Cloud Storage vs. External Hard Drive
An in-depth look at the pros and cons of auxiliary storage
After several years, the debate between cloud storage and external hard drives rages on and remains a hot topic within the tech community. Enthusiasts often take hard stances defending their storage medium of choice with a “do or die'' mentality, citing a laundry list of reasons why “X is better than Y.” But saying one system is definitively better is cause for concern, as both methods fulfill very similar but separate roles. Here at Amaryllo, we’ve made a breakdown to measure how these two stack up against one another based on category.
Cloud Storage: Cloud storage makes it easy to access content from virtually anywhere as long as a Wifi connection or data plan is available. This makes retrieving content not only convenient, but also vital for those constantly on the move or alternating between devices.
External Storage: External hard drives may require a physical connection to operate properly, but are still quite portable for those on the go (until you get to larger options). Most hard drives connect quickly and easily to a PC or laptop, but often aren’t intended for use with phones or tablets.
Verdict? Cloud Storage
Cloud Storage checks all the boxes as an accessible storage method and is ideal for those on the go who don’t want to carry around a separate device. Granted, cloud storage can’t be used without internet access, but most modern devices nowadays have access to WiFi and 5G.
Cloud Storage: Cloud storage has multiple safeguards to protect against security threats, first and foremost being that there is no physical device to steal. In the case of virtual threats, most reputable cloud storage providers use 256-bit encryption and additional methods to prevent unwanted eyes from accessing private material.
External Storage: External storage is relatively safe, as long as the owner doesn’t have a habit of losing their belongings. In most cases, External storage devices can be kept safely at home or the office where chances of theft are drastically reduced, but that makes it much less convenient.
Verdict? Cloud Storage
Again, cloud storage wins the round here as it’s easier protecting and maintaining something that doesn’t have a “physical” footprint. The chances of a hard drive being stolen or damaged will only increase over time.
Cloud Storage: Synergy is where the beauty of cloud storage really shines. Teams can utilize the cloud to collaborate and organize documents, stay up to date on projects, and contribute in real time on a remote platform. Some cloud storage plans allow multiple team members to share storage under a single account. This all adds up to enable more productive work regardless of time or distance.
External Storage: If you’re using external storage, it probably isn’t being used for exchanging files and documents with friends, family or coworkers on a regular basis. External hard drives are effective for intense data transfer, but are very poor for collaboration.
Verdict? Cloud Storage
If it wasn’t already obvious, cloud storage is the clear winner here. The ability for multiple users to update and share content simultaneously online is heaps more useful and efficient than passing around an external device.
Cloud Storage: Uploading and downloading content from the cloud has come a long way since its inception, but is still limited by connection speed. Some cloud storage services like Amaryllo Cloud offer unlimited bandwidth, which helps bridge the gap between directly connected solutions, but ultimately, it’s up to the user’s internet.
External Storage: Most modern external storage devices are capable of blazingly fast upload and download speeds due to direct USB 3.0/3.1 connectivity. This means that even massive chunks of data can be moved in minutes. This is a major advantage for external hard drives as they remain the most effective form of storage for photographers and video editors who deal with terabytes of data on a regular basis.
Verdict? External Storage
As long as internet speeds are slower than a direct connection, external storage devices will remain the #1 contender for overall transfer speed. Having said that, it’s only a matter of time before cloud storage eventually closes the gap.
Cloud Storage: The ability to backup and retrieve files from a dedicated cloud server whenever needed is incredibly beneficial and simple. Regardless of whether you have a phone, laptop or tablet, all that’s required is a WiFi signal or data plan. Cloud storage adds an extra line of defense by removing the hazards of physical harm, wear, and tear so files can’t get corrupted over time.
External Storage: If you’ve ever been a victim of a corrupted hard drive, then you understand just how painstaking it can be to recover the content. Whether it’s accidentally deleted files, a hacked device, or just a result of mishandling, external storage devices are much more likely to become corrupted and require a costly recovery.
Verdict? Cloud Storage
Again, a fairly unanimous verdict here where cloud storage comes out on top. Once you’ve experienced the mental and emotional trauma of a damaged hard drive, you’ll agree as well that cloud storage is the preferred choice.
Cloud Storage: Cloud storage has never been more affordable and accessible. Typical plans range from a few hundred gigabytes to several terabytes of storage, which sounds like a lot, until you realize how many files are routinely deleted off phones and computers in order to free up space.
One terabyte of cloud storage can cost as low as $50/year, with some providers offering lifetime cloud storage plans at 3-5 times the cost. In the long run, lifetime cloud storage is the superior option, as it would pay for itself after several years, but if you only need data for a short period of time, monthly and annual plans are still a good short-term investment.
External Storage: Since the price per gigabyte has continued to decline over the years, purchasing external storage is still a good investment. After all, it’s better to have extra storage and not need it than to need storage and not have it. A one terabyte external hard drive will cost anywhere from $50-$100 and will last on average 3-5 years. For the short-term, it’s a more affordable option, but keep in mind that because there is a shelf life for physical storage devices, you will likely have to purchase multiple drives over the years to prevent loss of data.
For what you get, both cloud storage and external storage are great options. The only caveat being that external hard drives can cease to work after a period of time. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, then you can either A) Purchase a single, larger hard drive that stays in one location to prevent wear and tear or B) Switch to a cloud storage option if your job title doesn’t contain the words “designer” or “editor”.
There are obviously a number of factors to consider when purchasing a storage solution, but when comparing day-to-day usage, convenience, and utility, cloud storage is clearly the overall winner. The ability to access terabytes of information remotely and share files on the go is simply an incredibly convenient feature that can’t be overlooked. Granted, external hard drives still take the cake for intense activities such as editing and design, but are otherwise less dynamic than their cloud-based counterparts.