Depending on the storage requirements, consumers might have to invest, but it’s a one-time expenditure which is usually considered as an asset. Firms with lower IT budgets usually opt for procurement of hard drives as it’s an investment which is one time. This is quite the opposite if you’ve signed up for storage as service wherein an invoice pops-up every month.
Disadvantages of External Hard Drives for Data Storage
The Risk of Theft or Misplacement
Theft is one of the serious concerns with having your data stored on an external/portable hard-drive. We get to read and hear about news about thefts and robberies of some sort almost daily. Similarly, it’s quite possible that one of your competitors might try to get their hands on to the device that stores your confidential business documents. OR you are probably visiting some store while on your way back to home and you simply misplace the bag which has the storage device. That’s a risk which no-one would want to take, isn’t it!
Since it’s an electronic device, there’s also a chance of its components to fail for any odd reasons. No one can really guarantee the recovery of data in such cases. You might call-in for data recovery experts or ship the device over to a third-party, which again involves the risk to data security.
Security of Devices
Be it physical or digital, security is one of the most crucial aspects in both storage types. Most users with no technical background wouldn’t usually understand the risks associated with the transfer of files via. an insecure medium. For that reason file/data encryption before transfers is strongly recommended.
We are well aware of the risks associated over the Internet, though scammers and fraudsters usually pose an increased risk during festive seasons, yet one must stay protected otherwise too. For online transfers, use of secure encrypted mediums can be a key to keeping your data safe from thefts.
External hard drives Portability – A Risk in itself
Unlike the device which’s constantly connected to the computing machines, external hard drives are also portable, which means that they can get dropped, knocked, crushed. The connected storage devices, in fact the entire computing machine is cooled by means of fans. Whereas the external hard drive seldom have any temperature control mechanism, except the air ducts.
Storage over a Cloud System
Cloud is one of the most trending topics in the Industry today, wherein various services have been effectively built around it. Few of the popular services are PaaS, SaaS, DaaS, IaaS etc. We’ve even been using a few services on a day-to-day basis without knowing that it’s based over Cloud infrastructure. Few popular examples would be: Google Mail, Google Drive, Dropbox, iTunes, Google PlayStore etc.
Let’s consider sneaking into its Pros and Cons.
Pros of Using a Cloud based Storage solution
Anytime-Anywhere accessibility of data
Referring to the examples above, with a cloud based solution you needn’t be dependent on a hardware device of any sort. If you wish to access your files, all that you need is an Internet connection, which now-a-days is easily available. The servers have strong encryption and firewalls, so whenever data is transferred to-and-fro, you can be rest assured about its security.
Stronger Encryption over Cloud systems
Most Cloud systems use strong encryption & security technologies across different layers within the system, i.e. Server, Network, Database etc. Plus you have the choice of sharing the essential levels of access by individuals based on their roles and expertise. This isn’t something which you can do over a hard drive, once one has access to it, the data can be accessed with a single click of a button.
Ease of Shareability
With a cloud platform to host your files, it’s easier for you to share it, that too in a secure manner. Plus you can share specific files and folders which are hosted over the storage server while other files and folders can stay hidden from the recipient, which further increases the security of your data.
The Cost Factor associated with Cloud Storage
Well, this aspect basically relies on the ‘demand and supply’ rule. If the demand is more the supply would be slow initially but eventually that grows too. Once equilibrium is attained, the cost associated with Cloud services reduces too. That’s also because an increasing number of service providers start investing in this model.
Today IT companies and service providers have started offering cloud services on a pay-per-usage basis, so one would only need to pay for something that’s used, unlike the traditional fixed billing cycles where a consumer would have to pay a fixed amount for a usage period irrespective of the usage. Plus, one can also expect other benefits with the service, so in a way consumers get multiple advantages at a mere price.
Cons of using Cloud as a Storage Platform
Speed and Performance over Cloud
Since the transfer and synchronization is dependent over network speed and connectivity, users may find a difference in speed and performance levels of file transfers. This is an area where improvement can still be expected; rather many companies invest in research and development towards finding ways to make the process faster. Therefore, most companies recommend consumers to upload only the mission critical files over to the cloud. This keeps the file size to the minimum hence improving the transfer time and costs low.
The Cost Factor
As referred earlier, users get an advantage with using Cloud wherein they are only changed basis of the consumed resources. Eventually with time the data increases too, adding more to the expenditure. Therefore in order to keep the cost under control, one may choose to segregate the data based on its sensitivity and keep only which is utmost essential, while the back dated data can be stored over a local storage.
Cloud Service Provider and Reliability
Well, let’s get this thing clear, judging the reliability about a service provider involves some amount of research, there’s no shortcut to that. Until you have the required in-house infrastructural setup and the amount to invest in the other essential aspects required for supporting it, you’d need to depend upon a provider that best matches your requirements.
Let me help you with some pointers to determine the reliability of a service provider:
- Industry Experience – The time period since the company has been offering services. The more the better.
- Infrastructure – This involves the hardware used, network infrastructure, the data centre, virtualization technology used etc.
- Support and Troubleshooting – The cloud host must have an experienced team of administrators who can help troubleshoot the issues with the cluster and ensure continuity.
- Customer Reviews and Testimonials – This could be one of the most promising pointers for choosing an appropriate service provider. Though one must also understand that you’d get to see mixed reviews about any host, therefore you must also consider your intuition sometimes.
The internet and its related technologies would keep changing and growing with time. It’s essential to understand your business requirements and then match them with what’s offered by the Industry. This usually proves to be more convenient than researching on something only because it’s the latest in trend.