When it comes to keeping up with your digital information, you have options besides just taking up precious space on your computer with old files. Whether you’re storing precious family photos, videos of your kids, or more important documents like business files or tax information or scanned copies of your will, you want your data to be safe and secure but still easily accessible.

Two of the most common forms of storing individual user content are an external hard drive and a cloud-based storage subscription. You might have heard of terms like “backup drive” or storing your photos “in the cloud,” and these are the same concept.

An external hard drive is a device that plugs into your computer (typically via a USB cable) and acts just like a file cabinet for your computer. Just like you would transfer a document or a picture from one folder to another on your computer, you would transfer those same pieces of content to this other drive for safe keeping.

One of the best things about an external hard drive is the fact that you can disconnect the drive with a simple click of the mouse then pulling the plug on the cable. If a hacker was to dig around in your computer via a remote connection, trojan, malware, or virus, your sensitive content would be safely tucked away in this hard drive and not accessible as long as the cable wasn’t connected. This is especially handy if you use a laptop computer, for two reasons: first, you’re not filling up your laptop’s limited memory with old pictures, and second, you’re not carrying around all of your personal content every time you take your laptop somewhere. It would be a shame if your digitized wedding video disappeared because your laptop was lost or stolen.

Unfortunately, external hard drives are just as vulnerable to physical threats as any other form of technology. If the drive is stolen during a break-in, permanently damaged by heat or water due to a house fire or flood, or any other of a number of scenarios, then your content is gone.

This is why cloud-based storage is growing in popularity. In a cloud storage situation, you would contract with a company that offers this storage solution and pay a monthly fee to use their secure servers. You would upload your content to your own personal, private account, just like you would if you were transferring it to an external hard drive. Besides the benefit of knowing your content is secure in a location far from home—keeping it away from burglars and house fires—you can access it anywhere from your laptop or portable device by logging in over an internet connection. You don’t have to worry that you left an important document at home in your hard drive because you can simply connect and call it up.

However, there have been widespread, justified fears about the security of cloud-based storage, especially in light of the growing numbers of data breaches and hacking events. So which solution is right for you?

That depends on what you’re storing. If you need constant, on-the-go access to your content, then a cloud-based server option may be better for you. If you’re simply storing photos, mementos, and your old tax returns, you might be better off with an external hard drive; you can even secure the hard drive in a fire safe in your home when you’re not using it, just to give it a little extra security from theft or damage. Do remember that the lower-end monthly costs associated with a storage subscription for approximately four years can be about the same as purchasing a top-of-the-line hard drive outright, so don’t let the price tag make this decision for you.

 

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