Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What you Need to Know about Local, Attached & Cloud Storage

Local, attached, and cloud storage are terms we hear in our everyday language, from people you work with, to how-to and best practice articles, sometimes it can feel like these terms are used interchangeably. However, it is important to know these terms represent 3 very different types of storage media. The underlying hardware is similar, but the types of usage and the benefits of each are vastly different.

This post defines local, attached and cloud storage and goes on to explain the advantages and disadvantages associated with each.

What you Need to Know about Local, Attached & Cloud Storage

First, some definitions

Local storage - any storage local to the device being used. For a computer, laptop or tablet, this is typically referred to as the C: drive. The C: drive is a letter representation of the locally installed hard drive or solid state drive (SSD).

Attached storage - also known as external drives, flash drives, external hard drives, thumb drives. Whichever name you use, the item is similar, varying only in physical size. These are physical devices that provide storage and are located where you are. Ideally they attach to a computer or other device using a USB connector and their purpose is for storing data.

Cloud storage - storage located somewhere other than where you are, as in on a physical device managed elsewhere by someone else. The location can be near or far, but is not accessible locally. Instead, the files are accessed via the Internet, hence the denotation of cloud storage.

Now for the differences

There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of storage and the best way to protect data is to incorporate more than a single approach into your routine.

Local Storage

  • Since it is physically installed, it is less likely to be lost or stolen.
  • In most cases, access to files stored locally is more efficient than accessing files stored anywhere else.
  • This storage is often included with the device and as a result can be more expensive.
  • Internal storage is not scalable without adding an additional internal drive or replacing the existing. Replacing the existing drive requires transferring the operating system, programs and data to the new drive. This process can be time consuming without the assistance of cloning software.
Attached / External storage

  • This type of storage is cheaper and external drives can be purchased at many local electronics and office supply stores.
  • External storage is convenient as it helps free up valuable resources off the local storage. 
  • Since these often come in the form of small flash drives or full size external drives, they are budget friendly and quick to use when scaling up.
  • Smaller thumb and flash drives are easy to misplace or leave behind because of their convenient size.
  • Larger external drives are easier to compromise because they are so portable they are often not handled carefully enough.
  • External devices of any kind will always be easier to steal and easier to conceal than local storage drives.
Cloud storage

  • Plans can be created online at any time.
  • Cloud storage can be accessed at any time from any device located anywhere with Internet access.
  • Most plans are scalable on-demand so there is no need to over-subscribe which saves money in the long run.
  • Files stored in the cloud are generally well protected because both a user id and credentials are required to access them. Physical contact is unlikely, making them more secure.

  • Files stored in the cloud require an Internet connection to access which might be an issue when traveling or if the Internet is unreliable.
  • Costs are recurring unlike physical drives which are purchased once. On the flip side, physical drives will need to be replaced and this can be unpredictable while cloud storage will only require being renewed.

However much storage is required to be able to adequately store files without running out of space or bogging down a device, there is more than one place to store files. Local files are accessed more quickly, but storage is finite and often you are required to over-purchase initially. Attached storage is versatile and portable, but this also makes it riskier to use as it can be easy to lose or steal. Lastly, cloud storage is fully scalable, but requires an Internet connection to access.

As always, the best answer is knowing there are multiple choices available. In this case, each one suits different needs and requirements!

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