Cloud storage vs external hard drives: Which is better?

From important documents and device backups to years of photos and memories, a huge portion of our lives are stored on computers these days. The question is, how should you store them? 

Two of the most popular places to back up data are on external hard drives and in the cloud. However, both methods have their benefits and drawbacks. Keep reading to discover how they compare. 

Is it better to store data on a cloud or hard drive? 

Both options are designed for backing up devices and storing files you cannot fit on your devices. 

An external hard drive is one of the most common ways to store files, photos, and other data. These are small storage devices that connect to your devices via a wired connection, such as USB or Thunderbolt. 

Opting to store your data on an external hard drive means you aren’t reliant on a strong internet connection to access your files. You also won’t need to rely on a company to handle your data properly – something that is especially crucial in the rare instance of a breach or cyber attack. 

One downside to using an external hard drive is that these are physical devices. This means you’ll need to carry the hard drive around if you want to access your data out and about. It also means that if your hard drive is dropped, damaged, or corrupted, you risk losing all of the data it holds. 

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Cloud storage is another method that has gained increased prominence in the last decade or so. Cloud services allow you to securely store your data online using remote servers. This means that you can effectively sign into your account and access your data anywhere and on any device. 

This is especially useful for backing up and restoring devices as backups can be scheduled to run automatically while you go about your day. Likewise, transferring data from an old smartphone to a new one is as easy as hitting download. 

Popular examples of cloud storage services include Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. Some services are free, prompting you to only spend money if you need a larger amount of storage, while others require a monthly or yearly subscription fee to get started. 

Cons to storing your data on the cloud are that you need to trust that your cloud service provider is storing and protecting your data from attacks adequately. You also need to make sure you pick a secure password to sign in and have a decent internet connection to move your data. 

A Macbook Pro, an iPad, and an iPhone displaying folders and images from iCloud drive A Macbook Pro, an iPad, and an iPhone displaying folders and images from iCloud drive

Do you need to back up your data? 

Of course, you can store your data solely on your devices – provided you have the space – but there’s a definite element of risk to it. It isn’t easy to predict if your laptop or tablet will break or become compromised, and all it takes is someone snatching your phone in a cafe or bar to lose all the notes, photos, and messages stored on it. 

It’s best to back up your data regularly in one way or another to protect your data if something does happen to your device.

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