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Almost everyone has experienced data loss after failing to back up their files with some data storage. Although there is no perfect backup strategy, the 3-2-1 method is a good practice to adopt. Ideally, you should have two onsite ways and one offsite method of data backups. Base the types of data storage you choose on what you as a user require. 

Here we have a look at the types of data storage, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Local Storage

Local storage is kept onsite, at your workstation, when backing up or moving files. 

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

Hard drives have the best data density for upwards of 10TB per disk in a single 3.5 bay. They are the best price per GB, making them your cheapest option for large amounts of storage. Hard drives were the industry standard for many years, until the introduction of the solid state drive.

Spinning platters inside the hard drive store information. The drive spins down when it is not in use, which can cause a delay in sudden activity.

Solid State Drive

A solid-state drive, or SSD, functions similarly to hard drives except it has the added advantage of having no moving parts inside the SSD. This makes them a more reliable storage solution for mobile users. They are faster than hard drives and also use less energy since they waste no power or time on the movement of disk platters.

Storage space on solid state drives is limited; you’ll have much less space on an SSD than a traditional magnetic hard drive due to the increased cost to space ratio. The cost of SSDs has been decreasing in recent years, but they are still fairly expensive compared to magnetic hard drives when looking at larger capacities.

External Hard Drive

External hard drives are similar to the hard drives inside your computer, but they can be plugged into and removed from your computer via USB or eSATA connections. They are a relatively inexpensive option regarding cost per GB, and they work well for locally backing up a significant amount of data. External hard drives can be unplugged and taken offsite.

Although reliable when handled carefully, external hard drives can become damaged if dropped. Hard drives can also simply fail. If you choose an external hard drive, be sure to back up your data elsewhere as a precaution.

Network Attached Storage

Network Attached Storage, usually called NAS, allows for data storage that is directly attached to the network. There are many different types of NAS; you might have a single hard drive unit connected to your switch or router, or you might have multiple drives in a RAID array using failover network connections. NAS is an excellent option for small businesses, as it can handle several drives to hold a lot of data for local backups. Because it connects to the network, you can schedule regular backups of your data. If your NAS is set up with RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks), this storage solution becomes even more reliable and faster, depending on the type of RAID array you’ve created. You can double the read/write speed of your drives, or you can mirror your drives so that if one fails your data is still available on the other, or do both if enough disks are in place.

Choosing NAS as your data storage is a more expensive option than simply using hard drives. It is also much more difficult to move, meaning it functions for local backups only. In the event of a natural disaster or theft, you could lose your local data backups on your NAS.


USB drives, flash drives, or thumb drives are incredibly small and portable, making them an excellent solution for backups that need to be taken offsite. Like SSDs, they have no moving internal parts, making them more reliable than hard drives when moving them constantly. Unlike SSDs, they do not feature the same type of internal storage and transfer at a much slower rate.

Because they are small, USB drives are also easily lost or stolen. They have limited storage capacity, so are only useful for small files rather than complete data storage.

Remote Storage

Remote storage is kept offsite, away from your workstation, when moving files or creating backups. 


Anything that might affect your onsite storage (e.g., fire, flood, theft) cannot destroy your data if you’ve chosen cloud storage. Cloud storage also allows you to share large files with people around the world quickly. Your information is easily accessible, which eliminates the need for portable storage options like USBs.

The cloud is the most expensive storage option long term, usually on a subscription basis. While some cloud service providers offer free accounts, they have limited storage space. Also, it is the only option in this list that requires an internet connection to move files; backing up and saving directly to the cloud storage is limited by your internet upload speed. Many, like Dropbox or Google drive, offer local sync as a method to hide this from users and transfer offsite in the background.

Now that you know something about the types of data storage, you can pick which options suit your needs best. Remember, ideally you want one kind of backup that you can store offsite, and two that remain onsite. This method should prevent data loss in the future.



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