Most of us with limited storage space often have to make tough decisions about where to keep our files. Some turn to external hard drives to save large files and documents, while others use cloud storage. A third option is to use network-attached storage (NAS) device, also called a file server. NAS devices can offer the benefits of both external hard drives and cloud storage while still keeping your files on your home network.
Before you make your selection, consider what files you want to store, how much space is available on your computer and devices, and how you want to access the data. To store large media files such as movies and music, you can use external drives.
Internal Computer Data Storage
What is internal computer data storage? The primary purpose of internal computer data storage is to store application and user files. An example would be a home computer that is used for email, word processing, and Internet use.
When your laptop or desktop is powered off internal storage is where all your data is locally saved. It can be a hard disk drive (HDD) which utilizes a magnetic spinning disk or a solid-state drive (SSD) which is a faster data storage device made with instantly-accessible memory chips.
The primary storage of a computer is its random access memory (RAM). RAM temporarily stores data that is lost when the computer is powered off because it is volatile memory. This temporarily stored data is used to edit documents and in all actively running applications and tasks.
Secondary storage in computers is used for long-term data storage. Here’s where the applications, files, photos, movies, and the like are stored. There are two basic types of internal storage a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and Solid State Drive (SSD).
Video: What is Data?
Before we move on let us get an appreciation of what data means to our lives. Enjoy the video.
External Computer Data Storage
external computer data storage examples
You can choose between an external storage drive or a NAS server.
external storage devices
These devices provide you with extra data storage and are directly connected to the computer that they serve. External drives can be either portable or fixed (also called desktop external drives). The difference between the two is that the desktop external drive needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet and the portable simply plugs into a USB connection of your laptop. Also, external drives can use either HDD magnetic storage or flash technology solid-state drives.
HDD External hard drive storage capacity rises incrementally up to 20 TB and SSDs are somewhat lower going up to around 8 TB.
external computer data storage pros
- Can store data in one central location very conveniently
external computer data storage cons
- Cannot share the data between two computers
- They can be dropped or lost
- They can fail and need to be backed up
A NAS server is an external hard drive that connects to a network instead of directly to a computer. A NAS server generally connects directly to a router or a switch using an Ethernet cable. It is similar to a real server that hosts lots of storage space, but it doesn’t have its own display, keyboard, or mouse. NAS hard drives storage capacity is similar to the external hard drive explained above. It also starts out as small as 1 terabyte (TB) (which is 1,000 GB) and goes up incrementally to 10TB and beyond. They often have redundancy which allows for a second copy of your data to be created to protect you from hard disk failures.
NAS vs external hard drive
They are both data storage options but you can think of the NAS as being more flexible in that it is actually a computer in and of itself.
NAS server pros
- You can connect it to a router and access the files remotely from multiple computers
- Has multiple bays with each one holding its own hard drive
- Easy to use software
- Can grant others permission to a folder to access files that they need
- You can configure it to back up one drive bay. It can directly mirror the data or create smaller backups throughout all of the hard drives in the bays.
- It is private and you owe it, with no monthly fees
NAS server cons
- More expensive than buying an external hard drive
- The speed is limited by the cable that runs between the NAS and the router
- Is more involved to set up than a plug and play external hard drive
- Hard drives for NAS are more expensive than an external hard drive
- You buy the NAS which is like a computer and the hard drives are purchased separately
What is cloud storage and what are its advantages?
Basically, cloud storage is a data storage model where a third party stores business or personal data on their computer servers, in their data centers. This data is saved and retrieved over an internet connection. Sometimes providers give free storage up to a point and then start charging when that limit is crossed. As an example, Google Drive gives 15 GBs free and Microsoft OneDrive 5 GBs to its users and starts charging above those amounts.
It would be nice if the prices of everything else had followed the price of data storage over the past 40 years. According to Backblaze, the price of hard drives has gone down from around $500,000 per GB in 1981 to less than 3 cents per GB today.
So if you can get a gigabyte for around 3 cents, why would you pay a third party to store your data? Well, there are several reasons.
Advantages of cloud storage
- No need to buy and manage your own data storage infrastructure
- Access to your data from anywhere in the world
- Recovery of data after a disaster or total loss
- Save on software licensing and updates, no in-house employees, no hardware
- Scalability both upward or downward as your business needs change
Disadvantages of cloud storage
- Privacy concerns and possible future data breaches
- There’s no data access without an internet connection
So you can potentially save money by using cloud storage and you can save time because you don’t have to worry about buying, maintaining, or upgrading your own data storage infrastructure.
The future of data storage
Technology is progressing very fast these days. In the not-so-distant past, we were giddy about the latest in data storage. Remember using a floppy disk, cd, or DVD? You can hardly find a computer to play them anymore.
So what will things look like in the coming decades? There are already very important strides around biological data storage that is very intriguing.
Check out the video and be amazed!
Types of data storage have been in a continual state of evolution from the beginning of computing. It’s amazing how we throw around the word terabyte like it is nothing these days.
A blog post from the University of Oregon, says that a terabyte holds about 250 two-hour-long movies or about 17,000 hours of music. That’s amazing!
My first computer had 8 gigabytes of internal storage and I was wondering then what I was going to do with all that space! We are all so very spoiled indeed! (Wink!)