The Battle of Storage: Local Storage vs. Cloud Storage
17968 work documents, 11552 photos of my dog (and approximately 10000 of those photos are of him sleeping), and 1417 videos (again, most of them captured my dog in deep slumber).
These are what I have stored digitally.
Now, all of this data is of significant importance to me and I need to store them somewhere safe.
While you may not have thousands of photos of a dog, I am sure you, too, have a multitude of data that you need to store safely.
So, where should one back up this data?
Well, the two main storage options are either local storage or cloud storage.
Let us delve into these two options and explore their accessibility and convenience, control and security, cost, scalability, and speed.
What is Local Storage?
Before the craze of cloud storage, our storage solutions were limited to local storage.
Local storage involves saving digital data on physical storage devices.
These devices usually require a direct connection to your computer to be accessed and, as the name suggests, the devices are stored nearby.
This straightforward option includes external hard drives, USB flash drives, and even — once upon a time — CDs.
Home NAS would be local storage in my opinion as we hold the storage at our premises though they can be used as cloud storage.
What is Cloud Storage?
Quite simply put, cloud storage is a service where data is maintained, managed, and backed up remotely.
Users can access their data through the Internet.
While many people consider “cloud” to be new, cloud technology has been around since J. C. R. Licklider introduced it in 1969.
Accessibility and Convenience
With local storage, you do not need an Internet connection to access your data.
All you need is the storage device that you save your data in. This is extremely convenient if you need to access your data frequently while you are out and about.
There is no need to spend half an hour trying to connect with a café’s dodgy Wi-Fi just so that you can get your hands on your files.
But, the fact that you need the storage device to access your data could also spell trouble.
What happens if you accidentally head to an important meeting without your storage device and all the data in it?
Let’s imagine another scenario: imagine you were backpacking around the world and had taken a few thousand photos and videos to remember the trip by.
Would you really want to lug multiple external hard disks with you to store the said photos and videos?
No one is that big of a masochist.
This is where cloud storage comes in handy.An inevitable downtime in Internet connection will indeed see you rushing to your nearest Starbucks at 11 p.m. at night in your pajamas to finish your work — dodgy Wi-Fi or otherwise.
However, with cloud storage, you can access your data from anywhere in the world at any time.
All you need is an Internet connection. No carrying of your data in any physical form is necessary.
Besides that, this also means that you (and anyone that you grant access to) can access the same data across multiple devices. Colleagues that are divided by geography can now work together on a single project at the same time.
This is immeasurably important for businesses in terms of communication, productivity, and operational efficiency.
Control and Security
Local storage offers you complete control over your data and its security. With local storage, you know exactly where your data is since it is stored locally.
You also dictate how the data is stored and who has access to the data.
You can have peace of mind that there will be no third party handling any sensitive files without your say-so.
Plus, since local storage devices do not need to be connected to a network, once the data is stored and the device is disconnected, the data is safe from any malicious cyber attacks.
Not quite so fast.
Yes, local storage is indeed more secure because, to access the data, one would need direct physical access to the device.
But with that in mind, many of us fail to take any additional precautionary measure — thinking that the device is safe in our possession.
Remember, these devices can be stolen or accidentally left behind.
As most of us neglect to encrypt or even password-protect it, all the data is available to anyone who gains possession of the device.
Plus, while local storage is less prone to malicious attacks, it is still very much susceptible to data loss.
Local storage devices can be affected by environmental factors (like heat and humidity), calamities (including floods, earthquakes, and fire), mechanical failures, and physical damages.
As these devices are vulnerable and fragile, a simple drop from the desk can destroy them.
A Google study shows that 8.6% of those drives that are three years old have failed. Those are not very good odds.
On the other hand, with cloud storage, you basically hand over the rein of control to the cloud storage provider.
Naturally, with the involvement of a third party (the provider) handling your sensitive data, there is a risk when it comes to security and privacy.
However, in recent years, there has been a marked improvement in the security and privacy of cloud storage.
Most providers now offer an enhanced level of security, which includes advanced firewalls, encryption, intrusion detection, internal firewalls, and even physical security at the cloud data center.
Yes, on the surface it does appear that cloud storage is more expensive because of its subscription-based pricing model.
Local storage, on the other hand, tends to have relatively linear pricing.
If you pay more, you will get more storage.
However, it is worth taking into note that, with local storage, you will also have to pay the cost of maintaining the storage.
Depending on how much space you require, that cost can be in the range of thousands of dollars.
Some claimed that data recovery cost is calculated per GB. But we believe it should based on labor time spent to recover your data instead. It can range from anywhere between $100 to $1500 from our estimation. The most important part is “does it worth the hassle?”.
In contrast, the price of cloud storage often already includes a host of other services. For example, the cloud storage provider usually handles all the maintenance, troubleshooting, and file recovery.
There is no need for any maintaining and repairing work on your side, unlike with local storage. This makes it a more cost-effective option.
Besides that, many providers also offer limited free storage space for their users. We had 35 free cloud storage on the list here.
For example, Dropbox starts the ball rolling with a free storage space of 2GB.
Next, Google Drive offers a great deal with 15GB of free storage.
If you need even more storage space, Mega offers an unbeatable 50GB of free space for its users.
With local storage, an increase in data usually requires the purchase of more physical hardware to cope with it.
This can get very expensive very quickly. There is also the issue of the physical space you need to accommodate the hardware.
Responding to this shortcoming of local storage, most cloud storage providers offer scalable storage capacities to suit your needs and budget.
You are only paying for what you need and can swiftly increase or decrease the storage space as needed.
This is vital, especially for businesses. When business demands are increasing, you can easily and quickly increase your storage space.
All you need to do is simply notify your cloud storage provider. When the demand is reduced, you can just as easily return to the original storage capacity.
There is also no fretting about updating old hardware and physical limitations; you can upgrade and update your cloud storage with a few simple clicks.
If you have ever quipped the line, “I feel the need, the need for speed”, you would be glad for local storage because of its high read/write speed.
As local storage devices are usually connected directly to your computer, you have your files right at your fingertips.
A simple drag and drop will do.
Besides that, unlike with cloud storage, you do not need to trifle with multiple steps such as sign-ins and verification.
Thus, storing and retrieving files from local storage is often faster than from cloud storage.
With cloud storage, the backup and synchronization of your data are also limited to your bandwidth and connectivity.
Depending on the amount of data, a backup to the cloud storage can take quite a fair bit of time and you might be looking at cloud storage FTP, which we highly do not recommend.
We run some experiment on the fastest cloud storage on our own. See who took the crown for the title “Fastest cloud storage” here. It’s not the most professional way by all means to conduct a test or experiment but it’s a real usage experiment from us.
Hence, providers often recommend users keep the file size small to improve transfer time. Some even set a cap on the file size that can be transferred over to their server.
However, this is easier said than done, especially for businesses.
Conclusion: Local Storage vs. Cloud Storage – Which is the One For You?
For most users, cloud storage is often the better contender.
However, as with all decisions in life, you are in the best position to decide what is best for you.
Evaluate your preferences, needs, and goals.
Are you constantly on the road with a limited Internet connection?
Do you need to access the same data from multiple devices simultaneously?
Do you often access your files only on computers or do you utilize tablets and phones, too?
Is your Internet connection up to par?
The answers to these questions can help you to decide which storage option is the best for you.
Do keep in mind, however, that they are not mutually exclusive.
Many people utilize both local storage and cloud storage to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Granted, it is more time-consuming and is comparatively more costly but you can rest easy that your data will be well-protected and safe.
Or maybe a NAS can do both, having the capability of cloud storage in a local storage facility?
Check out my NAS vs Cloud storage for an answer though.