Mass Storage Solutions To Keep Your Data Safe

In this age of identity theft and cyber crimes, and in a time when about once a month a celebrity makes the news for having private pictures or documents hijacked and splashed all over the internet, safe data storage is of supreme importance.

How do you decide where to store your important data? Who do you trust?

The answer depends on what kind of data you’re storing, how much of it, and how long you’ll need to access it. Here are the pros and cons of the most popular types of data storage.

External Hard Drives

Saving data to an external hard drive is the most common method of storing data. An external hard drive, properly maintained and warehoused, is an extremely safe method of storage. On the plus side, you’re retaining physical control of the data. It’s not “out there” to be hijacked or manipulated by nefarious individuals, or lost to a technological glitch. On the down side, external hard drives have a shelf life. Eventually (usually after a decade or two on a shelf, or after only a few years of continuous use), the magnetic properties of these hard drives deteriorate. Unrecoverable errors resulting in the loss of your valuable data are at risk when using this method of storage. In addition, you need to be careful about where you store your external hard drive. Heat, cold, vibration, magnetic fields, and humidity can threaten the integrity and functionality of your drive. In short, an external hard drive is a great solution for short term storage but if you need to keep your data safe in perpetuity, this is not your best bet. If you’re going to go this route, consider a secondary backup.

Tape

Yes, magnetic tapes are still a viable option for storing data. While they look a little bit 1982, they can hold as much as 185 terabytes of data, and they are small and portable, which makes them a good option for someone who needs to store a lot of data and cart it around. There are a lot of drawbacks to tape. Anyone who is old enough to have had their car stereo eat their favorite album on cassette can tell you that tape breaks, stretches, and bends. It is also susceptible to corruption and erasure by magnetic field. The practical application of magnetic tape storage is only a viable solution in a narrow range of situations, and is not generally recommended. It is, however, a good option for a cost-conscious individual who only needs to retain and access the information over a relatively short period of time.

Optical

CD/DVD storage may look and feel almost as old school as tape, but it is worth a good hard look.  This storage method will stand the test of time, as it can maintain the integrity and accessibility of the document for 100 years or more.  The Department of Defense and the government of France have thoroughly tested the durability and reliability of optical storage, and it remains a strong presence in the data storage space. This is a very safe way to store data, and the disks are lightweight and portable. The downside is that writing to these disks is a slow process. If you have a lot of data to store, you could grow old waiting for it all to write to the disk.  Once it’s there, though, it’s safe, accessible, and portable.

Online Storage

Convenience and low cost are the two greatest selling points for this method of data storage. The two greatest caveats are privacy concerns and accessibility.  Storing data “in the cloud” may sound like your data is safely tucked away up in Heaven in its own private sanctuary. In reality, it’s just stored on someone else’s hard drive. If that drive is breached, your data is vulnerable. As for the accessibility piece, if your internet is down, your access to stored data is also down. Also, the low cost of the storage is what gets you in the door. The costs that may be associated with retrieval of that stored data could offset the bargain you got on the front end. There are three types of cloud storage to consider:

Private Cloud Storage.  This is exactly what it sounds like – a private system designed for one company or individual, that is tailored specifically to that person or company’s unique needs, and is accessible only by the owner of the private cloud.  There are two forms of private cloud storage – on-premises and external.

Public Cloud Storage.  Public storage can be accessed by anyone you authorize.  Because it is not tailored to one specific entity, it is not as customizable as private cloud.

Hybrid.  Hybrid cloud storage is somewhat customizable, and it allows data to be compartmentalized so that certain data can be accessed by all users, and access to other data may be restricted to certain individuals.

Thumb Drives/Flash Drives

They’re small but mighty.  These little units can hold all the data from your office computer in a tiny little device the size of a quarter.  They’re perfect for people who need to access a lot of data while traveling. Just back up your data to the tiny little device, toss it in your briefcase, and off you go. Awesome, right? Yes. Very awesome. What’s not awesome is arriving at your important meeting only to find that your tiny little storage device is nowhere to be found. They’re so little that they’re easy to take with you everywhere. But, they’re also so little that they’re easy to misplace anywhere. If you’re not especially organized, this might not be the best option for you.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

This is an economical and convenient option for small businesses that don’t have their own IT departments, particularly if they have a need for a large amount of storage. The stored data can be accessed by multiple users, and the storage is easy to manage.

If you’re looking for the best option for storing your important data, your first step is to ask yourself how much data you have, what kind of data, how often you’ll need to access it, who will need to access it, and how long will you need to keep it. Then talk to an IT professional to tailor a solution to your needs, incorporating one or more of these options.