Should You Be Storing Your Data on the Cloud?

Should You Be Storing Your Data on the CloudWill Cloud Computing Make External Hard Drives Obsolete?

Make no mistake about it, there are definite benefits to cloud computing and let’s face it, it’s here to stay.

But who should be using cloud computing and for what? Should we give up our external hard drives and entrust our data to a faceless corporation?

This post discusses what you can do on the cloud and outlines the pros and cons of storing your data on the cloud. It offers some sound advice to those who use external hard drives to store music, videos, pictures, and other personal data.

What is the cloud?

For those who aren’t clear on what cloud computing is, it’s basically a metaphor for computer services and data storage on the Internet.

For years, people in the IT industry have used a cloud to pictorially depict a network or other computing system in diagrams. Now the concept is being taken to the masses by providers who are offering services service and storage on a public cloud. Some of the current major players in cloud computing are:

  • Google
  • Dropbox
  • Sugarsync

What the cloud means for external hard drives

So does this mean external hard drives are now obsolete? Or will be in the near future?

We hardly think this is going to be the case and go so far as to caution those who might ditch external hard drives for the cloud. That’s not to say you should go completely cloudless. In fact, a hybrid solution is perfectly fine.

What do we mean by a hybrid solution? We mean that the cloud is a viable option for some of your data storage needs, but there are certain things that you shouldn’t trust to a public cloud.

What you can do on a cloud

Cloud storage services allow you to access all your data anytime and anywhere. You can also share those files with anyone you wish – family, friends, co-workers… You can also synch changes. For example you can create or modify files offline, then automatically synch those changes next time you’re online.

Here’s a more complete list showing what you can do:

  • Create, maintain, and restore backups of files and folders
  • Synch files across multiple computers
  • Access your files from anywhere on a web browser or from an app via a PC or mobile device
  • Send and share files and folders

Pros and cons of cloud versus external hard drives

There are several pros and cons to storing on the cloud instead of an external hard drive and vice versa.

  1. You generally get more storage space on an external hard drive

External hard drives range in size from 320 GB all the way up to 4 TB. Many cloud providers provide free storage up to a certain point, after which you must pay a monthly fee for the storage. With an external hard drive, once you’ve made the initial investment to purchase an external hard drive, it’s yours free and clear.

  • Score:
    • Hard drive 1
    • Cloud 0
  1. Your data is safer on an external hard drive

Every other day you hear a news report about another system being hacked. There are too many unscrupulous malcontents out there who relish the challenge of hacking into systems either for the fun of it or with some malicious intent. External hard drives that reside offline are less vulnerable to attack. They can also be encrypted and password protected.

  • Score:
    • Hard drive 2
    • Cloud 0
  1. External hard drives are more likely to fail

External hard drives have a definite shelf life. Unfortunately, that shelf life varies and you never know when your drive will give up the ghost. Now there are usually warning signs that your drive is about to fail. But storing your files on the cloud is less risky. Sure there is the possibility that a server could fail or that individual files could become corrupted. But you will likely have fewer of these issues using a cloud-based solution than with your own external hard drive.

  • Score:
    • Hard drive 2
    • Cloud 1
  1. The cloud makes it easier to share files

There are lots of portable hard drives on the market (like the WD My Passport Essential SE) and even desktop drives (like the WD My Book Essential) are small and lightweight enough that they are easy to physically transport from one place to another. But with the cloud, you don’t need to worry about cables or about your hard drive not being recognized by a different computer. The cloud basically gives you access anywhere you can get to a web browser.

  • Score:
    • Hard drive 2
    • Cloud 2

Recommendation

Our basic recommendation is that storing things like your favorite music and movies on the cloud is a good way to go. Even pictures are okay, as long as they don’t pose any sort of personal threat to the people in the photos should they make their way into a hacker’s hands. Even so, if your photos have some special significance or sentimentality, you may want to make your own backups for long-term safe keeping.

However when it comes to personal files like tax returns, financial documents, wills, etc., you’re better off storing these offline on your own external hard drive.