Businesses are keeping more files, bigger files and collecting more data than ever before; a trend that is likely to increase in the future. This has made storage one of the key features of modern IT infrastructure. However, while having adequate storage space solves one problem, there are other needs to be addressed. Files and data need to be secure, organised, easily accessible and shared. Today, there is a range of storage options available, including local drives and cloud storage platforms. Here, we’ll look at the pros and cons of both of these solutions.
The pros and cons of external hard drives for data storage
External hard drives are relatively inexpensive and easy to get hold of, available from many online and high street outlets. Advances in technology have also made them able to hold more data. Portable drives can store several Tbs and larger external drives significantly more. Overall, portable drives benefit from being a one-off expenditure, helping those with limited IT budgets avoid ongoing charges for third-party storage services.
Evolving technology means portable storage now has SSD drives which read and write data far quicker than older HDD drives. That said, they need to be plugged into another device, such as a laptop, using a USB cable. While USB speeds have increased, USB 3, for example, can reach up to 10Gbps data transfer, this is significantly slower than the capacity of the SSD inside and thus limits the performance of the external storage device overall.
Small and easily lost, stolen or damaged, data loss is one of the biggest disadvantages of using external drives. Lost files can cause major disruption to your business and if a misplaced or stolen drive contains personal information about customers or suppliers, it can result in a data breach that lands your company with a large fine.
Another concern is that It is not unheard of for former employees to take external hard drives containing critical business intelligence with them to new jobs where they can use that information to the detriment of your company and the benefit of their new one.
From a design perspective, another flaw with many external drives is that, unlike computers and storage servers, they have no internal fan. Without an in-built cooling mechanism, there is no control over the temperature other than a small vent. In hot rooms, when working busily for long periods, they have the potential to overheat and this can result in hardware failure and the loss or corruption of data.
The final risk is with the disposal of old drives. If data isn’t completely erased, it can be restored. Selling a drive second hand or throwing it away could potentially lead to your deleted files getting into the wrong hands.
The pros and cons of cloud storage
Cloud is now the go-to IT infrastructure and used by businesses and individuals for all manner of purposes, including running critical applications, data analytics, automation, IoT, app development and storing data. Here are the pros and cons of cloud data storage.
Anytime-anywhere accessibility of data
When data is stored in the cloud it can be accessed from anywhere and on any device with an internet connection. It frees up employees to work remotely, ensures work done on any device is synced so everyone remains up to date, and it enables employees, wherever they are, to collaborate easier. What’s more, it ensures all your data is centrally stored so it is easy to find and not buried in departmental silos.
Highly secure data storage
In the cloud, companies can easily implement logical access control and user privileges for their stored data, ensuring that individuals can only access the data you want them to. This stops unauthorised users having access and minimises the impact should someone gain access to a username and password. This too can be protected against using two-factor authentication.
At the same time, most cloud vendors deploy robust security measures to protect your cloud storage. These include strong encryption of your data and tools like advanced firewalls that defend the server, network and database from intrusion and malware.
What’s more, cloud servers are virtual and are not tied to a single physical machine. If there is a hardware error, your data and the virtual server it is stored on are simply moved to another physical machine. As a result, data loss through hardware failure is a thing of the past for cloud users. What’s more, the cloud’s reliability means that your data will always be available online, 24/7, wherever you are.
None of these security measures can be used to protect data on a portable hard drive. However, companies which store highly sensitive data may, for compliance purposes, use single-tenancy storage on a private cloud.
Unlike external hard drives, cloud storage does come with a monthly cost. This covers not just the disk space you rent, but a range of other services that come included, such as security, 24/7 technical support, server management and so forth.
How much you pay depends on how much data you need to store. Many cloud services are charged for on a pay-per-use basis, so you only actually pay for the amount of storage you actually use. This model works out more cost-effective than buying a large external server with masses of unused space.
The other advantage is that, should you need to upgrade to a larger package, this is easily done in the cloud and won’t require the disruption of having to transfer all your files from one server to another, something that can take a long time with external drives.
Speed and performance
With the latest Xeon processors and SSD hard drives, cloud storage is blisteringly fast. The only bottleneck users will face is with their internet connectivity. However, with broadband speeds up to ten times faster than that of a USB cable, cloud users will be able to upload and download files far quicker than external hard drive users. With 4G and 5G connections now available, accessing data on smartphones is something else which cloud users can do, even when there is no wi-fi connection.
Both local hard drives and the cloud are suitable for the storage of data. Which one you should use depends entirely on the needs of your business. Local drives are efficient and require a one-off payment, they are easy to acquire, set up and use and, if portable, can be used to work remotely. Cloud storage is considerably more advanced, offering better security, performance and the flexibility to expand the storage on demand. It is accessible over the internet so it can be used virtually anywhere, on any device and by multiple users. It does, however, require an ongoing monthly charge, based on the amount of data you store.
For more information about our cloud storage, visit our Cloud Hosting page.