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Data Storage: External Hard Drive or the Cloud?


For the past two decades, computer users have relied on external hard drives for data storage and backup. Available in both desktop and portable versions, and equipped with a number of security options, external hard drives have also increased significantly in storage capacity to as much as 9 TB for consumers. But despite their convenience, they’re also easily damaged and, since they’re hardware, they can be stolen from your desk or briefcase.

Another, newer storage option is the cloud. This allows you to store your data remotely and access it from anywhere with an Internet connection. Services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, Apple iCloud and SafeSync for Home offer remote data synching, easy file sharing and data encryption. But with the recent increase in highly publicized security breaches, consumers and experts alike are questioning whether cloud based storage is secure. In addition, some users also report issues with slow connections and are dissatisfied with service cost.

So if you’re looking for the best data storage option for you, which option should you choose? Read on to find out what the experts say about each storage method.


When it comes to data storage, keep protection in mind. If you are using a cloud-based service ensure it offers encryption. In contrast, if you are using an external hard drive, it can be protected with a password and/or encryption of your choice. In addition, if you’re concerned about hacking, you can simply disconnect the drive from your computer when you’ve finished synching. However, an external hard drive is vulnerable to theft— especially if you work in an office or use a portable hard drive.


With USB 2.0s and higher transfer speeds, even the largest files can quickly be transferred to and from an external hard drive. File transfer to and from the cloud can take much longer, especially if you don’t have a high-speed, large capacity Internet connection. For those who are often on the go and have to rely on shared Wi-Fi, waiting for data can pose a problem.


Hard drives are a one-time investment that average from $100 to $500 for consumers, depending on type, brand and storage capacity. In addition, Business Insider notes that they offer warranties ranging from three to five years. Cloud services by contrast are often free for a limited amount of data, but to add additional capacity and access related services, fees can be around $600 per year for 1TB of storage.


External hard drives are often formatted for a specific platform (Mac or PC). Some offer conversion options from one platform to the other, but if you’re an everyday user, it’s best to choose a drive that’s specifically created for the platform you use. For many consumers, the fact that cloud-based storage can be used without problems by either platform is both easy and efficient.

Loss of Data

External hard drives can fail or get damaged, resulting in loss of data. With cloud-based storage, this is unlikely to happen unless the server gets hacked.

Before deciding which option is best for you, evaluate points such as how much mobility you need, how many people will have access to an external drive, how large an investment you’re prepared to make and what security considerations you have. Then use the information above to make the right decision for you and your data.

Content provided by:  Encompass Insurance

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Andrea Romo

Sales Associate | Woodland