File Storage Options Are Everywhere
We aren’t chained to one computer for all our digital needs anymore: we might use a computer, a laptop, a mobile device, and a tablet that we use interchangeably.
On top of that, you have the work computer and files shared with friends or family. Sometimes you might want access to a document or images from another device. This adds up to a lot of files in many places!
What if you want to move those files around? You have many options at your disposal.
Backing Up & Terms You Should Know
Before we go into your options, it’s important to know the difference between a backup and storage. If you have important files that you absolutely can not afford to lose, it’s important to have a comprehensive backup plan. We advocate the 3-2-1 Backup Plan: 3 copies, on 2 kinds of media, 1 of them off-site.
Backup: Backups, particularly with a backup program, are often much more comprehensive if more difficult to get to. They usually save multiple copies of a compressed file of your data.
Storage: Entails storing a given amount of data online or in a second drive. It may not be a lot of data, and it may be easy to get to again if you want to share it or access it from another device.
Sync: Synching means identical copies of your folder or device are in the second location: if you delete a file in the local folder, the file will also be deleted in the cloud or elsewhere.
Your Options for Storage
External Hard Drive
It’s true that some external hard drives are large clunky bricks. Some, however, are the size of a deck of cards and easy to carry around in a bag or purse.
Pros: Lots of space. Fairly secure unless you forget it somewhere. Can be small and easy to carry.
Cons: Sometimes large and bulky. You have to remember to bring it with you. Don’t always play nice with smaller tablets and phones.
Also known as thumb drives or flash drives, those small sticks (or cards, or tiny little plugs on a key chain) that plug into your computer or laptop, these have been used by college students for years.
Pros: Space is always increasing – a 35GB drive is easy to find and not too expensive. Small and easy to carry.
Cons: Small and easy to forget in that last computer you were using. Easy to lose or break or run through the laundry. Easy to accumulate and hard to organize. Don’t always plug into tablets or phones without a micro-USB adapter.
Network Attached Storage is hard drive space that you reach through your own network. Some of them are small and contain one hard drive, while others are larger and more expensive, and carry the redundancy of multiple drives.
Pros: On-site. You are maintaining your own NAS and it’s right there at hand.
Cons: They tend to be expensive depending on size, with prices increasing depending on the space you need. In a perfect world you are going to want an offsite backup to go along with this.
Optical Media: CDs, DVDs
The old standbys of backup: CDs and DVDs – no doubt many of us still have a spool sitting around, ready to use.
Pros: Hard to save over. Even with rewritable discs, it takes applied effort to delete the disc’s media and then save again. CDs and DVDs are also inexpensive. Easy to move offsite and store elsewhere.
Cons: Better for one-use backups, discs also tend to degrade in time so they may not be a long term solution.
Have an Apple device? Then you have iCloud storage ready to use, and your device is designed to play nice with Apple’s own cloud.
Pros: If you have an Apple product, you’re already set up with your own iCloud space, designed to integrate seamlessly.
Cons: Like any cloud storage, you need some kind of wireless internet access to use the cloud. And Apple’s iCloud hack some months back may leave a bad taste as the security of the system was compromised.
Dropbox is one of the earlier forms of cloud storage/ synching and many people use it to share files with others for work or otherwise.
Pros: Many people already use it. Easy to use: you have a folder on your computer that syncs with the cloud and other machines. Good if you have multiple machines.
Cons: Too easy to use: sometimes it is easy to delete things, or sync excessively large files to all devices, taking up space.
Google Drive started as a collection of online office tools called Google Docs. The word processing and spreadsheet tools have involved and they now include Google Drive itself, which starts at 15GB of space that you share with your Google account.
Pros: Comes with word processing tools and plays well with the other various Google products.
Cons: Not as internally organized as it could be, especially if you started using it as Google Docs.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to cloud storage. It comes already integrated with Windows 8, so long as you sign up for an account, which makes it easy to use if you are a Windows 8 person.
Pros: Easy to use with Windows 8 since it’s integrated right in. Tends to give various ways to hand out more free space.
Cons: While apps exist to let it work with other devices, it’s made for Windows 8 – if you have a scattering of other kinds of devices it may lose its appeal.
The best file storage solution is customized to your uses. If you feel more comfortable with a physical drive and no cloud use, a USB or small external hard drive may be the best way to go. However, if you have fully embraced the cloud and are less worried about security, utilizing the cloud that plays nice with your devices is likely the most appealing solution. Just remember to back up, and you’ll be all set to go.